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Photos: Inside Universal Studios' Creepy Halloween Horror Nights
It may be September, but Halloween haunt season is already happening. We braved Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Night on Friday to see—and smell, as it would turn out—the scares.
This year's event has a total of six new mazes, in addition to their permanent Walking Dead attraction, plus their "Terror Tram" ride and multiple scare zones. Various other parts of the park are also open during Horror Nights, including their Simpsons attraction, but not The Wizarding World of Hogwarts. To get in some magic before your scares, you'll need to purchase a day/night pass. We also highly recommend getting the "Front of the Line" pass, as we saw wait times for certain mazes as low as 5 minutes, but as high as 140 minutes for American Horror Story. Wait times will be posted at the beginning of each line.
Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
This is an entirely different maze from last year's Halloween attraction. While that Halloween's maze peaked with a hall of mirrors and a dramatic scene showcasing the dangers of phone cords, this one has us winding through a grim hospital massacre and a nightmarish labyrinth of pumpkins, which actually smells quite pleasant. Michael Myers is, naturally, everywhere, popping out with a knife when you least expect.
Best Moments A terrible baptism, the hall of pumpkins, proof that "Mr. Sandman" is a really creepy song.
Last year, Universal had a "Dark Christmas" scare zone in which various Krampus demons and dark elves lurked in the fog. The Krampus, in Austrian folklore, is a demon that stalks the Earth come Christmas to drag the bad little boys and girls to Hell. He is, essentially, the dark counterpart to ol' St. Nick. This year's Krampus maze draws from the 2015 horror-comedy film of the same name. You enter the snowy abode of the unfortunate family, and repeatedly find yourself in their living room, which grows more sinister as you continue. This maze is a lot of fun, turning jolly Christmas characters—Santas, gingerbread men and even toys—into creepy tableaus. Fun fact: HHN has a game where you might get a souvenir if you can locate a password on social media and provide it to the right monster. This year's monster of choice is located at the Krampus maze. Check Twitter to find the password.
Best Moments: A terrible teddy bear, the scent of Christmas, a gingerbread massacre.
Eli Roth's Terror Tram
Probably the weakest experience of the night, the Terror Tram begins with a video introduction as guests are whisked away via Universal's studio tour tram. The story is that a happy clown became totally deranged after misfortune and the demise of his career plunged him into poverty and depression. He has been living with various other circus castoffs on the Universal backlot and is most likely responsible for all the suspicious disappearances in the area. Once you arrive at your destination, you're forced off the tram and must walk through through a group of chainsaw-wielding clowns. You might recognize Bates Motel, or the plane crash from War of the Worlds, which are both suitably apocalyptic. There is a optional opportunity to take a photo outside of the Bates manor with Mr. Bates. Unfortunately, this creates a huge bottleneck and the scariest part of the experience soon becomes trying to retain your personal space as you're crammed into a series of narrow trailers.
Best Moments: Clowns dressed up like old-timey cops, getting to sit down for a minute.
An Exorcist maze has been a long time coming, but as HHN creative director John Murdy explained to us during a behind-the-scenes tour, it's a hard film to convert into a maze. With something like The Walking Dead or American Horror Story, you have numerous scenes to choose from. With The Exorcist, the bulk of the story takes place in a single bedroom. Universal managed to create a visually awesome and creepy maze, nonetheless, reusing Regan MacNeil's bedroom over and over again, with each scene more chilling than the last. While Krampus smelled like Christmas, expect this one to smell like pea soup vomit.
Best Moments: The backwards staircase crawl, a dramatic Ouija board, levitating Regan.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This maze begins with a jaunty tune as you enter a BBQ joint where we don't recommend the brisket. This could be the goriest of the mazes, as the Sawyer family is known for cannibalism and wearing people's faces like masks, so those who don't like blood 'n guts may want to cover their eyes. Push your way through a slaughter house, but pay attention to the home decor. As you might expect, the lamps and furniture pieces in Leatherface's pad are made out of people, and the prop team did a great job creating vertebrate lamps.
Best Moments: Surprise Leatherface attacks, attention to detail.
Freddy vs. Jason
There are a lot of cool visuals in this maze. You enter a facade of a run-down factory titled "Craven Industries," and proceed through scene after scene featuring the two iconic villains. Nothing in here is what it appears, so stay alert and don't fall asleep!
Best Moments: Creepy eyeless children, surprising special effects.
American Horror Story
This is the park's biggest maze yet, combining three seasons of the FX show into one long maze. Clips from the show play on screens around the lines, while the series' haunting intros play over the entrance. You begin in season one, "Murder House," where Rubberman stalks you through the residence. Soon enough, you'll leave Los Angeles for the swamps of Florida as you enter "Freak Show." This is perhaps the most fun portion of the maze, as it manages to be pretty whimsical as well as visually spectacular. You'll conclude with "Hotel," which is quite well done. The Addiction Demon manages to be exceedingly creepy, and there are plenty of easter eggs for fans. For instance, you may notice the scent of lavender, which is a nod to a single line uttered by Lady Gaga's Countess, in which she says that children smell like the flower.
Best Moments: Scary interior decorating, a surprise monkey, dubious aromatherapy.
Every scare zone this year stems from The Purge which means you'll be hearing a lot of that siren. There are various areas to walk through full of patriotic terrors, but the best of them is the Gauntlet of Fear, which moves through each film of the franchise, from the creepy mask prep school murderers to the raver slashers of Election Year.
Halloween Horror Nights is located at Universal Studios Hollywood, located at 100 Universal City Plaza in Universal City. It is open now through November 5, from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets are $59 to $89, with optional add-ons.
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