Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review – Take a Chance and Test Your Luck!

For the 26th year,  Universal Orlando has welcomed in the fall season by unveiling their annual Halloween Horror Nights event. Despite having been running this event for over a quarter of a century, each year Universal finds new ways to innovate and inspire and excite people about attending.  Featuring Chance,  the sidekick of last year’s Jack the Clown, as this year’s leading lady, the sights, and scares of Halloween Horror Nights 26 are not to be missed.  Continue reading for our Halloween Horror Nights 26 review.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Adventures by Daddy had a chance to attend the opening night of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, and here’s our rundown of the houses and scare zones.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Chance is clearly the star of the show, with not just a house dedicated to her, but a scare zone as well! Our first area we visited that night was a stroll through the scare zone, A Chance in Hell. Here, Chance has broken free of Shadyside Asylum and she and her cellmates roam the streets. In addition to displaying some of their ghastlier murders, asylum residents circle, attempting to recruit you onto their team.

However, there’s not much of a choice – it’s join or die.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Chance presides over Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 26, photo by Ed Hall ©2016 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

The house dedicated to Chance – Lunatic’s Playground 3D – You Won’t Stand a Chance, is one of Universal’s original houses this year. As you approach the entrance to the asylum, you are given a pair of 3D glasses, to truly plunge yourself into the experience. Here, trapped in the asylum along with the inmates, we shift back and forth between Chance’s insane visions and the brutal reality of the asylum. One thing worth noting – the 3D on this house may not be for everybody as it left me with a headache.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch is another of this year’s original properties. Set in a Western Town where gold fever and greed lead to the deaths of the residents, what remains is a ghost town haunted by the spirits of the greedy former-residents. The level of theming and detail is highly present here, as you transition from the town to a well-themed bar, where no details have been spared – including a second floor which you scan spy through a hole in the ceiling.

The last of this year’s original houses is Tomb of the Ancients, where you descend into  the tombs of immortal beings, where a grave robber has dared to  disturb them. With tight corridors and low ceilings, there is a claustrophobic sense to this maze. This is only amplified when you turn a corner or pass an opening and you find yourself face to face with giant lizard gods or spooky figures. However, the one downside of this claustrophobic space is that the dangling roots are constantly in your face and easily get tangled up in your hair.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Universal’s houses based on film and TV properties are nothing to scoff at, though! For the fifth straight year, Universal has partnered with AMC to bring us The Walking Dead house. The uniqueness of this year’s house is that it takes us through the “greatest hits” of previous seasons, up to the current season. Lauren Cohan who plays Maggie on The Walking Dead stated that she ventured through the house with her eyes closed and that was almost worse. As we approached the house and heard the growling and munching of the walkers, it was instantly clear what she meant. Truly covering the greatest hits of the show, we travel through the hospital, prison, and Terminus, before arriving at the fall of Alexandria. The final scene where walkers lurch and jump at you, while strobe light heavy, definitely made the entire house worthwhile.

Two classic slasher films have been imagined into mazes this year – the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween II. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre leads us into the seemingly abandoned house from the film, where we encounter Leatherface and his signature chainsaw lurking in the shadows. And just when you think you’ve made it out, Leatherface continues chasing you down along the exit path. Halloween II picks up exactly where the Halloween house from Halloween Horror Nights 24 left off – down to mirroring the ending scenes in the beginning of this one. This house was truly frightening, as Michael Myers chased after you, wielding his knife and the sounds of slashes ringing through the air.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

The Exorcist presented the Halloween Horror Nights Creative Team with a challenge – how to create a house of a movie that takes place in just one bedroom. In this case, they’ve taken Reagan’s experiences and blown them into fever dream visions. In fact – these are more than just visions, as the sounds and smells of key Exorcist scenes play out in front of you.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

The Exorcist at Halloween Horror Nights 26, photo by Roberto Gonzalez ©2016 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

 

Treading the line between horror and dark comedy, the Krampus house draws inspiration from the 2015 movie of the same name. Reminiscent of films like Gremlins, the house tells the story of a boy who accidentally summons a Christmas demon and the chaos that ensues. While the weather is still steamy and hot in Orlando, the Christmas theme, and falling snow are a nice touch.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Krampus at Halloween Horror Nights 26, photo by Roberto Gonzalez ©2016 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

 

American Horror Story mixes digital media and live action for a truly immersive house experience. Beginning with the Murder House,  where you threats lurk around every corner and you encounter sinister faceless beings, the house covers several seasons of the show. Journeying through the Freak Show section of the series, you come face to face repeatedly with Twisty the Clown and his gruesome features. In the last third of the house, the gruesome bloody story of American Horror Story: Hotel plays out.

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Of course, it’s impossible to get through the park without encountering many of the other scare zones. Lair of the Banshee, lining the Central Park area of the park features towering ghost figures and screaming banshees. Survive or Die Apocolypse plunges you into a dystopian future where people are fighting for their last breath. Two of the high creative scare zones – Vamp 55 and Dead Man’s Wharf have transformed some traditional horror ideals. In Vamp 55, you encounter vampire greasers savaging a local high school crowd, turning prom queens and band members into vampires as well. Dead Man’s Wharf plays on the idea of the ghostly shipwreck and its long-dead inhabitants. The makeup and costuming of Dead Man’s Wharf is incredible, but the area does turn into a bit of a bottleneck.

As in previous years, there are several shows that happen during Halloween Horror Nights as well. Always pulling from the past year’s pop culture features, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure goes for some big targets this year  including Star Wars, celebrities and even Broadway’s Hamilton the Musical. In addition, this year features a new high-impact dance squad called Fear Academy!

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

If you’re thinking Halloween Horror Nights might be something you’re interested in trying out, then you’re in luck! This year Universal is offering even more opportunities to embrace the terror. Halloween Horror Nights runs from September 16th through October 31st. Tickets can be added on to a day ticket for as a little as $55 and there are packages with food and hotels available, click here for more details.

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About Cristen Curley-Edwards