For part one, click here…
Though a “new age of darkness” brought with it a downpour of rain, we were not swayed in our attempts to trek through all eight of this year’s Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights haunted houses! While I may have been a little disappointed with some of the scarezones (probably due to the rain limiting the amount of scareactors, and amping up the fog quotient to the point it was impossible to see), I’ve got to say, this year they sure had some AWESOME houses. Our feet killing us, we began our journey with…
Pyschoscareapy: Echoes of Shadybrook is, supposedly, the final Psychoscareapy house that Universal plans to do. Previously, this house has been a mixture of blood and humor. There’s been a Christmas-themed haunt, with psychos killing everyone in a suburb during the holidays. There’s also been a “poop room” in one of the houses, which featured a bathroom that actually smelled like poo. This year, they dropped the humor, and featured a Shadybrook sanitarium where everyone had died, and now their ghosts haunt the house. This house really had some great scares, and some great visuals (like a nurse with a pair of scissors sticking out of her eye), but I’ve seen the asylum thing done to death at this point. Sure, this was done better than usual, but I think I’m glad they’re retiring the whole Psychoscareapy thing.
Hades: The Gates of Ruin is probably the most ambitious house this year. A horrific take on the Greek myths, this house was AWESOME. You’ll come across Medusa, the Cyclops and Minotaur, and even Hades himself upon his giant throne. This was probably the closest Universal came to the scale of the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and Dracula houses from last year. While there were some great houses, this one was really epic, and a must see.
I was really excited for this house – the Legendary Truth is a theme Universal has been teasing these last couple of years, and this is the first time they’ve had their own house dedicated to the storyline. The Wyandot Estate shows what happens when a “Ghost Hunters” type group accidentally unleashes the angry ghosts in a house. Some awesome special effects in this one – really, the main weakness of this house was the scareactors. Not because they’re bad, but because the subtle themes of a haunted house are a little lost when someone with blacklight face point jumps out. The special effects portrayed the ghosts much better, but still overall a pretty great house.
Horror Nights: The Hallow’d Past is, undoubtedly, the best house this year. You walk through a warehouse of Horror Night past, looking at props from previous houses, while also walking through different rooms from some of the best previous Horror Nights houses. I absolutely loved seeing all of the old Horror Nights stuff. My only gripe, and it’s a small one, is that this is even a haunted house. I didn’t need to see scares to love this house – I’d love to walk through this one with the lights on, just to admire everything.
The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes is the house that many fans have been looking forward to. In 2002, the icon for HHN XII was supposed to be Cindy, an evil young child who kidnapped other children as her “playthings.” Unfortunately, due to a rash of kidnappings in Florida that year, the icon was dropped and replaced at the last minute. Finally, Cindy gets her own house…and it was good, but not great. Overall, the scares were extremely effective, but I’m just not a fan of that location (the Jaws queue, where they previously did a Friday the 13th house) for houses. It looks too much like a cottage, and that didn’t really fit this house. Still, pretty cool if you’re a fan of HHN history.
Catacombs: Black Death Rising involves Plague infected civilians trying to escape, and the plague doctors who have to keep them in. Some great work in this house – the catacombs look pretty fantastic, and the masks and makeup were extremely well done. I love the little touches throughout the house, including quotes projected on some of the walls about the plague itself. There was a little history plaque outside of the house that’s going to be TOTALLY missed … keep an eye out for it for a little history about what inspired the house’s theme.
Havoc: Dogs of War tells the tale of a government experiment to make super soldiers that goes horribly awry, turning them into aggressive beasts. The house was pretty intense – people yelling and shooting all over the place. Even some easter eggs (look at the monitors) featuring the names of the main HHN guys. My main qualm? There was nobody behind us as we walked through the house, so I paused for a second to take a look at one of the scenes…a Universal employee (not a scareactor) actually yelled at me to keep moving. I wasn’t holding up the line, because of my second qualm – a family walked behind us, with a child in a wheelchair, who kept a hoodie pulled over her face and her eyes closed and ears covered, through the house. It just seemed like a horrible thing to do to a child, and between that and getting at yelled at to rush, I was just a bit annoyed. Kind of like those super soldiers!
And, finally, Zombiegeddon. In this house, the government has figured out a way to control zombies with collars. Yellow lights means they’re mellow…if the lights are red, you’re dead. Of course…the zombies get out of hand, and shit hits the fan. There are some great little jokes, including posters about how to control your zombie, and the like. A good mix of humor and horror.
Overall, this year is definitely not one to miss! The houses are super elaborate, and well worth the price of admission! Do not miss the Hallow’d Past house, especially if you’re a fan of the event – anyone who loves the stories behind the events are sure to get a kick out of this year…
…but I gotta say, I didn’t see Bloody Mary anywhere. Was the character really as controversial as I’ve heard?
Keep an eye out for my photo update tomorrow!