As I am currently sitting down at the keyboard, I can still smell the stench of fog machine smoke on my TPR shirt. Yes, that means that I have just returned home from Halloween Horror Nights 17 at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando Florida. I am sure most of you already know that Universal decided to do something a bit different this year by acquiring the licence of New Line's Cinemas most notorious screen monster legends: Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface.
I am also sure other people have already mentioned this, but if you want to have a good time at HHN, make sure you BUY THE EXPRESS PASSES! We went on a Sunday evening, which is not considered a peak night. All the major houses usually had a 60-90 minute posted wait time. Since we were only going one night this year, there would have been no chance to be able to do all 8 houses, the Bill and Ted Show, and a few other things without them. On average, we probably waited around 15 minutes for all the houses with the Express Passes. Anyways, I will start with a short personal review of all the houses this year. Just remember, this is only my opinion and that there are some SPOILERS located in this review. I will write them in the order that we saw them.
A Nightmare On Elm Street: Dream Walkers. (In the Middle Soundstage) I happen to really like the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Unlike many of the famous horror icons, Freddy Kruger is one of the best because he actually interacts with his victims. Instead of just driving an axe into someone's head, he usually dispatches his victims with style, bad puns or banter. I thought the start of the house was quite good in that it introduced "us" into a sleep state as the start the maze as you walked through some sort of sleep clinic. I am a sucker for some backstory/theming. You are then confronted by a pretty good replica of Nancy's old house from the movie series. It is after you enter the doorway of the house where I felt the house really lost its way. I think that a big problem of the house is that it is way too dark. It was very hard to make any detail (or lack of) to really see what was going on most of the time. I did see several people dressed as Freddy in the maze, but all they did was jump out in a few key places. This is Freddy Kruger, not Jason or Michael Myers. His real appeal is his personality, not his ability to sneak up on people and yell, "Boo!". I guess I feel that this was the house that had the most potential during HHN17, so I found it to be the most disappointing. (C+ for theming/D for use of Scare Actors)
The Thing: Assimilation: (Just behind the Barney area!!!!! inside a tent). The Thing is certainly in my top 5 most favorite horror movies of all time. I thought some of the theming was really great inside, as well as its creature effects. However, what I think what really hurts this house is its use of its scare actors. There are several scientists in the house which jump out at you and try to scare you with loud noises/voices. One of them actually walked up to us and literally said, "Boo!". Come on, the Thing, even as a person, would in no way act like this. I think they would have worked a lot better if they interact more with the scenery/story instead of hiding around corners trying to scare people with loud "Boo!" sounds. Actor interaction with the sets is key to this one, instead of some just random cheap yelling to invoke scares. (B+ for theming/D+ for use of Scare Actors)
Jack's Funhouse: In Clown-O-Vision: (Just to the Right of Men-In-Black) Not really much to say other than I thought the house was pretty good as it has a good blend of theming/scareactors/and effects. The 3-D effect, thanks to your brand new set of 3-D glasses, worked really well. (Overall a B-)
Friday The 13th: Camp Blood: (Jaws Queue area) I was told to make sure you do this one at night, which we did. I thought this one was better than the first three houses we did in its blending of the maze and its actors. It certainly used Jason really well as he did get me in one or two good locations. While it does not look quite as cool as the Hollywood version, there were a few good moments/scares and a few scenes right out of the movies (Anyone remember Kevin Bacon and Jason's mother in the early ones?). I think it was a bit too short, but that is probably due to the lack of space they had to work with.I thought the freaked out camp counselor at the start of the maze was quite effective as he was telling everyone about his regrets of taking on this particular summer job. (B for theming/ B for use of Scare Actors)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds (To the Left of the Beetlejuice Stage Show which uses the Earthquake queue line) Again, make sure you do this one at night. I found this one to be the best of the New Line licensed homes. At the very start you find yourself walking into the iconic entrance of the Hewitt home. What I found really great was that Leatherface was not the only major scare actor in this house. All the scare actors, that I saw, were dressed as family members from the new version of the film. They too had some really cool interactions with park guests as they walked through. Naturally If you are really into chainsaws, you will love this house. Leatherface shows up several times in key locations in the house as well as its backyard area. Yes, you get to see sparks fly when metal hits metal. One minor nitpick is that even though they built it, they really should have used that metal door that Leatherface slams shut in both versions of the movie. Though I can understand that they did not want to show off Leatherface too soon, since that scene would have taken place in the very first room of the house. (B+ for theming, A- for use of Scare Actors)
Vampyr: Blood Bath (Right by the Blue Brother Stage) This year's tight leather vampire theme is set in a rave club. By the entrance of the club, a bouncer lets people in while checking IDs (Express Passes if you have them). Right off the bat we were witness to a cool little scene before entering the house. There was a entourage of a group of around 10 people cutting everyone in line while dragging a poor victim to his doom into the club. The start of the house was a little bit generic, but things started to get better as you progressed further into the house. This one has quite a few attractive looking vampires women in the maze. Later on we did come across the victim, who we saw dragged in earlier, being chained up by a group of vampires. I guess he probably did not have a very good evening. (B Overall)
PsychoScareapy: Home For the Holidays (Far Right Sound Stage) Not only did I find this one to be my favorite house of the year, it is one of my favorite houses I have ever seen at HHN. The theming/detail was simply top notch. One thing that I really found that set this one apart from the others was its use of light. Instead of the usual, "everything must be super dark for it to be scary, they decided to brighten this one up a bit using Christmas lights. Christmas lights you say? This makes perfect sense, since you are witness to our return of our favorite insane asylum inmates who decided to drop by a small peaceful town on Christmas Eve. It really blended the actors with the house theme really well. (A+ Overall)
Dead Silence: The Curse of Mary Shaw (Far Left Sound Stage) I was not familiar with this house since I never seen the movie. After seeing this house, I actually want to go out an see this movie. With that comment, you can probably guess that I liked this house. Again, the scare actors and the theme of the house blended really well together. (A Overall)
Bill and Ted Excellent Halloween Adventure: I always like this show. The people I went with this evening HATES theme park shows, but they ended up liking this one. It has the usual style as the previous ones, which I find to be a good thing. While I do not think the plotline is quite as strong as previous years, there were quite a few laugh out moments. They also introduced a few more naughty words into the mix of this year's show. The opening bit that involved the guy from the Office having the sign language interpreter sign Sh*t and asshat were classic. The big drag of the show is that they NO LONGER ALLOW PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEOTAPING. I actually thought they said no flash photography at first, which I totally understand, but after I had taken a few pictures an employee walked over to my area and asked me to stop taking photographs.
I found this year to be equal to last year's event. Two of the houses were very strong, Dead Silence and Pychoscareapy to be some of the best I have seen. While I thought the Leatherface and Jason houses to be pretty good, the Freddy houses could have been lot better. The Thing's house was good, I just would have used the scare actors in a different fashion.
Sorry for the lack of really awesome event photographs. Universal Orlando has really made the HHN event photo and video unfriendly. It really makes it difficult to really get good photographs to show off the event.
Needless to say, a few scare actors told Ken that they will swallow his soul.
Spiderpig, Spiderpig.....sigh...I guess you just had to be there.
Universal was already being engulfed by fog machine.
What are we here for again?
Oh yeah, it is Halloween Horror Nights 17.
The had a Ferris Wheel for the Carnival of Carnage.
Here is a better look.
There were a few people out for some picture oppotunities before entering the park.
Yes, another entrance photograph.
Leatherface is one of the major characters to meet this year.
It took us less than 2 minutes to enter the park. This was right at 7:00PM
We had to grab some maps first.
I wonder where to go first.
It is not HHN without the special Jell-O-Shots.
I like some of the Elm Street movies, but I did not care much for Freddy's house.
HHN's average wait without Express Passes was between 60-90 minutes per house.
Elm Street had a pre-show.
Here is this year's shirt.
The only real scare zone was leading up to the Carnival area.
One of my favorite movies. While the theme of the house was good, the scientist scare actors were not used properly.
I thought it was really funny that you had to walk all around Barneypark before you got to the Thing house.
Barney would be more interesting if The Thing was involved.
Good 3-D effects here.
If you happen to have those clear 3-D glasses, this photograph will appear 3-D.
Yeah, glasses that look like that.
While Jason is one of the weaker movie monsters (due to his lack of personality), his house was pretty good.
I used to camp by Crystal Lake when I was a kid.
Is he a Chainsaw dude, or some guy from West Virginia. You decide....Sorry Ted! :)
I ran out of time to see the Time Warp Again. Oh well.
Leatherface's maze was quite good. Chainsaws are always a hit.
More photographs! I have a few Bill and Ted shots here, I honestly thought they said NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY! Which I obeyed in that I took photographs without a flash. Well, they mean NO photography or videotaping at all, so I do not have that many photographs from the show.
Crazy Clowns riding Crazy Skooters.
Everyone likes half-naked vampires with techno music, correct?
The entrance into the club.
This was my favorite house of the evening. Christmas + Mayhem = Cool.
Dead Silence was also a really good house.
HHN is never complete without Bill and Ted. It is getting really close to 'R' rated now.
Here is the stage.
They had the guy from The Office come out to explain the rules.
NO VIDEOTAPING ALLOWED!!
As always B&T have a lot of T&A
The crowd is always really into it.
Bill and Ted look like they are in trouble.
Which way to Spiderpig again?
Mel is still in business.
Good Night USO and HHN.
Bruce, our money shark, bought us some late night food. Thanks Bruce!
I wonder why HHN is being so Nazi with filming and cameras. I can understand no flash photography, but videotaping without an external light should be OK. It's been OK in past year's. I wonder why this year is so different.
^That's my theory as well. I did a whole write up in Robb's HHN Hollywood Review. I did just look at the FAQ's and "survival guides" on both coasts and found this little gem, or something like it, in both of the "survival guides":
No food, drink, bottles, flashlights, laser pens, or recording / flash photography allowed in the Haunted Houses.
If only they banned glow merchandise items as well, life would be golden. Even more interesting is that I do not remember that rule on recording/ flash photography being in place beforehand, only after the event started. That could also be apart of my faulty memory. I guess recording, being a vague term, could be interpreted as still recording as well as video recording.
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