After a forced hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19, Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights kicked off their 2021 event with a sold-out opening night. This is The Haunt List’s first Halloween theme park event of the year, and we could barely hold in our excitement!
One of the first things that we noticed was that the well-known layout of the mazes was changed this year. While at first, we thought we might miss seeing certain areas of the park we’ve grown to love, we quickly realized the layout change was much for the better! We felt that there was less walking to get to the further out attractions and an overall better flow of people. Our feet say Thank You. Overall, we were very pleased with what Universal had to offer!
Top Mazes Of The Night
#1 Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives – This maze came in at the top of both of our lists as our favorite maze of the night. We loved it so much that we went through it twice! This maze was packed full of energy with impressive costume designs and original characters. As you enter, you will see a wall depicting “Chapter 1” with a sentence narrative on it. The scene then deeps dive further to explain that chapter. This happens a few more times within the maze, up to 5 or 6 chapters, so if you really want to understand the narrative of the story, make sure to pay attention to the chapter walls! We found this storytelling method extremely impressive. Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash was also back to collaborate this year and provided an original score for this maze. This was one of the most fun mazes that we have been through. If you could only go through one maze to see at Universal, it should be The Bride of Frankenstein Lives.
#2 The Curse of Pandora’s Box – This original concept maze inspired by fearsome creatures in Greek mythology came in at number two on both of our lists. We attended this maze in 2019 and loved it then, and we loved it just as much this time around. It’s very visual with lots of bright colors and blacklight effects and costumes. One thing that we enjoyed is if you’ve been attending HHN’s as long as we have, you could pick out a few props and pieces that were repurposed from previous years’ sets, but within this setting, were given a whole new life. It made the maze feel nostalgic and new at the same time. Unfortunately, we missed most of the opening scene’s moving entrance, but if you’re lucky enough to catch it, it looked like it would have been very impressive!
#3 We came in with a close tie for third, with Sara’s being Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Ashley’s being Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – This was a very fun and entertaining maze. It had really impressive set designs, interesting scenes, and a creative way of letting the storyline unfold, which is especially impressive when a story centers around a single slasher character. This maze also received special points for having the BEST SCENE of the whole night. Hint: you have to get to the end of the maze and it involves mirrors. Definitely check this one out and let us know if you loved that last scene as much as we did!
Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge – We love the tram and were so excited about its return! This maze always follows the same format – you take the tram onto the backlot, exit the tram, and are allowed to walk through the backlot onto apocalyptic-looking sets that are filled with characters, including the War of the Worlds set. This part is always fun, and the challenge is if the theme will immerse audiences and make good use of the space. This year definitely succeeded and it almost felt natural to have The Purge in this area. This was a really fun maze, and we also saw the return of the Log Bunny (listen to our HHN review episode of Stay Haunted if you want more info on what that is). The tram and backlot is such a special place to have a haunt, and The Purge really made the most of it.
Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House – This was a solid maze that we both enjoyed. The set design and props really stood out, and this maze made effective use of the “disappearing walls” screen effects to add a new dimensional layer during the walkthrough. Expect to be repeatedly scared by The Bent-Neck Lady and The Tall Man. Sara thought The Tall Man was one of the scariest characters in the show, and no surprise, he was also one of the scariest characters in the maze. Overall we liked this maze but didn’t consider it a standout. When you’re a new maze coming up next to these amazing Universal mazes, you have really big shoes to fill.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – This was a really well-done maze that keeps you fully immersed without a ton of transitional black walls and hallways. It’s full of action, a lot of scares, and a lot of smells! This is also one of the gorier mazes of the bunch. Very high energy and done very effectively.
The Exorcist – This ranked last on both of our lists. This attraction uses smells and while we love this effect, by the time we got into this haunt the whole area smelled like pee, which was a bit much to handle! We do recommend going to this one early in the night, as we have heard that earlier on the smells were not as pungent. We both agreed that this might be an attraction that does not translate as well as the others. Everything “should” work here: We love the intro walking into the maze. The Exorcist is terrifying. There is an interesting concept of walking into the same room over and over again and experiencing a different scene. The animatronics are fantastic. The actors are great… but the experience always seems to fall flat. We would likely be bigger fans of the cool scenes as some type of display because we find them more interesting to look at than to be scared by.
AMC’s The Walking Dead – This installed park attraction has been closed for several years. We were excited to see it return for the season. It had new electricity to it this time around and that may be because we haven’t been through it for a while or that they had top-notch actors in it this year, but what a treat to have it make an unexpected return!
Scream Zones and Other Attractions
Silver Scream Queenz – This was our favorite scream zone. It features The Bride of Frankenstein and her crew of classic female movie monsters striking fear into the hearts of men. It was fun and energetic and full of fog and characters. The music for this area was also composed by Slash.
Demon City – This was our second favorite scream zone. It was held in an area that featured pyrotechnics and had a lot of stilt walkers and extremely impressive costumes and makeup featuring a plethora of demons.
Chainsaw Rangers – If you’re scared of chainsaws, you might want to avoid this area! In this area, you’re chased by a band of chainsaw-wielding maniacs wearing grotesque animal masks.
Dia de Los Muertos Bar and Little Cocina – This Dia de Los Muertos Bar located in the Universal Plaza is a must see! It was definitely the standout area of the night. This area was decked out in full Día de Los Muertos themes and had photo-ops, beautiful characters, games, snacks, artwork, a bar, scenes of skeleton animatronics shooting movies, not to mention plenty of seating and space to social distance. If there weren’t mazes to see and a million things to do we would have hung out there all night! It’s a great place to take a rest and have a drink – Sara highly recommends the smokey margarita!
Jabbawockeez Shows – We didn’t go this year but they always put on entertaining dance performances throughout the night. This is a great option if you need to give your feet a rest but don’t want to miss out while doing so.
A number of rides are also open during this time, with a full list available here.
The Haunt List Tips
- Maze that you can’t miss: Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives
- Maze to skip if you need to: The Exorcist
- Stinky Tip: If you are sensitive to stinky smells, go through Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist earlier in the night.
- Easy Way To See Our Favorite Things: Have a cocktail at the Dia de Los Muertos Bar and Little Cocina. You’ll be right near the entrance to our favorite maze: the Bride of Frankenstein Lives. When you exit the Bride of Frankenstein maze, it pops you out into our favorite scare zone: Silver Scream Queenz. You get back-to-back top-notch entertainment!
Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights is running select nights now through October 31. Tickets are available here, and we’ve mentioned it before – if you have the funds we highly recommend treating yourself to the R.I.P. Tour. It really is the best way to experience Horror Nights.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth review of our take on Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights, head over to the HHN Hollywood Opening Night Review episode of the Stay Haunted Podcast. The Haunt List co-hosts the weekly podcast on haunted attractions and mazes, available on the Creepy Kingdom Podcast Network.
Agree or disagree with us? Let us know and check out our photo gallery below!