Another Halloween season has come and gone and with the conclusion of October 31st came the final night of Halloween Horror Nights 2012. This year’s event featured an uncharacteristic mix of haunted houses, many based on outside intellectual properties ranging from the music of Alice Cooper to the “The Walking Dead” TV series. The nighttime experience walking these mazes places visitors in a world of sensory overload, with loud sounds and spooky characters filling dimly-lit environments all in the name of scaring. But now that it’s all over for the year, it’s time to pull back the proverbial curtain and see the extreme detail created by Universal’s team of artists.
Throughout the run of Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Orlando offers a special daytime tour called “Unmasking the Horror.” In this tour, the lights are turned on in three of the year’s haunted houses and guests are free to roam without any threat of being scared. Though the elaborate environments are still unto themselves often spooky, there are no actors, no sound effects, and no special lighting to cause any anxiety. Instead, visitors may slowly walk through each mazes’s twisted halls, taking pictures and marveling at the intricacies, many of which are lost under the extreme environment when the show is in full swing.
This year, the Unmasking the Horror tour led guests through Gothic, Dead End, and Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas. Internally at Universal, Gothic is the 2012 winner of House of the Year and there’s no question why, with impressive and towering set design creating a believable cathedral environment that seemed to exist far larger than any sound stage could hold. Dead End was Universal’s other completely original maze this year, building off of traditional home haunts but adding a few twisted twists. Penn & Teller’s house was wacky, packed with brightly-colored 3-D visuals depicting Las Vegas gone horribly wrong.
All were exciting to explore with the lights on, snapping photos along the way. Unfortunately, no video recording was allowed during this year’s Unmasking the Horror tours, specifically due to the popularity of last year’s tours on YouTube.
So while I can’t offer lights-on video walkthroughs of these three houses, I do present picture highlights below, with a few favorites from each first, followed by a full slideshow gallery.
(Photos by Ricky Brigante and Michael Gavin)
Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas
Fortunately, this year did also present a few unique opportunities beyond the Unmasking the Horror tour. A special media preview also provided a lights-on tour of the Silent Hill haunted house, still under construction at the time, though largely complete, allowing a close-up look at how Universal created the Fogworld and Otherworld from the popular video game (and movie) series.
Video: Full Silent-Hill lights-on haunted house walkthrough at Universal Orlando
The same media preview also presented a chance to record a walkthrough of Dead End under normal show lighting, with actors present. Not all special effects were turned on during this preview, but the general idea of the maze came across well.
Video: Dead End full preview walkthrough at Universal Orlando
Universal also showed off an assortment of its costumes and masks that were to be used at this year’s event, not only from each of the haunted houses but also the street characters that would haunt every corner of the theme park.
Video: Costumes and masks of Halloween Horror Nights 22
Though the scares and the screams of Halloween Horror Nights are always incredibly entertaining, it is the sheer attention to detail that continues to astound visitors to the event year after year. Though Halloween Horror Nights 22 just wrapped up last night, its creative team is already hard at work concocting the terrors that will take over the streets of Universal Studios Florida at Halloween Horror Nights 23, likely to debut on September 20, 2013.