We officially kicked off Haunt Season earlier this month with a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights for its media and fan preview event. Halloween Horror Nights, or HHN as a lot of us call it, is a SoCal theme park haunt staple, and we’re excited every year to see what film / TV properties they’re partnering with. This year had a lot of exciting announcements, including Jordan Peele’s US, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Ghostbusters, and new original mazes. Read on for details of our experience that evening, as well as our maze rankings!
First, we made our way through the Fallen Angelz, scare zone near the entrance. We stopped briefly to snap a pic with huge demonic wings before continuing on to the Spirits & Demons of the East scare zone on New York Street. Neither scare zone was as elaborate as some previous years (think The Purge) but they were a good kickoff nonetheless, with enthusiastic monsters and some truly terrifying stilt-walkers.
From there we decided to head to Jordan Peele’s US on the backlot first. We were intrigued to see how this amazing movie would work as a walkthrough attraction, and ended up blown away by how it was pulled off. Our journey started through the entrance of the boardwalk attraction ‘Vision Quest’ from the movie, and it was impressive how many times we managed to scare ourselves in the ensuing mirror maze. With the disturbing Red (Lupita Nyong’o’s ‘tethered’ character) voiceover playing overhead, this maze had an overall eerie and uncomfortable vibe. It relied heavily on pop out scares, but was never cheesy, and utilized clear characters from the movie. Thumbs up on the great casting and makeup! Us exits out the side of The Curse of Pandora’s Box building, so if you don’t want any scene spoilers for Pandora’s Box, make sure not to read the signs on the doors for the staff and actors (whoops). Right next door is The Curse of Pandora’s Box, an all-new original maze for 2019 where we visited the netherworld of Hades, populated by monsters of Greek Mythology. This was a vibrant and energetic maze, that once past the entry room, was reminiscent of old school dark rides.
After a quick popcorn and beer stop, we maneuvered down to the lower lot. Although Netflix’s Stranger Things maze was at the forefront of most of the marketing for Horror Nights, it was sadly the only maze we left feeling a little disappointed. We were fortunate to have been provided ‘Universal Express’ passes (which include one-time express access to each maze/attraction/show) so we bypassed the 2 hour line. It started out interesting enough, jumping into season 2 with some detailed sets of the Byers house, including Will’s crazy drawings everywhere. But what should have been the big payoff for those scenes, his encounter with the ‘mind flayer’, looked surprisingly incomplete, and not on par with HHN’s usual attention to detail. The Demogorgon ‘boo boxes’ became predictable, with some hand puppets hanging casually out of the opening until it was time to ‘scare’ someone. Highlights of this maze would be the pumpkin patch scene with the ‘Hawkins Power and Light’ crew and Joyce Byers’ desperate search for Hopper. Kudos to those scareactors for nailing their characters and giving 110% for the guests conga-lining through.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space on the other hand was amazingly well done, and we would expect any fan of the movie to agree! We were giddy watching the scene outside before heading into the tent. Having seen Killer Klowns a million plus times, we’re a little desensitized to the ‘scariness’ of these evil aliens, but they still managed to get us a couple times! The ‘puppeteered’ Officer Mooney was on point, as were a slew of other iconic scenes from the cult classic film. We hope to make it back to see this again this season. A+
Further on into the backlots, Universal Monsters: Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man reminded us of Alien Vs. Predator from 2014 / 2015, in a good way! The entrance was beautiful and really set the mood for a very immersive and well-designed walk through. We enjoyed the storyline, variety of effects and had a lot of fun with some of the scares! Next door to that, Ghostbusters had some of the coolest scenes of HHN 2019. This nostalgia-filled maze was often more silly than scary, which made sense to us. We especially loved the finale encounter with the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the smells in there made us hungry for s’mores!
Another way-back throwback was Creepshow, based in part on the 1982 cult classic movie, as well as Shudder’s all-original anthology series. The comic book facade and entryway set the tone and forewarned of what was to come. Guests with an aversion towards bugs, beware! You may get the heebie jeebies in this walkthrough. Overall, it was a little choppy (as to be expected from the various themes) but a solid maze that got us excited for the series coming to Shudder this month. While you’re down there for the backlots mazes make sure to hit the All Hallow’s Evil scare zone. It was pretty much set up like a maze, minus the long line!
We finished our night with the mazes on the upper lot. First up was the final original maze, Holidayz in Hell. This walkthrough was actually based on 2018’s guest favorite scare zone of the same name. This attraction had so much to see that we wish we could have hit it twice. It was funny, scary, gory and creative, just the way we like it! Just when you think you’ve made it through, the maze dumps you out into the Christmas in Hell scare zone. Our last maze of the night was House of 1000 Corpses. It was basically a reincarnation of the 2010 / 2011 maze (minus 3D Vision) but it’s always a good time visiting Rob Zombie’s beloved creations. In this year’s version we liked seeing the Firefly house front porch facade, where we were surprised with a visit from Tiny!
With all that being said, here’s our Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2019 Maze Ranking:
- Killer Klowns From Outer Space – likely to be one of our favorite mazes of the season!
- Jordan Peele’s US – definitely did the film justice
- Holidayz In Hell – great original maze that you may want to visit more than once
- Universal Monsters: Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man – beautiful set design and fun scares
- Ghostbusters – nostalgia central!
- The Curse of Pandora’s Box – high energy and lots to see
- House of 1000 Corpses – it’s always fun to visit Dr. Satan
- Creepshow – choppy but fun
- All Hallows Evil – ‘technically’ a scare zone but great attention to detail
- Stranger Things – don’t spend your whole night waiting in line, come back to it if you have time
- The Walking Dead – same as before since it’s a year-round attraction
Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is a powerhouse haunt event that we look forward to every season. Having ‘Universal Express’ access to the mazes really helped alleviate our usual complaints of long lines and overcrowding. This year we especially enjoyed their original mazes, and hope they continue to focus on them in years to come. In addition to everything we touched on above, there’s the JABBAWOCKEEZ show that we’ve enjoyed in years past, a handful of rides open, tons of food and drink options (we enjoyed a drink at the Dia De Los Muertos Bar), the year-round AMC Walking Dead attraction, other scare zones and more. You won’t have a shortage of ways to spend your evening. And if you do have time to shop, you will definitely want to check out all the epic 80’s inspired HHN 2019 merchandise.
Tickets are on sale for select dates now through Sunday, November 3rd. If you have the funds, we’d suggest springing for ‘Universal Express’, especially if you plan on attending on a Friday or Saturday night. More details can be found at https://hollywood.halloweenhorrornights.com/