Universal Hollywood Outdo Themselves with USH Halloween Horror Nights 2016

Full review of USH Halloween Horror Nights 2016 – It’s been a while since my wife and I attended Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. In fact it was in 2012 and my wife and I recorded our experience on my podcast, The DisGeek Podcast. Because, you know… Universal and Halloween Horror Nights make perfect sense for a podcast about Disneyland. You can listen to that old episode here.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

My oh my how Universal has changed. In just 4 short years the park has reinvented itself. Not only normal operations but Halloween Horror Nights as well. I simply love what they have done over there, but let’s take a look at the mazes that Universal is showcasing this year.

First a disclaimer. Pretty much every time I tried to take a picture of any kind in a maze, Universal employees yelled at me to, “Keep Moving!” I didn’t go on a sanctioned media night, so we were herded through the mazes pretty quickly. So for a few of the inside maze pictures I’m going to use some images from our friends at Theme Park Adventure. They are superstars and took some great shots! All photos are used with permission.

One of the things that set Universal apart is the fact that their mazes are based off of intellectual properties. It’s one of Universal’s strengths, and I have always felt that at a typical halloween haunt, once you go in one Halloween maze, you’ve gone in them all. But with Universal mazes, you feel like you are IN the movie that the maze is based off of, and that is what I love about Universal. Each maze is unique and we all have a special connection to them. Some people are big fans of American Horror Story (like us) or look back fondly at Halloween and Michael Myers.

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Another aspect that was new to us, is the location of some of the mazes. Right in the middle of the Universal Backlot in the Metropolitan sets, which is where we will start. I think they may have done this in the past but like I said this was new for US and it was simply outstanding. The ability to be on the backlot and seeing it dressed up for Halloween Horror Nights just added to the experience. While most of the space is used for queuing, it’s used effectively and really helps put you in the mood.

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The only downside to this, is that for some this may be a very long walk. But they do keep you entertained as you make the trek to that area. You walk through a very long tunnel at one point and they have turned that tunnel into a scare zone for The Purge. It did look like they had shuttles for handicapped people, but I do have to admit that it was a pretty long walk, and once you leave that area, you will not want to go back and redo those mazes due to its far location. But by using this location I think it gave the designers something that they would not otherwise have, and that is space. Space to create amazing experiences and not be limited to the confines of the theme park itself.

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The mazes that utilized this area were The Exorcist, American Horror Story, Freddy Vs. Jason, and Krampus.

The Exorcist is the telling the story of the film and if you are a fan of The Exorcist, this will be an awesome experience. They bring you into the MacNeil house and right into Regan’s bedroom. Multiple times. Meaning that you walk through the bedroom scene several times (different scenes) while Megan’s transformation continues.

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The American Horror Story maze has us walking through the Murder House of Season 1, a Freak Show from season 4, and the Hotel Cortez of season 5.

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Freddy vs. Jason was the epic battle between Freddy of Nightmare on Elm Street and Jason of Friday the 13th with guests literally in between the fight. But it didn’t seem like they were battling each other, rather they were competing on who could scare us more! On our visit, Freddy claimed victory but my understanding is they have 2 different endings. One with Jason winning and the other with Freddy.

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Finally, in the backlot area was Krampus and I admit that I’m not familiar that that film or story. Based off of European folklore, Krampus is a horned half-goat, half-demon beast that hunts, captures, and punishes naughty children during the holiday season. Inspired by the 2015 film, Krampus celebrates and corrupts the meaning of Christmas during the Halloween season.

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Making our way Back in the upper lot. We have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween.  Michael Myers’ Halloween is one of my favorite horror films from back in the day, so this was one of my favorite mazes. The sets and actors are just great and you truly feel like you are in the film.

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I felt that ALL of the mazes were pretty strong. Every single one of them had jump scares and they got us everytime. To the point that my wife was hiding behind me, and that never happens. We normally walk through these with ease and just enjoy the work that the designers put in. But this time we were genuinely scared at what was around the corner.

The final maze we went through was The Walking Dead. What makes this maze different is that it is a permanent maze at Universal Studios Hollywood. So this maze is open all year long. Despite the fact that there was some really good sets and lots of action, I felt that it was the maze that had the least scares. Kinda just walked through and took in the amazing work put into it. But nothing too mind blowing. It may be the permanent nature of this maze where people who may not go to Halloween haunts go through it all year long.

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One of the other parts that makes Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights stand out is the Terror Tram. We went on the Terror Tram in 2012 and it was themed to The Walking Dead. In fact it was the first year The Walking Dead was at Universal. Basicly you board the Tram from the daytime studio tour, and they take you down to the area of the backlot where the house from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds plane crash set is. You walk around those sets and monsters jump out at you. You reboard the Tram and they take you back to the upper lot theme park area where you boarded.

The sets are amazing to look at and again, it’s great that Universal utilizes these areas of the backlot to their advantage. But I could not tell to the difference between how the Terror Tram worked back in 2012 and now. It seemed to be the same experience despite this year, it’s, “Eli Roth Presents Terror Tram”. So while a very cool experience, it seemed the same as 4 years ago. I’d like to see them change this up a bit.

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One of the fun things about going to the theme park haunts are the shows. Returning this year is Jabbawockeez. While this is a fun and entertaining show, it’s a very play-it-safe dancing and music show where there is zero risk of somebody being offended. Last we went, the show was Bill and Ted and that show was fun, stupid, edgy, and very entertaining. I mean isn’t that what Halloween is all about? You can have dead bodies and violence everywhere, but Bill and Ted might say something that will offend sensitive little ears. Back in the day they had a show where Chucky just insulted people and it was very funny. But Universal is taking no chances here and who can blame them. Jabbawockeez is the only show Universal has for Halloween Horror Nights this year, and I hope they add more in the future.

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Also this year, Universal went from four scare zones to two both themed for The Purge. They had an area in the park in the upper lot and another that was the aforementioned tunnel on the lower lot. So I was a bit disappointed walking around the rest of the park and not having scare zones throughout. The Purge was really great, but I would have liked to see more.

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Make note: if you can swing the upcharge, you should strongly consider a Front of the Line pass. The cost depends on when you go, with the closer to Halloween – the more expensive.  If you cannot afford to spring for the Front of the Line pass, you can still have a wonderful time, but keep your expectations in check and pack your patience.  You will be waiting in some very long lines for the mazes.  We saw lines for some mazes of over 2 hours while others had a minimum wait time of 90 minutes.

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Another thing to know going in to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights is that the park’s new Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not open.  Therefore, if you’re expecting to walk around Hogsmeade to get a break from the scares, you will be disappointed.  Perhaps, in future years Universal will open Harry Potter, and it would certainly help with crowd distribution, but, at least for USH Halloween Horror Nights 2016, there are only the Halloween mazes, shows, and Terror Tram.

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All of that being said, we really had a GREAT time at USH Halloween Horror Nights 2016, and, ultimately, that’s what it is all about. Universal really outdid themselves this year and I love loVE LOVE how they started using the studio backlot as part of the experience. From great properties from the latest hit TV shows to old school 80’s horror, Universal has the complete package of Halloween fun.  Yes, it’s an expensive package, but it’s well worth it.

DISCLOSURE: Daniel Hale received two complimentary tickets and front-of-the-line passes to experience USH Halloween Horror Nights 2016 for the purpose of writing this review.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author. 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 Daniel Hale

Daniel Hale is a Theme Park Fanatic with a passion for the world of Themed Entertainment, especially Disneyland. As a podcaster he brings his love for all things Disney to his multiple award winning podcast, The DisGeek Podcast. He is also the co-host of the Earvengers Podcast, and co-host of the Getting Dirty Podcast. Daniel can be found at www.disgeek.com and @disgeekpodcast on twitter.