Not every convention has to be the size of San Diego Comic-Con to be fun. This past weekend in downtown Tampa, Florida, the Fanboy Expo brought celebrities and their fans together for three days of pop culture excitement.
Though its exhibit hall was small, Fanboy Expo Tampa packed in people around many booths filled with merchandise, surrounded by approachable celebrities along the walls and in nearby rooms. Add in plenty of cosplayers and this convention easily kept everyone’s attention – at least for a few hours.
Among the top billing celebrities were Scott Wilson (Hershel from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) and Lee Majors (Steve Austin in “Six Million Dollar Man”).
Other noteworthy names included Efren Ramirez (Pedro from “Napoleon Dynamite”), Greg Ellis (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Star Wars Rebels”), and Steve Blum (“Star Wars Rebels”). Look for an interview with Ellis and Blum on Inside the Magic soon.
“Halloween” is truly here at Halloween Horror Nights 24 as Universal Orlando brings guests face to face with Michael Myers – over and over again.
Transforming the 1978 classic John Carpenter film into a walkthrough experience was a long-awaited task for Entertainment Director Mike Aiello. He remembers being haunted by “The Shape” after seeing the film at a young age, wondering when Myers would appear outside his bedroom window. Now, he and the Horror Nights team are ensuring every fan gets to experience that iconic head tilt just moments before they are assaulted by the original knife-wiedling killer.
This week, Universal Orlando previewed the costumes, makeup, and characters of Halloween Horror Nights 2014. In addition to marveling at this year’s exciting visuals, I had the opportunity to take on the “Halloween” haunted house – four times.
In short, the maze is fantastic – an excellent recreation of the most memorable scenes from the original film. It has a great ’70s feel with many surprise appearances and uses of Michael Myers. It’s never repetitive with fun vignettes that are both cinematic and startling. And the fact that it’s all contained within a backlot tent is even more impressive, as it gives the impression of walking between different houses. It does “Halloween” justice.
Sadly, photos and video recording were not allowed inside the house at this year’s press preview. So for those who want to know all the gory details about what goes on inside, below I provide a scene-by-scene description accompanied by matching stills from the film, faithfully recreated in the haunted house.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Spoiler-Filled “Halloween” Haunted House Walk-Through
Before getting into the description, it’s possible a few of the scenes below are out of order. In fact, it’s likely. This is a rather disorienting maze, passing through similar environments throughout. Or… maybe I purposefully wrote them out of order to throw you off when you walk through. You’ll never know.
It begins on the outside of the Myers house, an impressive facade that looks lifted directly from the film. It’s enhanced by special effects – projections mapped to its exterior. Michael Myers is seen in a window, knife in hand, along with a crumbling effect and a giant logo. The sequence was still being worked on during preview night, but should offer some great entertainment for those waiting outside.
After passing by through wooden fences, you enter the house of a young Michael Myers, who appears quickly as a clown, knife in hand – naturally. A dead, half-naked woman lies on the stairs nearby. And so the nightmare begins.
Visions of Michael Myers lurking at the top of the stairs immediately enter any “Halloween” fan’s head upon reaching this point.
The first full Michael Myers appearance immediately follows. You might think you see him, but it’s just a reflection in a mirror. And as soon as he spots you, he’s coming. Below is the only image Universal has released from within the actual haunted house.
From this point forward, Michael Myers is in almost every scene, each time appearing from a surprising place in a unique way – always with an ear-piercing shrill of a sound, accompanied by the film’s rousing score. It’s effective to keep everyone on edge.
The next appearance from Myers takes place in a garage, in which a girl is seen screaming and flailing as she’s getting attacked from the back seat. It’s a huge, highly detailed scene.
Passing from one house to another, you walk through a yard with clothes draped on a clothes line. This sequence of moving between houses happens a few times throughout the maze.
Myers’ famous head tilt comes in full force as you walk into a kitchen – a scene that is duplicated identically from the film. The movie still below might as well be a photo from the maze.
But this time, after the head tilt, the scene does not cut. Instead, Myers turns to you and lunges. Winding hallways follow as Myers appears from dark corners and behind doors.
And soon, he dons his famous “sheet” look, producing some of the most memorable and surprising scares.
Yes, the telephone choke is there – though without nudity.
The bedroom tombstone scene is faithfully recreated from the film as well, with a surprise Myers scare coming from a corner.
I almost never jump in haunted houses anymore, accustomed to all the tricks. But one of my four back-to-back trips through this “Halloween” maze got me as Myers appeared in full form from behind what I thought was him standing there as a sheet. Yes, even I jumped – a little.
The bright strobes of that scare are also especially effective as the scene that follows is nearly pitch black, except for the flashes of light that illuminate at least 7 Michael Myers figures – some static, some real. For those who remember the Dead Exposure house a few years ago, it’s quite reminiscent of that. And it’s just as effective.
The best instance of “The Shape” takes place nearby. Turning a corner, you see hanging clothing and a dangling incandescent light in a tight space. And at the end of this short hallway, Michael Myers stands there, staring… his head tilts… and maybe he attacks, maybe he disappears. It’s a perfect moment.
Heading outside, a bit of “Halloween 3″ enters the maze as masked kids don Silver Shamrock costumes, jumping out from behind sheets yelling “trick or treat!” It’s loud and indeed startling.
After a winding “battle” with Myers as he seems to chase you around every corner, even popping out from within a broken hole in a fence, it’s time for the final showdown.
Laurie Strode is seen seated on a living room couch, watching some familiar TV.
But Myers appears from behind, attacking her and then you before retreating.
Finally, after a few more close encounters, Doctor Loomis appears, shooting Michael Myers several times sending him reeling backwards.
It’s truly a faithful retelling of the “Halloween” story, both reenacting scenes as well as putting guests in Myers’ way.
Again, the above scenes may or may not be in order. Probably not. And there are definitely many details left out, as not spoil it all.
I highly recommend going back and re-watching (or watching for the first time?) the original “Halloween” film. It may seem a bit slow by today’s Hollywood standards, but it is indeed a horror classic that has been translated into a fun Halloween Horror Nights experience.
Below is the original trailer, to get you started. That shrill at the beginning? Yep, that’s in the maze… many times.
Halloween Horror Nights designers talk “Halloween” and this year’s seven other new haunted houses in this video:
We’ve already offered an overview of the new details that were revealed about the scare zones and haunted houses from Entertainment Director Mike Aiello and the event’s show producers. Now let’s take a closer look at the artwork and artistry of each individual experience, in gory detail.
First, the haunted houses…
Alien vs Predator
The most anticipated haunted house for 2014, Alien vs Predator will be set inside a Weyland Corp facility, crawling with both Aliens and Predators of all shapes and sizes. While scareactors will embody the Predators, all the Aliens will come to life via puppetry.
When the Queen Maryâ€™s Dark Harbor haunted attraction debuts on October 2, two brand new mazes will be unveiled along with a few close encounters unlike any other.
Situated aboard the classic ocean liner, Dark Harbor is an annual Halloween event that features haunted houses at sea, each building upon the ship’s actual history while injecting new sinister stories.
This year’s new Soulmate maze stars Graceful Gale, the belle of The Queen Mary in the 1930s. As a beautiful first class passenger, Gale charmed her way across the shipâ€™s dance floor regularly until mysteriously disappearing on her final passage in 1939.
The story of Gale will unravel as her true spirit is revealed and those who dare will realize that Gale may not be as graceful as she appeared, but in fact is more monstrous than ever imagined.
The new Soulmate maze will take over the former location of the Containment maze.
The other new maze for 2014 is B340, following the story of a passenger aboard a 1948 Atlantic voyage who was locked away in room B340 after a violent outburst. After hours of isolation, crew found him in his room, violently (and mysteriously) ripped apart. The maze follows this passenger on his isolated decent into insanity, traveling through his warped mind literally and figuratively.
But the most interesting of additions to Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor this year are the new Exclusive Encounters that will take a very limited number of thrill seekers on a terrifying top secret paranormal journey through the depths of the ship that have never been open to Dark Harbor guests before. These extreme encounters will require an additional ticket, on-sale later this month, and all guests will have to sign a waiver to take part. These Exclusive Encounters will be based on the ship’s actual paranormal happenings, not just fictional tales.
The Monster Midway, Freakshow, Mechanical Monster, The Ringmaster and all of the terrifying spirits of the Queen will be returning this year amidst freaks, food, and live entertainment.
It all runs October 2 through November 2 for 20 evenings, 7 p.m. to midnight. Ticket prices start at $20 online. More information can be found on the Dark Harbor web site.
This year ScareHouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania aims to attack the most common complaint among popular haunted houses: crowds.
Recognizing that the “conga line” style of walking through a haunted attraction removes so much of the scare factor, this year ScareHouse is actually purposefully reducing the number of people that can see their scares, making the experience better for each of their guests.
“Our new approach is designed to maximize the experience for a smaller amount of customers,” explained ScareHouse creative director Scott Simmons. “Weâ€™re actually trying to REDUCE our throughput instead of increase it.”
It’s an unusual move for an industry where more bodies generally means more business. Simmons admits it’s a big risk, but feels the reward will be seen in their fans’ reactions as they enjoy a much more personal experience.
This year, ScareHouse guests will actually make decisions and interact with characters instead of passively walking through the sets. â€śNo two trips through ScareHouse will ever be the same, and the choices each customer makes will lead to different outcomes and consequences,â€ť said Simmons.
To begin to explain how this inventive approach to their haunted houses will work, ScareHouse has released a short teaser video:
It’s a complete overhaul to their attractions. “We really went nuts,” elaborated Simmons. “Tore out all the walls, even tore down parts of the permanent building in order to make room for the massive sets.”
This year, we’ll be giving Outside the Magic readers an exclusive look at how this year’s new ScareHouse experiences are being created. Throughout Halloween season, we’ll stay with ScareHouse to continue to share their new scares. I will personally be visiting and experiencing their attractions this year, reporting back on what this leading haunted attraction has to offer.
For 2014, ScareHouse features three high-quality haunted attractions intended for ages 13 and up as well as one available only to adults age 18 or older.
The Summoning (new for 2014, replacing Forsaken): This all-new highly immersive attraction is set in October 1932. Guests will uncover sinister secrets and twisted characters lurking within their most elaborate haunted attraction ever.
Pittsburgh Zombies: Black Out! (new for 2014): ScareHouse’s expanded tribute to Pittsburghâ€™s Living Dead Legacy surrounds guests with hordes of the hungry dead. The lights are going out and the zombies are getting in.
Creepoâ€™s Christmas in 3-D: A fan favorite at ScareHouse, Creepo returns with an even more twisted tale of Holiday Horror. Guests wear 3-D glasses for an eye-popping journey through a world of killer clowns, evil elves, and nightmarish toys.
The Basement: In this most extreme ScareHouse experience, Fear researcher and sociologist Margee Kerr, PhD brings the science of scaring to the creative team of the Basement. Building from research on what scares people from a social, psychological, and physiological perspective the Basement takes customers on an interactive journey built to push them outside their comfort zone, challenge their expectations, and scare the hell out them each step of the way.
All guests of The Basement must be 18 or older and must sign waiver before entering The Basement. Guests will be touched, hooded, and restrained. This attraction contains high voltage effects involving electricity, sexual content, very low lighting, tight spaces, strong scents, profanity, moments of complete darkness, water, physical contact, violent situations, and high impact scares.
Despite the planned decrease in customers, ScareHouse hasn’t increased their prices much. General admission tickets are $24.99 (up $5 from last year), which includes and include admission into The Summoning, Creepoâ€™s Christmas in 3-D, and Pittsburgh Zombies: Black Out.
The Basement is a separately ticketed experience at $29.99 for one guest to enter alone, $49.99 for two guests to enter together.
ScareHouse opens September 19 and is open on select dates through November 1.
Outside the Magic is a diversion from Inside the Magic, offering more pop culture coverage stretching beyond the boundaries of theme parks and family-friendly fun.
Based in Orlando, Florida, Outside the Magic offers readers additional sources of excitement focusing on themed entertainment outside the worlds of the popular theme parks we cover on our main site. It's a separate home designed to share photos, videos, and articles about offerings for an adult audience without interfering with the all-ages audience of our main Inside the Magic site.
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