Twelve years ago, I was right where you might find yourself now. I had never attended Halloween Horror Nights before, but I was incredibly excited to be preparing for a night of terror. At that time the internet was a teenager, no social media or twitter updates from the creators. We would watch TV shows that would contain commercials for the event. In those days, you found out about the houses (what you West Coast folks would call “Mazes”) when you got there. You didn’t know anything about the shows. You would wander aimlessly, hoping to get into a few houses while darting through the streets, watching everyone and every shadow.
I was lost. I was confused. Not knowing what I know now, I made it through exactly two houses, with the gates closing before I even realized that it was after 10PM. You see, HHN can be difficult to navigate and to plan your time accordingly, and that is precisely why I have created this field guide for you. Whether you have been before or this is your first foray into the darkness, this guide will help you to prepare and set a basic plan of attack for Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights so you can get the maximum amount of scares out of your ticket. First, let’s get to the basics:
What is this event?
Halloween Horror Nights started back in 1991 as a way to honor the Universal Classic Monsters during their favorite time of year. At that time, it consisted of one show featuring the Blues Brothers stopping at a little motel by the name of Bates on their way to Chicago. Today, it features 8 horror houses and 2 shows, covering the entirety of Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. If you go, expect nowhere to be safe. If you are in the park, you are a potential victim. This is a scary event and is not intended for children, but the parents are truly the best judge of that. Please realize the fundamental nature of this event, because I have seen both kinds of kids at the event: ones that are extremely excited to be there and some that are purely terrified. The event costs a significant amount of money and you don’t want to waste it by leaving early or having your child be miserable (or worse, traumatized) all night.
When is the Event?
HHN 23 will take place on select night from September 20th until November 2nd. It will be open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between those dates and on two Wednesdays, October 16th and 23rd. Please note that the parks close early to accommodate the event starting at 6:30pm. There are different closing times for different days, so please check http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/Orlando before heading out there!
What is the theme this year?
The theme this year is The Walking Dead. All street experiences and one of the houses this year are based on the hit show from AMC. While there will be a lot of zombies running about, don’t be too concerned if you’re not a big fan of the show because Universal has something for every horror fan this year. From original houses like Havoc: Derailed to houses based on hit films such as Cabin in the Woods and Evil Dead, to shows featuring iconic stars from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, HHN 23 has what you’re looking for.
Is it really scary?
Well, that is quite subjective. To the hardcore horror fan that has attended some of the more extreme Halloween events in different parts of the country, this may seem tame. To the person that flinches during horror films in the theater, this may seem horrifying. It all comes down to you really. Are you able to suspend disbelief for an evening of true terror? It’s very easy to let this event scare you. Just go with the flow, try not to look around every corner in advance and just let what happens, happen. If you’re from the more easily frightened group, be on guard. They say monsters can smell your fear.
For the uninitiated, Haunted Houses are walk-through experiences akin to taking a stroll through a scary movie set. “Scare Actors” jump out and leer at you throughout, along with high-grade visual and audio effects and Hollywood-quality set pieces. Each one is themed around a movie, video game or original story. Being a working production studio, Universal rarely disappoints with quality and has the skills to turn out some very impressive sets and props. Here’s a run-though of this year’s houses:
Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City
Raccoon City is overrun with Umbrella Corporation’s most terrifying experiments—and the only option is complete destruction. You’ll need to duck and dodge Lickers, Hunters, and Nemesis himself if you have any chance of escaping Capcom’s video game terrors before missiles send everything back to hell.
Along with games like the 7th Guest and Alone in the Dark, I played Resident Evil at a far-too-early age. I have been playing them ever since. The levels of anticipation and dread that these games can conjure will lend themselves nicely to a HHN House.
The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven
Walk in the footsteps of the survivors as Season 3 of AMC’s horror hit relentlessly attacks you from all sides. Stay alert as walkers could trap you anywhere along your journey from the town of Woodbury to the claustrophobic confines of the derelict prison.
The Walking Dead house last year was lackluster. It featured the equivalent of one room’s worth of scenes from the movies and the rest of the house was a barn with zombies reaching through slats in the walls. This year, they have much more to work with and I’m sure they took the criticisms of last year to heart.
Relive “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience” as gruesome Deadites try to possess your soul. There is nowhere to hide as every creaking floor board and tangled vine is ready to pull you down, making you one with the Evil Dead.
This house is based on the remake of the film, so no Ash will be seen. It was, however, an excellent horror movie, the only doubt I have being the limited set of the film. They will have to stretch to fill a house with remnants that in the film only filled one small cabin in the woods. Which brings us to the next house:
The Cabin in the Woods
Experience a live recreation of the film that ripped the horror genre inside out. Beneath the cabin’s rustic appearance lies a secret facility that unleashes terrifying beings that you thought only existed in nightmares.
From what I hear the actual Cabin will just be the starting point for this house with the underground lab being the main attraction. The movie was a fresh take and I expect the house to be as well.
An American Werewolf in London
Based on the John Landis horror classic, you’ll travel to the Slaughtered Lamb, experience the gruesome wolf attack on the moors, and live the chaos of Piccadilly Circus. Beware the moon because tonight it brings only death.
I’m amazed and extremely happy that Universal decided to take classic Intellectual Property like An American Werewolf in London and implement it into HHN. If you haven’t seen it, check it out!
Urban Legends: La Llorona
She is known as the weeping woman. To hear her mournful cries sends chills colder than the murky, watery depths she drowned her children in. Forced to eternally walk the earth, she seeks others to share her pain and suffering, now and forever.
This is a carryover from HHN Hollywood in 2011 and 2012, where it was a very popular maze. I expect it to be finely tuned and ready for a new audience on the east coast!
Afterlife: Death’s Vengeance
Serial killer, Bobby “The Blade” Galletta, is about to meet Ole’ Sparky. 2000 volts are going to send him into a horrific realm of pain and suffering. His victims are bound to turn Bobby’s afterlife into an unimaginable and infernal torment.
This is our 3D house this year. With the electrical effects and a psychedelic color scheme that maximizes the effects of the ChromaDepth 3D glasses, this house is sure to be visually amazing.
Hang on tight aboard a militaristic train convoy that is secretly transporting the “Dogs of War”—a genetically engineered super soldier outfit. These bloodthirsty maniacs are only bent on mayhem and destruction of a speeding train. This is Havoc!
One of my favorite houses of all time was Havoc. The soldiers with their glowing eyes in gas masks freaked me right out. The Dogs of War sound quite intimidating, and Universal has been working with trains quite a bit lately, so I think this one will be another amazing house in the lineup!
STREET EXPERIENCE: The Walking Dead: The Undead Streets
For the first time ever, The Walking Dead has overtaken the streets of Universal Studios. From Atlanta through the forests and onto Woodbury, you’ll have to fight your way through some of the most iconic locations in the show if you want to survive the night. The five distinct scarezones are as follows:
THE FALL OF ATLANTA
The smell of death is in the air as you make your way past an iconic tank, sandbag barriers, and decayed rotting corpses on your journey through this decimated city. But be warned—the city’s not empty.
Tread carefully through these woods, as you never know who you might encounter. Lurking deep in the hidden depths are unforgettable scenes and characters from Seasons 1, 2 and 3.
There’s no one telling ghost stories at this derelict campsite, but there are plenty of undead. Will you dare to go closer to the eerily abandoned RV? Keep your wits about you or you might become a ghost story yourself.
Something’s burning and it’s not a Sunday roast. Gasoline fumes ignite your senses as you encounter the smoldering remains of a singed country farm. See and smell the putrid barn, the red tractor, and more as you learn what’s causing that horrifying stench.
Turn around and live—proceed and face your fate. Stick together as you head down this street, because the spiked barriers are there for a reason. If you refuse to heed the spray-painted warnings, you’re in for a terrifying walk that will feel like an eternity.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure
Party on as those two most excellent dudes return to skewer the biggest stories of the past year with the biggest names in pop culture. For those of you seeking an escape from the scary stuff, Bill and Ted is pure comedy.
Rocky Horror Picture Show – A Tribute
Let’s do the Time Warp again! Rock out to clips from the classic cult film with your favorite Transvestite, live tribute performers, and audience participants.
The standard admission ticket for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights costs $91.99 (plus tax) and is valid at the Front Gate for any single event night. Tickets are available for purchase at the front gates, through the online ticket store at halloweenhorrornights.com, at Destination Universal desks, and through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations.
Florida Resident Discounts
Florida residents can save over 50% off the full price admission on select nights with a UPC code from specially-marked products of Coca-Cola®, Coca-Cola Zero™ or Sprite® or promo code on specially-marked cups from participating Burger King® restaurants. (Valid Florida or Georgia ID is required. Pricing varies by ticket type and event night. Purchase required 24 hours in advance, limit 4 tickets per UPC/promo code.)
HHN Express Pass
A Halloween Horror Nights Express ticket allows guests shorter wait times at participating attractions and all houses. As the only Express product available at HHN, it’s valid for one entry per attraction, per guest for one night only. (Pricing varies by event night.} Subject to availability. Hotel room keys are not valid for HHN Express access. Stay & Scream Upgrade Stay & Scream offers guests visiting the parks during the day a special discount if they purchase a Halloween Horror Nights ticket for ANY night – and the ticket doesn’t have to be used the same day! Stay & Scream tickets are available at the front gates of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and can also be purchased along with day passes at Destination Universal desks, through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations, or online at halloweenhorrornights.com.
The prices of Express fluctuate nightly so please visit the HHN Orlando website for more info.
Rush of Fear/Frequent Fear Products
Guests who are eager to relive the nightmare again and again can come back every event night during the first 3 weeks on our Rush of Fear pass. For our most courageous guests, the Frequent Fear Pass offers an unlimited number of visits to Halloween Horror Nights on nonpeak event nights (Sunday through Thursday) and the first weekend – September 20 & 21. Frequent Fear Plus adds Friday nights to the mix.
RUSH OF FEAR PASS
10 nights ……………………..$72.99* (advance) / $91.99* (gate) Unlimited number of visits on ALL event nights during the first three weeks! (September 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 29 • October 3, 4, 5, 6)
FREQUENT FEAR PASS
15 nights ……………………..$83.99* (advance) / $91.99* (gate) Unlimited visits on HHN event nights Sunday through Thursday, plus the first weekend (September 20, 21, 26, 29 • October 3, 6, 10, 13, 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 27, 31)
FREQUENT FEAR PLUS PASS
21 nights ……………………………………………………………..$99.99* Unlimited visits on HHN event nights Sunday through Friday, plus the first weekend –. (September 20, 21, 26, 27, 29 • October 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 25, 27, 31 November 1) with Express Access
Guests can include Halloween Horror Nights Express access on their Frequent Fear, Frequent Fear Plus, or Rush of Fear pass. (Limited quantities available. Advance purchase is recommended because passes may sell out before the night of the event.)
RUSH OF FEAR PASS WITH EXPRESS ACCESS …….$184.99*
FREQUENT FEAR PASS WITH EXPRESS ACCESS ….$189.99*
FREQUENT FEAR PLUS PASS WITH EXPRESS ACCESS ……………………………………..$249.99*
The Express component of these passes is valid for one entry per participating attraction or house, per guest, per event night.
Scream Early Tickets
Florida residents can now upgrade any Halloween Horror Nights event ticket to include admission to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Theme Parks and receive early entry into Halloween Horror Nights! Details are available at Guest Services.
And finally, just some quick tips I have found very helpful throughout the years:
- Check the forecast and bring some rain gear if it’s supposed to rain. Or maybe even if there are no clouds within 100 miles. This is Florida.
- Get an express pass! It costs a little (ok, a lot) more but there is no way you are making it through all of the houses any other way. If you don’t have one, make sure you get to your most anticipated houses early on so you don’t miss them!
- Weeknights are the best times to go crowd-wise, but still prepare for huge crowds even then. Florida residents get a good deal on those nights so we tend to take off work to go.
- Select rides will be open during the event. Transformers: The Ride 3D will be open (Highly recommended by yours truly!), as will Rip Ride Rock-It, The Mummy, MIB: Alien attack, The Simpsons and Kang and Kodos Twirl and Hurl. If all the horrors and thrills are getting to be too much for you, you can take a breather in Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem or Shrek 4D.
- Be careful with the booze. Have a good time, but don’t get too out of it. You’ve spent a lot of money, it would be great if you could remember it the next morning.
- One of my favorite things to do is to find an area where a roaming horde of monsters is preying on victims, grab some food and just watch the chaos! It’s extremely entertaining, there’s no line, and it’ll give you a few minutes to recover from the crowds and lines.
- For the photographers: It’s dark. The use of flash really washes out a lot of the amazing lighting effects that they have in place. If you have a gorillapod or some other compact tripod bring it, max out your ISO and get whatever natural light you can. The show lighting also lends itself well to some long exposures if you can get out of the crowd and find a good position.
- Travel light! A night in the park feels just the same as a day in the park, and you will regret that backpack when you are lugging it to your car at 1AM.
UNOFFICIAL UNIVERSAL ORLANDO PODCAST
On Tuesday the 10th of September, Universal Orlando held a special media preview for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights and Eric Davis was there reporting for UUOP and MiceChat. We have the audio from that event for you below. To see photos from the event, check out Eric’s article at http://micechat.com/41921-halloween-horror-nights-orlando/ Thanks to Lex Wahl again for supplying our intro music, be sure to check out his stuff on Itunes as well as his podcast, Anything Ghost.
Come join MiceChat next month at Universal Studios Orlando on October 17th as we visit Harry Potter and stay for Halloween Horror Nights that evening. We plan on a full night of fun and scares complete with a dinner beforehand, and more.
If you plan to join us for Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights you will need to purchase a ticket for Thursday, October 17th for $38.99 that includes the Additional HHN Express Pass option for $49.99 for a total cost of $88.98. Follow the thread below for updated information and to get in on the dining arrangements made for the group if you would like to join us.
This looks like it is going to be an amazingly original year for Universal Orlando HHN. With houses like Cabin in the Woods, Walking Dead, Legendary Truth, Resident Evil, Evil Dead and shows like Bill and Ted’s EXCELLENT Halloween Adventure and The Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute, we are really in for a treat!
Join The List:
Add your name to our Halloween events list and we’ll email you with all the gory details: MiceChat Nights of Horror Email List – Click HERE
Wait, There’s more!
Now listen to the Unofficial Universal Podcast as they interview Halloween Horror Nights legend John Murdy and talk about what it takes to put on these incredible events year after year.
That’s it! I hope my experience helps make your HHN night amazing. If you have any other bits of helpful advice or any questions about HHN, ask us below or check out The Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast’s Facebook Page. I am always on and ready to help you make the most out of your HHN vacation!