It’s getting close to that time of year, folks. Halloween Horror Nights, Universal’s annual haunt event, is creeping closer; and with that comes strong opinions from the fans. With the event being only a month away, we here at Orlando United thought we would look back at what we feel are the best haunted houses, or mazes, of Horror Nights of the past 13 years.
Why 13 years?
Because collectively, the first year any of us attended was Halloween Horror Nights 12: Islands of Fear. Also, 13 years seem like a good number anyway.
The 25 houses listed was a collaborative effort with input from Drew, Hatetofly, and myself (Brian). We discussed the in’s & out’s of each house that was worthy of being mentioned and looked for a few key requirements:
- Theme & Environment
- Lasting Appeal
- Impact on the Event
- and most importantly, “The Scary Stuff”.
I’m sure our choices will bring some discussion amongst the community, but these are our opinions; opinions that were formed over the course of a 4-hour discussion, and 2 weeks of tweaking discussions.
So without further adieu… Orlando United proudly presents our Top 25 Haunted House Countdown!
These houses are each of our personal favorites that did not make the Top 25 list.
Interstellar Terror (Drew)
Event Year: HHN 18
Location: Soundstage 20
Best Feature: The upside down room
Best Scene: The space bridge
Drew: As someone who’s a huge fan of sci-fi horror, the sets of Interstellar Terror blew me away. This house wasn’t necessarily scary by any means, but every time I walked through, I’d find new things that always impressed me. From some of the gags to visual tricks, it was truly a sight to behold. Hopefully Alien Vs Predator’s sets this year are reminiscent!
Brian: I feel as if this is the house that deserved entry in the Top 25, at least near the bottom of the list. There wasn’t any creatures here, or evil alien presence; just an ominous feeling helped by the superb cast and incredible set design. Whereas Drew may have enjoyed the space bridge scene, I prefer the scene featuring the actor appearing to be sucked out into space. It definitely felt like it was heavily inspired by Alien.
Hate: This is definitely one of the more creative houses to date. I still remember climbing aboard the Columbus and being like “I’m in a freaking space ship!”. Although the house fell flat on scares and it did feel a little cheesy at times, it redeemed itself with beautiful sets.
Event Year: HHN 18
Location: Soundstage 22
Best Feature: The final creature
Best Scene: The first scene in the bar
Brian: I’m a sucker for cheesy, campy horror movies; so this house fell right up my alley. Every experience through the house was always fun. One of the best runs was when I went through the bar scene with a friend who worked at the event, and one of the “hillbilly” scareactors grabbed him and tried to tickle him on the pool table. Just great stuff. Horror Nights 18 was a great year for houses. Between this and Interstellar Terror, it was tough to leave off.
Drew: I’m not one to discount humor houses, but in no way am I cool with one taking up a soundstage. That’s prime HHN real estate. Creatures! would’ve been a solid Disaster queue house. But given it’s location and reception amongst fans, I feel like it’s one of the most overrated houses in my years of attending.
Hate: This house was just weird. I did enjoy it, but not because it was scary; rather because it was all about a bunch of drunk red necks fighting aliens in the middle of nowhere. Great concept and amazing puppets but not a Top 25 House.
Nightmare on Elm Street: Dreamwalkers (Hatetofly)
Event Year: HHN 17
Location: Soundstage 23
Best Feature: The house facade
Best Scene: Tent to Elm St Transition
Hate: This Icon house had a lot to be proud of and featured a few unique and scary moments. The drug filled tent that led you into Elm Street was an amazing transition and the facade was dead on to the films. Interior sets were also top notch and recreated numerous memorable scenes from the films. Only down side was actors relied to much on gag effects and their Freddy Masks weren’t exactly terrifying. Strong competition especially from this year forced this house out of the Top 25.
Drew: I’ll always have some emotional attachment to Nightmare on Elm St. as it was the first house I’ve ever experienced. Home to one of the most incredible facades I’ve seen at HHN and some of the most authentic sets, it was really like stepping into one of the films. However, it lacked scares and in my opinion featured a nauseating amount of strobe lights.
Brian: You know, I realize this house is in a lot of people’s favorite houses ever, but I did not enjoy it. Sure, there was some cool scenes, but I feel it’s placement in some lists is a bit overrated; especially in a year with such an incredible line-up of houses. Maybe it was a tired cast? Who knows, but my experience doesn’t seem to gel with everyone else. I did however enjoy the transition from the tent to Elm Street. I thought that was a clever way to start the story of the house.
#25. Havoc: Dogs of War
Event Year: HHN 20
Location: Sprung Tent #2
Best Feature: The Cast
Best Scene: Machine Gun
Brian: The cast was just nuts. Every. Damn. Night. Giving 110% to a house that really offered nothing new as far as sets are concerned. Why was there a sequel to the house last year? Because of the cast. Why was this house a success? Because of the cast. Everything great about this house was because of the cast.
Drew: Intense. The word that comes to mind when you think of Havoc. With an incredibly dedicated cast that was willing to shave their heads for the part, they were the breath to the life of this house.
Hate: The house itself was terrible set-wise, but it was saved by an amazing cast. No matter how many times I went through this house I always got scared at least once. What could simply be described as explosive, the cast of Havoc was incredible. It was like an All-Star game of scareactors. They were relentless, in your face, and highly energetic; delivering scare after scare. Had this house had all the other aspects, it would be a serious contender for a top ten of all time. Yes, they were that good.
#24. Silver Screams
Event Year: HHN 19
Location: Parade Building
Best Feature: Movie Theater Entry Facade
Best Scene: Tie between Strangers and Shaun of the Dead
Brian: While the Usher may not have been featured as prominently for marketing, he benefited from having one of the strongest houses that year. We also saw a return, albeit in more of a cameo form, of one of greatest houses of Horror Nights history, The Thing. The facade was just as incredible, as it transitioned from being in it’s dilapidated state to it’s pristine condition back in it’s heyday as you walked towards it’s entrance.
Drew: Home to maybe the greatest facade Horror Nights has ever seen. My personal favorite will forever be Shaun of the Dead, one of those films that can’t quite pull it’s own house as it was a perfect fit for this maze.
Hate: Coming off the disaster that was Bloody Mary’s Reflections of Fear House during HHN 18, this icon house redeemed itself and gave the Usher a true flagship haunt of that year.
#23. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds
Event Year: HHN 17
Location: Disaster Queue
Best Feature: The Smell
Best Scene: The Bus Scene
Brian: The house really embodied what made Leatherface and the Hewitt family really creepy. Granted it was based on the sub-par remake, it still really was a fantastic recreation of the movie. The house started with a bang with an awesome “trigger scene” which saw a victim try to escape and Leatherface comes from behind, snatches them back and slams the door. Not to mention, the smell of rotting flesh was the perfect “punctuation” to the house.
Drew: One of the first houses I’ve ever experienced, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was intense. From the noises, to the scents, to the actors that brought it to life, everything was top notch. My personal pick for the best house to ever use the Disaster queue, it featured great sets as well as great scares.
Hate: This was the first house that made me believe the Disaster Queue could host an elaborate and highly themed house. It was surreal to see the Hewitt household right in the middle of an attraction queue.
#22. Winter’s Night: The Haunting of Hawthorn Cemetery
Event Year: HHN 21
Location: Soundstage 22
Best Feature: Realistic and Extremely Elaborate Sets
Best Scene: Grave Crawl
Brian: As soon as you entered the soundstage door, the cold, chilling air hit and an eerie presence immediately hit you. Whereas nothing was outrageously frightening, I guess the only way the house can be explained is understated macabre. And yes, the designs and sets of the house were gorgeous; probably the best to date.
Drew: Beautiful. Hauntingly beautiful. The best way to describe Winter’s Night. By no means was it the scariest house ever made, but it was certainly one of the best to look at. From the absolute chilling temperature to the snow falling, the immersion of the house was second to none.
Hate: This may be one of the most beautiful houses ever created, but wasn’t the least bit scary. Had amazing effects but they were easily missed creating a lack luster experience for half of my runs through.
#21. Nightingales: Blood Prey
Event Year: HHN 21
Location: Soundstage 23
Best Feature: The Nightingales
Best Scene: The Soldier Rip
Brian: In a year featuring mostly all-original content, this was the one house that was the most intense. It really felt like you were in the midst of an all-out war while trying to escape the deadly Nightingales. The house was an assault on the senses, with flashes and sound effects pulsating throughout the house non-stop.
Drew: What happens when Call of Duty meets Halloween Horror Nights? Nightingales. Featuring awesome sets, a ton of scares, and some unique gags, it was always a fun walk-through. The feeling of being “in the trenches” was pretty unique. Overall, a nice mix of scenery and scares, Nightingales was one of the better houses in a solid year.
Hate: I didn’t even have this list in my top 25 personally and probably wouldn’t be in my top 30 or 35. Not that it was a bad house by any means as I love the war-torn aspect to it, but it fell flat in other areas while becoming almost boring in parts. My main gripe about the house was it relied far to much on gags and despite close to a dozen trips through I never saw half of them including the soldier rip. I just didn’t find the house scary and in most runs even amusing.