Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!
― Humbert Wolfe
If you are anything like me, you long all year for the nip in the air, the smell of burning leaves on a crisp night, and and of course the return of haunts and fall festivals during the Autumn months.
This year Halloween Horror Nights’ is celebrating it’s 25th season (or cycle as Fear was prone to say) in business. They are “sparing no expense” as they are touting more house, more scareactors, and more nights then ever before. But is it quantity over quality? Has Universal sacrificed guest experience for getting more heads in the park? If you ask most of the die-hard fans, you will more then likely get a resounding “yes”. But is that really true? Lets delve a little deeper into this year.
I have the wonderfully rare position of attending HHN from the very beginning. While I did miss 2014 (which I heard was a great travesty) I have seen this event through all phases. I have faithfully endured (and enjoyed) the many changes that the event has gone through. From one house, zero scarezones, and 10+ shows to the now 9 houses, 5 scare zone, and 2 shows of this year. I’m not trying to toot my horn (ooh look at me I attended a bunch) all that is simply to say I have a firm grasp on the dynamics of the event and the changes that have been made.
Ok, so with all that out of the way let’s dig into the meat and potatoes of what is speculated for this year and how I feel that will play out. Oh, a side note: SPOILERS! If you are not interested in knowing what the event holds, It’s probably best you skip to the summation at the end.
First off, the main reason people attend the event, Let’s discuss houses. This year we allegedly have 5 IPs (Intellectual Properties for the laymen) and 4 houses of “original content”. Overall, I feel that is a good balance. The IPs bring in the masses that Universal wants and the originals appease the fan-base’s desire for original content. However what about the quality of IPs? After all, too many bad IP choices can really bring the event down. So let’s look at the lineup:
- The Walking Dead
- Freddy Vs Jason
Yeah I know, right off the top, The Walking Dead house is an obvious dud. At least to most people who have gone for the last 3 years. Even if you like TWD, as a show or a house, a 4th incarnation seems a bit… excessive. Universal has never brought a property back 4 years in a row. Couple that with not liking zombies OR The Walking Dead and you’ll be where I’m at: Bored to death with this property. Now that being said, aside from the first house, the other two were at least interesting to look at. The last one was the biggest house in Universal’s history so there is that, but how will they top last year and revitalize the property? Honestly I have very little hope for this one but it’s an extra house so if it’s the only bad choice, I’m fine with going through it once and enjoying the rest of the event.
After that we have Freddy Vs Jason, Insidious, and Scream. All solid choices and big names that will bring people in and most of the fans will like. I personally don’t care for slasher films (gasp!) so Scream is a bit on the indifferent side for me. Still, many people love the series so I’m sure it will do well and be popular.
Finally, we are left with AWIL. I’m concerned with this one. It was a great house the first time around but that was only two years back. It’s just too soon. Now, on the plus side, it will have an entirely new footprint and will have new technology so this may help. I’m tempering my expectations. Hopefully it’ll blow me away.
As for originals we have:
- Alice in 3D
- Best of 2015
To me, it’s a mixed bag. Blizzard sounds really strong, Alice is a strong enough concept, while the “Best Of” and Run really depend on their implementation. The first run was an amazing fluke. The best of house is… well a best of house.
Overall, I feel the originals sound the weakest. If houses need to come back, I would have like to see a stronger house than Run. Although Blizzard is the combination of two very strong houses from the past and who knows exactly what is in the “Best Of” house. So I’m fairly confident they will be good overall. The houses are a little odd for an Anniversary but mostly strong choices none the less.
Ok so far so good. With the houses out of the way let’s move on to the streets. The streets this year are allegedly 5 set scare zone and 2 roaming. I do like the list of themes but, honestly, I’m not as concerned with the content of the streets as I am with the implementation of the streets. With the growing number of attendees and the daily parades, it seems the streets have become a side thought. Gone are the intricate sets pieces in most areas and in their place are minimalist set pieces that can be moved in and out quickly and won’t bottleneck the veritable deluge of attendees chocking the streets. What I want to see is a bit of a pipe dream: A return to intricate and well themed zone. But at least some what of compromise. Oh yeah you probably want to see the list of zones:
- Scary tales
- Psychoscareapy/fall festival
- Horrorwood 2.0
That pretty much concludes the areas I’m concerned over but there are the shows to discuss. Shows have been dead weight for me for years. With my increasing age, Bill and Ted has become more crass and puerile for me. It has devolved from any real witty humor to a collection of memes and T&A. I don’t like the music and I’m starting to not get the references. We can’t forget the Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute that has comeback again and again. An abbreviated version of a show I was tired of a decades ago. But, if I was to think of an idea for ashow (and I have) I would like a variety show. Something with some real talent. Some magic, some comedy, some cirque, a dance number, and throw in HHN icons. Give it some class and wit. Leave the Bill and Ted show for those who like the more base humor.
Halloween Horror Nights is the biggest Halloween event in the world. You would be hard pressed to find a larger more professional event anywhere. It may not be the scariest and, depending on your opinion, the best. But you cannot deny the massive endeavor that it is.
The hardcore fans lament on a regular basis what they feel it has lost and never stop to think what it has gained. They live in the Nostalgia of the “Golden Years” and demand that they come back. The thing is, the event is vastly different now and those days are long gone.
Universal no longer needs HHN to keep them in the black during the off season. While this isn’t all good it’s not all bad. The fandom seems to have evolved into somewhat of an expertise. Whether real or fabricated the majority of fans have a “they owe me” or “I know better” mentality and in reality they don’t. The average fan has no idea what is required to create an event of this magnitude nor the checklists that must be completed. If the creative team listened to everything the fans demanded, they would be creating an event catered to the few. Not only that it would kill the natural development of the event. They would be trying to create towards the perceptions of what the fans want and not what it actually will be.
The event is what it is: A massive haunted event that provides multiple themes and option for all types of horror fans. It’s a great time that yes, can be very crowded. It’s popular so of course it is. Trying to live the glory days never works and will only set you up for disappointment. The best advice I can give is to embrace change and accept it for what it is. If you are looking for a more intimate venue they are everywhere and I encourage you to support them. I personally am excited for this year. The houses are strong and the scarezones are promising.