In recent years, Universal Studios Halloween Horrors Nights has been the reigning king of Southern California Halloween events. HHN built its reputation on hardcore scares, high production values and high-profile licensed mazes.
This year, Universal again has enlisted some high-profile horror franchises like THE WALKING DEAD, CHUCKY, EVIL DEAD, THE PURGE and INSIDIOUS for its mazes, scare zones and Terror Tram.
So with all this fire-power, how is the 2013 version of Halloween Horror Nights, you ask?
The PURGE, CHUCKY and SCARE CROWZ scare zones are decent. A surprise cameo from a retired event, Chucky’s Insult Emporium is a welcome surprise. The best scare zone goes to CIRQUE DE CLOWNZ. This scare zone had the best reactions from the crowds as they sprinted away from a crew of predatory clowns. THE WALKING DEAD scare zone is a close second as surprisingly energetic zombies attack you from all angles.
THE TERROR TRAM is mostly the same as previous years with the zombies of THE WALKING DEAD making a repeat appearance. It’s weakest part of the HHN experience.
The mazes this year are a mixed bag. The best way to cover them all is to rank them 1 through 6.
- THE WALKING DEAD: NO SAFE HAVEN-This maze is a dream/nightmare come true for fans of the show. The recreations of the season 3 penitentiary and Woodbury are spot on. The zombie make up is great and the scares are solid.
- EL CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN-This maze is a big surprise. The scares are top notch and the set design is great. Nice to see really strong work in this original maze.
- EVIL DEAD-Gore and gross out tactics reign supreme in this maze. It’s a faithful recreation of this year’s remake of the Sam Raimi classic.
- BLACK SABBATH: 13-I’m sure fans of BS will get a kick out of this 3-D maze. Well done, but a little low on scares.
- INSIDIOUS: INTO THE FURTHER-This one has crept up my chart by one spot mostly because other people I know love it. The sound design is great and some of the ghosts are down right creepy. Unimaginative design of “The Further” and a few too many appearances by the Lipstick Demon drag this maze down.
- UNIVERSAL MONSTERS REMIX: RESSURECTION-Basically the Universal House of Horrors has been transformed into a gigantic rave. This maze features monsters from the classic to modern era giving is a feel schiziod, but there is some nice energy fueled by the music in spots.
Overall, HHN 2013 is a mixed bag, but a fun experience nonetheless. It’s solid as usual, but the scares are starting to feel a tad bit stale for anyone that has gone to previous incarnations of the event. The scares adhere to a familiar formula that makes things a little predictable. First-timers will love it of course.
Scare Factor: 3 ½ of 5
Review and photos by Phil Crain