Your Luck Has Run Out…Halloween Horror Nights 21
Well, it’s a sad time of year for me. October has ended. My favorite month of the entire year gone just like that. So much has happened this month I can’t begin to tell you everything. Most disappointing is, I wasn’t able to post a quarter of the articles I had planned. INCLUDING my annual review of Halloween Horror Nights 21. This pains me to no end. I feel as though I have failed you all..(All three of my regular readers! Ha Ha!!) So it occurred to me, does the fun really have to stop? I mean, does the horrible fun of Halloween really have to stop because of something as trivial as the month ending? HELL NO!!! If the stores can stock Christmas a week into the Halloween season, I sure as hell can extend my Haunt season! So prepare yourselves…I have every intention of extending my haunt season until Thanksgiving. The review will mark my protest against the end of October. That being said, pull your Jack-O-Lanterns back out…and buy some more candy…this season isn’t over yet. I’ve no idea how this will turn out. To be honest, I’m kind of pulling this all out of my ass! At any rate, let’s take a look back on Halloween Horror Nights 21…
Well, another Halloween Horror Nights has passed…and what a Horror Nights it was! I was absolutely blown away by some of this years houses. This year marks the hardest I’ve ever had to think when ranking them. That’s not to say this year didn’t have room for improvement. It did seem like they put so much attention into the houses and some of the newer aspects of the Scarezones, that they really dropped the ball in the Scarezone department. The easiest way I can paint a picture of this years event is to discuss it one moment at a time. Let’s start with the Houses…In Count Down order!
8) The Forsaken- This house was really the only let down of the night. I don’t think it was because it was bad. More, I just had higher hopes for it. The hype just didn’t hold up. It has a nice story, that is conveyed rather nicely. (Although, one in our group was convinced the Spanish Troops were actually Gladiators…I didn’t thinks so…but still) The Scareactors just weren’t up to par. All of them had masks with glowy green eyes…not the best choice. The ship’s mast room everyone was talking about wasn’t doing it for me. You could tell that there were dummies and actors in the room (Note: This effect was used entirely too much at the event…and it only really worked once…). Like I said though, it wasn’t all bad. In the beginning there was some pretty nice gore. The wind and rain effects were a nice touch. The best room in my opinion was the tilted room. You were kind of forced to be near the Scareactors in a narrow environment that kept you way off base. One of the coolest effects was a bungee Scareactor. Looked cool seeing him look like he was flying from way out to burst in the room. Still, it just wasn’t up to snuff when you consider the rest of the event.
7) Winters Night: The Haunting of Hawthorn Cemetery- This was another surprise! I picked this for number 2 and it dropped to number 7! This one really wasn’t that bad…It just wasn’t scary.This house had some of the best visuals I have seen. The grand cemetery facade was just breath-taking. Perfect for a HHN wedding. The cold was a nice touch, which would have been more obvious if it hadn’t been cool that night already. My favorite effect was a half zombie pulling itself across the ground. You see they raised the ground to your right and had a well hidden Scareactors top half-dressed to look like a zombie pulling itself over the ground…you had to see it! One of the crypt scenes was noteworthy as well. The mirror effect used to make a skeleton look like he was crawling out of a big hole would have looked a lot better…If it wasn’t for seeing the mirror that made the effect. The Scareactor dressed as a pile of bones was a could throw back to last years Scareactor dressed like a chair (The chair was less obvious!) I didn’t want it so low, but I just can’t rank a house higher based on how pretty it is.
6) The Thing- OK something was definitely strange about my HHN Spidey Sense…I PICKED THIS FOR NUMBER ONE!!! This house was still what I expected. Really nice creature effects, shit your pants gun shots, and cinematic scenes of sweet The Thing goodness! Really, the fact this one was so low should attest to how good the other one’s were! The animatronics were really more disturbing than I expected. It was hard to look, but then again it was hard to look away. The one hanging out of the ceiling and the one at the very end were the things (Pun intended) nightmares are made of. The gun effects were a lot better than I remember from 07′. I wish I would have seen the movie though. It would have let me know exactly how good the story was told. However, from what I know of the original, they managed to tuck a few of the iconic scenes from the original. (To explain what I mean…If you have never seen the original, there is a scene where the team of the American outpost investigates the aftermath of the Norwegian outpost.) The best of those that I hope people caught was the radio room where you see the operator kill himself. If you stayed in the room long enough, you would see him laid back in the chair wrists out, just like the movie. I also want to mention the over head Scareactor in one room. He really just made you feel nervous.
I only had a few issues with the house as a whole. Unlike the previous The Thing house, the protagonists had no interaction with you. Really it was like you were walking through the movie. You almost felt in the way…Seras waited for one of the actors to shoot in one room. I just wish they would have interacted a little better. My next issues was the “scary” Scareactors. Most of them just looked like they had a tumor growing out of their mouth. The ones toward the end did get better, but the beginning ones were a bit silly.
5) H.R. Bloodengutz Presents Holidays of Horror- From number 7 in the prerank…to the number 5 spot…this house did not disappoint. From beginning to end was a constant onslaught of the campiest horror this side of the SyFy channel (Only it was actually good and entertaining!) I wish I would have had time to watch the que video’s outside. The que showed you clips from the H.R. Bloodengutz show. Each clip was featured in the house, but the rate you go through…you don’t have time to see them. The facade to the house was fitting. It was like you were entering through the back of the TV station. The loading dock smelled like a real loading dock (Not that it’s a hard scent to achieve, but a nice touch none the less!) The guy playing H.R. in the opening room was really into it. He kind of set the mood for the whole house. It’s really funny when you notice some of the holidays. Everything was represented from the big holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving all the way to the obscure like Presidents Day and Arbor Day. The funniest one when you noticed it was St. Patrick’s Day. Your kind of caught off guard at first, until you see the pot of gold and all of the shamrocks. The most imaginative was Presidents Day. When you walked into the room, the key effect was a nuclear bomb going off outside. You see the “Football” suitcase counting down on the president’s desk. When it goes off you hear the loud “BOOM” and the room floods with light. That’s when you notice the mutilated president corpse on the couch and the zombie Abe Lincoln and George Washington. The last I have to mention is Christmas. The only thing I can really say to describe the true epic nature of this section is…Crazy Cartoon Elves with Machine guns…with a murdered Mrs. Clause and a Santa with his head blown off.
4) Nightingales: Blood Prey- From here on in was some of the hardest decision making I’ve ever had to make on houses. All of them were top contenders and this one was no slouch. Let me first say, this had a really imaginative concept. I really didn’t know how they would pull off the trench atmosphere. It could have went either way, but they knocked it out of the park. The facade made my jaw drop. I couldn’t belive the grand scale of it all. When you first enter, you only really see German soldiers for a scene. To be honest, the Nightingales are more terrifying. One of the effects that stuck with me was a soldier trying his damnedest to protect you and move you out of the area. As he is telling you to run and stay down, he is grabbed from behind. All that’s left when she pulls him away is his bleeding legs. The rest of the house is full of some of the best gore I’ve seen at HHN. Honorable mention goes to the soldier laying out on a table just spewing “blood” into the air. Made everyone get the creeps. I was really concerned about the masks at first, but you know upclose…they work. I don’t really remember having any real problems with this house. I think I just wish it would have been longer.
3) Saws N Steam: Into the Machine- From right here just let me say, any preconceived notions I may have had this year for a house just because of the location…well now they are right out the window. The location of these top houses usually held the background starters of years past. Now they hold the best ones! I had high hopes for this house. As good as the Scarezone was last year, it had a lot to live up to. If there is one thing this house proved, it’s that you can take a really good Scarezone and turn it into an epic house! I don’t even know where to start. The whole house was done so great. You really felt as though you walked into a giant machine-made for extracting fluids. The story line was told clearly. The effects were top notch. Everything from people being mutilated on a table to canisters of meat being squished to squeeze every last drop out. The further your journey takes you…you see more and more water. One room is lined with what looks like fish tanks on all sides. Closer inspection reveals those aren’t fish in those tanks…but bits and pieces that slipped through. As you make it to the last scenes, your faced with a giant waterfall with a man in an old-fashioned dive suit behind it splashing water at you. It’s at this point you remember…the only way these people have water is to harvest it…THAT’S ALOT OF FREAKIN’ WATER!!! I really hope they use this house as an example of what to do for future years. Maybe we will see a 7 house next year…hmmm….
2) The In Between- This house set a new standard for all 3D houses…HELL..Effect houses in general. I picked this one for dead last and it nearly walked away with number one. One of the easiest ways to describe this house is a bad acid trip…A REALLY, REALLY BAD ACID TRIP!!! From beginning to end, the whole maze became an all out war on your senses. Sight, Touch, Sound, and I believe in one part Smell…It could have been someone crapping themselves come to think of it…anyway…all of these became your worst nightmare. There was one room with laser lights being sprayed everywhere. If you looked down, you felt as if you would drop off the face of the Earth. To top it all off, you had these near invisible black strings hanging down and hitting you. Giving ou the feeling you could feel the laser dot’s. The rooms that had creatures in them…you couldn’t see them until the wall came to life. AND BEFORE I FORGET!!! The spinning walkway was the worst it has ever been. I feel like I’m going to fall down when I walk through this effect when it’s normal. Add 3D and BAM! No Bueno!!! I cam close to naming this my number one. But, their was something the number one house had that this one didn’t…
1) Nevermore: The Madness of Poe- I have been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe since…well…EVER!!! I had to think on this one for a while because I wanted to make sure that it was the house that made this number one and not the little goth kid deep down inside. The whole maze painted a brilliant story and captured the very essence of Poe’s madness. The first scene you are faced with is Poe writing at his table frantically in an alcohol fueled rage. The most I can guess is this is supposed to be when the madness takes him over. As you progress you walk through the incarnations of some of his better stories. If memory serves me right, it was Tell Tale Heart, Pit and the Pendulum, and Black Cat. Tell Tale Heart was the coolest of those three. As you walked in, the same scene of the narrator tearing open the floor boards revealing the heart is recreated on every wall and even the ceiling. My first scare in this house came from the Scareactor hanging out of a hole in the wall. I loved the beating heart noise as well. The second act of this house came when you entered a grand hall. At the top of a stair case you could see Poe swaying back and forth drunk of of his mind. Beware though, the spirits of his late wife haunted the room at every turn. And I do mean EVERY turn! I can’t remember the exact sequence of events after this point but I can tell you this…Masque of the Red Death and Cask of Amontillado were the bomb diggity! Cask was creepy when you looked to the right and say a skeleton chained inside a wall. Even worst was when you looked to the left and saw Poe Bricking YOU in.
The only part I thought was a bit silly, was the giant ravens. Not that they were bad. They were very cool…but all I could think about was the Big Horney Bird from Hell in Little Nicky. I would have just died if they would have started dancing to the tune of “Ladies Night.” That was really the only thing I found off, and even that wasn’t really off. Just more of a humorous observation.
Now that I’ve went through the Houses…it’s time to attack the Scarezones. I still have mixed feelings about the Scarezones. Some of them really weren’t the best, but I still liked some parts. However, my number 1 Scarezone this year is my all time favorite. Let’s examine shall we:
6) Nightmaze- As much as a good idea as this zone sounded on paper…it equally failed to deliver. I just felt like something could have been done to make it better. I liked the thought of a moving zone. The actors had a good idea going with no caring if you were coming or not and closing off sections to make you go back. But the way it was designed just looked sort cheap and last-minute. Really you could recreate this area at your own house if you wanted. One time out of three was decent going through it. It just wasn’t up to par.
5) Your Luck is Up- The new team that has taken over this event since Michael Roddy left has done one thing in both HHN XX and HHN XXI that I have not liked…The Icon of the event has not had a house.With Fear it wasn’t a big deal. The Scarezone was enough. For Lady Luck, we had a nice story line. A story line that was wasted because their was noting to tell it. Consider for a moment, if you will, the zone that was in Sting Ally last year. Saws N’ Steam was a great zone (My personal favorite of all time until this year!) So you can’t blame the area. The set design was OK…but it was the same thing at either end. It was home to 5 Luck Scareactors, 3 Monster and 2 Normal. This made the area very predictable. The whole distraction tactic was easy to see through. It looked cool, but it was just kind of meh…Not what I would expect after seeing last years zones.
* Editors Note: The area that they used to take pictures with Lady Luck served as a better zone for the Icon…
4) Grown Evil- This Scarezone was pretty good. It brought me back to the year they had Harvest of Souls. The creatures were pretty decent. Not sure why the Bat Stilt Walkers all had boobs that were like “Look at me!!” Maybe there are some Furries on the creative team…I don’t know! I’m not complaining about that. My complaint, and this could have just been their direction for the night, I couldn’t get not one damn picture of them! Everytime I went for one, they would cover up or turn their head. It was frustrating to say the least. So for punishment…Your at Number 4!! Ha! Now who get’s the last laugh. Also the actors didn’t try near as hard as they should have to scare Seth or Myself. On another note I did like that they used Silent Hill music in the area. It was a nice touch.
3) Canyon of Dark Souls- From the first pictures I had seen of this area, I didn’t expect much. It really wasn’t that bad in the long run. With wind blowing it made it impossible to see where the Scareactors would come out of. The costumes did a good job of blending in. The music was fierce and the fire effect was great. I also enjoyed the area being lit only by the light of the fire. Seth was dressed as Death the Kid from Soul Eater so he had ton’s of fun with the Scareactors. He kept wondering if they were all members of the Death Family. People were loving it…I don’t think this zone’s actors got it, but believe it or not there was more than once he was noticed. My only problem? This zone could have been a lot bigger.
2) Acid Assault- I liked this area and at the same time felt it had room for improvement. The effects used to make the buildings look like they were falling apart were epic. I can’t wait to see how these effects are used in future years. The music was fitting. The set dressing was spot on, and the Scareactors I did see looked good. My only issue was the lack of Scareactors. The area had next to no scares. It looked great and that’s why it got so high on my list. However, it ended up being Michael Bay…all style…no substance. You might be thinking to yourself, “Malice, it just sounds like the Scarezones this year were all awful!” Well, I still have one more to tell you about…
1) 7- Words can’t accurately describe my love for this Scarezone. This zone was able to do so much with very little. You can honestly say it was the actors that made this area. I loved that it changed as the night progressed too. When you first got there, the ladies that represented the deadly sins were rather tame. The minions still offered scares. I mean, they can’t sacrifice that just for effect. The music playing all around was a choir version of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” As we progressed through the zone, the actors were very responsive, acting out perfectly what their sin was. The Lust guys were my favorites. Before we left, my friends Lenny and Seth were both molested. This spells a good time in my book.
Later on in the night, I decided I should go back through and catch anything I might have missed. I was really interested to see how the 7 zone had progressed. What I walked into was so much better than expected. The music had changed from a choir version to the real version. The girls that once looked to be temptresses, were warpped completely by their sin. The pictures and the video I’m going to include will say it all. It was like you walked into a night club gone terribly wrong. Like you were in a horror movie, and this was the big reveal. It has even inspired me for a short story. I just can’t say enough right now. Hats off to you Uni! Take a bow!
Now I know this review has been rather long, but I still have things to go over. Mostly I want to discuss the shows and the icon. Then I will close this mother, and let you and me have a nice nights sleep…
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure- I’m not going to lie, I get less impressed with this show as the years go by. Last year I nearly gave them an excuse, until I looked back and found they DID have a lot of funny stuff to go off of. This year had even more than last year, so that excuse went WAYYYYY out the window. I will say that it was better than last years…but that’s like saying a you have a higher IQ than the guy with a lead pipe coming out of his head. I just think they get to afraid when it comes to making fun of anything Disney has done. You don’t have to make it the same character, you can get around it and make it just as funny. Which they did do in one instance (El Capitano Mexicano anyone?) One of the funniest things of the whole night was a bit they had using Jeff Bridges’ character from True Grit. All of the things they could have used, they used wrong…I mean…COME THE FUCK ON PEOPLE!!! Man up! Rent Seth McFarland for Christ sake…OR Trey Parker and Matt Stone…SOMETHING!!! I did this one first this year…Next year, you can be sure it will be dead last on my priority list.
OH…and before I forget…Drop some of the music numbers! They add more every year…and they get less impressive every year. If I want to go to a PG-13 strip club…well I wouldn’t go to a PG-13 strip club!! So just…NO!!
Death Drums- I did not get to see this show up close and personal. No, I decided to go to Bill and Ted…*sigh*…BUT, I have seen it via the wonders of the internet. I have to say i was really impressed. It was nice to see Brian Brushwood was gone. I do hope this show comes back for next year. The drummers and dancers were all very talented…I’ll add the video for you below. It speaks louder than my words.
*Editor Note: Video is from Inside the Magic…be sure to give their YouTube channel and show some love…
I have mixed feelings about the Icon this year. Lady Luck was a wonderful Icon…the way she was portrayed in the media and promotions. When you got to the event, all of the Lady Lucks (except the Monster version) were just kind of…there. They didn’t talk…they didn’t elicit a response…you might as well have put a Royal Gaurd in a green dress! I just didn’t get how you go from the one on the advertisements and the one you met. I also really enjoyed the connections between the houses and Luck. She had a great story…the delivery just wasn’t there.
Taking everything into consideration, It wasn’t a bad night. It wasn’t the best HHN ever, but it wasn’t the worst either. I think HHN XX set that bar too high. I still see seeds that were planted this year that I’, sure will blossom into something great next year. I spent HHN with great friends. Some I just met, some I’ve been with before. HHN wouldn’t be the same without you guys. Special thanks to Seth Garner, Lenny Mosco, Amanda Rivera, Cullen Wheeler, and of course my lovely Seras Psychotik! Thank you Amanda and Bo Van Hassel for watching the Demon Seed, you helped a lot in all of this as well.
* Editors Note: I didn’t think about this until later, but I can’t help but wonder why they used so many masks this year. I hope this isn’t a new trend because some of the masks really ruined the realism. Nothing like getting into a performance…and then seeing a blatant mask line…
ALSO!!! Incase you think I forgot about us being at IOA during the day…think again! I remember the pain very well. NEVER AGAIN shall we go to the park for the whole day before doing HHN. NEVERMORE!!! It was fun…just too exhausting. I will give an update on that…but it will be later. November 12th I will be going to one day of the Harry Potter Celebration for a thus far unnamed Q & A session. So, look forward to that!
That’s all for now Freaky Darlings, stay tuned for more to come. Here’s to HHN past and looking to HHN future…
Until Next Time, My Freaky Darlings,