Here is a link to a bunch of easter eggs and other stuff I learned from the UTH tour in Orlando
Here is a link to my 2018 HHN Orlando review
Here WILL BE a link to my Hollywood vs Orlando comparison
10/5 Update at the end
My daughter and I went on the 2nd night of the event. This was her very first HHN (she is 15). She is a veteran of Knotts and Reign of Terror, so I'm giving a review from two aspects - hers and mine. I made it a strict point to NOT let any of my opinions influence her, so I help mine to myself and just asked her questions.
We got to the backlot at 5:15 and the line for ST was already 90 minutes, so we chose to do TRT and heat to the backlot.
Consequently most of the houses we saw were not in the dark, and the two scarezones down there were not open.
We have the Frequent Fear pass so we will complete the event later.
A quick word about wait times. The posted times were incredibly inaccurate, usually showing far too long of a wait. The app kept pace with posted wait times. They were handing out the tickets to people very often to help track wait times, but even after we turned ours in showing 50% less wait time than posted, they didn't update the real time. I hope they fix this. BUT, there is one really cool thing I found in the app. Wanted to share this in case you are not aware. Go to the wait time of a house and scroll tot he bottom. You will see a "Wait Time Alert" option. Go to it and it will allow you to set a notification when the wait time is below your target! This is so cool and it did work (assuming the posted wait time is accurate - which it is not)
We didn't go as it was 90 minutes by 5:15 and never below 140 for the reminder of the evening.
Trick R Treat
No wait at 5:15. Even though we kept our eyes shut as much as possible ahead of the house, it took several rooms to adjust.
My Impression: This was the weakest house of the evening for me. While black hallways were far less prevalent than last year, this house was full of them, and it detracted from the experience. My basis is that because TrT had so many stories being told, each required at least two rooms. Some only had a single room and made the story very muddled for people who don't know the movie. I felt as if cast members were missing as some of the scenes were empty. It was also weird to have a "Meet Sam" story at the end when we had repeatedly met Sam all throughout the house.
My Daughter's impression. When we left the house (her very first HHN house), she said it was ok. Didn't have much better to say. She said it was really dark, and she couldn't see much. She didn't get the story, even though just before we went in I told her it was about following the rules of Halloween and what happens when you don't. I then told her the rules. She didn't understand who Sam was (she had not seen the movie). She thought it may have been the old guy at the end because it said we were going to meet him. I bet most people who went to HHN had not seen that movie, so this is a bit telling.
Was not open as a scarezone when we went
10 minute wait at 5:30. My daughter was extremely excited about this because she saw Truth or Dare (even though she really didn't like it very much). I had not seen it, and neither of us saw Unfriended. The house also had a few rooms at the end to promote "The Girl" which I guess is some upcoming movie.
My Impression: Pretty good house. No where near as good as their first AHS, but far better than Blumhouse I. As I had seen none of the movies, it was a bit random to me, but the intensity was good. I'd describe it as a bunch of teenagers losing their minds. The only thing I recall about the Truth or Dare movie was the preview with all the creepy smiles. But I don't recall seeing any of those in the house (I can't say I was looking for them, but I don't recall them). Unfriended to me was more of the same. And The Girl portion was especially weird to me because The Girl had one of those creepy smiles. I assume it is a sequel to Truth or Dare. I really don't know. This house was not aimed at me.
My Daughter's Impression: She loved the Truth or Dare part because she recognized scenes from the movie. As we were walking to the backlot, I asked her to tell me about what scenes she expected to see. She mentioned a guy cutting off his tongue and tried to tell me the plot (I couldn't follow her 90 MPH explanation). She was so happy to see that scene. She really liked the house a lot. Didn't think ti was too dark even though a lot of light bled in.
30 min wait at 5:45. I showed my daughter the Murdy tweet about the free gift for the password, and she was stoked about this, looking for the psychologist in the queue. When we got to him, I gave him the "Blessed be our New Founding Fathers" line and he said back "Blessed be a nation reborn". After the password I got a magnetic bumper sticker reading "Honk if you Purge Too". My daughter gave him the password and he looked her over and bent down and whispered "you may need this", and handed her a little black case. It was Purge first aid kit.
My Impression: I've seen all the Purge movies but this one. It was The Purge. Honestly, there was nothing especially "Purgy" about it. It was a bunch of people attacking you with weapons. No attempt to tell any story. It was what it was. As a generic "getting attacked by everyone" house, it was effective. I had no problems with it. As a Purge house, it fell short. There was a mannequin room where actors were dressed like naked mannequins (that in itself is interesting). But then it got me immediately wondering - this is Purge. Why are purgers pretending to be mannequins? I assume this was from some scene int he movie. But again makes someone who hasn't seen it wonder what the hell is going on.
My Daughter's Impression: She had not seen the movies but knows The Purge. This was her favorite of the evening, because it was intense. Not the scariest, but she got a lot of personal scares. She thought it was really long. Based on three houses so far, she liked HHN more than Knotts.
We didn't go. Was 150 minutes by 6:30.
Holidayz in Hell
Not open when we headed back up
Best damned corn dogs anywhere. They were not selling the FFP cup at that location
20 min wait at 7:15. My daughter was really looking forward to this one. Again, I did not try to influence her in any way.
My Impression: Best on board video intro in quite a few years. Other than that, it was the Terror Tram. Was disappointed to see the return of the queue near Psycho House. That slowed us down by 10 min and took us out of the element. It was nice to see a bunch of Hollywood Harrys. Last time he all but missing. Zero reason to repeat this in a future visit.
My Daughter's Impression: She LOVED it. I'd have loved it if I had never done it before. It is a fantastic (one time) thing. The chainsaws freaked her out, as did the clowns (sorry, clownZ). NightmareZ was unfortunately a one room thing, so she exited saying "wait, that's it?"
25 min wait at 8:00 (posted time was 45 min). The queue wrapped around the entire WW lagoon. While this appears to be very long, it is not. It's much better than a huge switchback.
My Impression: Not as good as Halloween II but it was VERY GOOD. Huge shoutout to Halloween III. It accounted for about 20% of the house. With all the H3 appearances in Halloween houses over the years, we have practically gotten a full H3 house if we put them together. Very intense house. The Meyers boys were in very good form.
My Daughter's Impression: Scariest house of the event for her. She held my hand through all the houses but she was trembling in this one. She has not seen any of the Halloween movies (believe it or not) and she thinks Michael Myers is terrifying.
15 min wait at 8:30 (posted was 55 min)
My Impression: From the Midsummer Scream video I was most looking forward to this one. It surpassed my expectations. Best Hollywood house for me in years. Loved every part of it. The takes on the monsters were fresh and original. Slash soundtrack worked really well. Even though this was in the dreaded Parisian zone, they did a great job of limiting black hallways. Even the brick wallpaper helped a lot.
My Daughter's Impression: Like it alot. Not in her tops, but thought it was scary. She's not really into heavy rock much so Slash didn't do much for her.
Ummm.... Didn't go. Had no desire to go.
My impression: Damned good year, and that's without ST and Poltergeist. I'm hoping TrT was just a bad run. It's at the bottom for me right now. Honestly, still too much reliance on the "black room strobe scares". But way less than last year. Crowds are becoming a huge issue. The event needs more entertainment and houses. Opening Potter and Waterworld would help. Wait times need to be made accurate. Employees are not using their tools to keep them accurate.
My Daughter's Impression: Had a great time, BUT didn't like the lines. While she liked this more than Knotts, KInotts was more fun because you got to do a lot more.
As I am flying out to Orlando in two days, I will probably try to go tonight and do Poltergeist and ST so I have a good reference.
EDIT: We returned to the event on Sunday 9/16 for a couple of hours to do what we missed the first night.
Sunday crowds were MUCH, MUCH lighter.
We got there at 5:15 again and went straight to ST. The wait was 25 min.
After returning from backlot, and once park was open, wait was 20 min.
Stranger Things: Where is the frickin' facade? Why doesn't this soundstage have one?
My impression: As others have said - beautiful house, but don't expect much in the way of scares. Kids appeared mostly in voice form.
A word about the queue, since the wait times are so inaccurate - there is a 10-15 min queue inside the soundstage. If you are going in the daytime it will help adjust your eyes. There are two queues outside the soundstage - the Transformers overflow (shaded) and three switchbacks adjacent to that (unshaded). The unshaded switchbacks are 10-15 min. The shaded can add 30 min more. On horrendous days, they can open swithcbacks behind the shaded overflow. So you can peek down the alley and decide the real wait time. If you see the shaded overflow empty, expect 30 min.
BONUS info: The $400+ VIP ticket includes a "Stranger Things Experience". Based on VIP add ons in the past, I assumed this was going to be something in the backlot. Turns out that it is an extra room or two in the ST house (I did not do it; this is what I have deduced). Mid way in the house you come to a chain link fence area outside the Hawkins Lab. There is a van here and a couple of guards. If you are part of the VIP tour, the guard gives the first person in the group a flashlight. Once in the Lab, if the VIP guest shows the guard the flashlight, they group is detoured to an exclusive area. My eagle-eyed daughter saw this happen to the group ahead of us. We do not know where they rejoined.
My Daughter's impression: She LOVED it. Wasn't scary for her, but she thought it was a perfect recreation.
Benny's Burgers (Stranger Things themed food in lower lot)
We got the chicken and waffle sandwich. It was good, except the Eggos were rock hard.
At 5:45, it was a WALK ON, but wait time was posted as 20 min...
We went through twice
My impression: Poltergeist terrified me as a kid. The clown, the tree, being dragged along all four sides of the room. The one thing I totally forgot from the movie was the face peel (I had to look it up). Maybe that was because I watched a lot of gore movies and Poltergeist kept its scares mostly above that level. The house, like the movie, starts very slow. Almost too slow. Several rooms with NOTHING going on. But the last half is intense. They did a very good job. With all the talk of Orlando's being the GOAT and filled with puppets, I'm excited to see that. Sounds totally different and much better than Hollywood's.
My Daughter's impression: When we exited she said "That was OK". She didn't follow what was going on. Never saw the movie. The first rooms made no sense to her. And this is a perfect example of why I think IP houses shouldn't exist. A&D: Look what we did! Young customer: I don't get it.
Holidayz in Hell
My impression: Best HHN Hollywood scarezone ever by a longshot. Packed with all sorts of goodness. Would love to see an original house dedicated to this theme.
My Daughter's Impression: LOVED it!
My Impression: Nice add on to Universal Monsters. Short but good.
My Daughter's impression: Liked it alot. Too short.
Trick R Treat
My Impression: Meh.
My Daughter's impression: She liked the actors. Chainsaws were scary.
My impression: double meh.
My Daughter's impression; Thought it would be better and scarier than it was.
Amulet of Fear - $20
Okay, you've probably read about this in the blogs, and when you go you will see them EVERYWHERE (except around customers' necks). We purchased one, and my daughter wore it both nights.
First - they are MASSIVE and HEAVY. I mean comically large. I was expecting something between golf ball and baseball. It's bigger than a softball. And it's really heavy. It comes with an "exclusive" lanyard strap. As you walk with it around your neck, it bangs around your body constantly. It has three modes: OFF, LIGHT, and RFID. In Light mode, it ignores RFID and has a push button that puts it into one of 8 or so lighting modes. It can also be made to vibrate. The vibrations are not subtle. In fact, the biggest plus about this is that is is pretty effective as a neck and back massage device when you are tired. Not joking.
Now, RFID mode. First, it CAN be used on both coasts. It simply senses RFID. And both parks send out the same codes. Around the parks are these 5 foot towers with a lighted jack o lantern on them. These are the RFID transmitters. When you are within a few hundred feet of them, the amulet will react. For instance, as we approached Toxxic Tunnel, it glows green and pulses green. It does all sorts of crazy stuff in Holidayz in Hell. It vibrates solid or in heartbeats or fading pulses. It has two RBG LEDs in it, so the candle and skull can glow/pulse/flicker in different colors. Best of all, it WILL turn off automatically when in houses. My daughter said she saw it bling briefly in Halloween. Employees do not understand this and some tell you to turn off as you approach the house.
My daughter really liked it and while it didn't add any "fear" to the experience, she thought it was neat that it did stuff based on where you were. To her, it was magic. I think it's way too big and heavy, but will nonetheless take it to Orlando with me. It DID seem like scareactors were giving extra attention to those wearing amulets.
House Rankings (Me):
1) Universal Monsters
2) Halloween 4
3) Stranger Things
5) First Purge
6) Blumhouse 2.0
7) Terror Tram
8) Trick R Treat
9) Walking Dead
Scarezone Ranking (me)
1) Holidayz in Hell
2) Monster Masquerade
3) Trick R Treat
4) Toxxic Tunnel
House Rankings (my daughter):
1) First Purge - with a bullet!
2) Stranger Things
3) Blumhouse 2.0
4) Terror Tram
5) TIE: Universal Monsters / Halloween 4
8) Trick R Treat
9) Walking Dead
Scarezone Ranking (my daughter)
1) Holidayz in Hell
2) Trick R Treat
3) Monster Masquerade
4) Toxxic Tunnel
Amendment to my overall thoughts (now that I have completed everything).
Although a strong year, I need to reiterate that the black hallways (while fewer) are just tedious. They existed in Poltergeist for absolutely no reason. They existed in Strange Things to separate the Upside down from reality when a cloth would have sufficed. They existed in Trick R Treat to separate stories, when signs already acted as a perfect separator. And EVERY SINGLE HOUSE ended with "something popping out of a plywood alcove". It was effective when La Llorona was the only house to do it. It was less effective when other houses copied that. It is utterly ineffective now. For the love of God, Murdy, there are more tricks in the bag. Speaking of bags, this is the first time I can remember when there were no body bag hallways. If Murdy can get rid of those, he can surely get rid of more black hallways.
10/4 - visited again.
Now that I have had a chance to go to some more haunts, HHN Hollywood is no longer a "Damned Good Year" in my opinion. I need to lower it to "Just OK".
I came back because it was an uncrowded Thrusday, and I wanted to give Trick R Treat another chance, as my one and only walkthru had been not great.
I did everything except Terror Tram and Purge. Purge had a 45 min wait for the longest stretch.
The rest were practically walk on, so I did ST, Poltergeist (x2), TrT (x3), H4, Monsters
Happy to report that Holidayz in Hell was still excellent.
And Universal Monsters was still the best house of the year here.
And that Blumhouse is getting better. I did enjoy The Girl portion now that I understand it. Unfriended is still the weakest section.
That was the end of the good stuff...
I first went through TrT twice in a row. And I'm sorry to say it was not any better than my first time through. Remember, I had just gotten back from Orlando, so their A+ houses were on my mind. I found myself just disappointed to see what Hollywood in comparison to Orlando.
And the damn black hallways, man. There's just no excuse for 90% of these. These simply didn't exist in Orlando. They put something in every room and hallway.
Then I did a run through for the houses and counted the number of identical "black box" scares, where you are in a pitch black tiny room and an actor hits a switch, throws back a curtain and lunges at you. You are not going to believe how many I counted per house. Keep in mind, that I didn't count these if they occurred in a room that didn't have black walls. So there were rooms in Monsters that I didn't count simply because they had brick wallpaper and the room wasn't pitch black.
Stranger Things = 2 rooms
Halloween = 2 rooms at very end
Classic Monsters = 2 rooms at very end
Blumhouse = 4 rooms (three of which are at very end)
Poltergeist = 4 rooms, plus the two giant skulls (I hesitate to mention the skulls because there's not much other way to present them)
and, drum roll....
Trick R Treat = NINE rooms
This is not counting Purge, which I know had at least four. Or Terror Tram, which had probably a couple. I'll add those if I go back this year.
So that is 23 identical "black box" scare rooms across 6 houses. Plus the two giant skulls which I only mention, but do not count.
I'm certain Purge pushes this well over two dozen.
Why? WHY? WHY does every single house Murdy creates have to have these? And why does every single house have to end with at least two of these in a row?
I know the answer has to do with the $100 it costs to create one of these rooms. But my God. You land a white whale property like Poltergeist and stick four of these in it? You land Stranger Things and end the house with one? And Trick R Treat... I wonder if subconsciously this was a big reason why it didn't work for me. Do YOU remember seeing nine of these rooms in that one house? I bet you can't go through it again without counting them. You're welcome...
How many of these stupid black box rooms appear in Orlando? Honestly, I can only remember three of them in Poltergeist (two skulls and a clown). I remembered them because I remember thinking "MURDY!" when I saw them. Again, not many options available for those. But I can't recall a single other black box room from there. I can't even recall many stretches of black hallway. I'm sure it was there. The difference is: if something low quality is presented to you one or two times during the whole event you probably won't notice, because the rest is so good. But if you constantly see it throughout every house? That's gonna stick with you. Yelp is still full of 2018 reviews (even positive ones) mentioning black hallways and "predictable" scares.
If it's a budget thing, and Murdy actually hates these rooms but his hands are tied, when I guess it's going to take losing market share to better haunts for management to wake up.
But I'm not convinced this is the case. Murdy tends to latch onto a scare and do it to death. Then he moves on to a new scare to do to death. Remember when we had body bags in most every house? Or multiple picture frame drops in most houses? We need variety at HHN Hollywood. I mentioned in my Orlando review that 2018 was the year of the puppet. But in Orlando they are presented in a variety of ways. Nearly every one is unique to each house. It's the year of the puppet, but in a good way. If Murdy had Orlando's number of puppets, HHN Hollywood would be A Nightmare on Sesame Street, because he'd use them everywhere without any variation.