Why You Should Drop Everything and Go to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 24 Right Now

Much like the creative team that works on Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Orlando’s annual celebration of all things macabre, I look forward to the event every year.  While I don’t start planning 360 days out like Creative Director Mike Aiello does, every fall my thoughts turn eagerly to the event.  This is a big change – as one of the most easily scared people I know, I avoided Halloween Horror Nights for the longest time; it just didn’t make sense to me to go someplace to be intentionally terrified. But I’ve come to love Halloween Horror Nights and all that it encompasses, and here’s why you should too.

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

1) The Story

Story is an integral part of what Halloween Horror Nights does, and they do it in the most phenomenal way.  The houses feature as part of this event aren’t just your run of the mill, cookie-cutter scare factories.  Instead they are crafted and executed with such attention to detail, that you find yourself immersed in the experience, quite often a character in the story that is being told, and lived out, around you.

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

Two of the standout houses from this year’s Halloween Horror Nights thrust you into their story with glee.  The first is The Walking Dead: End of the Line.  Building on their long-standing relationship with AMC, the HHN team has brought back the superstar series back for another year.  And this year the Walking Dead house is both the longest and most scareacter-filled house the creative team has ever done.  But most importantly, the house tells a story.  The first scene of this house is the same as the final scene of last year’s, so we pick up exactly where we left off in the story.  And together, we travel with the characters, through dark abandoned grocery stores with zombies lurking in the aisles, on to Terminus. Even for a non-watcher of the show like myself, I felt caught up in the story of the character’s journeys.

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

The other standout is the Halloween house, which brilliantly recreates the classic 1978 John Carpenter movie of the same name. With this house, the story begins outside as projections make the Myers house shift through stages of decay and then, silhouetted against the windows, you watch as Michael Meyers commits the first murder of the movie – stabbing his older sister Judith to death.

Inside, you pick up right at the same moment, coming face to face with the Myers, dressed in a clown costume and wielding the knife just used to commit the murder.  As you walk through the scenes, you are moving through the movie, sometimes watching as Michael Meyers hunts down his sister, other times narrowly escaping as Michael Meyers turns on you.  One of the most iconic, and terrifying moments of the film, where Jamie Lee Curtis hides in a closet, translates beautifully to the house, as you find yourself in a space, clothes hanging overhead and the doors shaking around you as Michael Meyers tries to break them down to get to you.  Finally, after weaving through a maze of knife-wielding masked murders, you leave Michael Myers behind.  Or do you?

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN at HHN24 © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

2) The Effects

Whether it’s makeup, sets, or animatronics, Universal and the HHN creative team know how to leverage each effect to the fullest. There is absolutely not a single detail missed in their houses or their scare zones – whether it’s roving vigilantes and an auction in The Purge Anarchy scare zone or the dirty and cracked dolls that line the entrance to Dollhouse of the Damned, every piece of the set adds to your experience and draws you into the moment.

Among the most notable of the houses really showcase effects is a new house this year – AVP: Alien vs. Predator. Much like the movie of the same name, Alien vs. Predator tells the story of a war for control of Earth, where no matter who wins, we lose. The house is filled with beautifully designed, movie-quality animatronics; including the titular alien, claws reaching for you and mouth open and ready to feed. The animatronics are so well done that it’s hard not to stand there and watch the scene play out repeatedly. Gems like this are sprinkled throughout the house – truly bringing this movie to life before you, as the aliens and predators battle for control.

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

AVP: Alien Vs. Predator at HHN24 © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

Makeup and costuming are always a huge piece of Halloween Horror Nights, but they are even more so this year due to a partnership between HHN and the SyFy show Face/Off. There is an entire zone dedicated to creations from the winner of Face/Off. As you walk through the fog, you find yourself face to face with pirates transforming into sea monsters, shrew-faced witches and other monsters and murders who have been transformed into something less than human by incredible makeup. In another scare zone, MASKerade, you enter a masquerade ball and the costuming transforms the moment as the characters dance around you in Venetian ball gowns and elaborate masks. It isn’t until they lunge at you with knives that you realize there’s an underlying horror.

3) The Scare

Believe it or not, the scare is a huge part of the joy of going to Halloween Horror Nights.  There’s something wonderful about feeling your heart beat a little quicker as you turn a corner and are surprised by a maniacal clown or a psychotic teddy bear.  There’s a powerful thrill to being scared, but knowing that, essentially, you’re still safe and nothing can be done to harm you.  Even me, one of the most easily scared people I know, found myself smiling at the anarchists of the Purge as they approached, dodging Michael Meyers and his knife; and having the best time while doing it.  Deciding that it was okay to be scared and knowing that nothing truly terrible could happen to me is what has made Halloween Horror Nights something I truly enjoy and anticipate.

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

Are you thinking about going to Halloween Horror Nights and no sure if you can handle full on fear?  I suggest the following to make the scares manageable:

  • Go with a group of friends because support is always better.
  • Stick to houses where the story interests you and you can get lost in the story.
  • Just like in the movies, you can always look away if you get too scared!
  • Remember that if things feel too scary, there are safe places: Shops, restaurants and bathrooms are scare-free zones!
  • And most importantly: Be prepared to be scared! There’s almost always something around every corner!

Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights

So hopefully you’ve realized Halloween Horror Nights is so much more than just a haunted house event.  Go and lose yourself in the stories they’ve created, revel in the effects and enjoy being scared!  Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 24 runs on select nights from September 19 – November 1, 2014.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About Cristen Curley-Edwards