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Zombieman's HHN 29 review: The whole event took place in the Upside Down...


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Just returned from a 5 night stay.  Attended 4 nights (9/25, 9/26, 9/27, 9/29).  Didn't attend on Saturday because I caught the creeping crud and was sick as a dog. 

Pro tip that I failed to heed: Purell is your friend...


I say that this event took place in the Upside Down because everything I thought was going to be great was not, and everything I thought was going to be so-so was great.  Almost without fail.


As usual, I'll go category by category



Stayed at Sapphire Falls once again.  Big plus is the water taxi.  Big negative is the water taxi - because it's mobbed by people staying at Cabana and Aventura.  I really wish they would check hotel keys...

Another big negative is no vending machines on site.  The worst hotels I've stayed at have had vending machines...

But the rooms are very good and the price is good.

Pro Tip: This year was my first time using an annual pass.  I got the AP rate for the room, saving me $100.   Saw the rate only a week out, so keep looking for it.  Although you can make the reservation without first having a season pass, to actually get that rate you need to present your AP at check in (really, just show them a pass that says UOAP)....  But here's the tip: you don't have to get your pass processed at Guest Services.  You can go to the Universal desk at the hotel and they will process it for you right there.  Saves you a buttload of time.  Get your season pass from the desk, go to front desk and check in, and you're done.  The only catch - they can only give you a pass if you paid for the whole thing up front.  If you are making monthly payments, you have to get your pass from Guest Services.

Also excellent was that they have UOAP appreciation days going on, and one perk is that ALL levels of passes get 10% off dining.  So this makes the bottom rung Seasonal Pass quite a great deal!  Saved at least $40 eating in the park, because the discount applies at HHN.  Thanks, Universal!



For HHN, used Rush of Fear + Express

Tool the six-house UTH tour on 9/27.

The 6-house UTH Tour included:

  • Nightengales
  • The Depths
  • House of 1000 Corpses
  • Stranger Things
  • Ghostbusters
  • Yeti

Learned something new: The 3-house UTH tour had unique houses, so taking both tours will let you see 9 of the 10 houses.

The 3-house UTH Tour includes:

  • Graveyard Games
  • Universal Monsters
  • Killer Klownz

Us is not included on any UTH tour, unless one of the other 9 is unavailable.

I was going to book the 3-house tour but didn't because I was sick...


They did not allow Video recording or Audio recording (the audio prohibition was new).

Pictures were also restricted.

In originals it once again made no sense.  "No pictures allowed in this first hallway" (where there is nothing to see).  "Take as many pictures in here as you like" (viscera and gore abound).

In IP houses pictures were highly restricted.

Ghostbusters was insane.  "You can take a picture in this room, but ONLY of this object, and ONLY framed in this manner".

If you can get past the picture rules, I do recommend the tour.

As usual, you do NOT need a daytime park ticket or an HHN ticket to take the tour.  

When the tour is done, they escort you to the Blue Man building and then out the door (no staying in the park after the tour, but there is an entrance gate near the Blue Man exit).

Instead of a free lanyard, they give you a free pin at the UTH tour.  Supposedly exclusive for UTH.



Weather was hot but not humid.  Weather-wise, it was one of the best HHN vacations I've had.

Event food was not great.  The Hero sandwich at the Starcourt food court (aka the shacks near Monsters Cafe) was the standout.  Small portion, though.

When staying till the closing of the night, I recommend grabbing a sandwich at the Today Cafe to take to the hotel.  They are one of the ONLY places in Universal that will give you something to go.  Lines are not horrible, but the food comes sloooooowly.

Tried all four specialty drinks and bought three of the four glasses (blinky cups)

What sucks is that each bar serves only one of the four drinks.  There are at least 8 bars, so you will find your favorite drink at only two bars across the event.  Stupid idea, HHN...

The cups are: Ghostbusters, Universal Monsters, Arcade, Killer Klowns (to be released 10/4)


  • The Saturn - Hayman’s London Dry Gin, Velvet Fallernum liqueur, passion fruit puree, sour mix.  My favorite
  • Vampire's Curse - Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, fruit punch, sour mix.  Tasted like fruit punch and nothing more.  
  • Twilight Galaxy -  Corazon Blanco Tequila, Mr. Boston Watermelon Schnapps, pineapple juice, orange juice, grenadine.  Even with all the sweet flavors, this was really NOT sweet.  Very bitter and "Watermelon" was straight melon.  
  • Blood Pit - St. Augustine Vodka, Finest Call Blood Orange Sour, Bols Peach Schnapps, orange juice.  Strong orange flavor.  Not great, not bad.

I wouldn't want to try to make any of these at home.  Last year's Totally Rad Punch was memorable as all hell.

Regarding the Freestyle cups - the "good all HHN season" cup is no more.  You now need to buy a $9 recharge every day you want to use the cup.  Now, I can tell you that if you recharge during the day in the park, your cup is good all the way through HHN that same night.  So you could recharge at, say, 9AM on a Saturday and it would be good through 2AM Sunday.  I don't know what happens if you recharge at HHN, though.  My understanding is that the cup remains charged through at least part of the next day, during daytime park hours.  Not sure.

I also tested my park-charged Freestyle cup at Aventura - it did NOT work at their Freestyle machines this year (did last year).

I was really disappointed to see that an UNCHARGED cup will not let you get ice water at a Freestyle machine.  You can get ice, but no water.  This makes no sense.


One more thing, totally unrelated to HHN (but this is why my posts are TLDR, right?)

Universal is no longer selling the Impossible Burger, and has switched to Beyond Beef.  I'm not a vegan or vegetarian, but I really latched onto the Impossible burger, because it tastes so good - like a good burger with no gristle.  Most theme park meat burgers are really not very good at all.  I've tried Beyond Beef and yuck.  Oh well.  It was good while it lasted.



With an Express pass each night, was able to easily do all 10 houses, and repeat any that were short waits at end of evening.

Each night I didn't even enter the event until around 8-9PM.  In addition to all 10 houses was able to do AoV show three nights, grab a sit down meal, and spend quality time in the scarezones.  Granted, the was early in the season.  Even peak season, I think you should be able to do what I did armed with an Express Pass and getting to the park when it opens.  I saved my HHN shopping for the daytime.



Wed Sep 25 - 13 miles (Just HHN - went direct from airport) - 12 houses, AoV, Marathon of Mayhem

Thu Sep 26 - 11 miles (included a bit of daytime visit to IOA for Hagrid) - 10 houses

Fri Sep 27 - 14 miles (included 6 house UTH tour) - 12 houses (+6 in tour), AoV

Sun Sep 29 - 13 miles - 12 houses, AoV



The Express/standby merge points are very similar to last year.  Some notes:

  • Nightengales, Ghostbusters, HOTC, Stranger Things and Yeti had great merge points.  There is a very short wait following the merge.  5 min max
  • KKFOS, Depths, Graveyard Games and Us had the same so-so merge points - 10-15 min max
  • Universal Monsters had a crappy merge point with a good 20 min wait post merge



There is a section called The Arcade, where you can play a Stranger Things game or a Universal Monsters Candy Crush type game.  For the life of me, I can't get the latter to work. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but the app locks up.

You can get badges for scanning a QR code at a sign near each house..  But there's huge problems.  First, the sign is a scavenger hunt - some are HARD to find (especially Graveyard Games).  Some are right at the entrance - right where they tell you to turn off cell phones.  Some are at the exits, but you can't stop or you will back everyone up.  None of that really matters, because most are in total darkness, so you can't scan them unless someone shines their light on it.  What I did was take a flash photo of each sign.  But that sucks, since you need a second phone to scan the first.  This game is just stupidity.  And don't think you can scan the codes from home.  Once you leave the park, that function turns off.  You can scan them from your onsite hotel room, though.  In fact NONE of the in app games work off site.  

The trivia is back, but for the original houses, they use general trivia unrelated to the house.  For instance, for The Depths, they ask questions like what the deepest dive is, and when it took place, etc.  Some of the Stranger Things questions were the same as last year's game.  And UNLIKE last year, Terror Trivia locks once you leave the park.  Last year I could continue to play from home.  And I'm not a big fan of "get a badge for spending money" - you get a badge for buying Pizza Fries, the HHN Freestyle cup, and the UTH tour.



Way too much merch to go into deeply, but here are some points of interest

They do still have AP HHN shirt, AP HHN pin, and free AP HHN magnet, but you need to get those during daytime at the AP lounge (NOT available at Tribute store!)

I think they should be at the Tribute store, because they are HHN, and can count toward your 10% off for an AMEX purchase over $75.

Custom Ink shirts are once again in the Tribute store.  The print is much higher quality.  The ones from last year feel sticky and flimsy.  These feel like they are part of the fabric.  There are very few custom house designs available.  I saw one for Yeti.  Everything else is custom IP shirts.

All stores are sold out of XL and XXL House of 1000 Corpses shirts.  I assume they will reorder.  I was told they sold out immediately after Sid's passing.

No light up pins at all this year.

Tribute store is HUGE this year.  Individual rooms for KKFOS, Ghostbusters, ST, and general purpose room.

They are selling 2019 tokens in the arcade.  Be on the lookout for them.

Williams of Hollywood store has almost nothing in the way of HHN memorabilia this year.  Life size Chance statue is gone.  (No, I didn't buy her, but a guy can dream...)



Loved AoV House of Fear in 2016.

Did not like 2017.

Really did not like 2018.

LOVED this one.  It's as if they listened to me, and gave me a HHN themed show in the spirit of House of Fear.  The music was great, the story was great, the acts were great.  They didn't haul someone up on stage to embarrass them.  They didn't force the wave, or slow motion, or freaking Mr. Roboto.  The only slow point for me was the aerial silk acrobat, and he wasn't bad at all.   I'd still prefer Bill & Ted (and the survey they just sent me asked a couple of questions about B&T...)

In my 4 visits, I watched this show 3 times.  Also made a video of it.  My trick was to turn screen brightness fully down.


Marathon of Mayhem

Oh. My. God.  So much better than I ever expected.  I really hope they bring this back time and again with new content, but the 80's theme was so well done.




My Scarezone anticipation list:

1) Zombieland

2) Vanity Ball

3) Anarch-Cade

4) Rob Zombie

5) Vikings Undead


....and after my attendance, almost a complete reversal:

1) Rob Zombie

2) Vikings Undead

3) Anarch-Cade

4) Zombieland

5) Vanity Ball


Rob Zombie zone was just plain fun.  I spent a long time there and loved every part of it.  Favorite use of that area so far.  In no way scary.


Vikings surprised me with its brutality.  The pumpkins were not missed; lanterns made sense for this zone.  Wouldn't mind a Zombie Vikings house sometime.


To me, Anarch-Cade was beautiful to look at.  That laser ceiling was so good, and it was the best thing that area has seen in years.   Reminded me of being in the arcade at the mall.


Zombieland was cute but boring.  The little "shows" were all of 2 minutes of nothingness. It was weird that "zombie kill of the week" was the exact same kill regardless of the character doing it.  I chuckled at the Bill Murray zombie but didn't like anything else.  It was really low energy as compared to last year.  Shadybrook is still my favorite for this area.


Lots here have loved Vanity Ball but even though I gave it a straight uninterrupted hour, it was blah.  And this was after the UTH tour got me all excited with the backstory.  The tour described it as two competing "body designers" who each have runway fashion shows.  Their "designs" supposedly will talk to endlessly about what they had done and how much better their designer is than the other one, etc.  Other than the runway shows, I got none of that.  They had a little "plastic surgery" show, but only one thing happened over the course of an hour.  Chucky was so much better...




My list based on anticipation

1) Depths of Fear 

2) Yeti

3) Nightengales

4) Graveyard Games

5) Ghostbusters 

6) Killer Klowns

7) Universal Monsters

8) House of 1000 Corpses

9) Stranger Things 

10) Us 


....and after my attendance, mostly flipped on its head (mostly)

1) Graveyard Games (BY A MILE!!)

2) Universal Monsters  

3) House of 1000 Corpses

4) Yeti

5) Ghostbusters 

6) Nightengales: Blood Pit

7) Depths of Fear
8) Stranger Things 

9) Killer Klowns 

10) Us 

Graveyard Games (A++)

So far and away above the rest.  My first night every house was leaving me with a "meh" taste and this was the last one I visited.  I wasn't really expecting anything, but was in awe as I went through.  It just got better and better.  This house was utter perfection.  Almost every scareactor has multiple scare points - and each one uses all of them.  Over the course of my 4 nights, I went through this about 8 times.  Each time I saw new things, and it was just perfect.  Not a single bad run.  I really wanted to hear the backstory on this one, but at the same time, I don't see how it could improve it for me.  This house would be the ONLY reason for me to do another trip to Orlando, and a whole trip for one house won't do it for me.


Universal Monsters (A+)

This was done completely differently than the way Hollywood did it, but they did it equally great.  So many great things to experience in this one.  Felt like an original to me.  Did not expect it to be this good at all.  They ought to consider putting some of these monsters in a film some day :P  

I with they had turned the rain effect on more at the start.


House of 1000 Corpses (A)

I'm a big fan of the movie and was a big fan of Hollywood's take (which was also quite different, as the first few rooms back then were parts of the Murder Ride).  Good house, but it very strictly stuck to the storyline; if it wasn't in the movie, you won't see it.  


Yeti (A)

Some really big scenes and scares in this one, along with a surprisingly comedic scare outta nowhere.  In my opinion, wasn't as good as any of last year's originals.  This will be one I will have forgotten about in a few years.


<Last year, houses 5-8 would have still been great.  On this year's list, everything after Yeti is a big step down>


Ghostbusters (B-)

Yes, it's a beautiful house.  Yes, I know it's not supposed to be scary.  Yes, I loved the movie.  The house was just....underwhelming. 


Nightengales: Blood Pit (B-)

Like so many others said, the bird beaks were too distracting.  UTH tour guide said that these Nightengales were devolved, being much older.  Okay, but without someone telling me that, I'm just wondering what the heck I'm looking at.  BEAUTIFUL FACADE.  Unfortunately, we immediately go into the bowels of the Colosseum and stay there.  As such, it's very monochromatic.  I guess the original Nightengales: Blood Prey was also monochromatic with the trenches, but frankly the WWI house was more fun and the Nightengales were more scary.  And, man, the water effects were practically turned off.  I felt nothing rain-like anywhere.


Depths of Fear (C+)

This was at the top of my anticipation list.  The goofy Mouthbrooders killed it for me.  In Seeds of Extinction, a guy dressed as a plant was awesome, but here a guy dressed as a silver angler fish with giant translucent teeth is just goofy.  I liked the idea and parts felt underwater, but the transition from above water outside to underwater inside was just not great.  I think they needed for the facade to already be an underwater scene.  Missed the dog entirely until the UTH tour.  The house still looked cool and was somewhat fun, but as far as originals go, this is Giggles & Gore territory (and I don't remember much from Giggles and Gore).  Disappointing.  As I mentioned in another thread, Knotts' "The Depths" was such a better "We dug too deep!" mining themed house.


Stranger Things (C)

The casting was once again amazing.  The flayer at the end was amazing.  The rest was just OK.


Killer Klowns (C-)

Really surprised this came in so low.  And unfortunately it's not because the rest was just that much better.  I like the movie, really liked the zone, but the house just seemed like a 3D clown house without the glasses.  Honestly, I don't think they could have done better.  Klownzilla was a great puppet.  The final room was huge but filled with too many static figures.  Big letdown.  I just think this one makes a much better zone than a house.


Us (D-)

They killed a perfectly good SoundStage for this.

I saw the movie and liked the movie.  The movie is hard enough to follow.  As a house - forget about it.  If you've never seen the movie, you will be lost.

So let's put all that aside, what about the scares?  Not many.  So many actors stand there and do nothing.

Most of the actors that DO something do it as part of an insanely long action.  In any scene with Red or Adelaide, she just stands there.  Forever.  Then does something.  Those are just no no's in houses.  It stops the line.  If you haven't seen the movie you exit the room wondering WTF.

In 4 trips through the house, I saw most of the scares happen one time each.

Sorry, this is just garbage as a house.




Can't compare this yet to HHN Hollywood because I haven't gone.

Only 4 really good houses out of 10.  Last year was 8 out of 10.

But last year's show was awful and this year had two standout shows.

I don't think they topped 2018.  As I mentioned, 2018 was so good, I spent $1000 to fly back a second time.

This year was middle of the road as a whole.  As so many have said: Not awful. Not great.

Graveyard Games, though.   Oooh, baby!  Instant classic for me; I'll miss that one dearly.

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In better years, I would have purchased the Hollywood HHN season pass, but the quality has gone down so much, I don't do that anymore.

I can't give HHN Hollywood more than one night of my time anymore, whereas HHN Orlando gets 4 nights (more, but I have to work in real life :P).

We will be buying Unlimited Express that night as the price is very low that evening.  Being last weekend, it could just as easily be a ghost town as a madhouse.  

The Express price is such that even Universal is expecting it to be a ghost town.

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  • 2 months later...
On 10/15/2019 at 8:49 AM, zombieman said:

In better years, I would have purchased the Hollywood HHN season pass, but the quality has gone down so much, I don't do that anymore.

I can't give HHN Hollywood more than one night of my time anymore, whereas HHN Orlando gets 4 nights (more, but I have to work in real life :P).

We will be buying Unlimited Express that night as the price is very low that evening.  Being last weekend, it could just as easily be a ghost town as a madhouse.  

The Express price is such that even Universal is expecting it to be a ghost town.

Will there be a Hollywood review anytime soon?

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