(Editor’s Note: As most readers of GGOrlando know, I work at the Universal Orlando Resort. Thus, for legal reasons, I have to disclose this fact. All thoughts expressed are my own.)
(Editor’s Note #2: This blog post introduces the basics of the event. Later this afternoon, a second post will go up with my thoughts on the event based on Wednesday’s Employee Preview Night.)
Normally, an event such as Halloween Horror Nights is outside the purview of GGOrlando. While I know that there are a fair amount of geeks who like horror, considering that it’s not my “cup of tea” means that I’m generally less than enthusiastic about covering the genre. However, with a pair of houses based on geeky properties – and the fact that I have a day’s worth of content to fill – we’re doing this. Here’s the GGOrlando Guide to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 22.
What is it?
Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) is Universal’s annual tribute to the macabre. Like most of the previous years, this year’s event takes place within Universal Studios Florida.
This year’s event will take place on the nights of September 21st & 22nd, 27th-30th, October 4th-7th, 11th-14th, 17th-21st, 24th-28th, and on Halloween itself – the 31st. Gates open at 6:30pm each night with the houses opening at 7pm. Closing times depend on the event night.
How much will it cost?
Umm… Quite a bit. Luckily, if you’re visitng GGOrlando you’re likely a local which entitles you to the discounted Florida resident rates. With a code from specially-marked Coca-Cola products or HHN cup from Burger King, as a Florida resident tickets are:
- Sunday-Thursday: $41.99
- Fridays: $51.99
- Saturdays: $66.99
What is there to do?
HHN is expensive, but there’s a lot to do once you get there. You’ll have your choice between 7 haunted houses and 2 shows. Gone this year – due to the amount of construction going on around the park right now – are the themed scarezones. Instead, Universal is introducing the “street experience” – a parkwide scarezone composed of differents casts of characters that will move throughout the park during the course of the evening.
Like I mentioned, this year will feature 7 haunted houses. This is less than the usual 8, as the area of the Jaws boathouse that normally housed the 8th house is currently a giant mound of dirt. This year will feature four licensed houses (meaning that they’re based on existing intellectual properties) and three original houses.
- Welcome to Silent Hill (Entrance at Universal Music Plaza): Yes, the classic Konami video game series is being featured in its own haunted – the first time a Halloween Horror Nights house is based on a video game. You’ll explore the decimated town of Silent Hill and face the classic villains like Pyramid Head from the series.
- Gothic (Entrance at Twister): Do you remember the classic Disney cartoon Gargoyles? Of course you do, it was awesome. Well, what if instead of fighting for humanity they decided to destroy it. As guardians of an ancient cathedral being renovated, they’re determined to protect it from the perceived threat.
- Dead End (Entrance in front of New York Public Library façade): One of the traditions of HHN is basing a house in the fictional city of Carey, Ohio (H.R. Bloodengutz – 2011, Meet the Cleavers – 2010, etc.). This year’s entry is based on the creepy, abandoned house in time where, rumor has it, crazy things happen – just, in this case, they really do.
- AMC’s The Walking Dead – Dead Inside (Entrance in front of Beetlejuice Graveyard Review): Another tradition at HHN is the zombie house. And there’s no bigger zombie property right now than The Walking Dead. As the name implies, the house is based on the AMC television show, so expect references to show locations like “The Farm”.
- Penn & Teller – New(kd) Vegas 3D (Entrance in front of MIB Gear gift shop): Penn & Teller had an oopsie when a trick backfires and blows up Las Vegas. But hey, why let a nuclear apocalypse ruin a good time. Another HHN tradition is the “comedy” house and this seems to be a great concept.
- Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare (Entrance in front of Fievel’s Playland): Rocker Alice Cooper has been designing haunted houses for years, including one’s for Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood. This is his first foray into the Orlando edition. The house is based on Steven, a character introduced in his music, and the terrors he faces as he loses his sanity.
- Universal’s House of Horrors (Entrance in front of E.T. Adventure): The return of a classic, Universal’s House of Horrors has made several appearances at Horror Nights. Celebrating Universal’s 100th anniversary by featuring some of the studios’ iconic monsters. Apparently, be prepared for a little work as there’s a room that’s only four feet high.
As usual, the premier show of the event is the annual pop culture romp, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. New to this year’s event is the 20 Penny Circus. As I attended both shows during Wednesday’s Employee Preview (went to Bill & Ted’s twice), I can offer a brief glimpse of both. I’ll write more on each in my post later today.
- Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure: Similar to how Saturday Night Live gets a creative spark during an election year, the last few Bill & Ted shows during election years also seem to rise up to the occasion. This year’s show features the boys competing against each other for student body president at San Dimas High School, while many of this year’s pop culture icons are Bill & Ted’s classmates. The conclusion features a real-life celebrity cameo that is hysterical and comes from out of nowhere.
- 20 Penny Circus – Fully Exposed: The second show on the annual HHN schedule usually shifts from year-to-year, and this year’s entrant is Tampa’s 20 Penny Circus. The show is a seemingly good fit with the event. Part freak show, part magic show, part hysterical vaudeville show. Admittedly, following the Preview Night, many of the comments that I’ve seen on Twitter & Facebook were mixed. Even during the performance I saw, a significant portion of the audience walked-out during the course of the show. But, I say, if you have the time and are into a little off-kilter entertainment, the show’s definitely worth checking out.
A Couple Tips
- Lines are an inevitability at Horror Nights, even with an Express Pass. With that being said, it may be the case that you’ll end up missing a couple of houses. So, make sure you and your group go through the list and decide which ones are “must-dos” and which ones are less important.
- Note that the Walking Dead house is predominantly outside. Thus, you may want to wait until it’s dark enough to experience it as it was intended.
- Buck the trend of hitting the houses at the front of the park first. Start with Penn & Teller by MIB, then skip over to Alice Cooper and the House of Horrors in KidZone, before coming back to the front of the park to experience Silent Hill, Gothic, and Dead End.
- For the shows, I’d recommend getting to Bill & Ted 20-30 minutes before showtime to guarantee yourself a spot. If you don’t want anything spoiled (since, more than likely, the show before you will still be going on when you arrive at the stadium), hit up the first show of the evening. If 20 Penny Circus gets the audiences typical of the “second show” of Horror Nights, you don’t necessarily need to get there as early but you likely won’t be able to walk in right at showtime.
- Another tip for Bill & Ted… Unless you enjoy the sensation of having your face burned off, I recommend sitting towards the top of the stadium. The pyro this year is fairly intense.