Halloween in Southern California, there’s nothing quite like it. Grabbing a Pumpkin spice latte on a crisp 95-degree morning and wearing your best scarf… for a grand total of 30 minutes before you realize you may be suffering from heat stroke. All joking aside; Fall in southern California doesn’t feel like much except… more summer. So how do we know it’s time to put away our beach balls and pull out our pumpkin carving kits? That’s an easy one: Halloween Horror Nights! What a better way to ring in the spooky season than with a trip to Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood! We had the immense pleasure of making our way out to enjoy this year’s event this past weekend, and my-oh-my was this year one for the books! From the scare zones to the HOUSES to the delectable offerings, come along with us as we talk all things HHN Hollywood 2022!
Also, make sure to check out our podcast where we talk about even more of our experiences at this years Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood!
As you enter the park, you’re met with the very first scarezone and the entry scarezone, Clownsawz. And of course it has a “z” in the name. It wouldn’t be HHN without something spelled with a “z”. As we said on the podcast, if the entry scarezone didn’t include chainsaws in some way, I’d be disappointed. At this point, the smell of chainsaws are now synonymously tied to HHN in our minds. As usual, this scarezone was a ton of fun and every scare actor was at the top of their game. Throughout the night we really never saw the energy level go down. This can partially be attributed to the soundtrack of the area, but overall most of it is because of the guys and gals wrecking people entering the park.
As usual, the entry scarezone meshes with the second scarezone of the park and this year it’s Sideshow Slaughterhouse. This scarezone turns New York Street into a living carnival nightmare with seedy carneys and freaks out to get you! Once again, the energy level within this zone was nearly unmatched. There were two stilt walkers that were both extremely impressive.
In this area, you’ll find one of the new “stalk” around characters that Creative Director John Murdy spoke about.
This unnamed (Creative Director John Murdy mentioned on twitter that he/she didn’t have a name yet) character was MASSIVE! So tall in fact that it really made groups of people stop and drop their jaws all the way to the floor. We were even shocked at the towering creature! Honestly, we’d love to see even more of these monsters/stalk around characters in each scarezone. They are so imposing and command attention.
The last headlining scarezone guests can experience at HHN is El Pueblo Del Terror. This zone is located on the French Street as you exit La Llorona: The Weeping Woman. But you don’t have to experience the house to experience the zone. This zone focused on the creatures of hispanic folklore. Out of all three main scarezones, this was our favorite.
Each one of the monsters scared completely differently lending a sense of unpredictability which kept us on the edge of our seats. Also, placing props in the middle of the walkway instead of just the outskirts really allowed for more big scares as you run for your life! This worked so well that we’d love to see more props used in this way. We know that the main thoroughfare of the park is rather narrow, so it’s probably not possible. But imagine the possibilities with major props throughout scarezones to allow for much bigger scares.
If you happened to need a bathroom break near Animal Actors, you’d be surprised to find The Haunted Forrest. This small intimate scarezone was mentioned briefly at Midsummer Scream, but is absent from any press release. Honestly, I like it that way! It comes as a surprise to even veterans of the event and everyone loves surprises. While not as vast or scary as it’s counter parts on French Street or New York Street; The Haunted Forrest provides atmosphere in what it may be lacking in scares. Although, it very easy to get the crap scared out of you if you’re too busy looking at your phone.
As a bonus, this year HHN received a major upgrade to Hogsmeade. And this would be the addition of Death Eaters.
As great as HHN is every year, there is always one particular area of the park that has been blatantly underutilized at HHN for years! Of course, we are referring to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you have ever listened to our podcast, you have probably heard Nikki cry about how we don’t get Death Eaters in Hogsmeade. Well… this year… WE GOT DEATH EATERS IN HOGSMEADE! This was one of our most anticipated scare zones of the night, and it definitely delivered! As you enter Hogsmeade there is an eerie green light cast over the whole town.
As you venture farther in you are greeted by several Death Eaters lurking in the crowds as well as a few on stages and other platforms scattered along what can only be described as Death Eater alley. This is the small walkway that goes along the back of the shops after the owlery on the right hand side.
We loved this area so much! Nikki probably could have stayed in there all night. The Death Eaters were just the right amount of sinister creepy and weren’t afraid to get right up in your face. Nikki got creeped out several times, one Death Eater even asked to see her Dark Mark! Any Harry Potter fan can’t miss checking out this area.
THE TERROR TRAM
We’ll put this simply and right up front. Hollywood Harry with the addition of NOPE and US has created (what we believe to be) the best version of The Terror Tram HHN Hollywood has ever seen. Often, people find themselves comparing the HHN Orlando event and the Hollywood event simply because they have the same name. But what’s always set us apart from Orlando is the Terror Tram. While some regulars to our event might get tired of it, we never have. It’s never lost on us how DAMN COOL it is to walk the true sets of some film classics. Mix in a myriad of monsters, ghouls, killers, and creatures and you have the Terror Tram. This year, HHN brought back (previously featured in 2016) the infamous clown Hollywood Harry to the Terror Tram.
If you’re unfamiliar with this character, Harold Kappowitz (his real name) also known as Koodles The Clown who was once the Universal Studios Hollywood Unofficial mascot.
After a drop in popularity, Koodles was fired from his job at the park and retreated into the Hollywood Hills. Since then, he has become a recluse traversing the hills around Universal Studios…until he formulated a plan to enact his revenge upon the people who wronged him. But also means poor people who fall in his path are also subjected to his cruelties.
Now that you have an understanding of the character, let’s jump into this years experience. This year, Hollywood Harry is back and has brought and onslaught of monsters dressed as creatures that we would recognize as “traditional Halloween” characters. This includes sheet ghosts, chainsaw wielding jack-o-lanters, angry dogs, scary black cats and a lot more. Something about the sinister and oddly humorous tone of this portion of the Terror Tram just worked so well. Even the sections near The Bates Motel were fantastic and gory!
Once you leave the War of the World set, you turn left and head towards the Jupiters Claim set. This was probably the biggest highlight of the Terror Tram. The world of NOPE was invaded by the Tethered from US. Not only was this section scary, but it was incredibly unnerving. The movements and choreography of the Tethered sent shivers down our spines.
The combination of US and NOPE allowed for a very unique and different style of scare that gave the Terror Tram a much needed injection of originality. Honestly, no words we can use are capable of capturing the feeling you get while traversing the Jupiter’s Claim set. This is a MUST SEE part of HHN this year.
The Jabbawockeez are back at HHN! Once again, the night was completely commanded by the houses and scare zones and we ran out of time to see the show. Even without seeing the show, we still feel like its time for The Jabbawockeez to leave the event. In fact, we’d love to see entertainment expand past just a single show. HHN in Hollywood can get extremely crowded and other than the rides, there isn’t much to pull people away from the houses. More shows and entertainment can alleviate that issue substantially.
THE HORRORS OF BLUMHOUSE
Let’s start off this run down of the houses (previously known as mazes) with probably the weakest of the bunch. The Horrors of Blumhouse sort of left us perplexed. Focusing on the films Freaky and Black Phone, this house attempts to take guests on a step by step retelling of these stories. But with the house being mostly comprised of Freaky (about 80% of the house) and just a bit of Black Phone, the latter felt rushed and almost like an afterthought. We would have loved to see the house focus on either one of the films alone rather than try and smash them together.
One thing we loved was the facade for the house itself. The idea of a video rental store being a portal to hell and only allowing those visiting to rent these two films was intriguing. But, the idea could have been taken so much further. In the future, if HHN takes these unique ideas to combines themes together we’d love to see them take the extra steps to truly embrace it.
The scares in this house felt rather sparse and tame compared to other houses at the event. I think a part of this is because of it’s tone. Freaky inherently has a slightly sillier tone than Black Phone (which is fine) but doesn’t mix well.
The sets themselves even seemed lacking at times. While rooms like the locker room leading into the woodshop classroom looked fantastic, the living room and kitchen within the Black Phone section felt more minimalistic.
Overall, the house didn’t scare us nor did it make us laugh. We sort of just shrugged as we left asking ourselves “Was that it?”
UNIVERSAL HORROR HOTEL
This house was heavily teased at Midsummer Scream and like many fans of HHN; we were intrigued. We later learned that the former Walking Dead maze would become home to Universal Horror Hotel. We really enjoyed the originality of this maze that felt like a mix of The Shining and Tower of Terror.
The idea of telling a story about Hollywood…in Hollywood seems like a massive no brainer and we’re shocked this is the first time we’ve seen this at HHN. But we are so glad we have it this year because it jumped to the top of our list very quickly. The well timed scares, mixed with the variety of scares worked extremely well. Some of the scares were so well hidden that even I (who can find hiding spots easily after attending the event for so many years) was caught off guard by some of these scares.
If we had any negative for this house, it would be about the way audiences consume the story. For those waiting in the regular queue, they are able to watch videos explaining the history of the hotel and the killer that called it home. But if you use express, while you get to skip potentially long lines, you’re missing a big chunk of the story. While I do think the house does a good job at visually conveying the concept, I understand that my previous knowledge of the theme and story might change the way I connected those dots.
While this was a minor nuisance, this house was one of the stronger ones this year. And we enjoyed how it wasn’t tied into an IP.
LA LLORONA: THE WEEPING WOMAN
Back in 2012, La Llorona made her debut at Halloween Horror Nights and forever left a mark on a much younger and thinner me. Ever since that event, I’ve spoken about that maze in such high regard. Often touting it as the best original maze HHN Hollywood had ever produced. So it was very obvious that I was incredibly nervous about its return in 2022. Not because I was scared of the titular character, but because I wanted it to live up to its name and its predecessor. Thankfully, La Llorona: The Weeping Woman not only lived up to its previous incarnation, it took it to the next level.
The 2022 version of La Llorona felt like a much leaner and meaner version of the 2012 maze. Often creating much more claustrophobic environments which lends itself to much more intense scares. Of course, this house is incredibly dark in tone and brings a much needed level of creepiness to the mix. Nothing like dead kids to really get the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up, right?
This house is a MUST SEE at this years event because of its near flawless maze design, set design and scares. I think I’ll be hearing the wails of the weeping woman for the entire run of HHN. I just hope I don’t hear it outside my window at night.
Another year of HHN mean another year of Halloween and Michael Myers. At least that’s how it feels. Michael Myers has been at Halloween Horror Nights a whopping 5 times! This may not seem like much but for those of us who frequent the event, it feels like a lot more. But honestly, even with the frequency of his appearances, we end up loving each iteration of the mazes at HHN and this year is no different. Halloween has returned to HHN, once again retelling the story of the night the Boogyman come to Haddonfield to commit the babysitter murders.
One reason why we don’t mind having Michael at HHN so often is because we often consider him to be the scariest of the Big 4! Who are the Big 4 you might ask? This would be Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and Michael Myers. Out of those, we love Michael and think he is far scarier than the rest. Arguments aside, this is why we love walking through a Halloween house at HHN. The sound design with the famous synth noises from Director John Carpenter is iconic and really puts us on edge for the entire experience.
In terms of scares, this Halloween house felt more diverse in its scares and also felt better paced. Michael really felt like he could come from anywhere and we loved it.
The ending to these houses are always our favorite. A very artistic rendition of the notion that the Boogeyman can be anywhere. In the past, we’ve gotten mirror mazes or even traveled through the iconic Halloween jack-o-lantern with the smell of pumpkin spice (one of the more pleasant smells HHN has provided us with) in the air. This year, we got the mirror maze again which is a great touch to this house. But, if we continue to see Michale Myers at HHN. We’d love to see the ending changed each time to convey the same idea.
SCARECROW: THE REAPING
Much like La Llorona, Scarecrow: The Reaping lives in our heads forever because of our experiences at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort. Back at HHN27, Scarecrow: The Reaping left an indelible mark on us because of how damn scary it truly was. It was claustrophobic, the scares were plentiful and it was relentless. One of the few times in my life where I was scared so badly that the house felt much longer than it truly was. So with such great experience on the other coast, we were VERY excited about it coming to Hollywood but extremely nervous about potentially having a house that doesn’t live up to our memories. But again much like La Llorona, it lived up to them and more.
I was fortunate enough to walk through this house completely alone. That’s right, nobody with me and I received every single scare. Although I may not be so easily shaken like I was in 2017, I was still very nervous walking through the dilapidated house infested with scarecrows out for blood.
From top to bottom, Scarecrow was one of the most gorgeous houses I’ve ever walked through at HHN Hollywood. From the vines growing all over the walls to the dead bodies in the scenes, scenic for this house was jaw dropping. While not nearly as claustrophobic as its predecessor, the house/maze design was impeccable. Really lending itself for perfect scares that once again felt plentiful.
One big thing to note for me was the sound design and specifically the trigger noises for the scares. Typically for HHN, it would be a rather loud and bombastic sound to set people off. But these felt a bit more subdued in a way that not only scared you but really just gave you the “willies”. The only downside to this house is that it has now become the gold standard for HHN Hollywood houses. It has surpassed La Llorona of 2012 and become everything a HHN House should be from facade, to sound design, maze design, and scares. It’s really a flawless house and everyone involved should be proud of this product.
UNIVERSAL MONSTERS: LEGENDS COLLIDE
Another year means another Universal Monsters house at HHN. This has probably been our favorite run of houses at our event. Each one providing new scares and wonderful sets to encounter our beloved Universal Monsters. After last years stellar house, The Bride of Frankenstein Lives; we were very excited about the follow up.
While this house has its moments, it ultimately fails to reach the heights that BoFL reached. And unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to compare them. While I think Legends Collide provided a much better sense of scope in terms of sets and scares; BoFL did a much better job at telling a cohesive story throughout. Legends Collide relies upon a queue video to really communicate all the important information needed in order to understand the plot and story of the house. But if you skip this video, it’s hard to grasp the story. The house ends up feeling like a “best hits” of Wolf Man, The Mummy, and Dracula in locations that feel somewhat familiar.
I also feel like the incredible music Slash created for this house almost takes a backseat and doesn’t provide the emotional backing to the story that it created for BoFL in 2021. While still hauntingly beautiful in its orchestration, the music just doesn’t stick the landing as well as it has in the past.
As I mentioned before, Legends Collide excels at putting its guests in fantastic sets. It was one of the few houses at this years event that made me feel small, which isn’t a feeling you often have in a haunted house. Ultimately, we have a house filled with some of the most beloved Universal Monsters and you can’t really go wrong with it. Near the exit, we saw people leaving with massive smiles on their faces and some even leaving in tears.
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
Back from its first appearance in 2019, Killer Klowns brings a much needed sense of humor and zaniness to HHN. It is houses like these that really bring a balance of tones and makes the event that much better.
If you went through the 2019 iteration of the house, then you know exactly what to expect. The same beloved gags and visuals are here and we love it all. Although we did notice that the layout was flipped and (at least when we went through) the water gags were decreased by A LOT. Last year, when we left the house we felt soaked!
We would have loved to see the team at HHN tweak this house just a bit to keep it fresh and fun. But regardless of that, we still had fun and laughed our way through the ridiculous scenes that we know and love from the cult film. If the rumors of a sequel to this film are true, we’d love to see a house for those upcoming films because we just simply can’t get enough of our clowns.
THE WEEKND: AFTER HOURS NIGHTMARE
Probably the biggest surprise for many visitors to HHN is The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare. I’ll be honest, neither of us are fans of The Weeknd or know his catalog of music well enough to distinguish which songs we could expect in the house. With that being said, this house was easily in our top 3 houses of this years event.
With a multitude of settings, gruesome scene and intense scares; all coupled with a great soundtrack of music created a very fun and scary experience. Many times in this house, I felt like I didn’t know where to look. My attention was grabbed in so many different directions which made me susceptible to many of the scares. Out of all the houses, this one scared me the most.
As I mentioned before, there are many different sets within this house that create many different experiences. In one room, it almost felt reminiscent of something from the film Labyrinth. Then in another, you’re in what seems to be a subway station with a subway car barreling towards you. It really was a blast and when we exited it felt like a fever dream. A fever dream we wanted to relive over and over again.
Okay, so one last thing we need to talk about that had a MASSIVE impact for us on our experiences in the houses this year. That is going to be the dreaded black walls. Or this year, the severe lack of them! For many years, fans have asked for the removal of the black hallways in the houses at HHN. This year, John Murdy made a massive effort to achieve just this. He has said on multiple occasions that he wants them gone just as much as the fans do and this year he was able to make them vanish…for the most part. While they still existed in a few houses, a majority of the houses this year didn’t have any and it really made the whole experience that much better and fluid.
FOOD AND DRINK
If getting scared all night leaves you feeling hungry and parched, then you’re in luck because there are many places to grab unique food drink offerings throughout the park.
The most popular seemed to be The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare Bar on the Lower Lot above the Jurassic World Outfitters store. The almost neon red lights should be a clear indication that its the coolest place to hang out and have a drink while at HHN. But we warned, because its incredibly popular it gets very busy very quickly. It is also the only place in the park to get the famous pizza fries. Which can I say, were divine!
Also on the lower lot are two Killer Klowns from Outer Space themed eateries. One is a pop up tent next to Panda Express. The other is the ice cream location across the way from Panda Express. These small alterations make a big difference in the overall atmosphere of the lower lot. Especially since there are no scare zones.
There is also a massive area of food and drink in the Universal Plaza like last year. Here you can find a plentiful array of margaritas and Mexican inspired foods.
This years merchandise is hands down our favorite the event has ever sold. Something about the grindhouse-esque style really intrigues us. Even the almost retro Halloween style of this years main shirt is incredibly cool.
This year, HHN Hollywood received its own Halloween store! This is something new for this year and seems like maybe a trial run for our very own Tribute Store! Who know’s what the future holds, but we hope at some point Hollywood gets some love.
The one thing I did find odd about this Halloween store was it’s stock of Universal Orlando Resort’s merchandise. You could even find Lil Boo in here in Hollywood. In the future, we’d love to see more Hollywood centric merchandise. We will start a petition for a Log Bunny shirt, keychain, or plush!
Another fantastic year of HHN is in the books and might we be so daring to say it’s the strongest it’s ever been. While there might be some issues with the event as a whole, we can’t stop thinking about how damn fun HHN has become over the years. Yes, it’s always been scary and a great time. But it feels like it’s really finding its footing in terms of its offerings to keep many demographics happy. If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you’d remember that we said something very similar about HHN 2019. HHN 2022 provides multiples experiences with differing tones that create a much more well rounded experience for its guests. The outright humor of Killer Klowns or even the zaniness that is Hollywood Harry balances the darker tones of Universal Horror Hotel or Scarecrow: The Reaping. At the end of the day, we think HHN excels and is at its strongest when it has strong original content coupled with well-known IP houses. Much like its counter part in Orlando, people will start to become familiar with original content at HHN Hollywood and start to welcome it more than the IP houses. I think the track record speaks for itself and we welcome the adjustment to more original concepts at the event.
Check out our Behind The Scenes Tour of Universal Monsters: Legends Collide and Horrors of Blumhouse with Creative Director John Murdy!
If you want to visit HHN Hollywood, Click Here to Purchase Tickets
Halloween Horror Nights tickets can be purchased online or at the Universal Studios Hollywood front gate, providing guests with Early Event Admission to select houses, beginning at 6pm each night of the event (subject to change). Various ticket options are available for purchase; click here for more information, including terms and conditions:
- R.I.P. Tour is a premium product, inviting guests to scare with a VIP treatment that includes an expert guided tour of the event with exclusive experiences along the way.
- Universal Express includes one-time express to each haunted house, Terror Tram, ride and attraction. Express access is a separate line with a shorter wait time and does not apply to food and retail locations.
- After 2 P.M. Day/Night
- Popular passes: Frequent Fear Pass and Ultimate Fear Pass, which allow guests to experience the scares again and again.
- General Admission
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood brings together the sickest minds in horror to immerse guests in a living, breathing, three-dimensional world of terror inspired by TV and film’s most compelling horror properties. The event begins on Thursday, September 8 at Universal Studios Hollywood with eight frightening haunted houses, and on Friday, September 2 at Universal Orlando Resort with 10 terrifying haunted houses. Both events will run select nights through Monday, October 31. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.