Universal Studios - Halloween Horror Nights trip review (10/29/09)
Universal Studios - Halloween Horror Nights; Thursday, October 29th, 2009 from 7 - 1 AM
Let's start off with hittin' LA traffic sucks hardcore especially when you're fully energized but hey, Universal can't change their location. After about 45 minutes of surviving that fiasco, we make it to the parking area. Parking seemed a bit confusing this year as we're driving towards a lane and are directed to go in another when that lane was clearly open. THEN two of the booths are closed for the farthest right lanes which undoubtedly caused traffic and for some serious unintentional cuttage on my part and those going to the farthest right but hey, not our fault! Go down to the basement level of Curious George, which is mostly empty, and we make our way up to the City Walk. Stop for a potty break and venture all the way across this over glamorized version of a mall, which is definitely apart of the Universal experience. It's barely 7 o' clock and we make our way to the furthest left to hit no lines at security check. Had the print out tickets so walked right in with no line. Cool thing is, we got to keep those tickets which some what serves as a memento. I hate not being able to keep tickets, but that's just me.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
Right when we walked in, yes, THE GAMES BEGAN! Chainsaw wielding minions were blocking the pathway to anyone who dare tried to pass. And all at once, they scattered loose chasing anyone in their vicinity. The energy was so charged and these monsters left "no guest behind" getting in everyone's face. Within a matter of 30 seconds, I probably got a good 10 horrifying moments. The night barely even started and it was already a truly premium Halloween event experience! With some good decorations in this area, this would've been a much better scare zone but even without it, I still give this zone a high grade! And like the chainsaw chase out at the end of the night, this felt like a chainsaw chase in! LOVED IT.
9.5 out of 10
WELCOME TO HELL
Chucky's Funhouse wasn't open until 7:30 for whatever reason so we skipped right pass that. Unfortunately, couldn't hear a damn word the preacher was saying! Nonetheless, this was another rocking and high energized scare zone! Stilt dude was pretty cool and the flames were nice and warm, making this a nice hang out spot. This would've been a much cooler substitute for the front gate area, if you ask me, with the preacher on the filmmaking statue. Either way, this was such a cool spot and lit up nicely. This is a zone I can see being a staple to the Hollywood HHN event. There was also a bunch of monk's running around with chainsaws, don't know how that fits with Welcome to Hell, but I won't criticize too much. A cool addition to this area would be the devil sitting on a giant chair in the middle of the zone under the flames, forcing people to go left or right towards the go-go dancers. Also would make for a cool photo op, especially if you can get him sitting demonically in the middle and the go-go dancers to the right and left with people being scared in between all the action.
9.5 out of 10
TERROR TRAM: LIVE OR DIE!
Terror Tram is traditionally the first thing I always do when at HHN, it sets up the plot for the night by somewhat giving reason to why all the horrors are here. On the way down the escalator, we were encountered by THE FLASHER! HHN's best character, ever - period. And this year, we're being tested by none other than Jigsaw! The test wasn't all that amazing of a concept but it'll do for now and next year we'll get a new icon: I'm hoping Ghostface from Scream, imagine that video! The acting in the video by the blonde girl was so bad and all she had to do was just sit there and look uncomfortable. It was actually laughable every time they showed her. Anyhow, the tram seemed like it was going on for FOREVER before we reached our - final destination - point. We exit at Whoville and ofcourse, more chainsaws. It's chainsaw overkill, honestly, but dammit, it works. We take a new route of sorts and find our way in some random corner of Bates Motel where a movie killer convention is going on! This area wasn't filled with too many scares but the best parts were the Strangers popping out of the motel doors. Chucky jumped out of a bus! Awesomeness! We then make our way to mining town where I'm guessing a lot of employees, due to the economy, got the axe... to the FACE! I love the props and dummies here, they just look so cool. Not life like but they work as a dummy and the illusion sells. We make our way up the hill where Bush Man (I like calling him Bigfoot...) was just sitting down... actually two of them were sitting down. C'mon, how great of a scare would this have been? One is sitting down to the right and scares a crowd so they maneuver to the left towards the bushes where BAM, another one pops out. That would've been a perfect set up. Last year, I got the scare of a life time here and this year, Bush Man didn't do much for me. I think this area should be littered with some more stuff. We get back to the My Bloody Valentine stuff and there's a burnt down shack of some sort. Miner in here, even though I saw him ahead of time scare another group, made a really good loud noise and scared me anyway. I love the victims area where people are hanging from the trees. I couldn't tell if it was Harry Warden's or Michael Myers's doing though. We're then directed to the left side of the sheet maze where there were a great amount of Michael's doing some awesome scaring. The talent in here was pretty great and a lot of them caught me off guard. I wish the Halloween segment was longer on the Terror Tram but it did great for it's little bit of space. Then there was the War of the Worlds part, where I actually like the route taken last year much better. This new one gets people much closer to the plane, which had some cool stuff going on up there, but I liked being closer to the houses on the right a bit more. And I sincerely miss Freddy wreaking havoc in that area. Not many scares here as the talent actually seemed a bit empty. The ones that were present were just chowing down on body parts. And the throwing up zombies? I never understood zombies throwing up, not even in the Resident Evil games but I guess they do it, I don't have any proof against that. There was also a really funny dancing zombie who was just moving around all weird like, entertaining the hell out of the guests as they walked by after he would do a scare. One really funny moment was an army guy who was walking with the crowd and then turned around, flash light on his face and screamed. He walked maybe two or three steps and did it again then walked away. Classic. We meet back with the tram and go back to the park. We pass by the Great Outdoors set which I still think would be a great area to extend the Terror Tram to. Jigsaw comes back to let us know we suck at group tests and makes us scream for our lives because blonde girl didn't make it back. The chainsaw piggy didn't do much here except rip into the blonde girl, which was kinda disappointing. We're then doused in acid in a tunnel for... The Mummy? Really, you didn't have to take us in there to do that. We're then shown a clip for Saw VI (which is an awesome movie by the way) and then for the even cooler looking Wolfman which I have been DYING to see since LAST HHN. A lot of gory stuff in there but I feel a PG-13 edit will be that film's fate with all of Universal's flops at the box office this year. It's not quite 8:00 yet and Saw still has no wait so we then head over there! Overall, Terror Tram was pretty awesome this year mainly for MBV and Halloween segments but I prefer last year's version more which I would give a 10.
9.0 out of 10
JURASSIC PARK: IN THE DARK
We somehow lose half of our group on the way down the escalators while they go on The Simpsons so we figure in the meanwhile we'll do Jurassic Park before hitting up Saw with them. This ride is awesome, day or night and I actually would recommend it to anyone who hasn't been on it before this event. It is a great adventure and time filler if you're looking for more things to do on a less crowded night or even on a crowded night if there is no line. Sit in the back, away from the sides and you won't get wet. Missing was the Hydro dinosaur (?) popping out of the water, which is actually very scary and would be expected to be around for HHN. A part that sticks out is the falling car because the sparks really light up the moment. The only down part of the ride is the lift where it really is in complete darkness and you can't see nor hear the dinosaurs popping out. Was the T-Rex completely missing during this part too? We make it to the countdown area and "Welcome to the Jungle" is playing while a strobe light is flickering with some extra raptors to the side. Much appreciated! The final drop is still huge and exhilarating. LOVE - THIS - RIDE.
8.5 out of 10
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Waiting for our group to come down, we watched the action in front of the escalator for awhile. Some cool sliders in this area. One of them slid directly into a rail right next to the exit of The Mummy ride. A lot of the scareactors would interact with us while we stood in that one spot for a while. We then made our way to Saw, which still had no line at around 8:30ish. This scare zone for the most part seemed pretty empty. Last year, I remember this being where the bulk of the chainsaw wielders were at (due to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I suppose). It seemed like there was way more action going by the escalator. Even on the way out of Saw, not much was going on. There were about 10 monsters near the escalators and maybe about 3 or 4 more towards Saw. Must've been a down night but nonetheless, there was maybe a good scare or two near here.
7.0 out of 10
SAW: GAME OVER
Walked in and was immediately scared. Scares were popping out of every corner here! They were all effective and good psychological tricks which Universal is known for. Distract with one thing and have something pop out elsewhere! The barbed wire trap worked well and the strobe light effects really go with the choppy editing and flash style of the movies. One of my favorite parts was the furnace trap where a smoking dead body would extend out towards the guests. The detail in here was also magnificent. The bathroom scene could've been a little bigger but elsewhere, everything was really well planned and detailed. I also think that room should've been first but with the lineage of the maze, not sure if it would've made sense but I still would've liked to have started there. Also, major awesomeness to the sound design as well. It really felt like I stepped right into a Saw movie. Some really gross effects was the pulling the guts out of the guy looking for the key. That just looked extremely real. I didn't get to see any plants get pulled away from the group which I've heard so much about, although that would've made this already perfect maze that much better. Another favorite part of mine was the operation scene where the actor pulled off the face and there was the blown off face of the other dummy to the side and then a piggy came out. I feel this area just has good luck written all over it with the last two years giving us another perfect maze, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Location also is a factor for the other mazes as well, as it always works in a specific order from what is greatest to least in a very specific fashion. This maze is what Universal is all about, if you ask me, that makes it eons better over anything else out there. Set decorations, props, gore effects, sound design, scare psychology, animatronics, EVERYTHING is in this one. It actually gave the mind set of feeling in danger and had a heightened sense of fear that one would occupy when walking into a horror movie. A PERFECT MAZE.
10 out of 10
Revenge of the Mummy
Time said 5 minutes but it was more like 10. The queue area has some fun things in it (put your hand in the hole!) that sets up nicely for the ride. This ride is a quick adrenaline rush and has always worked for some guaranteed thrills. It's a minute and a half of pure adrenaline! The beginning area with the skeletons reaching down will always be so cool and creepy. And then the sprint into a nightmare! Something that was perfectly executed, maybe not deliberately, was the stop before the backwards section of the ride. As expected, we hit a wall and are consumed by Scarab beetles. Typically, the ride would then shoot us off but this time, the beetles went away and we sat there for maybe an entire minute. The ride seemed broken down and then when everyone was caught off guard, VROOMED BACKWARDS. Revenge of the Mummy is the perfect nightmare that you wish to have and is a heart racing thrill ride. The ending of the ride still makes me mad as the room used to light up brightly like you're in hell but lately, not all is well in said room for whatever reason.
8.5 out of 10
My Bloody Valentine: Be Mine 4 Ever
5 minute wait in the off putting Shrek queue area. No wonder it's dimly lit here. The projection of the maze name onto the side of the building is a nice touch. I was ready to go through this maze and anticipated it greatly but it failed to deliver any great scares for me. It seemed like every scare in the entire maze, we got the back end of. We saw the scareactors walking away from every scare from ahead of us and never were delivered any ourselves. It was just extremely bad timing for us at that specific time, which is why I don't like being the tail end of going through mazes. Nonetheless, there were some cool moments in here but it felt very much like a mixture of mazes from previous years. The guy sitting down getting cut in half that was used in Friday the 13th and the boiler room scare from Nightmare on Elm Street. This area was too cramped for this maze as it would serve in a much bigger area. The mining section didn't feel claustrophobic or cramped, it just felt small and like I was walking down a regular hallway with rock design. I feel I would've really liked this maze if I were to have received all the scares but was very unfortunate to maybe only get one or two. But with the bad timing on the psychological scares, this is where I feel Universal should take a note from Knotts and place some roaming monsters but to a reasonable extent. Without the effect of the psychological scares, the maze just doesn't work and makes it a real downer for anyone who gets the tail end. Some good details but definitely the low point of the night where even Chucky's Funhouse delivered better thrills (more on that later). It's most likely not the maze, it was just the timing and I'm sure there are many other people who could rate this maze along with the other ones but unfortunately I can't because I didn't get the full maze experience.
Halloween: The Life and Crimes of Michael Myers
What the hell is up with the line for this maze, man?! I've never seen anything more ridiculous and cramped in my life. I would've hated to be in this line on a crowded night for 2 hours, luckily our wait was maybe 20 minutes but it was full of just walking and walking and walking through switchbacks and zig zags galore. And there wasn't even projected images of the films on the wall like Friday had to keep entertained. I don't know who Universal bought the rights from to do this maze, but the rights are scattered to about 4 or 5 different studios but any scenes to have been shown would've been appreciated. All we're served to is the house scene where Michael kills his sister about 10 times in a row (depending on how long you have to wait through this forsaken line). And the outside walls of the maze could've been designed better than that. Anyhow, we got the tail end again but without the ruined effect of MBV. This time we got the long line through a freakin' maze effect but I have to say, it's better. I'd rather receive a scare twice in the same room than not get one at all. And this all serves to the idea of living in a horror movie. In my experience, I find it quite fun that it's not me who always has to be necessarily scared but to see other people get scared as well. It's the living horror movie idea, that it's either me who is the victim or I'm watching before my eyes someone ahead of me in close proximity be the victim. Starting off in the Myers house, we're treated to some old, black and white movie that is clearly being played on DVD (should've downgraded to VHS for a more grainy look). Little Michael scared me good in here. Love the dead boyfriend in the kitchen with his head smashed in, which is totally taking from the remake though but not necessarily a bad thing. We're also treated to Michael's doorway, with "KEEP OUT" scratched in. Little details like that make me LOVE this maze. There were also some BRILLIANT hiding spots in here. For example, walking down a hallway in the asylum a air vent pops open with someone inside. Then down the next hall in the next room, you're treated to a headless victim and Michael pops out scaring you in one direction and then the headless victim kicks something. Great cooperation scare. And holy crap... that WAS Loomis. Sounded and looked EXACTLY like him. Love the distraction scare with wrapped up Michael popping out with a shovel from behind the bushes and trees. The maze just gets better and better though because now we're back in Haddonfield where Michael, in Captain Kirk mask, finally arrives! I love the little scenes in this, a really good one is a girl who scared the crap out of me and when Michael was trying to come in through a door. I chanted out, "kill her!" before he was about to stab her and then he went after me! The strangulation kill was so awesome! Michael pops out, not in a scary fashion, and then lifts some girl 10 feet in the air then drops her on the bed! AWESOME. The Judith Myers tombstone part was really cool as well because Michael suddenly runs out of a cabinet! The ending is a treat as well as we step into Laurie Strode's shoes and end up in the closet where it's not one, but two MMs! Not sure of why there were body bags but some clothes hanging down would've sufficed. And all is fine and well as you're exiting, laughing at how awesome you thought the maze was and WABAM another Michael from the side. This would've been a perfect maze if we weren't conga lining through the entire maze. But, this maze had the best lineage story and it worked very well in the essence of presence. Just like how Saw is fast paced and really flashy, Halloween is slow and taut, serving more on a more creepiness factor over a "cool" factor. So for it's own purposes and reasons, it's perfect in it's own way if the lines would've been done right but it's hard when there are scenes playing out throughout the maze that people want to stop and watch. Line control should be inside the maze and room after room, a group of 10 - 15 should herd into one and then into the next so it is equally filled out and so the next room could be ready for the next group of people. But this might get people ready for a scare, expecting that in each room, something might pop out but this might also be used to their advantage and do something completely random. I suggest that next year (Halloween and Saw MUST come back next year) that the homage to part 3 be taken out. It served for a couple of scares but it felt very randomly placed. And let's face it, it's not a REAL homage since we know that it's only put there because it's one of the only of the Halloween movies Universal owns the rights to (just part 2 and 3). Either way, I still love this maze and it was perfect for it's own reasons as is Saw but I give this one another perfect score mostly because of the story telling, set design, scare set ups and scenes in each room but I admittedly got more scares in Saw so I enjoyed that one a tad bit more.
10 out of 10
The Meat Market
This area really is too small to even be considered a scare zone. It's maybe only 20 steps of walking space and it's over with. But the guys here tried to do some good scares and got many accomplished so it was fun to be in the 3 or 4 times we had to walk through it. Plus the design here was pretty good as well, so it was a good zone.
7.5 out of 10
Ghostbusters music was playing so it was very fun to listen and dance to. I got the chicken basket which comes with 4 or 5 strips plus a good serving amount of fries. Oh, and I almost forgot, a FREE souvenir cup of choosing (just not the HHN one, oh well). And how much did all this cost? Only 7 dollars. For theme park eats, that's a major deal especially since the food was ACTUALLY GOOD! Could've used my theme park discount (30%) but totally forgot so it could've been even less! We tried to hit up Rocky Horror at 10:40 but didn't make it just quite so we walked through Shaun of the Dead real quick.
10 out of 10
Shaun of the Dead
Hung out in this scare zone for quite a bit and it was awesome. I wanted a picture with the guy with a record in his face but got told no, but oh well, at least he said no in a funny way. Shaun almost hit me with his cricket bat and then went, "sorry, I thought you were a zombie!" Then Ed circled me a couple of times and I told him we should play some Playstation later. I hope this one is brought back next year, it was a lot of fun to walk through and as a matter of fact, just make it a maze. It could totally work. Wanted to walk through Freakz but never found a reason to.
9.5 out of 10
The Simpsons Ride
Tried to waste some time till the 11:30 Rocky Horror so we did a 30 minute wait for the Simpsons Ride. Not necessarily HHN themed but this ride is pretty amazing for being a motion simulator. I had high expectations for this ride since it took over Back to the Future and it actually exceeds them. I remember going on this ride for the first time at last year's HHN and it's still a thrilling detour and it's Universal's best ride. Very fun, worth a 30 minute wait but do it early in the night so you can get it out of the way without putting off too much time in the night.
9.5 out of 10
Missed RHPS by 10 minutes so walked around for an hour before the traditional end of the night thing to do with Bill and Ted. Decided to hit Chucky's Funhouse for the hell of it since there was no wait. The Chuckster was in the front taking pictures ("CHEAYSE") and we walked in to the maze which was pretty empty for the beginning half. Once we hit up stairs, there was a little more going on. I liked the girl with her head in a vice, that must've been uncomfortable to be in all night. Plus, the little additions of Chucky in random places were funny. They should just keep it like that all year with the maniac evil dolls, it would be a nice addition to the already fading out of glory House of Horrors. The Good Guys factory part was dark for some odd reason and a little Chucky was wreaking havoc in there (why is the smallest Chucky on the backlot and not in his own maze?) The Chucky that reaches out is still a good scare. At the end, Chucky was directing traffic with a light and some other people went the wrong way so he told us "the exit is this way, don't follow these *******s over here." Pretty funny stuff! Some good scares and the environment was there but I'm hoping this time next year, House of Horrors is transformed into something else so we can get a new maze in this area finally. But nonetheless, it was still fun and worth going through and I'm glad I did mostly because of the funny Chucky comments.
8.0 out of 10
Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure
They were selling buy one, get one free souvenir cups for only 6 bucks so we got that so I could have an HHN one. Seriously, with 99 cent refills all night and practically 3 dollars for a souvenir cup, how could you not love the deals offered at Universal?! Got in early to Bill and Ted's and got perfect seats near the middle. The pre-show was pretty funny with the substitute bad words. And then we got a pretty steamy vampire dance. The show starts and I feel the show really had to hold back and all that they could accomplish because of the set design of Creature of the Black Lagoon (which, thankfully, wasn't present at HHN). This year's installment felt like an addition to the Epic Movie franchise, except only funny. The Darth Vader kid plotline was really annoying and wish they would've went with the more traditional story line that Bill and Ted was used to. Either way, the show was still funny and still highly energized and was a good way to end the night. I miss the spinning thing in the middle of the stage, it was executed well in the past. I didn't feel there was much pop culture references this year compared to other years but then again, not much HAPPENED this year in pop culture worth parodying. It made The Hanging and Bill and Ted practically the same because there wasn't enough source material. The Megan Cox gag (no pun intended) was very unexpected and funny. The Twilight scenes, especially the playing Snoopy scene, got some good laughs. The ending dance scenes I didn't care much for, the last two years were a tad bit better especially since it was only just last year we were given a Michael Jackson song to end that show. Next year, I'm expecting better because I know they're just gonna get rid of that horrible Black Lagoon show and we'll get a better, more suitable stage for this show. So the show could've been better, it could've been funnier and different music could've been used but it was still a worthy addition to the Bill and Ted stage franchise but just an installment that won't be cherished as the other two.
8.5 out of 10
Chainsaw Chase Out
Park was already closed so we started heading out where all the chainsaw wielding maniacs were out to play leaving the park. They were EVERYWHERE and it was a hell of a time as they had a good guest:scareactor ratio. It makes leaving the park so much more fun and exciting instead of leaving on a more down note with everything closed and boring (ahem, Knotts). It keeps you super charged even on the ride home.
8.0 out of 10
City Walk wasn't open to walk through which makes it really inconvenient to walk to the parking garages being all smooshed together. Parking was also easy to get out of which always is a good plus and the freeway was fast and easy to find. I recommend anyone going to the park to get to the Jurassic, E.T. or Curious George Parking. I've never gone to Frankenstein parking so I don't know how convenient that is. No traffic heading home out of L.A. so that was good except for one car accident somewhere down by Chino. Other than that, nice and smooth and a very good time reminiscing on times that just happened. I'll be back next year, regardless of the mazes that'll be there because I know no matter what, Universal will put on the premium Halloween event. And I'm already highly anticipating and looking forward to next year! Seriously, it makes every other event look just stupid, that's including Knotts. A 5 grading at Universal is an 8 at Knotts. The atmosphere, energy, quality and even food deals go above and beyond expectations. It's the next best thing to actually living a horror movie!
Go on a weeknight if at all possible so you can get your dollar's worth! Hopefully they extend the event next year to longer. If you haven't already, check out Universal Studios Hollywood's premium Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights!
10 out of 10