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Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights creative director John Murdy and art director Chris Williams took us for a stroll through their under construction The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Saw Is the Law fright maze, and what we saw was nothing short of amazing.
Read on for details, our photo gallery, and a video clip!
The successes of the mazes at Halloween Horror Nights (for this writer) have historically been bound to the properties which they license. Case in point: the 2009 Halloween attraction (based on John Carpenter’s original fright classic) was nothing short of sublime and immersed attendees in the world of that film. Traversing it was akin to actually walking in the unfortunate footsteps of Haddonfield resident Laurie Strode, bell-bottoms, coat hangers, and all. Like that, this year’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Saw Is the Law maze promises to do the same, as Murdy and Co. have loyally imagined Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic and are prepped to hit the majority of the film’s iconic moments as well as some rather unexpected ones horror fans will undoubtedly rejoice in.
Murdy and Williams, who work as a team from the initial design to execution of the attractions, met us on the lower lot of Universal Studios Hollywood to discuss their approach in creating Hooper’s film as a real-life experience.
“I’ve always wanted to do this one,” stated Murdy of the maze. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had a huge influence on me growing up, and Tobe [Hooper] is a huge fan of what we’ve done in the past. In 2007 and in 2008 we did do The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [maze], although those were based on the [Platinum Dunes] remake, but this one is different as it’s based on the original film, and the day has arrived when we can finally do it.”
Paying homage to the original house employed in the production of Hooper’s film (which served as the fictional Sawyer family’s place of residence) and the things which occurred in it, Murdy has faithfully recreated the rural Texas abattoir, including, but not limited to, the iconic steel door and the kill room which it hides, the film’s dinner table sequence, the meat hook impalement, and much, much more.
“We are trying to get all of the details right,” said Murdy of the attraction, which at the time was being dressed with a variety of macabre replica artifacts from the film on which it is based. “We are making everything from scratch,” he continued. “We don’t go to prop houses and rent things. We are either creating or using things from our existing inventory and modifying them. That’s quite a task for our prop departments, but they are very passionate about it – and about Halloween in general.”
As for his approach to Leatherface, the mentally impaired, cross-dressing cannibal at the center of the film, “Like the early Universal [monster films], what I always thought made them powerful and lasting were characters that you could sympathize with,” stated Murdy.
“Frankenstein’s Monster is a very sympathetic character, and I feel the same way about Leatherface in the original [TCM film]. When he kills his first victim, he’s whacking himself on the head and sitting in that chair rocking back and forth, and to me that makes it scary. I love the fact that the character isn’t just a masked killer with no emotion. He definitely has emotion, and that’s something we are really going to work with the actors on because we want to bring that across in the attraction.”
“I’m using a lot of dialogue from the film in this maze,” said Murdy of the attraction’s aural design, which perfectly aped many of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre actor Edwin Neal’s lines during our tour. “I don’t always use a lot dialogue when I put the audio together, but there are so many lines that I love from the original film, like ‘Look what you did to the door!’ and all of that stuff, so you are going to hear that while you are going through it, and with all of the transitions, there are always one of the characters foreshadowing where you will be going next.”
If our tour was any indication, prepare yourself for a fully immersive experience into the world of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre once Halloween Horror Nights kicks off on Friday, September 21, 2012. It continues on select nights through Wednesday, October 31. Event dates are: September 21, 22, 28, and 29 and October 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 31.
Tickets and vacation packages are on sale now. Details on “Halloween Horror Nights” are available at Halloween Horror Nights.com. Updates from Creative Director John Murdy can be found on Twitter, as he reveals a running chronicle of exclusive information. “Halloween Horror Nights” maze announcement videos can be seen at Universal Studios Hollywood’s YouTube Channel.
Keep your eyes on Dread Central for our annual coverage of the Eyegore Awards and the grand opening of Halloween Horror Nights.
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Traverse the maze in the comments section below!