Wednesday, October 28, 2009

POPped Review: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

Halloween is nearly upon us and there are parties to go to and scares to be had. This past weekend I finally got to go to this years Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. It's an annual tradition for me and my friends. (Disclaimer: Yes, I used to work for USH.) I had been looking forward to it since the employee preview. Word was getting back to me that this was the best one yet. And coming from employees (who can be the most critical) this was saying a lot. I have to say, it did not disappoint. I won't cover everything because I could go on for a while.

For the past few years Universal has teamed up with other studios to bring their horror icons to life. Jason, Freddie and Leatherface have been a staple there and treated with the right balance of scares and detail for the fans. This year Universal has brought the SAW and Halloween franchise into the real world along with My Bloody Valentine. These along with the Terror Tram are still the best mazes that you will experience at any park. How do I know? The detail in the SAW maze is so good, the makers of the movie decided to have their press junket for the new movie inside it.

Instead of babbling more I'll share some highlights:

The Terror Tram - This is one of the biggest things that makes HHN here so different. Here you are taken to the backlot, dropped off and then make your way through some famous sets that have been re-dressed just for HHN. It's an outdoor maze that uses the best that Hollywood has to offer that you are just not going to get anywhere else.

Halloween: The Life and Crimes of Michael Myers - This was by far the best maze of the night. If you are familiar with the Halloween movies then you will spot so many familiar elements. From MM killing his sister in the clown suit, to the strangling of Lynda on the bed while covered in a bed sheet. Even Halloween 3 is represented here (which had nothing to do with the original story line). This is more than some walls put up with people in costume jumping out. You truly feel like you're in these scenes. Not only that, but the transition from room to room is seamless. Be sure to make the time to experience this.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute - This is the perfect venue for something like this. The tribute show has been playing at HHN in Orlando for a couple of years, but this is the first time it's made it's way to Hollywood. In Hollywood the show takes place in the Terminator theater, and really is a great venue for it. The cast that we saw was fantastic. They hit every beat, they got every inflection and were really enjoying themselves. The only problem (which has nothing to do with them) was the the audience doesn't get it. Yes, there were plenty of people there ready to shout "SLUT" but many of the people looked around at us like we were weird and then left. It's too bad, but I still think it's a great addition to the evening.

Shaun of the Dead Scare Zone - For those that don't know, a scare zone is a place in the park that's not a maze, but has characters everywhere to chase you. And in the London area of the theme park, SOD fits in perfectly. With Shaun running through there with his cricket bat while holding zombiefied Ed back using a harness. There are also other zombies roaming the area including one who's taken a record to the head just as in the movie. The guy playing Shaun is perfect and this zone was fun to walk through. However you do find yourself wishing it was a bigger area for them to have fun.

There is still so much more to see there, Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure (Do NOT bring your kids to this), Freaks Scare Zone, Entrance to Hell, the SAW maze and so much more.

Halloween Horror Nights is now heading in to it's last days so be sure to go if you have not yet. This is the new king of Halloween fun in California and I can't recommend it any more. You can go to the HHN site to buy your tickets. Ticket prices begin at $56 per person. However, I highly suggest upgrading to a Front of the Line pass. This gives you priority entrance to the mazes, attractions and shows. This allows you more time to hang out with Shaun and Ed, grab a soda and maybe do the Time Warp again.

POPping some screams - Jungle Jesse

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