So, yeah, if you’re hanging around this blog and saw my introduction to the Long Halloween recently, one of the things you’re probably wondering is, “Hey, isn’t this September? Halloween isn’t until October!”
Well, long story short on this is that, with so many Halloween events in the Los Angeles area, the most competitive among them tend to open earlier and run longer, which for Fi and I is pretty fantastic, as it means we can almost do one of our favorite events either on or around her birthday (September 23rd). Thankfully, this year her birthday actually fell on a day when Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights was open, letting us make it the kickoff to our Long Halloween season.
This year in particular was a very special year, as they were going for a greatest hits reel of some of the greatest icons of horror, along with some newer highly requested properties. How successful were they this year adapting them? Well, let’s dive in, shall we?
NOTE: For the sake of this series of articles, the term "maze" will actually very likely never mean maze. The terms "maze" and "haunted house" are pretty interchangeable from everything I've seen, though from what I can tell "maze" is usually used by larger events and theme parks when they are running a number of haunts. They are usually straightforward and offer little in the way of getting lost, but hey, you never know, they might surprise you.
SPECIAL THIS EVENT SPECIFIC NOTE: Normally I try and take a ton of high quality pictures of these events to properly memorialize them for my audience. However, my camera decided to die right around the time Halloween Horror Nights opened this year. We made do with Fi’s quite decent cell phone camera, but admittedly some of these pictures are better than others. I’ll try and get a higher quality camera for future events that allow them.
While it was great to see the mazes sooner (I’m as impatient as anyone), a lot of them had windows allowing us to see daylight, which is a big no no when it comes to scares.
But, I digress. Once the lights went out, the true entertainment of the park came out, and we got to take in the “scare zones”, stretches of the park set up with costumed actors jumping at you with weapons and going for cheap jump scares. While most years the park has multiple themed scare zones, this year Universal went with one overall theme, The Purge: Election Year, and stretched it throughout the park. Being a big fan of this movie, we had a lot of fun dodging through the massive stretches of purged out park, including the half-assed mini maze, The Purge: Gauntlet of Fear. While hardly anything new, given that the park has done Purge themed scare zones in two past years, we still enjoyed it.
The fact that there were two guys in front of us, constantly breaking the mood by hopping out of line to shove their camera in Regan’s fish tank every time it popped up, was also an odd experience.
Maze Ranking: # 7
After a long, sort of death march, across Universal’s lower lot to the filming backlots, we made it to a trio of mazes that were all ones we were looking forward to. The first was Krampus, based on the recent so-so horror movie. That being said, though the movie was so-so, I knew it would translate well to a maze because it’s colorful. The scares are varied and weird, from children being eaten by chimneys, to demonic (but delicious smelling) gingerbread men taking over a kitchen, to killer toys run amok, to evil snowmen, to the demonic Krampus himself. Combined with some high quality sets which are distinct, ever-present Christmas music, and random rooms where the temperature greatly drops (always welcome in Southern California), and this was a dark, fun time.
Maze Ranking: # 4
American Horror Story
Maze Ranking: # 5
Freddy vs. Jason
Maze Ranking: # 1
Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
Special bonus points for beginning right outside the Doyle house, with Donald Pleasance’s insane voice echoing over speakers shouting my favorite, deeply silly line, “I SHOT HIM! I SHOT HIM SIX TIMES!”
Okay, maybe that’s just funny to me.
Maze Ranking: # 2
Eli Roth Presents the Terror Tram
This year was no different. It had clowns. They were creepy. It was fun. It was also forgettable. The wait is pretty atrocious, and there are several bottlenecks that can slow things down, and if I’m going to be honest, you could skip this and wouldn’t miss a single thing. Do it if you’ve the time (or, like us, front of the line tickets), but know you won’t miss much by skipping it.
Oh yeah, and watch your knees getting in and out of the tram. That’s my pro tip for the night.
The Walking Dead
Maze Ranking: # 3
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers
Maze Ranking: # 6
Thank you for joining us this Halloween season, and as always, please drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter! I'm big into liking/following back!
-- Matt Carter
(We know there's a lot of Matt Carter's online you could spend your time with, so thanks for hanging around this one!)