A grotesque assortment of possessed, mutated, and otherwise undead creatures has been revealed by Universal Orlando as a preview of what terrors will haunt the dark corners of Halloween Horror Nights 2013 beginning next week. Just 10 nights before the event officially begins, we were given a chance to walk among the ghouls for an evening of behind-the-screams excitement taking a look at the details being finalized for the freakish occasion.
This year’s Horror Nights lineup prominently features AMC’s hit TV show “The Walking Dead” in an expanded experience over last year, adding an all-new haunted house based on season 3 as well as taking over the streets of Universal Studios Florida with five different scare zones featuring familiar settings – all filled with walkers. Other big name properties inspiring haunted houses this year are “Evil Dead,” “Resident Evil,” “The Cabin in the Woods,” and “An American Werewolf in London.” Add to those three all-original mazes, La Llorona, Afterlife: Death’s Vengeance, and Havoc: Derailed and this year’s event becomes one to truly look forward to.
Video: Creating costumes and makeup for Halloween Horror Nights 2013 creatures at Universal Orlando
Creative director Mike Aiello explained all eight haunted houses and the new street experiences for Halloween Horror Nights 2013, revealing new details:
Costumes, designs, masks, and makeup from all eight of this year’s haunted houses were featured in the sneak peek, offering first looks at recognizable, highly-detailed characters (or “scareactors” as Universal calls them) from the films “Cabin in the Woods,” “Evil Dead,” and “An American Werewolf in London.” Many of the films’ most famous roles will be featured in these mazes, giving movie fans a chance to be completely immersed in some of their favorites.
Included among the looks above are the “evil” version of Mia, Fornicus the Lord of Bondage and Pain, and Jack, each memorable from their respective films for entirely different reasons – all coming to life at Halloween Horror Nights 2013.
Three seasons of the wildly successful AMC TV show “The Walking Dead” will be represented at this year’s event, not only in a haunted house but also across five highly-themed scare zones inspired by specific moments from the series. Creative director Mike Aiello admits the decision to bring back “The Walking Dead” this year was made based on the tremendous ticket sales it created for Universal last year, but once the art and design team was given the go-ahead to develop new concepts based on the show, they followed their own fandom to decide what they would like to see.
(Much more about “The Walking Dead” returning to Halloween Horror Nights can be found here.)
Most intriguing of the intellectual property-based experiences this year may be “Resident Evil,” following in the successful footsteps of the “Silent Hill” haunted house last year. Aiello notes the difference between that video game-based experience and this year’s being that with “Silent Hill” they wanted to bring the video game to life, whereas with “Resident Evil” they want to immersive Horror Nights guests into the video game. It’s a subtle twist of words that manifests in a hugely different approach to creating the maze.
Though none of the iconic characters were revealed during the preview event, Aiello did talk up the “paused” scene in which the game’s giant Nemesis character will be suspended mid-jump amidst a battle with series regular Leon. And Aiello emphasized the sheer size of Nemesis, just one of many crazy creatures that this maze will feature, coupled with oversized set pieces ripped straight from the games.
Eye-catching designs and new details were also revealed for the three original houses this year: Afterlife, La Llorona, and Havoc: Derailed. Afterlife is meant to immerse visitors an a scare-filled hyperreal 3D world, La Llorona will creep people out with its journey into a world beyond our own, and Havoc will send guests on a train ride gone very wrong.
This year the teams from Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood worked more closely together than ever before, screening films, exchanging ideas, and even sharing designs. La Llorona has been featured as a maze in Hollywood for the past couple years, this year jumping coasts to Florida. But Aiello says only half the maze will be familiar to those who had been through it in California, as they borrowed the eerie scenery from the beginning scenes but ventured out in their own direction for its finale.
And balancing all of the screams that will fill these mazes and scare zones will be plenty of laughing and singing, courtesy of two returning shows: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure and The Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute.
Though it’s not hard to guess what pop culture stars will be featured in Bill & Ted’s annual show, two costumes were unveiled at the preview from “Game of Thrones” and “Django Unchained.”
Meanwhile the Rocky Horror stage show retains its classic look, back from a couple years away from Horror Nights.
In its twenty-third year, Halloween Horror Nights has grown larger than anyone could have predicted, now featuring the top franchises in horror working in conjunction with Universal’s own original ideas. Fans of the hit shows, movies, and video games can look forward to this new successful formula of Horror Nights for years to come, this year beginning on September 20.
More photos from the Halloween Horror Nights 2013 preview at Universal Orlando:
(Photos by Michael Gavin)