Scary Sneaks for Halloween Horror Nights Orlando
The season for theme park scares and profits post-summer is eight months away. Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood is a behemoth in terms of these Halloween events. While Universal is still being coy with exactly what is going on in the HHN universe this year, a considerable number of first-facts are out.
First, the event will run 41 days, the longest it has ever run, from September 6th to November 2nd at both locations. In Orlando, there will be ten scare houses, and five scare zones again this year. Universal Hollywood has yet to announce how many attractions it will offer for 2019 in full.
Florida fans can get a bargain by seeking scares early: though the event is eight months away, there’s a buy one night/get a second night free special available right now for Orlando. Also available is a four-night vacation package stay that includes two Sunday-Friday HHN event nights.
Definitely returning this year in both locations will be Stranger Things 2, which was a huge success in 2018 in its first iteration at the event. The 2019 maze will continue the story from 2018, with details from Season 2 of the show, and it will also move ahead to Season 3, which will be available on Netflix this July.
In Hollywood, the maze will be, according to HHN creative director John Murdy, “darker than last years’” with “a crazy amount of special effects.” It will be placed in Soundstage 29 on the backlot. At both parks the haunt will parallel the television show as it leaps to 1985; attendees will meet up with snarling demodogs, and wander through Chief Hooper’s cabin and the Starcourt Mall among other small town locales.
In a big tease, Murdy tweeted April 14th that in Hollywood, attendees will find a maze that includes “A creepy Cupid, a blood-thirsty bunny, and a terrifying mutant turkey are just a few of the creatures you’ll have to evade in this year’s all-new, completely original maze – Holidayz in Hell!” Featured as a scare zone in the Metro area at last year’s HHN, it should be a riff on the zone attraction that included a variety of freaky characters based on popular holidays – including an Evil Elf, Mrs. Claus & Krampus, and a demonic humanoid turkey dressed as a pilgrim - “The Turkey Pilgrim.”
In Orlando, the big announcement on an original attraction maze is Nightingales: Blood Pit. That maze storyline is described on HHN’s website by suggesting visitors “Imagine yourself transported back to Ancient Rome where a ruthless emperor reigns and gladiatorial games are put on for bloody entertainment.” The story line includes blood thirsty creatures, the worst drought in centuries, and non-stop brutal bloody gaming until the rains return. Those blood thirsty creatures are called the Nightingales, and they “feed on the dead and dying.” HHN attendees will pass through the maze by trying to “survive alongside the gladiators” as the ravenous creatures “tear into their victims.”
Also in Orlando, there are planned to be more projections and mini-shows on small stages in scare zones.
While it’s unlikely that either Universal theme park location will be hosting Warner Brothers horror film franchises with the WB offering up their own Halloween scare event last year, the Warner Brothers event itself will not take place this year. It will be going on hiatus until 2020. An announcement that went out April 2nd to fans described 2018’s Horror Made Here event as a “frightful pleasure” and goes on to note that “For 2019 we are taking a break and will not be producing one of our signature events as we have exciting news to announce later this year for our Studio Tour.” The announcement however also touts a different experience – one that began April 4th, a “multi-sensory installation inspired by some of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and New Line Cinema’s most iconic scary movies will lure fans into artistic reinterpretations of the worlds of the first chapter in the IT saga, The Shining, Beetlejuice, The Lost Boys, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.” The installation is described as an interactive art installation celebrating these films, featuring timed-entry every 15 minutes in an attraction that will take visitors approximately 90 minutes to enjoy.
With 25,000-square-feet of attraction space located in Los Angeles’ mid-city area, it’s an Instagram-ready space ripe for selfies, from a recreation of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel to Beetlejuice’s graveyard. The exhibition has no scare actors or strobe light effects, but is built upon the experience of the installations themselves. Many of the exhibits feature an open space that needs to be “filled” by a visitor for a photo op. The location of the exhibition is the Desmond Building, whose Miracle Mile art deco vibe adds to the experience. Ticket cost is $39.
Each of the five films represented has its own exhibition space. The Shining offers four rooms: a hedge maze, the elevator of blood, Shelley Duvall’s escape room window, and the Gold Room with carpeted walls and floor in the well-known pattern from the film. IT is also a large-scale, multi-room attraction with discarded toys and balloons and the illusion of a lurking Pennywise; A Nightmare on Elm Street is shown in smaller spaces with over-sized props such as Freddy Krueger’s deadly glove. Beetlejuice offers several darker-themed elements from the film; The Lost Boys, contained in two rooms, nonetheless gives attendees the Santa Clara caves and the train tracks with trestle bridge that allows visitors to perform their own version of the film’s iconic scene involving vampires hanging from beneath the bridge.