Through the Looking Glass…A Look Back at Halloween Horror Nights: Reflections of Fear
If there ever was a year that I think Universal could have made a script out of the event story, this would have been the one. Reflections of Fear set a new precedent in the event as far as story telling went. Once they started the website, they would slowly peel back the layers of the Legend that is Bloody Mary. To take something as iconic as the Urban Legend of Bloody Mary and make it their own is just…well legendary!! The creative team also kicked it up another notch by having a fully interactive game go on at the same time of the event, The Legendary Truth. Never had Universal went into such detail over one of their characters! Never had they an icon that had been so omnipresent. Belive me when I say she was EVERYWHERE! So, My Freaky Darlings, hold on to your freak hats! It’s going to be a bumpy ride as i take you back…Back through the Looking Glass….
To fully appreciate this event, you have to know what went into it. The website started giving you diary pages of one Dr. Mary Agana. The good doctor was trying a new experimental way of curing fear. Her thesis was, to make her patient confront their fear head on. To put them in an inescapable situation where they either face their fear or die! I’m sure you can imagine what ultimate ends they met. As the journal pressed, you start to see Dr. Agana’s mind unhinge. She actually starts to enjoy seeing her patients suffer. She enjoys seeing them die, and relish in the fear they experience. The journals feature an audio, so that you can really see this take effect. Depending on how into the website you were, you could read into the side story of a Private Investigator, Boris Shuster. It was all just a fully immersive experience that painted such an interesting picture. Thanks to a website HorrorNights.be I’m able to post a link below to not just the Halloween Horror Nights 18 website, but also the Legendary Truth Website. For The Reflections of Fear site click here. If you want to see the Legendary Truth click here. That year they also did a very cool arrival. unfortunately, they didn’t do this for the public. It was a press night only event. Thanks to YouTube though, your able to see it below.
I’m going to start you off with atmosphere first. The whole event was about you being drawn through the mirror and into her world. Bloody Mary made her presence known everywhere. Universal even replaced the medallion that hangs in the archway with a giant LED mirror. In this mirror, Mary would talk to you. It added so much to the event seeing her up there, spreading her message of terror. I’ve taken the liberty of embing this video for you below:
A big part of this atmosphere was the Scarezones. Here’s what you had to expect:
Asylum in Wonderland- This zone took one of my favorite childhood stories in a direction I rather fancied. I loved this whole area! From the foul-mouthed Caterpillar to the demented White Rabbit, this area was some naughty good fun. They had these huge screens all around as you went though that projected various pictures. If you looked closely you might even see the Cheshire Cat. Most of the actors here were on skates. What did this mean? Only that they could sneak in and out of those screens to scare you that much more quickly. there were also a few mirrors in the zone. I wondered if they were just scene decoration or what they would do. My question was answered when a light flashed in it, and you see Bloody Mary. It was like Disney turned on its head!
The Skoolhouse- A very creepy atmosphere this one had. It took the idea that The Skool had in HHN 15 and made it better. They put so much detail into this area it was insane! They had a bus parked to one side, and even had a little walk through School House you could go into for a quick scare. There really is nothing like a group of scary demented kids plotting your demise. Seras assisted in a scare here too! I was filming the school and dropped my guard. The Teacher walked up behind me and just stood there. Of course Seras says nothing, and when I turn around all I can see in my LCD screen is the face of the teacher. This image has to be every paranormal investigators nightmare. I give him credit, but most of it goes to my loving Seras!There was also a very cool attachment to the area where the tree canopy was filled with glowing Jack-O-Lanturns. A very cool visual indeed! Made even better when they would all go out at once to the audio of Bloody Mary being said three times…
Fractured Tales- Another favorite of the night! This was Mother Goose off her meds! It was cool to see how they would take this and run. I belive they even had Mother Goose walking around (with a goose on her head). The had Little Miss Muffit with a giant spider on her, the Pied Pipper with a rat hanging out of his mouth, Little Red Ridding Hood with the Big Bad Wolf’s head in her basket, and many more. It was a laugh riot to see some of them. I kept calling the ogre a pissed off Shrek. He didn’t like that too much.
Streets of Blood- The idea here was really good. Taking history, and turning in the fashion of The Body Collectors. The area was supposed to make you feel like you have been transported to White Chapel where the Ripper murders took place. The story they paint is that it wasn’t Jack the Ripper that did the murders. Rather it wasn’t one person at all. That it was the Body Collectors harvesting organs. The street was populated by the Collectors and by a different Collector you hadn’t seen before. They looked like something out of an insane asylum, and acted almost like a dog. They even had an added element of hookers walking around, and without a seconds notice one of the Body Collectors would attack them in the street. The way this zone looked was very authentic. Even using street candles to illuminate the area in l00 of conventional lighting.
American Gothic- Surprising enough i didn’t spend much time here. I did like it! The dress was very cool, and the Scareactors did a good job. But to be honest I just wasn’t feeling it. I think the concept was great, they just limited themselves to much. Lizzie Borden was the only one mentioned, and best I could tell all the others were civil war soldiers. So if there were more there, I didn’t catch them. I will say the girl playing Lizzie gave quite the few people a good startle. It just wasn’t my thing.
Path of the Wicked- I’m not going to lie, I was giddy when i first heard this announced. The Wizard of Oz is such a cool movie, and the thought of seeing twisted characters from it (and Flying Monkeys) was too much. My only disappointment in this area, was the artistic freedom they took with the Flying Monkeys. They didn’t look like monkeys, nor did they have wings! The were more like demented flying squirrels. The effect that they had though was cool enough. As you walked through, they did have “Monkeys” Flying over head back and forth on a safety line. The Witch up in her tower chastising the passerby was pretty cool too. I loved what they did with The Scarecrow, The Tin-Man and the Lion. It added a very nice touch.
With the Scarezones being what they were this year, you had to figure they would deliver on the houses, right? well deliver they did! Maybe not as hard as I thought they could on some, but still a pretty good line up none the less. Now all of these houses were based off of a victim of Bloody Mary (See her journals on the web page.) To add an extra easter egg to each house as well, there is a hidden Bloody Mary in each. This was a fun little game to play as you went through the houses. Here’s what they had:
Scary Tales: Once Upon a Nightmare- This was the third in a series of these houses. So with a name like this, everyone had very high expectations. It delivered and then some! This was my favorite house of the night. I even had to do it twice one of the nights. In this house you went through Rapunzel, Goldie Locks, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz…and that’s just to mention a few! My personal favorite scenes was the Mad Tea Party, (Alice, Mad Hatter, and Door Mouse all dance an rejoice over a disemboweled March Hair…intestine strung across the room) The Scarecrows corn field, (With Dorthy mutilated hanging from his post, and a Tin-Man that would squirt you with his Oil Can) and Goldie Locks and the Three Bears (Where you come face to face with a pissed off Papa Bear!) The Secret Mary sighting in this house was good one too. When you are walking through the Alice in Wonderland section, you walk through a hallway filled with mirrors. The only thing that pops out of the mirrors is the Red Queen screaming “Off with your head!”…all except one. When you least expect it, Mary jumps out of this one for the win!
The Hallow- here you take a journey into the heart of what Halloween is all about. Samhain runs free as he shows you the true traditions that forged this holiday. Now to some this could have been confusing. You have to know a lot of the lore to get some of the references. But they manged to still making it interesting enough, to where even if you didn’t know, you weren’t left out. One scare in the maze that got me was a room filled with little statue holding out a Trick R Treat bag. I’m just going through expecting them all to be statues (they are really tiny.) When one of the statues lunges at me. Little person Scareactor For the Win!! I also took the liberty to make goat noises at Samhain. Like most of the Scareactors I mocked that night, he didn’t like it. The Mary Sighting in here was possibly the coolest. They had a see through screen hung in front of you. What this allowed them to do, was project a ghostly image onto it of her walking into frame, smiling, then disappearing. It was very cool!
Dead Exposure- When I heard what this house was actually about, I got disappointed. Se rumors where it was going to be spirit photography. What it actually was is a black light filled house where all the zombies could only be seen when the black light flash goes off. I was surprised to find as campy as this one was, it was pretty damn good! There were quite the many moments where you would get surrounded, and because of the flashes you could see them until it was too late. There was one room in particular that got everyone. The whole room was filled with fake black paint zombies. There was still about five real ones though, and you couldn’t tell until it was too late. The story behind this one wasn’t bad either. Charlie McPherson was supposed to be the reporter covering this mass infection. The journey you take is actually supposed to be a journey through his pictures. This all of corse ends when you get to the last scene to see him being eaten. Great concept, I just wish there wasn’t so much empty space at the end.As for the secret Mary, I didn’t catch her in this one. From what I understand it was very hard trying to.
Reflections Of Fear- In a un explainable move, creative put the icon house in the Jaws que. I didn’t think it belonged here, and was dreading it. To my surprise it worked! It worked so well I couldn’t have pictured it elsewhere. This maze took you through Dr. Mary Agana’s clinic. If you followed Legendary Truth, it was supposed to be like a paranormal investigation gone horribly wrong! Mary drags you into her world, where she shows you exactly what happened there. There was a moment that got Seras and me in this house. One of the last rooms you walk into, there is a Dr. Mary Agana’s standing in the corner. as she gets your attention, a Bloody Mary bursts out of the glass next to you. You got to hate the wonders of misdirection. For an icon house it did wonderfully. I just still have to imagine what could have been better had it been in a Soundstage…
Doomsday- I swear to you I was the only person in the world excited for that house! (Well, Seras too!) I had never seen so many people against a house like this. The concept was great. It just brought you back to enough scenes in the movie to go “Hey, i remember that…” But, for the most part it was a stand alone house. I loved the music in the house, and they way they dressed. I even loved the smell of the Bar-B-Qed man in one room (Offered to stay and help cook) The Scareactors here were as light-hearted as Psychoscareapy the year before. I just really enjoyed this house for what it was. They were my kind of people!
Body Collectors: Collections of the Past- I may have missed the first Body Collectors…my White Buffalo (the one that got away), but i wasn’t missing this one. This became my second favorite of the night! The story takes you back to White Chapel London during the time of the Jack the Ripper Murders. You quickly find out there is no Jack, only the Collectors. You get a chance to walk all the way into their lair, and see a hole room littered with past victims. I loved the buildings in this one. You could really see how hard the design team worked to make this a success.
“Creatures!”- This house had the potential to be the most terrifying one of them all, and dropped the ball!! I can not tell you how disappointed I was. It was set up to be sort of like Stephen King’s The Mist, and fell short about a Green Mile! There was nothing really scary about it. The facade was perfect, there was even a few tentacles taking over the bar from outside, but once you got in there was nothing to be afraid of. You were really confused as to whether you should be afraid of the towns folk or the non-existent creatures. The only scare I remember is a hallway where you are under shot-gun fire. They achieve this with sound effect and air mortar, but it just wasn’t enough.
Interstellar Terror- This pulled in as my third favorite of the night, but honestly the best detail wise. They built a freakin’ scale spaceship facade…you don’t get more detailed than that! Welcome aboard the MSO Columbus, where a strange artifact has turned the crew into maniacs!! Personally, I was more concerned with the crew hurting themselves then me. They were a self mutilating bunch. Carving strange symbols into their skin, blowing themselves out of air locks, and one that just couldn’t get enough of shocking himself (really cool effect.) there was an awesome effect in this maze where they made you feel like you were walking across a cat walk that could drop you hundreds of feet! It was also nifty to find out the artifact was made from an old model of the E.T. Spaceship. Mary was easy to spot in this house as she came of one of the warning monitors toward the middle of the chaos. A good pick me up after the disappointment that was “Creatures!”
So the shows this year weren’t fantastic. In fact there was only one good one worth seeing, and that was Bill and Ted. I don’t really feel that I have to break these down as I can sum up the other two rather easy. The Rocky Horror Picture Show- A Tribute was even worst than the year before. While the Brian Brushwood show was the same as the year before. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure I was really worried about. With rumors flying around about a rather inappropriate Heath Ledger joke, and the election being that year it had the recipe for disaster. But, I was proven wrong for doubting the Wyld Stallions. They pulled together a rather entertaining show. They touched on the political race, just enough to say they addressed it. There was no inappropriate HL joke, and really it went business as usual. I will dare say I enjoyed it better than HHN 17. Sorry I can’t post you a video, but unfortunately Universal Orlando has gotten pretty tight-lipped about video taping the show since 2006. I can tell you it had a few really good Miley Cyrus jokes. She get’s turned into Two-Face (big surprise there!) Altogether though, it was pretty well-rounded show.
My feeling on the whole event was one of wow! Never had I seen such a tight-knit story like this one. Like I said it set a rather high bar in that area! They found out exactly how high the next year for Halloween Horror Nights 19: Ripped From the Silver Screen. That year got some of the worst reviews I have seen in the last 5 years of the event. Fortunately for all of you, you won’t have to hear about it more than this. I did not go, so i can’t give you an honest shot on the event. All I can tell you is that judging from the website and the story I did see, it had nothing on Reflections of Fear. This year’s story will always live on in infamy, and we can only hope that they will met that bar this year with Twenty Years of Fear.
With the finishing of this review, we will start living in the present. Halloween Horror Nights XX: Twenty Years of Fear was unleashed last night and just finished hours ago. I’m curious to see what kind of FEAR was kicked up at the event…
Until Next Time, Mt Freaky Darlings,
P.S. Here is a look at the commercial for that year! Watch and Enjoy!