Hollywood Horror Nights Review
Generally on this blog you can catch up-to-date reviews of all the latest movies, spanning nearly all genres. And, while I still have yet to write one (my wallet and LA theaters are NOT friends right now) I figured I would review the closest thing that compares to living an actual horror movie. That’s right, it’s that time of the year again, and Universal’s Hollywood Horror Nights are scheduled through the first weekend of November. The park opens during “spooky” hours, between 7:00 PM and 2:00 AM, and simply put, you cannot miss this experience. During this read, I will walk you through the must-see exhibits, new attractions, rules, tips and tricks for an insanely fun night of terror. Muahahaha!
Now before some of you close this on the general principle of “I hate being frightened”, keep in mind that this park isn’t for everyone; it does get intensely scary at times and it’s completely logical to stay away if you know your limits. For the rest of you, however, keep reading if you dare. Hollywood Horror Nights is as exhilarating as it is terrifying, flooding your body with adrenaline and endorphins. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, or only saw a billboard here and there, it’s basically several haunted mazes, complete with themes from your favorite freak-out shows and movies. Each one is shocking in how realistic the performances are, utilizing stylized movie-quality make-up, masks and costumes. But these haunted horror hangouts are not the only places that you might be “attacked” by a “Walker”, a demon, or a chain-saw wielding S.W.A.T. Team psycho. No, Universal went ahead and put these people in every square inch of the open park. And don’t be alarmed if you sit down for a breather only to have something nasty sneak up behind you. One of these demons was so convincing that I witnessed him put the fear of God into a poor older lady, and then proceed to chase her screaming through the park. It was hilarious.
Before we go any further, into the exhibits that you simply can’t miss, I’ll offer you a few tricks to beat the crowds, plan accordingly and know your surroundings. First and foremost, go early! Doors are at 7:00 PM, but if you show up at 6:00 they’ll let you right in. The big difference here is that many people show up at 7:00, get in at 8:00 and miss half the mazes due to wait time (Fridays and Saturdays can be upwards of 2 hours PER MAZE). For example, I went on a Thursday evening at 6:30, got right in, then spent a total of 15 minutes in each line. Disco. Keep in mind though, once you are in, there’s no getting out until you leave, and it’s doubtful you’d make it through the security line twice in a single night anyhow. What this means is that you should plan accordingly. Get dinner first (unless your worried about your bowels) and grab a drink or two before to calm those nerves, this one maybe the deal breaker; there is no alcohol sold in the park. I know. I know. There are always the few knuckle-heads that gotta ruin it for everyone. Then again, there’s an abundance of things that jump out at you brandishing fake weapons, so maybe being intoxicated is not the best idea. Also, while there is a noticeable presence of security staff just in case you start to have realistic delusions of actual monsters, the local cops tend to remain outside the park gates.
Remember, some of the exhibits here are very commercialized and draw the largest crowds. Be sure to hit these first as there may not be time later, depending upon your arrival.
The Walking Dead
Easily the most sought after attraction at the park, The Walking Dead is located on the lower lot of the studios and takes a longest time to get to. Start here first, and make your way back. Trust me, you’ll be ahead of the game. This also gives you a chance to make your way through the park, get an idea of your surroundings, and get used to the dead and undead alike roaming the pathways and looking for what I like to call A Phone Walker to startle. Once in line, you’ll notice an eerily familiar looking compound, it’s fences mangled and flattened by a large abandoned tank, fires burning in the towers. I hope you went to the bathrooms before you enter The Prison…
Alien vs Predator
I know what you’re thinking. “Seriously?! AVP?! That movie SUCKED!” and you’d be correct. But this isn’t AVP, this literally takes the best of both worlds and combines the two into an unbelievably frightening and intimidating journey through hell. Be prepared to see (and feel) more neon green blood than you can handle, to cower in the presence of eight foot tall horror icons, and to see these two monsters from another solar system’s hell battle it out for snarling supremacy. Also… So. Many. Alien. Babies.
From Dusk Till Dawn
I almost didn’t put this one on the mandatory list, but being that it’s unique from the others, right next to The Walking Dead, and brings elements of the film to life, I decided to throw it in. While waiting in line to get into the infamous “Titty Twister” biker bar from the movie, you will be treated to some D-level acting from Clooney and Tarantino-esque stand ins. Once inside you will see several of your favorite characters including Satanico Pandemonium, and the always interesting Robert Rodriguez snake-like vampires. Hit the previous two first, then catch this 90’s throwback on the way out.
An American Werewolf in London
First of all, I am a huge fan of this movie. In my opinion, John Landis made one the best monster movies EVER in 1981, and I don’t just mean werewolves. Like, all movie monsters. Ever. His transformation scene midway through the picture is the most perfect werewolf scene in history. Period. That being said, this review is completely and totally biased. This was my favorite exhibit for two reasons: One, they managed to recreate the entire movie from start to finish. The Slaughtered Lamb. Check. The Moors. Check. The dream sequence? The Subway? The Movie Theater? Check, check, check. And two, the transformation. THE TRANSFORMATION! If you are a fan of classic horror movies, your visit should begin and end here.
This is absolutely terrifying. Hands down, the most intensely frightening thing at Universal Studios this Halloween. I have never been one of those people who have an unnatural fear of clowns. Let me just tell you, I get it now. Don’t let it fool you like it almost fooled me, they bill this as “Clowns 3D – With a Soundtrack by Slash!” I can’t even remember hearing a soundtrack because my brain was in complete and total awe of the incredible overstimulation of this maze. I’m fairly confident that I nearly experienced epileptic shock in here. Bright neon pinks, greens and oranges splatter the already blood-soaked walls, vicious and demonic clowns are at your throat nearly every step of the way, blood dripping from their cackling mouths, the 3D glasses make it impossible to see how close they are to you… The walls… have they always been breathing? Oh #$*@! Did I just get squirted with blood?? Wow I can actually smell the gasoline from that chain-saOH MY GOD THAT FRESHLY SEVERED TORSO IS ALIVE!
Once through the best of the mazes, make your way through the scare zones set up in between sections of the park. These are very creepy, and each has its theme. Skullz boasts half-goat, half-demon looking creatures on stilts that can absolutely still catch you if you run, The Purge sports bat-wielding mega-punks in unnervingly neutral face masks and hoodies, and Mask-A-Raid and Evil Christmas are filled with Victorian style sickos and Santa’s, oops I mean Satan’s, Little Helpers. Seriously, they have elves, and yes, they’re all shorter than my waistline and are constantly chasing people. Freaky.
What You Can Skip
Don’t get me wrong, if you have the time, do everything you can. After all, you did spend your money to get in. I got everything done and then some and was still out by 11:00 PM. But if you’re forced to cut some stuff out, this may as well be it.
Let’s just get this one out of the way first. I mean come on, another terrible Dracula movie is coming out in the same vein as iFrankenstein (yes that’s how I’ll be spelling it) and Universal is promoting it… like this? I want a ten dollar discount for having been robbed of what possibly could have been something incredible. Completely and totally forgettable, skip it.
Hold on! Don’t get too excited yet! This, unfortunately is NOT the John Travolta and Nic Cage super treat I was expecting when seeing the sign. Could you imagine?! I’m thinking about having wax figures of the two of them that we can literally pull off and switch their faces, but I digress. In case you missed it, Face/Off is a show about make up artists on the Sci-Fi channel. This one definitely isn’t all bad, and is in fact one of the longest mazes, showing off some classic movie monsters like The Mummy and Frankenstein. Not terrible, not great.
The Terror Train
To be honest, this one is very cool, but really unnecessary if you’ve already been on the normal Universal Studios tour. You get on the trolly, trolly stops. Everyone out, look out for walkers, walk through iconic movie sets that they’ve kind of made look like they belong in the same city that’s been ravaged by zombies. It’s fairly long, and you’ll definitely recognize the sets. Still pretty fun, but not the reason you bought a ticket. Get to it if you can.
Once you’ve completed your journey, you may have an itch to stick around and play some more. Several of the rides are open throughout the night and there are always stores to go spend your money on meaningless merchandise or memorable musings from the gift shop. Keep in mind that City Walk next door closes fairly early and may not be open for your feeding and drinking needs once you’ve left, so plan your exit strategy. Or escape plan. Whichever you prefer. If you’re on the fence about checking it out, I hope this article has convinced you; it was a great time and a one of a kind experience. Keep in mind that the mazes change each year, so the clock is ticking and you may regret not making the time. Happy Halloween!
Header photo by Tambako, used under CC BY-ND 2.0.