Thursday, October 8, 2015

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 25 Review

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I was packing for my spooky Orlando trip! Tonight I'm reviewing Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights. This event is known world-wide and now in it's 25th anniversary, scarier than ever. Now don't get this confused with Disney, this event is NOT for kids. It is hard core chills. I hardly bat an eye at horror movies and this event had me scared. I have never seen anything quite like it. I'm going to review the houses as well as my tips on surviving" the night." First things first, let's start with the morning trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure!  

The morning got started early as we left our hotel and headed over to Universal. Universal Orlando is about 20 minutes away from Disney so plan accordingly. After entering the park, we had to go straight to Diagon Alley, the newest Harry Potter area which opened last summer. If you love the movies/books you must check this place out, if you know nothing about the movies/books you still need to check it out. There is so much detail! It looks like you stepped directly into the world of Harry Potter. You also need to make a beeline for the "Escape to Gringotts" ride and have some Butterbeer (I prefer the frozen kind!) during your stay.

October is not only awesome to visit because of the Halloween happenings but it also has much lower crowds than the summer. We had hardly any long wait times even for the most popular rides. One of the first things I spotted was these carnival games towards the entrance and... There. Was. A. Giant. Gizmo. Yes. Gizmo from one of my favorite films "Gremlins". I knew I had to make it my mission to win a Gizmo but we will get to that later.

We did all the rides we wanted to as well as hopping over on the Hogwarts Express to explore the original "Wizzarding World of Harry Potter" in the sister park, Islands of Adventure. By noon we were having lunch at Lombard's in the "San Francisco" area of Universal. The butter was legit, just take a peek below. Sorry, I am amused by things like this and impressed. Since we had the full night of horror ahead of us we decided to head back to the hotel and rest up for our "impending doom".

But first we had to stop by the Simpson's area and get a giant donut. If I was going to be chased by chainsaw wielding clowns, mental patients and walkers then I had to have my carbs. Oh these donuts are delicious. I highly recommend getting one to share with your group or you can eat the whole thing, I'm not here to judge.


Between watching college football games and snacking on the donut, I was able to get a nap in. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous about the event. I had been to Halloween Horror Nights before but I hadn't been in a few years. If it was scary then I could only imagine how scary it was now. Soon it was time to travel back to see what the monsters had in store for us! After a light dinner, we made our way over to the entrance. There were ALOT of people waiting to get in. If I had planned better I would have  booked a room at one of the hotels at Universal. With cab fees it would have come out better to stay onsite than to keep traveling around. You also get the perks of entering through the hotel guest entrance to the event as well as the leisure of the boats or walking back to your hotel after you are done for the night.

I didn't know much about the houses so I studied which movies and such would be represented. We also made conversation in line about what houses were the least scariest and what the must-dos are. It seems like a lot of locals love the event and try to make it a weekend thing to fit everything in. We decided that the "Walking Dead" and "An American Werewolf in London" houses would be the best way to ease into the houses. I do not find zombies particularly scary and enjoy the show. The werewolf house is mainly composed of high-end, state of the art animatronic wolves.

However, each person is different. Look at the maps and see what houses you want to hit first. If you aren't scared of anything go with any of the houses. If you want to test the waters, walk through a few of the "Scare Zones" that are filled with live actors or "scareactors" as they are called. Also make note if you get absolutely terrified in one of the houses there are employees in each room who can help you make a swift exit. Oh and get there early! The event starts at 6:30pm and I would recommend getting there by 6pm. You will have to go through security including metal detectors.

Before we get back to the review, what does one wear to Halloween Horror Nights (or HHN for short). I wore this festive tank (only $13) and my favorite denim shorts. I got so many compliments on the shirt and even some of the scareactors commented on it. Ladies, take a crossbody or hip bag to hold your necessities. Bringing a big bulky purse will only become more uncomfortable as the night goes on and hard to maneuver through the houses and mazes.

Ok, back to the reviews! Oh and fyi there are clowns EVERYHWHERE during this event. If you have some phobia of them then this event might not be for you. I was scared but decided on the photo opp anyway. All for the good of the blog I say.

After getting our maps/guides, one thing I realized is that there are spooks and scareactors are all over the park. There is literally no rest from them. Just be prepared to be greeted by chainsaw holding clowns and disfigured fairy tale characters right off the bat. If you have the funds to do so I would say the biggest lifesaver is the HHN Express Pass, the prices vary depending on the date but are in the $80-$100 range. If you are spending multiple nights at HHN I would skip it. However, if you are going one time I say take the splurge. On vacations I spend on what I deem most important. I don't care about eating at restaurants for every meal, I'm fine with snacks at the parks, I would rather use the money on something like an Express Pass but that's just me. With the Express Pass you are able to bypass ALL the standby lines at the houses and participating rides/attractions.

Upon waiting for "An American Werewolf in London" house I asked my friend to take some "bloggy" pics in line. Well, we tried. In lines they sell soft drinks, snacks, and jello shots in "blood bags". Hit the bigger houses first such as "Jason vs. Freddy" or "Insidious" which garner the longest lines, I'm talking like a two-hour wait. I was excited to get into the first house and I kept telling myself that this house will be fine, it's mostly "puppets". Uh it was amazing. And terrifying from what I saw. It is very dark in all the houses and loud, and lots of fog. I didn't really know what was going on but I enjoyed it. I relaxed more after the first house and we began to enjoy the event.

The five Scare Zones are creepy! The creepiest in my opinion is the "Psychoscareapy: Unleashed". The insane mental patients from the Shadybrook Asylum are out for their "block party". was scary! These actors did amazing and I had a hard time differentiating them from some of the regular guests since they were so many and mixed in so well. You would think there was a normal person then it's like nope they are holding a head.  We came in with the strategy to just smile and look even though we might be terrified (I was). This seemed to work and don't be afraid to ask for pictures with them either. That also helped me not make the experience seem as "real" I guess if that makes sense.

Coming out "a head" of HHN. Ha-ha ok I'll stop. Definitely take in the Scare Zones but also realize you might get too caught up and suddenly 30 minutes has passed and people are breezing past you to the houses or mazes. I'll discuss all the Scare Zones at the end of the post!

Walking to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure" live show and all of a sudden I noticed the "Carey Die-In" there were horror movie characters as far as the eye could see! Jason, Carrie, Freddy, Chucky, the people from The Strangers and The Purge. We were about to miss the show but I knew we had to come back for some pictures. After the show (which I thought was good) we went back and while the modern characters were gone they had been replaced by the Universal Classic Monsters which was even better! I did an entire qualitative research paper on how the monster movies saved the studio back in the 1940's and 50's so this was a treat for me.

There were characters like the Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, Nosferatu and others. It was really cool. I have heard some people don't like all the picture taking in these zones and they should be scaring the guests but that's just this age now. People see the Mummy and they are going to want to take a selfie. That's just how it is. I say relax, get some pictures and have a good time. That's my philosophy.

There are lots of little fun details to look for throughout the park, I mean look at Mel's Drive In....something looks a bit different, don't you think? If you aren't into the houses take advantage of the short wait times at the rides. If you can't take the spooks you can always retreat to Diagon Alley, the scareactors don't appear to go back in that area and you can grab some ice cream or a drink to calm down.

The night was winding down and it was getting time to head back since it was getting pretty late. Oh look some festive pumpkins.

This doesn't seem so bad. Just pumpkins.

*Insert screaming* It's not just pumpkins! The "Evil's Roots" Scare Zone was also very, very scary to walk through. These scareactors got me to jump on more than one scare!

Can't leave the park without checking out some of the HHN Icons of the past. Hey Director and Usher! Let me do a quick breakdown of the houses, mazes, and scare zones: In no specific order or ranking. Includes Spoilers
Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem: House is a must-do for fans of the events. Scenes from past houses along with icons from the event including the return of Jack the Clown, this year's Master of Scaremonies. House won't make sense to newer visitors but a little research will help if you really want to be informed. Or you can just go in and be scared. 
Run: Blood, Sweat and Fears: Remember the Stephen King book "Running Man"? Think an older version of something similar to the Hunger Games. This house takes you, a contestant  on a popular reality type show as you try to avoid skilled assassins. A bit gory but not necessarily scary. Try this house if you want to see how you will handle the scarier houses.
Asylum in Wonderland 3-D: Trippy house with a new take on the classic fairy tale. Try this one first if you want to get your feet wet with the houses. Another house that isn't exactly scary but weird and unique. Some beautiful scenery and costumes.
An American Werewolf in London: Not to be missed! Spooky and the animatronics are amazing some big bad wolves. The scenery looks just like you walked into London and the sets are great! Another one that while is very scary in my opinion, is a great house to see if you can handle the more intense houses. Usually has a shorter time wait than other houses for some reason, probably because it is a repeat from 2013.
Insidious: Very scary. Sets look exactly like the films. Creepy characters and watch out for the "touchy feely" room as some call it. If you are worried about getting too scared on a house, this one may not be for you. If you are a fan of the movies and enjoy being scared, this is a do not miss! Wait times can get long so do early.
Freddy vs. Jason: Two horror villains battling it out and we are the prize. I have heard some say this is the best house out of all the houses this year. Very scary, again not for the faint of heart. If you get scared by either Freddy or Jason be warned they make several appearances...and up close. Clear winner each time but can be different each visit. Must-see for horror fans and this one gets crowded fast, visit early!
Body Collectors: Recollections: Add this one to the very scary list as well. Gory and bloody, if you do not like these two things then pass. High praise on this house from veterans of HHN, lots of great scareactors and there is one scene that you have to see to believe.
The Purge: Masked men and women with guns and knives? That is scary anytime. Lots of strobe lights and loud music. If you are familiar with the movies then you know what's in store here. A "surprise" in one of the rooms makes for a great scare, I won't spoil it for you but be on the lookout for anyone who may appear lost.
The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead: I do not find walkers that scary so this is a house to try if you scare easily. Overall this house isn't great but if you like the show I recommend it. Still pretty creepy and the show is still a big deal so expect long lines. The scariest out of the "tamer" houses.
Scary Tales-Screampunk: Imagine Disney characters gone wrong. Like a morbid fairy tale. Good scareactors but not super scary. Some cool costumes and make-up!
Psychoscareapy-Unleashed: As stated earlier so creepy! Excellent job, lots of scareactors and scares here!
All Nite Die-In-Double Feature: Love, love, love this zone! The modern characters are cool but I was so happy to see the classic monster get their due!
Evil's Roots: Maybe the scariest zone. Lots of scares and the scareactors were on point. Take in the scenery. You are almost guaranteed a scare here!
Icons-HHN: Celebrate the past icons with this zone. Apparently there are some "kills" or segments during this zone, I mostly saw photo opps but the actors were scary and did great with their parts!
In summary, HHN is an awesome event! Even if you aren't into the houses I recommend going and at least trying a house or two. If you hate them or get too scared, utilize the short ride wait times, shows and photo opportunities.
This event is geared toward an older crowd, there is alcohol, scantily clad costumes, blood and gore. The event is rated like a PG-13 movie. I would not take a child younger than 12 or 13 but that is a parent's choice. The kids I did see looked miserable and scared but again if you have children you know them better than I do and they could easily love the event.
I also recommend taking things at your own pace, if you don't want to go in a house simply don't go in. Look at some YouTube videos of previous houses and current ones to familiarize yourself with each house so you are educated and prepared with what you want to do (or handle).
Have FUN! Remember this isn't real, although at times it can seem very realistic! Also, be respectful of the actors in the houses, mazes, zones, etc. Don't flip them off, try and touch them, yell or be disrespectful. This is all in good fun and they are just having a good time as well. Be courteous to those working in the parks, attractions and inside the houses/mazes, there are a lot of people at this event nightly and they do an excellent job to make things run smooth and to help the guests if there is ever a problem.
I can almost promise that if you put yourself in the mindset that everything is all in fun, you will have a good time! Go ahead scream, hold onto your buddy, get a selfie with a zombie, and run away from a clown even though you know it's not really out to get you (I think)!

Oh yeah and remember our little friend Gizmo...well he has a new home! Goal of the day completed.

Gizmo chilling on the way to the airport. Yes, this happened. Hope you enjoyed my review! Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, whatever regarding Universal, Halloween Horror Nights or Orlando. I would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels!


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