This past Friday, September 16th, 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 and filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska on the same. Read on!
On hand for the evening was actress Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Eli Roth (Hostel), Krampus’ Michael Dougherty and Seth Green, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare, Finn Wittrock and Naomi Grossman of “American Horror Story”, Elizabeth Reaser (Ouija: Origin of Evil), James Wan (Insidious, Furious 7), Leigh Whannell (Insidious), Michael Rosenbaum (“Impastor”), Dylan Minnette (Don’t Breathe), Cody Christian (“Teen Wolf”), Brighton Sharbino (“The Walking Dead”) and Saxon Sharbino (2015’s Poltergeist), Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel of Ouija: Origin of Evil, Jen and Sylvia Soska of American Mary fame and John Murdy, Creative Director at Universal Studios Hollywood and Executive Producer of “Halloween Horror Nights,” among others.
Related Story: Event Report – Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2016
Speaking with HHN Creative Director 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 Exorcist: The Possession of Regan MacNeil, “It’s my golden, Holy Grail of properties I’ve chased (the license for) for decades, and it’s pretty wild to bring it to life.”
With Murdy’s mother a respected theologian and given the satanic nature of the property, he stated, “I have gotten over my phobia (of doing a maze based on the film) because I was really afraid of it, but it’s still been weird from the minute we announced it. I remember when we launched the announcement video, and the first time I checked it, it had six hundred and sixty-six views, right at the moment I clicked on it. And then the TV in my office started turning itself on and off, all in the same day, and I started to think, ‘Maybe we’ve made a big mistake.’”
As for his creative approach to the maze itself, “This was a challenge to translate, as the whole movie basically takes place within a single environment, and you have to hit certain beats from the film. You have to have levitation, and you have to have the pea soup and you have to have the head spinning around. They are signature things you have to do, but those are very theatrical, but we didn’t want to take The Exorcist and just apply a ‘haunted house’ approach to it, because that would be stupid. So it was a challenge, because we wanted to be true to the film, but to also make you feel that when you are in the maze, you are actually being possessed.”
Chatting with Twisted Twins Jen and Sylvia Soska, the duo dropped the scoop that they’ll be directing the upcoming feature Rabid, a remake of David Cronenberg’s classic 1977 film, from their own script.
“We wrote it,” revealed Jen of the film, which will be produced by Paul Lalonde, Michael Walker and John Vidette’s Somerville House Releasing.
“Did you see my face? I don’t think we’re allowed to say that!” replied Sylvia, who arrived to the carpet in a scooped-back, black dress to her sister’s red (yes, we can tell the twins apart).
“We’re very excited about Rabid,” continued Sylvia. “We were supposed to shoot this summer, but we are also making the TV show in conjunction. I think people are going to be really happy with the ‘body horror’ they’ll be seeing from us again.”
As for season two of the Blumhouse Productions’ “Hellavator” (the game show series on which they serve as hosts), “It’s slicker, sexier and meaner than ever,” promised Jen. “If people didn’t think I was an insufferable bitch (in season one) and I believe they did, then I really take the title in season two. I’m like a mean Ben Stein.”
Following that, fellow Dread Central writer Andrew Kasch and I and our enthusiastic crew set out to experience Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2016.
Writer’s note: My thanks to Universal Studios’ Gail Moscoso for arranging our visit.
For more information about “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios, visit HalloweenHorrorNights.com. Join the “Halloween Horror Nights” conversation using #UniversalHHN on Facebook at Halloween Horror Nights – Hollywood and Instagram; Halloween Horror Nights on Twitter and Periscope @HorrorNights. Add username “HorrorNights” on Snapchat for nightly live content, and watch the terror come to life on the Halloween Horror Nights YouTube Page.