This past Friday, September 15th, marked the commencement of Universal Studios Hollywood’s annual Halloween Horror Nights, and we were in attendance to shoot the red carpet roll-out as well as to get a few words from HHN’s Creative Director John Murdy, Insidious series’ star Lin Shaye and more. Read on!
Also on hand for the evening were IT actors Chosen Jacobs, Jake Sim, Owen Teague and Wyatt Oleff, Jason Blum of Blumhouse, Happy Death Day director Chris Landon and stars Israel Broussard, Jessica Rothe, Rachel Matthews and Ruby Modine, actress Vanessa Hudgens (wearing a Frankenhooker tee), Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif (Cult of Chucky), writer Leigh Whannell (Insidious, Saw series), Tobin Bell (Saw series), Matt Passmore (Jigsaw), Halloween series’ Malek Akkad, Dana DeLorenzo (“Ash vs Evil Dead”), Frank Grillo (The Purge series), actress Breeda Wool of the Stephen King series “Mr. Mercedes”, Tales of Halloween directors Mike Mendez and Axelle Carolyn, composer Joseph Bishara, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, and the previously mentioned Murdy, Creative Director at Universal Studios Hollywood and Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights, among others.
Speaking with Murdy on the carpet, he stated of his and his team’s creative direction and design of one of the haunt’s more buzzed-about mazes The Shining, ”What I was particularly excited about in our rehearsals last night, was the ‘Here’s Johnny’ scene, because right out of the gate, the first time through the performers got it. And that’s a difficult bit of choreography they had to do.”
As for Murdy’s favorite maze of 2017 (he refused to pick one), he did offer, “Personally, on a creative side, it’s The Shining, because that’s a movie that was massively inspirational to me when I first saw it, many, many years ago. It’s a movie that I’ve always loved, and it’s always been in my top five favorite horror movies, and it’s also a movie that scared me, in terms of bringing it to life for Horror Nights, because it is very challenging to try and place the work of Stanley Kubrick into a live event. So part of the trick of that was resisting the temptation to put scares where there shouldn’t be. So like, when you go into the Grady Twins hallway, that scene plays out as a special effect, and there’s not anyone jumping out to scare you, because that would not be true to the film, and we very much wanted to honor (the film).”
With Murdy and his team literally having worked year round for over a decade in creating Halloween Horror Nights (the team’s already in prep for the 2018 season), we asked: what keeps him going?
“When I started this,” reflected Murdy, “I had a goal of ten years, but what’s kept me going past that, are the fans. They keep me going. I mean, I was speaking at a horror convention and this little kid came up to me, and gave me this as a present.”
Murdy fished from his pocket a plastic key fob, emblazoned with The Overlook Hotel, Room 237.
“And this kid, probably with his own money, bought this for me,” he continued. “Our fans are so passionate, and that’s what drives our passion. And every year, no matter how tired we are, and we have never really come up for air after twelve continuous years with this never ending cycle of horror, these kids that want to do what I get to do, and are inspired by this event, are what inspires me and keeps us going.”
With the latest entry in the Saw series, Jigsaw, releasing theatrically on October 27 (and an HHN Saw maze in effect), we chatted with Aussie actor Matt Passmore regarding the film, in which he plays a coroner caught up in a series of grisly murders.
“This isn’t a reboot,” he said of the film. “It’s taking the chronology into account of everything that’s happened before, even in a very visual way, (and) they are using different directors than they’ve ever used before,” he said of co-directors and brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, whose entrance into the genre world came with the bat-shit insane feature Undead in 2003, and whose work will next be seen in the Helen Mirren supernatural vehicle Winchester in 2018.
“They really have gone outside the family that they’ve used before,” he continued. “There’s a different feeling to it, and while it still pays homage (to its predecessors), it’s also a Saw for 2017, and I think that’s kind of exciting.”
Actress Breeda Wool, who portrays Lou Linklatter in the David E. Kelley created series “Mr. Mercedes”, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, chatted with us on the carpet regarding the author.
“I bought Stephen King’s book On Writing,” she offered, “and it’s quite a testament to fear and failure, because of his resilience and his extraordinary body of work, and I get very inspired by his mantra of, ‘Just make it, and just make more.’ And it’s incredible, in that charging forward to make things, and in collaborating with different people in making at times even some the same stories, like you see with IT. It’s a man who has generated a wild body of work, and an incredible amalgamation of collaborators. So it’s really exciting to be in some way part of a body of that work, and it’s beautiful.”
Insidious series’ star Lin Shaye, who was on hand to experience the HHN maze based on the series, said of what we may anticipate of her character Dr. Rainier in the upcoming film, director Adam Robitel’s Insidious: The Last Key (due in theaters January 5th, 2018), “I think you really will learn who Elise is and why she is who she is, and that she goes through the same pain everyone else goes through. I think that’s important when you have someone helping you in anyway, that you know that they’re not just authorities, but that they’ve experienced what you’ve experienced and really understand where you are, where you have been and where you hope you go. So I think it’s a really wonderful story, and if the franchise continues, sort of puts Elise into the family of everyone who sees the film.”
Following that, fellow Dread Central writer Andrew Kasch and I and our enthusiastic crew set out to experience Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2017.
Writer’s note: My thanks to Universal Studios’ Gail Moscoso for arranging our visit.
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