HHN 2011 - Opening Night, September 23rd, 2011
7 PM to 2 AM
Traffic wasn't that bad this year. Took the 71 and the 10 instead of staying on the 60 to the 101, this REALLY helped. Got to the park an hour early, first time I've ever managed that. Line for parking was at a moderate level and we parked in Curious George. We made our way to the top and exited out towards City Walk which felt unusually crowded but then I remembered it's a Friday night. Went down to the shop outside of the entrance and looked around - - didn't find any merchandise worth buying so we headed on over passed the rotating globe. Walked all the way to the left of security check for the shortest line. Pretty heavy crowds trying to get in as the whole entrance area was full of people. They then - - OPENED THE GATES!
Not much going on here. There were lines to take pictures with the go-gos (who honestly weren't that creative looking in comparison to all the years prior but I don't think people are looking for creativity in half naked women who dance). Ghostface was being more of a statue than a scarer. I remember when the statue in 08 and 09 did just a tad bit MORE running around but I guess they limited them ever since. The park hadn't officially opened yet so I guess I shouldn't judge it 100% but I have a feeling that's what it was all night. Basically nothing was going on in comparison to prior years and there was absolutely no set design and no other scareactors running around, which I distinctly remember in all the other years because I always got a good scare or two before I even made it towards the shops. I don't even feel right rating it but since I'm pretty positive it's the final product, I just have to. I don't think I even remember any fog other than the tad coming from the go-go stations and plus since it was the day time still, the lighting on the walls was barely showing. EH.
7.0 out of 10 'C'-
Couldn't see anything going on during the Opening Scaramonies but I could hear it. Klownz made their way through and terrorized the hell out of everyone. They did a pretty rocking job this year. I returned one more time later in the night and they were too spaced out from one another for it to feel like a dangerous area so no scares came to me later in the night but they got me good when coming in a few times. Actually, there were screams in the air walking in and then when coming back later, it was oddly SILENT. But I give them credit for the awesome scares once it started.
9.0 out of 10
Made our way all the way down the escalators. Right off the bat, I don't dig the escalator music. The Starway is usually one of my favorite parts of HHN and this felt too different in a way that doesn't feel like HHN. The music wasn't horror enough and Alice sounded like he just read off a paper for the first time and recorded it. I believe Ghouls Gone Wild was playing while going down and when coming back up, it was I'll Bite Your Face Off. Something about Alice's voice when singing feels horror-hokey to me and it's really upbeat instrumentals just don't sound horror. Eh, whateva.
What's there to say? The scareactors were interactive, luckily and there was a decent amount of them but scenic wise, it was flat. But not as flat as the Scream SZ, thank God, as there was a pretty good amount of fog choking the air. The costumes were okay also but nothing stand out. Unfortunately, this would be the last scarezone I'd make it through.
8.0 out of 10
JURASSIC PARK IN THE DARK
We were still waiting to meet up with some friends so we hit Jurassic Park in the mean time since it had 0 wait. As always, the ride is awesome, especially at night. The "Welcome to the Jungle" thing took me by surprise because I totally forgot about it. The music was playing nice and loud this year. Exited the gift shop and met up with the friends so it was time for our first maze!
ALICE COOPER: WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE
Automatic walk on for us, luckily. The maze was more dark than I anticipated, which was nice but it didn't work on an HHN quality-level for me but with that said, it was still quite good. The beginning of the maze did nothing for me but I suppose like a true nightmare, the deeper we went in, the scarier and more twisted it got. I LOVED the dolls/bodies you had to push out of the way with light up eyes. I hope those can maintain themselves until the end of the season. A lot of the scenes seemed to just randomly transition and so a lot of the different settings seem like a meshed blur so it's hard for me to remember the specifics of anything. There was some really great surprises at the end, animatronic/puppeteer-wise that both times SCARED THE **** OUT OF ME as the first one literally popped out of the darkness and the other was still one second and came alive the next. Great ending to the maze but I feel the beginning was a little weak and the story needed work for those who don't know WTMN could understand. My friends liked it as well but just weren't sure what was going on story-wise.
Queue Immersion/Facade: 7. The line should be fixed so those coming early in the night can just walk straight through the JP area. I dig the placement of the facade and the lighting. The music wasn't scary enough though.
Set Design: 8. It looked like a really good Knotts maze but it didn't have that "movie set" feel Universal is known for.
Sound Design: 8. The horror soundtrack of the songs worked pretty well.
Scareactor Design: 8. I personally hate everyone having the black eye make up but if we're ignoring that, the scareactors looked cool.
Scares: 8. First half I didn't get many scares but the second half was definitely the best.
Animatronic/Puppeteering: 10. They definitely made me jump and go "WHOA!" then made me run in the other direction. Black Widow moment was pretty freaky and the snake surprised me the most.
Length: 10. Actually a REALLY great length for this maze and it ended just when I felt like it should've.
Fun: 10. Very fun maze, we all had fun going through this one and looking at everything.
Story: 8. Story might be hard for those to follow who don't know what the maze is about and the scene transitions through stuff in blurs. I'll have to try and pay more attention to but since it IS a nightmare, I guess it's not that big of a deal.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 8. Exceeded my expectations and gave me some good jolts!
85 out of 100 'B'
THE REVENGE OF THE MUMMY
Hit this as it claimed to be a 5 minute wait when in reality it was a walk on. Sat in the front, had an awesome time and I feel it really fits the spirit of Halloween. There was one funny part where he does his little speech before you blast off and then we just sat there for like 5 seconds... it was really anti-climactic haha. But seriously, how come they still haven't fixed that last room? Also, the ride operators weren't cheering us on as hard as they usually are.
HOSTEL: HUNTING SEASON
Line said 5 minutes but it was stretched out pretty far but at least it really was 5 minutes as time seemed to be going by way too quickly (it was 8 already). I had my friend say the password to the Russian girls outside and they told her to come back after we come out and she'll have something for her. Neat little touch to enhance the experience. We enter the maze and we're getting the tail end of scares or the scares seem a bit oddly timed or there were just scareactors wandering in their space. It wasn't until about half way through that things started to pick up. My favorite part is the Mrs. Bathory scene - - just sick! The girl with the sawed in half head was great but we didn't see any scare associated with it in the whole thirty seconds we were walking through that room because things were stalling (this occurred alot throughout the night - - people were CONSTANTLY stopping). The maze has its moments but it's too victim-centric, I think even more so than Saw. At points, it just seemed like a gross out maze instead of a scare maze. It was fun to pretend and try to help the victims but there weren't many scares coming in our direction. I wish this would've been a bit more amped, more directed towards the guests instead of killings happening to the victims and more of a story that was clear - - were we guests examining the warehouse or were we victims? At times it felt like both. However, the last room totally caught me off guard (hmmmm... I'm starting to sense a pattern here in last rooms this year...) and had me screaming out of the maze. Scarewise, WTMN wins the lower lot war but Hostel felt like a full, more distinguishable experience and wins by just a tiny few points for it's totally morbid imagery. However, I really felt like the set design was lacking in here. A lot of bare walls and rooms.
Queue Immersion/Facade: 10. AWESOME facade. Love the smoke billowing out of the top. The girls interacting was interesting too. There was also some sound bytes playing.
Set Design: 7. Walls and rooms felt very plain at some points.
Sound Design: 8. I suppose it was okay, would've liked something moodier and scarier.
Scareactor Design: 9. For the killers in this maze, it'd be a 5 at the most but since a lot of the scareactors here were victims, it jumps up a lot of points because they were all hidden well within the wreckage of body parts.
Scares: 8. First half felt very off and we got the tail end of a scare or two. Second half picked up but it seemed a lot of the clients were too focused on their victims.
Animatronic/Puppeteering: 8. Wasn't expecting that.
Length: 10. Great length for this type of maze. It ended just when I wanted it to.
Fun: 10. Had a lot of fun trying to help out the victims and the scareactors seemed very into it, which boosted the points up a lot.
Story: 8. I didn't know if I was a client myself or a victim but for a "walking through a warehouse of horrors" idea, I suppose it did it's purpose.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 8. Idea was okay and it was pretty much what I expected. A lot of gory elements but I feel it was more about being "****ed up" instead of being scary. But a lot of good original moments.
86 out of 100 'B'
THE SIMPSONS RIDE
Went back up the Starway to go towards Terror Tram but then decided to hit The Simpsons Ride since it said 25 minute wait and figured that'd be the shortest the line would get for the night. It was around 8:30 so I figured we still had some time. Luckily, the line was only 15. Still no Treehouse of Horror clips. Lame!
TERROR TRAM: SCREAM 4 YOUR LIFE
Walked over to Terror Tram at about 9 and the line to get on this thing was beyond horrible. SO MANY zig zags when it wasn't even necessary because they weren't full, we just kept constantly moving until we finally made it to the front and it took about 45 minutes to do. It was so annoying, especially when the line was backed up all the way to the escalators. Glad I had some in queue entertainment at least with the videos on the screen but they replay too quick for me. We jumped on the Terror Tram and things already seemed a little less amped than previous years as there wasn't much scary music or video design that was impressive. We were off and the video is basically just a rehash of everything you just saw in line in regards to Stab 8. The video is a big important part of the Terror Tram experience and it just didn't deliver. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why Ghostface wanted to kill us - - he just wanted to. And that was honestly where things started to go downhill, theme-wise...
We jump off the tram into Whoville to be attacked. They re-used the same tactic as last year, which was fantastic and very effective. But just because it works well doesn't mean to keep redoing it in future years! And then - - TRAFFIC JAM. Ghostface is terrorizing the Bates Motel and there seems to be many of them and they're doing some good scaring but - - we're stuck and slowly moving to try and enter the little maze set up in the parking lot, which I had a feeling from the start would be a bad idea traffic-wise. We go through and it's basically the sheet maze but just a chainlink fence and less decorations. Ghostface got us good a couple times but there's no ENVIRONMENT and the theme isn't SELLING that this is indeed Stab 8. How a chainlink fence maze is Stab 8 being filmed is beyond me.
We make our way up the hill. MANY and I mean MANY of bushmen wandering around and working their way into the scenery. Top of the hill, through the burning shack and toward the Psycho House. This is the only spot you'll see Norman. There was some other random stuff going on with people getting their faces ripped off and what not but I wasn't sure what that all had to do with. I think it might've been the Woodstock film but I can't remember the specifics of it since there wasn't too much going on other than face ripping. Now the best part of the TT this year is the War of the Worlds set. The zombies got us good quite a few times in this year. Still a lot of Ghostfaces running around but once again, I have to ask myself, what does this have to do with not only Scream 4 but also Stab 8? There are no links or connections to either franchise other than Ghostface himself and there is NO Stab-A-Thon set up anywhere, making the experience an empty ended one and makes it feel incomplete. I would have loved to see something actually Scream 4 or even Stab related but neither happened not even in the returning back to the station video. It's kinda just - - people get killed, moving on and you're back to the theme park.
So with that said, a big waste of potential on the Scream department; they basically just bought the rights for the Ghostface costume and went wild with it. You can hear audio clips while entering under the Studio Tour sign and there's some quotes written on the walls in the Stab 8 mini-maze but this is so un-Scream related, it's not even funny. However, at least the theme fits with the experience and it carries it through to the end - - it's just underwhelming and quite frankly disappointing because so much more could've been done with this and instead, it seems there wasn't enough passion from the creators in the source material to try and make it thrive or to rely on it. So Scream at HHN this year = a giant dud. Total waste and they DID NOT do it justice but it's still better than last year's Terror Tram but it definitely doesn't rank up with the best. Luckily, they skipped The Mummy tunnel this year.
Queue Immersion/Facade: 10. No facade to speak of as this doesn't apply here but the queue was selling the idea that there were 4 films being filmed on the backlot. And I guess I'll add that the tour guide helped sell it pretty well too.
Set Design: 7. It starts at a 5 automatically (like the HoH will too) but not many changes other than the chainlink fence maze which felt pretty barebones at points.
Sound Design: 9. A lot of sound bytes from Scream 4 in the Stab area that I appreciated but it still didn't help the barely-there theme or story.
Scareactor Design: 9. I dug the chainsaw drill team in the beginning along with the other monsters, including Ghostface, in which a lot of them were actually pretty tall and daunting. Zombies were pretty cool too.
Scares: 9. Got a lot of scares here this year in the WOTW area.
Animatronic/Puppeteering: 5. There were some wheelchair gags in the WOTW area.
Length: 10. Terror Tram was a good length this year with going around the Bates Motel, on the side of it and THEN into the mini maze, even though the mini maze wasn't anything special.
Fun: 10. Terror Tram is always fun and a great experience to be on the backlot.
Story: 6. There wasn't really a story and everything was leading to something that never happens. And then once it's over, it's like "who cares?"
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. I love Scream, there ain't no way around it and even though the films themselves were represented ZERO, I still loved to see Ghostface running around everywhere.
85 out of 100 'B'-
Everyone was hungry so we made our way to Flinstones BBQ because I had never eaten there before. On the way over, my whole group sees Jamie Kennedy playing baskeyball but I totally walked passed him and didn't see. Oh well. Ordered the rips and it surprisingly was done rather quick but the food was a bit cold and a bit overpriced. The bones just felt off the meat and not in a tender, "oh it's delicious" kinda way because the meat was still tough. It was okay but I don't plan on eating there again for the ribs, although the burgers looked good.
LA LLORONA: VILLA DE ALMAS PERDIDAS
Got in line at 10:45 and the wait said 55 minutes. It was true to it's word. It stretched on for freakin' days all the way back around the Curious George playset. There was even more line hidden in places that thankfully we didn't have to go through. The first half of the queue seemed nice and quick - - it's not until the actual bar sets up for Shrek that things become an incredibly slow moving queue. This is where you can actually hear the narration from the old man or old lady telling the story. If you can't hear it, just look at the banners on the side of the queue as it's going word for word from that.
We make it to the facade at about 11:35. Quite a few people had the FOTL passes, so the effort to limit their usage this year, as far as I could tell, did absolutely nothing. If anything, it made the lines worse because every line we went through, there were people who had the lanyards around their neck waiting with us. So instead of them just quickly going on through as they should be, they're standing in lines for their second go around making the lines even longer. KNEW this would be a bad idea. Anywho, the facade is freakin' gorgeous and the well with fog brewing out was a nice touch.
Entering the maze, I already got a quick few scares. It had some of the most amazing sets that HHN has ever done and that was apparent very quickly. Not only that, it had some pretty great scares to back it up. It almost seemed the first 1/4 of the maze was all statue scares though. Oh well. I can honestly say I loved EVERY room in this maze. The only room that I think that didn't have a scare was the river scene. Everything else chilled me to the bone. There's also a good moment in the pitch black scene that had everyone freaking the hell out. My favorite moment has to be that final scene though - - WHOA.
Queue Immersion/Facade: 10. Storytelling, good mood setting music and great lighting that was kinda aquatic in color. And the facade - - WOW. My favorite, definitely.
Set Design: 10. Once again, WOW. Every room was AMAZING.
Sound Design: 9. Very creepy atmosphere thanks to the music. It didn't try to overdo it or make it too fast.
Scareactor Design: 9. Every one in here was beyond creepy.
Scares: 10. Scares were a bit low in the middle but dear God, when the scares came, they were CREEPY.
Animatronic/Puppeteering: 10. It was repurposed but the use of it was brilliant.
Length: 10. Great length, felt a bit longer than other years in this location but it probably wasn't. The story wrapped up nicely for what it was.
Fun: 10. Lots of fun going through this one and there was a good creepy vibe throughout that kept me on my toes.
Story: 10. From beginning to end, it told a story and followed it through.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 9. Was happy to see La Llorona finally get amped up to maze status and pull it off with flying colors.
97 out of 10 'A'
THE WOLFMAN: CURSE OF TABOT HALL
Exited from there and ran over to The Wolfman. Line said 20 minutes so we figured it wasn't that bad for it being 11:50. We make it in in about 15 minutes. I don't know if I should even waste my time talking about this as they made ZERO effort to even try and recreate The Wolfman movie. There were wolfmen in there but that's where it stops. Oh and a few Gollum creatures. But other than that, I had no idea what the other monsters were. There were a lot of good scares and alot of my friends actually enjoyed this more than the others but seriously, for me, this was utter nonsense. Chucky and Vampyre worked because they used their environment to benefit the story. The setting for this had nothing to do with The Wolfman and there were scenes that were clearly a big what?! like Chucky for example. They made no effort to cover that up at all, in fact, the dolls in the cabinet were lit. I liked the victims at the end but damn, this was far from being anything like the Wolfman, it's such a damn shame. Although I got my scares, it felt like an empty experience and almost a waste of time.
Queue Immersion/Facade: 5. It gets a 5 automatically for being permanent and always looking nice but other than that, it didn't do anything on the outside or inside to show that this is Wolfman other than the banner.
Set Design: 5. Automatic once again but honestly, they did NOTHING set-wise to make it more like the Wolfman.
Sound Design: 10. Actually quite a lot of sound bytes from the film.
Scareactor Design: 8. I guess they were okay...
Scares: 8. Some good scares in here.
Animatronic/Puppeteering: 5. The usual stuff that's usually in the HoH.
Length: 5. Automatic 5 for it being permanently long but the length didn't suit the maze and any portions that could've actually felt Wolfman like were very small.
Fun: 10. I like the HoH, what can I say.
Story: 0. None, absolutely nothing you could follow that the sets would be able to convey other than maybe some sound design elements that helped. Just random wolfmen everywhere.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 5. HoH I dig and I'm glad the Wolfman finally came but I hate the way they did it.
61 out of 100. 'D' -
THE THING: ASSIMILATION
It was 12:20 when we jumped in line. I looked over into Zombieville and didn't hear any screaming come from the area, nor did I see any monsters. There was fog and lighting but I don't know what was going over there. Same with Freakz. So I didn't feel compelled to run down there to check it out, plus The Thing said an hour wait and we were trying to hit the 1:30 of Bill and Ted (seriously, not having a show after hours REALLY tampers plans). Also, HOTC was still 70 minutes and absolutely none of us wanted to wait for a repeat we all thought was barely okay last year so we hit The Thing as our last maze of the night!
The line was moving fast, thankfully and it wasn't until I got onto the other side of the wait that I realized, it was only going to be about 30 minutes at the most of a wait. SCORE. Now, the facade looked cool but on the side, there were still those trash bag like material on the side. Darn. And you know what's funny? The outside of the maze is colder than the inside. I think all of the cool air must've been sucked out because it was actually warm in the maze like it was with all the others. So I'm sad to say, Murdy's effort to bring Antarctica to us in a maze experience just fell flat.
Entering the maze, things seemed a bit bare. I don't know, I was expecting more design. Also let me say, there are WAY TOO MANY FREAKING HANGING DOWN PLASTIC KITCHEN THINGS OR WHATEVER THEY'RE CALLED. I thought regular threads hanging down were annoying but these plastic ones - - UGH. Anywho, the first scare seemed misplaced but all the scares after that were BEYOND hard hitting and they all got me GOOD. And I mean, had me screaming "OH ****" at every turn. But something felt missing... and that was story. I didn't really know what was going on throughout. I've seen the original so I know the jist of it but there's nothing that indicates where the story is going or where it's at. There was some evolution of the creatures but for the most part, they stayed the same as far as scareactors go. So the story and the design of the maze just didn't do anything for me but this was DEFINITELY the scariest maze of the night with ALOT of scare moments I didn't expect whatsoever.
And once again, it was the final two rooms that had me screaming out of the maze. So let's just say - - you'll be very glad to hear that Universal has gone animatronic/puppeteering in pretty much every maze this year and they save the good ones for the final moments and that's not just for The Thing but as I said, EVERY maze (you'll catch on after the first two mazes you go through). And they always come from an unexpected place so they make for the BEST scares that have you RUNNING out because 1) out of nowhere 2) weren't expecting to see something of that magnitude. GREAT scary maze but selling the environment and set design and even some story just wasn't working very well.
Queue Immersion/Facade: 9. The queue doesn't fit the area but the entire queue was chilly and the facade is awesome. Trash bag material on the side still bugs me though.
Set Design: 7. Actually was very bare for the most part and the random snow plow room or whatever vehicle that was, was a wasted room for a good scare. Also a pointless dark hallway.
Sound Design: 9. No original theme playing! Boo! But the sound of cold air was pretty creepy and when the monsters came out, the sound was really startling.
Scareactor Design: 10. Yes, they looked like a praying mantis but it was better than nothing. I wonder how uncomfortable it was to wear those things...
Scares: 10. Hardest hitting scares - - some of the hardest hitting HHN has ever done. The last two surprised the living **** out of me, along with a couple of good ones in the middle.
Animatronic/Puppeteering: 10. AMAZING.
Length: 9. As said, two rooms felt pretty useless.
Fun: 10. Loved going through this maze.
Story: 8. Didn't really know what was going on and I think that might've been on purpose in effort not to ruin the movie. Would like to go through this again after I've seen the new movie to see if there's more of a correlation.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. Love the Thing and highly anticipating the prequel and I love the idea of this being a maze.
92 out of 100. 'A'-
BILL AND TED
After that, it was 1 and we had 30 minutes to kill so we ran over to Bill and Ted which already had a huge wait, so luckily we got there early. We sat down and they had basically a bunch of stupid youtube videos playing. I immediately thought this was a very cheap road to go down for pre-show entertainment. However, once the show started, it was very good but I felt like some of the characters weren't popular enough (like seriously, Arthur?). It was funny, had it's good dance numbers but let's talk about what's important - - Bill and Ted are barely in the show this year. Barely any lines and there are entire segments they are missing from the show. However, it's still funny and I'm actually kinda surprised the material went to where it did as far as it's plot (a few groups of people actually walked out once it was revealed). I also thought the music choices were good as the last 2 previous years, I felt the songs weren't popular enough to get the attention they did. Also, LOTS of fire effects but there was no loud bang at the end that usually shakes the entire room. Oh well.
9.0 out of 10 'A'-
CLOSING & LEAVING
As we were exiting, there was no chainsaw chase out. It was about 2:20 so I don't know where they all disappeared to as where previous years, I remember coming out of the Bill and Ted show and the scareactors would still be hanging around. But those were also weekdays and closing time was 1 so maybe they left around 2. I don't know. We left and the line to get onto the 101 was insanity so uh... we just drove in the line next to it and cut in at the very end. I know, tsk, tsk but there was no way I was waiting in that line that stretched from the parking structure ALL THE WAY to the 101 south on ramp. Got home at around 3:45 and it was a great night, all in all.
I got a lot of good footage and pictures, so I'll try posting those later and I'll be back to the event later in the year. Although, I don't think this year is worthy of that but I already made the plans. Now let me explain why I don't think it was worthy - - the event was very half and half. The only maze that I felt gave the all around amazing HHN quality that I was expecting was La Llorona. As said, The Thing delivered the scares but it seemed very bare other than that. Hostel felt pretty bare as well in set design and scare design. WTMN was bare in story elements. Terror Tram basically had no story or the little one it did was open ended or it just "didn't get to it." And the Wolfman - - okay, seriously, WTF was that?
So I don't know, let's just say it wasn't HHN's best year and for all the tight ends Universal was cutting with money, I really don't see where it all went and came to the conclusion that yes, in the end, it was all just a money grab. Everything just felt more bare or lacking than the other years or maybe they just spread out the budget a bit too much. If they have to cut back down to 5 mazes then so be it because there were way too many empty walls in The Thing and Hostel. It just felt like a lot was missing and I don't think I'll be going to another opening night in the near future because I have a feeling that from guest feedback this weekend, they'll need to add a lot to satisfy everyone. I heard a quite few people walking around saying, "this year sucks" and it really got me sad but at times, I almost wanted to agree but La Llorona and the extreme scares in The Thing saved it for me. And they didn't whatsoever resolve anything with the line issues as they attempted to and it wasn't even a sell out night.
And I never thought I would miss the Western scarezone so much - - all the walk around areas were just so plain (although a random Ghostface is hiding in some places every once and awhile). And that even goes for the Scarezones that did exist that I saw; nothing set wise in Scream or Reapers; and Baker & London street are just at the wrong ends of the park that don't make it convenient enough for me to experience. I'll try my best to make it over on those two streets my next go around.
In my opinion, as of right now, this ranks just a tad bit over '07 but it still didn't do as great as '08, '09 or '10. But I don't want to pass final judgment yet - - it was opening weekend and I have a feeling they're going to amp it up this upcoming week or two... hopefully. No final grade for the event itself, as for the fun level, it was at a 10 (how could it not be?) but quality-wise, I'm gonna wait for the next trip before I do that because I really don't feel like I even saw the final product.
From least to greatest:
Terror Tram (tie)
Alice Cooper (tie)