After two long years, Halloween Horror Nights has finally returned to Universal Studios Hollywood! Though there have undeniably been some unfortunate budget cuts made to the event, fans and casual attendees alike will nevertheless enjoy that feeling of being back at Halloween Horror Nights to walk through some excellent mazes and scare zones.
For those who may be curious about pandemic safety protocol, masks are optional for guests to wear outside, though mandated anytime anyone enters an indoor queue or attraction such as for mazes, scare zones, rides, and the Jabbawockeez show. Other than that, the event hardly feels different than in years past since actors have not shied from going all out in their scares as usual.
This year’s lineup features five returning mazes – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, The Curse of Pandora’s Box, and The Walking Dead Attraction – alongside two new additions – The Haunting of Hill House and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives. The fan-favorite Terror Tram has also returned, themed to “The Ultimate Purge” in a similar fashion to 2015’s. On top of that, there are three new scare zones – Chainsaw Rangers, Demon City, and Silver Screen Queenz – and an all-new Jabbawockeez show.
After being graciously invited by Universal to attend the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights 2021, we’ll take a look at and give a brief review of each of the mazes, scare zones, and the lone show. There may be spoilers ahead.
As mentioned earlier, this year’s Halloween Horror Nights includes seven mazes and the Terror Tram, with three mazes in the Upper Lot (Halloween 4, The Walking Dead Attraction, and The Bride of Frankenstein Lives), two mazes outside of the Curious George parking lot (The Haunting of Hill House and The Curse of Pandora’s Box), two mazes on the Lower Lot (The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and the Terror Tram on the backlot.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
You can’t kill the boogeyman. This proves especially true in Michael Myers’s return to Halloween Horror Nights after a brief break from the event. Based on the fourth installment of the “Halloween” franchise, the maze follows Michael Myers in his escape from a mental hospital as he wreaks havoc on the small town of Haddonfield and all of those who inhabit it.
After learning of Michael Myers’s escape during a transfer to a new mental hospital, Dr. Loomis – Myers’s psychiatrist – immediately makes it his mission to pursue and stop Michael in Haddonfield before he has the chance to begin yet another killing spree. Following these same events, guests enter at the gas station that Loomis had followed Myers into in the film. Hardly avoiding an encounter with the boogeyman himself as they pass by an array of stray auto parts, they then find their way into a diner, where Loomis makes an appearance aiming a gun at and shooting a rapidly disappearing and reappearing Michael. Though invincible as always, Myers perseveres, continuing to stalk and jump out at guests at every turn.
While most of the maze – including the gas station facade – is the same as its 2018 predecessor, this year’s Halloween 4 has made a handful of significant changes with the incorporation of some new scenes. One of which recreates the scene of Jamie standing across from Dr. Loomis at the top of a flight of stairs in her clown costume, weapon in hand, looking just like the young Michael Myers from the original film. Following that scene is a throwback to the Halloween maze from 2015, where guests walk through a maze of mirrors filled with a mixture of Michael Myers mannequins and live actors, though one cannot be sure which ones are alive until they lunge out at you.
Though mostly a repeat of the maze from 2018, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers still makes for a strong and enjoyable maze at this year’s event. The changes made to the finale are enough to distinguish it from its predecessor, and there are plenty of scares dominated by Myers’s iconic mask to keep you on your toes throughout it all.
The Walking Dead Attraction
Returning to operation for the first time since the daytime attraction’s closure in early 2020, The Walking Dead Attraction remains mostly unchanged from years past at Halloween Horror Nights. A few additional scareactors have been added to the maze to spruce up the scares for the event, but other than that, there are no noteworthy adjustments.
Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives
A major standout as one of the two new mazes in this year’s Halloween Horror Nights lineup, The Bride of Frankenstein Lives is simply stunning, in reference to Slash’s haunting new original score composed specifically for the maze, the set design, and the costumes and makeup for the Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s Monster, and all of Dracula’s brides.
As mentioned in our previous behind-the-scenes preview of the maze, The Bride of Frankenstein Lives both serves as a sequel to the film and a continuation of the highly popular Universal Monsters mazes – Universal Monsters and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man – featured in 2018 and 2019, respectively. After Frankenstein’s Monster explodes the laboratory with both him and the Bride inside, the Bride finds herself a relatively unscathed survivor of the destruction, though the Monster is more or less dismembered. Though the Bride once feared him because she was overwhelmed by the affection he offered her when she was initially brought to life, she now looks back at the dying Monster as the only one who ever showed her kindness. Thus, she is willing to do whatever it takes to save him, even if that means tackling Dracula’s undead brides herself to steal and study their immortal blood for experimentation.
Between the visually beautiful sets, haunting audio, and captivating characters who bring the story of the Bride to life, we cannot recommend this maze enough to all who attend the event. This one was a personal favorite of ours, and we found that each time we went through the maze, we noticed something new or different from before. If you get lucky enough to catch the magnificent laboratory finale at the right time, you will also be in for a great treat, rest assured.
The Haunting of Hill House
Another headliner at this year’s event, The Haunting of Hill House is based on the popular Netflix horror drama television series of the same name, which centers around a family who experiences and later struggles to cope with traumatic paranormal happenings within a mansion referred to as Hill House. The plot of the show continuously alternates between two timelines – the past and the present – to convey the tragic story of the Crain family and the haunting events of Hill House that have tainted their lives.
Guests enter through a simple black facade donning the logo for the TV show before finding themselves completely engulfed within the elegant design of the Hill House mansion, including detailed towering walls made to be exact replicas of the unique design featured in the show. The maze begins as a slow burn, though gradually progresses to include some very effective scares that we will not give away here in this article.
All throughout the maze are elegant and elaborate sets, gorgeous costumes, and cleverly hidden haunts at each turn of a corner that truly bring the undead of Hill House to life. Overall, The Haunting of Hill House makes for another very strong addition to Halloween Horror Nights that we are sure all will enjoy.
The Curse of Pandora’s Box
“Come inside,” once again beckons a faint, chilling whisper drawing guests into the facade of an antique shop by the name of “Pandora’s Cabinet of Curiosities”.
A fan-favorite maze at 2019’s event, The Curse of Pandora’s Box reels maze-goers from the mundane world into the demonic horrors within the infamous Pandora’s Box, said in Greek mythology to unleash unstoppable evil upon its opening.
After passing through the chaotic storefront of Pandora’s Cabinet of Curiosities, guests are welcomed to look around at the various artifacts as the voice returns, uttering the ambiguous phrase, “Anything can be acquired, anything our hearts desire,” before a silent cloaked figure suddenly opens the door to Pandora’s Box itself. Inside, various scenes filled with monsters and occasional allusions to Greek mythology are illuminated by blacklight like in a 3D maze, though the lights constantly flicker, leaving guests in pure darkness for moments at a time.
The maze appeared to be exactly the same as its predecessor, filled with bright neon colors, disorienting flickering lights, and plenty of skeletons. Whether or not you got the chance to experience The Curse of Pandora’s Box in 2019, we still recommend checking this maze out, as it still holds a solid position in this year’s lineup.
On a side note, to access both The Haunting of Hill House and The Curse of Pandora’s Box, guests walk through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – open during this year’s Halloween Horror Nights – until they reach the back fence, where a walkway to the two mazes begins.
The Exorcist has returned to Halloween Horror Nights for the first time since 2016, taking the place of the Soundstage 29 Stranger Things mazes that occupied that location for the past two seasons of the event. From our observations, the maze appears to be a near-exact replica of its 2016 predecessor, just flipped so that the main bedroom show scenes appear on the left side of guests instead of the right.
Though located inside of a soundstage instead of the Revenge of the Mummy extended queue, from a returning guest’s perspective, the maze still has mostly the same feel to it, numerous black box scares from demons included. While not our favorite maze this year, we still do recommend checking it out for some excellent scares, especially if the wait time goes down after early entry as happened during our visit.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
A former Titan of Terror, Leatherface has once again returned to Halloween Horror Nights with a maze following the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.
Guests enter through a facade themed to the Sawyer house, where a man holding a polaroid camera stands outside pretending to speak to and photograph guests and the house itself. The maze then begins with a walk through the house – vintage wallpaper, meat hooks, and all – as you come face to face with a chainsaw-brandishing Leatherface and his merciless cannibalistic family before entering the infamous gas station and barbecue from the film.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze turned out to be a pleasant surprise with its mostly consistent incorporation of detailed physical sets and in-your-face scares. Given its prominent horror following, this maze proved to have one of the longest waits of the night throughout the event from beginning to end, so we recommend going through it during early entry if you can.
Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge
The Terror Tram is back at Halloween Horror Nights, and this year it is once again serving as host for not only the annual Purge, but The Ultimate Purge. Here, a group of aggressive Purgers has decided that they want the Purge to last forever rather than only one night a year, and they are determined to have their way.
Guests are dropped off from the tram at the former location of the Whoville sets, then walk along the usual Terror Tram path through the Bates Motel, past the Psycho house, and through the War of the Worlds sets decorated specially for the Purge. Compared to the many switchback queues included in 2019’s Terror Tram, this year’s pathway flows much smoother, allowing for the experience to feel more cohesive than in years past, even with a scareactor-free zone starting at the top of the hill past the Bates Motel and reaching just past the Psycho House. The Normal Bates photo-op has also returned this year.
Though the Purge has been part of Halloween Horror Nights for many years now with only the exception of 2019, we still found that the franchise translates as well into the Terror Tram as it did in 2015, especially since the scareactor Purgers have plenty of energy that enlivens the experience. Even if you are not a fan of the Purge franchise, the spacious walk along the backlot is enjoyable in itself and a welcome break from the tight pathways of mazes for a few moments, so we still recommend that you check this year’s Terror Tram out.
Stretching along Universal Boulevard at the front of the park up to New York Street, the Chainsaw Rangers scare zone features an aggressive band of chainsaw-wielding characters wearing disturbing animal masks. As always, this scare zone adds welcome energy to the park throughout the night as guests enter and exit the park, and the chainsaw brigade at closing is always entertaining to watch.
Demon City transforms New York Street at the front of the park into a neighborhood fit for demons, centered around the Inferno nightclub – found at the corner of the New York sets facing the Animation Studio Store. Distorted, demonic faces roam the area, ranging from taxicab drivers to stilt-walking skeletons with antlers. Also accompanying this scare zone is the return of the flame towers that enliven the area throughout the night, making it an altogether excellent mini attraction.
Silver Scream Queenz
Serving as an extension of The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, Silver Scream Queenz shifts the focus from the predominantly male monsters of horror to the classic female monsters including the Bride of Frankenstein, She-Wolf, Anck-su-namun, and Dracula’s Daughter in both their youthful and decayed forms. Unlike the Monster Masquerade scare zone from 2018’s event, Silver Screen Queenz is more of a true scare zone in that guests can wander through it whenever they like, even without going through its accompanying maze. This scare zone in particular is very visually stunning with its bright colors, gorgeous costumes, and fog effects, which we believe makes it yet another must-see at this year’s event.
The Jabbawockeez are back at Halloween Horror Nights with another all-new show for their sixth season in a row, this time centering around the theme of them being on tour. As always, the performers are phenomenal and so are the coordinated lighting and audio effects so perfectly synced with their movements.
Though it may seem overwhelming to try to fit in a show amidst all of the attractions at the event, we always recommend checking out the Jabbawockeez at least once during the Halloween Horror Nights season for a uniquely entertaining experience and a break from all the walking you inevitably do during the night.
Seasonal Food Offerings
This year, Universal Plaza has been transformed into a “Day of the Dead” themed area selling a handful of Mexican food options and spooky treats, as well as three specially themed alcoholic drinks at the bar for guests 21 and older. In a far corner, fans may recognize two familiar skeletons from Halloween Horror Nights past.
On the Lower Lot, a food booth themed to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre serves an assortment of primarily carnivorous food options. We enjoyed the BBQ pork ribs – served with a knife stabbed into them – and the “bloody funnel fingers” dessert during our visit.
In addition, also located on the Lower Lot, is the Terror Lab, which sells an assortment of cocktails and unique food items.
Halloween Horror Nights-themed Store
The Lower Lot Studio Store has been transformed this Halloween Horror Nights season into the Sawyer family home from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, floral wallpaper included. Here, guests can find a wide array of Halloween Horror Nights merchandise in addition to some general daytime theme park memorabilia.
Overall, though challenged by some uncontrollable budget limitations this year, Halloween Horror Nights 2021 still makes for a very enjoyable event that we highly recommend making a visit to this season.
Once again, we thank Universal for inviting us to check out the event, and we hope you will get the chance to experience it for yourself as well. Halloween Horror Nights runs on select nights now through October 31.