Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights Part 1

Universal Studios has truly upped its game this year. Almost every single attraction brought scares, detailed sets, and the Halloween spirit.

The Good

* The Walking Dead

This year, The Walking Dead maze is a permanent fixture in the park. Because it's not going to be torn down any time soon, it's much more immersive and realistic than it has been in previous years. The rooms where people wait look just like the hospital Rick woke up in complete with missing ceiling tiles, blood splatter and bloody handprints on the wall, and random hospital stuff and trash. I love that they included the iconic bicycle girl, one of the first zombies Rick ever encounters. The fire effects in the next room were the best I've seen at such an event plus it felt like standing next to a fire. The windows with zombies were a nice touch to make it feel like the zombie apocalypse. The truck with the dismembered zombies was unexpected and so were the pens with numerous zombies. This maze is on much larger scale than any I've seen before and very high quality. This was one of my favorites.

* American Horror Story

Before we got into the maze, scenes from Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel were playing on the side of the building. It got me into the American Horror Story mindset and got me excited. While I struggled to remember the scenes being referenced in the early seasons being represented, this maze was fun. Murder House starts off with Addy (looking much younger than in the show) telling us we'll die there. Gimp suited guys or people with pig heads jump out at you. The best part was the deranged Dr. Charles Montgomery, his vivisected experiment, and dramatic music. Freakshow follows with Twisty and his bus. My favorite part is the girl being cut in half in the next room. Hotel is next and shines as the most immersive part of the maze. The interior looks like we've really stepped into the hotel. The mattress burster is super creepy and the Commandment Killer trophy room is a nice touch. The starving vampires sealed in, the Countess's disturbing baby, and people hiding in the curtains all made effective scares. Maybe it was because it's the most recent season and fresh in my mind, but Hotel was by far the best.

* Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield

I was a little disappointed that this maze is based more on the second and third films which pale in comparison to the original. However, the maze was surprisingly well done. Michael Meyers has always been my favorite slasher and I love feeling like I'm stepping into the films. The music chosen is a little more subtle than the movie theme, but effective. The maze recaps the ending of the first film then starts with the second film. At the Haddonfield Hospital, we walk through scenes where nurses and doctors have already died then we see Michael actively killing, replicating scenes from the film. Then it transitions to the third film, which I watched recently and hated. Instead of horrible cheesiness, glowing pumpkin masks leap out at you. There's no knowing which are props and which are people. The giant glowing pumpkin doorway is one of the best set pieces I've seen. The slowed down Mr. Sandman song sets the stage as dreamlike and walking around the insides of a giant pumpkin is pretty cool. This maze wasn't as good as last years, but the surprise end almost made up for it.

* The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers

This maze scared me more than all the other mazes. I think it's a combination of Leatherface being pretty scary combined with the sound of the chainsaw. He (in a variety of masks) and Choptop jump out throughout the maze. It seems to be more based on the second film than the first. It focuses on their meat business that just happens to be human with detailed scenes on how they got it. My favorite scene is the red wall with the animal skulls hung all over it, replicated from the original film. It's one of the scariest scenes on film and I wish it were portrayed the same way, but it was nice to see anyway. I wish there had been more scenes from the original, but the maze was still decent.

* Freddy vs. Jason

I expected this maze to be as cheesy as the film, but it was so much better. It starts off by showing Freddy's boiler room where he died that is frequently replicated in dreams to terrorize his victims. Then Freddy terrorizes a young Jason in a variety of iconic ways like swallowing him whole in disgusting snake form. Afterwards, we visit Jason's origin as his mother raves about his death at Camp Crystal Lake. He then appears in his full monstrous glory. The two iconic monsters decide to attack us instead of each other for the rest of the maze. I loved the scenes where they jumped out on either side. The scenes where a fence or wall separated me from the monsters lulled me into a false sense of security until they jumped through a hidden opening. The ending mimics the ending of the film where Jason appears to win, but Freddy still manages to survive. This maze was awesome and was definitely as good if not better than Alien vs. Predator from last year.

Stay tuned for more mazes!

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