A New Age of Darkness Begins…Halloween Horror Nights XX: Twenty Years of Fear
For the last Twenty Years, Universal Halloween Horror Nights has terrorized people from all around the world. The event has grown so far from Fright Nights twenty years ago. Even though last year was a low point, this year truly proved why people love HHN. The houses were top notch. The scarezones where the best I have seen yet. Unfortunately this year the shows took a back seat, but we will explore that later. This year I was joined by the lovely Seras Psychotik, and the ever interesting Arnie Freeze! I have so much to touch on, so let’s take the plunge. I had so much fun at the event this year! So it is with great pleasure I bring to you, an Encyclopedia Psychotika Review…
A New Age of Darkness Begins…Halloween Horror Nights XX: Twenty Years of Fear
This years event revolved around the coming of the entity behind the last twenty years of Halloween Horror Nights, FEAR! Fear has ultimately been the one pulling the strings. With all of the icons being meerly his puppets, you really had to wonder what he was going to be like. For weeks they teased with small flashed of him, and pictures of a rather gnarly looking mouth. When he was finally revealed, I have to say it ramped me up for the event ten fold!! Most were ready to write this off as a carbon copy of Sweet 16, but they were proved very wrong. This year wasn’t about the past so much as it was about A New Age of Darkness. If this year is any indication to the direction of the event, I think we will all be very pleased to see what happens.
First I would like to talk about the media for the event this year. That advertisement campaign this year has me with mixed feelings. I have really enjoyed the commercials, and some of the other videos that they have released. However, I was really disappointed with the website this year. They have only really added one point of interactive content. No back stories, no tie in’s. On the other hand though, they have had some other really cool content in exclusive pictures, interviews, video, etc… so I can’t really say that I don’t like it. I guess I would just like to see more story development than what was given. I’ll let you decide though. Below I have collected some rather interesting videos. The first three are the teasers for Fear. Following those is the media teaser video and the commercial. Enjoy:
Starting into the event, I was pretty jazzed up! I didn’t get to go last year, and this time away from HHN was far to long. I was really intrigued, and couldn’t wait to get in the doors. The archway wasn’t as dressed as it could have been. At night it looked better, but let’s face it the majority isn’t going to see it at night. I want it to look good going in the day when I’m going in, and leave me a strange feeling of foreboding (like I’m going to die!) But, I’m not going to hinge the entire event based on whats outside. They did have the video screen in the arch this year. I have it for you below in its original format as it appeared on the website:
Once we got through that arch, (Took a while being heckled by security. I swear I’ll have my annual passes next year!) we were met by the all to familiar clouds of fog and the Chainsaw Drill Team. In the past I generally over look these guys. Never made sense having a “Drill Team” that wasn’t army fatigued. I got my wish this year. They were marched in front ans center and directed to unleash hell right in front of the Universal Store. It was so fun seeing people scatter! I forgot how good it felt seeing the look of terror on other people’s faces once they see a group of twelve chainsaw-weilding-maniacs disperse in a crowd. This was a good beginning to an epic night.
I’m going to get a little less linear now while jumping into the houses and zones. Instead of discussing them in order of experience, I want to give them in order of bottom to best. Now, keep in mind, just because a house or zone is ranked last, doesn’t mean it was bad! Every house and zone this year has a very well designed, and nicely thought out! That being said let’s start with the Scarezones:
6) Esqueleto Muerte- I think my expectations were just to high for this one! All the things I had read leading to our trip told of how much of a cool party type zone this was. Then when I got to it, yeah the glowing effect was cool, and the costumes were great but it wasn’t party at all. Maybe they tried making it scarier and went the wrong direction. I will give the Scareactors credit, I did se them handing out a few jumps and screams. They looked very creepy, but in a cool sort of way. The overall design was amazing with the theme being a black-light Day of the Dead motif (sort of making it a Night of the Dead?) At any rate it was very cool to look at, and with the scares being abundant, it wasn’t the worst ever, I just think it could have been better. ((The design team get’s an extra nod for originality))
5) The Coven– I actually liked this zone more than I thought I would. Most zones in the Shreck Ally have been known to fall short for me (with the Exception of Blood Masquerade in 06′). The main theming was that of a small witch coven. The area was rather simplistic. You had a nice mixture of old-lady-hag witches and eye-candy witches. Each end had a pilgrim tied up and burning at the stake. I really liked this effect. While were passing through you had one that was playing the suffering victim straight forward. Then at the opposite end closer to the Wyndot Estate, you had a rather comedic pilgrim. I wish i could upload our footage, he was a laugh riot. The main scares were from the two little huts they had in the zone. Taking a page from the old Mole people scare back in 05′, you had these little huts. How they catch you is they had a sheet over the front of the hut, making you think it was more a mound than anything. Then at random timing, and old-hag witch would come screaming out of one of those things like a bat out of hell!! I unfortunately was right in front of one when this happened, and had to jump out-of-the-way! The effect got me and like 5 people around me so Ku-Do to them. The whole zone was finished off decoratively wise with a glowey obelisk in the middle of it. (It was glowing green when we walked up on it, Seras thought we were on Krypton!)
4) HHN: 20 Years of Fear- This zone kicked off the night just right! This zone was the perfect dream for any HHN enthusiast. The coolest thing is walking through and trying to pick out where you know certain props from. The Scareactors in the zone were pretty awesome. You had your all-stars from 16 and a few others from other years. They all utilized the area very well. The Chucky darted out between the props for some good scares. The best ones in the area though are the ones next to the HHN15 banners toward Fear Revealed. Neither one will you really see until it’s too late, they blend in that well! I would also like to note the freak out I got in the area. As you walk into the zone there is what looks like a Crypt Keeper mannequin in a chair. Well I thought it was a mannequin until it started walking next to me. I really wish I could have caught him scaring somebody, because he was so convincing he could have un-nerved the manliest of men!!
3) Zombie Gras- When I first read about this zone, I got giddy! I have a short story I have been working on that is pretty close to the sights seen in this area. If you ever been to Mardi Gras and thought, “You know…this event is pretty cool! But you know what? If we only had some zombies…” The Scareactors were very energetic and were in abundance. The main piece in the zone, is a Mardi Gras float with a sole survivor tossing out beads. Beware! While you may think he is tossing you a free prize, realize not all free things come without consequence. Here’s a hint: Zombies like shiny beads! This gave me some pretty good laughs throughout the night. You have no idea how fun it was seeing hapless saps get lulled into a false sense of security by the promise of Mardi Gras beads. Just to run to get them and find themselves face to face with a flesh-eating monster! Definitely the best Zombie zone they have done to date.
2) Saws N’ Steam- I really thought creative dropped the ball by putting this into Sting Ally. I mea, how on earth could you ever hope to have a good scarezone in such a small area. Let be the first to say I was proved wrong! This was the best as far as scares go. From the menacing leader of people of New Yorkshire to the people getting chopped in the ally ways…it just never stopped. Going through the zone really was like going through a gauntlet. Let me also tell you that if you dwell in the area to long, you will get wet! The chainsaw people in the area are pretty aggressive too. Expect more out of them than The Chainsaw Drill Team! It’s almost like going through a short house is the best way to describe it.
1) Fear Revealed- Why did this area get my number one? It was freakin’ awesome that’s why!! I literally spent all together 45 minuets in this area through out the event and could have spent more. The Icons never break character, not even for a second! (Trust me I tried!!) The little picture areas were a nice touch as well. I wish i could have gotten some more pictures of those. You could even walk over and sit down in them for photo-ops. Was it scary? No! Was it so cool that it made me totally geek out and act like a kid in a candy store? Yes Yes Yes YES!!! Fear was also very photogenic. I have to give the guy credit, it is impossible for him to not have an epic picture. I sort of wish there would have been an arrival show, but this area more than made up for the lack of one. If you know anything about the last 10 years of HHN, you will really enjoy this zone. Bring your camera’s. You won’t regret it.
As awesome as the scarezones were this year, (The best yet in my opinion!) they were still just the icing on the cake for the houses! The houses this year were fantastic. Not much wrong with most of them. A real good bounce back from last year (or so I have heard). Let’s dig in…
8) HAVOC: Dogs of War- This was my least favorite of the night for several reasons. First off the story was terrible. If you hadn’t looked in the map description you would really have no clue as to what this house was about. There was experimentation, that much is true apparent! Other than that just a series of roided out, bald freaks screaming at you. I’m afraid of UFC fighters like the next guy, but not something I want in my houses. Next big problem is the amount of hanging wires! It was like being walked though a room of naughty tentacles in about every room leading out of the houses. It was like being in a Japanese porn! I half expected them to spring to life and start having their way with some (It would have been an improvement, and at the very least more entertaining!) The hanging wires are really what ruined it for me. Just as you get into a few good scenes in the house, that’s when they hit you. The worst part is they start getting more frequent as you head for the exit!! Universal typically always has a stinker, this one was doomed to be it! I will say that the facade going in was really cool, and the overall theming of the house was that of a mad science lab gone terribly wrong. The gun turret on top of the house was a nice touch. I couldn’t imagine having to stand there for hours on end to make it in. That thing really does start to grate your nerves. As you get closer though, you realize what a great effect it really is. Point made if you don’t think you can make this house, don’t worry you aren’t missing much. It certainly won’t be your…..White Buffalo….(the one that got away)….
7) The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes- Our first house of the night came in the form of this one. It was very cool getting to see Cindy get some proper treatment in the form of her own house. I will tell you that there are only a few scenes that will really knock your socks of, but the presence of this house is what gets you. The realistically give you the feeling of trying to escape a burning building all the while being haunted by the ever sadistic Cindy Cain! The story you get the feel for is that some how The Caretakers daughter didn’t die all those years ago. More she was sent to an Orphanage, and things didn’t go well. There is a very cool scene toward the beginning where you see little Cindy writing “Do on to others…” on a chalk board. As you pass there is a black light effect that makes words look like they are bleeding. The other scenes involve other children trapped in beds, or in cages while they slowly roast. It is also noteworthy that in these scenes if you’re not careful you will get a surprise from our little demented orphan! The final scene you walk through gives you a pretty “heated” experience, as you are exposed to some real flame to give you one last jump! The house is definitely a good starter if you want to heat things up…you know light your fire….help you feel the burn…OK I’ll stop!
6) PsychoScareapy: Echoes of Shadybrook- If you have been to HHN any number of years from 13 on up, you might have happened across a PsychoScareapy. The Shadybrook has made itself pretty infamous in its previous three incarnations. If you have been to the others I will tell you it has pieces from the other three. It’s not as intense as the original, or as treacherous as Maximun Madness, and it’s definitely not as fun-loving as Home for the Holidays. However, this one does carve out a pretty interesting legacy on its own. The facade you are met with is of course the iconic Shadybrook Asylum all boarded up and falling apart. As you go through the corridors some rather familiar faces are there to greet you again, only this time they are more twisted, and seem to be more blood thirsty! If you listen carefully through some sections you can hear the oh to familiar calming music playing distorted over the disintegrating PA. Some good scenes include some electro-shock therapy, and a caged corridor with many rows of hands…but which ones are real? It made for a very interesting experience, the only thing I could have asked for was more! It would have been nice to have more, maybe a revisit to the good ol’ poo room! I could have maybe asked for a Jack the Clown reference somewhere, but i sort of get why they didn’t…
5) Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate- So have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on a paranormal investigation where your provoking has gone a bit too far? Then this is the house for you! The premise of this house is a new invention for drawing out paranormal activity has been put into action…and you get to try it out! This particular house was home to some rather cool effects. Very ahead of itself this house was! The ghoulish glowy faced ghosts were a nice touch. especially when you realize the face is doing a sort of black light glow…and there are no black lights!! A few things to mention is a floating spectre on a wall (I really just couldn’t figure this effect out!), a hologram of the Storyteller that is über realistic, and living furniture! Man, that living furniture will get you eveytime! The distraction to that room is what get’s you. The room with it in there seems pretty normal except a ghost sitting in the corner. Well while you are busy watching him, a freakin’ chair scares you!! The house just has a very creepy feeling to it, and paints a pretty good story. I really can only hope they move forward with the tech in this house!
4) Catacombs: Black Death Rising- If there was an under-dog of the night, it was this house! I really wasn’t expecting much. Most people already discounted the house, said it wasn’t much to see. I wasn’t going to listen to that though, as I used to have a fascination with the Black Death. The story telling at the beginning was a great mood setter. I also enjoyed the accuracy of the Doctor outfits. It only added to the awesomeness when Arnie Freeze pointed out that they looked like Spy Vs. Spy. The house actually provided me with a couple of scares. The best one out of all of them was a three-way scare in the middle of the house. As you walk through a hallway, there is a archaeologist hung upside down twitching back and forth. As you look up one of the doctors takes the opportunity to catch you as your gaze comes down. Seconds after this a Black Death zombie rushes out of a grave hole, and then to end it all another Doctor comes out at you. This house also get’s awesome points because of the Doctor that tipped his hat to me on the way out (I was wearing my Top Hat).
3) Hades: Gates of Ruin- I will always love all things that have to do with Greek Mythology. That being said, I’m also very particular to the point where things have to be perfect. This was a the perfect Mythology house! You couldn’t take a step without their being a scareactor there to catch you. It was very nice how all of the scareactors were very camouflaged. Very nice effects!! One of the best characters was Medusa. That slippery-slithery Gorgon made even the steeleist of manly men crumble at the sight of her! She even sets a nice little trap. After the first main room, you pass into a room with a cut out section in the wall. In this section, Medusa’s head hangs and you think. “Ha, Perseus got that bitch!!” Well you find out exactly how wrong you are when a red strobe activates, the floor buzzes, and she jumps out of that hole for one last horrah!! My next favorite character was the Minotaur. The atmosphere that thing could set just staring you down, get’s you wired! I also want to add one of the parts that made the three of us jump unexpectedly. One of the last rooms we passed had holes in all of the walls. I kept thinking to myself, “I’ve seen all of the worst things mythology has to offer, must be a repeat or something…” Well apparently the Lizard from Spider-Man was a greek myth, because he jumped out of one of those holes and gave us a good shock!!! The only thing I think we missed in the house was Hades on his throne. I saw it there, I just didn’t catch him. If it was anything like the picture that house painted, I’m sure it was epic!
2) Zombiegeddon– This house almost got my number one spot. It definitely has a secured spot in my top 5 ever! I really went into this thinking it as going to be purely slap stick. I was pleasantly surprised to find a mixture of straight forward fear and goofy slap stick humor. As you enter you are met with the signs for Z.A.P. (Zombie Awareness Program) These guys don’t just kick zombie ass. They teach YOU to kick zombie ass! From there you enter a room with a specimen zombie tied up at a cash register with an arsenal of weapons on the wall. Here on out you enter a survival simulator. First lesson, No Mercy! What would it be like to walk into a nursery with an infected zombie baby? You find out here! I think from there you have about 2 more scenes of humor, then that’s when you here it (and see it!) Something smashes into the complex and causes a big disruption in this places harmony! The Zombies are let loose and are infecting the other survivors. The house takes a dramatic twist at this point, going from happy-go-lucky to pretty damn intense at moments! The first room to remind you of this is a containment room where all the zombies are pulling at chain link fences, letting you know incase you forgot that there are plenty of specimens! Most rooms you have the typical zombie is trapped behind something but bangs on shit to freak you out. One of the best freak out moments is in the room with the vehicle that started all the trouble. It’s a pretty wide open room with at least 5 undead in it, and the way they cam at us! Just Wow!!! I give this house an A for Awesome story telling. Of all the houses I have ever put under my belt, never has a house told a story, and in such perfect detail. From survival to shit storm in 2 seconds! I love it!
1) Horror Nights: The Hallowed Past- At last we have arrived at the best house of the night! Why was this one the best you might ask? This house took everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING I love about HHN and rolled into one big fat house! My only regret was this house wasn’t longer! You enter the madness by walking into the prop warehouse. From here you are allowed to journey through twenty years of props and banners. You could spend all day in these opening scenes and still not see and appreciate everything! Then seamlessly you enter a trip down memory lane. The house takes some of the best scenes from Horror Nights past and puts them into action. They replicate these rooms flawlessly. There were moments I honestly had to double take and wonder what year it was. It’s amazing how somehow they could manage to call up not just all the memories from the house, but the memories from that year!! Scenes used were Alice is Wonderland (Scary Tales III, HHN18), Dead Exposure (HHN18), S.S. Frightanic (HHN8), Body Collectors: Collections of the Past (HHN18), what appeared to be Silver Screams (HHN19), and definitely Horror Nights Nightmares (HHN14). Now could I have picked some better scenes? Yes, I would have traded Dead Exposure for something from The Thing or at something from Sweet 16. But, the way they evoked those memories was still too cool to discount the whole house. It gave you the terrible feeling of trying to remember all of those houses you have ever been in and then thinking “God, what will they do next!!?” Then you end up exiting through the Prop Warehouse, which comes as a perfect end to the perfect storm. If you are worried about not having experienced the houses the scenes are from, don’t fret. They are still really good scenes, and you get a small taste of what you missed. And if that is what you missed, think about whats next in this New Age of Darkness…..
So, with the meat and the potatoes discussed, let’s get to the slim pickings…the shows. The last 3 years the shows have sort of taken a back seat. The only two shows they have this year are Bill and Ted and Brian Brushwood. I won’t be able to review Brian Brushwood for you, but I can tell you I saw his act back in 07′ and it wasn’t impressive. From what I understood from other guests walking around the park that night, he hasn’t gotten any better. If you have to choose between a house or even Bill and Ted over Menace or Malice…don’t choose him! (By the way how dare he use Malice! There is only one Malice worth seeing and that is me baby!!) That being said here is my thoughts on Bill and Ted…
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure- First I have to say there wasn’t much to work with this year as far as hit movies go and other pop culture. (There was more than what they used, but I’m guessing that there were some other legalities) But to their credit they did good with what they had. The stage was totally redesigned for the event. Some topics you see parodied include: Iron Man 2, Doctor Who, Twilight: Eclipse, Jersey Shore, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, The Last Airbender, Toy Story 3, Katy Perry, Seaseme Street (not what your thinking, funnier), Lost, Sorcerers Apprentice, BP Oil Spill, and even Antione Dodson!!!! I’m sure there are a few more that I’m overlooking, but hey be surprised. There is even an old villain revisited (A villain that this show has beaten to DEATH!!!) Not the worst show, but definitely not the best. It’s worth seeing if you have time…
Where do I stand on HHNXX? It is defiantly one of the best years I have been to! If you haven’t gone this year, you need to. The event was crazy funny, and a nice homecoming for me and my group. I could have went back at least 3 more times and been happy. I hope you have all enjoyed the review, and if you go I hope you find it helpful! That’s all for tonight Darlings….stay tuned for more to come this month…Hint: Mr. Hush Weekend of Fear is right around the corner…
Until Next Time, My Freaky Darlings,