Halloween Horror Nights is a world-famous Halloween event based at Universal Orlando in Florida. Running for the past 29 years, the event transforms the park into a Halloween wonderland, complete with 10 live-action horror mazes, 5 scare zones and 2 shows. No expense is spared at the Halloween event; with pop up food stalls, exclusive merchandise for the event and rides open. Unlike some Halloween events in UK theme park, Halloween Horror Nights requires you to purchase another ticket to gain entry. Costing around $70 per night or $200 for a horror nights pass, tickets don’t come cheap but the level of detail everywhere in the mazes and park is stunning and a breath of fresh air.
Running from September 14th till November 3rd on select dates, the event is on for almost 2 months, the longest Halloween event to our knowledge. Something universal does, that we would love to see implemented at other events, is Stay and Scream. Guests can choose between two areas of the park, if you’re a day guest, and get early access to 2 mazes: Universal Monsters and Depths of fear or Stranger Things and Ghostbusters. Our personal choice was always the Spring Field stay and scream, due to the location being sheltered from the sun and the area serving food. Halloween Horror Nights is also famous for food, not just horror mazes, if you ask any Florida resident what their favourite part of the event is, they will tell you it’s all about Pizza Fries! Alongside all of the Halloween Mazes and Scarezones, selected rides are open for guests to enjoy, such as: Rip Ride Rocket, The Mummy and Transformers to name a few. But, who travels 4,500 miles to go to a Halloween event, to ride rollercoasters at night?
Mazes at Halloween Horror Nights are run differently compared to mazes in the UK and other halloween events. Rather than being batched in groups of 10-15 people, the maze is one giant conga line, which is good for throughputs when they get such large crowds. However, this means peoples experiences of the mazes can vary from being absolutely amazing, to feeling a bit disappointed by the attraction. In our group ,we saw it where one of us would have an amazing run through and get loads of scares, whilst two people behind us would have a very disappointing run through, where actors or props are reseting. We visited HHN more than 5 times during our stay in Florida and had an amazing time at Halloween Horror Nights, if it wasn’t so far away we would definitely be spending all of our halloween season at this event.
Based upon classic Halloween and scary characters like Frankenstein, Vampires and Werewolves this maze is an original idea. Not based off of a huge IP, like some of the other houses in the event. Like other mazes at the event, the set in Universal Monsters is outstanding from the second you walk in, you're immersed into the world of monsters. Even though the building hosting the maze is a giant tin shed, you can’t see the roof or any bare walls unlike some other mazes. Walking through key scenes, like Franenstiens lab, where he is bought alive and halls full with Vampires and Werewolves, this is a really fun maze and it never got old no mater how many times you went through it, you would always come out seeing something new. The one thing we really liked about the mazes’ Conga lines, was that you didn’t always get the same scares. Meaning, you could get one type of scares in this house one time and next time get something completely different and change the whole experience.
Jordan Peele’s Us
Before flying out to Orlando, we didn’t know anything about Jordan Peele’s Us movie, so going into this maze we were unsure of the storyline! The story within the maze was really clear and although we didn’t know what was going on, it was very easy to work out who was good and bad. The theming inside the house was amazing, the level of detail is crazy and the fact that in some scenes the theming is a high as the roof of the building, is crazy. A lot of the scares in this maze require timing to the music, which is something we found quite frustrating about this maze. If you didn’t enter the room at a certain point, you wouldn’t see anything and you’d be left a bit disappointed. However, if you did enter the room at the right point, you would be jump scared by an actor holding a pair of scissors in their hand for example. Sounds very basic, but when the creepy music is playing loud and you're walking through the dark, a very simple but effective scare!
Nightingales: Blood Pit
Nightingales Blood Pit is another house based upon an original story. Whilst queuing up for this maze, we started speaking to more seasoned HHN guests and they told us this maze used to be called Blood Pit a few years ago and the story is more advanced now than it was years ago. Although IP mazes get more money thrown at them, the design and sets of these original mazes impress us more. The theme of Nightingales Blood Pit is the Hypogeum of a Roman Arena that had housed gladiatorial games for over 100 days straight. The blood from the fights had soaked in the ground and attracted the supernatural beats knows as Nightingales. Bird like monsters, that feed off human blood and flesh. Normally, in a maze review, we rant on about how good the sets are, however, in this maze the costumes some of the actors wear deserve the biggest praise of the whole event! The detail on the costumes and the size of them is crazy. You wouldn’t look twice if you saw that down a dark corridor.
Yeti: Terror of the Yukon
Entering the lair of the Yeti, you’re magically transported from the heat of Florida, into what feels like a snowstorm. With snow falling from the sky, you wander around and through log cabins, coming face to face with Yeti’s along the way. Although this is an older IP, the maze was incredibly popular with guests, with the queue for it always reaching 2 hours during peak times. As much as we liked this maze, I would say this was the weakest one for me, due to actors needing more time to reset and you had to be in a certain position in the conga line to get any interaction. Great theming and costumes, but not a maze we would wait 2 hours for.
Stepping inside the upside-down world of Stranger Things, you walk through some of the biggest scenes of season 2 and 3 of the Netflix series Stranger Things. When the maze opened last year, season 2 had only just premiered on Netflix. This year Season 3 was released in July, which allowed the park to mix the two seasons together into a maze twice as long as last year. Visiting Starcourt Mall from season 3, and walking through the pit where Eleven and Hopper sealed up the void from season 2 are two of the major scenes. Not everything is in this maze due to the space constraints, but the sets within the maze are absolutely beautiful. All of the lighting effects and props inside look so real and really effective. We thoroughly loved this maze and the fact you exit the maze listening to Never Ending Story, is a great touch.
Depths of Fear
Depths of Fear is a maze that will invoke fear into anyone. Set to an underwater laboratory, that’s been taken over by giant fish monsters, the first set piece you see when you enter the maze is a giant water tank with an alarm going off. As original maze concepts go, this is possibly our favourite maze at the event. Every time we went in the maze, we came out wanting to go again and again. The sounds, lights and water effects inside were perfect, we couldn’t fault it! Complete with giant fish costumes for some actors, we loved this maze and would queue for it over and over if we could! We hope this maze comes back for HHN30 next year.
The design for graveyard games is quite simple but works really well. Two teens in New Orleans have decided they’re going to prank people in a haunted graveyard and live stream it on social media. However, it doesn’t go to plan! From the second to step into the maze, you're transformed into a huge set of a graveyard, creepy and cold, you’re instantly on edge. Unlike other mazes at the event, guests can trigger effects by walking through scenes, which is what we’re used to in the UK and allows for more guests to see scares and effects. If you didn’t know the story behind the maze, you would still love this maze, due to the set and scares. Its hard to convey a maze is themed around a live stream, apart from the phones located around the maze there isn’t a lot of story telling in this maze.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Killer Klowns from Outer Space has some awesome sets and great interactivity. However, it relies too much on people watching the film before hand. In our view, going through a horror maze shouldn't require you to watch a film to understand it all. However, the scares and theming inside are fantastic when you go through the maze and discuss it with your friends you start to understand what’s going on. The second final scene in this maze is our favourite, the scale of the clown you walk under is crazy. Only universal could get away with doing something so crazy! A firm favourite in our line up, however it took a few run throughs to enjoy it.
Based upon the Ghostbusters franchise, this maze transforms you into the world of the Ghostbusters. Featuring the Slimer and Devil Dogs, everything in this maze is perfect. Although the films are not scary, Universal have managed to turn some scenes into jump scenes, due to Devil Dogs coming out of the walls, Slimer jumping out of food carts and the Marshmallow Man attacking New York. This maze has some great nostalgia, however, we feel like this maze was a last minute edition as not alot of merchandise had this maze on it. Great theming and great actors, we’d love to see this maze come back with references to the newer films.
House of 1000 Corpses
Based on the Rob Zombie cult horror film, the House of 1000 Corpses maze is perfect. Greeted by Captain Spaulding, you're invited to try some of his chicken and of course greeted by the Firefly family and Doctor Satin. Some people didn’t rate this maze, however, we would say this maze is one of the best at HHN this year, along with Stranger Things. From the blunt force gore, sound effects, theming and lighting everything is perfect. Although there isn’t a lot of jump scares in this maze, it portrays the story of the film really well. If the park was able to merge the maze and the scare zone into one attraction they would be onto a winner.
Scarezones at Halloween Horror Nights work a little different to how they do in the UK, rather than having a small contained area. Scarezones in HHN have a huge area in which they can roam and scare guests.
Going back in time, Vikings Undead was another hugely busy cut through, where smoke machines and not a lot of lighting provided the best atmosphere to scare guests. Themed around Viking Warriors who got refused entry to Valhalla, the area had fantastic costumes and sound design. Some nights, walking through the zone when it was quiet was more creepy than being in a haunted house.
Vanity Ball is the scare zone which makes you stop and look at what’s going on. It's impossible to walk past and not take a double look at someone thats got a hand glued to the side of their face. This area was all about Baby Horror Spectacular’s, in an annual contest where people go to horrific surgical extremes to make themselves match a deeply misguided idea of beauty. Possibly favourite scare zone ever!
Rob Zombie: Hellbilly Deluxe
Hellbilly Deluxe brings the best selling album of Rob Zombie to life, featuring Living Dead Girl and the Big Daddy roth-inspired Dracula. Featuring fire effects, adult themes, loud music and roamers this area you could stand in for hours upon end and watch guests reactions. This is a Scarezone you would never see in the UK. All Rob Zombie fans would love this walkthrough.
Located at the front of the park was Anarchade, an area themed to an 80’s arcade. With techno music playing in the background, you would walk alongside 8ft arcade machines with people jumping out at you or you’d get yelled at by someone in a hockey mask.
Zombieland: Double Tap
Featuring scenes from the first Zombieland movie, actors roamed the area with props and a fake drop tower made for the area. All of the Zombieland rules where also projected and painted onto objects around the area. The Zombieland scare zone was really good, but could sometimes be really annoying as the area it was located in was already really busy with people trying to enter maze queue lines.
Springfield After dark
Not all scare zones are documented on the HHN website, an extra one was located in the Springfield area. Around 10 actors with chainsaws would take over the Springfield area and cause havoc every evening, once all of the mazes were up and running. Show any fear and you would be chased by a chainsaw until you cried or ran too far.
Academy of Villains
Based in the Fear Factor Live theatre, the Academy of Villains have been performing at the event since 2015, when they where just a side show. In 2016, the dance crew started to perform in the huge fear factor arena. This years show maintains the high quality show standards, that they’re famous for. Featuring rock music, a body contortionist and an aerial acrobatics section. The show is a must see if you ever attend HHN. We ended up watching the Academy of Villains show 4 times during our stay in Orlando.
Marathon of Mayhem Lagoon
New for 2019, a 15 minute show features video clips from the mazes and scare zones projected onto water in the lake complete with lasers and a water show. Interestingly, during the daytime water show fire effects are used. We expect that in next years show, we might see these fire effects added into the show.
Halloween Horror Nights was by far the best Halloween event we attended in Amercia, the budget each maze and the park gets is huge and you can tell from the quality of the scare mazes and how good the actors are. At no point were we disappointed by the event and we can’t wait to see what the park does for its 30 years of HHN in 2020. If your ever in the Florida area and get the chance to attend, we would highly recommend it.