Halloween Horror Nights 26
I LOVE Halloween events. I especially love Halloween events presented by theme parks, because they are willing to invest some major cash in order to make things spectacular. Halloween Horror Nights has always been my favorite, because it's really geared towards horror fans. When I walk into a Halloween Horror Nights event, I feel like I've come home. It's like someone took a peek into my brain and then built what they saw there for the whole world to enjoy.
It's always fun, but this year it seems like they really outdid themselves. I'm usually interested in a few of the houses, but this year I was excited about EVERY house. We splurged and got the Express Passes so we would have time to do IT ALL. And while not every house lived up to expectation, it was a blast overall. So, let's get into it!
Texas Chain Saw Massacre
As soon as we got into the park, we went straight to Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It's the house I was looking forward to the most, and I wanted to see the facade while it was still light outside. There was only a five minute wait, so we didn't even have to use our Express Passes on this one!
Styling: They pretty much nailed the look of the house. The facade was a spot on recreation of the little white farmhouse we've come to know (and love?). Of course there were the typical bones, animal skins and dust everywhere, but they also had the signature metal door slamming scene, and the staircase was featured multiple times.
Characters: We got to see Leatherface in several different looks. There were a few too many "pretty" Leatherfaces for my taste, but the character was strong overall. There was also a Grandpa, and a character that I think was supposed to be the Hitchhiker. Sometimes it's hard to tell with all the chaos happening inside these houses!
Final Thoughts: Overall, I was fairly satisfied with the Texas Chain Saw Massacre house. They didn't really do anything special with it, but they nailed the look and feel of the original, and I had alot of fun walking through that world. I would love to see them expand and do another version of this house in the future.
The Walking Dead
I have been pretty underwhelmed with The Walking Dead houses in the past. I think they rely on it's popularity to get people in line, and then don't really put forth the effort to make the house all that interesting. This year was really no different.
Styling: There were some great set pieces in this year's house. We got to see Dale's RV, The Governor's wall of heads, and a few other big sets like the barn and the prison.
Characters: This is my main problem with this house. It's literally JUST zombies jumping out at you, and it is greatly lacking in personality. I don't know if Universal doesn't have the rights to use actual characters from the show, but that's what this house needs most. We need to see a few of our heros, and we definitely need to see some villians.
Final Thoughts: They really need to put some thought into how to make this house fresh going forward. I'm glad I didn't have to wait in line for this, because it would have felt like a waste of time. They reused sets from previous years (which is fine) but they definitely should have added the woods and the whistling of The Saviors in the background. Negan and Lucille would have been an amazing finale, and I hope to see some of these more iconic moments worked in next time I visit.
The Exorcist is another iconic horror property that I was excited to visit. It's definitely not a "jump scare" kind of film, so I was interested to see how they would present it.
Styling: The look of this house was fantastic. The facade was a huge recreation of Regan's house. As you are walking into the house, the trailer soundtrack is playing "something terrifying is happening to a little girl inside this house". Unlike most HHN houses, The Exorcist is fairly brightly lit and the set pieces are minimal. They also used a really great effect where the wallpaper in the entire room fades away, and you are surrounded by the Pazuzu statue in the desert. Very simple and effective.
Characters: Regan is of course the main character, and we see her many times. Sometimes in jump scares, and also in different bed scenes. We also get to see both priests at different times, which I really enjoyed.
Final Thoughts: The Exorcist was a excellent house. They paid attention to the right details, and went the extra mile to give us a spectacular visual representation of the film. There were jump scares, but they were much fewer than most HHN houses. They instead focused on atmosphere, character, and story, and it really paid off.
American Horror Story
I've been an American Horror Story fan from the very beginning, so I was very excited to see that world come to life. There is so much rich source material to choose from, and I had high expectations for this house.
Styling: While the scale is much smaller, they brought these complicated places to life quite beautifully. The house was clearly divided into three parts, representing Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel. Even in Hotel (which is the grandest season by far in my opinion), the attention to detail was spot on. Perhaps the most impressive room was the Rubber Man room, which was covered in incredibly tall red drapes and featured multiple Rubber Men, including a few hanging from the ceiling.
Characters: Much like The Exorcist, this house was more character-driven than scare-driven. We got to see some of our favorite characters come to life in The Bearded Lady, Twisty the Clown, and The Countess (fabulous!) just to name a few. The use of bloody scenes with the likes of James Patrick March kept it gory, and the use of lesser known characters such as the bed corpse kept it creepy.
Final Thoughts: American Horror Story was my favorite house, hands down. They successfully put us in the middle of the action, but kept the jump scares to a minimum so we had time to breathe and actually appreciate what we were looking at. I would love to see HHN take this approach more in the future, focusing on story and set pieces rather than jump scares to appeal to audiences.
I have a very strict NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE HALLOWEEN policy. But for Krampus, I'll make an exception. I think Krampus has a magical balance of scary, silly and nostalgic that will keep me coming back every year! At the appropriate time, that is.
Styling: The house and snowy landscape were represented pretty well, but one big thing was missing....COLD. The bitter temperature was almost another character in the movie, and I really missed it in this house. I understand why it wouldn't be practical to freeze out an entire warehouse, but I still really wanted to feel the blizzard! However, I did think the conclusion was quite memorable as we exited through Krampus' den surrounded by snow globes.
Characters: I really enjoyed most of the characters in this house. The possessed toys were fun, but there were TOO many of them. The bright spot of the entire house was definitely the kitchen scene with the gingerbread men. SO many adorable, evil gingerbread men! And while I they did a great job with the actual Krampus character, we didn't see him enough.
Final thoughts: Krampus was a fun break from the norm with a nod a different holiday. They stayed true to the source material and spirit of the film, while still translating to a effective house. As I said earlier, I would love to see more Krampus, and possibly more effects with blizzard and snow should they ever do this one again.
I think HHN really can't go wrong with the classics, especially if they happen to be slashers. There are always new and unique ways to present these villains, as they have many looks and storylines to expand upon. I went to the last HHN Halloween house a couple years ago, and it was probably my favorite house that year. This year was not so great.
Styling: The sets were okay, but felt pretty generic. We enter the house through the closet scene, which was really the only standout set piece for me. This might be due to the fact that most of the house takes place in the hospital, which doesn't really lend itself to specific aesthetic of establish in the first Halloween film.
Characters: We do get to see Dr. Loomis at the beginning of this house, which I very much enjoyed. He shoots Michael, and I really wanted to see him land on the yard below the balcony, but the scene moves right on without that (unless it was represented in a way that I missed). We also see Laurie in the hospital near the end, but it doesn't really add much. Other than that, it's pretty much just Michael jumping out you every other step.
Final Thoughts: Halloween was okay, but not something you would want to spend alot of time waiting for. I think the Halloween house from a couple years ago was ultimately more effective because the sets were better. Even though there was alot of Michael in that one as well, you really felt like you were IN the movie, so it just worked better. However, I would love to see more Halloween houses at HHN in the future especially if they are going to continue the trend and give us a Halloween 3 house in a couple of years. Now THAT would something worth waiting for.
I've enjoyed the original houses at HHN in the past. The black and white Universal Monsters one and the Dollhouse from a couple years ago are some of my favorite houses to date. I think they really poured their creativity in bringing the other houses to life this year, because none of the original houses (or scare zones for that matter) really stood out to me. Lunatics Playground 3D and Tomb of the Ancients definitely had some cool effects, but were still lacking. This year, the original houses were really just kind of filler for me. I feel like this is only a temporary setback, and will be excited to see what original scares they come up with next year!
So, there you have it. My HHN 26 experience from A to Z. I've been looking forward to this event ALL year, and my anticipation just kept growing with every announcement. And I have to say, it delivered big time. I feel like they did some really creative things and are starting to move in a little bit of a new direction. I look forward to seeing how the houses continue to evolve beyond cheap jump scares and generic characters in the future. You can tell there is alot of love and care put into this event. As a horror fan, I appreciate the attention to detail and the continuing innovation that Halloween Horror Nights brings to us each year. See you next October!