Halloween Horror Nights kicked off its milestone 25th year this past Friday, celebrating everything there is to love about horror, blood, terror, and fun. Universal kicked up this year’s event up a couple notches – as should be expected for such a momentous anniversary – and one thing is evidently clear, they listened to the fans.
The 25th year had a lot of hype to live up to. Horror Nights fans can be fickle and hard to please, and I say that as a fan who has been going for 14 years. The event takes a year of planning and construction only to satisfy the fans for a month’s worth of entertainment. This year, with 9 houses, an increase of scare actors in the streets, the return of fan-favorite Jack the Clown & a great stage show, and the gore factor turned up; it would be hard pressed to find fans not satisfied with this year’s line-up.
For the casual fans, Universal provides some great haunted houses tied to popular Horror franchises which should satiate their horror thirst.
The house line-up this year is the strongest it has been since 2011’s 21st event, with 8 out of the 9 houses all bringing something unique and fun to the table. So what exactly did we think of each house? Here’s the official OU Rankings of each house: (Some Spoilers)
Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem (∗∗∗∗∗)
A nod to 25 years of everything Horror Nights, this house is every Horror Nights fan’s dream; this house was built with one thing in mind, the fans – and it shows. It showcases some of the greatest scenes ever done at HHN, including the Classic Monsters, Gothic, The Forsaken, Nightingales, Scary Tales, and more. Of course, with lending his name to the house, Jack makes several appearances throughout the maze. A fantastic house that not only should satisfy fans, but give a brief glimpse of HHN’s fantastic history to newer fans.
Body Collectors: Recollections (∗∗∗∗∗)
The 3rd time the Gentlemen have been featured and probably their best house of the 3. First of all, the facade/entrance is wonderfully done. The snow effect, eerie music, and sense of foreboding establishes a great set up for the brutality coming later. One of the most popular scenes from this franchise’s history also returns, and is still as great as the first time.
A great amalgamation of all 3 films, the house captures the creepiness of the franchise perfectly and utilizes the uniqueness of each of the film’s “demons” to create great scares. An impressive facade that rivals Halloween’s last year, it sets the mood up as the soundtrack blasts through the speakers as you enter. The finale scares are probably the strongest of the bunch this year.
The 2 horror heavyweights can do no wrong! The house captures the films locations perfectly (again), and offers a unique experience for each guest as the ending may be different during your run-through. The recreation of 1428 Elm Street mid-house, with the 2 creepy children is definitely the highlight of the house. The best way to describe the house is “rock star”, because it really feels like that’s what creative wanted the house to embody.
Their best designed 3D house to date. While it’s not as intense as The In-Between from Horror Nights 21, it’s definitely one of their strongest 3D houses – with some arguing that it may be the best. The trippy scenes featured Alice in Wonderland really lends itself to the usage of 3D, and for Shrek being a 1st time location, creative really used the theater space really well.
The house is still as great as it was back in 2013; with better, scarier wolf puppets and a couple little twists. The house being so low on our list is not a determent to the house at all. It’s still great, but it is a repeat house essentially; and with this year featuring a lot of great houses, it’s going to be tough to outshine them.
This house has loads of potential, but the 1st weekend wasn’t firing on all cylinders. The concept is great, but if you don’t follow along or are not aware of the story, some guests may be a bit lost as to what is going on. It definitely can improve as the event continues on, but still a fun house to experience. Once it works out the kinks, I could see this house moving up above Werewolf.
It’s not really a well-hidden secret that The Purge was a replacement for another property, so much kudos to the Creative team to not give up. Having said that, this house doesn’t have a strong identity as the other ones, which was expected. I’m sure as the event continues, they’ll find their footing; but as of now – it’s just OK.
Without being overly critical, we’re over it. Season 5 of The Walking Dead didn’t really offer a lot for “memorable” locations. This house felt like a smaller version of last year’s house and just wasn’t very memorable.
Scare zones add ambiance to the event, setting the mood and atmosphere as you’re walking from house to house. This was their strongest scare zone year since 2008’s Reflections of Fear; and the first Horror Nights I can say that the streets never felt empty. There were actors everywhere! Even some of the “safe zones” from year’s past have actors ready to go. From the 5 scare zones, 4 really shine and have unique character that should make guests want to walk-through over and over. What did we think?
The great thing about this zone is that it has a lot of character, with character. A lot of actors really embrace the roles of their horror characters, with standouts being Victor Frankenstein and Carrie. Having 2 sets of casts, each focusing on different horror movie periods, adds great variety; where you can easily stand in this zone for extended period of time and enjoy yourself. Short, sweet, and one for the ages!
Another zone where you can spend a good amount of time in, the actors here bring a bit of their own individuality to embrace the insanity. An older “patient” literally spent 5 minutes staring into one of the spotlights on the top of the building. The soundtrack also adds a bit of silliness to the zone, with songs such as Witch Doctor and Monster Mash playing as you work your way through the madness. For such a big zone, the actors really work the area well.
The best Central Park zone in the history of Horror Nights. They added a lot of props around the area to make you feel enveloped into the atmosphere. Great use of darkness and fog for out-of-nowhere scares, as well as great lighting on the outside to highlight the scarecrows to take attention away from actors in the zone.
This zone is all about timing. For the most part, it is a photo-op zone – featuring all icons and memorable monsters from year’s past. Each icon stage is well-designed. However, if you’re walking through the zone during the icons’ “kill sets” (where they kill a victim, showcasing how they became what they are today), the zone is great and offers something unique compared to the other scare zones.
Roaming Hordes (∗∗∗)
This year, the event features 3 different hordes – Killer Clowns, Chainsaw Drill Team, and Chainsaw-Wielding Prisoners. Each have their own identity and fill out the dead spaces of the event. Some times they’ll gather together for a brief little show before unleashing their chainsaws on unsuspecting spectators. It really fleshes out the event to know that no were is indeed safe, even when ordering a hot dog.
The biggest problem with the zone is the location. Located at the front of the park, where everyone is entering and exiting really congests the already tight walking area. Because of this, they can’t really add much to the streets in terms of props. There is this massive lone balloon contraption in the middle which is impressive in scale, but really doesn’t add much atmosphere to the zone. The costumes are great however, and the Grandma Wolf actor was giving it his all.
Rounding out the event are the 2 shows, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure and The Carnage Returns, which features this year’s master of ceremonies – Jack the Clown.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure (∗∗∗)
Great beginning, an OK middle, and fantastic final number. This year’s show doesn’t really have a cohesive plot, although they weren’t really known for outstanding plots anyway. It seemed as though it was just a “Let’s throw out everything of the past year’s pop culture randomly”. They did feature a few zingers that hit the mark, including the return of the Avatar joke. The finale’s dance number was great though, with several songs dedicated to popular songs over the past 25 years.
The Carnage Returns (∗∗∗∗∗)
The perfect show to represent Creative’s attitude this year. This show lives up to it’s namesake and does offer a lot of on-stage carnage. The show also features a few one-liners that fans of prior years should pick up on and get a kick out of. Easily the highlight of this year’s event. It showcases Jack, Chance, and their relationship perfectly; all while showing how sadistically humorous each of them are. Surprisingly, also features some impressive dance numbers which works in the context of the show. A fitting return to form for the “Bringer of Chaos”.
This year’s 25th Horror Nights is one for the ages; which should satisfy both long time fans, newer fans, and the casual visitor. If you’ve already visited, make sure to share your Review on our forums. If you haven’t, I’d recommend to check out this year’s HHN 25 guide for tips, tricks, and plan of attack.