The epic 25th year of the nation’s best Halloween event, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, is now open, marking the beginning of the biggest, longest and most intense event in history. The master of horror, Jack the Clown, has returned as the event’s ultimate icon, and he’s assembled the most maniacal myriad of monsters imaginable.
Does it live up to the hype? Is it worthy of carrying the 25th anniversary?
This all depends on who you ask. We’re going on our 14th year attending Halloween Horror Nights, the 1st in 2002 at Islands of Adventure (IOA) hosted by a great ICON, The Caretaker! If you come up from the the beginning of the ICON era, this event has a lot to live up to. If you come from the New Age of Darkness era (2010+) you’ll probably have a different opinion.
Over the past few years the fans have been asking for the return of an ICON, less intellectual properties (IP’s) and more original content, a stage show and better merchandise.
We have an ICON back, the return of the Jack The Clown. This was the best choice for the 25th year, Jack IS Halloween Horror Nights, he defines the event! He’s out in full force this year, he’s hosting the event, has a house (Monsters and Mayhem), featured in the stage show Carnage Returns and is all over the merchandise this year. A much better choice than the Walking Dead stuff that has been slammed on us the past few years!
On to the review..
The Carnage Returns
This brings back the return of the main stage show a lot of the more die-hard fans have been craving for since the last one in 2007, which was the Carnival of Carnage also featuring Jack. The show brings back Jack’s “interest” the Harley Quinn of Horror, Chance as well. We return to the Carnival in the way we left it, blood and more blood all based off magical illusions! The kills are simple, but yet done amazingly well from beginning to end. One change since 2007 is the inclusion of aerialist acts which fits in with the show this time around based on the popularity of shows like Cirque du Soleil. Jack and Chance make this show a MUST see, don’t miss it live!
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure
What would Halloween Horror Nights be without Bill & Ted? I’d have to say this year’s show is better than the previous two. It follows the same technique, parody on the past year’s pop culture. It’s heavily based on Kayne West and the Kardashians, maybe a bit much? It contains foul language, loud music, dancing and a lot of SKIN! Oh, and if you like Disney, prepare for some really funny jokes! Just remember it’s all good fun, and no video or photography allowed!
Scary Tales: Screampunk
The second coming of Path of the Wicked? It’s a steampunk version of that. Featuring fairy tale characters, Tin Man, Show White, Cinderella, Belle and Pinocchio.
ICONS – HHN
This zone features the ICONS from the past years of HHN. Setup like “7” and “Face Off”, it features stages of the ICONS. Heading in from the front of the park you’ll first meet The Usher (2009). Next up you will meet the Story Teller (2005), The Director (2013) and finally the Caretaker (2012). Each ICON has a mini show featuring an “iconic” kill which is along the lines from the 2006 stage show. Each ICON also has minions associated with them roaming the street.
Located in Central Park by the new NBC Media Center this is your classic traditional zone, our favorite just for the atmosphere alone! It features the pumpkin men, bush people, ogres and fairies. It also has the return of the lighted pumpkins in the trees and tall scarecrows in the grass. Keep a look out, you may even see Fear’s lantern!
All Night Die-In: Double Feature
Enter the drive-in! Or the Die-In.. you’ll see two separate casts here. The first being a black & white cast, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Invisible Man. The second cast is modern day horror featuring Jason, Freddy, Chucky, the Strangers and Vampires.
Psychoscareaoy – Unleashed
In the New York area you’ll find Shadybrook’s Halloween Block Party! However this block party has been crashed by the patients of Shadybrook Asylum. They run around the streets, set fire to a gazebo and have some stage shows, a costume contest, pumpkin carving and bobbing for apples.. in a very special way!
You’ll also run into three roaming hordes with chainsaws, so beware! Evil Clowns hangout from Kidzone to the Simpsons, The “original look” Chainsaw Drill Team and the Woman’s Prisoners roam the backside of New York and the Transformers area!
Jack Presents: 25 Years – Monsters and Mayhem
25 Years feature some of the highlights from the best houses of Halloween Horror Nights! See how Jack has changed over the the years in the various scenes you’ll walkthough from Scary Tales, Nightingales, The Forsaken, Gothic, House of Horrors and Havoc! Great house for the original content lovers!
American Werewolf in London
An exact replica from 2013 brought back based off fan reaction! What’s changed? You’ll see better wolves with a more fluid motion, and maybe even an extra one but we won’t say where!
Asylum in Wonderland 3D
New location for this house at HHN, the Shrek Theater. If you followed Alice through Asylum in Wonderland in 2008, this is an extension of that street turned into a house in 3D. Some great 3D effects and a decent story to tell. Keep your glasses on!
Body Collectors – Recollections
Body Collectors for us is a favorite! Throw in Shadybrook and you have a hit! It also has one of the best facades of the event this year and has a Winter’s Night feel to it. The story is the Body Collectors harvest the patients of Shadybrook and feature a return of a spine-pulling scene, just remember to clap! Very beautiful house!
Freddy vs. Jason
Freddy and Jason return for Jack’s Carnival. Instead of separate houses we finally get a house based on Freddy vs. Jason! You’ll enter through Camp Crystal Lake and then Elm Street featuring some classic scenes from both the films! Finally you see Freddy and Jason battle it out across live scenes and life size projection screens. Depending on when you go through you’ll either see Freddy or Jason win this battle. Pay attention to the left right before you walk out of the soundstage.
Hollywood has done this in the past, we get it here in Orlando this year. Our version features scenes from all three of the movies. Enter enter the house through another amazing facade, once your in.. prepare for a very creepy house! Fantastic for a tent house!
Prepare to SCREAM! Wait, never mind that! The Purge returns as a house this year after a successful street last year. You’ll enter this house thinking it looks familiar, but don’t SCREAM! Graffiti is all over the walls and it’s loud, it’s the annual Purge night. They are masked and have all kinds of weapons and are ready for you!
RUN: Blood, Sweat and Fears
Our least favorite house! When we heard RUN from the beginning, we were hoping for some kind of RUN house based off the original with Eddie. We didn’t get that! Instead we got some cheesy house based off a game show like “The Running Man”. Not much to say here, but move-on.. RUN your way out! Don’t live up to the “RUN” franchise.
The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead
TWD is back for the 4th straight year! After last year’s being the biggest ever, this year does the show no justice. We love the show on AMC but the houses just seem like the same old thing each year. Can we move on from the TWD now? The hyped room with zombies in waist high water is nothing to the hype, look closely cause you might just miss it!
Overall Halloween Horror Nights 25 is a good event. Is it the greatest? Probably not. To us nothing has lived up to 2005 or 2008 yet. We love the fact we got a ICON back and a stage show, let’s hope that can continue each year. We’d love to see more original ICONS. With nine houses now we have a better combination of original vs. IP houses with 4 and 5. Can we move up to 10 at some point and get 5 and 5? Next year seems like another construction year with pretty much the San Francisco area getting a make over for Fast & Furious. We will lose the Disaster location for a house.
On opening night we were allowed to film some of the houses to feature in our review. However most of our footage was very dark and was unusable so we would like to thank Attractions Magazine and Inside The Magic for the videos!
For 30 select nights through Nov. 1, guests can experience theme park thrills by day and become victims of their own horror film by night at Halloween Horror Nights 25. For more information, visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Orlando.