Ahhhhh – another year and another trip to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood! When the news broke about the lineup of mazes this year, people were in a bit of a frenzy, and for good reason because a lot of your favorite horror icons were finally going to be on the same bill! I’m talking Freddy, Jason, Michael, Leatherface, Krampus…..ok, maybe Krampus isn’t a horror icon, but we’ll get to him later on in the review. The question is, would it all be worth it? And would HHN jack the prices up even more this year? Yes to both of those questions! So let’s go from worst to first and get it going…..
Freddy Vs. Jason
Yes, it pains me to say this – but this maze pretty much blew hard. That’s about as eloquently as I can put it. The movie Freddy Vs. Jason itself is pretty fun – this maze is not. Those poor souls who were waiting over 2 hours for this one in line (not exaggerating on the time) probably needed a few drinks afterwards to erase the experience from their memory. Yeah, we get multiple Freddys and Jasons jumping out behind boilers and trees – but nothing stood out here and the giant Freddy snake (a la A Nightmare On Elm Street 3) eating a young Jason was just……odd. The maze was pretty long, so I’ll give it that as a plus – but what I can’t give it is a recommendation overall. Oh – and you do have a winner at the end of the maze for the battle (that we never really see) between Freddy and Jason, but who the fuck cares……zzzzzzzzz.
(1 1/2 out of 5)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers
Just because this maze comes right after Freddy Vs. Jason in my list, doesn’t mean it sucks. From here on out, it’s tough to pick. But anyway, this marks the triumphant return of Leatherface to HHN! And this time, he brought along his psychedelic psycho brother Chop-Top! We get to enter through the Sawyer family barbecue eatery, and from there we get lots of chainsaws and set pieces from the first two Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. My favorite live reenactment here? When Chop-Top is trying to get Grandpa to hit the girl over the head with his hammer. Always a plus when there are real actors in these mazes, and the overall visuals (and smells) here stood out. Dog will hunt!
(3 1/2 out of 5)
Halloween: Hell Comes To Haddonfield
Truth be told, and I might get some shit for this, I kinda like Halloween II more than I like the original Halloween. Sure, it’s more of a straight-up-slasher film, but it’s always more enjoyable to me when I watch it. And this maze pretty much follows the storyline of Halloween II. I really loved the hospital setting, and everything from the movie is represented here: The infamous hot tub kill (sans Pamela Shoops boobs of course), the doctor with the syringe stuck in his eye, Jimmy Lloyd laying in his own pool of blood after falling and hitting his head, and of course the showdown between Michael and Laurie when she blinds him and has him swinging his scalpel too and fro while wincing in pain. Oh – and after all of that you get to enter a random replica of a giant pumpkin full of more surprises, which may have honestly been the highlight of the night for me!
(3 1/2 out of 5)
Well, the good folks at HHN finally were able to bring The Exorcist to life in maze form! As you enter the house, the familiar ‘Tubular Bells’ theme song plays and you’re immediately greeted with an animatronic ‘spider walking’ Regan going down the stairs. From there, the set pieces are repetitive, but in a good way. Most take place in Regan’s room, some solo and some with priests on hand to assist in her exorcism. We get flashes of Pazuzu’s face on walls and in live action form as well. I had been wanting a maze centered around The Exorcist for a while now, and it didn’t disappoint. Kinda bummed they weren’t flinging pea soup at the crowd though. Can’t always get what you want!
(4 out of 5)
American Horror Story
Maybe my most anticipated maze of the night because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as far as how they would handle the American Horror Story theme. Basically broken down into three seasons/themes (Murder House, Freak Show and Hotel), this maze featured some of the best set pieces of the night (loved the reenactment of Chester sawing Maggie in half from Freak Show). The detail and music here was top notch, and if I wanted to wait 2 hours, this would have been the maze I would have gone through twice. Kudos for eliminating the Coven season entirely btw. Points for that!
(4 1/2 out of 5)
Whaaaaaat? You mean one of the titans of horror didn’t take the top spot? Nope. Coming in by a red nose to the finish line is Krampus! I really dug the movie, so I knew that there would be opportunity here with this maze for some really great stuff. This is the one maze that made me jump not once, but twice! The overall look was amazing, and it literally made you feel like you stepped into the movie. Lots of Krampuses and evil elves jumping out at you, but the part of the maze that really got me was the room full of snowmen. Just be prepared to be on your guard! Great maze and I wouldn’t be mad if this one made it back next year……
(5 out of 5)
Oh but wait, there’s more! There is also a new maze for The Walking Dead that runs year round at Universal Studios Hollywood. Considering I wasn’t thrilled with past Walking Dead mazes at HHN, I have to say that they’ve done a great job with this! Great detail and animatronics, coupled with some good jump scares. Gone are the different Scare Zones that existed in past years and instead we have a recurring theme of The Purge throughout the park, including a mini maze in the center of the upper level.
A new Terror Tram designed by Eli Roth is also on tap, and it revolves around creepy clowns and specifically a creepy clown named Hollywood Harry. It’s always cool to walk around the backlot and have photo-ops in front of the Psycho house. The clown theme worked, but I tend to feel that Universal just doesn’t know what to do with the Terror Tram anymore. Last, but not least, is the Jabbawockeez dance performance that Universal brought back again for HHN. A great way to break up your night and relax for 30 minutes while watching a pretty amazing show.
So there we have it. Another year of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood in the books. I dug this year a lot, minus the upcharge in ticket prices. If you do decide to go next year, save your money up or do whatever you need to do to get the Front Of The Line passes. Even though they took most of the perks away (other than getting to the front of the line), it makes the night so much more enjoyable. Unless you like waiting in line for 2 hours to walk through a crappy Freddy Vs. Jason maze of course.