Halloween Horror Nights 29 (Orlando) Kicked off this year and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic. A quick overview of this year is that they’ve upped the ante with 10 killer houses, 5 manic scare-zones and 2 shows that will send a shiver down your spine. I like to start off by saying that I am an HHN veteran that has gone every year since 2002. It is my Christmas, but, I am not scared to call out what could have been done better and what is just plain lacking. also, I have been 6 times this year so I have done multiple run-throughs of each attraction in order to give the most accurate possible review. Of course my review is my own personal opinion, it’s not the right one and definitely not the only one. The houses will be broken down in categories ranging from 1-5 and the categories will be theming, scare factor and overall score. I am going in order of appearance. I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments below.
I will be honest, I’ve only seen this film once and I was a child but I vividly remember and adore this film. As for the house MY GOD did it feel like I was stepping through the New York Public Library and seeing malevolent spirits walk through walls and reek all kinds of havoc. This house is not necessarily scary however with the right cast the pop up scares are surprisingly there. It is pure fun and well worth the wait. Universals team definitely knocked the scenery out of the park and expect to hear the iconic song. Of course, you can’t do a GB house without the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and for any doubters, he is huge and he is angry. This house had me asking “Who you gonna call?” for hours and I am not mad.
Overall score 4/5
Here is where I will probably lose some people but I want to be honest throughout. I am a huge urban legend nerd and was so hyped for this house that I went into it first on my first night. I was highly disappointed and have even done it three more times throughout the event and my opinion has not changed. Before I get into detail I can tell that the house had to have their speakers lower than usual since it shares the same soundstage as another house. Yeti’s should be incredibly loud and I think the shared space was a huge downfall. Upon seeing the entrance of this house you can tell you are not in Orlando, the theming is spot on, ice is everywhere and it looks cold. I only wish it felt colder, this has been done many times in the past but I once again think it was a shared space issue however they definitely tried adding little A/C units but they are too obvious. Now while I think the theming is very well done the Yeti’s themselves look goofy and stale. I wish they’ve used puppets and animatronics but instead these look like costumes straight from Party City. I believe I’ve experienced the same cast all four times in this house because I’ve experienced the same low energy scares every single time. Most guests praise this house but unfortunately for me this Yeti is lukewarm.
Theming 3/5 deducted points due to temperature and visible A/C units
Overall 1.5/5 it really is my least favorite of the year
I am excited to talk about this one because it involves a bit of controversy. Originally, Universal was creating an all new house with the title “Tooth Fairy,” That was intended to feature some insane puppets and was at the top of a lot of hardcore fans hype list. Rumors then came out about budgets not being able to be met and a bunch other non-verified speculations. So universals team rushed an acquired Jordan Peele’s incredible horror film “US”. I think this film had beautiful cinematography and the necessary scares to fit within HHN. So, upon leaving this house the first time I went straight back in, that’s right, I LOVE IT. The rumors were that this house was going to be rushed and ugly but maybe that rush paid off somehow because it look like it was ripped straight from the cinema. My jaw dropped when I’ve seen how accurate the casting was. Great job Universal my hats off to you. Also when it comes to scares I think they have very effective placement of the cast as well as a finale that is sure to I may be a bit biased when it comes to this house because I think the film was an instant horror classic so, if you feel the same way I do, make your way to Universal Orlando and see if you can outlast the “Tethered.”
Stranger Things returned for the second time however, the focus was on seasons two and three. Pretty much everybody praises season three as do I so, when you see that eighty percent of the house is season two it’s honestly underwhelming. The house looks fantastic but in no way is superior to other houses when it comes to art and design. Static figures leave a bad taste in my mouth and man oh man was there a plethora of demodog statues. I cannot remember being scared once and I’ve been through the house four times. They did well casting wise but not on the same level as last year. Now, they have been bragging about the biggest puppet in this events history and yea, it’s insane. Without giving anything away it takes three people just to animate the thing every night. It’s a weird house because I’m unfortunately bored throughout the entire season two portion but the house is a winner for the last minute (season three). I really wish they could’ve skipped the second season but regardless I still had fun.
Don’t hate me, I have never seen this film. I however still know the films plot and think the house is a game changer. I say this simply because the location of this house usually presents duds, seriously, this is a fairly new location and I believe Universal has finally found their groove. The entrance is haunting, every room puts a new antagonist in your face and the actors are having the time of their lives. I am sure I’d appreciate this house even more upon seeing the film but for Rob Zombie fans this is your house. I had this house so low on my anticipation list (mainly due to the location) but its fun and just such a great use of such a poor location.
Theming 3.5/5 If I’ve seen the film I’m sure this would be higher
This house is a strange one. It was my favorite house hands down the first night I’ve went and honestly every walkthrough I like it less and less. The premise of this house is that you are with a group of deep sea miners that dug too deep uncovering a race of parasitic creatures known as “Mouthbrooders.” Now those creatures look really cool but very uncomfortable for the scare-actor wearing it. Imagine a giant humanoid angler fish costume that looks incredibly heavy and offers limited visibility. Upon first visit it’s extremely cool to see but that feeling wears off and over time it gets dull to look at. The façade it beautiful, you feel like you’re in a ship bound for implosion. There is water everywhere and the actors that are crewmember with portions of the infection are very good at their scares but to me sadly there isn’t much replay value, this vessel sinks deeper and deeper.
If you are a Halloween Horror Nights veteran like myself you remember the nightingales from the house “Nightingales: Blood Prey” from the events twenty first year. That house took you to the bloody trenches of a war showcasing the creature’s blood thirst amidst a booming battle. This time we are in Rome under the coliseum playing witness to the creatures once again who act as a kind of morbid cleanup crew. One thing I hear from guests is that they simply don’t get it, they want to see a giant coliseum but don’t understand that we are under it, watching gladiators practice for battle and watching the Nightingales feed on all the losers. I do enjoy this house and the scenery is very good however, they did change the look of the Nightingales to make them look kind of like vultures. I am not a fan of the change and the majority of guests aren’t either. They don’t look as menacing and something about the house doesn’t feel cohesive. There is a few standout scenes, one including a lion as well as an opening scene with a gladiator punching a corpse so hard the head spins around. One thing that sets this house apart are the smells, not sure if it’s a good or bad thing but they are pungent.
Theming 3/5 too much confusion from guests
Oh do I love the original monsters. I had this house as my most anticipated which, usually is a bad thing because my expectations are too high. Is it possible they were still exceeded? Hell yea. This house is what I come to Halloween Horror Nights for. It is scary, intense and extremely fun. From the moment you step in the house “The Wolfman” is right in your face and he is aggressive. You run into Quasimodo, Frankenstein, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Phantom of the Opera and my personal favorite Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each character is disgustingly aged as is their settings. This is a must do house every visit for me, I absolutely adore it. The cast really love to get in your face and they are rampant. This house features the best finale scene that I’ve witnessed in a very long time. Universal, great job! These monsters aren’t dead yet.
Theming 4.5/5 the house could be lit better in some places
We are now at Graveyard games, I going to come out and say it, Best house of the year. The backstory, to put it simple, follows some teens playing around and defacing a cemetery, the ghostly apparitions and skeletal beings reap revenge on the kids and we are put right in the middle of the chaos. This house upon first walkthrough actually underwhelmed me scare-wise but was absolutely gorgeous. Something happened after that first visit because this house turned up the heat. Every corner I get hit with scare after scare to the point that I have an everlasting grin. There is a scare-actor that is definitely a double amputee (I see him every year) but he crawls at you from a grave and it scared my wife so bad she slammed into a couple in front of us almost knocking them down. My favorite thing in the house is the use of ambient sound. The sound effect mislead your eyes leading to some of the best scares I have ever seen. This house is an absolute must do. Try and make it out of the graveyard alive.
Last house on the list is Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I think everyone has had Killer Klown Fatigue since there was an incredible scare-zone last year. I could not imagine this house being any good and they put it in kind of a throwaway location. To my surprise this house has charm, its pure fun and nothing else. The setting is zany and colorful and the costumes are incredible but not new to anyone that went last year. The house is constantly pumping out jump scares that instead of leaving you with dread leaving you laughing with how silly they are. They best part is the giant Klownzilla that towers overhead. Also, there are a bunch of buttons in this one that trigger different effects, it’s a blast.
Theming 3.5/5 Due to location, I saw janitor and “Shrek 4D” items that weren’t hidden
Scares 4/5 lots of them, but they are funny
Overall 4/5 pure fun
This is the first zone you walk into and let me start by saying I admire this zone once the moons out. It screams the 80’s with giant arcade machines and lazers everywhere. The cast look like neon “Mortal Kombat” fighters and they take every possible chance to jump out at you. I think it’s a great start to this retro themed event and the music is fantastic.
Theming 4.5/5 Needs more fog
Scares 3.5/5 gets very crowded at times
I have not yet seen the second film but this is heavily themed after the first film despite the name. This zone has its moments but it’s also a bit of a mess. There is issues with cast continuity everywhere. I’ve seen victims act like zombies and zombies act like victims. The little side show that runs every once in a while uses unacceptable voiceovers. I don’t know if it’s an issue clearing their voices or what but it’s laughable. Seriously, look it up on YouTube, its ridiculous. There is a standout performer in this zone which is the clown. He is scary, fast and a joy to watch. Also bathroom scare they have is hilarious. This could have been way better, also, where is the damn fog?
Theming 3/5 needs more fog, better voiceovers and better continuity
Scares 4/5 saving grace is that clown
I am not a Rob Zombie fanatic by any means but this zone grew on me. It’s scary, sexy and the zone for any picture lover. This zone was made to take pictures and dance. I love the scare-actor interactions and the fireballs. There is a goofy robot that stalks you and a bunch of relentless bikers. If you want a picture with the “Living Dead Girl” or “Dragula” pay this zone a visit. I do wish the zone was a bit scarier but it kind of works without them. The cast seems to love their zone as they seem to be in a trance unable to stay still to the heavy metal of Rob Zombie. I do wish the zone was longer since there is a lull in between this zone and the rest of the park but honestly I enjoyed my time with the racing in the Dragula.
Scrares 2/5 more of a photo op zone
Brutal, Gorey and dark. This zone is what you come to expect from Halloween Horror Nights. The scare-actors are consistently on the prowl for any sign of anxiety. I am not a huge fan of the look of the Viking but the setting is creepy and a lot of fun. My favorite thing about it is the trolls on stilts. I do like the zone quite a bit however the traffic in that area is getting unbearable.
Theming 4/5 wish the Vikings looks more menacing
Scares 5/5 they are killing it out there
This zone sounded incredible and I speculated that this would be the best. That is far from the case. Vanity Ball is dull and awkward. I assumed it would get better throughout the weeks but nothing has changed. The idea of a Frankenstein style beauty pageant sounds amazing but it does not deliver. The cast looks exhausted, the music isn’t fun and it just feels like a waste of space. I have yet to talk to any fan of this zone. I say save it for the exit.
Theming 3.5/5 does look a bit cool
Halloween Marathon of Mayhem is a brand new show featuring scenes from “Stranger things,” “Ghost Busters,” Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and classic Universal Monster films. This show is everything you’d want and more. They project on water and buildings. The music is blasting and fun. There is pyro and all kinds of special effects. If you can’t make it to Halloween horror nights this year, catch it on YouTube. This marathon is a hit.
Academy of Villains is back and I couldn’t have been more bummed to see no more Bill and Ted show. I had no hopes for this show but to my disbelief it was really good. The dancers gave it their all. The music was perfect and the props are incredible. The show was flawed but worth watching. I think they could have done without a soccer player juggling a soccer ball but I had fun regardless. It’s not their best show but, it’s not the worst.
When I review any event, I like to cover everything. Usually Halloween Horror Nights merchandise is subpar. Not this year, they have a wonderful plethora of ghoulish goods for everyone. I am a sucker for glassware, the shot glasses and mugs are priceless. My wallet made an audible scream when I saw the shirts and for the love of god the socks are too damn cool, they come in a VHS case!
Regardless of my negativity I will always attend Halloween Horror Nights. There has been years in the past that were almost perfect and honestly this is not one of them. The fog used to be visible from the parking garage. The Scare Zones used to have towering outdoor facades that unfortunately due to their parade is a thing of the past. Finally, the houses used to all be extremely detailed and time was put into the makeup applications each night. What happened? I believe the crowds forced Universal to pump out as much as possible but it hurts the overall integrity. This has been something that has bothered me for the last six or so years. Out of that time I do think this is one of the better years overall. I do feel like this is the second worst year Scare Zone wise. The worst was the roaming Walking Dead year. I had fun with almost all of the houses and the new show was amazing. Do I recommended it this year? Hell yea, it’s still the best of the best. Oh and the S’mores fries are to die for.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and want more from previous years or other events please comment below!