Whatever gets under your skin, literally or figuratively, Universal has gathered them all in Orlando for this year's installment of its award-winning Halloween Horror Nights. The event, which takes place after regular theme park hours at Universal Studios, is already in full swing, running select nights through Saturday, Nov. 1.
What scares you? Is it vampires? How about zombies? Aliens from another world? Or are you someone who sees the horrific in the very things and people among us? Clowns, dolls or perhaps the idea that a sanctioned repeal of the laws that govern us will bring out the very worst violent predators humanity has to offer? Expect a bit of each at Halloween Horror Nights.
Iconic scenes from the John Carpenter classic meld with Universal's own terrifying staged rooms in "Halloween" — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort 2014. All rights reserved.
Here’s a sampling of what the bravest among you will encounter at this scary attraction:
Haunted Houses and Mazes
This year’s eight haunted houses are comprised of twisted original content and brand names so big your grandma’s heard of most of them. Riding the wave of AMC’s smash series The Walking Dead, the franchise returns for a third consecutive year.
“It is the largest maze we have ever created in the history of Halloween Horror Nights,” says Michael Aiello, Director of Entertainment – Creative Development for Universal Orlando Resort. “The sets are huge.”
And the fact that this year’s house is set in season four, wherein the series’ main characters were split off to navigate different locations and perils, made things interesting for designers.
“It allowed us to create a lot of unique-looking environments we haven’t tackled before," says Aiello.
The maze’s official name is “AMC’S The Walking Dead: End of the Line.” Show fans – or zombie enthusiasts – can expect their journey to end in turmoil at Terminus, just like their favorite characters' did.
Other recognizable names include "From Dusk Till Dawn" and "Dracula Untold." The houses are swarming with vampires, obviously, and the latter is a tie-in with Universal Pictures' new release of the same name, which hits theaters on Friday, Oct. 10.
The plot, a retelling of the classic creeper, is an origin story that clues us in on how Vlad the Impaler became the legendary Dracula.
After "Giggles & Gore Inc.," you'll never go to the circus again — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort 2014. All rights reserved.
Horror Icons, Original Content
Iconic monsters populate the dark, futuristic hallways of "AVP: Alien Vs. Predator." And in a maze that gives the guest what can only be described as more Michael Myers than anyone should ever have to endure (This is a compliment, by the way.), "Halloween" time-warps us back to the 1970s and everything that was and is amazing about the John Carpenter classic. With a few fun surprises to boot.
The big brands are part of the street experiences this year, as well, as fans of the event herald the return of Horror Nights’ fearsome Scare Zones. "The Purge: Anarchy" brings together characters from both films and sets the stage for lawless rage while "FaceOff" serves up photo-ops galore with some of this Syfy hit competition show’s best-ever character creations.
"Masquerade Unstitched," which sprang from the creative minds on site, offers up something entirely different.
“It’s just a beautiful zone,” says Aiello. “And I know that sounds weird when we talk about Horror Nights and use words like beautiful, but it really is gorgeously grotesque.”
A huge chandelier and towering candles with ghostly faces (Horror nerds, they're eerily reminiscent of Freddy Krueger’s tortured, writhing “chest of souls” from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.) usher guests into a realm with gory, Gothic aesthetic and characters to match.
"The Purge: Anarchy" comes to HHN. Will you survive the night? — Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort 2014. All rights reserved.
Other Universal-spun maze content includes "Giggles & Gore, Inc.," which hypothesizes that evil clowns aren’t born – they’re made. And seriously, you don’t want to know how they make the mimes.
Over at "Roanoke – Cannibal Colony," the minds of Universal ponder the mystery of what happened to the 16th-century American settlers that history has come to call “The Lost Colony.” The title hints a bit at their theory.
Social media users: Be sure to hit up Horror Nights’ Instagram and Twitter feeds for news about the #HHNCompound, where you can unlock codes for exclusive experiences, content and giveaways.
Halloween Horror Nights ticket prices start at $41.99; upgrades and packages are available. Don't go alone.