The creative staff at Universal Orlando Resort claims that they have got scaring people down to a science, and it’s hard to disagree with that notion.
With their 23rd foray into the world of nightmares and playing on peoples’ darkest fears, Universal Orlando continues to push the envelope of evil by developing new concepts and simultaneously improving upon their signature event’s core product.
After attending about 15 of these soirees over the years, I can, with confidence, say that Halloween Horror Nights 23 is as good as any I’ve ever experienced.
» IMAGE GALLERY: Freaky Halloween Horror Nights 23 Photos
Combining all-time classic horrors with modern brands, it’s a gloriously gory concoction of both worlds that appeals to a wide range of horror appetites.
In one house, guests are treated to a magnificently recreated adaptation of the all-time great Michael Landis film, An American Werewolf in London. This house was easily the biggest buzz among anyone over the ancient age of 35.
Meanwhile, just around a corner, modern horror themes such as The Cabin in the Woods and Evil Dead are explored, and a video game becomes frightening reality with a house dedicated to Resident Evil.
Add to the monstrous mix, a park full of flesh hungry zombies from the hit series The Walking Dead.
Without further delay, let's get to the haunted house reviews.
Havoc – Derailed
House Rank: 8 of 8
This house is a Halloween Horror Nights original. Actually, it's the sequel to an HHN original from a few years back. I recall the original Havoc house. What stood out about it was its realistic feel. Futuristic soldiers had gone haywire, and the guests are the hunted! Exiting that house you felt a definite jolt of adrenaline.
The original Havoc was so popular with HHN fans that many of them wrote in to request that it return.
Which brings us to, Havoc – Derailed, where the aforementioned futuristic super soldiers have escaped from their prison train cells, and have overrun the authorities. This is no place to be and HHN guests find themselves smack dab in the middle of the -- well -- havoc.
This reboot of the original stays true to form. Just like the first Havoc, the military-themed set is really well done, and welcomes a thorough examination along the journey. The homemade tank created specifically for Havoc is a nice visual treat.
Another really neat thing about this house, er-uh, train, is that guests will get the sensation that they are accelerating as they proceed through the maze.
Don't let our house rank of 8 of 8 fool you, this is a really fun, well thought out house with some great imagery and fun scares. The ranking is more of a testament to the tremendous quality of this year's overall HHN product.
The Cabin in the Woods
House Rank: 7 of 8
What is it exactly about old cabins in remote wooded areas that evoke such feelings of horror? Whatever the correlation may be, nightmares are brought to life in the Halloween Horror Nights haunted house themed after the feature film The Cabin in the Woods.
As with most movie-themed haunted houses, a degree of familiarity with the storyline can enhance the fear and fun of the experience.
Scenes and elements from The Cabin in the Woods are recreated as zombified country folk and a menagerie of monsters unleash peril on anyone who crosses their path.
House Rank: 6 of 8
Throughout the world of horror films, everyone knows that it's never a good idea to go around reading passages aloud from creepy books written in forgotten languages. Fortunately for Horror Nights, there's always a group of stranded teens and a cabin in some remote woods who are ready to break the rules.
What ensues next is enough demonic possession and self mutilation to fill a crypt. From the creepy, desolate cabin and crashed vehicle to the blood stained pages from the Book of the Dead, the hit movie becomes frightening reality.
The scares in the Evil Dead house are fairly standard, but the imagery is excellent and fans of the movie are more apt to appreciate than someone unfamiliar with the movie.
Resident Evil – Escape from Raccoon City
House Rank: 5 of 8
Capcom's popular video game series comes to life as Horror Nights guests face a hail of bullets and non-stop gunfire, just as a players' avatar would in the computer game. Diehard gamers will recognize several familiar elements from the game, while bulky, brain-bulging bad guy Nemesis makes for some unsettling scenes as he rains bullets down from above.
After Life – Death's Vengeance
House Rank: 4 of 8
The original concept haunted houses at Horror Nights are often some of the most intriguing. Without any commercial property to adhere to, the splendidly maniacal minds of Halloween Horror Nights producers are free to roam. This is where they refine and perfect the scare tactics that keep us, literally, screaming for more.
While you might not be familiar with Bobby "The Blade," after experiencing this house you'll certainly remember his final moments of life and the torment of his afterlife. After Life – Death's Vengeance is a 3D house, which means 3D glasses must be worn in order for guests to get the full effect.
The multisensory experience introduces guests to "The Blade's" dark history, detailing the mutilation of scores of victims before meeting his ultimate demise in the electric chair. But that's just the beginning of the torment…
The 3D elements in this house are as good as there have been at any Horror Nights. The newspaper headlines room was a real treat, as guests walk through the gruesome headlines. The standard spinning vortex room is well imagined, lit with black light and bright neon colors and featuring mummified corpses suspended above the walkway.
The Walking Dead – No Safe Haven
House Rank: 3 of 8
Capitalizing on AMC's incredibly popular television series, The Walking Dead – No Safe Haven is brilliantly imagined for Halloween Horror Nights. Fans of the series will appreciate the attention to detail from the show, complete with scenes from the town of Woodbury, appearances by The Governor's infected daughter, Merle Dixon and more familiar characters, a spine-tingling replica of the abandoned prison, and, of course, plenty of menacing, flesh-hungry walkers.
Urban Legends - La Llorona
House Rank: 2 of 8
When I first heard about the La Llorona haunted house, for some reason it immediately piqued my curiosity. I'm a sucker for a good urban legend story, but this was one I had no idea about.
La Llorona is an old Mexican legend known as the weeping woman. Well, thanks to Halloween Horror Nights, this legend has crossed the nightmare border and is ready to invade dreams right here in Central Florida.
First, the set transports guests to old Mexico, not just with sights and scenes, but also with sound and smell. From the very first turn of the maze, you realize the depth of darkness of the legend of La Llorona. Some of the imagery in this house is powerful enough to stop you in your tracks.
While La Llorona was easily the most disturbing house, it was also incredibly fun, and really epitomized the core of what Halloween Horror Nights is all about…being freaked out and frightened in a really fun way.
An American Werewolf in London
House Rank: 1 of 8
For anyone around the age of 40 and upward, An American Werewolf in London is a horror film staple and bona fide cult classic. Iconic director John Landis released the original film in 1981, which garnered an Academy Award for achievement in makeup. I can personally attest to the jaw-dropping impact of the transformation sequence where the main character, David, goes from human to werewolf. It's still cool!
It turns out that the powers that be at HHN had long coveted doing An American Werewolf in London house, and it took years of convincing in order to persuade Landis to trust the Horror Nights producers with his classic property. Even since agreeing, Landis himself worked closely with the HHN staff to adjust and perfect the experience to his notoriously high standards.
The house does not disappoint. In fact, you couldn't wipe the smile off my face from the moment that guests step into London and enter The Slaughtered Lamb pub where the story begins. You then walk through the moors, where you literally feel hunted. Other memorable scenes are also recreated, such as the London Underground and the Piccadilly Circus.
The werewolf puppets that appear throughout the maze are some of the best you'll ever see; their movements are incredibly realistic. While some will insist on debating how "lifelike" the puppets look, there is no denying they are imposing and impressive beasts that will absolutely scare the daylights out of you.
Bravo to Universal Orlando, Halloween Horror Nights and John Landis for this fun and memorable tribute. Now there's an all-time great haunted house to go along with an all-time great film.