“Twenty-five years,” says Mike Aiello, incredulous. “Holy moly . . .”
“I came every year with my Dad, long before I started working here. It was a three-night event. It had one maze, a couple of scareactors, and it was a test – something to find out if an event like this would be something people would want to see and attend,” Aiello says.
A quarter-century and a zillion jump scares later, we certainly have our answer.
Jason first appeared at Halloween Horror Nights in 2007. This year, he and fellow icon Freddy Krueger get their very own maze. — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
The 2015 event, which runs select nights from Sept. 18 through Nov. 1, will offer horror fans nine mazes – the most ever – along with some of its most ambitious street experiences yet.
Big brands returning include AMC’s The Walking Dead in its fourth consecutive incarnation; An American Werewolf in London, one of the event’s highest-rated ever coming back intact, but with new content; and Freddy vs. Jason, in an all-new maze with iconic scenes from each character’s realm – and the battle that ensues.
Insidious is the new kid on the block, featuring content from all three films.
Serial attendees of Horror Nights will delight in the return of some of the event’s most memorable original characters. Most notably, Jack the Clown.
“In 2000, Jack changed the landscape of how this event was perceived, marketed and viewed by the guests,” Aiello explains. “He began the 'iconic era' of HHN.”
An updated Jack the Clown hosts this year's event, but guests will see early incarnations, as well — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Jack was followed by others: the Caretaker, the Storyteller, the Usher, Lady Luck and others who will appear at this year’s event.
“But Jack was the one people talked about year after year,” says Aiello. “And this time we brought him back badder, edgier; he’s the ringmaster who pulls all of the content together.”
Jack will be appearing all around the park, in fact, including in the celebratory “25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem” maze.
“Here, we wanted to give everyone a taste of all their favorite scares,” says Show Director Charles Gray. “Each room is representative of a different past room or house, and there are lots of Easter eggs for fans to look for – along with all three versions of Jack that have appeared over the years.”
Popular past houses will return brand new, with original-content mazes featuring mash-ups themselves. Repeat guests will revel in origin stories, ultraviolet and 3D offerings. The popular street program based on The Purge is moving inside for a maze of its own.
The key to the horror, says Gray, is the combination of tight spaces and unremarkable places.
“One thing we’ve discovered – especially doing Halloween and others like that – is that there’s something very creepy about just being in a home, a garage, in places that are very familiar and then plopping down something terrifying and out of place. Someone with a chainsaw, a gun, a knife, a mask. It’s very frightening.”
"We're adding an extra wolf and iconic scene that fans of 'An American Werewolf in London' will recognize," says Show Director Charles Gray — Photo courtesy of A.D Thompson
The silver anniversary of Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights will feature the most diverse lineup to date, and the largest.
“The street program is bigger than we’ve ever done, with the most scareactors we’ve had in the history of the event," says Aiello. "And we’re back to scare zones again, as well.”
These defined outdoor areas within Universal Studios have very specific stories to tell. And unlike the mazes, they’re impossible to avoid. Fans of Halloween Horror Nights past will enjoy seeing popular characters making a reappearance, plus plenty of original content.
“And in between,” chuckles a gleeful Aiello, “we’ll have a few roaming hordes of chainsaw maniacs.”
In other words, there’s no escape.
Halloween Horror Nights offers a host of different options, from basic tickets and add-on experiences to top-of-the-line RIP Tours.
See the official website for details.