Intrepid Pauloween Reporter Kyle ventures through the houses of Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando.

Pauloween 2012 is here! We kick off our festivities with an article from new site contributor Kyle, who was able to attend the Halloween Horror Nights Media Day in Orlando, FL yesterday. Tons of great info and pics from this year’s event below!

It’s that time of year again, when for some, the thought of waiting in line for overpriced Pumpkin Spice coffee at Starbucks brings feelings of joy. For the rest of us, today marks the countdown to euphoria by way of having the ever living shit scared out of us by the fine folks at Universal Studios during Halloween Horror Nights 22.

Universal Studios held their media day yesterday and I was on hand to meet some of the brains that bring Halloween Horror Nights to life as well as to get a sneak peek at 2 of this year’s haunted houses, before the event opens to the public on Friday, September 21st.

Tom Schroder, Vice President of Public Relations opened the event by welcoming us into a room filled with signature pieces of the 7 houses and 6 street experiences that are included in this year’s event. Along with the signature pieces for this year’s houses were blueprints that outlined the house design. This year’s house lineup includes 4 licensed properties (The Walking Dead, Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare, Silent Hill, and Penn & Teller New[kd] Vegas) and 3 original creations (Dead End, Gothic, and House of Horrors). While Tom kicked off the event, horror makeup artists began to demonstrate how they transform mere mortals into terrifying HHN scareactors.

Next up, we were greeted by Jim Timon, Senior Vice President of Entertainment. Jim provided more detailed insight into this year’s offerings and noted that the 4 licensed houses this year each bring something new to the table, including a still in progress television show (never been done before), video game horror, Las Vegas with a new perspective, and horror based on a set piece of music. Jim emphasized that he felt the lineup this year was top of the line and is better than any previous year. Jim then introduced the creative team behind HHN and allowed us time to speak with some of the members.

I was able to catch up with HHN’s Director of Art and Design, TJ Mannarino. TJ explained the lead time in bringing HHN to life in that ideas are developed in October of the proceeding year and then finalized by December so that physical development of the project can begin in January. The creative team will initially review concepts that didn’t make the cut for the current year and then work internally based on current year audience feedback as well as incorporating any ideas from external (branded) partners. TJ noted that the biggest challenge is changing the content on an annual basis to keep things fresh. I asked TJ if he preferred to create concepts from the ground up, or to work within someone else’s sandbox and he responded that while he enjoys working within external properties, there is more fun to be had by creating something of his own. TJ elaborated by saying that the additional challenge with working with external licenses is that they have a hand in the production along the way and have to approve the final product. Working with “The Walking Dead” this year proved exceptionally challenging in that the house was developed after two seasons of the show have aired and the house will be open during the third season. Therefore, the story within the house needed to remain organic to the actual tv show.

Some of the Legions you will see stalking the street this year.

This year’s street presentation is completely revamped as well. Laura Wallace walked me through the updated lineup, which is modeled after the “Legions of Horror” and include Vampires, Warriors, Prisoners (woman chainsaws), Beasts, The Iniquitus, and Traditionals. While walking between houses, the patrons will encounter each one of these types of scareactors, which prompted me to ask if there is anywhere safe this year to take a breather. Laura responded that there is nowhere safe this year. At this point my curiosity was piqued and I had to ask if the bathrooms were off limits. Laura’s response? You’ll have to wait and see…

Show Director, Michael Aiello was proud to tell me that he believes that the mix in this year’s lineup makes it the best year yet for HHN. Between the tie ins with video games, tv, music and Vegas, along with Universal developed properties that were built from the ground up, there is something for everyone and he anticipates everyone will leave happy.

The media group was then split into 2 parties as it was announced that we would be able to grab a sneak preview of 2 houses – “Silent Hill” (in lights on / no actors mode) and “Dead End” (in full “hot” mode).

Dead End” was our first encounter and has the look of an old wooden haunted house. A couple of ghoulish scareactors greeted us at the stairs of the home and “welcomed” us inside. At this point, I was hungering for something spectacular to completely blow me away. I don’t believe “Dead End” was it. Don’t get the wrong idea – while “Dead End” didn’t stop my heart and make me want to make an immediate round trip back inside, it should make a great appetizer for the main houses come opening day. “Dead End” was filled with the usual haunted horrors and contained a couple of good hiding spots which would prove valuable for launching scareactors into close proximity of the visitors. However, my overall impression of the house left me wanting more, which may be a good thing with the other houses that are included in this year’s lineup. I will admit that on one occasion, I was startled enough to bang my knee into a table. My overall rating for “Dead End” is 3/5 apparitions. Check out the below video from Attractions Magazine that shows me walking through the house.

Silent Hill” was next, and was in “easy mode”, meaning that Universal did not want to spoil the surprises of the house until opening night. Our group was taken through the house with the lights on and no actors present, which actually allowed for me to take in the details of the setup. I’ve never been a big fan of this video game series, but have enough of a knowledge base to reference the intent of the house and I have to admit that seeing the layout brought to life from the game was awesome. Upon entering the house, you are greeted with “snow” falling from the sky, along with the town sign. While no actors were in place, one could see the multiple zones where they would be hiding and based on the scan of the layout, this house has the potential to be terrifying. “Silent Hill” contained multiple props and scenery that was horrifying enough while well lit. I can’t wait to return on opening night to see it fully operational. My tentative rating for “Silent Hill” is 4.5/5 nurses.

I’ll be back at HHN for the official grand opening on Friday, September 21st and will bring you a full review of all the offerings at that time. If you’d like to visit HHN yourself, the event runs from 9/21 – 10/31/12. Multiple ticketing options are available, including multi-date packages.

Also of note, Universal launched a HHN mobile app today that is available in the iTunes app store which will allow you to have one of the haunted baddies from HHN “call” your friends to share a scare.

Visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com for more info about this year’s event!

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