01_HHN24 LogoIt’s that time of year again when the smell of pumpkin spice lattes have permeated the air, craft breweries have generated more pumpkin type beers than our shelves can handle, and our local theme parks have gone full threat level orange. And, like an overstimulated Jack Skellington, the Halloween community is waiting on pins and needles to say, “What’s this?” to Universal’s annual offerings.

We shall wait no more, as Universal held their annual media preview event last night and we were there to scope out all of the features that this year’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) event will deliver.

Universal will offer 8 unique haunted houses, comprised of 5 licensed properties and 3 original creations. In addition to these haunted houses, Universal returns to using 4 separate street experience scare zones. Universal will also present updated versions of their “Rocky Horror Picture Show – A Tribute” and “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure” shows.

Universal Studios Orlando’s Director of Entertainment – Creative Development, Michael Aiello reviewed this year’s crop of scares with the gushing enthusiasm that every new parent has when they show off their new babies. Michael’s inner fan favorite of the year is a long desired house based on the initial John Carptenter film, “Halloween”. According to Michael, this house was discussed as a possibility for many years, but the timing and logistics never fell into place until now. We were very pleasantly surprised that Universal allowed us to take a sneak peek run
through the “Halloween” house while it was in full technical (dress) rehearsal last night.

Read the rest after the jump!

As someone that grew up with the movie “Halloween” held high atop a list of all time favorite horror movies, I was nervous that the house would ultimately be a let down. I can safely assure you that this is definitely not the case. Not only does the “Halloween” house deliver, it does so magnificently. The outside of the house employs a projector that allows for shadow versions of a young Michael Myers to be seen introducing his sister to his favorite piece of kitchenware. This scene leads you into the house where you are also greeted by a young version of Michael, complete in clown costume. While the “house” does replicate the Myers home, it also includes other areas from the classic “Halloween” film, such as the car scene with Annie, and the Wallace house, complete with Lynda and Bob in their final moments. My favorite room of the house is a recreation of the scene where Laurie Strode watches “The Thing” on tv while being attacked by Michael. For the most part, I felt that this house was on par with last year’s
fan favorite, “American Werewolf In London”. Although we were allowed to go through the “Halloween” house twice last night, I am anxious to go back many more times to study the detail even further.

In addition to the the “Halloween” house, Universal is offering the following haunted house attractions this year:

“The Walking Dead: The End of the Line”: I spoke with Show Director, Charles Gray and he was excited to note that this year marks the 3rd consecutive year that TWD is making an appearance at Halloween Horror Nights. This year’s TWD maze is the largest that Universal Orlando has ever created and has a large pre-queue area outside to navigate before getting into the meat of the multiple zone maze. TWD will closely follow last season’s AMC series with a beginning set at the prison, through the illness that ran rampant through the survivors and will take you on a journey ending at Terminus. As many as 50 scare actors will be working at TWD area at any time, which is the largest cast assembly that Universal has used for HHN.

“AVP: Alien vs. Predator”: Show Director, Charles Gray explained that while some folks may view Alien vs. Predator as a science fiction property, Fox allowed creative freedom while working with both legendary properties. As a result, Universal has amped up the scare factor of the puppet Aliens while also employing live actors as Predators. Michael Aiello noted that the level of puppets that are used for the Aliens rivals that of those used in the AWIL house last year.

“From Dusk Till Dawn”: Fans of the FDTD franchise will be pleased to know that the majority of this house is due to take place at the Titty Twister. While the show is based on the television series, fans of the movie will be able to enjoy the storyline of vampires within recognizable settings from both mediums.

“Dracula Untold” Reign of Blood”: This house is based on the upcoming Dracula movie, which has had its release date bumped up to 10/9 to gain synergy from the house at HHN. The Dracula house will follow the story of Vlad The Impaler to Dracula.

“Dollhouse of the Damned”: Both Michael Aiello and Charles Gray acknowledged that this is one of the creepiest houses that they’ve worked on to date. This is an original property and seems to be one of the favorites of the Universal creative team with multiple scares and genuinely unsettling moments.

“Giggles and Gore Inc.”: One quote was repeated more at the media event than any other, “Evil clowns are not born…they are made”. The creative team was very excited about this house and Show Director, Charles Gray gave me the tip that this house contains multiple interactive Easter eggs. When I pressed him on whether Jack would be one of them, his poker face alluded to the fact that this “he is not his clown’s keeper”, and looked to nod that perhaps we will see our friend again this year.

“Roanoke” Cannibal Colony”: Universal has based this house off of a true story of colonists that disappeared in the late 16th century. According to Michael Aiello, “We know what happened to them – they ate each other”.

After not utilizing set scare zones for the last 2 years, Universal has brought back 4 distinct scare zone areas which are touted to be some of the largest that have been used to date:

“Face Off – In the Flesh”: Universal will utilize the most popular characters from multiple seasons
of the SyFy show, “Face Off” in this scare zone area. The Universal creative team acknowledged that it was exciting to work with the “Face Off” property since the show has had members of the Universal HHN team compete in the show over the past seasons.

“Bayou of Blood” is Universal’s first attempt at presenting a New Orleans type property outside of the annual Mardi Gras celebration. Michael Aiello praised how well the Central Park area is transformed while this scare zone is active and also noted that a human sacrifice will be made here every hour.

“The Purge: Anarchy” will follow along with the movie storyline and characters and will allow for mayhem in the streets including the use of motorcycles.

“MASKerade: Unstitched” appears as a normal ballroom affair, but is revealed to be a more sinister dance with a big gore factor.

It was noted that despite internet rumors, Universal HHN’s 2 most popular show attractions will also return with revamped shows for HHN24: “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show – A Tribute”.

Halloween Horror Nights 24 begins on September 19th, and runs through November 1st on select nights. Check http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/ for details on dates and pricing.

For video highlights of the media event, check out: http://youtu.be/-PRcMSdrKRs?list=UULrWtoodMhG7l23MhjjOh5Q