View Full Version : Universal Studios Hollywood vs. Knott's Scary Farm
10-12-2007, 05:03 PM
Hey everybody! If any of you live in southern California, or plan on visiting during this unholy season - you no doubt are coming to check out either Knott's Scary Farm Halloween Haunt (the grandaddy of all Haunt-related events) or Universal's newly resurected Halloween Horror Nights.
I am a huge fan of both events through the years, and while HHN in Florida is actually much more comparable to Knott's (in terms of number of mazes, scope of the event, etc.) USH offers an event that, while not massive, is quite consise and well put together - offering a more pollished (and in my opinion, scarier) overall experience. Knott's does their thing and puts on 13 mazes (or maze-like attractions) that vary in quality but also offer a wider variety of theming and horror.
Honestly, if you are a haunt fan (and I know you all are) both events are worth checking out but in my mind Universal really hit the mark this year (only their 2nd year back after a long break!) and Knott's seems to be a bit tired.
Read on for my detailed maze and scare zone reviews...
10-12-2007, 05:05 PM
first off, Knott's!
The evolving layout of the park since the change in ownership has definitely effected the impact of the classic scare zones and it seemed this year that the monsters (with the exception of a few of the old school ghost towners) lacked focus. There were a few scares to be had throughout, but gone is the feeling of dread that once acompanied a stroll through the darkened streets of ghost town or the gauntlet. The talent seems to be spread quite thin and at least a handful of the ghouls on duty were nearly devoid of energy, simply milling about the crowd, attempting feeble scares with shaker cans. I also couldn't help but notice that the selection of unique monsters populating the park seemed significantly decreased. I didn't see many of the familiar spooks I have come to know and love over the years. This brings into question the fact that perhaps with so many dates it's hard for Knott's to maintain a high level of talent throughout the entire event, which is a shame as this was clearly the cornerstone of the operation for so many years.
Moving on to the mazes, after the surprise success of the Grudge 2 last year (I had low expectations for the maze and was blown away by what they put together) I was expecting similar improvements and inovations this year. For the most part, I was sadly let down. On one hand, the awfull trend of neon 3D mazes seems to finally be winding down (better late than never) but the overall maze design this year was uninspired, rehashing many themes from years gone by and not particularly well. It is also evident that many of the effects and mechanized gags from past years are showing their age and need to be repaired/replaced.
Clearly the DIY, low budget nature of the Haunt has always been part of it's appeal and this fact has been offset by the sheer quantity of mazes and monsters in years past, but with the talent level weigning, less monsters in the park and continually dissapointing maze design, the cheap factor and lack of pollish are starting to stand out, and not in a good way.
Let's take a closer look...
Red Beard's Revenge
When this maze made it's debut a few years back it turned out to be a gem. The sets and theming were absolutely great and the talent was top notch! In years since, the once grand sets and props have started to show their age and it seems like the park is less and less interested in improving this house and stocking it with the amount of scares it deserves. I would love to see Knott's do a slight redesign on this maze and fix up those sets. It's still a good maze but it has seen much better days.
So evidently Knott's couldn't find a horror movie to do a maze tie-in with this year and instead decided to go with this. Beowulf is obviously a hot property due to the upcoming film, but making a haunted house attraction based on a movie that is in turn based on an ancient epic poem about a viking warrior seems like a bit of a stretch - and guess what? it is. The set design is very nice and the Grendel puppets are impressive and frightening, but that's about it for this maze. The sound design is redundent and obnoxious, the lair of Grendel's mother is just full of hot chicks and not scary at all and the dragon effect at the end is really just kind of cheesey. Add to this the fact that there hasn't even been a serious advertising push for the film yet and you have a maze that lacks direction and theme aside from being tied in to a movie. The layout was good but I just couldn't help but think I was walking through an extremely budget version of the old Mummy maze at Universal.
The Grudge 2
I am actually not sure if they did scale this maze down at all from last year. The eye room did seem smaller and I remember more hair featured last year, but I also thought there were a couple of things that they added this time around. This maze is still a really good creepy haunted house experience. My only real gripe was that they didn't have the exceptional level of talent that this maze had last year, and that showed. Also, some of the animatronic gags have already started to show signs of extreme wear and tear, but that long-necked hairy head monster thing in the bedroom is still the scariest effect at the whole Haunt!
Lore of the Vampire
I have to agree with the folks over at Ultimate Haunt when they say that it is high time for Lore to take a hike. I can get behind the dedication that the vampire actors have to their roles and their maze, but seriously - vamps have been done to death and this maze offers precious little in the way of originality. It seems like this maze also shrinks every year as the props and set pieces are presumably canibalized for use on newer mazes, but as this has happened, Lore has all but lost it's thematic focus (which started out, years ago, as a sort of "vampires through the ages" idea) and is now just a hodgepodge of mismatched vamp sub-genres running into eachother and actors that seem more interested in portraying Anne Rice-inspired drama than scaring guests. Also, the sound design in this maze was simply god awful, which is inexcusable. I'm always game for a good vampire maze - just do something new with it for crying out loud!
The heir apparent to the beloved Malice in Wunderland continues to miss the mark. The biggest crime here is that there are a handfull of great ideas in this maze that almost work but ultimately don't. The first problem is the severe lack of focus evident in maze design and execution. Knott's clearly can't decide if this is a "funny" maze or a "scary" maze. I'm not saying that funny mazes are not scary, they are still hanted houses set up to scare the guests, but there are clearly two types of mazes at Knott's in terms of thematic approach - the "funny" mazes (i.e. Killer Klowns, Hatchet High, Terrorvision, Lost Vegas) are designed to distract and entertain using morbidly comedic gags and/or visual ironies that advance the plot. The "scary" mazes (i.e. Asylum, Malice, Axe Murder Manor, Doll Factory) focus on disturbing imagery and more traditional gore and shocks to set the tone and advance the story line. This is not to say that the two themes do not cross over (they do more often than not) but the approaches are usually clear and provide clear thematic focus to the mazes. That said, Fearytales falls somewhere in between and never really finds it's voice. Most of the sound design is on the creepy side and some of the visuals are clearly meant to disturb, but the overall tone of the maze and the inclusion of many bad puns and a few instances of comedic sound clips and visual gags puts a lot of the rooms squarely in the realm of comedy. This dual nature, as well as room design and props that look like reused cast-offs from Malice adds up to Fearytales falling short of the mark once again. This maze also suffers from the same problem that plagued the (thankfully) extinct Terrorvision - there are some pretty clever horror spins on beloved classics (here fairy tales, as opposed to tv shows) but the rooms are not set up properly and the humor as well as the potential for a great scare is too often lost, leaving us with a series of empty scares and bad puns. I'd love to see this maze come back as a NON-3D house with more focus and better continuity.
This house has been a standout since it first showed up a few years back, maintaining a high level of quality despite only minor overhauls. This year, the sets are still solid but the maze seems far more anemic and slap-dash than it ever has. This is likely due to the departure of several effects and gags to other mazes (most obvioulsy the Doll Factory) and a scaled-down layout that fits in a seemingly new storage facility behind Ghost Rider. The layout has been changed slightly and the maze seems to have lost some of it's intensity because of this - particularly the formerly menacing foyer, which has now been split into several smaller rooms and thus lost much of it's disturbing grandeur. I did like some of the new insane scrawlings written on the walls and the sound design was much improved over last year (if a little too busy and loud), but the general feel of the maze and all it's rooms seemed scaled down from previous years and the talent was not up to their usual insanity levels.
13 Axe Murder Manor
Clearly still the most solid maze overall in the whole Haunt, the Manor includes almost everything that makes a Knott's maze great. It doesn't seem to have changed in terms of layout at all since it's first appearance (except perhaps the ending rooms - after you exit the actual manor) and this is a good thing. By now we have all but forgotten that many of the rooms are just transplanted from the old Blood Bayou maze, and they seem perfectly at home in the manor (particulary the old classic where the woman is in bed and her guts are strung up all over the room) and the climactic dining room scene remains one of the coolest set pieces ever in a maze. The exterior of the house is also easily the best Knott's has to offer and the inclusion of a great new animated gag where the weak ghost effect used to be is a great touch (and probably the coolest animated prop Knott's has unleashed outside of the Grudge maze). The talent, while rather sparse, was top notch and seemed properly motivated. My only real gripe with the manor (besides the fact that the ending is kind of a let down after the killer dining room scene) is that while the sound design is often quite inspired, it seems a little uneven, and almost non-existant in some rooms. The manor is still kicking and Knott's should really look to this maze as a template for new houses in the future.
10-12-2007, 05:06 PM
The Doll Factory
Of all the new mazes this year, this was clearly the best. When you realize that the competition was Killer Klown College and Beowulf, this is not such an impressive claim. That said, the Doll Factory did show some promise in terms of design and such. First of all, this maze featured easily the best sound design of any maze in the Haunt, if not in recent Haunt history. The detail and placement of the music and sounds perfectly set the extremely creepy tone and move the story along nicely, showing amazing restraint and proving that when it comes to maze sound design, less is more (take a note, Asylum!) As far as gags go, the maze has basically just recycled bits from the Asylum and has also seemingly highjacked some of it's characters, but this isn't really a bad thing as the new setting is welcome for surgery gags, metal fencing and those strobe-lit plexiglass cages (that are usually good for a solid scare) and the costumes were themed better and more specifically than at most of the houses. The actors in this maze were strangely varied - as many people mentioned, the living doll at the entrance to the walk-through doll house was exceptional (and I'm pretty sure an actor stolen from the Grudge 2) and a few of the creepy factory workers had their bits down, but a lot of others seemed confused as to weather they should go for hardcore scares or just sort of act menacing and creepy. Personally, I would have liked to see more of the former, as the maze was certainly not lacking in creepiness but did leave something to be desired in the intensity department. Also, there was clearly a good sense of story and development through the house, but without any sort of set-up or backstory the best we can do is come up with our own ideas about the creepy factory and whoever is in charge of the madness. With just a little work this maze could kick some serious *** - I would actually like to see Knott's get rid of the tired Asylum and go ahead and dedicate the resources and talent to this up-and-comer.
Killer Klown College
I'm gonna come right out and say it - this maze is a huge stinker. I was expecting a lot out of this idea - an obvious ploy to combine gags and elements from the beloved (and recently absent) killer klown mazes and the deviously entertaining Hatchet High, but somehow they managed to only include the worst of both and create a maze that isn't even really worth the time it takes to go through it. The actors seem to realize that these themes are tired out and not well put together, and their apparent lack of enthusiasm hinders the maze further. The biggest problems with this house are the poor sound design, lazy set design and dressing, lack of any sort of originality and a complete void where humor should be. Unlike Fearytales, Klown College is intent on being a "funny" maze (and having been born of Hatchet High - my personal favorite funny maze ever - it should have been a slam dunk) but really includes no obvious humor. On top of that, there are no great scares throughout and the whole maze just seems limp and uninspired. Gotta say that this is the most dissapointing maze this year, with a lot of potential wasted. Knott's needs to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the clowns. I know people love them, but much like the vampires, they are a tired theme that needs a complete overhaul.
Why on earth they decided to bring this atrocity back to the Haunt is beyond me. I really can't believe that other posters were actually okay with this poor excuse for a maze either, as it was worthless when it debuted last year and it may have gotten worse this tikme around. Much like the new Killer Klown College, this is a maze that goes for "funny" and fails to hit the mark in every way possible. Even the bad puns that adorne the que are ignored inside the maze in favor of half-assed theming, bad paint jobs, a handfull of bored monsters and a variation on the polka dot room that looks like a 4th grade class put it together. This is also a sad case due to the fact that making a horror-themed Vegas seems so obvious and entertaining, but the result is nothing short of mind-numbingly dull. The whole idea of the 3D mazes is outdated and clearly on it's way out, and Vegas is the perfect example of why. My biggest complaint with this maze though is the horrendous sound design. Only Lore of the Vampire had worse sound this year! What I want to know is why they don't use the Dead Kennedys version of Viva Las Vegas - which is way creepier than the version that they use. Bad maze. Time to let it go, Knott's. The bumper car area deserves better.
Black Widow Cavern
I have never been all that impressed with the mine ride during the Haunt. I have always found the regular day time version way more unsettling, while the halloween version always seems cheesey and underthemed - kind of like they gave a bunch of elementary school kids access to some spooky skeletons and said "go crazy in the mine ride, kids!". It was formerly a really weak rip-off of Army of Darkness but without any of the scares or humor from the film. Now it is a poorly themed rehash of those old inexplicably awfull Curse of the Spider mazes they did for a while. Eitehr way it's the same lame stuff and there aren't nearly enough scares. Those boxes with the pop doors are pretty good but only one of them had a monster lurking within so they were basically a wasted effect. The spitting widow gag and the giant spider in the abyss were also pretty cool, as were some of the gore gags, but the ride is so chock full of bad rubber and stuffed spiders and non-themed dummies that it makes the good stuff seem less impactful. If there is no line, go ahead and hop on just to see a couple cool effects. If the line is long whatsoever, don't waste your time.
A lot of people are complaining about the log ride and it's new re-theming. Personally, I don't really see what the big deal is. Sure, the theming is more sparse than it was for Red Moon, and a little more storytelling might be nice (and maybe a little less techno music) but the real reason you ride the log ride during Haunt is the non-stop barrage of inescapable scares! I will say that for the first half of the ride the scares come often and are better than in years past (the actors were lunging convincingly close to the log, in better positions and didn't just stick to a simple rattle of the shaker can) but the second half of the voyage is nearly devoid of scares altogether - which is simply lame. This is where the lack of theming really shows, as the Red Moon years at least gave you something cool to look at during the latter parts of the journey (i.e. the big wolf mouth and such). I would have liked to see more actuall fire effects, as the name of the ride wasn't particularly fitting to red hazard lights, and aside from that it was pretty much just by-the-book hillbillies. Not particularly horrible, but the log ride has been better.
So that's pretty much it for Haunt. I thought that while there were some definite high points, the steps backward far outnumbered the steps forward, and the positive momentum created by last year's additions was halted a bit. Hopefully Knott's will learn from some of their miscues this year and come back next season with a stronger maze line-up and better ride themeing.
Tomorrow I will be back with my full maze review of USH Halloween Horror Nights. I really think Knott's could learn a lot from that event this year and maybe attack next year's haunt with a similar quality over quantity approach.
10-12-2007, 05:07 PM
Now, on to Universal...
Last years event (the first year back after a long hiatus) was mostly a huge dissapointment. There were only 2 mazes, and although the Asylum maze was very impressive the other maze was merely the year-round Van Helsing attraction with random monsters planted throughout and actually quite lame. The Terror Tram was a great idea that suffered from poor execution leaving only the scare zones as a real high point. Having worked at and attended the Horror Nights event in the last years of it's previous stint, I have seen what Universal can do and how awesome it can be and therefore I was quite dissapointed by last year's feeble attempt. I did not lose all hope though, chalking the failure up to a hastily planned, horribly underfunded first year back, keeping high hopes for 2007.
After visiting HHN last weekend I am pleased to let you all know that Universal is back and poised for a hostile takeover of southern california halloween events! They have taken many steps in the right direction this year, fixing many of last years goofs and improving on what they got right. The scare zones, although rather small, are once again a huge success! With the continuing renovation of Knott's, their scare zones have lost a lot of their intensity and atmospheric impact. This is not the case with Universal's, as certain walk-ways and corners of the park are just perfect for a spooky retrofitting, and each is put to excellent use. The actors are also great in these areas, putting on a genuine show and staying thoroughly in character. The props are great, the costumes and makeup are great and the music and sound design are superb, if a little basic. Best of all, Universal's infamous chainsaw drill teams are back! Anybody who attended the event in the "old days" or has been to Florida will know exactly what I'm talking about and how absolutely awesome it is. I don't want to spoil the shock for anyone but just think of giant roving gangs of chainsaw wielding maniacs all working in unison to continually assault the crowd and scare the living sh*t out of everyone. I am pretty jaded when it comes to being scared at these events and I found myself running like a high school girl from a chainsaw slingin' hillbilly attacking at full tilt.
The overall atmosphere here beats Knott's hands down this year as crazies and monsters literally chase hapless screaming victims everywhere, scary music and sounds invade your ears at every turn and the rumble of chainsaws is never far away. I would just love to see one or two more zones to really fill out the park, but what they've done so far they have absolutely nailed.
Now, on to the mazes...
Nightmare On Elm Street
Although it's not a bad idea to use last year's asylum maze and redesign it to fit the Freddy theme, the end result isn't as good as it could have been. The asylum maze was one of the only high points in last year's dissapointing showing, coming through solidly as one of the best mazes of it's kind that I have ever been through. With the departure of a few rooms to the Texas Chainsaw maze (most obviously the nasty bathroom walkthrough and a few of the "surgery" and cooking gags) and the inclusion of the Freddy elements, the original asylum layout has been changed and therefore is shorter and has lost some of it's impact. Last year it seemed like you were really going deeper and deeper into the building and that you might never escape, but this feeling was not conveyed by the new design. Also, a lot of the crazies and ghouls wandering the halls last year have been replaced by Freddies lurking beind doors or pop gags so the maze feels a little empty.
Many of the effects are nice and the newly added freddy sets are superb (The roach motel is one of the coolest set pieces in the whole event) but the individual effects and sets don't flow well into each other and the idea of being plunged in and out of multiple nightmares is not fully realized, with the re-theming feeling a bit forced and the sound design suffering due to too many looping Freddy sound bites. With some work this maze could have been really impressive but as it is, it stands out as the worst of the three Newline mazes, and a monument to wasted potential.
Friday The 13th
All I can say about this maze is WOW. Maze designers of the world, take note - this is how it should be done! Everything about this maze works beautifully with a good flow and a convincing feeling of total emersion. There is a great combination of flashy effects and old school scares, set up to perfection. The sets are perfect as the path leads you through different cabins and dark corners of Crystal Lake, with the outdoor foresty bits enhanced by cold temperatures and the sharp scent of pine. Many of the classic deaths from the Friday series are present here in all their gory glory with lots of blood spray and screaming victims, making you feel as though you've truly wandered into the world of the films with Jason stalking you at every turn. I also really liked the way they worked in versions of Jason and set pieces from the entire span of the franchise instead of just focussing on one incarnation and thus the bloody history of "Camp Blood" comes to life within the confines of one of the best mazes I've ever had the pleasure to experience.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Coming in a close second to the Friday maze, this is another prime example of how great maze attractions can be. Despite the fact that the god awfull remake of the film is used as the primary basis for the maze, a handfull of references to the 1970s original can be found throughout, presenting an intriguing combination of the two films' very different tones. Like Friday, the set design and layout of this maze couldn't be better. The house sets particularly are chock full of grisly details (notice the photos hanging in the entryway and how they have all been eerily defaced - no pun intended) and great glimpses into the twisted lives of the chainsaw clan (Leatherface hunched over a sewing machine, finishing a new skin mask leaves a lasting impression) while setting up copious scares using an unprecedented number of impressive chainsaw gags. The use of several live chainsaws and many many "light and sound effects" shows how perfectly the maze designers understand the challenges and intricacies of using the saws in a maze setting and each gag is set up and executed well.
There are less gore effects than in Friday, although the spraying blood is still prevelant (not to mention the great overhead dripping corpse gag late in the maze) but a meathook gag was nowhere to be found, and more attention is paid to menacing the guests than slaughtering the maze's victims (although there are a few great scenes as actors are tortured and mutilated). This isn't a bad thing altogether, as it leads to a maze with a more intense feel and lots of big scares, but the perfect balance of staging and scaring on display in the Friday maze is more off balance here. The sound design, on the other hand, is better than Friday's, using the themes from the original film and a barrage of atmoshperic effects (not to mention uncountable saw buzzing effects) to magnificent ends without going overboard.
At the end of the day this maze is very very good. Leaps and bounds beyond anything Knott's has to offer this year and easily one of the highlights of Horror Nights.
House of Horrors
I presume that this maze is totally unchanged from it's year-round daytime incarnation, but the remodeling (the maze was formerly based on the lame Universal quasi-horror bomb, Van Helsing) is pretty damn good. Some of the old sets (most notably the massive frankenstein's lab room) are intact, but many of the maze's chambers have been transformed into rooms themed after various horror films and most of said transformations are quite succesfull. There are some corners of the maze that look unfinished (almost as if the remodeling is not quite complete) and some of the theming is a bit slapdash and underwhelming and there is a significant lack of monsters, but the talent level is fairly high and there are a few good scares to be had throughout. As far as effects and good gags go, this maze is definitely lacking - even some of the great bits from Van Helsing have been replaced by more standard haunted house fare - but House of Horros achieves what it aims to and delivers a solid old-school maze experience with great sets and decent sound design, despite the low number of monsters inhabiting it's halls.
10-12-2007, 05:08 PM
Last year's Terror Tram (the first attempt at this attraction) was a giant dissapointment. It was such a great idea marred by what I thought was completely backasswards execution - taking guests to the backlot and letting them walk through a series of scenes based around Whoville (from How the Grinch Stole Xmas), the Bates Motel, the Psycho House and the suburban plane crash scene from War of the Worlds. The idea of turning giant backlot sets into a haunted house type experience seems like a slam dunk but it seemed that Universal hadn't thought it all through.
Once on the tram, guests were treated to a creepy video setting up a sort of backstory for the backlot adventure. After getting off and starting the walking tour, guests were basically expected to saunter through large fenced-off walkways that went past the aformentioned sets.
The attraction had the general feeling of a really big scare zone but it's isolated location and the fact that the park bills it more like a maze, led to confusing expectations and an unever experience. It seemed like the monsters didn't really know how to deal with the situation either, as their performances were generally neither scary nor particularly interesting to watch. Thematically the attraction was all over the place as well, with no real continuity carrying over from the tram video, and no obvious flow between sets.
But enough about last year...
This year's Terror Tram is something of an oddity. In some respects it is much more successfull than last years outing, while in other ways it has lost a degree of charm. The story line is better realized but not as initially intriguing. I know the character of Jack Shmidt has been around for years in Florida but his inclusion at the Hollywood event seems forced. In fact, the "host" characters that are so beloved in Florida just seem to not work at USH due to the fact that the theming is not nearly as intense and the history is simply not there. If Hollywood really wants to continue using the hosts (presumably as an easy way to share merchandise with the Florida park) they need to really go for it - theming the entire events around them like they do in Orlando. This half-assed approach is just kind of confusing, and with the Newline Cinema characters in the park, the attempt to theme the event further seems kind of extranious.
That said, Jack's presence does bring some sort of relavence to the clown re-theming of Whoville, but the area is still underdressed and the clowns again seem unclear as to whether they should attack the guests or just kind of act crazy. More set pieces have been moved inside the path this year, which offers some cover for would-be scarers, and that is something of an improvement.
Including Freddy, Jason and Leatherface only further confused the theming and really added very little to the overall experience. The biggest improvement is the re-routed path that actually winds through the plane crash and the fabulous effect of Jack jamming a girl into a wood chipper at teh end of the walkthrough is truly impressive - leaving us wondering why they didn't gear this attraction to include more "big" effects set pieces. At the end of the day this is still an attraction with a lot of untapped potential that is kind of a mess. I'm not sure if there are too many cooks in the kitchen or what, but someone needs to give the Terror Tram some direction because it could be the coolest thing USH has going for it's halloween event but currently it is being thoroughly showed up by the traditional mazes and scarezones, and that's just not right.
At the end of the day, Universal really came through this year. After last year's debacle I was expecting baby steps, and instead I got leaps and bounds! With the inclusion of a couple more mazes, expanded scare zones and a major rethinking of the Terror Tram, HHN will easily be THE premier halloween attraction in California in the years to come.
There is a fresh feeling about the event as well, where as Knott's is beginning to feel a little stale. Every monster at USH seemed amped for the entire night, running around even when the crowds starting slowing down, and the maze design and execution simply wiped the floor with Haunt's. If you are a quantity over quality fan, you should probably stick with Knott's as they have a sh*tload of mazes, but I would recommend giving Universal a try this year since their event is much more polished, consise and well done. Bravo!
10-13-2007, 05:00 AM
Bravo... what a story! Why don't you write a review of both and why one is better than the other or what is better about one over the other. I would love to print an article like that.
So in the end which event is better??
10-14-2007, 11:52 PM
Great review: here is my experience at HHN:
I had never been to a theme park Halloween event, but I had been in my fair share of haunted houses, so I was excited to see how the "professionals" pulled it off.
First, after reading some reviews from the 2006 HHN event, I braced myself for huge crowds and long lines at the mazes, and we arrived early to make sure we at least had a fighting chance once the gates were open. To our surprise, the crowd was light before opening, and once the gates opened (15 minutes early) we were able to do literally whatever we wanted without any wait. We were through the 3 mavoe -related haunts within an hour of entering the park. I guess coming to HHN early is the answer to the 70 minute long lines?
Once the gates were open, we staggered into the first scare zone which was the "Zombie Invasion" area. The scare actors assaulted us immediately and were relentless in their pursuit. People were running, screaming, and laughing everywhere.
First stop was "A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy's Nightmare" located in the overflow queue area of Shrek 3-D. The line area was a little confusing as there was no effort to mask the Shrek elements in the line for "Elm Street" It was a little bizarre to be entering a Freddy maze surrounded by pictures of the three little pigs and Pinocchio, but I guess that is a minor complaint.
The house was really well done with some great effects and some good scares. The highlight of this, and the other movie-related houses, was the attention to detail and the direct referencing of the movies. Distinct scenes, from the syringe killing in Dream Warriors, to the demon child of Part 5 are all present and accounted for. Other than some late jump scares, the house was really effective and the actors did a nice job of selling the scenes.
Next was "Friday The 13th: Camp Blood. in the Wild West Stunt Show area" Again, the level of detail was excellent with specific death scenes from the movies depicted in all of their bloody glory. Ever wanted to see Jason smash that camper in the sleeping bag against the tree up close? How about watching the masked maniac skewering the 2 teenage lovers at the same time in bed? In this maze, you will literally be up close and personal with Jason and witness all of the mayhem firsthand. This was really an awesome maze, and again, the level of detail and the referencing of the movies was really well done.
After "Friday the 13th" we exited into the "Deadwood" scare zone which was basically a redressing of the Wild West area. This scare zone was sparse and somewhat disappointing with only 4 actors visible.
We then headed down to the lower lot for Jurassic Park, The Mummy, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze. But once we landed off the escalators, we were greeted with more scare actors waiting to chase us. The lower lot "Hellbilly Hoedown" scare zone was by far the most active and most fun. The actors here were ruthless and seemed to come in waves! We literally found ourselves trapped in the middle of the Studio Center surrounded by inbred mutants, chainsaw-wielding maniacs, and other creatures. it took our party a good 10 minutes to get through the scare actors. Great stuff!
Finally we made it to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Back In Business" on the lower lot in the Mummy overflow area (after a quick ride on The Mummy). This maze was definitely the best of the three movie-related haunts, and it really felt like we were in the Hewitt house watching the carnage firsthand. Leatherface and the rest of the family were everywhere, and it seemed like there was a chainsaw flying toward us throughout the entire maze. I swear I felt a blade on the top of my head. The clausterphobic maze really added to the atmosphere and made this a scary and thrilling haunt. Some of my friends were so freaked they refused to go through again. And of course, once we were through this maze we had to fight our way back through the "Hellbillies" again to get back to the upper lot.
Once upstairs we made our way to Slaughterworld 2 (Waterworld). The show had some funny moments, and some cool gore effects, but we were pretty underwhelmed with the whole thing. It seemed like it had been thrown togehter and very little thought had been given to the story (basically, none of it many aany sense) Still, it was cool watching stuff get blown up, people getting splattered, and hot chicks in very little costuming.
After Slaughterworld, we moved on to the "Terror Tram" which was a bit of a disappointment. The walk around the sets was cool, and being that close to the Psycho house and the War of the Worlds set was definitely unique, but nothing about it was scary. In fact, there were local television news crews out on the lot filming spots for the TV news to the left of us, and Jason stalking victims at "Camp Crystal Lake" to our right. Pretty hard to feel the atmosphere when reporters in golf carts are whizzing around on access roads. Another problem with the Terror Tram experience was that our guide absolutely sucked. Unfunny, unprepared, and completely useless. Much more can (and should) be done with the "Terror Tram."
Because we had breezed through so many attractions in just over 2 hours, we were able to catch the early Bill & Ted's Halloween Adventure show. I had read online how unique this show was, and it definitely was that. Loud, obnoxious, and occasionally funny, this show was the equivalent of throwing spaghetti in the wall. Imagine a Dennis Miller pop culture riff on acid, and you are in the ballpark. Lionidus, Sylar, Britney Spears, the Beastie Boys, a Transformer with a phone on his crotch, and a huge list of other celebrities get involved. Some of the jokes fall flat, and some of the music numbers seemed pointless, but to say this was not entertaining would be a lie. I was entertained, but I am still not quite sure why.
After Bill & Ted we headed over to "Chucky's Insult Emporium", but unfortunately, Chucky didn;t appear at his schedule time. I am not quite sure what was happening, but we saw alot of tech guys coming and going. We decided to bail and run through "Friday the 13th: Camp Blood" one more time. By this time it was 11:00 and there was still no wait!
After our return visit with Jason, we caught the last T2-3D show and then headed to House of Horrors. I had been through this house before, and nothing much had been added, so for me it was a little disappointing. But for the rest of my party who had not been through it before, it was fun.
After picking up some cool souveneirs, we were satisfies with our nigt and headed out of the park-15 minutes before closing! I was completely shocked how manageable the crowds were. I don't know if this was because it was opening night, but I was pleasantly surprised.
My friends and I had a great time at Hollywood's HHN event, and we will definitely be back again. the quality of the haunts were superb, the scare actors were great, and the park's atmosphere was perfect. There were some minor areas that could be fine-tuned, and the shows ranged from mediocre to bizarre, but all in all I thought it was a great night of fun and scares. I highly recommend Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights to everyone!
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