Archive for Haunted Houses

Does this thing still work?

Posted in Other with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2016 by dtrain1008

horror-nights2016 Horror Nights 2016

For those keeping score at home, this IS in fact my first post of the horror season. With only 11 days to spare… Many apologies from within these torrid walls. I assume you’ve all survived without me. Let’s see if we can fix that.

The last few months have been one of the most chaotic times of my life. I went to Europe for the first time ever, spent a few unplanned days back at home, and then went to Florida to experience this year’s rendition of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.

For my loyal followers (mad props if you’re still with me after all this time!), you know the drill. Horror Nights is the premiere Halloween event, with several haunted houses– some based on movies and/or tv shows, and others based on original content. If you recall, last year’s event was the 25th anniversary, and featured our sinister clown friend Jack. This year, Universal did a spin-off with his creepy sidekick, Chance. Here’s this year’s preview:

As you can see, we’ve got some exciting mazes. There’s mazes based on Halloween 2, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, American Horror Story, Krampus, and The Walking Dead. In addition to those are three original content houses– Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch, Tomb of the Ancients, and Lunatics Playground 3D. My co-contributor Adam and I tackled this event for two consecutive nights, and it was a grueling marathon to say the least. But we got our share of scares… so let’s take a journey through the mazes together.

I think I’ll go through these in order of my rankings, starting with my least favorite and building up. So let’s begin with (sadly) the Icon maze this year: Lunatics Playground 3D.

Lunatics Playground is a journey into Chance’s mind. In the queue for this maze, we’re presented a video with a backstory as to what’s happening. After last year’s Carnival of Carnage, Chance was arrested and taken to an asylum. We’re forced to enter her mind in a 3D horror maze. As for the maze itself… this was easily my least favorite of the event. The whole thing didn’t really make sense. It was more silly than scary, and if you ask me, the 3D mazes need to stop.

Up next, let’s talk about The Walking Dead. It’s baaaaack. AGAIN. At this point, I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but this maze is a broken record in itself. They’ve overplayed this franchise, and this year’s maze takes highlighted scenes from all seasons of TWD. There were some kind of cool throwbacks to the early seasons, but as was the case in previous years, TWD just doesn’t deliver the scares. Here’s to hoping this is the last time we see one of these mazes.

My 7th-ranked haunt at HHN2016 is The Exorcist. I was really excited about this house going in. When we think of horror movies, The Exorcist is one of the first ones that comes to mind on many people’s lists. And this is the first time the movie has made an appearance at Horror Nights, so I expected a great maze here. The entranced was good… you walk up the cobblestone path to the house, just like the priest in the film. But as much as I built this up, the maze was only okay. There are some very cool effects used, from see-through walls, good sound effects, and a few strong scares. But the Reagan animatronics were a little too cheesy, and there were a few hallways at the beginning that were pretty uneventful. As much as I wanted to like this maze, it just didn’t live up to expectations.

Onto the #6 maze: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Another movie based on a classic horror film, and I must say, I really liked the sets in this maze. They’ve constructed the actual house in Texas where Leatherface and his demented family shred up our protagonists. And as for the scares, it’s a lot of what you’d expect. Chainsaws-a-plenty. A good haunt, but far from the top.

That brings us to my Top 5 mazes of Horror Nights 2016. Coming in at #5 is Krampus, the Christmastime scarefest. I actually haven’t seen this movie yet, but I think I’ll need to after going through this haunt. This was a lot of fun. There were a lot of silly characters (elves, teddy bears, etc) that when simply observed, look almost comedic. But combined with some intense sound effects, the smells of gingerbread, a very fun outdoor section, and some solid indoor sets, they’ve turned Krampus into a frightening attraction.

In 4th place, we arrive at Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch. This is a classic Wild West maze in a ghost town, where the residents are… well, you know. But this was a really well-themed maze. As you enter the town, a light rain falls from above. And from then on, you’re encountered by all of the former townsfolk, each of them as restless as the next. Some are screaming about the gold they’d left behind. Others are just vengeful. But all of them are creepy in their own right, and this was a solid haunt.

My #3 maze this year is American Horror Story. This is the only maze we were only able to do once, due to the INSANE lines for this thing. In any case, I’m again not really up to speed on AHS, so a lot of the references were lost on me. But even with that, this was a pretty cool maze. It was probably the longest maze of the event, with scenes from 3 different seasons of the show. The clown from the Freakshow season (or so I’m told) made a bunch of appearances throughout, and there were plenty of other creepy characters along the way. Even as someone who hasn’t watched the show, I enjoyed this maze a lot.

And now for the final 2. My runner up this year is Tomb of the Ancients.  Themed to an ancient crypt of sorts, Tomb is all about exploring a lost temple that houses creatures lost for many centuries. It’s full of hidden crypts, undead half-breeds, and wonderful sets throughout. There’s some really clever scares in here, from drop floors to really cool animatronics. There are plenty of jump scares throughout the whole trek, landing Tomb near the top of the list… which brings us to our final maze.

Halloween 2 tops off this year’s Horror Nights event for me. It’s everything you’d expect in a rather unpleasant tour through Haddonfield. A terrifying jaunt through some back yards, where Michael Myers is behind who knows which sheet. Then you head into town and into some buildings, avoiding knife attacks behind every corner. The whole maze is beautifully laid out, and it’s simply packed with Michael Myers actors. On top of that, they do a fantastic job integrating the sounds of Halloween into the maze… the shrieking strings, the subtle note sequences of suspense.. the entire maze is simply terrifying. This was the first maze we went through at the event, and it stuck with me as being my favorite the entire time. Very, very well done.

With all of that said, I’d say this year’s event as a whole was a little “down” when compared to previous years. Last year’s 25th anniversary was truly something special, and really set the bar for what Horror Nights can be. I think there were 3 mazes last year that were better than any of the mazes this year. But even in a down year such as this, HHN still reigns supreme as the best overall Halloween event, and it’s worth the trip every time.

That’ll wrap up this review of Horror Nights. I’m hoping to get back into the normal swing of things, but this is a weird year for Halloween… Where are the scary movies?! It’s been a pretty disappointing year at the Box Office. Hopefully that resolves itself soon. I am hoping to post more haunt reviews, because not including Horror Nights, I’ve been to SEVEN other haunted houses this year. So stay tuned, because hopefully there’ll be more updates coming soon.

Until then, bring out your dark side.

-Dvo

 

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HORROR NIGHTS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by dtrain1008

hhn25logo

Florida Trip 2015: Halloween Horror Nights @ Universal Studios

Greetings one and all, and welcome back to The Unholy Cathedral.  If you’ve been keeping up, or following on Twitter, you’ve seen that we’ve been very busy lately.  The Unholy duo (and our friend Jeff) all took a trip to the deep south, to the HOTTER part of the world, for some scary happenings. Buckle in, kids, because this is going to be a big update. ***I recommend viewing this one on the actual site, since there’s some media content involved!*** Let’s get it going… This. Is. Horror Nights.

If you’re new to the blog, or if you just don’t remember, Halloween Horror Nights is the Creme de la Creme in terms of halloween events.  It’s pure adulterated terror, and it takes place at both Universal Studios parks (Orlando and Hollywood).  This year, the Orlando event is celebrating their 25th anniversary of terror, and they’re doing so in big form.  For many of the years, Halloween Horror Nights has introduced “Icons,” basically main characters around which the event for that year is centralized.  And while there have been many fan favorites, none draw the following like Jack, the demented clown.  So he’s back, as the key character for Horror Nights 25.  And I can certainly understand the appeal.  It’s a really cool character. Let’s take a look at some media, starting with a fun ad for the event.

And here’s a short vine I took at the beginning of his show at Horror Nights.

The show itself was very well put together.  Lots of pyro effects, plenty of killings (including a dude being blended to death in a human-sized blender), and some hot clown women, if there was such a thing. But enough with the introductions… let’s get into the haunts! This year featured NINE mazes… I still struggle to wrap my head around that.  Nine complete mazes in one park, and not a single one of them was bad.  So I’ll go through them in the order we hit them on the first night.

Maze 1: The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead

We started with The Walking Dead, as that’s generally a house that draws long lines at Horror Nights.  We were able to get into the house in just a few minutes to start off the night, and it quickly brought back the realization of where we’re at. This isn’t your “mom & pop” kind of place. When you go through the mazes at Universal, you’re going through essentially a movie set.  The detail is incredible, and in terms of Walking Dead haunts, this is probably my favorite to date.  There are a lot of cool scenes from the show, including the “trough” scene at Terminus, the water-filled food run room, and even the revolving door with zombies in it.  Admittedly not the scariest haunt at HHN, but it definitely set the tone for the night.

We planned our route well, and the exit of Walking Dead emptied us out right at the exit of our next Maze…

Maze 2: The Purge

As most of you know, I’m a fan of The Purge series. But this is the first actual maze they’ve done based on the movies.  So I was intrigued to see how it would lay out.  Essentially you’re traveling through the urban setting of The Purge, with all of the bad guys from the two movies out to get you.  Where the Walking Dead was more based on the perfect sets, The Purge really dropped the hammer in terms of intensity.  There’s non-stop noise blaring in your ears, from the hard rock music, to the sounds of chainsaws, guns, and crashing objects. The maze really puts you on edge as you walk through, and really delivers in terms of pure chaos. This was a slight step up from Walking Dead I think, but the night was still young…

Maze 3: Insidious

Are you starting to see why I love this place? As a pre-cursor, we went to HHN in Hollywood 2 years ago, where the Insidious maze was one of the most terrifying mazes I’ve ever been through.  So if we weren’t kicked into high gear yet, I was thinking this might just be the one to do it. After all, they literally built the house from the movie!  By this point, the lines were starting to develop, so after about a 30-minute wait, we were in.  And this was really frustrating, the first time.  The group ahead of us kept stopping in the house, so there was really no chance for us to get scared, as we kept seeing the actors going back to their hiding places.  It’s never fun to go through a bad haunted house. But it’s even worse when the patrons ruin a good one.  Fortunately we went through again on our second night, but the Hollywood house this is not.  This version of Insidious was decent, but nowhere near the terror we experienced in California.

Maze 4: Run: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

This was our first “Non-IP (Intellectual Property)” House, essentially saying it’s not tied to any movies or shows.  Run has some parallels to the 80’s movie Running Man, in that you’re put into a game show set in a prison, where skilled assassins are trying to kill you.  And to keep the 80’s theme, they had some 80’s hard rock playing in the queue line. I liked that all of the assassins had “countries” from which they were supposed to hail, and there were some really cool characters in here.  Some really big guys dressed similar to Legion of Doom, for instance.  And also a smoking hot chick with a chainsaw.  But other than the cool characters, this one didn’t scare me too much.  Great idea on paper, but in terms of scares, this was a little lower on my list.

By this point, it was starting to get dark, and the scare zones started to get more exciting.  Here’s another vine I took while walking through one of the zones.

After getting some food, we saw the Jack show, and afterward we attempted to get a picture taken with the man himself.  As it turns out, Adam KNOWS the guy behind the mask, and got to meet him for a few brief seconds. Here’s a picture of Adam with the clown himself.

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After the show, it was back to the haunts. We headed to our next destination, and along the way we got to see one of the other Icons (The Storyteller) disposing of another poor soul…

Maze 5: Asylum in Wonderland 3D

I think my stance on 3D mazes is pretty well known, but if not, I’ll say it again. Enough.  They’re never scary.  They’re just silly.  This one is probably one of the best ones I’ve been through, as it’s themed to a demented Alice in Wonderland setting. There are some very cool costume designs in here, with some messed up fairies, a creepy mad hatter, and of course the Cheshire cat.  There are also some wildly-lit rooms that are kind of disorienting with the 3D glasses, but beyond that, the scares are just not there.  Not a terrible maze, but definitely the weakest one at Horror Nights.  After this, we needed something to bring us back down to the true fears of Horror Nights, and boy did we get it…

Maze 6: Body Collectors-Recollections

Okay.  This is another Non-IP House, which is themed to a wintery asylum, where the inhabitants aren’t exactly friendly. They’re harvesting body parts.  And they’re also ULTRA creepy looking.  I must say, in terms of entrances to the mazes, this one takes the cake.  It looks like the front of a large stone building, covered in snow from the wintery landscape.  And once we got in, Body Collectors just takes over.  This maze is just incredible.  The Collectors’ masks alone are enough to drive nightmares into you, and once you throw in the amazing execution of this maze, it’s nothing short of terrifying. Room after horrifying room of these guys jumping out of what seems like nowhere.  There’s also probably the goriest room of all of the mazes, where a girl has her spine ripped out of her back for an audience of Collectors, and you, to see.  All things said, this is one of my favorites at the event this year.  Really, really, scary stuff.  And I was able to find a decent picture of some Collectors in front of the facade of this maze, so enjoy!

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Maze 7: An American Werewolf in London

This is another one I was looking forward to.  Orlando had this maze two years ago, and it was the highest-rated maze they’d ever had, so they brought it back for the 25th Anniversary.  And American Werewolf was just plain fun.  You start in The Slaughtered Lamb pub, and slowly work your way through London where werewolves are abundantly terrorizing you, both in mid- and full transformation.  The wolves themselves are gigantic, and are really well-used to deliver the scares.  A very solid haunt, but it falls just outside my top 3.  Yes that’s a hint… these last two were something else.

Maze 8: Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem

Wow. Talk about a maze that only Horror Nights can pull off. This is by far the longest HHN maze I’ve ever seen.  The premise is pretty simple… Jack is back, and he’s bringing back highlights of all of the previous years’ mazes to haunt you once again.  As we were walking through this maze, Adam and I were reveling in all of the rooms that we recognized from our previous trip(s), and in one of the rooms it resulted in Adam getting the living hell scared out of him.  That was entertaining.  But it’s so well done. Obviously the rooms didn’t “transition” to a theme, as they’re all different themes.  So how did they bridge the gap? By having tons of “Jacks” jumping out at you in each of the transition areas, of course.  It’s just one terrifying homage after another, with tons of horrifying clowns flying at you in between.  For those keeping track at home, I remember seeing rooms from The Forsaken, H.R. BloodenGutz, Winter’s Night, and Nightingales: Blood Prey. If you’re interested in reading up on those, check out my last report in October 2011.  But to sum it up, this maze is by far the longest, and one of the most intense haunts I’ve been through at HHN.  They really nailed their headliner.

After that, we figured nothing could top that.  But we still had ONE MORE haunt to go…

Maze 9: Freddy vs. Jason

Is the movie a pile of crap? Perhaps. But this isn’t a direct tie-in to the movie.  This is just the scariest parts of Friday the 13th combined with the scariest parts of Nightmare on Elm Street, and then a combination of the two into the final fight. The result? This maze… blew me away.  We entered the maze into a cabin at Camp Crystal Lake. As in, a legitimate cabin that was built for the event. And as we went through the camp, the MASSIVE “Jasons” were popping out of (once again) seemingly nowhere, and delivering really well-timed scares.  But soon we found ourself on Elm Street, where we encountered the little girls with no eyes, playing jump rope and singing the Freddy song.  If ever there was a creepier thing in a haunt, I can’t think of it. From there, we went into the house from Nightmare, and it was Freddy’s turn to terrorize us.  Again, strong scares. As we continued through the end, the two films came together into the Freddy vs. Jason fight scenes, but they were still continuing to scare us the whole time.  I think the size of the Jason characters really made them that much scarier, but the effect was certain. It scared the crap out of me.  We also got a chance to encounter Jason on the streets, and I got an Unholy Selfie with the guy himself.

jason_selfie

I know, it’s a marathon.  And let me just say, walking around Universal for 2 days, as well as Busch Gardens for another day, was quite the marathon in itself.  By Saturday night, we were all dead tired.  Apologies for the pun.  So with that said, there’s still a LOT of stuff I haven’t covered, including our ridiculous day at some small carnie-ish parks, as well as our trip to Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens.  That’ll come at a later date.  But I’m going to cap this off with my personal ranking of the HHN haunts, from worst to first.  Keep in mind that basically all of these haunts were a blast, but a few stand-outs really stole the show.  So here we go.

9: Asylum in Wonderland 3D

8: Run: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

7: The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead

6: The Purge

5: Insidious

4: An American Werewolf in London

3: Body Collectors – Recollection

2: Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem

1: Freddy vs. Jason

The top 3 could honestly go any way for me, but that’s what I was thinking at the event, so I’m sticking with it.  I think Monsters and Mayhem is probably the most detailed maze there, and it was most of my friends’ favorite haunt.  But for me, Freddy vs. Jason had incredible sets, and really just scared the crap out of me both times I went through, so I gave it the edge.  But you can’t go wrong in either of those mazes, nor in Body Collectors. Truly fantastic mazes all around.

So that’s going to end this update… as I said, more to come from this trip! But Halloween Horror Nights proved to me once again that it’s the premier Halloween party. There’s really nothing like it in terms of quality haunts and just a complete Halloween Park.  Stay tuned for the update on Busch Gardens, as well as some horror movies. October starts tomorrow, kids! Let the haunting season begin… >:)

One final shout-out to my friends who joined on this journey to hell and back.. Thanks for the good times Jeff and Adam!

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Until next time, rest those legs.

-Dvo