I went to Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights last night (Friday the 13th). I am a major theme park fan and a "haunted house" fan, and so is my GF. Personally, I like the cool and elaborate ghosty Halloween stuff, but I also really enjoy the homemade cheap blood-spatter stuff to. What I don't like is...
It's like this: the park gives us 6 hours, 7PM -12AM. We were there before 7. It took, no exaggeration, over 45 minutes to get through security and the gate. I don't mind waiting in line, but almost 1/6th of the night was burned just waiting for them to tell my GF to throw away her half-bottle of Coke. Once we were in the park, she realized she forgot to take the pepper spray out of her purse before we went in the park. Oops. That could have been a North Korean nuclear device. Feel safer?
The wait for the tram was, again no exaggeration, an hour. Fine for a normal day at the park, bad when, now, 1/3rd of your night disappears.
Here is what happens on the tram tour. I don't think these are spoilers, this is more like an itinerary.
- The tour guides have a Fox attitude (thanks Bart Simpson).
- You watch a little movie on the tram screens about "the Director," the bad guy.
- You get out at Cat In The Hat, guys jumping out at you.
- Walk up through the Psycho Bates Motel area, guys jumping out at you.
- Walk through the War of the Worlds wreckage, guys jumping out at you.
- Get back on the tram ("move it, fat *****" from the tour guides. Such language, I never!).
- Do the Mummy tunnel (formerly the ice tunnel).
Me, personally... I would have liked to walk through everything with the lights on WITHOUT the guys in clown masks honking at me, or driven through slowly. But I understand, they're doing a "horror" thing. If you go (don't, but IF) just know going in it's not a studio tour, or even THE studio tour (no Jaws, no Earthquake, no flood, no back lot, that stuff). It's limp. And I swear to you I'm an easy customer. I really, actually AM a very easy customer, despite this screed.
Then we made the biggest mistake of the night: we went on the Mummy coaster. Don't get me wrong, the coaster itself is completely fantastic... it just burned another two hours going up and down the escalator and waiting in line. We didn't realize we were seriously running out of time to do..
The TWO mazes. Exclamation point! Knotts has 12! Even Six Flags has 6, and doesn't even charge an extra fee! In other words, at Six Flags, ride the coasters all day and do mazes at night, no extra charge.
Numbers themselves don't matter to me. One awesome maze beats fifty lame ones. But? But?
The Asylum, one of the mazes, had an 80(!) minute wait time. So we went to the House of Horrors maze and decided to go back to the Asylum.. Guess what? The House of Horrors maze is the Van Helsing walk-through with guys in Freddy Kruger and Jason masks jumping out at you.
BAM! KABOOM! That was it. We didn't realize how late it was, the clock struck midnight, and we was TOAST. My GF, who is kind of broke and saved for the tickets, looked like someone hit her with a baseball bat when I told her it was midnight. Near tears for a moment. We felt like suckers.
And we never did see the big bad guy, the Director. Guess he's supposed to be elusive and mysterious, and I'm not worthy. Maybe next year. Or, maybe, never ever.
Okay, so it's the morning after. Clear heads. what's the grade?
F. A hard, solid, unangry, deserved F.
Here's what happened, in my imagination: one Universal executive told another executive last July that their kids went to Knotts last year and it was xtreme. Tweenagers, a prime demo, were spending money everywhere. That executive described what his kids had told him... fog machines, people in masks wandering around, mazes, that stuff. And then he says to the other executive: let's do something like that, it's a cash cow, but don't spend any money. We can dress up our regular stuff. And we can sell a sponsorship to some jackass gen-x extreme product, like Full Throttle energy drink. And if you sit down we can have the people in masks who are wandering around tell you that you'd have more energy if you drank Full Throttle energy drink (for reals, I'm not kidding).
But, the other executive thought, WE'VE ALREADY TRIED THIS A BUNCH OF TIMES. The other executive remembered all the times Universal Studios Hollywood attempted a half-assed version of Knotts Halloween Haunt. He remembered Universal's on-again off-again relationship with Halloween events... the Halloween events appear for a couple of years, then disappear for a couple of years (because they sucked). Totally Haley's Comet, if Haley's Comet sucked. But I like my job, the other executive thought. I'll say nothing and do it with effort set to minimum on a tight budget and live to exec another day.
The end. Did it happen that way? The all-seeing-eye knows.
Enough venom. Here are my recommendations, in ranking order:
Knotts Halloween Haunt should be your first choice. It's just fantastic, and you just know they've got evil elves already working on Halloween Haunt 2007 and 2008. They're the best game in town for a reason: care, love, and quality for their product. It's obvious. I can't wait to go.
Six Flags is next, the little park that could. The Halloween stuff is low rent. GOOD low rent. FUN low rent. Ride a few coasters during the day, do some mazes at night! Figure out whatever promotion they're running, such as bring in a can of Coke or run into Ralph's, and get in for Confederate Scrip. Going tonight.
Third? Anything else. Finding weird, unknown Halloween events is a kick.
Dead last. Uni. A park I love. IF you are going to Universal Halloween Horror Nights, follow my advice. Get to Universal VERY early so you can be first in line to get through the TSA style security theater. Ignore the rides in the lower lot, or save them for dead last. Skip Terminator 2: 3D and Back to the Future (if it's open, it wasn't last night). Those things are great, but you want Halloween stuff, right?
The two mazes are the Asylum and the House of Horrors. We didn't do the Asylum despite wanting to. Later in the evening the line was titanic, so I recommend STARTING with that. Do everything you want to do after that, but when you get to the LAST HOUR, get over to the Tram. The reason? Everyone did what we did and went to the tram first. I was watching the wait time displays, and the tram tour wait went from over 60 minutes in the early hours down to less then 20 minutes later in the night. And if the clock strikes twelve (later on Saturday) they can't kick you out if you're in line.
Two shows are modified versions of the regular shows, the Water World stunt show becomes Slaughter World and Fear Factor Live becomes Fear Factor Dead. Didn't see 'em, ran out of time. The other two shows are the "Mutaytor," which you'll walk by on your way to something else and perhaps be impressed for a minute or two by the fire, and the Carnival of Carnage, which appears to be a Geek/Freak/Carnie style show. Oh, and Chucky will insult you, that counts as a show too. Didn't see 'em, no time.
Simply, If I had it to do over again, I'd do it like this. Get to Universal at least an hour early, do Asylum, do everything else besides the usual park rides until the last hour, then do the tram.