I was lucky enough to have attended both an employee preview night and the first Saturday night of Halloween Horror Nights 2016 at Universal Studios. Some may think I’m insane to drive through rush hour to Hollywood by myself twice to hang out and get scared, and I probably am, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Walking into the park, visitors will be welcomed with the traditional pyrotechnics, zombie go-go dancers and large-franchise scare zone that they may feel familiar with. This familiarity is something past Halloween Horror Nights goers will experience throughout the night. The majority of the mazes this year follow a theme of infamous horror “slasher” villains. These include Jason and Freddy from “Freddy vs. Jason,” Michael from “Halloween,” Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and the possessed girl, Regan, from “The Exorcist.” Other mazes included “Krampus,” “American Horror Story” and a scare zone featuring elements from “The Purge” trilogy.
The lines at horror nights seemed to be much longer than the past few years, but it was a sacrifice both the other guests and I were willing to take to go through the mazes. The longest wait of the night, according to the signs displayed in the park, turned out to be around 170 minutes, but most mazes seemed to have a wait time of about 50 minutes. Also take into consideration that both nights I went, the event was at capacity, so other nights may not have such long waits.
The mazes were definitely worth waiting for despite the long lines. “Halloween” and “Freddy vs. Jason” both featured memorable moments and imagery from the films that really made them work. A highlight of the night was seeing the infamous boiling Jacuzzi murder scene from the second “Halloween” film. It made the horror geek within me tear up. And hearing Freddy’s witty banter and rustling of metal-bladed fingertips truly did make me feel like I might be murdered in my sleep. It was a fun time!
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a maze that has made appearances at multiple past Halloween Horror Nights. It felt a bit worn as a veteran of the event, but other guests seemed to enjoy it. This maze gave me the feeling that it was there for the sake of feeling completed rather than as creating something new and exciting. I would say that it made sense to have Leatherface at the park alongside the other titans of the horror genre, but the resulting maze felt a bit uninspired.
“American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead” may be familiar franchises for those that enjoy their horror-television fix. “The Walking Dead,” which had been a staple of Halloween Horror Nights for the past few years as a temporary maze, now sits as a permanent attraction open year-round. That attraction in and of itself deserves its very own positive review.
The “American Horror Story” maze primarily follows the Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel seasons and does so wonderfully. It grabs imagery and some of the most terrifying moments of the shows. I would say that this maze is a must for those who are fans of the show.
My favorite attraction of the night by far was the maze based off of “The Exorcist.” There was definitely a reason why this maze had the longest wait time: it was the best one. Fans of the creative team of Halloween Horror Nights may have known that creative director John Murdy had wanted to create a maze for this film for quite a while. Not only did he obtain his wish, but the attraction turned out phenomenally. I would classify the experience as a blackout maze connecting you to the same bedroom over and over again where most of the maze’s film counterpart takes place. The team somehow manages to have you walk through seemingly the same hallways and bedroom four to five times without boring you. Everything in this maze is something to love and I would recommend making it priority one on your trip to Halloween Horror Nights.
There is only one scare zone this year, “The Purge,” and it takes up most of the upper lot. This, as said before, is an experience similar to many other upper lot mazes at past Halloween Horror Nights, but it has a hidden gem many guests may not even discover. There is, in fact, a maze of sorts in this scare zone. Its name is “The Purge: Gauntlet of Fear.” There are no lines, and you can just walk right into the outdoor maze. This only takes about five minutes or less to walk through and is a pleasant surprise if you want a quicker scare and no line.
A final important attraction to note is the Jabbawockeez show held in an indoor theater in the upper lot. It has a runtime of approximately 20 minutes and that entire time you are guaranteed to be entertained whether you are a fan of the Las Vegas performers or not. I know I was. The show features amazing choreography, lighting design, projections and beats. It’s a great opportunity to take a break for half an hour, sit down and enjoy yourself. It was good enough last year for audiences to request the show back for a second year, so that must say a lot.
This year’s Halloween Horror Nights is a great time and going with a group of friends could be a memorable night. Tickets are selling out extremely quickly, so I’d suggest snagging them as soon as you can. Just make sure to bring an extra pair of underwear.