Universal Halloween Horror Nights is in full swing, we braved opening night to bring you some highlights from this year's offerings. As for my personal favorites this year, if I had to choose a top three I'd likely go with Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count, Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America, and The Exorcist: Believer tied with Universal Monsters: Unmasked. I would also highly recommend The Purge: Dangerous Waters show. The latter is unlikely to have a long wait, it's a hell of a lot of fun, and will only take a few minutes of your night. Read on for our quick rundown of this year's eight houses.
The Purge: Dangerous Waters Live Show
A new addition this year is the Blumhouse live show, The Purge: Dangerous Waters. For fans of Universal's long-running Waterworld show, this is a real treat. The production utilizes the Waterworld space with live actors performing an array of stunts, this time set against the backdrop of Purge Night. On a remote offshore location, a prominent political figure seeks refuge to watch the Purge via live stream from the safety of isolation. But a pack of revolutionists have a different idea of how the night should play out. With plenty of pyrotechnics, Purgers on jet skis, and a fair amount of Grand Guignol-style death, dismemberment, and blood spray, this show is absolutely worth taking the fifteen minutes or so to check out during your visit.
Stranger Things returns to HHN for a third year, picking up the action at the start of season 4. After entering a backlot sound stage, guests encounter the Forest Hills Trailer Park facade. Fans of the show will recognize this as the home of Max and her mom and their neighbor— season favorite Eddie Munson. A familiar "Chrissy, wake up!" rings out as Forest Hills visitors make their way into the trailer where they're greeted by a shocking and iconic moment from the season.
Chrissy, grotesquely contorted and levitating as Eddie tries to talk her down. But we know how that turns out!
As we wind our way through the maze, we're met with familiar characters and set pieces. We even find ourselves in the lab where Eleven and Vecna first met and eventually had one hell of a showdown.
A particularly impressive set piece is Vecna's home in the Upside Down. His victims wrapped in vine-like tendrils in various poses of agony.
The Last Of Us
Another highly anticipated house this year is from the hit Naughty Dog video game turned series The Last of Us. Joel and Ellie greet visitors at the entrance as vignettes play out before encountering... the clickers. Zombie-like, fungal-infected monsters that lurk around every darkened corner, ready and waiting to attack. Fans of the video game will likely have a special appreciation for the attention to detail here. Navigating our way through the infected felt almost like a live-action RPG.
The Exorcist: Believer
The Exorcist: Believer doesn't hit movie theaters until October 6, but the maze serves as a terrifying preview of what we can expect from Blumhouse's upcoming entry in the franchise. The journey begins on a city street, with newsstands and booths set up with various wares. An idol that looks as though it would be better suited for a museum makes an appearance. And then things get weird. After two young girls go missing and return home, their time away is unaccounted for.
Meeting the girls is a horrifying experience in itself, and I will admit there were moments where I missed more than a few details because I had to put my head down and rapidly weave my way out of the room. There were portions of the house where the smell fully gagged me and I wondered whether I may have an unfortunate Exorcist moment of my own, invoking a bit of the original Regan action. Thankfully, I held it together, and the haunt made me even more curious and excited for the new movie. So well done, marketing! Luckily we don't have much longer to wait, thanks to Taylor Swift the release date was moved up by a week.
Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America
This one easily lands in my top three favorite houses this year. Last year, Horror Nights featured a house centered on a another Latin legend — La Llorona, aka the weeping/wailing woman. This year, the haunt branched out with Monstruos, tapping into three different legends, Tlahuelpuchi, La Lechuza and El Silbón. Perhaps the most striking of the bunch are the lechuza, which can most quickly be described as witches who take the form of birds, most often owls. Rounding a corner and coming face to face with a giant bird-like creature feasting upon the severed limbs and entrails of an unsuspecting victim is... shall we say, highly effective.
Holidayz In Hell
This is a returning favorite with a few new additions. Step into the world of holidays with a gruesome twist. From a macabre New Year's Eve celebration to evil Easter bunnies, a gruesome Thanksgiving dinner, and an explosive Fourth of July, this original house concept invites guests to walk through a sinister year of celebrations.
Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count
This was the first stop on our recent behind-the-scenes, lights on, not quite finished yet walkthrough. And we could already tell this house was going to absolutely rule. We could not have anticipated how much it was going to blow us away. Universal Horror Nights Creative Director John Murdy said this was the most ambitious house to date, with seventeen animatronic Chucky dolls wreaking havoc throughout. Seeing the dolls fully programmed, dressed, and skin-on come to life was an absolute blast. I got sprayed directly in the face more than once because I stopped too long to linger on the details, so just beware if you're prone to gawking!
Universal Monsters: Unmasked
This was the second maze we previewed on the behind-the-scenes tour, as Murdy unfolded the backstory behind our descent into the Parisian catacombs. The original character Murdy created greets guests at the entrance, and the newspaper story welcoming visitors to the opening of the catacombs is largely on display on the facade. The date on the newspaper reads September 6, which just so happens to be the release date for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (celebrating its 100th anniversary). Perhaps setting up guests for the characters they'll meet inside? Upon stepping foot through the front page of the newspaper, a gust of cold wind rushes at you, and continues throughout, adding to the effect of traveling underground, traversing the network of tunnels beneath the city's surface. Silent film style title cards set up each portion of the maze to introduce each new character that will be encountered around the next corner. The Phantom, The Hunchback, Dr. Jeykll/Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man.
Watching the house come to life when filled with creatures of the night and the soundtrack created by Slash was a doubly exiting experience after checking out the details in broad daylight, minus the lively monsters and sounds.
Evil Dead Rise
Step into the Monde Apartments. A recognizable elevator awaits to greet visitors to the building that once housed The Walking Dead permanent attraction. The zombies have fled and there's a sinking feeling Deadites are near. As you wind your way through the apartment, familiar scenes from the movie play out in great detail. The finale is a fun one we won't fully spoil for you here. Another great example of wanting to stop to take in the detail, but being too scared to hold still long enough!
The themed food is always an event highlight. This year's offerings include Stranger Things-themed Surfer Boy Pizza, and Scoops Ahoy on the lower lot, the returning Dia de los Muertos area, and Chucky's Killer BBQ. But no contest, the real star of the show when it comes to this year's food/collectible merch is the Chucky popcorn bucket. This is no ordinary popcorn bucket, the voice-activated Good Guy Doll responds with a variety of familiar Chucky-isms.
He also blinks, moves his head, and every so often, his eyes glow red. I don't know if that last feature is a standard or if we should warn our friends to send their Chucky buckets back to the factory. Not much room for popcorn once you crack open the skull, but you'll be handed a hefty plastic bag of freshly popped kernels as you carry your new Chucky bucket around the park. It conveniently comes with a strap, so you can where it BabyBjörn, hands-free style.
We had a blast! Big congrats to Murdy and co. for pulling off another successful haunt while continuing to push the envelope. Halloween Horror Nights runs select nights through Tuesday, October 31 at Universal Studios Hollywood. Tickets are expected to sell out, so make sure to purchase yours in advance!