The spooky season is upon us and we’ve got an update and review of Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 23. There’s a lot to share from the event and we are going to provide you with a review of this year’s offering while remaining as spoiler free as possible, We’ll even offer you a 7 second reviews of each house. It’s a fun one folks, let’s get to it.
Unlike previous years, Universal Studios Orlando tried a new strategy with the scare zones this year, a park wide theme for its street experience. The scare zones are all locations from AMC’s hit television series The Walking Dead. Guests will come face to face with roaming hoards of Walkers and see people turn into Zombies right before their very eyes.
King County Georgia
Hollywood was turned into the hometown of the series’ hero Rick the Sheriff. This isn’t the cute town, we first saw in Season 1, this down, is now set with Walker traps, and markings on the buildings noting which building has been cleared of the living and the undead.
New York has been transformed into the streets of Atlanta that guests will remember from Season 1, where the city has been under siege, with tanks and military vehicles all now abandoned as the undead have taken over.
Central Park was transformed into what was once a thought to be their safe haven, Hershel’s farm. This Scare Zone, features a short walk through of Hershel’s Walker filled barn that is now on fire. The rest of Central Park area is filled with forest scenes from Season 2, and have some great vignettes that are sure to thrill fans of the Walking Dead.
This year’s street experience, is a big departure of years past. Last years street experience was extremely limited by the massive amount of construction that was happening in the park with Transformers, Springfield and Diagon Alley. If there is one criticism, it is that while the Scare Actors and the sections, that have sets are incredible and real, the set pieces feel at times a bit too spread out, making you loose that sense of place. This year, is a big improvement upon last year’s offerings, and with the cohesive theme, you feel like a story is being unfolded in front of you.
This year’s line up of Houses (what you left coast folks would call “Mazes”), has got to be the strongest overall line up, in recently memory. This year we rate all 8 houses as must visit. We have also ranked the houses with the following categories, Story, Set, Makeup/Costumes and overall Fear Factor.
Cabin in the Woods
Based on the popular movie released in 2012, this house fires on all cylinders as it starts out in familiar horror genre, and thanks to an unexpected elevator ride, you come face to face with some of the most terrifying creatures ever created.
This house follows story of the movie pretty religiously. However, in order for the transitions to make sense, the creative team, created a few videos that show up throughout that maze, that help inform you of what is happening. Because of the jarring differences between the beginning and the end, these videos are required.
This set starts out with a Cabin in the Woods. The sights, sounds and smells of this cabin are precise and you truly feel as if you have been inserted into the movie. Once inside, you will encounter the Redneck Zombie Torture Family. you will soon be transported by elevator to the lab below the cabin, to discover that there is a much larger story being played out than some college kids holding a party in a remote cabin. In the “Purge Room” you will be confronted with more elevator doors, that will unleash unspeakable horror as you try to make your way through.
This house has probably the greatest diversity of characters ever used in one house. From a Redneck Zombie Torture family to clowns, a Sugar Plum Fairy and Kevin, guests will confront their personal nightmare in stunning detail.
Fear Factor: 10/10
This house gets a 10 for the sheer diversity of scares that guests encounter in this house. Beware of Jack.
American Werewolf in London
Set in 1980’s London, you follow the story of two hitchhikers who stumble onto the Slaughtered Lamb Pub where they learn that this sleepy old town has a secret.
This house truly brought this iconic 1980’s horror film to life. You’ll find yourself inserted into the chaos, confusion, and horror of this John Landis film, which takes you beat by beat through this classic film.
Universal’s team has recreated the scenes from the movie with grea attention to detail. With the pentagram on the wall in the Slaughtered Lamb, to the Mickey Mouse doll in the apartment, to a perfectly recreated London tube station. You will truly feel transported through time.
This house features a first for Halloween Horror’s Night. Universal’s creative team built fully articulated Werewolf puppets. These puppets, lunge and attack from unexpected spaces, with incredible speed. These Werewolfs are reason enough by themselves to visit Halloween Horror Nights 23.
Fear Factor: 9/10
While near perfect, you can’t help but compare each room to the iconic movie. Which sometimes draws you out of the scare, but the near perfect recreation makes this house a must visit.
This maze is based on the 2013 remake of the iconic horror trilogy that starts off with the Book of the Dead and takes you to that cabin where unspeakable evil takes place. Guests will confront sights, sounds and smells that will haunt your dreams
There is no escape from the unspeakable evil that takes control of the teens in this story. With lots of gore, this house terrifies.
While just as beautifully built it doesn’t have the variety, of Cabin in the Woods, or American Werewolf. Any other year, this house would be the top house, but this year it is hard to be top, when you are going up against American Werewolf in London and Cabin in the Woods.
This house uses a massive amount of prosthetics, and full masks, that will terrify and shock. Get ready to scream when you come face to face with pure evil.
Fear Factor: 10/10
This house delivers with their recreation of a modern remake of an iconic classic, and the imagery you see in this house will haunt you.
After Life Death’s Vengeance
3D Mazes have a tough track record at Halloween Horror Nights. Usually the mazes that feature the 3D paint, are lighter houses, like last year’s Penn & Tellers Nuke Vegas. This year the entertainment team, decided to make the house darker, and more disorienting, with the story of a serial killer who is executed, and is confronted by his victims in the after life. This maze will confuse and disorient you, and provide some incredible surprises.
This house feels like this is how Dexter should have ended. With a serial killer being executed on Death Row, and then being tortured by his victims in the after life. This story makes sense and is easy to follow.
This 3D Maze is probably the best 3D house ever built by Universal. With incredibly disorienting rooms, mirrors, black lights, lasers, and pure black walls, you might find yourself running into things as you try to escape the victims of this horrific serial killer.
The use of Pure Black costumes with black light and 3D paint were perfectly executed in this maze, allowing Scare Actors to appear and disappear at will.
Fear Factor: 9/10
The sheer amount of visually disorienting elements in this house, added with the incredible Scare Actors costumes and story line that easily progresses, this house will have you running for the exit.
Havoc 2: Derailed
The sequel to the successful 2008 house, about deranged super soldiers. This house takes place 6 weeks after the first house, and the super soldiers were captured, and being transported on a train. This house is claustrophobic, and tight, as you walk through train cars, with disaster bound to happen.
Deranged, genetically altered super soldiers, who are being transported via a prison train, that eventually crashes is also an easy narrative to follow.
This house takes place inside a train, with narrow corridors, and prison cells that put you uncomfortably close to the action. For those afraid of small and tight spaces, be prepared to hyperventilate as you try to escape the wrath of the the Super Soldiers.
This house’s make up is pretty simple, with a few good prosthetic pieces. In this house, you fear the braun and the hardware these men and women carry.
Fear Factor: 8/10
I found this premise scary back in 2008, mainly because it felt a little too real, and that premise continues to be genuinely scary. You will want to make sure you hitch a ride on this train when you visit Halloween Horror Nights.
The Walking Dead
Last year’s Walking Dead house took place in the Disaster queue. This year, they went big and built the house in the Parade services building, where they were able to build two-story sets. Truly putting you in the prison from season 3.
With the story of Season 3 unfolding in front of you as you progress through this house, you will see some of your favorite scenes from Season 3. If you are a fan of the series, you will be a fan of the house.
This house was built on an enormous scale, with two story sets, and great detail, you will feel like there truly is no escape from the Zombie apocalypse.
You will come face to face with a lot of the iconic Walkers from the Walking Dead, with the use of some great masks, prosthetics, and clothes it will be hard to believe that these Scare Actors are not Undead.
Fear Factor: 8/10
This house gives some solid scares, but because it follows the plot of season 3, some of the surprise is missing. That being said, this house is a must visit.
Urban Legends: La Llorna
Brought from Universal Studios Hollywood, this is the urban legend of the weeping woman, who sent her kids to a water grave. This house will scare those not familiar with the urban legend, and haunt those that do.
Based on an Urban Legend more famous on the West Coast, this maze walks you through the story of the urban legend, giving the explanation of who La Llarona is. This house gives you a new monster to fear.
Starting on in a beautiful small Spanish style church, the sets are more intimate, and smaller than the other houses, intricate, and there is a river of dead children.
While this house takes you through the story, you see La Llarona decay and decompose from room to room, until she no longer resembles anything human. This progression, is amazing and a visual treat.
Fear Factor: 7/10
The Fear Factor for any urban legend house, depends heavily on your knowledge of the legend to amp up your fear in the house. With this house introducing this legend to East Coast audiences, you find yourself trying to understand the story and this characters motive more than you find yourself scream. Come for the bride, stay for the river of children.
Based on the video games from Capcom released in 1998, with larger than life sets, that take you to Racoon City, in the Rocky Mountains.
This video game come to life, takes you through a few game levels where you fight zombies and come face to face with monsters. You will encounter video game elements like a room that is paused, and what it is like to die in the game.
The creative team built an entire city inside this soundstage. With two story facades, shops, restaurants, and a life sized helicopter flying above your head, you will feel like you have been put inside this first person shooter.
True to the style and look of the 1998 video game the characters in this house will take you back.
Fear Factor: 7/10
Because this house is designed true to the original look and feel of the game, it is a lot brighter than the other houses, which takes away from the some of the scare.
This year Universal Orlando went big with the houses, with 2 story sets, large set pieces, new technology, and big name scares. The end result being some of the most incredibly detailed houses ever built. Every house this year is a must visit.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure
Bill & Ted’s has become a staple at Halloween Horror Nights. This year’s show takes place at “Camp Morning Wood” and features villains in the form of Pop Divas and with George Lucas using the frozen head of Walt Disney as a Magic 8 Ball. This years is a must watch.
Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute
If you are a fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, this 30 minute tribute show is a great way to get off your feet, and take a break from all the screaming you have been doing. If you are not a fan, it might be time to finally see what all the fuss is about. Just get ready to let loose, and do the time warp.
This year, Universal has developed a new slate of merchandise for the event, from T-Shirts to plushes, there is something for everyone.
Whether or not you are a fan of the Horror genre, Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando has proven year after year, that it will take big risks to top the year’s previous event. This year proves once again why this event is considered the best Halloween event in the world.
That wraps up this week’s, event, and we will be back next week with a full construction update. Click Play below to listen to Episode 65 of the Unofficial Universal Podcast featuring Lee, Tracey, Darren and Eric as they recap Lee & Tracey’s epic Orlando Adventure.