Halloween Horror Nights 2019 Review: Universal Soars to New FRIGHTS with HHN 2019!

Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2019 Review

Everyone knows that Halloween Horror Nights is the place to go if you want to step foot into your favorite horror films. For 2019, HHN Hollywood did not disappoint with an incredible lineup of attractions: Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Ghostbusters, US, House of 1000 Corpses, Stranger Things 2/3, Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and Creepshow! All bringing their unique takes and flavor to the event. Not only that, but HHN this year has incorporated some original concepts into the mix with stellar results.

We were lucky enough to attend the Media Night/Fan Preview Event of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. We were beyond excited to see what the park had in store, especially with all the buzz around the different properties they were showcasing. Although we were excited for those IPs, we were much more excited to see what they did when they could really get creative and they were set free with an original idea.

SCAREZONES

To be honest, the scare zones at HHN in the past years have been hit or miss for us. But this year has taken it up a few notches and really brought the goods in a way only HHN can pull off. Each one has their own unique style and vibe that we appreciate. Having a wide variety of scares and themes with scare zones really helps flesh out the event as a whole. We like to think of Scare zones as connective tissue between the major parts of the event, the mazes. Each zone helps keep guests entertained while roaming the park, searching for their next maze experience.

Explore crypts packed with restless ghouls and escape angry skeletons that have taken over Main Street. If you think the aged statues are creepy, wait until you encounter the wraith who will be literally watching over you. You can also spread your own demonic wings while you’re here, but be sure not to antagonize the Angel of Death.

Chainsaws revving, beautifully designed jewel-encrusted skulls and complete chaos reign supreme in Fallen Angelz. As always, the entrance scarezone to HHN is always a mood setter. Any entrance scarezone can either make or break an experience because it’s the very first impression on the guests. Let me tell you that chainsaws will always make a great first impression.

 

Sacred antiquities have just been shipped over from the Far East, and they didn’t come alone. Many of these artifacts were stolen from ancient temples and carry angry spirits with them. Now the spirits roam New York Street, looking to exact vengeance on anyone who would dare steal such sacred relics. Be careful out there, these powerful demons can look like anything – even innocent school children.

Out of all of the scare zones this year, we found Spirits and Demons of the East to be the most unnerving and unsettling. The character designs of the monsters are top notch, beautiful and disturbing. This scare zone, regardless of theme, always tends to incorporate some type of stilt walkers. This year did not disappoint with a stilt walker walking on all fours, which we think added an extra level of sinister creepiness to the character. Being on all fours allowed the actor to get right into peoples faces, extremely fun to watch but incredibly scary to experience.

You’ll likely feel a faint sense of relief as you exit the Holidayz in Hell maze, but it won’t last long. Navigate through the Christmas trees littering French Street and make your way through our twisted takes on many holiday traditions. A giant nutcracker may be looking for a skull or two to clamp down on. The Winter Witch and Jack Frost himself will be celebrating as well, and they may not take too kindly to you interrupting their festivities. And just when you think it’s over, beware of the New Year’s Baby. He’s… cranky.

Very reminiscent of the Holidayz In Hell scarezone from 2018, Christmas in hell takes the wonderful ending of last years scarezone and continues it into 2019. Although this time it is tacked onto the end of the Holidayz In Hell maze. We are honestly not huge fans of the location of this scarezone and actually dislike the idea of a scarezone that is only accessible from the exit of a maze. It’s essentially an extension of the maze. With that being said, we did think Christmas in Hell was a fantastic way to end Holidayz In Hell. Since the actual footprint is rather small, it felt highly populated and we couldn’t go two feet without being attacked from all sides. Oh and that stilt walking nut cracker was one of the best parts!

Yes, if you wish to experience the mazes on our Metro Lots, you’ll have to get through the tunnel once again. This time, the warped and cartoonish members of a demonic custom car club have taken over, and they don’t plan on letting you get very far on foot.

Probably our favorite of the scare zones, ToXXXic Tunnel takes the theme used previous years and turns it on its head with a more comedic and cartoonish style. We absolutely love the design or the characters for this zone and also think the humor helps lighten the mood and actually helps set up scares. We love getting scared, but Halloween is a rather silly holiday by nature. So it’s nice to see HHN have a little fun.

Halloween isn’t the only holiday that happens this time of year. The Celtic festival of Hop-tu-Naa is celebrated on October 31st as well. There’s also All Saints’ Day, followed by All Souls’ Day, and of course Mexico’s Dia de Muertos; all of which share this season with the centuries old Gaelic festival of Samhain. Samhain celebrates our transition into the “darker” months at the end of the harvest season. The souls of the dead are thought to return home on this night, and are welcomed with costumes and bonfires. Some say the costumes were actually intended to protect oneself from these otherworldly beings. Here’s hoping they’re relatively peaceful during your visit…

We were slightly confused by this scarezone. Although scary and beautifully decorated, we had to go home after the event and look up the description in order to understand what it all meant. Scarezones should be easily understood by a glance and not feel like an Ari Aster film where we everything means something and we need to read between the lines to understand the meaning. I think we’ve always had issues with this location for a scarezone regardless of the themeing. We honestly don’t like the idea that it’s one set path. On nights when HHN is completely packed, it feels like a sardine can in that scarezone. In the future, we would love to see them expand this area and just allow the entire lower lot to become the scarezone instead of cramming it into this small area. All Hallow’s Evil did make for some great visuals and some rather disturbing monsters prowling around each and every corner. I would love to see this come back as a maze next year and have the concept/idea refined so it’s a bit easier to digest while trying to escape the monsters.

MAZES

STRANGER THINGS 2/3

Prepare to go even further into the chilling world of the Upside Down as Netflix’s Stranger Things returns to Halloween Horror Nights in an all-new maze. Back in Hawkins, Indiana, a shadowy new evil threatens to envelop the entire town. Experience the most terrifying moments of Seasons 2 & 3 as you come face to face with the shadowy Mind Flayer and its army of creatures that wreak havoc in Hawkins. Brace yourself again for the goose bump-inducing world that awaits.
Preview night at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood September 9, 2019. Photo by David Sprague

Ugh…what do we say? Last year, Stranger Things made a splash at HHN with it’s 80’s atmosphere and wonderfully creepy Demogorgon! I wish I could say the same for the sequel. This maze had some lofty goals and some big shoes to fill and it faltered on almost every account. The maze was overly dark, lacked actors, lacked diversity in scares and overall just left us bewildered and wanting to know what happened! Although the maze had some beautiful set pieces, that wasn’t enough to save it. Let me stress, these sets were gorgeous and were on the level you would expect from HHN.

Overall, this was really the only disappointment of the night! An otherwise stellar event was tarnished by this maze. We would have loved to see HHN focus on season 2 instead of trying to cram Season 2 AND 3 into one maze. I actually think it hindered it more than it helped. I really hope this was just a sophomore slump with regards to Stranger Things at HHN. There is so much in Season 3 of the show that can translate into a haunted attraction that I am actually excited to see how HHN tackles it.

HOLIDAYZ IN HELL

What is supposed to be a time with friends, family and loved ones, the holidays have quite literally…gone to Hell! The terrors are far from limited to just Halloween. Prepare yourself for a sadistic experience involving a trip through a series of psychotic seasonal celebrations. Your creepy crawl through the year’s calendar is a true 365 day nightmare. After all, in our world…the scarier, the merrier!

Like last years scarezone, this maze is a wonderfully demented take on the holidays we have all come to know and love. Dark, violent, yet humorous; Holidayz In Hell is everything I want from an original house at HHN. Throughout, you can sense the humor John and Chris have when it comes to turning these festive seasons on their heads.

We found ourselves getting more and more excited with each and every holiday, trying to guess how they would bastardize it this time! Some of our favorite season included the Turkey cooking up people for Thanksgiving Day dinner, the maniacal Easter Bunny and a poor unfortunate child who may have held too long on some explosive fireworks.

Many HHN mazes rely on black hallways in order to transition guests from vignette to vignette. We usually aren’t huge fans of this, but it work oddly well for this maze. Because there isn’t any particular storyline being told, as much as it was literal vignette’s of disturbing imagery for each and ever holiday; the black hallways work phenomenally well. We want to see much much more of original mazes at HHN, especially if they are going to be as good at Holidayz In Hell.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN

Despite what your parents told you at bed time…monsters are real… and they never die! Frankenstein. The Wolf Man. The two most iconic Universal Monsters of all time are back and ready to deliver an unforgettable and horrifying new live experience.
With Frankenstein on the loose, he wanders into the woods where he finds himself face to face with Wolf Man in unwelcome territory. In the middle of a cemetery, the two monsters go neck in neck in a bloodbath battle. The monsters are back and terrifying as ever.
Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights employee preview, Sept. 9, 2019. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Following up last years nearly perfect Universal Monsters maze is Universal Monsters: Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman! We will be calling it FMTW for short hand. FMTW had some massive shoes to fill, just like Stranger Things 2/3 did. BUT, unlike Stranger Things 2/3, FMTW excelled in what it was trying to achieve. Although maybe falling short of the tremendous success of Universal Monsters.

Similar to last years Universal Monsters, FMTW has incredible set design and has some pretty fantastic scares that are very hard to predict. One of our favorite moments from the maze are when you’re in Doctor Frankensteins laboratory and you find Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolfman on tilted metal tables and you have to walk between them! What a wonderful idea to put the guests directly in the path of these monsters. But not only that, if you are able to make it past without a scare, you have Egor waiting for you on the other side. He awaits you next to the dismembered and charred body of the Bride of Frankenstein!

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights employee preview, Sept. 9, 2019. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

We are huge fans of the classic Universal Monsters and love to see them incorporated at HHN. We think that the success of last years and this years maze only proves that the characters themselves have staying power and could return to HHN at any time. We personally welcome any variation on the Universal Monsters maze. As long as it brings with it the dark gothic set design, wonderful masks/costumes and the intense scares, we will be happy campers.

GHOSTBUSTERS

Ain’t afraid of ghosts, you say? That is, until you’ve experienced the all-new rift between worlds, releasing apparitions of all shapes and sizes. Enter with caution as you navigate through a deserted and dimly-lit New York after paranormal activity has engulfed the city. From the voracious Slimer to ghosts encapsulating the minds of the innocent, you’ll catch yourself thinking twice if you become their next victim. While the Ghostbusters have continuously saved the day with the help of their proton packs, this time, those who enter may not be so lucky.
Preview night at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood September 9, 2019. Photo by David Sprague

Our highly anticipated list of IP’s for this years HHN included Ghostbusters, like many other people. With that anticipation came with an equal level of intrigue on how they were going to execute a film known primarily for its comedy. Our minds now rest easy as Ghostbusters is and should be the reason why you come to HHN this year. With the phenomenal Ray Parker Jr. music blaring in line, guests are immediately transported to the 1980’s classic film and are overwhelmed with nostalgic moments.

Mazes at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood September 6, 2019. Photo by David Sprague

We couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear the entirety of this maze. Also, the biggest question of them all was answered…did they make Ghostbusters scary? The true answer only can be answered by those who are able to experience this maze, but for us, it kinda was! HHN utilized blacklight tricks in multiple scenes to help sell the idea of floating apparitions. Each a bit different from the next, but all effective just the same.

In years past, we’ve seen tremendously epic finale’s in HHN mazes. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant Alien Queen from AVP! But, we think The Staypuft Marshmallow Man has it beat! Towering over the guests as the four main Ghostbusters blast him with their proton packs is a sight to behold!

If you are a fan of Ghostbusters in any capacity, you CANNOT miss this maze. It is exactly why we fell in love with HHN in the first place.

CREEPSHOW

Experience a horror comic book come to life! Your host for this horrifying journey is The Creep, the skeletal namesake of the Creepshow comic book, who will lead you through five jolting tales of terror inspired by the classic 1982 horror anthology and the upcoming Shudder series from horror legend Greg Nicotero. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have being scared!
Preview night at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood September 9, 2019. Photo by David Sprague

Going into this years event, we weren’t super familiar with Creepshow. When the original film was released, we were a little too young to see it and we never experienced the comic book. Although, our friend Greg from Park Journey couldn’t stop raving about how accurate the maze felt to the source material and he isn’t one to embellish.

For people completely void of knowledge revolving around Creepshow, this maze was pretty damn fun! Each section of the maze revolved around different stories from the older film and the new show. Each with their own tone and style, which is hard to accomplish within the confines of one maze. But, HHN was able execute it with flying colors.

Each room you enter brought a new smell, new environments and it all successfully transports its guests into the world of Creepshow. One of the scares that we loved the most were the Creepshow posters. In between each segment of the maze, you could find a poster representing that new segment. But some of these posters had the Creeper right behind it, waiting for his next victim. This caused us to become scared anytime we saw a poster, regardless whether it had a scare in it or not. The level of suspense grew bigger and bigger as we ventured through the maze.

JORDAN PEELE’S: US

Jordan Peele’s new original nightmare comes to life when you follow in the footsteps of the Wilson Family as they face the ultimate opponent: themselves. You’ll freeze in terror and disbelief as you are hunted at every frightening turn by murderous doppelgängers — terrifying doubles of every American known as the “Tethered.” Having languished for generations throughout thousands of miles of abandoned underground tunnels, these human “copies” have organized, surfaced, and staged an uprising. You can run and you can hide, but you cannot escape the Tethered version of yourself.

Many people were curious how US would translate from film to maze. We feel especially dumb since most mazes follow the story line of the film and US was no different. Red jumpsuit clad tethered came at us from what seemed like each and every corner and we loved every second of it.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights employee preview, Sept. 9, 2019. (Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

This maze actually gave both of us the best scares of the night! The variety of the scares far surpassed any maze at HHN this year and you could feel it! With each room, we found ourselves on edge waiting for the next scare to happen. I also attribute some of that suspense to the wonderful score and music used in the film. It really lent itself to the maze format and almost created a sense of dread as we walked from room to room. Speaking of rooms, the set design throughout this maze was absolutely astounding. From the family house to the underground tunnels where the tethered lived, never was there a moment where I second guessed where I was in the maze. It was unbelievably convincing in its execution. US is another perfect example of how HHN can perfectly execute scares, maze design, character design, sound design and overall experience.

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES

From the Ruggsville, Texas roadside oddity “Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters & Madmen” to the home of the psychotic Firefly family, Rob Zombie’s epic horror masterpiece comes to life. Scream all you want, but you won’t find any mercy from the Fireflys as each family member is more sadistic than the next. It’s a never-ending nightmare of blood and gore as they lunge at you from every filthy corner of their decrepit house with rusty implements of horror. Nobody’s coming to save you. After all, what’s one more corpse when there are a thousand others inside?
Preview night at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood September 9, 2019. Photo by David Sprague

Back when HHN revamped their whole idea of what the event was, they had House of 1000 Corpses as a maze. Well before the film actually was released. This maze was what made me fall in love with HHN in the first place. Highly detailed set design and plenty of scares to go around. From the get go, this maze had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, I don’t think it did. It seemed as though many of the sets were replaced by dark black hallways or less effective takes on certain scenes. And although there were plenty of scares, we went long periods of time without scares. It was almost like the scares were condensed into certain parts of the maze. Additionally, most of the scares actually came from Captain Spaulding! Which we don’t really have a problem with because the character of Captain Spaulding is rather disturbing.

Even with its missteps, House of 1000 Corpses excellently recreates the dark humor and dirty feel that the film portrays. This maze goes a littler further down our list, although that is mostly due to the fact that it has some major competition this year!

THE CURSE OF PANDORA’S BOX

Some things are never meant to be opened…sadly for you, someone already has, unleashing unimaginable evil. Welcome to “The Curse of Pandora’s Box” – the living nightmare netherworld of Hades, populated by the most fearsome monsters in Greek Mythology. Prepare for a trip through Hell where the demonic temptress Pandora serves as your guide. Once the box is opened and evil has been released…it can never be closed again!

Another original maze for HHN 2019. The Curse of Pandora’s Box is another perfect example of how tone can really affect the experience of guests. Pandora’s Box transports its guests to the underworld of Hades and never lets go. The typical systematic style of scare that normally goes within HHN mazes is nowhere to be found here. The experience felt so unpredictable and out of control that we found it hard to keep up and keep our whits about us! Which inevitably turned into us getting scared! It was phenomenal! This maze, more than most, felt as though the scares were coming from our peripherals which really threw us for a loop and created for some great startling moments.

Our only true problem with the maze was the whole beginning scene. We knew from the facade that we were entering a storefront, but once inside we kind of lost the story. Now that can be attributed to multiple things, but what we think might have happened was a shift change as we entered the space. We felt like there should have been characters in that room talking to us, almost explaining the story line or events that lead to the opening of Pandora’s box!

Regardless of the problem, we really love the chroma-depth style of paint work done within this maze and it really sets itself apart from the rest of the mazes this year. Once again, its the variety in style and execution that we loved so much about this maze and we really hope to see more like in the years to come.

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE

If ever there was a reason why people are afraid of clowns, this is it. Killer Klowns from Outer Space have landed and there’s nothing funny about these strange, creatures who use side-splitting antics and weird alien technology to devour their victims. Don’t let them encase you in one of their pink cotton candy cocoons or you could end up as a gooey snack. One gag is ghastlier than the next as they have you shrieking from clown to clown like some twisted three-ring circus. These Killer Klowns won’t make you scream with laughter – just scream.
Preview night at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood September 9, 2019. Photo by David Sprague

Our favorite maze of the entire evening goes to Killer Klowns from Outer Space. From it’s use of music, movie scene audio, set design, scares, and humor; Killer Klowns is a perfect example of how great a HHN maze can be. This is primarily a reason why we were so shocked when we experience this years Stranger Things attraction. How could something like Killer Klowns even exist at the same time as the Stranger Things maze.

Regardless of the comparison, Killer Klowns succeeds on almost every level as a haunted attraction while also maintaining a level of self-awareness.  This maze did an amazing job of feeling like a HHN maze while still having some fun. The silly and outrageous humor was balanced with some darker moments.  As an example, outside the maze itself, you have an actor recreating the scene where Farmer Gene goes looking for his dog Pooh Bear! This is a wonderful nod to the film and a nice touch to keep people in line entertained. You enter the maze smiling an are immediately caught off guard by a scare!

 

ENTERTAINMENT

We didn’t get to see Jabbawockeez this year because we were so caught up in experiencing the mazes and scare zones. Our opinions haven’t changed though. We really like the dance crew and the show they put on, we still don’t think they fit all that well with HHN. Yes, we’ve mentioned in the past that their physical comedy is impeccable and works well to offset the terror outside the Special Effects stage. But it still doesn’t fix the fact that a dance crews show has little to do with halloween or horror films. We would love to see a new show come to HHN Hollywood that fits more with what HHN is, something along the lines of Academy of Villains at Universal Orlando Resort. But, with that being said, if you’re tired and need to get off your feet; this is a phenomenal show to do it in!

BEHIND THE SCREAMS PANEL

Announced very close to the Fan Event date, Universal decided to throw together a panel with Special Guests: Slash, Eli Roth and Greg Nicatero…and it was all free for the guests attending the HHN fan event. Although at first it was only for those with Express or RIP, it was later opened to all guests. This is something I find to be a phenomal addition because tickets for HHN aren’t cheap. When you add value to the ticket withe experience like this, it adds a lot to the event. Although we didn’t get to see the panel, we know many people who did and loved every second of it. I would love to see HHN continue to provide experiences like this for their guests, even if it’s only one night.

FOOD AND MERCH

The 80’s tone of the event continues with the merchandise offered at this years event. Each one of the shirts, displaying characters from each one of the properties at HHN. The bright pinks, purples and light blues all scream 80’s! To be perfectly honest, this is probably our favorite shirt that HHN has ever created. Not only does the main shirt have style, but it also has some major personality too.

Of course the merchandize is not relegated to mazes, but it also celebrates the other IP’s with their own unique items. There is so much Stranger Things and Ghostbusters merchandise, it will make your head spin!

OVERALL

This year HHN is the strongest the event has ever been, in our opinion. Many people have the opinion that this year is “soft” because of the inclusion of properties that aren’t known primarily for their horror aspects or how scary they are. Although the event is called Halloween HORROR Nights, this way of thinking is a bit short sighted. As mentioned before, Halloween has and will always have a sense of humor to it, and it should be utilized! Humor helps create a much more well rounded event because just like horror movies, you need to have hills and valleys to help set up scares. It cannot be a constant string of intensity because it would lose its steam. In the case of HHN 2019, the humor of Ghostbusters, Killer Klowns, ToXXXXic Tunnel and Holidayz In Hell all help create a much more balanced experience when put up against the much more dark and sinister experiences of US or House of 1000 Corpses. In the past, we’ve had problems with HHN because of how serious they took themselves. It almost felt as though they forgot to have a bit of fun with it when creating the scares. With this years changes, we fell back in love with HHN and sincerely think they should continue in the direction they started this year. Soft…no, light hearted…for sure. As long as HHN continues to produce high quality mazes, scare zones and entertainment; nothing will stop us from visiting. Not even Slimer or some silly Klowns. We want more of it in fact! If anything else, this years HHN is making us beg to come back for more and more! Overall, this years HHN is the year to attend! From the maze themes, to the themed food and quality entertainment; HHN continues to be a destination for Horror fans around SoCal!

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood runs from September 13th through  November 3rd (Select Nights) and you can purchase your tickets at Hollywood.HalloweenHorrorNights.com and advance purchase is recommended as event nights will sell out.  Following are the various tickets options:

TICKET OPTIONS

  • Universal Express™ – One-time priority access to all mazes, Jabbawockeez performance and theme park rides.
  • Multi-Night Passes
  • Ultimate Fear Pass – scare all 32 nights
  • Frequent Fear Pass – scare 25 select nights
  • September Pass – 11 select nights throughout the month of September
  • RIP Tours – Groups of up to 12 can scare in style with the new R.I.P. Tour featuring a VIP guide, unlimited Universal Express access to all mazes, attractions and Jabbawockeez show, private VIP trolley transportation to backlot mazes, interactive themed photo ops and special tour of the Universal backlot, gourmet buffet dinner at the VIP Dining Room & Lounge, access to lounges for drinks and desserts, and complimentary valet parking.
  • After 2pm Day/Night Combo – Experience the park’s popular daytime attractions, and remain for the terror that awaits at “Halloween Horror Nights.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s