Universal Studios Hollywood presents
in association with DTH316
Halloween Horror Nights 2013 Review
Friday, September 20th - Opening Night
7 PM to 2 AM
I was looking forward to this year probably more than any other year. Evil Dead finally comes to Horror Nights! Insidious! El Cucuy! The return of the Walking Dead! Backlot scarezone! Soundstage maze! Chucky returns! The potential was ripe for a classic year that would go down in history.............................
*DEEP VOICE* Or so he thought...............
I left from the Inland Empire at 3:30 PM and got to the park at about 5:20. Hit some traffic on the 71, but everything else was smooth sailing. I used my favortie "back entrance" way of the 134, exiting Forest Lawn, and getting onto Barham. So much better than being stuck on the 101 for hours. I used a free parking voucher my mom had which was given to her by someone who lived in the area (my reciept says "neighborhood pass" - didn't know about that!). We parked in Curious George and went to check out the view of the Terror Tram path to get pumped, then headed down to City Walk.
PRIOR TO THE MADNESS
Still had quite awhile left, so we shopped in Hot Topic, Things From Another World (I think that's what that store is called) and the Universal Store. At about 6, we headed towards the far side of the security checks to be quickly wanded. Once passed that, I saw the EARLY ENTRY line. We quickly went over and lined up in front of Waterworld. They weren't actively handing out maps so I had to go back and snag one, but he would ONLY give me one and none for the rest of my group. By 6:15, we were already in NY Street. The people in charge were trying to pump up the crowd, thankfully. Quick funny story: the people next to us were looking for a guy named Rob, standing on shoulders and waving into the crowd to get him to come over and it took about 20 minutes for him to finally catch up, so when he finally did, the whole crowd started chanting "ROB, ROB, ROB!" It was funny... I sense you didn't laugh. Maybe you had to be there... oh well. At 6:30, I saw the regular entrants make their way to the barricades in front of the fire cannons for the opening scaramonies. I saw the opening scaramonies on youtube and was greatly let down by it, so I had no desire to see that in person and am SO GLAD I went with the early access route because somehow, someway, that's what people went to first. As oppose to other years, the lower lot mazes (Evil Dead and Insidious) actually had fairly short wait times while the upper lot had long wait times at the beginning of the night, and the backlot mazes were JAMMED ALL NIGHT right after the first 20 minutes of the event -- which I'm not even sure how that's possible since it's WAAAAAY deep in the park. If there's one thing you take away from this review, is DO EARLY ACCESS, DO EARLY ACCESS, DO EARLY ACCESS and DO THE BACKLOT MAZES FIRST, DO THE BACKLOT MAZES FIRST, DO THE BACKLOT MAZES FIRST. At 6:30, THEY LET US LOOSE. We then rushed... to the lower lot.
Down the Starway they were playing Black Sabbath. From what I could tell, it seemed like "God Is Dead?" was just on a loop the entire time as that's the only song I heard going down and coming back up later. The Rude Starway Voice has been tweaked this year, so be sure to listen. There were some beautiful views of the sun setting and from a few points, we could see the fog rising from the backlot metropolitan sets. Oooooh, here we go!
Or not. I don't know what was worse... Silent Hill's scarezone or this. I'm going to have to edge it to this, because stilt people just don't scare me. Even though their costumes WERE pretty creepy, they never managed to conjure fear in me. I just feel so sorry for the lower lot... it gets no creepy love. I mean... c'mon now. Last year, I understood because of Transformers, but the hype for that has died down (the longest I saw the line for that all night was 50 minutes). So what's the excuse this year? I'm sure there's a reason, but I can't think of anything that would warrant 5 stiltwalkers and "Scarecrowz" in writing being projected onto the ground. Oh... so scary. Maybe I should be grateful that they did anything at all, but... I mean, really? For such a creepy idea, this was the most bland scarezone I've probably ever been through. At least last year had the Silent Hill sirens... I can't even remember what the music sounded like here. I've been to home haunts with creepier queues than this. I'VE BEEN TRICK OR TREATING TO REGULAR HOUSES with scarier set ups than this! Anyway, props to the stiltwalkers for trying, God knows they were going after everyone they could and bending down to get into faces, but I don't think I heard one scream down there. Sorry guys, but this was a --
2.9 out of 10 'F'
WALKING DEAD: DEAD ON ARRIVAL (scarezone)
I thought the tram would be by the old Backdraft queue but apparently it's way passed Evil Dead's exit. We might as well have walked the rest of the way, the tram was so damn far. We boarded the tram and then clips for Walking Dead come on. No story trying to be sold here. However, once we got off the tram... we knew it was about to get awesome. The fog was blowing in the air and the walkers were already on display, just waiting for us like the dinner bell was rung.
As we made our way through the storage bin thingies, there were more and more walkers. This zone was LOADED with them and they were all scaring on a veteran level. I was so highly impressed by what they could do in such a tight and confined space. However, the scarezone is very narrow. It's more like a scare path. I don't think you could even walk through it multiple times if you wanted to since the tram pick up is elsewhere. Think the Terror Tram path as for how wide this ever gets. As for the food vendors and such, other than a popcorn stand, I didn't see them. I envisioned this big and grand, almost like a Town Square area, but this was VERY small & short.
Even with that in mind, this was easily the best scarezone HHN has done since Welcome to Hell in 2009. The tank, broken cars, dead bodies littered about, tall buildings, and everything totally immersed me into a zombie apocalypse. My only wish is it was darker when I went through because the sun was still setting, but later in the month after daylight savings that shouldn't be an issue. VERY WELL DONE. Next time I'll try to soak this area in a bit more.
10 out of 10 'A'
BLACK SABBATH: 13 3D
Advertised Wait: 15 minutes
Actual Wait: 10 minutes
Entered the Maze at: 7:00 PM
Time for the first maze! After hearing lines for this got super long on employee preview night, we hit this first and we're so glad we did. I looked at the wait time board and this and Walking Dead were both 2 hours and 30 minutes at different points after about 10 PM. As we were waiting in line, the "Rob" guy I was talking about exits the maze and was like "I'm ROB! I'm ROB!" as his friends cheered him on -- still. What made this even funnier is... we had all forgot who Rob was and then remembered, and was like "that was so half an hour ago" lol.
After a small wait, we entered the mini facade and then saw the big facade (that's a first). At this point... I really don't know what to say about the maze. It was simply just... not scary. Even when the scareactors did try, none of the scares landed. And I'll tell you what I believe to be the main reason... the music was too dang loud. Blasting Sabbath's songs seems like an obvious given, but it never lent itself to a creepy environment. I never gained fear and there never was a startle to release it. We did get the tail-end of some scares, but from what I saw of them, they were nothing special. And the triggers that were being used were being drowned out by the loud music.
This truly did not feel like a soundstage maze and it didn't even seem warranted to have been in there. There's no scenes where the vertical space is used, which I figured would be the best part about a soundstage maze. Walking Dead utilizes vertical space a few times and that was in a tent!
So what happened here? Another thing that didn't lend any scares my way... the maze is so God awfully bright. Literally the brightest maze I've ever been through. As for the 3D... nothing was great about it. Alice Cooper Goes to Hell last year was definitely better in the 3D department and it definitely wasn't as dang bright, and at least I felt that one trying to scare. This one seemed like a walk through the park at some points. It just didn't land... let alone take off.
OH, and I did not see any 3D video scare that was promised. I was in the room where it was supposed to happen but all I saw was a bright light go off and that was it. Grrrr......... P.S. did I mention there's TWO Saw traps, unaltered, literally right next to each other in the maze? Look out for the frozen lady and the head in a cube trap if you want to be flashbacked to 2009 (I know I don't). Jigsaw really needs to get those patented :-P
Queue/Facade - 10. Two facades, sort of. The second one is obviously much more grand and includes a scare.
Set Design - 7. I want to at least say this maze "looked good" but I'd be lying. Nothing stood out to me as amazing set-wise. And since lighting and the paint and such is included in the set, I have to dock this some points. I probably should dock it even more, but I'm feeling nice.
Sound Design - 3. Worst sound mix in an HHN maze ever. Music was too loud to garner scares.
Scareactor Design - 7. Decent, Halloween maze fare. Nothing stands out though.
Special Props & Design - 5. I can't remember specifically.
Immersion - 4. I was fully aware I was in a maze since I was getting no scares and had to force myself to try and find something else good about it. Once I realized that over and over again, it threw me out of the Black Sabbath world.
Length - 10. Really great length! I loved how long it was, I just wish it was great and scary to match.
Scare Level - 2. Very, very low.
Fun Level - 10. Now, despite how weak I thought this maze was, I enjoyed going through it and looking around.
Story Comprehension - 4. I wasn't sure what was going on... at all, but I can somewhat stitch things together, but this just felt very random.
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 10. I'm giving this 10 because the other points are so unbelievably low. Now, this is my first soundstage maze, so that was fun. If it weren't for either of those, and since I never wanted another "rocker maze," this would've had way lower points.
72 out of 100. 'C'-
WALKING DEAD: NO SAFE HAVEN (maze)
Advertised Wait: 10 minutes
Actual Wait: Walk On
Entered the Maze At: 7:03 PM
Was Sabbath really only 3 minutes? Weird, felt longer. After that very tame experience, it was time for some more walker action! Right off the bat, things kick off with the walkers within the facade. All the walkers were aggressive and really going at it. Who trains and manages these guys? Amazing work.
Tonally, this maze feels much darker and grittier, which makes it more prime to be a maze than season 1 & season 2's maze last year - except last year was less repetitive set-wise. Much like last year, it really feels like every corner there's a walker popping out to come chomp off your face. There were a FEW dead spots but I think it was just odd timing. With this maze fully ON, I'm sure it would be one of the best mazes in HHN history. However, since it was "slightly off", right now it's just "pretty good." I'll just crack it up to "opening night kinks that need to be worked out" and I'm very excited to see this maze on my next trip as I just KNOW this maze will knock it out of the park later in the run.
The sets in here were just astounding. C-Block used vertical space by having jail cells going high up, so they took full advantage of the space given to fully immerse the guest. Unfortunately, this was another "dead zone" I went through, but at least it was amazing to look at. THE SCARE OF THE NIGHT goes to the hallway I was walking down and I could see a sillouhette at the end of the hall. "Is that... no, it can't be." As I get closer, I realize it is, and before I could think to run, a zombie horde lights up and charges us. That was freaking AWESOME. Pay no mind to the fact that it was an animatronic, that scare really worked.
I loved the set of the Governer's room, but again, another dead zone. I heard there was a brilliantly designed scare in here and I purposely slowed down to make sure it would happen, and NOTHING! I did see the daughter, but that's all there was to that scene? Scare intervals need to be much tighter. The only thing that makes me not want to give this a higher grade is because last year's maze was very much on when I went opening night AND that one was less repetitive as far as sets go.
Queue/Facade - 10. Not as big or epic as last year's, but still pretty awesome, especially with the scares in it.
Set Design - 10. C-block, helicopter room, the small details of carnage in almost every square inch. Just wow. You could go through it a dozen times and still not catch everything.
Sound Design - 6. Nothing stand out, but it was pretty cool. I like the Lori room with the phone ringing and the baby crying... very creepy soundagery.... is that a word? No? I just invented it.
Scareactor Design - 9. As per last year, great make up work. I kinda wish there was a way to make the backpacks on the Micchone's pets less visable though.
Special Props & Design - 9. Helicopter! Also, that horde animatronic!
Immersion - 10. I was totally feeling what the characters must've felt on the show. Room after room, another horror as they just try to survive to find a "safe haven."
Length - 10. This goes along with immersion, the helpleness of this maze being dark and never ending was pretty awesome. Lots of scenes and most of them really work.
Scare Level - 8. This would be a 10 if the maze was fully on, but the maze was still very great.
Fun Level - 10. Some of the most fun I had all night.
Story Comprehension - 10. It's very straight forward... into a prison, lots of walkers!
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 0. Very great maze technically as you can see from the scores, but another maze WAS better, so I'm zeroing this out in points so that other maze can come out on top, plus I feel this percentage is where this maze belongs instead of wilding out into the extra credit atmosphere. It may beat that other maze on my next visit, but for now --
92 out of 100 'A'-
Advertised Wait: 10 minutes
Actual Wait: Walk On
Time On: 7:22 PM
Took a quick ride on this. Sat in the back... not nearly as good as the front or even the second row. Took me way out of the action, but still very fun.
Advertised Wait: 10 Minutes
Actual Wait: 5 minutes
In the Maze At: 7:33 PM
I wanna mention something really quick that I started to notice: Universal has started this thing called "scare patrol." You'll notice them in all the lower lot and backlot queues. They hold signs and try to pump up the crowd and give away prizes for doing a good job. This... was kind of just cheesy. I do respect the decision to try and do something for entertainment while in queue and I think their hearts were in the right place, but their big yellow shirts and happy demeanor kinda made me forget I was about to go into a scary maze. To try and counter this, they do things like "oh, don't go in there, it's haunted yo! I never seen anyone come out alive!" I mean... I like it, but I don't. I think if they fit the theme instead of just looking like employees, it'd be much better. This needs to be worked on a bit more.
I really did not expect to walk into this maze and be BLOWN THE HELL AWAY. Right away, it's very creepy and it utilizes all of the prime moments from the first film. All of the cast was super charged and going crazy, and scare intervals were very tight so we never missed a scare. The cast truly ROCKED IT. The Darth Maul in the seance room was going freakin' crazy, on top of the table and attacking everyone in the room. I never saw him come out for his trigger scare, that's how hard he was going after people to make sure they felt threatened. Major kudos to that guy. But why the dummies for this scene? It really ruined the realism.
Speaking of Darth Maul, he is OVERLY represented in this maze as the villain. Just everywhere for the first half, even in scenes I don't remember him being in in the movie, but eh, what do I know. The old ladies were also very hardcore in their scare tactics, jumping out of pictures and what not.
One of my favorite moments is the further. Super dark and foggy with ghosts everywhere. One of the few times that the "which one is real?" scare tactic has worked on me. I honestly think this section could've been longer as it worked really well, but I won't dock it points for that since it was very effective in its quick space.
Then it was onto Chapter II and just like I thought, only 2 or 3 scenes were used from that movie. But here's my major gripe about that... they didn't represent those scenes to their full potential (the bedroom scene with poorly placed static dummies was nowhere near as good as it could be) and they MISSED, COMPLETELY GLOSSED OVER what would have been the best scene in the maze (the scene in the movie where he walks through the sheeted people standing up).
The mother ghosts did very well in their scares though, so at least that's a plus. One of them looked EXACTLY like the girl from the movie and she had the mannerisms down perfectly. After those quick scenes, the maze is over and some of it feels like a missed opportunity. The first 3/4 was awesome, the final 1/4 was very okay. I loved this maze, best of the night, BY FAR!!!!
Queue/Facade: 7. Very average. Love the music and Elise talking.
Set Design - 8. Usually I'd dock a maze for too many blank walls, but since it's the Further and it's supposed to represent darkness, it's all cool here. However, since this is mostly a "house" maze, none of the sets are astounding.
Sound Design - 10. Very on point with the soundtrack and it conjures up quite a lot of fear throughout.
Scareactor Design - 8. Darth Maul is Darth Maul, but everyone else was fairly scary.
Special Props & Design - 8. Lots of scrims and I loved some of the scents in here.
Immersion - 10. I was totally in it! The house looked pretty REAL and the scares hit pretty hard so my eyes never wandered enough to look around more.
Length - 10. Great length. I wish they would've used more scenes from Insidious 2 though. But it ended when it "felt" like it should've.
Scare Level - 10. They got me in every room. That usually never happens.
Fun Level - 10. Very fun to feel like I'm traveling through the Further and tip-toeing through the tulips!
Story Comprehension - 10. It all made sense to me.
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 5. I'm very glad Insidious had its time to shine and show that paranormal mazes can knock it out of the park, but this isn't anything more than an 'A' maze, without the plus. Perhaps next time it can go into extra credit territory.
96 out of 100 'A'
Advertised Wait: 10 minutes
Actual Wait: Walk On
On Ride At: 7:43 PM
Did a very quick ride on this. This really is an exhilarting time waster, but I think it might be time to start thinking about how to either spruce it up or what to replace it with.
Advertised Wait: 10 minutes
Actual Wait: 2 minutes
In the Maze At: 7:41 PM
Minor fun note: After the tram back, as I passed the Evil Dead exit, I'm PRETTY SURE I saw Fede Alvarez (director of the new Evil Dead) in the control room watching the monitors with a grin on his face. I could be wrong though, but it sure looked like him. Anywho...
I am so, so, so, so, so, so, SO... disappointed in this maze. I don't even know where to begin. But because it's weighing HEAVILY on my mind, I'll start with that it is SUPER DUPER dummy heavy to the point that it actually bogged the maze way down. It's like they didn't use a real person for any freakin' thing. Tree rape? Dummy. Mia poking head out of the cellar? Dummy. Mia floating over water in the basement? Dummy. Puking Mia? Dummy (the girl getting puked on looked super uncomfortable lmao). Chainsaw in the face? Dummy (okay, that one's understandable). And there's even MORE that I can't even remember.
Next, this maze appeared to be unstaffed. Where the hell was everybody? Room after room, I expected something to jump out. What, were you just leaving it up to the dummies? When Universal Monsters Remix is more staffed then EVIL FREAKIN DEAD, there's a huge problem. I don't know how long this lasted for opening night, but it really bummed me out since I am a huge Evil Dead fan and this had potential to really BRING IT and be one of the best mazes ever. Instead, it relied on dummies and quite frankly, it freakin' sucked.
(Update: I watched the sharpproductions video of the walkthrough and the maze appeared to be more staffed and there were more scares to be had. But with those scares, not many of them were necessarily scary or carefully put into the design. Plus, the "too many dummies" thing still comes to mind as why this is a major fail.)
I'm even disappointed with the presentation of the maze. Scenic-wise it was okay, but some rooms were way too small. And music? Nothing great and they had SO much to work with. Maybe I'm nitpicking because I had time to notice these things, when I should be yelling from room to room instead. What the hell happened here, Universal? *French accent* ATTACK IT, ATTACK IT, ATTACK IT! *end French accent* Maybe it'll improve. I really wanted to do it again just to see if we hit a REALLY bad run, but I didn't want to head all the way back down the Starway and wait in an hour line for it.
Now, let's focus on the good things in the maze................ oh sorry, now I remember. The few scareactors in the maze that were trying, I really thank you. The one or two scares I did get in here were fairly great and saved this from being a dud. Chainsaw dude at the end, good job. Mia cutting her tongue, good job. Mia ramming your chainsaw into the Abomination's throat... why you were licking your lips like chainsawing people in the face is sexy, I don't know, but good job for at least being interactive lol. Everyone else, where the hell were you or why weren't you trying as hard?
As bad as this maze is, I at least recognize it as a scary attraction, where as Sabbath I didn't take seriously. There was a certain mood that the maze did give off, even without constant scares happening, that made me feel a bit on edge. I appreciated the effort, even if it failed.
Now, what can be done to fix it? Staff the hell out of it. And train your scareactors to come out at quicker intervals. And do SOMETHING about all the dummies. In other mazes, it makes sense. Here, it took me completely out of the maze. I think the Tree Rape victim can be re-configured to be a real person. The others may be harder to figure out, but a lot of the times, it just felt unacceptable. Like going to a carnival dark ride and its all animatronic pop outs that look cheap. It just does NOT work for this maze. What the hell is this, Knotts Scary Farm?
You're Universal. This is Evil Dead. You're better than that! All this talk of "sparing no expenses" for this property just didn't add up, when this maze seemed the least put together in terms of the scares/staff/placement. There was a light mist in the blood rain scene, but to the point that it was so light, it might as well not have even been there. And no Ash cameo, don't get your hopes up. BOOOO.
Queue/Facade - 2. Wow, even worse than Silent Hill. JUST TREES. It could've been worse though. There is a very, very minor scare in the facade. A dummy lights up... ooooh. Go freakin figure.
Set Design - 8. This would've been a 9 if it weren't for the small rooms. The last room, which takes place outside, should've been way bigger.
Sound Design - 6. I don't remember much, but the tone was right in this maze, but I feel like it could've been better.
Scareactor Design - 7. Fairly boring, but that's just how the movie is. Not much to do about that. However, great job with the Mia casting and eye make up; they all looked just like her in the movie.
Special Props & Design - 5. Any normal case, this would be a 10, but since it was OVERBOARD with the dummies, I am docking this many points. There's a lot of creative stuff and effects in here though.
Immersion - 6. The more and more I saw dummies, the more I got thrown out of the maze. And the same for when I went more and more through the maze wondering where the hell scareactors were.
Length - 10. It hit all the key scenes and ended when it should've just some scenes should've been bigger in scale, not necessarily longer in walk.
Scare Level - 4. Where were you at, y'all?! lol
Fun Level - 8. It's Evil Dead, so at least I got my giddies up for that.
Story Comprehension - 8. I'm docking this a few points for a reason. If you miss the Book of the Dead tape playing in the queue (which we did), and if you miss the scare in the first cabin scene when they're reading the book (which we basically did), then this maze won't make much sense.
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 10. It's Evil Dead. It has my heart. I just wish it had my voice from making me scream/yell. Maybe next time... please improve. PLEASE. Do everything in your might to IMPROVE.
74 out of 100 'C'
JURASSIC PARK IN THE DARK
Advertised Wait: 10 minutes
Actual Wait: Walk On
On Ride At: 7:58
Yet again, nothing has changed. And the car that falls wasn't working. BOOOOOO!
DINNER AT PANDA EXPRESS
8:15 - 8:50
Having done all of the lower lot and backlot WITHIN AN HOUR, we decided we could use a break since we were so ahead of schedule. For whatever reason, food wasn't finished here so the wait was unbearably long. They also seemed understaffed as there weren't enough cashiers, people to make drinks, serve food, and I'm guessing cook. Maybe they didn't expect to be so busy. The line got super long and when I was there, the wait at the most would look like 5 minutes, but we waited at least 20 or 25. Got my sipper cup which thankfully is what I would expect from an HHN collectible cup, unlike last year's. Minor side note: some guy that looked exactly like Edward Cullen was eating there. It was funny lol.
TERROR TRAM: INVADED BY THE WALKING DEAD
Advertised Wait: 40 minutes
Actual Wait: 29 minutes
In the Attraction at: 9:34 PM
After that weird way to enter the Studio Tour area, we made it down the escalators and they've changed the layout of the queue. I'm not sure if the layout actually works - one line is for the first few cars and another line for the back cars. I don't get it. The queue has quite a few roaming walkers as you enter the plaza and actually IN THE QUEUE. This guy was all over the place walking in the lines and scaring people. It was awesome. Our tour guide was being very cheesy with his voice. I mean, thanks for trying, but scale it back a bit. And the video again was just another commercial with little effort to put us into the story.
The drop off chainsaw chase in is very fun as usual. Putting us between gates also helped with the confinement and scares. They officially made it so you don't go through Bates Motel, which is a big plus in my eyes. The walkers were rocking it in the Bates Motel section. Oh hell, I'll just say it now. EVERYONE WAS ROCKING IT pretty much everywhere. This was the first time in a long time that I could honestly say Terror Tram was one of the best parts of the night.
I love the new scenes they added throughout. There's a traffic jam just before the hill and you get to see some of Micchone's pets again. The hill segment is kinda bare but once you get towards the top, it starts to get more exciting. Then there's the walker pit and all the burnt walkers. Very fun stuff!
One of my favorite moments is a re-worked moment from last year. You may remember cages off to the side that prisoned walkers in and they suddenly bust out. This year, there's survivors clearly trying to contain them in and then they're pushed away by the cages being let loose. SUCH a great scare as the horde comes out to attack. I loved it. One of the survivors was wearing a Stab-a-thon shirt... that made me chuckle.
After the Psycho house, there's survivors attacking over the fence. I don't remember if they were survivors last year, but this made a lot of sense. The War of the Worlds area was crawling with walkers everywhere. At one point, there was nobody and then suddenly, literally a dozen walkers came down the path towards us. That was totally a zombie movie moment that I got to live right there. Had my heart racing!
The ride back up, they play behind the scenes footage from season 4. They play the same footage in queue, so it was repetitive. I wish they would've played a trailer for Curse of Chucky instead or something.
Queue/Video - 7. Actually less informative than last year's video. Oct 14th. Oct 14th. Oct 14th. I'm sorry, that's all I remember after this attraction. I keed, I keed.
Set Design/Makeover - 10. Every year they add something new to the trail. This year we got the little place before the hill and the walker pit, plus some small things here and there. Maybe if we let TWD do the TT again, they'll just keep adding on? 0_0
Sound Design - 9. The theme for the maze blaring. Also, the hill no longer is just snarls, which got old after 2 or 3 years.
Scareactor Design - 10. All the walkers looked great!
Special Props & Design - 7. New walker pit and charred walkers was great. It's like they put as much thought into this as they did the maze, and they made sure to be very different from the maze, which is something they didn't do last year.
Immersion - 7. It loses points for story (explained 4 categories down), but if this was just a regular walker invasion, I was buying it!
Length - 10. I don't understand the complaints to make this longer. It's long enough!
Scare Level - 10. Got so many scares this year and I can honestly say that's a first.
Fun Level - 10. I love the Terror Tram! Yaaaay.
Story Comprehension - 3. This was supposed to be Woodbury? I never would've got that.
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 10. Terror Tram has returned to its glory. After 2 bad years (10, 11), I no longer need to say "it's fallen off." Terror Tram is back on, that's for sure! They just need to keep it up and continue to be inspired.
93 out of 100. 'A'-
CIRQUE DE KLOWNZ
With all the extra time, I decided to make a point to walk through the scarezones just to soak up the environment. Too bad I walked down this street without a single scareactor approaching me. I'm in a group with 3 girls... and every clown avoids us! WHAT?! And even worse, the fog is just blowing away RIGHT BEFORE we walk to it. No memorable music here and too many Freakz/French St. usual props. Add some saws, this'll be a decent zone. Also... I REALLY do not find this clowns scary at all. Regular clowns are much more frightening, and I don't even think clowns are scary. So these are extra unscary, unfortunately.
6.9 out of 10 'D'+
CURSE OF CHUCKY
Supposedly there's an imprmptu Insult Emporium, but I didn't see it! I forgot to even wait around for it or even look for where it might be. However, Chucky on a scooter pretty much makes my life and I just love the Chuckster so it's hard to even hate on this zone. Lots of scareactors carried over from Toyz, which would be assumed but since they were never announced, I found it unexpected. Silly me. The fog was really working this area, unlike Klownz, and the lighting worked well with it, too. Plus I can clearly remember Chucky soundbytes, so something was right here. Although, A VERY SMALL GRIPE... if the zone is based on Curse of Chucky... why were all the faces of the Chucky's stitched like in Bride and Seed of Chucky? Hmmmm.
8.5 out of 10 'B'
EL CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN
Advertised Wait: 45 minutes
Actual Wait: 40 minutes
In the Maze At: 10:58 PM
After two major disappointments and knowing Universal Monsters Remix was going to be nothing special, this had a lot on the line in being the saving grace for this year. This would have to be on par with Insidious and Walking Dead to make this year worthy. But let's see what happened...
This is the type of maze I expect to see when I go to Horror Nights! Everything about it was awesome, except the scares just weren't quite there yet and it was a bit short. However, this very much reminds me of La Llorona, just without the super creepy factor. It's an all around fun maze and it's very high in quality, but it's missing that certain punch to make it AMAZING. Let's continue.
Unfortunately, the narration by Danny Trejo went completely over my head. I didn't hear him at all in the queue -- it sounded like he was off in the distance, so I figured I'd hear him better near the facade. You do, but then you enter the maze, and it's like you picked up nothing. Then through the maze, his voice was the last thing I was focused on, so I didn't really get the "storytelling" element that I wished.
I got some good scares in the theater; loved the popcorn smell. The movie playing was very silly and I caught Murdy's cameo and it made me laugh. The great thing about this maze is the progession. It just gets cooler and cooler. The birthday party scene is truly disturbing, but I thought it'd be a bit creepier in tone. Perhaps if it was much more quiet and subdued without the almost "action like" score, it'd work a lot better. The "under the bed" thing was cool, but I feel like I saw that at Knotts in Trick-or-Treat just last year.
The best scene is El Cucuy's lair. Very morbid and awesome, and very Halloween-ish with all the pumpkins. Also, there's something else other than El Cucuy attacking at you in these scenes. The body sacks... now THAT is disturbing. My main gripe is El Cucuy never shape shifts into anything bigger. I was totally expecting that instead of... well... Mexican Freddy Krueger.
The maze ends kind of abruptly without a major climax. It's missing that something at the end to make you go OH MY GOD and run out of the maze. Hopefully they can work this out later in the run. This really has potential to be up there with the greats of this year (Insidious and Walking Dead) but it'll need some tweaks in the actual design in the maze to get there. With those tweaks, this could be almost as good as La Llorona. Hopefully they go into a major overhaul after this opening weekend, but I know it won't.
So with that said, it didn't necessarily save the event, but it didn't push it down in the dumps either. It made the event at least "okay," and saved it from being "bad." In my opinion, there hasn't been a "bad" year at Universal, but this year was DANGEROUSLY close. Even my least favorite years (07 and 11) I wouldn't say were bad, but considering this is going beneath them... unfortunately, in my mind, it's going to stick out as "that year sucked." But it didn't suck, it just wasn't as good as the other years. We'll talk about this more later.
Queue/Facade - 9. Nothing amazing. This would be an 8 but low and behold, another scare in the facade! Okay, seriously, that was cool last year for TWD, but don't over do it. Every maze but UMR and Insidious has that this year. C'mon, don't make something genius and turn it into a "really, again?"
Set Design - 10. Every set had the detail I usually expect.
Sound Design - 6. Again, I couldn't focus on Trejo's voice and the music wasn't spooky enough for me.
Scareactor Design - 5. El Cucuy never changed and as much as I liked the pumpkin people, they were fairly generic.
Special Props & Design - 10. The bed scare, a few animatronics, a few scrims. Perhaps I'm being too kind with my score in this category...
Immersion - 10. I really felt like I was on this nightmarish journey being attacked by Mexican Freddy Krueger. The progression was awesome.
Length - 6. WAY TOO SHORT. This was over before I even knew it. Luckily it packed a punch in a short time.
Scare Level - 7. The scares aren't there yet. Hopefully they get there later in the run.
Fun Level - 10. Very fun, very old school, and very Horror Nights. One of the better attractions in the night.
Story Comprehension - 6. I get the maze because I get the legend, but since the narration isn't clear and precise in the sound mix, I have to dock this points.
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 10. I really did enjoy this and I think this has a lot of potential if they work really hard on making it one of the best mazes.
89 out of 100 'B'+
THE PURGE: SURVIVE THE NIGHT
Since we skipped the opening scaramonies, it took us quite awhile to come back around to this zone. Doesn't seem like we're missing much. The scareactors look WAY too similar. And I feel like they weren't quite on their chainsaw game yet. A few were doing great but I feel like the rest were relying too heavily on the chainsaws. There were also a few scareactors with small weapons, and with the non-threatening masks (that somehow look less creepy than they did in the movie), these small weaponed scareactors were basically just... more people in the crowd. It was only okay, but the thing that drops it down even further, other than the posters, you would never know this zone was based on the movie. I don't remember hearing any Purge announcements or sirens either.
7.4 out of 10 'C'
UNIVERSAL MONSTERS REMIX: RESURRECTION
Advertised Wait: 10 minutes
Actual Wait: 8 minutes
In the Maze At: 11:14 PM
THEY LIED! There was nothing new in here! Three new characters that simply replaced characters from last year by serving the same exact function. I'm not even going to review this as this was the same exact maze and my feelings remain exactly the same for it. I even went back and found out after grading it, the points add up to the same dang amount as last year!
Queue/Facade - 5. Last year I gave it a 1, but I have to remember that this is the House of Horrors.
Set Design - 5. Automatic for being the House of Horrors, but everything that was new in here last year is now part of the attraction.
Sound Design - 5. The new songs didn't make much of a difference. Point dockage.
Scareactor Design - 5. Same old ish.
Special Props & Design - 5. Again, everything new last year is old now.
Immersion - 0. What's there to be immersed into?
Length - 3. Honestly, for a maze this stupid, it's too long.
Scare Level - 4. Lots of scareactors in here, gotta give 'em SOME credit.
Fun Level - 5. It's the House of Horrors so generally I just love it.
Story Comprehension - 0. Still, nothing!
Personal Bias Bonus Points - 0. I really did not want this back.
37 out of 100 'F'
Advertised Wait: 30 minutes
Actual Wait: 18 minutes
On Ride Time: 11:42 PM
I had so much freaking extra time that I even had time for this. Wow. Early access is freakin' amaziiiiing.
BILL AND TED
SHOWING: 12:30 AM
Where the hell... was... "WE WILL ROCK YOU?!" And an opening dance number?! Did you just... FORGET?! Oh, you try to make it up by starting off the show and then going, "oh, haha, we're self aware and funny by mentioning the opening is weak so we SHOULD do a dance number." No, stop. Do the damn opening dance number and THEN start your show. It gets the crowd hyped and ready for fun. When the show started, everyone's faces were blank. I don't think there was even cheering. In fact, the whole crowd was dead the whole show. Nobody clapped along at the appropriate times. My theory??? No opening dance number! Dummies. I already forgave you for no pre-show this year, now this?!
Hey Bill and Ted, February called and they want their script back. Why were the majority of the jokes based on stuff that happened in Winter 2012 - 2013? The Hobbit? Les Miserables? Even the music at the end felt old -- the worst song finale ever. The stuff that was current seemed shoehorned in -- like "The Fox" song, which is just TOO CURRENT and NOBODY GOT or laughed at except for me. People will get it in maybe... 2 or 3 weeks, but I have a feeling by than, they'll just take the silence as a sign and replace it with something else. Either way, it wasn't even that funny to begin with.
Anyway, right away the show didn't feel like Bill and Ted. It is WAY too fantastical and they had to bend soooo many things to make it make any sense. "I'm Kim Jong Un and I came to Oz AND kidnapped celebrties becaussssseeee........" He might as well have said "because it's convenient for the show's plot." And the story is just too stupid, which seems dumb to say about Bill and Ted, but it's true. And a lot of the main plot points that come to a climax are totally glossed over at the end. And a lot of elements come into play that never have pay offs later. For example, Gandalf introduces a team that's going to go on this great journey... and they're never seen again, except for Gandalf.
Another major negative is smack dab in the middle of the show, there's a random Gatsby dance number that serves zero purpose and should be cut -- and that's coming from someone who liked that segment! There were a lot of funny things that I liked though, but the show's problem is that it's funny without the core basics of a good story. I laughed but they were empty laughs. There wasn't much clever or wit -- it just went for the easy laugh most of the time. And they overused the right to say "****." It was almost every other sentence at one point.
This isn't the worst Bill and Ted ('09) nor even an unfunny one ('10), but it still needs A LOT of work and I predict a damn near 50% change of the show by the middle of the run. In fact, they might as well just start from scratch and use a RELEVENT script. If they don't fix this show and quick, this won't be well recieved at all.
8 out of 10 'B'-
CHAINSAW CHASE OUT.....????
Nope. At 1:20 AM, Chainsaw Chase Out had not begun. Very disappointing. We had a lot of spare time, but every maze's line was way too long for repeats, so we decided to just call it a night and go.
I feel odd even reviewing this night. It's so clear that the event wasn't ready. I mean, sure on the other 2 opening nights that I've gone, the scares were softer and not as hammered out, but tonight, stuff just didn't even seem fully functional. However, it is what it is and at the moment, this year ranks fairly low among the other years.
If any newbies went tonight, I would not blame them for thinking HHN is "all hype." I would think the same too, but I promise to any newbies that went tonight, and if the event isn't as "on" as it usually is for the rest of the run, HHN isn't "all hype" and there have been AMAZING years and this one kinda just falls very behind.
For the first time probably ever, I can't remember any hanging body rooms. That's always a plus! Sure there were rooms with things hanging, but no generic hanging bodies that was in every maze in '11.
But let's talk scarezones for a moment. If you walk from The Purge all the way to the Starway then all the way down the Starway to Scarecrowz, that's way too long of a gap for there to be nothing scary happening. That long stretch never bothered me before (after the Western St stopped being a zone), but it really does now. It's way too bland and I forgot I was even at HHN the couple times I made that walk. Spruce it up and quick.
I honestly think this year might be in trouble if they don't get this thing rocking and fast. Everything, even the good mazes, just aren't up to par. However, Terror Tram was amazing, so hopefully they can keep that up. I highly recommend waiting until the middle of the run before coming and they've ironed everything out. I had fun, but as of right now... it's a half-baked product.
All said and done, this is my least favorite year. Period. Considering I did everything the park had to offer in amazing time, and didn't have to wait in a line longer than 40 minutes, I feel like that shouldn't even have been a thought. I feel like those people on Yelp who complain that the event sucks because they only got through 2 mazes. But I'm complaining because I got through every maze and they just weren't that good this year! It has potential to be one of the amazing years, but that's ONLY IF they get started tweaking EVERY MAZE and I mean NOW. At least make it decent to the GOOD status. But as it is, it's just BAD.
Mazes - AMAZING - Insidious, TWD. GOOD - Cucuy. BAD - ED, BS. WTF - UMR
Scarezones - AMAZING - TWD. GOOD - Chucky. BAD - Purge, Klownz. WTF - Scarecrowz
TT (through the years): AMAZING - 08, 09, 13, 12. OKAY - 07. BAD - 11. WTF - 10
Years (best to least): AMAZING - 08, 12, 10, 09. OKAY - 11, 07. BAD - 13
These are the times when I ENTERED the attraction. I hope this helps in your game plan planning!
6:30 Early Entry
6:40 Hit the Lower Lot after the Starway
6:45 Tram to Backlot (so it takes approximately 15 minutes just to get from the upper lot to the backlot tram, and then an additional 5 - 7 minutes for the tram to get to the backlot)
7:00 Black Sabbath
7:03 Walking Dead
7:03 - 7:28 Transformers (forgot to write when exactly I did it, but it was in between there)
7:43 The Mummy
7:52 Evil Dead
7:58 Jurassic Park
8:15 Dinner at Panda Express
9:34 Terror Tram
10:58 El Cucuy
11:14 Universal Monsters Remix
11:42 The Simpsons
12:30 Bill and Ted
OVERALL EVENT GRADE