Monday, November 2, 2015

Scream Season Recon Report for Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Orlando

This Halloween season, our Recon Team braved the horrors at Universal Studios Florida, USA. Halloween Horror Nights is an annual thematic hosted at the Universal Studios theme parks in Florida, Hollywood, Japan and Singapore.

Celebrating its 25th Anniversary at Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) runs over selected nights from 18 September to 1 November this year. Note that the Universal Orlando resort actually comprises 2 theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Isle of Adventure, plus shopping mall and hotels. HHN takes place at the original Universal Studio Florida park from dusk 6.30pm till 1-2am. During these hours, hordes of monsters, zombies, and maniacs wander Scare Zones throughout the park and the thematic haunted house attractions.

Universal Studios entrance arch gets a spooky makeover.

HHN is a separately ticketed event. That means an Admission Pass into Universal Studios during the day does not entitle to entry to HHN during the nights. HNN can be added to valid a daytime ticket with the option to revisit on another day, which is a probably sensible considering a visit to the normal theme park is already a full day excursion by itself and adding another 6-7 hours overnight could really stretch one's endurance.

Queues into attractions can stretch upto 2 hours, but Universal offers options to pay more for the express lane.
The full-price admission ticket to HHN is equivalent to a full time day ticket whilst the add-on passes vary from 50-70% of the day ticket value depending on the date. Looks like a hefty price for a good scare but fortunately there are more ticketing options allowing visits on multiple nights for less than the full-price admission ticket. These Rush of Fear or Frequent Fear passes may offer the lowest cost option in order to see all the HHN attractions which require at least 2 nights of careful itinerary planning. If intending to see everything in one night then upgrading to the more expensive HHN Express pass or taking a VIP / RIP tour may be required in order to skip the lengthy queues. Although HHN is over for this year, do check out the official website for tickets options as reference for planning next year's Halloween.

Entry into HHN involves security checks like airports with metal detectors, so best arrive some time prior to 6.30pm. Universal is also hostile towards outside food being taken into the parks. Despite stating on their website that small snacks are acceptable, the actual experience security personnel did not allow anything edible into the park. Only unopened bottled water is allowed, although public water drinking fountains are readily available throughout the park. So consider a hearthy early dinner outside before even stepping into the Universal premises, including Citywalk mall. That being said, the park does offer economical dining as well as the extravagant, plus alchoholic beverages for the "party" atmosphere. Costumes and masks are explicitly not allowed and security crew will sieve through bags looking for these.

Map of HHN attractions within the Universal Studios park. Haunted houses at the RED dots, Scare Zones marked in YELLOW, shows at the BLUE dots and permanent rides highlighted in PURPLE.

HHN signature attractions are the 9 thematic Haunted Houses, 5 Scare Zones and 2 Shows. Plus 6 of the regular daytime rides still operate at night. Unlike Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party taking place at Disney, HHN is designed to be scary with this explicit warning that: Event may be too intense for young children and not recommended for children under the age of 13.

The Scare Zones are sections of the park redressed for HHN as immervise experiences according to various themes. Closest the main entrance is are the Scary Tales – Screampunk (J) in the Production Central zone of the park.

#HHN25 isn't your typical fairy tale. See for yourself:
Posted by Halloween Horror Nights - Universal Orlando on Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Scary Tales - Screampunk
Classic fairy tale characters get a sinister Scary Tale twist immersed in the wicked world of steam punk.

A steam-punkish contraption with its gears clogged by human body parts as seen during the day (left) vs. night.

This fairy tale ain't for children.
Photography is permitted in most of the public park areas including the Scare Zones. However purposefully dim lighting for creepy atmosphere hinder capturing better photos with the characters.

Scales Tales lead onto the Psychoscareapy – Unleashed (K) in the New York zone.

Psychoscareapy - Unleashed
The criminally insane inmates of Shadybrook Asylum have escaped and stumbled upon a Halloween Block party in the streets of New York. They quickly decide they'd kill for some costumes of their own.

Transport for criminal imnates from Shadybrook Sanitarium has crashed at the Halloween Block.

Beware violent patients have escaped and are taking over!

Never lend a chainsaw to the insane.

This nurse has issues.

Anyone for some pumpkin carving?

A different kind of apple bobbing game.
Up next head over to the All Nite Die-In – Double-Feature (L) along the San Francisco waterfront zone populated by some classic horrors like Freddy Kruger, Jason, Chucky, etc.

All Nite Die-In – Double-Feature
The Carey Drive-In movie theatre has been closed for decades after grisly murders during a double feature. Now it's lights, camera, carnage as the theatre nicknamed "Die-In" by the locals lives up to its name.

Maybe this is why drive-in cinemas died...

Scared to death from the horror movies?

Better to watch your movies at home on DVD than run into these people at the cinema.

Chucky and his Bride.

Freddy doesn't look happy.
Back near the main entrance in the Hollywood sector, the Icons – HHN (N) Scare Zone runs the down Rodeo Drive to Hollywood Boulevard and comprise constructed sets of in-house movie spooks.

Icons – HHN
The eeriest icons and most cadaverous characters of the last 25 years of Halloween Horror Nights have returned. The Caretaker, The Storyteller, The Director, The Usher and more are back to relie every monstrous memory.

The Director would like to share movie ideas with you.

The Caretaker seems to be taking care of business.

The Storyteller has some scary tales to tell.

Don't annoy The Usher or he'll teach you a lesson.

Other spooks haunting Hollywood Boulevard.
The mist-covered Evil's Roots (M) Scare Zone is just a few steps away featuring the less-human inhabitants of the netherworld.

Evil's Roots
Your darkest fears will take root amidst the perilous paths of Central Park as you face evil faeries, humanoid bats, scarecrows and more horrors.

Here's a video overview of all 5 Scare Zones:

HHN features 2 live shows. In The Carnage Returns (O), Jack the Clown is taking HHN back in a blaze of murderous mayhem with his army of feared followers and his companion in carnage, Chance. Remember, Jack always has the last laugh.

This circus act ain't for children.
For 20 minutes, Jack stabs, maims and "blends" his prisoners to entertain a demented audience (YOU!). Kids watching may be traumatised by clowns for life!

Meet Jack the Clown and his companion Chance.

Watch the full show of Carnage Returns here (25 minutes):

Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure (P) is more family friendly entertainment and takes place at the far end of the park adjacent to Diagon Alley (of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and the MIB Alien Attack. Party on as the two most excellent dudes return to skewer the biggest names in politics, show business and pop culture.

Unfortunately no photography or video is allowed during this 30-min show. The plot involves American rapper Kanye West trying to take over everything by altering the past via a Tardis (from Dr. Who). Bill & Ted discover this so attempt restore the timeline interacting with numerous pop culture personas along the way. Spoofs include Back to the Future, the Avengers XXL, Shia LeBeouf, Fifty Shades of Grey, the Ghostbusters, and more.

Here are videos from other parties which offer more details of the show:

Now the main attractions for HHN comprise 9 Haunted Houses for this year. These are the highlights for thousands of visitors annually coming to Universal Orlando for Halloween. For the unitiated, a Haunted House is an immersive walkthrough experience where visitors are led through environments in accordance to a theme. The built-up environments may feature key scenes from horror franchises, like a Translyvannian castle corridor leading to Dracula's crypt or the boiler room from Nightmare on Elm Street. Replica props together with light & sound effects in dimly lit sets create spookiness of the horror movies as well as incorporate "jump scenes" to purposefully scare visitors. Moving "set pieces" comprise animatronic werewolves as well as living costumed talents dressed as Friday 13th's Jason, undead Walkers or human victims. The houses are typically setup in Universal's soundstages, warehouses or temporary buildings for a 3-5 minute walkthrough experience.

Wait times indicate popularity of respective haunted houses.
No photography or video is permitted in the haunted houses, possibly because allowing it would hinder flow of visitors walking through the attraction. So while this recon report could not provide photos within the haunted houses, links are provided below to content by other parties who had captured the walkthrough experience.

Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem (A)
Relive the most terrifying moments of the past 25 years as Jack releases our catalogue of creatures in one maze. You'll be attacked by Universal classic monsters, meat grinding maniacs and the fiends of Horror Nights past.

An American Werewolf in London (B)
Step into John Landis' landmark 1981 horror classic. From the attack on the English moors to the bone-crunching transformation, it's one of the most popular houses in HHN history.

Freddy vs. Jason (C)
From the cursed Camp Crystal Lake to the nightmarish 1428 Elm Street, awake or asleep, you'll find youself caught in the middle of this epic battle – where the winner's reward is YOU.

Body Collectors Recollection (D)
The Body Collectors have returned, descending upon Shadybrook Asylum to collect the human parts they require. Screams echo the hallways as a blizzard rages outside while sharpened blades swirl inside.

RUN Blood Sweat and Fears (E)
You've just been selected as a contestant on RUN, a brutal TV show where everday peope are stalked by skilled assassins. Just remember the more horrifying your death, the higher the ratings.

Replica of the housefront from Insidious.
Insidious (F)
Enter "The Further" and travel through all three parts of the Insidious saga. Denizens of the afterlife try to find their way back into the world using the living to guide them. The house isn't haunted – we are.

The Purge (G)
The year's Purge is more brutal than ever. From the moment you step inside the house, dozens of vicious vigilantes will descend upon you as they exercise their right to purge.

The Walking Dead, The Living and The Dead (H)
From the burnt ashes of Terminus, through the flooded community food bank basement, and into the darkened churchyard, hordes of walkers surround you as you relive gut-wrenching moments of the most recent season.

Asylum in Wonderland 3D (I)
Follow the white rabbit through the looking glass and into a murderous 3D Wonderland. Is this world all in Alice's mind or are the images we see real enough to kill us?

Like all good American theme parks, exclusive HHN merchandise is available in abundance at the park shops. There's tshirts aplenty of HHN, Jack, and more, plus other souveniors.

Take back a piece of Halloween.
While food is available at a variety of cafes and kiosks, the more thematic dining experience takes place at the Universal Classic Monsters Cafe. Just don't mind the monsters watching you eat!

Universal Studios Classic Monsters Cafe.

They are looking at you!

Beverages also served throughout the park from the Blood Bank.
In addition to all this happening above, several of the day park rides run during HHN. They include the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, Transformers The Ride 3D, Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black Alien Attack, The Simpsons Ride and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. These rides are potentially less crowded now than during the day and offer temporary entertainment relief when the haunt house wait times get ridiculously long.

This wraps up our Recon Report summarising the shenanigans taking place at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights. Put our intel to use for making your next Halloween excursions. Excelsior!

Disclaimer: Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios and other trademarks are copyright to their respective owners, referenced here for fan service announcements without intent to infringe.

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