At Halloween Horror Nights XX: Twenty Years of Fear, guests will experience a new level of extreme and intense Halloween entertainment. There may be glimpses of the familiar, but this is not an anniversary event. And the familiar will quickly give way to the new. Halloween Horror Nights runs September 24-25, September 30-October 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 20-24 and 27-31.

I have faced my Fear…and come out alive!

Last night, Mrs. Awesome and I attended the opening night media event for Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights event, and we had a blast!  Originally, I wasn’t terribly excited about this year’s event – the information seemed to come out later than usual, the website a little less elaborate than previous year’s.  I was beginning to wonder if Universal had decided to take the path of cutting back – after all, pockets are tight, ticket prices are up, and they just spent a bundle of money building and promoting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (my review on that is coming).  Who could blame them for cutting back a bit?

Well, whatever they may have been lacking in promotion leading up to the event, they more than made up in actual efforts that went into the houses and some of the scarezones!  This year was definitely a great time (not the best out of the five times I’ve been, but certainly not the worst).

We started the night checking in at the media tent (that’s what us coooooool kids do) before being led to the Pantages Theater, typically the location for the Universal Horror Make Up show, where we were treated to drinks and an awesome layout of hors d’oeuvres while we got to mingle with a couple of the other news outlets.  We met some great guys from Destination: Themepark and of course saw the guys from Attractions Magazine, as well as a slew of other people who either run blogs, work for local media, or run theme park or HHN fansites.

Right outside of the Pantages Theater were two of the night’s best scarezones, HHN XX: Twenty Years of Fear and Fear Revealed, where we got some great pictures with the icons of Halloween Horror Nights past…

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Here’s a walkthrough of my second favorite scarezone of the night, Twenty Years of Fear, where we got to walk through a prop warehouse of some of the past’s best scareactors and props!

Before being led out on our tours of the haunted houses, we got to meet with some of the scareactors from the Esqueleto Muerte and 20 Years of Fear scarezones!

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From there, we were taking on a guided tour of all of the Scarezones and Haunted Houses!  What did I think of the scarezones?

HHN: 20 Years of Fear – Man, I loved this scarezone, almost more in the daytime than with the fog going through it.  In fact, I’d say, in general, the fog took away more from the scarezones than added to them this year.  There was so much fog going on (maybe because of the rain) that it was hard to make out what was around you.  Good for scares, bad for enjoyment…actually, maybe not even good for scares, because I doubt even the actors could see you!

Fear Revealed: My hands down favorite scarezone, but definitely more for fans of the event’s history.  This was a scarezone made for those fans.  The general public might not get too much out of it, except for the big display FEAR had.  But for those who know the icons portrayed, you’ll get a glimpse of Jack and Chance, the Storyteller, Cindy, the Usher, the Caretaker, the Director and, of course…Fear himself, all in their native environments, connected by a “vine” theme that, according to Jim Timon (SVP of Entertainment), grew out of the original theme for the event, which was that Halloween grew from some sort of tree.  The tree left, the vine/branch motif stayed.

The Coven: Meh.  I wish I could say more about The Coven, which involves a group of beautiful witches who lure pilgrims into their land, just to show them the monstrous witches they are beneath.  They had a pretty decent set up, but I think there just wasn’t enough of it to sell the mood and story.  Maybe it’s just because it was in the alleyway next to the Shrek building, which I’m really beginning to think isn’t the best place to put a scarezone, since they rarely seem effective in that location.

Esqueleto Muerte: Visually appealing, Esqueleto Muerte was pretty friggin cool.  The main issue is that we had to go through it twice – the first time, it was raining.  After that, we hit it at the end of the night on our way out of the park.  Done up like a black light Mexican Day of the Dead, this scarezone had a very unique look to it, and I really loved that.  However, the scareactors didn’t really do much in the way of actual scaring…they just kind of stood there and looked cool.

Zombie Gras: The biggest disappointment of the night.  The premise is, basically, zombies at Mardi Gras…what can go wrong right?  Well, how about ONE float, and not a lot of theming?  Sure, there were a good number of scareactors, but the Zombie Gras scarezone was actually pretty large (I noticed Mardi Gras masks for a pretty far distance), but only one main event, a Mardi Gras float gone wrong.  It was kinda cool, but ultimately not enough to bring the theme together.  Mardi Gras is excess…this scarezone was anything but.

Saws N’ Steam: So…the world is low on water, and now people are being harvested for the water in their bodies.  Pretty cool premise, but there was so damn much fog in this scarezone that I couldn’t see ANYTHING.  On each end were human harvesting machines that would spit out water, but I didn’t see that actually happen.  You do get sprayed by water in this scarezone, though, which is pretty fun.

Some more scarezone pictures of the night….

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Check back tomorrow for my review of all of the houses!