FULL REVIEW: Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood 2015 & Red Carpet Premiere

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood has BEGUN!  This year has new mazes, a new show and plenty of new SCARES! Monsters and maniacs from movies such as the classic HALLOWEEN, ALIEN VS PREDATOR and the INSIDIOUS franchise to television phonemes such as THE WALKING DEAD take over Universal Studios at night.  We were on hand for the red carpet opening of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood – so continue reading for photos, video, and our full review of the event.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

To celebrate opening night on September 18th, 2015, Universal Studios invited some of entertainments brightest stars to the Blood Red Carpet to usher in this new year of fright. These celebrities included Barry Bostwick (ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW), David Arquette (SCREAM franchise), Kerris Dorsey (Showtime’s RAY DONOVAN) and the Creative Director of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood – John Murdy. They all shared their favorite Halloween movies and memories with us.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood REVIEW

As the Creative Director, John Murdy states in the above video, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood is filled with many promises of great Halloween fun. Since this is located within a studio with various films under their distribution banner, they have access (and the rights) to familiar terrifying characters. To be honest, THE WALKING DEAD Maze is not our thing and yet a headlining theme made us wince. Haven’t they plucked from this well too many times? Seeing Zombies at every turn at every other Halloween event and theme park makes them feel rather tired.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

With that said, the creative team did tackle the classic HALLOWEEN Maze with baby-sitter basher Michael Myers, and this just presses all the right nostalgic buttons. Plus this particular maze did a great job of recreating scenes from the first 1978 movie while giving references to the rest of the franchise.

Halloween Horror Nights mazes 2015. Photo by David Sprague

Halloween Horror Nights mazes 2015. Photo by David Sprague

 

The chilling music by John Carpenter follows you throughout your journey which makes you feel like you were there, “The Night He Came Home.” Because of the attention to detail, great sets and pacing of the maze if you have to wait 90+ minutes, then wait the 90+ minutes!

Another highlight this year was the ALIEN VS. PREDATOR Maze. I love both of these franchises and I love Halloween. Mash all of these together and you get another fantastic maze. What makes this such a unique experience is that the double-jawed Aliens weren’t just people in costumes (SPOILER) but they were puppeteered to give them a more spindly look as created by H.R. Giger for the films.

Photo by David Sprague

Photo by David Sprague

 

Unlike some of the other mazes, when you left this one you really felt like you just witnessed something special as opposed to just feeling like you just spent 5 minutes of random scares.

THIS IS THE END Maze was also a pleasant surprise. I am never a big fan of gore for gore’s sake, so I generally skip “chophouse” themed mazes. This Maze is the furthest from that that I’ve ever been in! THIS IS THE END Maze takes you through the main plot of the film, from an apocalyptic house setting to heaven and finally to hell.

What’s fun is the team at Universal made this a 3D maze, complete with black lights and bright colors. It’s not gory at all, it’s just fun! This maze is not really scary either, it’s just a well-done take on the film.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

The biggest line of the night belonged to the new CRIMSON PEAK Maze, based on the new Guillermo Del Toro film. With such stylistic films such as PAN’S LABRYNTH, PACIFIC RIM and HELL BOY we couldn’t wait to see what was in store.

Crimson Peak at HHN 2015

Unfortunately, we could’ve skipped this one. If we weren’t told this was based on a film by Guillermo Del Toro we never would’ve known it. It was pretty basic with ghouls that popped out of dark corners to the common gooey skeleton prop. I’m still a big fan of his films, just not Halloween theme park mazes based on his films. And 95 minutes was certainly too long of a wait. Go twice through ALIEN VS. PREDATOR Maze to satisfy your craving.

Now we’ve got to give an honorable mention to the maze based on the supernatural film, INSIDIOUS. When I saw this film in the theater, my first reaction afterwards was that the ending felt like it was recreating a haunted maze at a theme park. And to their credit, Universal Studios recreated that same feeling in this maze. To the discredit of the filmmakers, I’m not sure that was what they were going for.

Photo by David Sprague

Photo by David Sprague

 

We ended the evening with a viewing of the NEW hip-hop dance show, JABBAWOCKEEZ.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

This replaced the tired “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” show, so I was eager to watch something different. To their credit, the dance crew came up with a great 25-minute show full of noise, lights, pyrotechnics and dancing. Sadly, we were not the target audience, as the music was all hip-hop songs we didn’t know. Had they been dancing to Awesome Mix Tape, Vol. 1, well, we’d have been rocking in our seats! But for the younger crowd, they loved it.

Jabbawockkeez perform at Universal Studios Hollywood for Halloween Horror Nights.  Photo by David Sprague

Jabbawockkeez perform at Universal Studios Hollywood for Halloween Horror Nights. Photo by David Sprague

 

At the end of the night, we asked ourselves, did Halloween Horror Nights live up to the promises of new mazes and plenty of new SCARES?

Sadly for us, the answer was “no.” To be fair, we came to the conclusion that we go to haunted theme parks every year and the experiences have felt very redundant. Same monsters, same scare tactics. The one thing I noticed while recording the very creepy Dark Christmas Scare Zone was that none of the guests scream and run away the way they used to when a ghoul comes out of nowhere making shrieking and growling sounds. (I also noticed that many of the shrieking and growling sounds are now prerecorded to save the performers from having to scream bloody murder all season). We kept asking ourselves what will get us excited about these Halloween theme parks the way they did just a few years ago? What is the next new thing in nightly Halloween fun? I can’t wait to find out! Just leave the Zombies out.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

If you’ve never been to a theme park at Halloween, then the experience may be a lot of fun. However, be prepared to fork over a lot of money. The price for the evening starts at $59.99, but this does not include a Front-Of-The-Line pass. With waits of 60+ minutes and several mazes at 90 minute waits, a Front-Of-The-Line Pass was essential for a carefree evening. But these run you, at minimum, $149 per person here. So good luck and let us know how you enjoyed Halloween Horror Nights.

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About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod