REVIEW: Halloween Horror Nights 25 Brings Classic HHN with Bigger Scares

HHN 25 Entrance

HHN 25 Entrance

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to attend the opening nights of Halloween Horror Nights 25. Thanks to my decision to purchase the Frequent Fear Pass with Express this year, I was able to just enjoy my time through the event both nights and not feel rushed. We also did not both staying until the end opening night just to try and see every house and show because we knew we were coming back the next night. Overall, the event is great. Both nights, we had an incredibly fun time with very few complaints. Most of the houses are spot on with theming, details, atmosphere, and scares. The scare zones themselves vary a bit in regards to those attributes, as per usual. And finally, both shows for the event, Bill & Ted and The Carnage Returns, were incredibly enjoyable for their own specific reasons. I myself am a big horror/Halloween fan and get very excited around this time of the year. I grew up watching horror movies, so it can be quite the challenge to scare me. If I jump once in a house, I consider it a job well done. Stating that it is very rare for that to happen, it happened to me multiple times in multiple houses this year, so A+ Universal!DSCN7489

Before I get to reviewing the houses, let me state that scares and fears are different for everyone. Personally, slasher films/villains and more realistic scares that could happen in real life scare me more than things like zombies and ghosts/demons. So houses with those as the theme are already at a disadvantage in my mind. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy them or try to allow myself to get scared. I thought last year’s The Walking Dead house was very good. I jumped a little, and loved the sets and story, even though I hate zombies and don’t watch the television show. As a whole, the houses were very good. At least half were done so well, it’s difficult to even rank them in an order. So my personal taste and lack of HHN experience does come into play some. First I’ll give spoiler-free reviews of everything and at the bottom, I will rank the houses and scare zones.

First up are the IP houses. Our first house of the event was The Walking Dead: The Living Dead. Once again as a disclaimer, I don’t like zombies at all. I think they’re boring and over used, nor do I watch the show, even though many people say I should. However, I did enjoy last year’DSCN7512s TWD house and was going into this house very optimistic, considering how well last years was done, as well as hearing the rumors of a famous room filling with water scene being down, which I couldn’t wait to see how it was done. Unfortunately, we did not like this house in any aspect. No one in my group got scared even the slightest. In fact, I got bored walking through. The building used for TWD housed the Roanoke house from last year, and not that I know how Universal Creative works, but it did look a little bit as though some of the sets were reused and redressed from Roanoke. Many of the scenes blended together, and we could see every scare coming. Maybe it was an off night, I do plan to return and try it again, but we felt it was a very disappointing house. As for the water room scene, we never saw it. I saw a tour picture the next day showing it IS there, but somehow all four of us missed it. Perhaps the lighting was to dark, or it just wasn’t prominent enough.

Our second house was The Purge. I was a very big fan of the first movie, enjoyed the second movie enough, and loved the scare zone last year, so I was looking forward to this house, even though it is clear much of the house was repurposed. If you hadn’t read, Universal was planning to use Scream as the house, but couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner of the rights over which mask to use for it, the much more recognizable original mask from the films, or the newly designed mask used for the recent television series on MTV. So we got The Purge. The decision was so late that the name didn’t make it onto any of the event merchandise, which is a shame.

Entering The Purge house.

Entering The Purge house.

This house was quite interesting overall. Even though it was clearly repurposed to attempt to fit the theme, it still worked. There is something about knowing an average person is attacking you with a weapon of some sort. This house made me jump three times I think. There is even a major scare in the house that I am shocked is allowed due to all of the current gun violence we see so much in our media these days. Time will tell if the scare is toned down or removed all together, but I will say, it made me scream and it was perfectly done. I loved this house walking out.

When we got out, we decided to skip Insidious and head to Bill and Ted’s. Growing up as a fan of the movies, I’ve always wanted to see this show and have now been able to see it three times, in 2011, 2014, and this year. I won’t divulge any of the jokes since the current pop culture and events are what make up the show, but I will say they didn’t disappoint. It had a great opening, relevant to a big movie that takes place in 2015 *wink* and contained jokes relevant to events that happened only a couple weeks ago, so props to Universal for keeping the shop up to date. Bill & Ted is always a fan favorite. In the end, we felt last year’s show had a better plot to it, but this years has just as many good jokes, including some real good again about Disney. The show is great and I hope they never decide to get rid of it, or worse, tone it down!

RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

After the show, the next house we went to was RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Shears. This house had much potential for it. It is the third time they’ve done a house based on this theme. I am still young when it comes to attending HHN, so I can’t compare this to any of the previous houses. All I knew was it was supposed to be as if we, the guests, were on a game show, running for our lives. I had also heard there would be many chainsaws. A rumor I rolled my eyes at, feeling as though they are a cheap scare, and never scary. The house started strong, but as many of the houses do in this location (it’s a weird coincidence I’m sure), it quickly dwindled to confusion and disappointment. Overall, I didn’t see much of a follow through theme/concept throughout. It sort of turned into just many ways people could be killed, and it didn’t end up being scary. Perhaps I don’t know enough of the history for this house and therefore cannot appreciate the different rooms, but we walked out of the house highly disappointed. What a shame.

After RUN, we continued onward to Body Collectors – Recollections. I LOVE asylum themes in horror anything. They are usually very creepy and eerie. This house takes place in winter, and having seen previous houses with similar themes, I couldn’t wait to feel the cold and see the snow. It did not disappoint. Body Collectors takes place in Shadybrook Asylum (which is neat because right outside of the house is the Psychoscareapy scare zone also located in Shadybrook. Coincidence? I think not!) This ShadybDSCN7542rook is in the turn of the century time. So the walls and details are all from then. I had hoped for more of a 50s/60s era, but I can’t complain. The costumes and creatures found within were excellent. We felt they missed out on some good scare areas, but overall we really enjoyed the house. Can’t wait to walk through it again and see even more details!

We finished out our first night with going into the house that has been on the top of my list since it was announced, An American Werewolf in London. I don’t even care that this house was done in previous years at bDSCN7543oth Orlando in 2013 and Hollywood in 2014. I had seen video walk throughs of the house and was blown away at the detail and how true it was to the classic film. This year did not disappoint. I hope to walk this house every night I go to HHN this year. I could stand in every room just admiring the details, and the giant werewolf puppets scared the hell out of me. They get so close to you, one of them even touched my arm making me jump away! Even though this house is in the large sound stages, it is one of the smaller houses, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Universal also announced they would be improving on the house for this year. Even though I’ve seen the video walk throughs, I didn’t notice anything different. I did hear they made the puppet werewolves more realistic, so maybe that is what they meant. Overall, this house is my favorite of HHN 25. I’ve never jumped so much, or been scared that intense ever in my life, as I was in Werewolf. This is a must see!!

On Saturday, I returned to HHN to finish out the houses and shows. We decided to head straight to Jack’s house, Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem. Again, being new to attending HHN, I didn’t know what to expect in this house, but I was NOT disappointed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successfully scared in this house, even though afterward I had been told about some excellent scares others had encountered (I can’t wait to walk through again!), but this is another house I could

Walking into Monsters & Mayhem

Walking into Monsters & Mayhem

walk through and just take in all of the details of it. I absolutely loved the use of all of the classic Universal monsters in it and the sets were crazy good! Somehow, they also successfully mixed in clowns to everything and it all worked very nicely together. This is another must see house! Do not even think of skipping the anniversary house!

Next, we met up with friends who didn’t have an express pass and decided to wait for the Freddy vs. Jason house since it said it was only a 45 minute wait. Wow, was that sign wrong! We waited over 90 minutes for this house and we weren’t happy. I’m fine with waiting long times for an attraction, and I’m okay with the state time being off by 10-15 minutes, but having it be wrong by that much is unacceptable. It really put a damper on our night time wise. However, the house made up for the wait! I am an avid fan of Freddy Krueger, almost as much as Michael Myers (Thank you HHN24) and I was incredibly excited to finally get to experience a Freddy house. The house did both characters justice! The Jason scenes at Camp Crystal Lake were excellent. Great scares. And it was surreal to be able to walk into Freddy’s house. I was jumping with joy. Freddy got me to jump once I believe. The house also brought back some classic kills from the early Nightmare films before both characters meet up and fight each other. The house doesn’t use the movie so much as just the concept, but that is perfectly fine since the movie is from 2003. It worked really well and I can’t wait to see it again!

After FvJ, we went to Asylum in Wonderland 3D. Now, whenever you do any of these things for a house: Alice in Wonderland, 3D, asylum theme, you tread on the verge of being cliché. Putting all three together is a crazy risk!! I knew the house would be fun nonetheless and it was. The house itself was far from scary, and how they fit it inside the building for Shrek 4-D, I’ll never know. But the costumes and details were great. And thankfully, they did tie it all nicely together near the end. There just weren’t really any surprises in the house.

DSCN7577        Before we finished all of the houses out with Insidious, we went to see Jack’s show, The Carnage Returns. Having only learned of Jack the Clown this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect in this show. The show is basically a murder show mixed with magic tricks. I thought it was very entertaining. Jack is just one of those characters you love to listen to and watch. His assistant, Chance, was excellent; a real Harley Quinn brought to life! There are a handful of murders throughout the show, and plenty of blood. The show is a hard PG-13 and I’m curious to see if it will be toned down at all due to silly complaints. Since Jack is the icon this year, this show is a must see.

We finished out our night and HHN25 even with Insidious. I’ve never seen any of the films and knew the least about this house going in. In fact, right before I walked in, I asked the attendant to sum up the plot to me and she did so nicely. Once I understood the basic premise, I was good to go. The house overall was creepy. It didn’t really make me jump, but all of the costumes and sets were done incredibly well. I’ve heard from many this is

The facade for Insidious

The facade for Insidious

one of their favorites. It even made me want to see the movies, so props to them! One scare actor’s makeup made her look so much like a manikin doll; we were shocked when she moved! It was fantastic. This is another house I’m sure is loaded with details and I am looking forward to walking through a second time.

As for the scare zones, Universal always does their scare zones across a wide spectrum, I’ve noticed. Sometimes they seem to be there solely for photo ops. This is a personal complaint of mine. Yes, the costumes are awesome, such as this year’s Icons: HHN and last year’s Face/Off zone, but I go to this event hoping to be scared, so for me zones like this disappoint me. This year’s zones that fall in this style are the already mentioned Icons: HHN and Scary Tales: Scream Punk. Icons was awesome to look at, especially for someone like me who never got to experience them as icons of the event. I never stayed too longDSCN7523 in this zone, but I’ve heard some rumblings that some of the icons, if not all, have little skits they perform. So I definitely plan on hanging out there longer next time. The other zone, Scary Tales, is amazing that it isn’t getting sued by Disney. As expected, the characters walking around are mainly fairy tale characters, such as Alice, the Evil Queen, Robin Hood, and Belle. There are also ones from Wizard of Oz and Bo Peep with Little Red Riding Hood. Some of the actors do try to scare guests, but many of them simply just walk around their zone, quickly. Of course Disney can’t sue for using the same characters, but my joke relates to their costumes. Belle and Jane look incredibly close to their movie outfits from the Disney films. Grant it, would you recognize either of them if they weren’t? This zone was very fun to examine. The costumes are wonderful and detailed.DSCN7550

Other zones do a really great job at setting an atmosphere or theme, such as Evil’s Roots this year. If I couldn’t see the lit up buildings across the lake, I would’ve thought I was walking through a forest. The fog, lighting, decorations, and scares were all excellent. One actor successfully scared me and the costumes are eerie and weird. I only wish the zone was longer! The biggest of the zones is easily Psycoscareapy – Unleashed. When you get down to it, this zone isn’t too different from last year’s Purge zone. It has lots of crazy people running around and trying to scare everyone. The zone is definitely chaotic and has some little shows in it, such as a ‘costume contest’ show. This is the place to go if you want to just sit and watch people run in fear! My favorite zone of the year was All Nite Die In: Double Feature. This is the smallest zone of the event, but for movie buffs, packs some of the most fun. The zone resembles a drive in movie theatre, complete with cars, a snack bar, big screen and DSCN7498a working projector. But what makes the zone incredible is it is filled with classic horror icons from the past decades; as recent as Chucky and Norman Bates, to as old as Frankenstein and even Nosferatu. There were so many, each time we walked through, we saw new ones. I definitely plan to try getting pictures with many of them!

Overall, this year’s HHN is definitely one for the books! Universal took the 25th Anniversary to heart and did everything they could to make it count, more so than they did the park itself. (Odd…) Our biggest complaint for the event as a whole are the chainsaws. Good lord are they EVERYWHERE! It’s one thing to have them in one scare zone, maybe two, but they are throughout the entire park. We couldn’t DSCN7532get away from them. Sorry Universal, chainsaws are not scary, they were merely annoying. I will say it was a nice touch to put the clown scare actors in front of The Simpsons Ride. I can’t wait to go back and look at everything in even more detail. This was the right year to buy the Frequent Fear Pass! The event holds many scares for every kind of person out there, and with Diagon Alley open this year for it, it is a year not to be missed! Ranking of the houses, for me, is listed below!

Houses
1. An American Werewolf in London (Scared me the most)
2. Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem
3. Freddy Vs. Jason
4. The Purge (Scared me the second most)
5. Insidious
6. Body Collectors: Recollections
7. Asylum in Wonderland 3D
8. The Walking Dead: The Living Dead
9. RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Shears

Scare Zones
1. All Nite Die In – Double Feature
2. Evil’s Roots
3. Icons – HHN
4. Scary Tales – Screampunk
5. Psychscareapy – Unleashed

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About Chris DiPaula

Creator of DiPaula on Disney: entertainment website dedicated to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, other Florida parks and activities, and other adventures. Co-creator and producer of Parks, Brews, and Geek News: an entertainment website dedicated to the Florida theme parks including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, movie & geek news, and food and brews. Chris DiPaula has been an avid theme park and amusement park goer since childhood and a die hard Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He is currently an active concierge Cast Member at Walt Disney World Resort and has worked for The Walt Disney Company since 2011. Previously, he worked for Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando in the entertainment technician field as well.

Posted on September 29, 2015, in Universal Orlando and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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