Universal Halloween Horror Nights
BY JESSICA DWYER
Halloween Horror Nights returned to Universal Studios in
Hollywood for the first week in September, officially kicking off the Halloween
season. This was my first visit to the event,
and I was beyond excited for it as it was a packed house…or should I say
Universal went above and beyond with a mind boggling 8
haunts ranging from classics from the Universal archive like Dracula/The
Wolfman and The Mummy all in one haunt, 80s fare like Killer Klowns from Outer
Space, modern classic Halloween, to modern pop with The Weekend having a haunt
themed around his music which runs to the bizarre and dark. This was also the first year that the theme
park had Death Eaters wandering around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,
interacting with visitors while the dark magic side took over Hogwarts
buildings and the streets around them.
So, join me while I give you the rundown of the haunts and
some pointers to help you survive the night.
Let’s try and make it out alive at Universal Studios Halloween Horror
Tip Number One: You
want to get the Express Pass. Trust
me. Depending on the day the ticket to
get into the park for HHN can range from 70 to over 100 dollars. But that’s just the standard ticket for HHN
and also means you don’t get into the park until at 7pm when HHN starts. Some of the lines for these houses can be
LONG. You can have an hour of your night
easily eaten alive by one line. The line
for The Weekend house was easily a couple hundred people when I walked by it,
and it didn’t get less throughout the night.
The Express Pass is your best bet and yes, it does make the
ticket price go up. Depending on the day
you choose it can be over 300.00 but again, if you are going to the part for
HHN and you want to get to see all the houses and not have to wait in line all
night and only see two of them (the park closes at 1am) you want the Express
Pass. This also gets you access to the
rides as well with that priority access.
If you want to save money and time, your best bet is to go during a
Thursday or a Sunday. HHN doesn’t happen
Mon through Wednesday, except for Halloween this year which falls on a
Monday. Fri and Sat are the most
expensive days of the week.
239.00 is the cheapest you’ll find per ticket for the
express pass during October for HHN, but again, this is 8 haunts and includes
the park rides.
As I said there are 8 houses this year:
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
The Weekend After House Nightmare
The Horrors Of Blumhouse
Universal Monsters Legends Collide
La Llorna The Weeping Woman
Scarecrow The Reaping
Universal Horror Hotel
That large number is why you really want that express pass
to experience all of them. Here’s a
brief rundown of each house.
Halloween 1978 is the first time the classic slasher has had
a house at the park. Basically the house
puts you into the original movie, recreating the key parts of the first film
and having you come face to face with Michael Myers. The recreations and the actors are awesome,
with my favorite probably being Doctor Loomis and the poor guy who was Michael
having to repeatedly act like he was getting shot and falling to the ground.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is not new to the HHN roster,
but I have to say this was one of the top houses for me. Like Halloween 78, this house recreates all
the major points of the film as you walk into the big top from the movie and
encounter all the Klowns, their creatures, and their victims. This includes the chaos that is the police
station and all that unfortunate cotton candy.
These costumes look amazing, and the entire experience was great.
Scarecrow The Reaping was an unexpectedly gory and awesome
house. The story behind this one is that
the Scarecrows have come to life to exact revenge on the humans who are destroying
the land. Death by corn, hanging
entrails, and killer crows made this one really grisly and disturbing. One of my favorites.
LaLorna The Weeping Woman takes place within the confines of
a church and barn. The story is that of
the myth of LaLorna who drowned her children and then killed herself. The haunt is another disturbing one with dead
children and LaLorna coming out of the shadows and attacking you as you go
through, including a giant LaLorna EATING a child.
The Horrors Of Blumhouse combine two fantastic properties
from Blumhouse productions, Freaky and The Black Phone. Entering Blumhouse video you discover that
these are the only two movies you can rent.
Going through the world of Freaky, you enter into The Black Phone where
you are greeted by The Grabber after walking along a hallway with missing children’s
posters. Yet again, the creep factor is
high with this, and you do have to make it past a sleeping Grabber in his
One of my favorites was of course a classic, and that was
Universal Monsters: Legends Collide. The
classic monsters, The Wolfman, The Mummy and Dracula are all trying to get the
amulet of Anubis which will allow its owner to be free of their curse. The house starts within the Alucard (spell it
backwards) Trading Company. The dulcet
tones of Renfield can be heard and then he appears. The back halls are full of Egyptian works,
Dracula’s coffin, and The Mummy’s tomb, eventually leading to Larry Talbot in
mid transformation. The house is fairly
lengthy and continues through into a museum section with multiple encounters
and scenarios…eventually ending with one last great scare. It’s a worthy tribute to some of the greats
Terror Tram is unique in the park as it not only showcases
film properties during the haunt but has an ongoing boogie man in the form of
Hollywood Harry, the homicidal clown.
Also known as Koodles, Harry has been terrorizing the studio since 2016
and with this return, he’s joined forces with the films Nope and Us. Terror Tram goes along the back lot of
Universal and this experience REALLY takes advantage of the Bates Motel sets
and many other sets in the back lot.
Harry’s disturbing and creepy and pops up out of nowhere with a lot of
friends. This one is special as you are
actually getting to see the real sets used in Nope.
With two more houses to speak about and the mention of
Terror Tram, now’s a good time for Tip Number Two: YOU ARE GOING TO DO A LOT OF WALKING. It just so happened that the night of the
opening California was going through a heat wave. It was fully dark and at after 8pm and it was
nearly 100 degrees and wouldn’t go below the low to mid 90s that evening. And you walk everywhere. There are actually two levels of park you
have to go through and while there are GIANT escalators you are still going to
be walking and it will be warm. Wear
good walking shoes and dress for heat, especially this year. I can’t stress enough the walking.
Universal Horror Hotel is a take on the HH Holmes building
of horrors, the true-life serial killer.
Here, the story has been transplanted into Hollywood in the 1920’s and
the early days of the land of movies. An
heiress marries Max Deville, a man who uses her money to create a luxury hotel
with a lot of literal skeletons in the closet.
Max is disfigured after an “accidental” fire kills his wife. Max is found out and sentenced to the gas
chamber for his horrific deeds, but not before he promises to come back and
stalk everyone once more. Horror Hotel
is a surprise as a unique story without a film property behind it. A lot of thought and content was created to
back up the story and myth of the attraction.
The final house on our list is The Weekend After Hours
Nightmares which was a bit of a surprise for me. I didn’t know what to expect out of this, but
this house wound up being a contender for my fave of the park. Firstly, it’s a big house and it is filled
with very creepy characters, images, and sounds. The journey is through the mind of The Weekend,
and I think it’s also a bit of a slam to the “Hollywood Ideal” in general as it
has ravers and club partiers all slowly reverting to monsters as well as
horrifying plastic surgery gone wrong. Also,
The Weekend himself is slowly transformed, ultimately becoming a lizard like
creature, as if to say this lifestyle has brought him back to his Lizard Brain,
or bases instincts. Not only is it a
fantastic haunt it also is a nice little commentary you may or may not pick up
on while screaming your guts out.
Since The Weekend also has a bar for drinks at the park now,
lets talk about Tip Number 3: GET THE
SOUVINER COLLECTIBLE CUP. There’s a very
cool HHN 2022 red plastic collectible cup that you can get at the park for
around 20.00. While this may sound
expensive it also gets you UNLIMITED refills while you are at the park at any
other food cart/restaurant that is selling them. You will want to hydrate, and you will need
to because of all that walking I told you about earlier. This item is worth it and its also a nice
keepsake that even has a handle so you can attach it to your backpack for easy
carrying. If you plan on spending two
days at Universal, you can actually bring it back with you and get refills
again. The signs say is 11.99 to do the
next day refills but no one ever asked me for a proof of receipt when I got my
refills the first day…but keep it just in case.
Tip Number 4: If you are planning on staying till closing be
aware some of the houses do close at different times. Terror Tram actually had its final go through
at around 11:40pm, which is reasonable as it is one of the longest experiences
and the tram takes time to return back to the main park. I’d suggest doing that earlier in the evening
to get it out of the way as you really don’t want to miss it (the photo op with
Norman Bates and the Psycho house alone is worth it) and its like 4 houses or
more in one.
There wasn’t a lot of singage to help you get around and
find some of the houses that first night, I’m not certain if they added more
but it can be a little overwhelming and hard to find some of the spots at
first. There are upper and lower lots,
and both have houses in them. Don’t be
afraid to ask directions from the staff.
There are a lot of park staff around and everyone was helpful.
There are tons of collectibles specific to the event and you
will spend money. But the collectibles
are high quality and really nice, for example the Frankenstein Studio Screamers
Bucket which is a foot tall and comes with a lanyard so you can carry him
around the park. A lot of this merch is
specific to the year and the event so that adds a nice level of special to
it. I’m already seeing things popping up
on Ebay marked up.
Universal Halloween Horror Nights lives up to the hype. It’s like a giant horror movie convention on
steroids. It was a sea of black t-shirts
as fellow horror fans came to worship at the studio where it all started for
Dracula, The Wolfman and Frankentstein. It’s
fun, it’s scary, it’s magical (and that’s not just the Harry Potter area.) It’s the artistry of the movies brought to
life in terrifying reality by the people who do it the best. I can’t state enough how if you are a horror
fan you need to go to this at least once in your life.
Although you never know that one time may be the last time…