Dread Central Invades Halloween Horror Nights 2012 in Hollywood
Everyone has a holiday tradition. For us at Dread Central it’s important to kick off the Halloween season in grandiose fashion, and the opening night of Universal Halloween Horror Nights has become the ultimate ritual.
Creative director John Murdy and his team of talented FX artists have been working their mojo to give Southern California the definitive haunted attraction experience, and once again they’ve knocked the eyeball right out of the park. After all, this is the studio that gave birth to modern horror.
After a fun night of drinking at the Eyegore Awards, we gather together a large group and excitedly race off to “Alice Cooper Goes To Hell 3D” first. Last year’s maze was probably my all-time favorite Universal haunt, and while the 2012 version has been largely scaled back (due to being modeled after a single song), it’s still one trippy experience. Guests are shuttled through Alice’s own psychedelic version of the seven deadly sins while memorable images from his stage show (like a giant man-eating boa constrictor) attack you left and right. Upon exiting, the title song sticks in our heads for the remainder of the night.
Also returning is the Mexican folklore themed “La Llorona: La Cazadora de los Ninos”, and while this might not be recognizable to the masses, its creepy subject (the crying ghost of dead woman who drowned her kids) has made it one of the best and most popular mazes at Universal. Lurking through candlelit Mexican churches and bogs, we encounter various incarnations of the legendary weeping woman while the cries of her dead babies flood our ears. The eerie sights and sounds are spooky enough, but the maze caps things off with a giant people-devouring head a la Nightmare 3’s Freddy Krueger worm. This one is well worth checking out and makes you wonder why a proper movie of the La Llorona legend has yet to be made.
Universal Monsters Remix is a cheesy but fun walk through the park’s House of Horrors maze where modernized versions of the studio’s classic monsters transform castle sets into a dubstep dance club. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds largely thanks to some scantily clad Brides of Frankenstein. If this were a real club, it would be my regular hang-out spot for sure!
The Walking Dead: Dead Inside takes us through the first two seasons of the television series, starting at the corpse-strewn hospital Rick Grimes makes his escape from. Set-pieces from the show like the backwoods suicide house, downtown Atlanta (complete with a tank!) and Hershel’s barn are the highlights while all the show’s featured walkers make cameo appearances thanks to KNB. It would’ve been nice to see some characters from the show to break up the constant barrage of flesh-eaters, but that’s a minor quibble. A prison setting for next year’s Horror Nights is a big no-brainer.
The zombie mayhem continues on this year’s “Terror Tram.” Never one to mess with a winning formula, the ride continues the tradition of dropping guests off at the Bates Motel (now overrun with the living dead) for a hike past the Psycho House and Stephen Spielberg’s War of the World set, appropriately made up to resemble a big-budget zombie apocalypse. Returning to the park, the tram gives visitors a sneak peek at Season Three of the AMC series.
The clear winner of the night is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Saw Is The Law,” one of the best in the park’s history. No longer forced with the Platinum Dunes license, Murdy and team cast off the shackles of those deplorable remakes and prove that a true classic never goes out of style. Based on the first two Hooper films, audiences are shuffled into the Sawyer house, where the stench of headcheese fills the air. All those great production values from the original have been lovingly recreated from the chicken cages to the decorative bones. We pass through the infamous foyer, the dinner table sequence (“Let grandpa have some fun!”) and the gas station while big burly Leatherfaces jump out at every corner. Great job, fellas. Keep the originals burning bright!
The night ends with “Welcome to Silent Hill”, which borrows elements from the movie and game but mostly just pimps Sony’s upcoming Silent Hill: Revelation. I’ve always loved this universe (well, the first few games anyway) and it’s prime material for a great maze. And while it’s one of the park’s shortest attractions, it largely makes up for it with creepy inventiveness and amazing costumes. All the familiar sights and sounds are on display here, from twitchy psychotic nurses to Pyramid Head on stilts, while creepy dead children pop up behind two-way mirrored walls. Clearly the creative team at Universal understands what makes this franchise work more than Konami these days.
All in all, Halloween Horror Nights is one tradition that consistently delivers the goods. Murdy & crew are, above all, die-hard fans of the genre, and their attention to detail and love of the scare have made this the ultimate haunt time after time. Halloween Horror Nights continues on select nights through Wednesday, October 31. Remaining dates are: September 28, and 29 and October 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 31.
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.
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