Murdy, John (Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights)

In mid-September Dread Central received an invitation from John Murdy, the creative director behind Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights, which kicks off September 24th and runs through October 31st at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, for a tour of the then-in-construction maze A Nightmare on Elm Street: Never Sleep Again.

Greeted by the always energetic Murdy, we accompanied him for an illuminating tour of the frightful attraction (although much like this year’s Friday the 13th: Kill, Jason, Kill maze, devotees of the genre can expect the attraction to eschew the concepts of the original franchise, taking their creative cues from the recent Platinum Dunes reboot of the same). Leading us through the halls of Badham Pre-School, the hallways of Springwood High and into Freddy’s eponymous boiler room, Murdy happily waxed on his approach to what will be this year’s multi-layered sensory experience Elm Street (we’ll leave the scares under wraps for the time being, as at the time scenic and prop-dressing were under way), as he did on this year’s new maze, Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses: In 3D Vision.

It’s going to be awesome,” said Murdy of the attraction, which in keeping with Hollywood film producers’ current fascination with 3D, is set to bring the filmic conceit into an altogether organic environment. “It’s actually the biggest haunted attraction we’ve ever done. It goes through the whole ‘Murder Ride’ and the Firefly house with ‘Otis’ and ‘Baby’ and all of them, and then it goes through the whole Dr. Satan lair. That one is going to be just crazy.

Dread Central Visits Halloween Horror Nights and Chats with Creative Director John Murdy

As for his approach in delivering a cutting-edge 3D walking experience, Murdy stated, “With 3D attractions they’ve always used black-light, and I didn’t want to do that. Lighting technology has changed dramatically in the last few years, and what we have now, especially with LED lightning, are lights that have the entire color spectrum. Depending on how you compose colors, you come up with different levels of depth. What we found with days of walking around with 3D glasses on and experimentation is that with LED lighting you can have that entire color spectrum run by a DMX-controlled lighting program and can shift the color spectrum and do moves, meaning we can force the color red and take all of the green out and can make things appear and disappear and appear to recede or to come out of the walls. They way I would describe it is like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. That’s kind of what I’m going for. It’s trippy! So you can make everything seem like it’s kind of alive.

To clarify, Murdy stated of the 3D, “It’s an overlay to the whole thing because we are still building an attraction that has every bit of detail as any of our other attractions; it just has this overlay of 3D as well so you do wear glasses. I think that’s confusing for a lot of people, though, because they think 3D can only take place on the screen, but this is an attraction you’ll actually walk through. It’s still a movie-quality set and environment with characters. We still have a lot of props left over from the original film – as it was shot here (on the lot) – which Rob gave us years ago to hold on to, so we’ve incorporated them into the attraction. But when you overlay the 3D over it, it’s a trip-fest, especially in Otis’ room and the Murder Ride, where the 3D is especially the strongest, because you are already dealing with something that’s supposed to be a carny roadside attraction, so we are trying to do it a little differently than what’s been done before.

As for Murdy’s decision to tackle House of 1000 Corpses, “It seemed to make sense. I was talking to Rob, who comes here every year, and being that 3D is the rage right now, and how immersive the (new) King Kong ride is, Corpses really lent itself. The whole film has a lot of saturated colors, and the characters’ designs in the film are great. Rob did all of those designs himself, and his first maze here I believe was called Rob Zombie’s American Nightmare (writer’s note: which took place in 2000, before Corpses was wrapped). It pre-dates me. Rob would dress up and perform in it every night! He’d just show up and dress up and scare the park-goers!

Dread Central Visits Halloween Horror Nights and Chats with Creative Director John Murdy

Other mazes visitors can expect to experience this year include Vampyre: Castle of the Undead (“albino vampires and crazy amounts of blood,” said Murdy, which is taking place in the static Universal attraction The House of Horrors) and Saw: Game On (with newly added traps), as well as six Scare Zones and a more extensive Terror Tram, in which riders will not only be spooked by the Mexican folk legend La Llorona and Psycho’s Norman Bates (it’s the 50th anniversary of that film) but also the diminutive ginger Chucky (who’s apparently incensed over his failing film career and has raised an army of doll-like soldiers in order to exact his revenge). As an added bonus, riders of the Terror Tram will also have the ability to experience the park’s newest attraction, the much-celebrated King Kong 360 3D.

Horror fans always want more so we need to raise the bar every year,” concluded Murdy.

Updates on “Halloween Horror Nights” will be available at the official “Halloween Horror Nights” website and also on Twitter and Facebook, as Creative Director John Murdy reveals a running chronicle of exclusive information. Fans are invited to follow John Murdy on Twitter or via Facebook. Stay tuned for our exclusive report on the star-studded Eyegore Awards coming soon.

Dread Central would like to thank Nicole Canizales for arranging the visit.

Dread Central Visits Halloween Horror Nights and Chats with Creative Director John Murdy

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Sean Decker

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