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A chicken's eye-view of Halloween Horror Night XVII

A chicken's eye-view of Halloween Horror Night XVII

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I'm one of those people who've never quite understood the joy of adrenaline. Skydiving? No. Roller Coasters? If I must. Universal's Halloween Horror Nights XVII? Unfortunately.

Don't get me wrong - Universal did a great job. It's not their fault that I'm a chicken.

This year, Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights was the home of eight haunted houses. Each sported painfully long lines (an hour or more at each), so I'd recommend taking their 'RIP' tour, if possible. It's slightly more expensive than a regular entrance pass, but allows a much more efficient use of time, which is crucial if you want to see all eight houses. Also, because the RIP pass includes a tour-guide with Horror Nights experience, it can present a more well-rounded view of the event than just touring the houses on their own could.


Copyright 2007 Universal Orlando Resort / New Line Cinema

This year's Halloween Horror Nights theme was Jack's Carnival of Carnage - hosted by Jack Schmidt, the evil clown, with featured guests Jason Voorhees, Freddie Krueger, and Leatherface. Each of the "special guests" is on loan from New Line Cinema, and featured in their own house.

Now again, keep in mind that as a chicken, my experience with horror movies is limited to the bits and pieces that I was forced to watch during grade school slumber parties. I'm sure anyone with more than a vague familiarity with the characters and the movies would have gotten more from the houses than I did. But even with all that, I thought that the "Nightmare on Elm Street - Dreamwalkers" house was cool - and terrifying.

The entrance to the "house" is a medical tent - white plastic, something you'd expect to see in a Michael Crichton/Jurrasic Park type movie. The inside of the tent is filled with a sleeping gas named "Sleepwell," that will provide "better sleep through medication," according to the calming overhead announcer voice as you walk through the tent.

Now presumably asleep, you enter into the front yard of a ramshackle house - lawn overgrown, rusty 1980's style scooter leaning against a tree, paint peeling, shutters askew. Inside the house, strobe light flashes completely disorient you as Freddie Krueger jumps out from around (nearly) every corner. Entering the house, I expected to be scared - but I didn't expect to be quite so impressed by the level of detail of the sets and props. A normal looking room entirely on its side welcomes you to the dream-state; a hall of shredded mattresses hides one Freddie after another; the twists and turns of an old house culminate in a hall of mirrors with Freddie and his victims strategically positioned throughout.


Copyright 2007 Universal Orlando Resort

Even better than Nightmare on Elm Street in terms of artistry is another house, "Psychoscareapy 'Home for the Holidays'." The premise of the house is that a group of extremely dangerous psychopaths were allowed to go out caroling during the holidays - and on the way back to the mental hospital, the van they were traveling in crashed - conveniently enough, right into the side of the Shadybrook Rest Community. The deranged patients all escape and take up residence in the rest community.

The house itself starts along the front of the community -- the accident site - with the crashed transport van half emerging from the front of a home. The house itself is decorated for Christmas - lights, snow, plastic Santa figure. As you enter the house, the insanity begins. A disheveled old man wraps a severed head in a towel while dismembered bodies lie nearby. A charred and broken Santa-corpse is crammed into the fireplace. A crazy lady with blood dripping from her mouth chants, "I ate all my turkey" - as the raw turkey sits propped up in the baby's booster seat at the table.

More than Nightmare on Elm Street, Psychoscarepy relies on the acting talent of its cast to terrify. In Nightmare on Elm Street, the combination of blindness from the strobe light flashes, and "boo" type scare techniques are what frightened me. In Psychoscareapy, it was the talent of the 'scareactors' at appearing insane, combined with the blood and gore of the props. That's not to say there weren't any cheap scares in Pscyhoscareapy - just that it wasn't as frequent. I left Nightmare on Elm Street shaking from fear; I left Psychoscareapy trembling from fear but shaking my head in admiration.

The house that scared me the most was Jack Funhouse in Clown-O-Vision. The entire group I was with thought I was crazy for being that frightened over a house featuring - clowns. But personally, I'd rather watch a slasher-type horror movie than a purported comedy/sci-fi/horror like "Killer Klowns from Outer Space." Clowns are my secret biggest fear, and as our tour guide so calmly assured me, the technical name is Coulrophobia, and I apparently share that fear with many others in the world.


 Copyright 2007 Universal Orlando Resort

Carnival of Carnage is unique because you wear 3-D glasses and the entire house is designed with 3-D clowns in the forefront, blacklight paint, and strobe lights. Preferring to repress those memories as much as possible, I'll just mention that the ceiling of the majority of the house is decorated with iridescent clowns on crucifixes, Jack Schmidt truly is as frightening as he appears in the Haunted Horror Nights commercials, and the exit of the ride is a one-of-a-kind experience.

The other houses included in the Halloween Horror night festivities include:

  • The Thing: Assimilation - I've never seen the movie, but based on the house, I'm guessing it was similar to Alien. The house wasn't really scary, but also didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

  • Friday the 13th: Camp Blood - Wandering through an abandoned Camp Crystal Lake was cool - not that I've seen the movies. If you've ever wondered what a summer-camp looks like in the off-season, this is it - with a few too many Jasons' jumping out trying to kill you.

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds - Growing up in the middle-of-no where, I know what a chainsaw sounds like. And I've used one. To me, it's not terribly scary, but if you're not used to that particular noise, this house could be really frightening. I thought the best part was watching the Chainsaw Attack Squad in front of the building chasing people with the saws.


 
Copyright 2007 Universal Orlando Resort / New Line Cinema

  • Vampyr: Blood Bath - Designed to look like a club for the undead, I found the house scary and unpleasant. The haunted house building is extremely small for the amount of stuff they packed in there - and at least when we walked through it, it was hot. The combination feeling of closeness and heat, plus loud club-type music and vampires jumping out every which way made this the haunted house that drew the most scared reaction from me. In fact, the people walking behind me through the house got more of a show watching me be scared than watching the 'scareactors' in the house itself.

  • Dead Silence: The Curse of Mary Shaw - Based on last year's Universal Picture (which, needless to say, I haven't seen) this house was really beautiful, very artistic, but I couldn't follow the story line. The special effects were really neat, though.

My favorite part of the evening by far, was the Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show. "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" is a movie I have seen (the only one of the evening), and the show is a tradition at Halloween Horror Nights, mocking the pop-culture icons of the year. This year's show poked fun at "The Office," "300," "Pirates of the Caribbean : At World's End," "Heroes," Rosie O'Donnell versus The Donald, "Spiderman III," the Geico Cavemen, "Transformers," and of course the big gossip divas of the year - Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears.

Also open during the evening were some of Universal Studios' major attractions - Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4-D, Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast, Earthquake, Jaws, Men in Black: Alien Attack, and Twister. Halloween Horror Nights also features a Freak Show, and this year, a Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute show (sorry, no water guns, toast, rubber gloves or rice allowed).


Copyright 2007 Universal Orlando Resort

Overall, make no mistake, Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is not for children (or faint-hearted adults). Costumes and masks are NOT allowed, candy is not distributed, and there is no parade or nighttime spectacular. What you will get is a chance to be scared - or if you're braver than I am, to be impressed at the level of detail put into the houses. Coward though I am, I generally had a good time and while evil clowns and demented dream-walkers will haunt my dreams for a few more months (ok, I'm exaggerating a little, I only had two nights of nightmares), I'll probably shell out the RIP pass next year.

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  • I'm with you, Jaime - the HHN-type events definitely aren't my cup of tea, but it sounds like Uni did a really good job of putting their shows together. Y'all have fun -if you're looking for me, I'll be at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!  

  • I've been to HHN a couple of times, and as consistently good as the houses are, for me the highlight has been "Bill & Ted..." every time!  Also, one year, our group ventured into one of the houses right before closing time, and were passed on the way in by many of the actors...still in costume and make-up...calling it a night.  Going through the house, you could surely tell where the scares would've been, had the scarers been there!

    Say, speaking of  'dark' attractions, whatever happened to the proposed Disney Villians park I heard some people talk about?  Or was that just a lot of "wouldn't it be cool if....?" speculation and daydreaming?

  • Nice review! I almost want to go again this year now after being very disappointed the last few times I went 5 and 6 years ago.

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