As part of the “Face Off” media event, we were invited to partake in a RIP (think VIP) tour of all of this year’s houses as well as premium seating for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. In the videos that I’ve put out on my View From The Cheap Seats YouTube channel, I’ve consistently stated that if you are planning on attending Halloween Horror Nights, the express pass option is highly recommended. That said, if you are within financial means (rates start at $109 per person), I could not suggest enough to partake in a RIP tour. The RIP tour is limited to 12 people to a group and allows for front of the line access to all houses. Universal will make you feel like a rock star with their RIP tour and you will never want to go back to waiting in general lines for HHN again.
With all of the extra time that I had from not waiting in long lines this past weekend, I was able to give thought to my final rankings of all of the houses in this year’s Halloween Horror Nights lineup. The best according to me, from the top down:
“Dollhouse of the Damned” – It is such a tough call this year to name a top house since I am over the moon in love with “Dollhouse”, but “Halloween” is so close to my heart as it was one of the first (and favorite) horror movies that I saw when I was a wee lad. That said, I am choosing “Dollhouse” as my top pick because of the creativity that went into the original concept. This house is just flat out creepy and offers some of the most fun and varying (and surprising) visuals that I’ve ever seen in a haunted house. Highlights (spoilers) include living teddy bears, giant babies and a ballerina that will leave you speechless. Pro tip: look for a very well hidden Chucky in the crowd of dolls inside of the house.
“Halloween” – As done with last year’s “American Werewolf In London”, “Halloween” employs the technique of taking you through the entire story of the movie within a concise space. It is a true joy to see “Halloween” brought to life and quite honestly, this is the scariest house of the bunch this year as you can’t walk 10 feet without running into another potential sighting of Michael Myers. The creative team from Universal did not miss a detail in this house and you’ll want to go through multiple times to appreciate all the small things that make this house such a crowd pleaser for “Halloween fans”. Pro tip: Look up in the laundry room area for a sweater that may give you nightmares.
“Giggles and Gore, Inc.” – I am forever amazed at how many people are scared of clowns. This house does a great job (within a small structural space) at delivering so many awesome scares as you witness how evil clowns are made. While I wish that Universal would have extended the scare factor by utilizing the space outside of the house itself, there is plenty inside to make you jump. Of note, this is one of 2 houses (the other being “Dollhouse”) that the scare actors always seem to be going at max level to ensure that folks leave scared. Pro tip: Check out the Woody Woodpecker cartoon imagery that is used in the initial room during the sleep deprivation victim.
“The Walking Dead: End of the Line” – While Universal has done an amazing job at bringing the “Halloween” story to life in a such concise space, they’ve continued their annual storyline relationship with “The Walking Dead” in a more spread out manner. “The Walking Dead: End of the Line” is the biggest house that Universal has ever done. However, bigger doesn’t always mean better and I’m not quite sure that this year’s offering is as good as last year’s house (which is a tall order to achieve imo). There is plenty of eye candy to behold and nods to the show, but in a season where the television show seemed to plod along, the house does as well. Easter eggs in the house this year seem to be focused more on nods to Universal staff than the show itself. While the helicopter scene within the house is amazing, some of the other high points of the season are either left out or buried in the queue space outside (no reference to the Governor or his tank, giant pudding can, or little girls with the flowers). I implore Universal to bring Herschel’s head closer to the fence so we can marvel at it more (instead of the further back shady area where it now resides). I love this house, but as a hardcore fan of the tv show, I think there is room for improvement in next year’s (?) house.
“AVP: Alien vs. Predator” – I was curious what Universal would do with the AVP franchise since it feels more like a science fiction type property instead of horror. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the Aliens puppets worked and the eye candy is top notch. The Predators are somewhat limited with their scare ability, but are a pleasure to see in person, especially when they are energetic during their appearances. This is a great house which could be amazing if there was just one more piece of the puzzle included (Queen Alien, anyone).
“Dracula Untold” – I have not seen this movie and having the house out before the movie somewhat handicaps the attendee in understanding exactly what is happening in the scenes within the house. That said, the house started off weak (in my opinion) and has gained momentum as the weeks have gone on. Some of the scares are fun, including a highlight where you experience Dracula overtaking one of his victims.
“From Dusk Till Dawn” – This house is amazing…for men that want to check out visual eye candy. There are plenty of women, ahem, vampire women, in bikinis waiting to say hello. Unfortunately, in between the opening scenes (with the private dancers) and the ending room, there is a lot of space that is either underutilized or not exciting.
“Roanoke Cannibal Colony” – MEAT! Ok, with that out of the way, the majority of the items to talk about with regard to the house is complete. This house is kind of a one trick pony without a lot of scares and a cast that mostly just chants “MEAT”. From what I have heard, this house is beautiful to experience during the (separate add on) lights on tour. Unfortunately, most of that detail is lost at night.
If you haven’t been able to check the event out yet this year, Halloween Horror Nights has another 2 weeks before the focus shifts to their 25th edition. Be sure to get to Universal Studios early, plan well and enjoy an amazing evening of being scared.
Halloween Horror Nights 24 runs through November 1st on select nights. Check http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/ for details on dates and pricing.
Kyle writes for IoM as our Orlando “Man on the Street” and has a fantastic vlog over at View From The Cheap Seats, where he visits theme parks, concerts, and more in Central Florida. Check out his YouTube Channel here.