Ranking houses at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights
For the 30th year of Halloween Horror Night, Universal Orlando looked at the event’s three-decade history to fill this year’s edition with reminders. This is not to say that a beginner will not enjoy the event. Universal knows how to schedule entertainment for multiple levels of fans, after all. But the more you learn about 30 years of Halloween Horror Nights, the more you’ll find here.
Overall, as always, Universal Studios Florida’s Halloween Horror Nights are gorgeous. The production design here never fails to amaze, with jaw-dropping scenes that make you want to stop in awe rather than follow the conga line to the next scare around the corner.
And that brings me to my one big beef with the East Coast HHN – the beat. I yearn for a future where Universal will produce a Halloween Horror Nights with the Orlando production design and Hollywood operations. Too many times tonight I’ve caught the hollows between the scares rather than climbing the ridge through the house. People are complaining about the power outage in the hallways in Hollywood, but these, coupled with the fans rocking the mazes, create a rhythm that allows fans to catch a higher percentage of scares than I find. in Orlando.
This inconsistency inevitably leads to an inconsistency in house rankings, especially on opening night when fans didn’t get a chance to browse all the houses often enough to balance things out.
Plus, 10 houses in one night is just too much to absorb it all. Universal Orlando has learned over the years to design their Halloween Horror Nights for repeat visits. And it does so by overloading its range of homes with more homes, with more detail, and more spooky opportunities that any person – even a theme park insider – can absorb in one visit. You are supposed to come for more than one night, in order to enjoy it all.
So take my rankings as the first impression they are. Your experience can – and probably will – vary.
Halloween Horror Nights Icons: Captured – This year’s headliners tick all my boxes: create amazing spaces, filled with lovable characters, that trigger a variety of emotional responses. You don’t need to know these icons from the Horror Nights past to appreciate the traps they have laid for you. But if you do, it’s a perfect trip to HHN’s past.
The Haunting of Hill House – The house is a perfect portrayal of the Netflix series that inspired it. It is not the scariest or the most terrifying house in here. But it will stay with you, if you can take a moment to appreciate its scale and details. “Hill House” elevated horror by engaging both your brain and your hypothalamus. I said Universal wanted repeat visits from their Horror Nights fans. With its awesome audio track and Pepper’s Ghost and animation effects, this is the house that made me want to come back the most this year. As a member of the Crain family, I just can’t leave this place – even though the scares weren’t at the right time for me tonight.
Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth – Another house of recall, this one expands the storyline of Legendary Truth which was featured in the later Horror Nights. We follow Detective Boris Shuster (who has a window to the park streets in New York, BTW), as he follows a series of paranormal events throughout the city, in the form of old fictional novels. This house features wonderful places of creation and a unique tone that made me turn around and walk through it again. I have to love the Jersey Devil at the end. Oh, and those reminders to October 25, 1991? This is the date of Universal Studios Florida’s very first night of what has become HHN. (Wait a minute – am I sharing a birthday with Halloween Horror Nights?)
Beetlejuice – Like the movie it’s based on, this one is pure fun. More carnival madhouse than horror, Beetlejuice offers the joy that the show’s senior director, Charles Gray, spoke of during our conversation this afternoon.
Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin – I really wish I had time to relive this one. The Pumpkin Lord is gearing up for his annual human harvest, and Universal portrays this twisted tale with a stunning production design, leading up to the Pumpkin Lord’s lair. Growing pumpkin roots literally connect these story scenes. Sadly I walked through over 60% of this house before scary, my timing was so out of sync.
[More house walk-through videos to come, as I finish editing them.]
Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives – The Orlando version delves into history without the setup that the Hollywood maze will provide. But the visual design impresses here, throwing you into the Gothic ruins from which the bride will resurrect her monster. Just another amazing environment.
Puppet Theater: Captive Audience – A stunning facade helps prepare the (ruined) ground for San Francisco’s Grandeur Theater, abandoned after an earthquake. But the puppet troupe has turned curious intruders into living puppets for their next production. Everything is designed to make people afraid of dolls and puppets. Again, I missed most of the scares, but the attractive decor and production design made this another solid home.
Revenge of the Tooth Fairy – This house’s innovative animated storybook debut prepared me to place it at the top of my list. But once you get past the montage of a child breaking the social code by not wanting to let the fairies pick up their fallen teeth, this house becomes repetitive. How many times do we need to see a bloodthirsty fairy pull teeth?
Welcome to sCarey: Horror in the Heartland – Recalling years of references to Carey, Ohio hometown, senior manager Lora Sauls, this maze will keep you entertained roughly depending on how many past references from HHN to Carey you get. remember.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – The fact that this house ranks last on my list shows how stacked Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights are this year. Again, impressively designed, my only real flaw with the house is that it’s only one chainsaw alert after another. There is so much more variety in the other houses.
As for this year’s shows, I can recommend them both. If you have to settle for it, make it Halloween Nightmare Fuel, or as my RIP Tour host described it, “Cirque du Soleil is discovering S&M.” An upgrade from the old Villains Academy show, this production features some great dancing, amazing fire stunts, and some nifty magic tricks that Universal asked not to show you. [Video to come]
But don’t sleep on the lagoon show, Marathon of Mayhem: Carnage Factory. Not that you could, if you tried. This high volume tribute to Universal’s Horror Nights IP fills the center of the park multiple times each evening.
The Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights run on select nights until October 31.
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