upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary ...
Copyright Universal Orlando
Resort. All rights reserved
If you experience this year's edition of Halloween Horror
Nights at the Universal Orlando Resort, you'll definitely feel a bit weak and
weary as you wander towards the exits around the stroke of midnight. Not
because you'll have been pouring over some "... quaint and curious volume of
forgotten lore." But rather because you'll have just spent an evening exploring
all of the great haunted houses & scare zones which have been set up inside
of Universal Studios Florida for the 2011 version of this seasonal hard ticket.
So what are the must-sees at this year's event? To be honest,
when it comes to the mazes that Universal Creative has put together this time
around, it's hard for me to pick an absolute favorite. If only because each haunted
house has their own sinister charm.
Frosty frights await within the
walls of "Winter's Night: The Haunting of Hawthorne Cemetery." Copyright
Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved
Take - for example -- "Winter's Night: The Haunting of
Hawthorne Cemetery." This HHN 21 maze impresses because of its clever use of
forced perspective, not to mention its realistic atmospherics. By that I mean:
it's easier to buy into the idea that you're exploring this ghost-filled graveyard
in the dead of winter when the soundstage which this maze is set up in is kept
so cold that you can actually seen your own breath.
Likewise, the size and scale of "The Forsaken" (which starts
off in an Old Spanish and eventually takes Universal Orlando visitors across a
rocking ship's deck right in the middle of a rain-and-wind-swept storm) is very
impressive. And then when the crew of Columbus' lost-and-long-forgotten fourth
ship come rising up out of the depth to exact their revenge ... Having all of
those green-eyed scareactors suddenly come lunging out of the darkness at you is
a genuinely terrifying moment.
Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango,
stars of the hit Syfy Channel series, encounter some of the cursed souls found within
"The Forsaken." Which is one of eight haunted houses featured at this year's Halloween
Horror Nights. Copyright Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved
But of all the mazes at this year's Halloween
Horror Nights, the one that is the most ambitious - both in its design
choices as well as the extremely clever ways that it frightens HHN attendees -
has to be "Nevermore: The Madness of Poe." You see, the gimmick of this
particular maze is that Universal Studios is taking you on a trip through the
mind of Edgar Allan Poe. And as he slowly loses his grip on reality, so do you.
As you make your way through "Nevermore," you'll find
yourself encountering all sorts of imaginatively staged moments from such classic
Poe tales as "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Pit and
the Pendulum." But as Edgar's descent into madness begins to pick up speed, the art
direction for the latter scenes in this maze get progressively wilder. Until -
in a really neat twist - we find ourselves right back where we began our
journey in "Nevermore." Which is in Edgar Allan Poe's writing room. Only this
version - with its huge tottering columns of books and distorted writing desk -
looks like something that tumbled straight out of Tim Burton's brain.
Universal Orlando visitors have a
not-so-great moment with Mr. Lincoln as they explore the Presidents Day portion
of "H.R. Bloodengutz presents Holidays of Horror." Copyright Universal Orlando
Resort. All rights reserved
That's what I think I like most about Halloween
Horror Nights 21 at Universal Studios Florida. The folks at Universal
Creative don't just go for the easy scares. They look for brainy but funny ways
to frighten the bejesus out of you. Take - for example - "H.R. Bloodengutz
presents Holidays of Horror," which puts a silly but sinister spin on the
holidays. Or - better yet - "Nightingales: Blood Prey," which sends you
stumbling through this realistic set of trenches from World War I. Only to then
bring you face-to-face with a group of shape-shifting banshees, who - while
they're disguised as nurses - pretend to bring comfort to those who have been
wounded on the battlefield. When what these otherworldly beasts really want to
do is feast on the dead and the dying.
But if you truly want to experience
the next generation in scares, then be sure and head on over to Acid Assault
(which is located in the New York City section of Universal
Studios Florida). Here the folks at Universal Creative have assembled this
truly impressive set of projections. Which - when presented in sync with this
scare zone's booming audio soundtrack - really give you the impression that all
of these iconic NYC structures are crumbling away, falling down right in front
Of course, you can only get this mixture of high tech terror
& clever storytelling if you visit Halloween Horror Nights 21. Which is now
entering its final weeks at the Universal Orlando Resort. The nation's premier
Halloween event will be presented on select nights now through October 31st.
To be specific, October 13 - 16th, the 19 --23rd and the 26 - 31st. And as we get
closer to Halloween, Halloween
Horror Nights tickets will get harder and harder to come by.
And if you haven't yet arranged admission to what many
horror fans have called " ... the ultimate Halloween experience," I think I know
a few folks who can help you out.
I went to Horror Nights at Universal Orlando for the first time last year, and I was amazed at all the detail and theming that went into the haunted houses. I wish I could make the trip to go this year. It looks even better.