Tuesday, October 2, 2012

POPped Review: Halloween Horror Nights At Universal Studios Hollywood

Credit: POParitaville
The haunting season is upon us again.  It's that time of year when theme parks change their decor to celebrate the scary, spooky and insane.  As we have for the past several years, we were invited to Universal Studios Hollywood to check out opening night of Halloween Horror Nights.  

While opening night was the usual who's who of horror, this time around the focus seemed to be trained on the event itself.  So we headed into the park to soak in this years Halloween Horror Nights.

One of the first things we noticed entering the park was the attendance.  Normally opening night is a good choice to attend because many people wait to hear if it'll be worth it to attend.  That was definitely not what happened this year.  Lines were long for just about everything you could think of.  Not just the mazes, but for the attractions that were open as well.  (More on that later.)  Long lines do not equal a bad time.  On the contrary.  This does mean that you should plan your time appropriately for the night.

First up, let's talk about the highlights of the evening.

The Walking Dead: Dead Inside
If you are a fan of The Walking Dead, you can NOT miss this maze.  Creative Director John Murdy, and his amazing HHN team have once again outdone themselves.  Their art direction is beyond what any other theme park has to offer, and they have laid it all out on the table here.  You will feel as if you've stepped in to the TV series.  Seriously.

Welcome To Silent Hill
Creepy as all hell.  Silent Hill marks the first time that the team has gone after a property that has video game, and movie fans.  Just like TV and movies, video game fans are rabid and freakn' protective of their favorite titles.  It's a good thing that they hit it out of the park.  The most amazing sight in the maze is not the actual scenes, or smells.  No.  It's the actors playing Pyramid Head.  They are on stilts, wearing the Pyramid masks, and they run in and out of the scenes with incredible ease.  I could not believe how easy they made it look.  (You'll also find them running around the Lower Lot among the guests.)

Credit: POParitaville

Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure

For the past couple of years, this show has missed the mark.  While the skewering of pop culture was still present, it was lacking a decent plot that made us want to enjoy the silly journey that the show already is.  This year they're back on track with a Hunger Games themed plot that keeps the audience involved and laughing.  We do suggest sitting in one of the back sections so that you don't miss a thing happening throughout the theatre.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This franchise has been used by the USH HHN team quite often, and they never let us down.  Once again Leatherface is ready to tear guests apart.  The heaviest thing to guest in this maze is the smell.  This is a common trick used in the mazes at HHN, but the dial seems to always be at 11 in the TCM maze.  Many guests, who had never experienced odors used in a maze, were getting quite queasy.  They said that it was that added effect that took the maze to a level they have never experienced.

Terror Tram: Invaded by The Walking Dead
We wrestled with this one because there really are no surprises left for the Terror Tram at this point.  The only thing going for it is the coolness factor.  Being able to walk past the Psycho house and through the huge War of the Worlds plane crash site is a treat for any movie fan.  But just like every year, you get confronted by people with chainsaws in the beginning and at the end.  In between there you have people terrorized at the Bates Motel and zombies wandering the crash site.

Chanel shares an awkward
prom picture with Norman.
Credit: POParitaville
The reason the Terror Tram is worth going on this year is because of a small addition that was made.  There is now a photo op in front of the Psycho House with Norman.  You can choose to hop in that line, or bypass it and continue on with the Terror Tram.  This photo op is great because it's the one place you can take a picture without an employee yelling at you if your flash, or light meter, goes off.  (This happened to us, and others we observed, throughout the park.)  While we completely understand no flashes for many reasons (safety, preserving the show, etc) the employees here took power trip to a new level. 

We're hoping that one year they'll be able to extend the terrors to other locations on the backlot, if production schedules allow them.    

Other "Musts" on our list include Alice Cooper Goes To Hell 3D (the 3D effect is freakn cool) and Transformers: The Ride - 3D.  (Giant robots!!) 

With everything that HHN has to offer, you'll find wait times for some mazes and attractions can be over an hour long.  We were even told at Transformers to come back because the Gate A line was an hour long.  Because of this we HIGHLY recommend that you purchase a Front of the Line pass.  This will allow you to bypass the regular line and head to their Gate A line instead.  This will allow you to really enjoy your night in the park.

The only drawback to the FOP pass is that you can only use it at each maze and attraction once during the evening.  That means that if you want to head back on Transformers, or go through The Walking Dead maze again, you'll have to wait in the regular line.  Each FOP is hole punched and scanned (usually) when you go through the Gate A locations.

We found this out because some of our team attending purchased regular tickets and FOP's for themselves and friends.  (Full disclosure: We do receive a couple of complimentary passes with limited Gate A use on opening night.)  Even with the limitations of the one use FOP's, they agreed that they are still very much worth the purchase and they would get them again.

If you are in the mood for a good scare and some top notch entertainment, you can do no better than Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood.  HHN at USH is put together by fans of the horror genre who want to see these stories come to life just as much as other fans.  They understand the mind of the fans and want you to experience these stories in ways you've always wanted.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood runs on select dates now through October 31st.  You can buy your tickets online by visiting the official web site.

To see more photos from Halloween Horror Nights, make sure to "Like" our Facebook page.

Thank you to the USH team for inviting us out again this year.  We can't wait to see what's in store for 2013.

What say you?

POPped by
Jungle Jesse
Chanel Renee

All Photos: POParitaville

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