Halloween Horror Nights 27
Halloween Horror Nights is usually a event we go to every two or three years. It's quite a bit of money for one evening's entertainment, considering we add on the Express Passes and stay the night at a hotel. Last year's event was fantastic. They offered several interesting houses, and executed them very well. You can read all about that in my HHN 26 review. I was very excited to see that they did it again this year, pulling me in for back to back events instead of waiting it out.
Having Express Passes means you are basically guaranteed to have enough time to do all the houses. When you have to stand in line for an hour or more at each house, you really have to pick and choose, and you never really know what you might be missing. I definitely have my favorites, but this offerings were pretty solid all around. So...here we go!
Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Ash Vs. Evil Dead isn't a house I was necessarily too excited about. I'm not a huge Evil Dead fan, and I haven't seen the show at all, though I have heard great things about it. We went to this house first purely out of strategy. (In case you don't know, you're supposed to start more towards the back of the park and work your way around to the entrance where all the really popular houses are.)
Styling: This was a pretty generic house, although I will admit there are probably details I didn't appreciate because I'm not familiar with the show. There was a scene with Ash standing on the porch of the infamous Evil Dead cabin, and that was a neat moment. Also, there was a tiny Ash puppet at the end of house, which I didn't understand, but thought was really fun!
Characters: We got see Ash several times, but I can't say they really nailed his look. Also, the zombies were pretty standard and didn't really look like the colorful deadites we've come to know and love.
Final Thoughts: I just wasn't impressed by this house. Again, that might be because I haven't seen the show, but I don't think that's a prerequisite to enjoy an HHN house. The sets and characters were run of mill and could have been lifted from any house.
The Horrors of Blumhouse
I heard rumors about this house a couple months back, and it got me very excited. It's a mash up house featuring three Blumhouse films - Insidious, Sinister and The Purge. I missed the Insidious house a couple years back, and Sinister is one my favorite horror movies of the past decade, so I've been looking forward to it. HHN has some weird obsession with The Purge. It's been featured in some way at every event I've been to. It's fine, but not terribly creative. Anyway....
Styling: There were some fantastic scenes in the house. Sinister had blood all over the walls that was quite effective and incorporated the creepy church set from Sinister 2. The standout scene was Lipstick Face's red lair from Insidious. Of course, we got to hear Tiptoe Through the Tulips as we walked through. There were glowing green lanterns throughout guiding us through "the further" and they really added to the overall atmosphere.
Characters: There were many jumpscares, but I feel like Bughuul, Lipstick Face, and other ghosts from the further were utilized in a fairly subtle and effective way. I'm not really a fan of The Purge, and we've seen those characters a million times at HHN, but they were fine. I could have done without The Purge altogether, seeing more from Sinister and Insidious.
Final Thoughts: I really like the idea of featuring a family of movies in one house. However, in the future, these mashup houses should be on one of the bigger sets. Sinister was super short, and the end of the maze was confusing. I think it went back to The Purge after Insidious, or was a mix of all three. Either way, that time and space could have been used more effectively. Regardless of the weird pacing, this was one of my favorite houses of the night!
Well, what can I say about The Shining? This is by far the most widely-anticipated house at this year's event, and the biggest reason why I couldn't pass it up. This movie is all atmosphere and character, so it's the perfect film to be adapted into a walkthrough maze.
Styling: The Shining is slow-burn, quiet and meticulous film, which might be the exact opposite of a HHN house. However, they managed to bring The Shining to life perfectly. They interpreted elements of the film in a way that really felt right. One of my biggest problems with most houses is that they are very dark, and you don't have time to look around and appreciate the atmosphere. The Shining was fairly well lit, and the scares were more spread out, so you were able to really experience The Overlook.
Characters: All of our favorites were there. Jack, Wendy, Danny, Halloran, Grady, Lloyd and even the dog man. There were some jump scares with Jack, but for the most part, they left it low key, which I really appreciate.
Final Thoughts: The Shining did not disappoint. They managed to bring it to life in a way that respects the film while also creating a fun, fast-paced house.
American Horror Story
Last year's AHS maze was my favorite. They really nailed the look and feel of Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel, relying more on storytelling and atmosphere than jump scares.
Styling: This house did not have the style of last year's AHS house. There were a couple standout scenes, but It felt more like a stock HHN house than a unique property. Last year's house was grand and nuanced, while this year's house felt cramped and rushed.
Characters: Not much to get excited about. There were two statues from Asylum at the entrance (one was a real person) that were beautiful and impressive. Myrtle Snow and the Voodoo Man in the Coven section were also well-executed editions, but other characters fell flat.
Final Thoughts: A creative property like American Horror Story will always have potential to be a fantastic house. The stories, characters and visual style are all there. It will always be about execution, and this year, that execution was just lacking.
SAW: The Games of Jigsaw
I have a really special place in my heart for SAW. The first time I watched it, it was a game-changer for me. I'm not really a fan of the frachise as a whole, but that first one was really something special. This house covered the whole franchise, so I expected to see some great moments tucked in between all the screaming and gore.
Styling: The look of this house was perfectly SAW. The gritty metal, the green light, the fast-paced, shaky cam feel were all spot on. We got to visit the beloved bathroom scene, but it didn't quite have the special feel of that first film.
Characters: At the beginning, we get to see Billy the puppet on his little tricycle, and that was really neat. Pigman Jigsaw was the main character, so he was present throughout the house. We saw him mostly in jumpscare form, but also in more subtle ways. The other characters were mostly Jigsaw trap victims, which were executed pretty effectively.
Final thoughts: There wasn't really anything negative about this house, but nothing too memorable, either. I think the SAW franchise just feels a little worn out, so it's difficult to be wowed by it.
Original Houses & Scare Zones
You never quite know what you're going to get with original houses at HHN. They have the potential to break the mold and be spectacular, without the expectations of those based on beloved movies and television. In the past, I've experienced good ones and bad ones. This year was a little bit of a mix. I enjoyed all four original houses, but Dead Waters and The Fallen were the two that really stood out. They were larger houses, and took advantage of the space they had. Dead Waters featured a sunken riverboat in the swamp and had amazing detail, including crooked floors. The Fallen was a huge, twisted cathedral that had some major Hellraiser vibes going on. The characters were unique and scary, and one of them even flew above the rafters! The Hive and Scarecrow were also enjoyable, although not quite as grand or unique as the others.
The scare zones weren't really anything special with the exception of one. The Trick r' Treat scare zone was one of my favorite things about this year's event. The atmosphere and characters were perfect, led by our adorable favorite, Sam, the protector of Halloween.
I enjoyed HHN 27 quite a bit. The houses offered were very exciting, and for the most part did not disappoint. The atmosphere and scare zones left something to be desired, and I hope to see them step that up a little bit in the future.
I feel like they are putting more focus into the houses, which is great, but I've always enjoyed the spooky vibes in the streets when getting from point a to point b. As I said last year, they seem to be stepping back and taking some chances with more atmospheric houses such as The Exorcist and The Shining. I would like to see them continue this trend. Jumpscares and dark sets tend to all blur into one idea, and the houses that give you more room to breathe seem to be the most memorable. All in all, we had a fantastic evening, and as always I'll be looking forward to the next event.