Universal Studios Hollywood is kicking off the season with the opening of their popular Halloween Horror Nights event for 2015 tonight, September 18th.  The event will bring to life some of the scariest scenes in horror film history as guests are invited to step into the screen and through their worst nightmares.  The full maze roster includes Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home, This is the End 3D, Insidious: Return to the Further, The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far, Crimson Peak Maze of Madness, and the amazing Alien Vs. Predator.

Today we bring you a preview of things to come as Creative Director of Halloween Horror Nights, John Murdy, takes us through three of the mazes guests will experience beginning tonight.

Insidious Return to the Further

Insidious: Return to the Further is haunting Universal Studios Hollywood this year.  Featuring scenes from all three Insidious pictures, the maze is the second time producer/director James Wan and Creative Director for Halloween Horror Nights, John Murdy, have chosen to work together in this franchise.  The first was in 2013 with Insidious: Into the Further, which turned out to be one of the highest scoring mazes in Horror Nights history, scaring the pants off of thousands and cementing a reprise.  With the release of the third film, it was a no-brainer that this successful attraction would return in an evolved form.

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Just look at how detailed the exterior facade of this maze is.

John Murdy led a tour through the maze recently to explain what guests could expect when traveling back into the mysterious and terrifying world of Insidious. “We really wanted to get things started right off the bat and get people back into the Further,” explained Murdy. The first room will have no actors but will have indicators that things are getting ghostly.

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“We are always trying to come up with new ways to scare and new things to do,” explains Murdy. “In this case, we needed fog to crawl the surface of the floor as guests entered the maze.” From a technical standpoint this is a nearly impossible feat to accomplish with dry ice in this setting. “The amount of dry ice we would end up going through would be insane.”

The designers at Universal had to come up with an efficient way to keep fog on the floor as guests shuffled through non-stop, achieving a consistent effect.  “This maze will feature several, what I like to call, ‘science experiments’.” Murdy laughs.

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As we concluded the tour, Murdy sat, relaxed, in the center of the finale room.  In front of him, a seance table littered with tools for communicating with the dead. Around him a red velvet room lined with talisman, occult items, and psychic tools. “We wanted this final room to feature all three movies and really end the experience with a bang,” Murdy explained.  Loud, chaotic, and terrifying, this will be a seance that has completely gone off the rails.

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Creative Director, John Murdy inside an Insidious Hallway.

Crimson Peak Maze Of Madness

Since its announcement at San Diego’s Comic Con earlier this year, Crimson Peak Maze of Madness has been a much speculated on and a highly anticipated experience for the annual Halloween Haunt.  The new maze, exclusive to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights in California, is an original creation between Creative Director John Murdy and legendary Writer, Director, Guillermo Del Toro.  Based on the upcoming film, Crimson Peak, the maze traces the story beats of the upcoming film in chilling, often graphic detail. Under construction on the day of our visit, we were given a tour by Mr. Murdy through the walk-through attraction.  We were repeatedly reminded that what we were seeing was still under construction.  Props were being placed, lights were being set, and even sets were being finalized.  Despite this fact the maze was already a stunning piece of work.

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“Whenever you see a movie that Guillermo Del Toro has had anything to do with,” explained Murdy, “You immediately know it’s one of his.”  Noting the filmmaker’s impeccable visual style and eye for detail, he explained that the maze had to meet those same visual marks.

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In the film, our protagonist Edith, marries a mysterious man from England and is whisked away to his family estate in a remote town in the northern end of England.  Allerdale Hall is a once opulent home that has fallen into disrepair as the family fortune has crumbled.  Sitting on a deposit of shifting blood red clay, the house creaks and moans as it sinks into the clay below. Speaking of the house and its importance, Murdy explains, “The house is treated as a character, a living breathing thing. It even seems to bleed as the clay from below leaches up into the foundation, into the walls, and into the water supply”

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The wallpaper pattern that appears in the movie was pulled from the original, digital file used to create the set.

We enter the finale room of the maze, the Clay pits chamber.  In the film this is where the family harvested clay that welled up from below.  It is also where they hid plenty of dark secrets that were still floating around.  The final scares will be coming from everywhere in this scene.  We could tell you where, but that would ruin the surprise then wouldn’t it?

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Another interesting fact is that visitors will be experiencing Crimson Peak Maze of Madness a full month before the film is actually released on October 16th. “We’ve done that before,” Murdy explains, “Where we have featured a maze based on a film that releases after we begin Halloween Horror Nights. We did it with The Thing, and a few others.”  The trick here in this case is that the film is very much a mystery that contains spoilers.  In creating the maze, Murdy had to be very careful to create an attraction that was engaging, scary, yet didn’t reveal any spoilers. “We kind of serve as a living trailer for the movie” Murdy wryly suggests.

After seeing the new maze in a raw form, we can honestly say that we are excited.  the detail is spot on and the mood seems to already be set.

Halloween Michael Myers Comes Home

Universal Studios Hollywood is bringing John Carpenter’s classic Halloween franchise back for Halloween Horror Nights. The haunted maze attraction, Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home will lead guests on a tour through the serial killer’s house and will also throw in scenes of some of his most grisly murders. Horror Nights opens Friday and Halloween is one of its most anticipated attractions.

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Universal Studios Hollywood is bringing John Carpenter’s classic Halloween franchise back for Halloween Horror Nights. The haunted maze attraction, Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home will lead guests on a tour through the serial killer’s house and will also throw in scenes of some of his most grisly murders. This will be one of the most highly anticipated attractions of Horror Nights.

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Horror Nights creative director John Murdy said he wanted this year’s Halloween maze to take a different approach from the Halloween attraction the park hosted in 2009: Halloween: The Life and Crimes of Michael Myers. The 2009 maze was a broader overview of the series that focused more on the babysitter murders of the franchise, with guests entering into a suburban household the first film’s characters babysat in. This year, guests will enter the facade of the decrepit, abandoned Myers household in a maze that takes us through Michael’s return to the location where he committed his first notorious crime: the murder of his sister.

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This maze is full of carefully choreographed stunts. Murdy said his performers had nailed their performance by the end of their first rehearsal. Timing and movements are key in many Universal mazes, where the scares look like exact replicas of the movie scenes they’re reenacting. Murdy consults actors on everything, from the way a strangled girl’s body is lifted from the floor to the way Michael cocks his head from side to side after observing a kill, as Murdy says, “like an artist admiring his art,” in an iconic scene from the first film.

He said the crew also had fun recreating the mood of the 1970s while putting the maze together, referencing it for appliances and décor used throughout the different scenes.

Murdy said that he loves to create mazes based on classic movies. But these mazes don’t only appeal to veteran fans of the genre.

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That wraps up our preview of three of the six mazes opening tonight at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights.  It looks like it’s going to be an amazing season.  We are still unsure about the possibility of offering a Universal Hollywood Halloween Horror Night event this year. It’s not looking promising.  The MiceChat/HorrorBuzz Knotts Scary Farm event has less than 5 tickets left. HorrorBuzz is also offering a Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor event on Saturday October 3rd.  Buy your tickets now for both of those.  They are selling out fast.

To learn more about “Halloween Horror Nights,” click here.
For more information about “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios Hollywood visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.

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