Review: Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 28 with STRANGER THINGS

Halloween Horror Nights 28… oh, horror nights, I’ve covered it for years… I’ve avoided it for years. But what finally got me to attend Halloween Horror Nights 28 myself? STRANGER THINGS! Our family watched the hit Netflix show together, and when we heard Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 28 would feature a STRANGER THINGS house, we decided to give it a try. Well, some of us gave Halloween Horror Nights 28 a try – my youngest daughter (age 17) and I went while my wife relaxed back at the hotel. Our oldest daughter (age 20) had no interest whatsoever in attending the event. So what did we think? Continue reading for our thoughts on Halloween Horror Nights 28.

Halloween Horror Nights 28

Byers living room from the “Stranger Things” haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights 2018. Image courtesy Universal Orlando Resort

First things first, thanks to Universal Orlando Resort for hosting my daughter and I at the Halloween Horror Nights media party. We arrived in Florida on Thursday, September 13, and had a day in the parks to relax before facing our fears at Halloween Horror Nights 28. We spent the day immersed in the Wizarding World, and as evening fell we waited for the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle when the skies opened up in a deluge. This was not the typical 10 minute Florida summer downpour. This was rain of biblical proportions that started around 8pm and never let up. After huddling in Honeydukes, we decided to tough it out and walk back to the hotel. The pouring rain was warm, but we made the best of it, kicked our shoes off, and splashed & laughed all the back to Universal’s Aventura Hotel.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Daughter and Dad enjoying pints of cider and ale at the Hog’s Head Pub in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure before the deluge hit

Friday night, opening night for Halloween Horror Nights 28, and I’ll admit my daughter and I were nervous. Horror’s not our thing, but we decided to try something new. Universal had an 80’s vibe going on, and I was in my element.  We walked through the Vamp ’85 scare zone to get to the media reception, the music was thumping, and we were having a good time. After learning all about the event and dining on some STRANGER THINGS Eggo waffle food including chicken & waffle sandwiches, Eleven’s waffle egg-stravaganza, and some Christmas light cupcakes, it was time to head out.

Halloween Horror Nights 28 at Universal Studios Florida

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 at Universal Studios Florida

First house, ScaryTales: Deadly Ever After… darkness fell, lights flashed, and screams could be heard all around. We definitely didn’t know what to expect as we were swallowed up by the space. The Wicked Witch of the West flew in cackling circles above our head, and we found room after room of demonic fairy tale characters including some demented pigs and bears that lunged attackingly at us.

Halloween Horror Nights 28 at Universal Studios Florida

Daughter after experiencing her first haunted house at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 28

House number two, into Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces – a strange junkyard of discarded attractions where Carneys jumped out from the darkness. The maze was loud, chaotic, and overwhelming, and my daughter and I were definitely out of our comfort zone. After working our way through the long maze, we took a break to catch our breath. At that point I glanced over to see my daughter looking at puppy photos on her phone to calm down.

Time for some scare zones – Vamp ’85: New Year’s Eve, now this was my jam. It’s December 31, 1984 in New York City. The ball’s about to drop when the party’s overrun with vampires – 80’s fanged punks straight out of “The Lost Boys.” OK, this was fun. The music brought me back to my high school days. Remember what the #1 song in December 1984 was? That’s right… Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and all the monsters gathered for a flash mob. Take a look at the video captured by John Saccheri.

OK, now we’re starting to get into the spirit of Halloween Horror Nights. It’s still loud and chaotic, but we’re loosening up and having fun. Into the next scare zone – KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. Ummmm, OK, I must have missed this little gem from 1988. The Killer Klowns milled about this scare zone, not so much in a threatening way, but more of just general meandering. My daughter walked by one of the clowns and said, “oooh, that one has gross teeth,” and that was all it took for the clown to get up in her face.

Finally it was time for STRANGER THINGS. Wait times for this haunted house stayed at 90 minutes to 2 hours all night, and the lines snaked back and forth forever in front of the Music Plaza stage. The house was incredibly well done with sets that looked like they were taken right from the show. As we walked through the house, we wandered through iconic scenes from the first episode including Hawkins National Lab, the Byers’ home, Hawkins Middle School, and The Upside Down. Every step of the way the Demogorgon stalked us skittering and chittering in the background, and we met up with multiple characters from the show, including Eleven. We LOVED this house, and only wished we could go through multiple times and study all the detail in each scene.

Halloween Horror Nights 28

Demogorgon scares visitor in the “Stranger Things” haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights 2018. Image courtesy Universal Orlando Resort

POLTERGEIST was next, and we headed through the pool into the Freeling’s house from the 1982 film. All the iconic elements were there from the crawling steak in the kitchen, the guy ripping off his face, to “Jingles” the clown (just why does that kid have such a creepy clown in his room anyway?). We met Tangina, and headed into the light where the evil spirit was waiting for us. Another well executed recreation of a classic film to live-action haunted house.

Halloween Horror Nights 28 at Universal Studios Florida

They’re Here. Carol Anne greets visitors to the “Poltergeist” haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights 2018

Back to the front of the park, where we walked through a series of photo-op scenes set up for selfies. Turns out this was THE HARVEST scare zone, and creepy hay bale creatures shook their maracas at us. This was a short, quick, scare zone, that gave us a good laugh at the “evil” hay bales. Since when are hay bales scary?

Halloween Horror Nights 28 at Universal Studios Florida

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 at Universal Studios Florida

We completed four haunted houses and three scare zones out of the ten total houses and five scare zones. At that point we decided we had enough. No, seriously… we weren’t too scared, we could have done more! Don’t get me wrong, we had a good time and both Dad and Daughter had fun, but we wanted to end the night on a high note, wanting more, before we were too exhausted. Plus, we had to get up early the following morning to drive to Kennedy Space Center.

Was Halloween Horror Nights 28 for us? Not sure. We loved the story houses like STRANGER THINGS and POLTERGEIST. The attention to detail and recreation of sets and costumes was incredible. However, in the end, we’re still not really horror fans. We had a great time, and I would go again if I was in the area with a group of friends. It’s just not our particular cup of tea to make a special trip for a family vacation.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.