The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is happening in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life visits Halloween Horror Nights.
Halloween is the best holiday of the year. Let’s think about it. It’s the only holiday where we give a scare or candy and expect nothing in return. Hayrides, corn mazes, and haunted houses are all on our minds this time of year. In the city of Los Angles, there is one place to go that is packed with all three. Universal Studios turns their theme park into a haunted nightmare that is more than just rides. Creatures of the night roam freely seeking out unsuspecting victims. But is this really the place to go? The Geek Life spent the whole day at Universal Studios and the whole night at Halloween Horror to find out.
The Regular Park:
The Universal Studios Hollywood theme park is located adjacent to the actual Universal Studios. Films and TV shows are in full production while you are on the backlot tour. There are a few attractions like King Kong 3D and Jaws that are purely part of “the ride”. It is seeing 1313 Mockingbird Lane and the Bates Motel that make the ride memorable. The park itself is loaded with the likes of The Mummy coaster, Jurassic Park, and the Simpsons’ Ride. All in all it is a fun day with the kiddies.
Halloween Horror Nights:
At night the park closes for an hour and sets up for the scares. Many of the Halloween Horror attractions are visible during the day. This is done to save time, but many of the “scares” are bit shocking for the kids. Why a pig with its entrails hanging out or collection of dead bodies on a cart isn’t covered up is beyond me. Many times throughout the day I saw little kids crying. They didn’t sign up for that.
There is a bit of insanity as the park slowly opens for the night. Several clown faced, chainsaw wielding, blood soaked freaks stand at the ready for the night to begin. The true horror isn’t from the actor trying to scare us. No, the horror comes from the sea of humanity that believes these paid actors are really going to hurt them. When the crowd of people started pushing me into metal chairs, that’s when I really got scared.
There are 7 horror attractions at Halloween Horror Nights; only one of which is a ride. The others are mazes through twisted horror movies and not for the weak of heart. In the seven hours in which the park was open I got on 6 of them. Not a bad turn out as time goes. Sadly, each was not as unique as I would have hoped.
Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life
Time in Line: No Wait
The backlot tour is replaced with the Terror Tram. In “production” are several Scream type movies on the backlot so beware of Ghostfaces popping out everywhere. The wreckage from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is intensified. However, it is the Psycho house that makes this an A+ attraction. For any film aficionado, the chance to walk up the steps of the Bates House is a dream come true; especially since one cannot do that on the regular backlot tour.
The Wolfman: The Curse of Talbot Hall
Time in Line: No Wait
An identical attraction to the Universal House of Horrors that is open during the day time. Obviously, the new Wolfman film is featured, but the true fun is in the waiting area. Here is where you will find the history of Universal Horror Movies. This attraction is complete with vintage posters, production photos and death masks. Most people ran by these for the scares inside. Please take your time and soak in the history.
Eli Roth’s Hostel: Hunting Season
Time in Line: Short Wait
Here is a great tribute to Eli Roth’s Hostel movies which is complete with members of the hunting club. Kudos has to go to the actors portraying the victims. It is easy to jump out and scare someone. However, to keep in tortured character for hours at a time is impressive. Think about it, could you moan in pain for hours as your legs are grinded into hamburger?
Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare
Time in Line: Short Wait
It certainly was a nightmare worthy of Alice Cooper. There was one particular performer (a white haired man a la Medusa) on stilts which brought in all the scares. He never touched much me, but got close enough to let me feel his breath on my neck. That’s creepy. It wasn’t so much about the victims or the scares in this one that made it better than Hostel. It was the tribute to Alice Cooper decorated on each of the performers as well as the twisted concoctions created with various body parts.
The Thing: Assimilation
Time in Line: Longest Wait in the Park
This was the only time I actually thought of getting out of line. The line maze outside went on forever. If it weren’t for my love of the ‘82 movie, I probably would have given up when I started my third turn in the line maze. This was, however, the best of all the maze-style attractions. Both humans and “Things” were out to get you. Since the creature could be anything or anyone, it added a great depth to what we saw. A quick turn around the “Thing’s” icy coffin and the horror begins. This was a perfect appetizer for the new movie or a reminder why Carpenter’s movie is such a classic.
Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses in 3D Zombievision
Time in Line: Long Wait
My final stop was Rob Zombies House of 1,000 Corpses in 3D. The exteriors (see picture) showed great promise. The addition of 3D effects did make this a tad different. The glasses skewed your vision enough to give the actors a few more seconds to scare you. Funky colors and distorted bodies had already been done in Cooper’s Nightmare though. By this point (given the wait in the line) I was hoping for something different.
For a studio that boasts some of the greatest horror movies of all time, I found little in the way of merchandise. There were tons of tacky t-shirts, shot glasses and mugs for Halloween Horror Nights but nothing in the park (day or night) with Universal’s classic monsters on them. No t-shirts, posters or sweatshirts supporting Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. For such items visit Thing From Another World Comic Shop outside the park on the Universal Citywalk.
The Geek Life Verdict:
Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights was a fun night packed with scares and the chance to see (up close) a Horror/ Cinema landmark. What needs to change is that many of these attractions were just mazes. By the second one you are already put on the defensive and know where and when to look. The randomness of walking the park encountering ghouls and monsters had a broader appeal as the night went on. Some theatrics are present when you walk into the park (girls dancing in cages) but perhaps a show or a 4D movie is needed. If this had been just another local hayride, I would have been wowed. With the event being hosted by a famous theme park next to a major production studio, I expected a little bit more. For more photographs of Halloween Horror Nights check out Mania’s Facebook page.
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