There’s No Place Like Home…Memories of Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16
With the book closed on Tales of Terror, the next volume is Halloween Horror Nights: Sweet 16. That year was the sweetest of sixteen’s! It brought all of the icons of the past together for one mega event. Jack the Clown, The Caretaker, The Director, and The Storyteller met for the first time for an all out blood bath. I really felt they kicked it up a notch this year. It was the first year I really got into the website. I’m glad I did, because it explained so much that was going on. There was a section they ran for the longest time that helped me connect with all the other events I had never been to. Dating all the way back to the very first, they set it up as an archive. As the year progressed, the site started getting more interactive content. Most of which helped you to understand the icon houses more, and how they tied in respectively. This year was also the first year the event had traveled back to the original Hacklot since 2001. So what was it like to have Horror Come Home?….
The whole idea of the event, like I said, was to bring all the major icons together for a Super Sweet Sixteen from hell! The Website was what got me the most. Each week peeling back another layer until the full thing was unleashed. I thought the whole icon get together was a fantastic idea! I had only started the event the year before, but had always seen merchandise from the earlier icons that peaked my attention. I was also pleased to see the event coming back to the Studios. Like I said I really felt that some of the scarezones the year before were hurt because of the already detailed, and very specific theming of the Islands of Adventure. Honestly I could go on and on, but I feel you will get a better feeling from the breakdown. So in the words of The Director, On with the Show…
Let’s start with the scarezones. The zones for this year were very detailed, ranging from Zombie Apocalypse to a Vampiric Masquerade. This year tops out as my second favorite for Scarezones. Here is the run down:
Horror Comes Home (Hollywood)- Right as you went through the gates, you were flowed to the right. This took you down a memory lane of all things Horror Nights. Various characters from the past 16 years were brought back to chill you to the bone! There really was no set dressing to the area. More they relied on it being dark and the thick fog creating a sort of venturing through old memories feel. The scareactors didn’t really jump at you (or at least not me). It was more like they were there on display. The scareactor to the left was my favorite in the area. Alice….with a chainsaw! (The Red Queen never saw it coming) This was my least favorite of the year, but I’m not going to lie, it was still pretty cool.
Harvest of the Souls (Sunset Blvd.)- This scarezone was a throw back the old Field of Screams scarezone in 2004. They more or less took the idea and made it better. The whole area was themed nicely with pumpkins and hay. The idea was supposed to be these creatures were all there to harvest (you guessed it…) your souls. The fog was very thick in this area, so it played on confusion. There was one point where I lost my whole group in the fog and it took at least 20 minutes to find each other. I got a very nice scare as a result of this. I would also like to add (because of my love for them) that on select nights they had a midget in a miniature creature outfit! This little guys had it going. To top things off, when I did see him he was darting around catching people off guard (and doing a bloody good job of it!) When something happened that to this day makes me smile. I’m not sure what this one particular person said to him, but all I remember seeing is this little monster kicking a dude in the shin and then running into the fog. It was one the most epic things I’ve seen! Still though I rated this third amongst the scarezones for me. The Fog was consistently to freakin thick. It really was a hassle losing your friends like I did. Especially when said incident, caused me to miss a showing of Bill and Ted.
Deadtropolis: Zombie Siege (New York)- I love zombies! Zombies have fascinated me from a wee young Psychotik, and it was cool to see them as a reality. To see a zombocolypse in New York City….was like walking onto the set of one of my favorite films. This zone was a tribute to the old house, Deadtropolis from 2004. They did a phenomenal job setting the mood. From the moment you enter you have military telling you to turn back. Spotlights on the roof tops coupled with sound effects gave you the feeling of helicopters zooming over head. Once you got into the heart of the city, you were met with the undead. The actors did a really great job of blending in to the surroundings. If you weren’t careful who you were walking around, you may find yourself walking right next to one. One of my funniest stories comes from this area. We were walking along the zone, my group and I, when I spotted a zombie hooker coming our way. I thought to myself “Dear God she is going to try to grab me, and Seras is going to deck her…” To my surprise (and hers) she attacked Seras. Now when I say attack, what I’m really trying to say is the zombie “Dry Humped”….I would also like to use the word “grind” and the phrase “Shake her fun bags.” It was too bad I didn’t have the camera! I was almost tempted to ask her to do it again. The area was also home to one of the coolest shows on earth! (But I will get to that later…) Still as great as this zone was, I have to say it was the second favorite of the night.
Blood Masquerade (Shrek Ally)- What is more perfect than a Scarezone with zombies? A Scarezone with Vampires!! Modeled after Castle Vampyr from 2004, (Noticing a pattern…?) this area was the most stunning. Both ends of the area had an alluring display of candles complete with a Queen of the Damned-esq vampire. What was cool is the use of special effects. The vampires would be posing all seductively, then without missing a beat lightning would crash, and a gust of wind would blow from under them! The effect sent many people screaming. There were also smaller pedestals set up with vampires dressed all in white. They would stand there, frozen like a statue. Then by hitting a button with their foot the same would happen, but for some reason it was that much worse! The whole thing was just visually pleasing, and they used the size of the area to their advantage. The Shrek Ally can get pretty narrow the more stuff you shove in it. So you were forced to walk right next to these creatures of the night. I saw the most screams delivered here. Easy choice for the favorite of the night.
This was my number one favorite for Houses. I really liked the idea of bringing back some of the older houses. For a Horror Nights freak like me, it was nice experiencing some of the greats that I had missed. The Houses were:
People Under the Stairs: Under Construction (Sprung Tent)- This house was very lack luster. Every event has at least one bomb, and man this was it. This house had not been seen since Halloween Horror Nights 2 & 3. Although the concept was kind of catchy, (walking through a house in construction that was being terrorized by….well you know who) it just never delivered. It’s like they took the old house, half built it, and then tried to use the failed Miner hats from HHN 15’s Terror Mines. The fog was another killer of this maze. It was so thick, you actually would miss scares because you couldn’t see the actors! The only cool thing I can add is the shot-gun effect. There is a guy in a gimp mask running around with a shot-gun. His gun didn’t fire your average bullets, but it did fire a blast of air that would scare the life out of you…if you could tell what it was. Easily the worst house of the night.
Psycho-Path: Return of Norman Bates (Sprung Tent)- This house was at the bottom of the list for me. Not because it was bad like the last one, but more because it just wasn’t as epic as the others. This house was started in HHN 4 and then again at HHN 9. What separates this maze from the previous two is, instead of going through the Bates Motel and residence, you venture though the twisted mind of Norman Bates. You start out walking through the doors of the Bates Motel, where you are greeted by Norman Bates. Two scenes in, it get’s weird. You walk through a vortex of spinning screaming faces and land in a room full of eyes,. That room I found interesting because they used an effect similar to Cold Blind Terror’s. The people in the room wore all black with the same eyes attached to them. Since it was a black light room, you couldn’t see the silhouette, and they could move around the room and you wouldn’t be able to keep up. Basically, one hell of a throwback house.
Dungeon of Terror: Retold (JAWS que)- The story behind this attraction was very interesting. Apparently the Dungeon of Terror, a throw back to the original maze from the first few Horror Nights came under new management. Elsa Strict, The Storyteller, purchased the Dungeon and reopened it promising to show passersby a thing or two about discipline. Now that sort of translated in the beginning. As soon as you walked in, Ol’ Storyteller was there to greet you. Then as you walked through, it just became this terribly gone wrong attraction with back woods murderers in pig masks. There were some nice effects. Of which there was one with a guy on a spin wheel being stabbed (which sprayed you with blood!) The back-wood people eating people. Then to put a nice cherry on top, you walk through an open room with bodies all tied to the roof together spinning. I believe they were made to look like brides and grooms. Mixed in with the dead, were a few alive which made for a good scare. It wasn’t my favorite of the icons house, but it was entertaining. The story was solid, and told you a little more about The Storyteller. (Which I thought needed to be done.)
RUN: Hostile Territory (Earthquake que)- This house was pretty damn cool! Although Eddie wasn’t mentioned in the commercials, he is still an icon. His thunder was stolen HHN 11. And although he had a bit part in a house in HHN 14, he has never been used to his potential. RUN was a lot like taking the bloodiest scenes from Saw and Hostel and forced them together for a battle to the death. Apparently Eddie RUN’s (Hee Hee Get it?) a warehouse where people can pay to watch people die. Well, at some point after entering the door, (I think you make it a foot.) YOU become the victim. There were many good scenes in this house. A lot of detailed gore. One was a room with a man swinging a lawnmower back and forth that would spin the blade and shoot “blood” on you. The best effect in the house was the electric chair scene. This scene you walk into and in the middle of the room there is a man strapped into a chair. As you get into the room, a person flips the switch and cooks the unlucky fellow. It was the strongest visual’s in the maze, and they sold it well. On your way out, you were greeted by Eddie and his oversized chainsaw. I’ll mention also, there were all kinds of trap doors around the house that had people drop it and scream “Run!” At one point we became stuck because of scaredy cats. We were told to Run 3 times. Finally we turned to him and said “Would if I could buster!” It was epic.
All Night DrIvE-In: Take 2 (Soundstage 23)- The Director is just an interesting character. Paulo Ravinski’s brand of realism was too much for his country. So he came to the America’s looking for a place to accept his work. This house was his second installment. This house brought you to The Thing, Hellraiser, Scream, Silence of the Lambs, The Ring and much more. I really loved the idea behind this maze. From the opening scenes where you walk through the directors cutting room, till you come face to face at the end. Each of the movies listed above had their best scenes exploited. In the Scream section you pass through the kitchen as Drew Berrymore’s character begs you for help, and Ghost Face springs from two different areas at random. Also in a moment of hilarity they add in the friend that get’s killed in the garage door (and she was still kicking!) The Hellraiser part was very hardcore, and you get dropped into it pretty quickly. The best visual in the house was for The Ring. You enter a busted up hospital room with strobing lights. I’m not really sure how this girl moved so fast, but she achieved the movie feel of appearing, disappearing, and reappearing before your eyes! And still as good as this house was, it still only made number 3!
ScreamHouse: Resurrection (Soundstage 23)- Albert Cain was the Caretaker of souls in 2002’s Islands of Fear. Twice before this house terrified guests. This Third time though, was something you weren’t soon to forget! One of the most massive of all the houses, Universal really pulled out the stops. The Facade outside was the exterior of a massive mortuary. Once you walked through the doors you entered a massive funeral parlor, where The Caretaker and some of his graveyard ghouls were there to greet you. You even have a cameo of his daughter Cindy preserved perfectly in a coffin. One very cool scene was just before you exit to the underground tunnels. There is a massive casket in the center of the room, with one of his fresher victims screaming to get out. The casket rocked and swayed, keeping everyone wondering what was going to jump out of it! The underground of the mortuary was very realistic. They used some kind of musty cedar smell (I think of HHN every time I walk past Garden Center). One of the coolest experiences we had in this house was with The Caretaker himself. As you would pass him, he would swing and snap his embalming scissors over your head. There was one point when he swung over a banister, and just barely missed us. Gave us a good jump, which is hard to do! As much as I loved this house, and as massive as it was, there was still one better…
PsychoScarepy: Maximum Madness (Soundstage 22)- Welcome to Shady Brook, were the patients are taken over and further warped by the sinister Jack “The Clown” Schmidt. This house was absolutely huge. I swear it took like 8 minutes to get through. This one, like Screamhouse, had a giant facade to help set the mood. You really felt like you were walking into an Asylum. When you walked in, you were greeted by a very disturbed nurse. From there it is a series of corridors and encounters with patients that have started worshipping Jack the Clown. My favorite scenes from this house were the main corridor, the poo room, and final room. The main corridor had a very cool effect. It was just after you met the nurse (who got you with her version of “Pop goes the Weasel”). As you walk down the hallway, you see all the cells are open and empty. As you get about halfway, the music over head dies out, and the lights fail. After a few seconds, you hear the end to pop goes the weasel, the lights come on, and a once empty hallway is filled with patients laughing hysterically. Towards the middle you come to the poo room (wonder why it’s called that?) This room is smeared in feces, and smells like it too! The most disturbing part was the “yum” written on the wall in it. Funny story, my friend Seth went through the house with us. As we got to the room, and smelled what it had to offer, the scareactors started in. He proceeds to lick the wall, where he then goes into a tangent about how it really is shit! I don’t know who was more disturbed us or the Scareactors. The Final scene with Jack the Clown was the most epic! The padded walls were all shredded and there were straight jackets strung across the ceiling. I was wearing my Jack the Clown shirt that night, so when Jack saw it he started pointing and giving me the devil horns. He even gave me a high-five, which was the most epic part of my night. This house has been on my number one for years. What was even better was when the guy behind me tried to give him one and he and three others jumped at him and scared the shit out of the guy! Wonder if someone collected that for the poo room later? Hmm…
So as good as the houses were, don’t you wonder how good the shows are? Well I can tell you they were refreshingly different. From a car-eating robot to a custom Cinesphere Spectacular directed by who else but The Director! This was the best year for shows, they were:
The Arrival- The Arrival show this year was my second favorite. The show was brought to you by Legend‘s Darkness (see left). Darkness would summon up the four icons from the ashes of horror nights past. When they would come forth they would each get a shot at a victim in a way that only that icon could. My favorite involved Jack the Clown…and an oversized blender (See video below). I give the show it’s props I really do. Especially the guy that played The Darkness. This guy had awesome presence and was a trooper walking around on stilts with giant horns on his head! I would like to describe more, but I assure you the video will do more justice.
Sweet 16: The Director’s Cut- This show was a first for Halloween Horror Nights. The year before, Universal added the Cinesphere Spectacular to the Lagoon. Four large movie spheres that they would edit together footage with fireworks for a completely unique experience that is absolutely breathtaking. So they let The Director in the editing room, and the result? A Cinesphere Spectacular with all your favorite scenes of horror, from Universal’s Legacy of Horror. altogether it was an experience like no other! Easily my favorite show in my Horror Nights history.
Robosaurus- There really is nothing like seeing a giant robot dinosaur eat a few cars and breathe fire. Especially when this robot is also eradicating a zombie horde! Robosaurus was a must see event! I really didn’t expect as much from this show. I mean how cool can a Robot Dinosaur be? Well, not only was he a robot Dinosaur, but he had a vehicle form! He was a freaking Transformer!! Anyway, when I saw where the show was on the map, I was curious as to how it was going to incorporate into Deadtropolis. It fit very well actually, and was themed to music from George Romero’s Land of the Dead. Just another epic show to round out a night full of them!
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure- The pentacle of everyone’s night, the slammers of all things pop-culture did again! The night was full of laughter in what was my second favorite Bill and Ted. There were so many YTMND references. Everything from Snakes on a Plane to “I’m the Juggernaught Bitch!” was represented. Universal even landed themselves in an axable position with their version of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan. (See Video’s Below. But Beware….you will laugh so hard it will change your world!)
The year was also home to some rather cool roaming attractions. The Chainsaw Drill Team was brought back to terrify guests. They were a group of militantly trained chainsaw weilding maniacs. They would be marched around by their drill sargent, and at his whim, would scatter and terrify those around them! The Rat Lady, was also brought back in a different way. She was carted around in a glass casket filled with her rats. But this time around she was followed by a ghoulish small marching band. Those two roaming shows really added to what became an awesome-dirty fun trip down Horror Nights Memory lane.
I loved this year, and it always gets my number one vote. Generally I tie it between HHN18 and this one. But as far as well rounded year, this one is full of win! Mtv “Super Sweet Sixteen” eat your heart out, because you got NOTHING on this one. So if you watched the Arrival video, you heard the mention of who would reign supreme. The answer to your question, may lie in next years event…
Until Next Time, My Freaky Darlings,
P.S. Be sure to check out the commercials for that year below. The first is the original, the one most everybody saw on their TV and on the internet. The second is a fan made commercial that quickly became a favorite in the Horror Nights community. I wish the song in it was my theme song!! Enjoy!