Details details details – that’s what makes for a great haunt or scare zone! With 26 years of their annual fear-fest at Universal Orlando, the creative crew has once again knocked it out of the park with Halloween Horror Nights 2016.
Five fiendish frights found favor with this longtime haunter and photographer. That’s not to say the rest of the event is DOA; rather the cadaverous contrary to be exact. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 26 raises the boo bar high above the cemetery once again this year and well worth a nightmare or few for the visit.
Dead Man’s Wharf – mysteriously returning amid the San Francisco fog, the shipwrecked Annabel Lee materializes on the anniversary of its fateful voyage. The barnacle crusted wreck brings with it a ghastly ghost crew to wander the wharf amid the fog. The costumes (diving bells and rain slickers) and bloated faces of the crew are perfectly accented by the eerie lighting and ominous music. Watching these spectral sailors emerge from their foggy shroud to taunt and terrorize the “innocent” passerby is just the kind of people watching I prefer while taking a break on the wharf.
Tomb of the Ancients – my favorite of the three ‘homegrown’ haunts, this blend of ancient mythology takes the premise that maybe the Egyptian, Mayan and Incan pyramids were designed to keep the world safe from something sinister trapped within. Of course some weak-minded tomb raider has to go and run amuck ensuring disaster for all. With its amazing ambiance and fun façade, the detail and unique paths that wind through this maze, terrified travelers are certain to start looking for their own bullwhip and leather jacket.
Vamp 55 – At first this scare zone sounded like it might be a bit boring – boy was I wrong! The drama and interaction from the scaractors make this flashback fear feast pure devilish delight to devour. Perfectly lit and somehow managing to give the Motown sound a creep factor, this Homecoming Horror is worth slowing down in the rush to get to the next haunt and taking a few minutes to (ahem) drink in the fiendish fun.
American Horror Story –this house is hit or miss with many. Those who enjoy the show LOVE the house and its attention to detail. Covering three of the five seasons from the FX horror anthology: Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel, this maze manages to give all three a terror-ific tribute with scenes from and inspired by the show. Have to wonder if Asylum, Coven and Roanoke will make appearances at future HHN events.
Unmasking the Horror – being a haunter at heart (been working or in some way involved with haunts since I was nine years old) and having the privilege of working at Terror on Church Street, I’ve acquired a love for the finer details. Set dressing, Easter eggs, and just a well decorated maze appeal to me much more than the gore and scare (especially since I rarely get frightened in these environments). Enter the BEST part of Halloween Horror Nights (at least for me) – the chilling chance to go behind the screams, with a lights on tour of most of the haunts from the event. Bonus – photos ARE allowed!! Universal Orlando offers three thrilling options for their Unmasking the Horror Tours. The morning or afternoon tours take guests into three haunts each or there’s the full day option for six houses (which will set you back around $140 depending on when booked)
UPDATE: Though their website states “the chance to photograph every gruesome moment” in the description for this tour, that is not what it seems. This week Universal tweeted that ONLY THEIR “homemade houses” allow photography (an unfortunate switch from years past) – indicating that no photography would be allowed in any of the intellectual property houses. Fortunately, a refund was issued upon request for the tours booked for this year (as a photographer this is very disappointing and not really worth price of the tour to shoot in only two houses – noting that the 3D house is not that photogenic). Hopefully Universal will update the description for the Unmasking the Horror tour on their ticket sales website (as it seems very misleading).
Nightmares are dreams, so I can safely say dreams to come true and I’ll rest peacefully with the moldering memories scraping across the cobwebs of my mind from this year’s Halloween Horror Nights.
Have a haunt that’s captured your heart? Savor a scare zone or two? Do tell your favorite HHN tale of terror in the comments below.