View Full Version : Halloween Horror Nights - Universal Studios, Orlando 2010

11-02-2010, 11:52 AM
I just got back yesterday from Orlando. I stayed at Universal for five days, to attend Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. I have plenty to say about my experience, but I was wondering if anyone else attended this year??

chuck weber
11-02-2010, 12:07 PM
Is it's all it's cracked up to be ? How were the lines? Value for the $$$$. Please, advise. I'd rather to go to the darkness or pennhurst asylum...............

11-02-2010, 04:15 PM
The sets are cool, the haunts are crap. You are in a big conga line and getting spooked is something that will never happen there. You see everything way in advance and there is a park employee in every room just watching you and saying keep going. I think it is the most overrated event ever.

chuck weber
11-02-2010, 04:32 PM
Another overpriced big build up for nothing. Thanks for the honest warning.

11-02-2010, 05:29 PM
I have to admit that perhaps I had unrealistic expectations going into Halloween Horror Nights. I had always assumed that theme park haunted houses were a step above other haunted houses, due to the increased budget available to create them. What I failed to consider, however, is that they are still temporary SEASONAL events.

The "scare zones" in the park were quite good. These are the sets and actors that appear on the streets (as opposed to inside the haunted houses). The fog and lighting were good, the sets and props were detailed, the costumes were also good. I don't remember hearing much in the way of sound design in the scare zones. These four areas each had a different theme. They were succeeding in terrifying customers in general. The only startle I received for the night was (embarrassingly enough) from a small actor dressed as Chucky in one of the scare zones. I just wasn't expecting someone to pop out at me from that low to the ground, I guess, ha ha!

The first haunted house I tried (out of the 8 available) was called "Havoc". This was perhaps not the best starting point. It was housed in a temporary structure (a tent of some kind, if I remember correctly). I remember plastic sheeting for walls, almost no set design, and actors with plastic guns jumping out at me. This was on the level of a local, $5 - $10 haunted house. This being my first theme park haunted house experience (outside of the Haunted Mansion at Disney), my expectations were "mile high", and they were not met.

I was "setting the bar" for quality (in my mind) along the lines of "Realm of Darkness" or "Erebus"... The two best haunted houses I've ever experienced (Erebus is a Top 13 haunted house almost every year in Haunt World). I didn't see anything at Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando) that even came remotely close to reaching the level of these excellent haunts.

"Catacombs - Black Death Rising" at least beat "Havoc" in terms of set design. If I recall correctly, it had 100% vacuform wall panels. The scares were of the typical "boo" variety. I don't recall much else about this one.

"ZombieGeddon" had a fun premise.... The cue line video tells you that they were going to help you learn how to fight zombies. This was also cool because there simply wasn't much in the way of cue line entertainment period at their other haunts. The first room of the haunt further enforced this zombie hunting theme. If I had to describe this haunt, I would call it EMPTY. We saw a long line of zombies being lead out of the haunt shortly before we entered, and we assumed it was an actor shift change. The first half of the haunt, however, just seemed to be lacking actors. We walked through room after room in which nothing at all happened, with no actors to be found. The zombie hunter theme never seemed to resurface, until the very last room, which featured a cool full-sized vehicle with mounted guns on it. I'm just not sure what happened here, and where the zombies or zombie hunters were?

(I'm going to break this up into multiple posts)

11-02-2010, 05:52 PM
I was down there last thursday also checking it out and was not impressed at all. Some of the sets were cool, but like Grimley said they just push you right through i bought the express pass to see everything cuz i was only there for a couple hours on the one night. The one thing I was impressed with though is that I only saw one animitronic out of the whole thing. Which to me I dont personally like using many animitronics unless your using it as a distraction for an actor to scare you. I was kinda disappointed though in that I know the Wolfe brothers used to work it for makeup artists but 3/4 of the people had masks on. If they have makeup artists similiar to them two why wouldnt you have more people in makeup. I was more disappointed in this more than anything due to me mostly going down there to see the makeup because I have been a makeup artist for a haunted house but always want to try and learn more.

11-02-2010, 05:53 PM
"Hades - Gates of Ruin" was supposed to feature a Greek god theme. I don't recall actually seeing any Greek characters. One theme that was constant across all of the Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando) haunted houses was that actors appeared and disappeared so quickly, I seldom got to see their costume. They would pop out for a quarter of a second, in very dark lighting, and disappear in a blink. Given the amount of throughput in these haunts, we ended up in basically one long, continuous conga line... Which of course is never good for scares. We almost always saw the people in front of us getting scared, so we knew where the actors were hiding. Occasionally I would hear an actor growl behind me, but by the time I turned to look, they were gone. I honestly remember very little about this haunt.

"PsychoScarepy" was a rather generic "insane asylum".

"Horror Nights - The Hallow'd Past" was actually unique. It was haunt set in a warehouse that contains a huge collection of haunt props and costumes from past Halloween Horror Nights. This, of course, was a haunter's dream setting! I loved looking at the large variety of pieces on display. I don't remember the haunt being particularly scary, but it was a treasure trove of props and costumes. Thumbs up for this one.

"Legendary Truth - The Wyandot Estate" seemed to be where Horror Night put their money. The facade was a full classic haunted house set, complete with front porch that you walked on to enter the house. There was some vague reference to a ghost hunter theme, but it seemed to vanish after the first room or two. There was a pepper's ghost effect about half way through. I think that was one of the biggest disappointments for me... The lack of big time special effects. Being a theme park owned by a movie studio, I was expecting cutting-edge, over-the-top special effects, and I don't recall seeing a single one. This haunt had decent detail, and a few good actors.

I was disappointed by my first theme park haunt experience, until I really thought about the situation. Yes, theme parks have money and resources, but their event is still a temporary, seasonal event. They have to wedge the haunts into a fully functioning theme park (which is not "haunted" during the day). This represents a great challenge in terms of planning and available space. It is also unfair to expect the length and detail of other "mega" haunted houses (like Erebus and Realm of Darkness) who have the advantage of fixed locations, and the ability to work on detailing them YEAR ROUND.

Halloween Horror Nights compared well to other temporary, seasonal haunts I have visited. The sheer size of the overall event is impressive, and the outdoor scare zones were unique and detailed. I think to someone less acquainted with the haunt industry, the event would probably more than satisfy their haunt cravings. Especially since some of the rides were open during the event as well. For me, however, I think I went into it with unrealistic expectations.

**Just as a side note, the live stage show "Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure" was fantastic! it was truly hilarious and entertaining, though I have to divulge that I have always been a big Bill & Ted fan.

chuck weber
11-02-2010, 06:02 PM
I got a bootleg video from about 10 years ago, and thought it was pretty good. There were uniformed workers inside all the haunts, though. Kind of a turnoff. Hopefully, someone will enlighten us all.

11-02-2010, 08:28 PM
Another thing is get the VIP pass no matter what. Without it the wait is around 3 hours per haunt without it. So you may get in two haunts without.

11-03-2010, 12:45 AM
I got a bootleg video from about 10 years ago, and thought it was pretty good. There were uniformed workers inside all the haunts, though. Kind of a turnoff. Hopefully, someone will enlighten us all.

Halloween Horror Nights had an employee in a Universal Studios shirt posted at every exit door within each haunt. There were also a few posted in random rooms, such as in the room with the possessed girl in a bed. I know they were there for safety and security (and to prod us to "keep moving"), but they definitely did pull you out of the suspension of disbelief that makes haunts work.

I totally agree with other posters... If you are going to go, definitely pay for the Express Pass. I spent two nights at Halloween Horror Nights, but without the Express Pass, I doubt even two nights would've been enough to see everything.

chuck weber
11-03-2010, 07:26 AM
the bootleg video I got was from knott's scary farm. I thought it looked good on video. wondering if anyone has been there recently and if it is any better than horror nights.

11-07-2010, 06:44 PM
Yes, HHN has become overrated. I've been going for several years now and this year was very dissappointing, considering it was the 20 year anniversary.

My advice, in the Central Florida area, is to check out Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa. Probably the most UNDERRATED theme park event out there. Plus, a 1/4 of the crowds that you have to fight with at HHN.


11-07-2010, 07:54 PM
This was my first year going to Howl-O-Scream, but I've been to HHN many times. HOS reminded me of HHN in its earlier years, but with more houses. On the Friday night that I went, the lines were very short (or non-existent) for all houses so I was able to go through most of them many times. The HOS actors just seemed to be having more fun and were more energetic than those at HHN. Also, I've posted about this elsewhere but the "Alone" house at HOS was in my opinion a brilliant concept that offered a very personal and unique experience! I will definitely be going back to HOS next year. I'll wait to decide about HHN until I know the theme and see if the houses appeal.

11-08-2010, 12:54 PM
I go every year and have to say that yes it has lost its way. I do like to go and see the detail of the haunts but after working at WareHouse 31 for two years I can see that HHN just does not have the scare factor any more. I will still go as I make a party of it and it is still one hell of a Halloween party but for scares save the money and do a haunt near you.