Just got back from Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights, tonight Oct 19th.
I have to admit I was NOT looking forward to this event, simply because I know the type of unruly crowds that attend this type of event, and the "out of control" crowds that pack USF for this event.. but since I was invited by a friend who paid only $15 to attend (per person), I said... "why Not?" After all, it's been about 4 yrs since I have been to one of these HHN events... There were 7 haunted houses, 4 shows, and 3 scare park zones for guests to enjoy during the event; plus most of the regular restaurants and attractions opened as well.
We got there at 5pm and there was NO backup to park the car at the garage. $10 for parking, same as WDW. We arrived at the gates to USF about 20 mins later and waited for them to let us move closer to the turnstyles. Security was setting up metal detectors and at 5:40pm, we were allowed to proceed as far up as the turnstyles where we waited another 20 mins. Finally, we were able to enter the park... all of this was rather painless, and everyone so far was behaving nicely... except for a pair young people who played that.. "I am not cutting in line but catching up with my friends" bull excuse. The couple DID cut in line and went in first, as we all rolled our eyes in disbelief. This is what happens when people from nearby Tangelo Park are allowed out of their comunity for a night of fun.
This year...it's the 'sweet 16th' anniversary of the event and some of the most popular characters from previous HHNs are back for a 2nd scare.
Anyways... Once inside the park, we waited until about 6:25pm when some of the haunted mazes were opening. My friend and I immediately proceeded to try two of the three mazes that were closest to the front, behind the Twister show. They were "All Nite Die In" feat. The Director. For that one we waited about 10 mins in line, then went around to the next haunted house called "Screamhouse" feat. the Caretaker and some very badly and gorily tormented victims. This one was a virtual walk on, with NO wait whatsoever.
So far, so good.
We decided to have a quick dinner and stopped by the Monsters Cafe. Afterwards.. we proceeded down the NYC street and hit the 3rd haunted house called "Run: Hostile Territory". This one featured several movie villains from terror movies, including the guy from Scream and the Texas Chainsaw Mascaras movies. A bit graphic at times (electrocution scene and torsos spit opened, not to mention body part grinding with "blood" -actually water- spraying effect over the guests) Having a buzzing chainsaw close to my arse was definitely scary...
After "Run", we ran to the best thing at the HHN event: the Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. This show is a hoot and totally new from one year to the next. Parents be cautions...there is a lot of offensive language and definitely sexual adult humor here so it would NOT be appropriate for children under 21. The show this year... left no stone unturned.. A very effeminate Superman who just wanted to dance. Lex screaming "WRONG!!!" at everyone who called him Dr. Evil, and parodies of everyone... from Tom and Katie, to Cristina Aguilera, to Jessica Simpson (curiously Nick Lachay was appearing live at Hard Rock this evening..), to some of the X-men, to David Hasselhoff..etc etc etc. However, the best part of the show was the take off on POTC2. A dead-on impersonation of Depp and Knightley in their pirate roles. The actors in the show are quite talented and pull off a show that is witty, daring, dirty and extremely fullfilling... especially when the boy-toy Aguilera dancers strip out of their shirts and we go WOW!!! Lovely, lovely... Another favorite sight gag.. that Tom and Katie "Spaceship Labor" gag on the screen, complete with Spaceship Earth with legs spread apart... very naughty.
Bill and Ted's show is a MUST-SEE.
After that show, it was almost 8pm and the park was getting packed. We decided to try the "People Under the Stairs" haunted house and the sign read "60 mins wait". We tackled the line and it was exactly one hour wait. Worth it. This was the best of the Haunted houses I saw... great cast in here scaring the bejesus out of us and the screamer gal behind me. The heavy smoke and strobe lighting made it quite challenging to find your way in some rooms and definitely elevated my stress level up one notch. Kudos for this one haunted house. Had it not been because of the long line.. I would have done it again.
After waiting that long, we took a break to enjoy the lagoon show "Sweet 16: The Director's Cut" A film and pyro show and it was the worst thing inthe event. The show is basically a montage of many horror films, projected on the rounded floating bubbles on the lagoon, and very minimal pyro going off every so often. The show lacked punch and after 1 minute, I was bored looking at those bubbles. SKIP this is you go to this event. Personally? I found the projected images of horror movies and our horror hosts on buildings to be more engaging and fun to watch.
Check the Men in Black building at night.
Another break for a pizza and a quick visit to "Twister", an attraction my friend had not yet seen, then we decided to tackle one more haunted house... next door to Jimmy Newtron's Blast (itself a scary show for me). This haunted house was "PsychoSCAREapy", probably the best themed haunted house on the park. This one also features that scary Jack the Clown character overseeing a hospital for the insane called Shady Brooks. For some reason, this reminded me of the Golden Girls..
Anyways... this horrific hospital had a cast of dozens of "patients" in a very scary setting. Some of the scare-actors here were the best ones I saw. Someone would come out at us in every turn...very scary moments in every turn... THEN... the grossest scene I have ever been a part of: we find ourselves in the hospital's restroom, complete with very strong foul smell and **** that appeared to have exploded out of toilets and/or smeared all over the walls. It was absolutely GROSS! I was screming to my friend..."EEEECK!! DON'T TOUCH THE WALLS!!! GROSS!!!" This was simply the most horrific moment all night long for me... truly horrific and very well done and QUITE realistic!!! YUK YUK YUK!!!!!
The smell of it stays with you for a while... YUK!
By this time, it was almost 11pm and my friend was getting tired so we decided to leave USF, missing out on two other haunted hauses I would have liked to see, "Dungeon of Terror" feat. that old Storyteller granny, and "PsychoPath" based on the movie Psycho and Norman Bates...with great recreation of the Bates Motel outside the attraction.
In fact, one of the things that impressed me most about the haunted houses was the decent theming that went into some of them... When we entered "PsychoSCAREapy", the intro scene is a pleasant outdoor garden outside the Shady Brook Hospital, complete with elevator music to sooth the soul.. then WHAM!!!
Now some observations and pointers for those going... Universal offers Express service for ALL of the haunted houses. I believe guests have to purchase this at the time they buy tickets, but the number of Express passes is limited so get yours asap. Today's Express passes were sold out days ago. Still... the staff did an excellent job moving lines and even though some of the lines were up to an hour long tonight, they moved! (are you listening Disney?). There were NO moments where the line would come to a halt for more than a few seconds..and that kept our feet from getting tired. KUDOS! Also, they were right on about the posted wait times. "Under the Stairs" was posting 60 mins, and by my watch it was 59 mins wait. For "PsychoScareapy", 45 mins wait posted, and it took 47 mins on my watch. GREAT JOB on that! The speedy stand by lines may have been attributed to the fact that we NEVER yielded to the Express patrons...they would just be allowed to merge into the stand by line at the merging point. It effectively kept everyone moving quickly. Also bear in mind.. the Express service will cost you an additional $35, and you can only use it ONCE per haunted house. The staff members scan your Express pass, so the computer will NOT allow you to repeat this attraction again if you use the Express line to access it. KUDOS UNIVERSAL! (Disney, are you paying attention as to why FP needs to be an Add-on charge on passes and NOT a freebie service??)
Now the only low point of the evening: WAY TOO MUCH ALCOHOL on sale all over the park and even in the queues. It seemed to me we could find a bar (with well lit "BAR" sign) like every 25 feet from one another. Likewise, there would be "liquor shot" waitresses all over the park and in queues.. I do not need to have some overweight girl in a very tight spandex outfit looking like a goth hooker coming on to me to tell me I "look like I could use a shot.."
SPARE ME! >
Universal should be ashamed about offering/having liquor and beer so readily available to the event guests. It's unnecesary, unneeded and quite offensive to me. YET, I never saw guests in state of intoxication but there were a few who were just a bit tad obnoxious/happy in their behavior. If USH is not offering liquor/beer at theis HHN event (I've been told).. then why is it OK to be sold here??? BAD SHOW to UNIVERSAL for their very evident *push* of liquor and beer sales all over the park. It's obvious the liquor/beer companies must be sponsoring here or else!
With that said and done, I have to admit that I had a most enjoyable time at USF's Halloween Horror Nights, and most everything went off to my satisfaction. Of course... I only paid $15 to get it, and at that price, the event seemed more than fair... as I am not sure I would have percieved this event as a great value for the regular price or even at a $30-some discount price.
If you are going... I *highly* recommend you arrive there before the park opens and try to enter the park and do as many Haunted Houses as possible before the crowds swell. Fridays and Saturday may be the worst times to go as lines have been known to get as long as 2 and 1/2 hours for some offerings I was told by a staff member... Take the time to enjoy the several scare zones and have a blast!
PS!!! Special KUDOS to the line staff as they also did an excellent job making sure guests would refrain from Smoking in line. NOTE: smoking is prohibited in queues and inside mazes. IT seemed to me that a staff member would come to a guest and ask them to put out their cancer stick within seconds of them lighting up. GREAT JOB TO THE STAFF HERE!!!