TR from my trip to HHN last week, no pictures though, so skip if you want. I don't really care.
I got to the parking garage around 4:45pm and wandered around Citywalk for a bit to kill some time. Having done the drive from Vegas straight through and having eaten only a bowl of Cheerios that morning I was hoping to grab a quick bite prior to going into the park, but much to my dismay I was hit with the reality that Citywalk has next to no quick or fast service dining options, only full service sit down restaurants or a popcorn place. Shame, but I wasn't going to waste my time at a restaurant when there's early entry to be had, so off to the front gate I went.
Major shout out to one of the employees by the front gate who gave me some great advice when I walked up! I had purchased a standard ticket the day prior and I asked where I could go to upgrade to front of line access. She pointed towards the guest services windows but also told me not to waste my money. They were projecting an attendance of 10,000 guests that evening and told me that an average night is 22,000 guests, so I more than likely wouldn't need to upgrade. After confirming that there were locations once inside the park to upgrade I thanked her and sauntered on over to the entrance gates for early entry without an upgrade. Long story short, she was right, the place was nearly a ghost town most of the night, and I would have wasted $100. Good on you, random front plaza employee!
So here I am at the front gate waiting for them to open and they make the announcement that select attractions would be open for early entry, but not all. We would have to download the Universal Studios App to see which attractions opened at what time. Huh, that's weird, but fine, I guess. Why can't they just place a sign by the entrance with that information? This would be my first reminder that Universal is now owned by Comcast and therefore they will do anything and everything in their power to make your life more difficult. Long story short (part 2: Electric Boogaloo) Stranger Things (lower lot), Frankenstein Vs. The Wolfman (backlot), and Us (tram lot) would be open at 5:30pm, followed by Ghostbusters (backlot) and Holidayz In Hell (upper lot) at 5:45pm, then Killer Klownz (lower lot) and House Of 1000 Corpses (front friggin entrance) at 6. The other haunts would open at 7. Obviously their timing of the various haunts were designed to make my route through the park an everlasting hell, so I said screw it, I'm heading to Stranger Things right off the bat, then the backlot, then working my way through the rest of the park hitting what I could, opening times be damned.
Stranger Things - I went into this one not expecting a lot of scares. I've watched the series and I've never found it particularly scary but the style and creature designs certainly lent themselves to the event. This was the ONLY soundstage haunt, unfortunately. Every other haunt was housed in those black tents which really takes away from the scale of the haunts and the variety of the scares. You'll hear more about that later. Because this was the only soundstage haunt it also ended up being my favorite of the event. The sets were well done, the haunt was very long, there were a bunch of double-team scares, and I got the final scare targeted directly into my face, causing me to nearly fall over backwards (thanks, wall, for preventing that) and scream, "HOLY $&*@ WHAT THE &##$ GAAAAAAAHHHHHH" as I ran out of the haunt like a fat kid running away from the gym (I can say that, I'm fat). It was a great way to start the evening!
Frankie Vs. Wolfenstein - I like that Universal is trying to embrace their classic monsters recently, and this haunt had a few great sets and scares in it, but the consistency just isn't there. I came back through this haunt a few hours later after the actors had a chance to warm up but it didn't make much of a difference. Was it fun? Sure! I just wish it stuck with the immersion that the opening scenes had. Sets that fully surround you and have actors coming from all angles quickly give way to black hallways and sudden loud noises with a strobe light. There were also a few "late" scares where I would pass the actor only to hear the sound trigger, turn around and see someone in a mask standing there expecting me to jump. That approach would work if they were to silently creep up on you, but not the way it was presented here.
Ghostbusters - Fun? Definitely. Scary? Not even a little bit, but that shouldn't be a surprise. This was the party haunt. Everyone inside (cast and guests) seemed to be having a blast playing these characters, especially Slimer. I had one of the Slimers waving his arms in a blacklight like he was at a party, so I started waving with him and he turned and gave me the double finger guns as if to say, "yeah, you get it, bro!" I do, Slimer, I do. Keep on rockin! I really hope this comes back in the future in a soundstage where it can really stretch out.
Creepshow - Crap. Worst of the event. Let it die and never return. Nothing but black hallways with strobes and loud sounds. I'd rather be stuck on It's A Small World for an hour than go through this again.
Killer Klownz - Water Gun: The Haunt. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a single scare in here that wasn't telegraphed five seconds in advance. I got blasted in the face with a Klown's water gun about 10 times. Decent sets, though, so hooray for that.
Holidayz In Hell - Just like Frankie and Wolfman, this one starts great and then quickly fizzles out. The ideas for the holidays were decent but after the first few you could tell they ran out of space and/or budget because every scene was extremely short, especially the one for Halloween, which should have gotten the most love. At least they did a decent job of avoiding black hallways!
Us - I loved this haunt. Like the movie it's slower paced. There aren't actors everywhere trying to get you. Instead you walk through large sets with one, maybe two actors, being creepy as hell. There are a few jump scares but mostly this haunt relied on putting you into very uncomfortable situations which resulted in very effective scares, in my opinion. The finale was also a fantastic use of a tried and true haunt staple. This is another one I want to come back!
Pandora's Box - The storyline here is pretty damn loose as you're just moving between scenes of varying dead things, but there were some very effective scares (and some not-so-effective) and creative designs. I just wish is didn't rely 100% on blacklight. That gets old very fast, especially when there's already Killer Klownz overdoing it.
House Of 1000 Corpses - Another victim of Frankenstein and Wolfman design. The first few sets were great but then it fell into black hallway after black hallway. Long stretches of the haunt with no actors, ineffective scares when they finally did show up, and a severe over-reliance on Captain Spaulding rather than the rest of the Firefly Family who, IMO, are far more terrifying.
The Walking Dead Attraction - We're just going to pretend this abomination doesn't exist, OK? Cool.
Transformers - Hoo boy, Universal, you need to get your act together. This ride is in ROUGH shape. The projections are all very washed out, the 3D isn't tuned properly anymore (tons of double images), most of the 4D effects weren't working, the audio was all over the place (most likely dead speakers or just awful volume control), just a sad shadow of its former self. I recall this ride being incredible five years ago. It's no Spider-Man but it was still a great use of the technology! Now? Yeesh. Justice League at Six Flags is more impressive. Universal, I beg you, put some cash into this ride immediately.
Jurassic World - Some sick bastard decided to turn the water effects to max when it was 60 degrees out. Thanks, bud. Appreciate it. God this ride sucks so much compared to what it used to be.
The Mummy - Hey look! This one hasn't gone too far downhill! A few of the dark ride section effects were janky but overall it's still a solid indoor coaster.
Jabbawockeez - I wish I could rewind my life 25 minutes. I clearly got the B-crew for this show. Half of the dancers were out of sync with the others and the production design seemed hell-bent on blinding the audience with lights every chance they got. Bill & Ted died for this.
I had a fun night but it'll probably be another five years before I bother with HHN again, especially when all of the local competition just does everything better and for a lower price.
Just FYI, Citywalk does have several fast food places to grab a bite: Panda Express, Taco Bell, KFC/PizzaHut, Subway, and Pink's. I think they are all on the second level, so that's probably why you didn't see them. Great review of all the haunts though, thanks for sharing. It's nice that the front gate employee gave you the heads up about not needing to buy the express pass.
Coaster Count: 221 Last Coaster: GhostRider Top Ten: 1) Superman The Ride 2) Millennium Force 3) X2 4) Skyrush 5) El Toro 6) Twisted Colossus 7) Maverick 8) Shambhala 9) Lightning Rod 10) Mako
nice review of the haunts, thanks for sharing. USJ HHN was my first time ever being in a Universal park, so it's cool to hear more opinions of the USA HHN stuff (even tho I follow along on Robb's tweets/posts about the parks)
I'm more of a set admirer than a "scare" admirer. . so I'd think that I'd enjoy the Universal HHN on a slow day, where could take the time going thru the haunts and looking at the set pieces.
Huge Killer Klown fan, so I'd think that would be my favorite.
Seconding the fact there's a slew of fast food options not only upstairs, but also a few in the main corridor: Ludobird and Crepe Place.
The early entry was a mess this year, and changed multiple times before settling in a very confusing schedule: ST and GB at 5:30, Frank vs. Wolf at 6:05, Creepshow at 6:15, Us at 6:00, Pandora's Box at 6:15, and Holidayz at 6:30. The mobile page at ushwaittimes.com has it all listed.
I think you're the only person I know who liked Stranger Things. Despite the long lines, it was pretty hated by everyone else. If you know the show, they left out a LOT of iconic imagery which left many fans unsatisfied.
Pandora's Box was very decisive in the haunt community... people either loved it--mainly because the scareactors were so aggressive and strategically placed--or hated it as a one-trick pony with all bright neon. I didn't really think of it being similar to Klownz. It's a fair point now that you bring it up, but such a different mood (and pretty dang true to the movie--I think it was actually better than Orlando's take on the same movie--and it's not often Hollywood's HHN is better than Orlando), it didn't bother me too much.
^^^ Thanks for the info, I wish I'd known that a few days ago, haha. That's another thing, the signage in Citywalk is almost nowhere to be found. I mean yeah, the vendors have signs at their location, but signs pointing towards the garages, the front gate, restrooms, and what vendors are where are very sparse.
Yep that’s definitely the first positive review I have heard for stranger things. Despite being a big fan of the show I hope ST doesn’t return again next year (give another property that soundstage). My top mazes were Us, Ghostbusters and Pandora’s box.
I went to HHN a couple weeks ago and only two houses stood out to me, US and Creepshow. While I skipped Klowns, Wolf vs frank and TWD I feel that all the rest were just choked full of black walls with string hanging down. I mean, you get more from a local haunt. Thinking about it, holidays was kinda good. With that being said, the scares are far more intense in Hollywood. I do want to bring this up, the layout of mazes at Hollywood sucks. Like you have to walk all the way around from the far out houses just to get to klowns when it's literally right there.
I did get a chance to check out Jurassic World. I really liked it! The inclusion of more dinos in the building and making it a habitat vs the industrial setting really improved the ride. Do I want it in Orlando, nope but I really enjoyed it in Hollywood.
"B&M will NEVER build a coaster over 300 ft..." until 2012 "Cedar Fair will NEVER build a coaster taller than MF..." until 2015
^I know what you mean about going all the way around for Klownz, but that pathway access is very, very narrow. It nearly jams up with just one way traffic. With two way traffic, it'd literally be gridlock most of the time (remember, it's a backstage area not normally used for park guests, so it wasn't designed to be super wide). So between the two options, I'd rather walk all the way around that be stuck in the equivalent of "Disneyland after the fireworks" traffic for hours at a time.
I wonder if they can reverse the flow of the maze and have it enter behind the mummy by the stairway of the stars? That way, it can still exit out right there and the path to the backlot mazes could support going and coming traffic.
"B&M will NEVER build a coaster over 300 ft..." until 2012 "Cedar Fair will NEVER build a coaster taller than MF..." until 2015
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