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_Veritas_' HHN 23 Review


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I’m going to begin with the short preface note that 2009 has been the only other year I have ever been able to attend HHN. I live in Illinois, and don’t make a ton of money (nor does my family.) I’ve followed the event for many, many years though. I was blessed this year to basically be able to go as a student and do senior inquiry research (my SI project is on horror theatre.) That in itself is a LONG story, but basically for research purposes (and admittedly personal fun at the same time) I was able to go to HHN this year.

I also want to say that if at any point I seem super critical, I apologize. I’m not trying to take jabs at anybody for specific reasons or anything but am just giving a wholehearted review of my experience and feelings of HHN 23, and what I consider overall was an awesome trip. I visited every house but one multiple times, and truly will take actually quite a bit away from this experience.

This is also going to be, like my 2009 review, rather long winded and full of spoilers.

So let’s begin.

It’s Thursday, September 25th. It’s taken me almost ten hours but I am finally at Universal Orlando. My gut is fluttering with butterflies as I wait in line for the entrance to open up. I had been informed through the forums and an interview video that opening scaremonies were back, and was greatly looking forward to that since in 2009 all that we had was a Q&A for Cirque de Freak… which was… not really that interesting. But anyway, I was pumped. I watched as the “Save us” and “Dead Inside” banners fluttered in the wind and that was when… the gates opened up and people flooded in.

No opening act. I admit, I was a little let down but I didn’t really let it bother me at all because I assumed that it just was not going to happen that night (which I found the next day to be a correct assumption. )

When I finally was able to see the opening scaremonies I was pleased. I was near the middle of the line so I had a good view of our “survivor” warning us, and her battle between the walker trying to attack her. Saturday though I got to the Universal Arches super early, and ended up being one of the first people in line and got some pretty good video of the walkers attacking the fence and coming after us. Overall the opening was great I felt and it really kind of set a mood. Sure it’s no “Arrival” but after not having any opening act for several years now this was MORE than welcomes, and was extremely enjoyable to watch/be a part of.

Once I entered I took in that first breath of fog, and turned straight for the Legendary Truth check in. I bought the card, but couldn’t register it due to malfunctions. I later returned that night and registered. Overall Legendary Truth was fun… for one night. But after half way through Friday night I gave up, and just ended up doing the scanning portion and not the in park scavenger hunt/looking for clues or solving puzzles. It was fun to meet up with other people but I found it to be a waste of my time- not in a BAD way, it just is that I ONLY had four days to enjoy the event, and only four. I couldn’t really justify running around for several hours chasing my own tail when there were houses to visit and other things to enjoy. If I lived in the area and would be going throughout October then maybe I’d be more involved. So, sorry Morphans for my lack of involvement.


The first house I visited was Walking Dead: No Safe Haven. One of the most popular attractions and one that the marketing has been pushing (and that the event is kind of, in a way, centered around. The wait wasn’t long, only about fifteen minutes since it was still pretty early. The façade was great to look at, although it would much improve once night time came. The walker inside the cage was really hamming it up and enjoying his work so I was getting jived. But once I entered the house I was blinded (which is basically what happened in 2009 with the Dracula house as well.) I expected this and because of not really being able to see I couldn’t really enjoy the house my first walk through. I do remember getting scared once by one of the guard walkers.

My second walkthrough was better and allowed for me to really take in the sets and the costumes, which is all I pretty much did since every actor was only going for the girl behind me or the girls in front of me. This type of acting, you will realize in my review, is a pet peeve of mine so I’m going to get my mild rant out of the way now to save time later. Now, understand, I have been scareacting for haunted houses for nine years now. I understand what it’s like when you corner “those” girls/individuals who just nearly piss themselves. You relish that moment, you really do. But you also have other “customers” to take in to consideration. I also understand that you cannot cater to everyone’s needs- which I know seems counterproductive to what I’m ultimately asking for but to get some attention I do not think is too much to ask. When EVERY actor focus’ in on certain individuals and nobody else, that is annoying, and that is what happened during my second walk through of the house and a few other times at various houses/streets which I’ll point out later. But that concludes my rant.

Going back to my original thought though, my second walk through I tried to just focus on the detail. And boy was there a lot. I do hand it to the HHN crew, they know how to build a damn good looking house (and that really goes for every house this year in my opinion.) The sets were amazing for this house. The governors room, with the wall of heads was great. Even the small details like the brush with scalp and hair on it were a nice touch. The “crawling” section was nice, and actually with the barbed wire reminded me a little bit of the SAW house in ’09. The outside prison area was splendid and actually was a tad confusing with all the fencing. Inside the prison was by far my favorite sets though. It looks really “legit” to me. I loved how at one section you could split up, that was a real nice touch. And picking up the phone so that Lori can talk to you was also. The final room was a kind of sensory over load, with sounds, lights, set, and actors and seemed like everything and anything was kind of just thrown at you. But damn it looked great.

I thought the makeup was generally pretty well done. Walker Merle was awesome to see, as were the guard walkers. I think they were some of my favorites to be honest. The final cell block walkers were well done too.

My third time through the house, on Sunday Sept. 29th was probably my best go through. Because not only was I getting to admire this wonderful set again I was actually getting scared. I was finally able to go through and the actors were lunging at me. One of the guard walkers got me pretty good too.

Overall I enjoyed this house. It was more nice eye candy, and enjoyable for me- who is a huge fan of the series, and less scares. But plenty of uneasiness to go around also.

Atmosphere: 4/5


Overall: 3.5/5

Once I exited Walking Dead the exit line brought me right to the entrance of La Llorona, a house that I was actually beginning to look forward to. So I decided that I would just go ahead and get in line.


The line wait was short for my first go through, about ten minutes. Once inside I had the same problem of not being able to see right away, but my vision quickly adjusted in time for old Maria/La Llorona to lunge out at me in the first room and get a reaction out of me.

Right away I knew I was going to really enjoy this house.

As we walked through the scares were scattered throughout, mixed with an overall creepy as hell atmosphere. My favorite two sections of the house have got to be the bridge in which you can look over and see the two children lying face down in the running water, as well as the second to last room that was full of mirror gags. I went through that house three times, like the Walking Dead, and every time in the mirrored room at least one of the actors got me real good. It was amazing. And then the final room with the horse headed La Llorona’s was excellent as well. The same one, the second to last actor ALWAYS got me, on each go through.
Once again, the atmosphere and sets were awesome- especially the crypt areas with the dead infant skeletons. There was some real craftsmanship that went into this detail work here. My ONLY complaint really is that white tarp tunnel. I understand that it is supposed to symbolize La Llorona sucking us into her world but… it just didn’t jive well. Every other room of this house was immaculate in detail, and then suddenly we get thrown into a section that is… well nothing. It threw me off, and not really in a good way. But really that was my only complaint from this house.

The façade was WONDERFUL, and probably one of the best ones at HHN 23 (along with my other two top houses.) It was beautiful, and creepy at the same time, and like the house had a great amount of detail.

The scares mixed with atmosphere made this one of my top houses of the year.

Atmosphere: 4.5/5 (only marked down a half by the white tunnel)

Scares: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

I don’t really remember my house order after the first two I visited so I’ll just continue on at a random selection.

Before getting into my next house I’ll talk about a scarezone.


It was awesome, as far as details go. I couldn’t really tell if it was supposed to be the camp from season one or season two (the dead dear is a reference to season one, but my Unmasking the Horror guide said that it was supposed to be the camp that the group sets up outside of the farm in season two.) Either way I loved the detail. You could walk around and see the sheriff’s gun bag, and other smaller details. Take a deep breath and smell the burning campfire. Now my only problem with the area was the scares. The survivors were actually a little more inTENTS (ha, get it?....sorry.) than the walkers were, but even so the energy of the entire area just kind of felt low. And that was across the board, all four nights of my trip. I kind of actually wished that THIS was the area the “Walker Bomb” emptied out rather than the farm (which I will bring up later.)

The lighting was okay, but nothing truly great like some of the other zones.

The thing that was kind of cherry for me was seeing the projection of the guy getting ripped apart in the tent. That was cool. But otherwise this was probably one of the least effective zones, but had quite a bit of potential.

Atmosphere: 3.5/5

Scares: 1/5

Overall 2.5/5


This house was kind of a wild card to me. It could go either way, so I kind of had it in the middle of my anticipation list. I have never done a 3D maze before, so I was actually looking forward to that aspect.

But… you may have noted before that I said that I visited every house multiple times except for one. This house was that one. I am really sorry for my lack of enthusiasm for any of the actors that work this house, but this house wasn’t even enjoyable enough for me to want to go through and be able to scan my LT card.

I like the façade, I guess. I actually read the newspaper articles on it. I like those kinds of details, and can appreciate them. But once I entered the house it just all kind of went downhill. Now the costumes, and sets overall were nice. The 3D effect was amazing, and rather disorienting in a good way. But that was where the good stuff for me ended.
The cast during my walk through was super low energy, and not really trying to scare at all it seemed and this was the beginning of the night!

Atmosphere 2/5

Scares 0/5

Overall 1-2/5


So for some reason, I really did not grasp just how large/extensive this zone is. It reaches all the way from the entrance to New York, over to San Francisco. That is massive. Sure there are not walkers or set decorations everywhere you go, but all together it spans out over a pretty large area. So I’ll cut this section in to parts and then have a final score overall.

First we have the Production Central area, around the Universal Store. We have two warning barricades, the “Sophia car” and then the Ford truck with the cross bow on it. And on top of that we had a good amount of fog, and some pretty neat lighting. It was actually probably one of the darker zones as far as lighting goes, but that doesn’t make it bad by any means. I liked the way this one was set up as far was walker interaction goes. It had quite a few and what kind of built up the “scary” factor was that a lot of time you didn’t know who was a walker, who was a “survivor” and who was just a HHN attendee. So you could be walking behind someone, until they turn around and they have a big bloody gash on their face and they lunge at you. That was so perfect, and really made it feel like the show. It brought me back to the feeling of the pilot episode of TWD when rick finds the little robed girl (who was in this scarezone by the way.) He has the exact same reaction, thinking she’s “normal” until she turns around. I had a constant feeling of anxiousness while walking through this area. And then on top of it you have the “survivors” running around and shooting and screaming at you. It was a nice touch. I will say that this area often depended on the cast’s energy (as does most anything really at HHN) but I never really had any complaints for any of them. My favorite has to be the blonde walker in the black and red shirts. She singled me out two days in a row (Sat and Sun.) and gave me some really good pictures and video (especially of the opening scaremonies) and actually startled me a few times. There was one time she snuck up behind me and snapped at my arm. I could hear her teeth click together and breath against my skin. It made my hair stand on end!

Next we have the New York section of Atlanta. This one was awesome, and had a freaking tank and another convoy vehicle in an alleyway. I loved the lighting here, and the “gunfire” was a nice touch as was the “helicopter.” The walkers here were a bit more discernible here, with most of them wearing military garb or white coats or just shirtless. There were also a few “survivors” here acting. I will say that this section of Atlanta as well as the Production Central area… something was either in the water Sunday or it could have possibly been that I had a camera, but whatever it was the walkers here and even throughout the park were just a lot more intense. I probably had one of my biggest street scares here on Sunday when I was crouching down to take a photo of the military truck. I was taking a photo and then felt a breath over my shoulder and turned to just see a disfigured, bloody face next to mine. It scared the crap out of me and I almost fell over. That along with a big hoss walker on Saturday were probably the biggest in your face scares for me. So this was probably the scariest area of Fall of Atlanta for me.

Finally we have the San Francisco area of Atlanta, with a bus and a huge fireball that went off about every five to ten minutes. It reminded me a lot of Apocalypse: City of Cannibals in 2009. The actors here most of the nights were not overly energetic, but it was neat when a group of them would stumble out together “herd” style from back stage.

Atmosphere: 3-3.5/5

Scares: 3/5 (Sunday was really the only day that multiple walkers got me)

Overall: 3.5/5


This house was the house I was most looking forward to at HHN 23. I loved this movie and seriously joygasmed when they said that it was going to be a house this year. Being able to walk through the sets and experience just an array of monsters and madmen just tickled me silly.

And boy did it deliver. I did this house my first night there, and again on Sunday night (my last night.) Each time it was a treat and I was also so glad that it was one of the Unmasking the Horror houses. The sets were breathtaking. Upon entering it really did feel like were stepping into a wooded area and then going through the house. The Buckners were terrifying, especially Matthew (I think it was) who was over head at one park and literally reached down towards me. Having an actor above me is a sure fire way to get me to hit the deck, and while I did not fall down I did do a limbo-esque dance as a wailed at the top of my voice. Most excellent. The cellar room was crazy awesome, having this large assortment of creepy props just scattered around. Then going into the facility was great as well. I am not afraid of clowns but the clown that jumped out of the elevator got me, as did Fornicus- who scared the crap outta me as I moved past his cube and he then stepped out to meet me. During my last walk through in operations room the first scarecrow startled me also. And then there was Kevin… the looming dread throughout the entire house. Once you saw his name, you were just waiting. … I’m still waiting, afraid that he followed me home (I kid… but seriously.) Anyway the final cube room was great and seeing the nods to HHN past was nice, as well as expected!

Overall Cabin combined both set and scares in one luscious package this HHN making it tied with La Llorona for my second favorite house. It was any horror geeks wet dream.

Atmosphere: 5/5

Scares: 4/5

Overall: 4-4.5/5


This scarezone, in the Hollywood area of the park, was probably tied with the Farm for first favorite scarezone, at least as far as atmosphere is concerned. The lighting, set dressings, fog and acting all came together in a wonderful blend in this area. It was creepy and atmospheric. The acting did fluctuate in energy, so depending on the night and time of night you might have a super active cast roaming the area and then you may also get a less active one roaming at another time. The area at which the clear meets the farm, I.E where the Walker Bomb dropped off it's cargo, was a good location. I loved watching that truck unload each night. I do wish that that the chainsaw team would have made their way down to this section at some point though. But overall this was an amazing area, especially late at night when the mixture of lighting and fog could fully take effect.

Atmosphere: 4-4.5/5

Scares 3/5

Overall: 4/5

On a kind of side note, I kind of enjoyed the chainsaw team this year... the two nights I saw them running about. Grant it I did leave at around 9:30 PM on Saturday (I was beat, and was actually mildly irritable by then) but Sunday I didn't see or hear them at all. But once again I have the complaint that unless you, pretty much, were female they ignored you. The only member of the team that ever paid me any mind was the female instructor who was showing threats right at me, which was awesome. But it was a little disappointing when I could literally walk by an actor and they'd straight up ignore you or not pay any mind that you were there. Had they came at me with a chainsaw there would have been a good possibility of people being able to see a 6'2, 230 pound guy running away and or shouting in fear.


I have... mixed feeling about this house. I mean my overall opinion is that it wasn't scary one bit, but it did however have AMAZING sets (some of THE BEST at HHN this year.) But I do understand that this was defiantly a fan service house and wasn't supposed to be about the scares really- and I can respect that to an extent. Therefore I am torn. I respect the art and appreciation and drive Universal and A&D have to want to houses like this for the fans and for the people who want to be able to basically live the experience of Resident Evil- and I'm sure, had I been a fan of the game series it would have been infinitely more impressive to me. I am impressed by things like the Jurassic Park ride and island at IOA because that is a fan service to me. So I can respect the artistry and appreciate A&D and Uni has. But as a person who was looking for a scary experience, this house dropped the ball. That's all there is to it. I went through twice and didn't get scared once, or have any kind of defining experience.

I will say that this house probably has the one of the best, if not the second best (alongside Cabin) set of HHN23. Everything was beautiful and so well done. I was truly amazed with the amount of detail that was put into this space. It was wonderful. And once again I am sure that there were a lot of nuances and other references other than the obvious ones to the games (I have only ever played the third one) that I did not get or fully appreciate because I am not a hug fan of the games. But I can image that a real fan would be.

Atmosphere/Set: 4.5-5/5

Scares: 0-1/5

Overall: 2/5

If nothing else though, you MUST go through this house just for the set.


I raked this one next to La Llorona as far as my anticipation level before the event. I unfortunately did not get to experience the original Havoc but had heard nothing but good things about it. When I went through it though I had mixed feelings. It was the a house that I really WANTED to love but didn't know if I could or should. I had to go through it three times to finally get a “good” experience.

The first time I went through it wasn't bad, but the energy was just real low until I got to the last section, when the train “derailed.” After that the actors were pretty jived, and the last really tall one got me as did the one who was in, I think, the second to last car, who was technically to the left and “above” us as we walked through. So my first go round was a mixed bag. Low energy for nearly two thirds of the house left me feeling a little let down but the last room as well as the actual sets made me hopeful that maybe I just needed to catch it later in the night.

So I did, and it was a worse experience. I was really excited for my second go through originally because I watched as the cast change came out from the back and was shouting and barking and being all crazy and this got me super hyped up. But as soon as I got in the house it was one of THOSE situations where all the actors seemed to care about were the girls who were [way] in front and directly behind me. It made me disappointed because this house, I felt had the opportunity to be the Frankenstein '09 house for me all over again. This house could have made me, a fairly big guy, feel small and frail. And that just didn't happen really. The only one who attempted to try and scare me my second go through was the female actor at the last room.

On Sunday though I gave it one last shot, saying to myself that this would be the make or break it round. Right before I entered there was a cast change also. I really drank in the facade in front this time, and appreciate the detail, which was actually what I was going to try and do this round throughout the house. And for the first few rooms I did. It was low energy again, and nothing was really striking me. Now maybe that was just the way that the house is set up, I.E the fact that Dogs are all behind cages and boxes that it really doesn't offer up the opportunity for them to get into your personal space. But once I got to the second half of the house, the cast this time was more alive than ever before and actually startled me a few times on this go through.

So overall it was just an okay house I feel. Not outstanding, but also not a bad one. I feel like it really depends on the cast, which I understand is ANY haunted house. But this house was supposed to be SUPER SUPER intense ,and active, and insane and more than half the time I just didn't get that. I know that when it's been several hours and you're dealing with irritating people that your energy gets sucked down though and maybe that is what happened. In short when the actors were not in to it, it showed. Like almost painfully showed. But when they WERE in to it it was an awesome romp and great experience that THAT showed. You knew that those actors relished it. So it was a mixed bag. Everything from atmosphere, to scares, and tension rode on the actors shoulders.

Atmosphere: 2-4/5 (this fluctuated with the experience. As I said EVERYTHING depended on the actors.)

Scares: 1-4/5

Overall: 2-3.5/5


This was one of my favorites, just for the overall atmosphere of the area. The set pieces were delightful, especially the barn. My only complaints were that a.) it needed a few more walkers inside, and b.)the walkers that WERE inside need to be more active. I realize that it is more of a confined space than the actual houses and what not but the walkers inside literally just leaned up against support poles half the time not doing anything.

The walkers outside though did a pretty good job. There was usually one always at the entrance of the barn driving people in, and one at the exit to get people as they came out.

Shout out to the actor playing Bicycle Girl! I only saw you on Sunday night, and he was amazing. My UtH guide told us about him and the work you do. You can tell that the actor relished that role, and did a real good job.

The lighting and smells and fog set a really eerie mood to the whole area, and the walker bomb added more dread to the area upon its appearance every night that was enjoyable each time it happened.

This was tied for The Clear for first place scarezone for me.

Atmosphere: 4-5/10

Scares: 2/5

Overall: 3.5-4/5


This, like Havoc, was one of those houses I really wanted to love. Like REALLY badly. I love the Evil Dead films, and yes- I actually didn't mind the remake. I was looking forward to this house and one of the last things I did before leaving for Orlando was have an ED marathon. People at the park were talking about it fondly, and it always had one of the longest wait times of any of the houses so when I finally got to it I was excited.

Boy ,was I disappointed.

I went through this house twice, and both times I tried hard. I gave it my all, and really really wanted to enjoy this house. But the commitment from the actors both times rivaled Afterlife for lowest energy. The layout of the haunt itself felt extremely predictable and static. I have no other way to describe it. It was such a simple layout, and you could literally tell where each “scare” was going to come from nearly ten feet before you ever got there. Half the gags did not work at all, or at least weren't being utilized during either of my walk throughs The sets were... okay. I mean, as I said before, I don't think there were any BAD house sets this year, at all. But Evil Dead, due to its layout just seemed one of the least inspired. Overall it just seemed like it was thrown together last minute, like they had a generic house layout that they went with instead of actually thinking something through and trying to make it a more terrifying and startling experience.

I would have much preferred a more thought out feeling house, as well as a proper Evil Dead house that spans across all of the films rather than just the reboot.

But overall I was just disappointed in this house. I don't understand the love I was hearing for it at the park at all. Maybe It was just my experience with it, and if that is the case I guess take my opinion with a grain of salt. But really each time it did not impress me.

Atmosphere: 2.5/5

Scares: 1/5

Overall: 2.5/5


I keep going back and forth if this is a third favorite for scarezones, or just a little less. I have it a little less right now just because of the lack of objects. But where it lacks obstacles and set pieces it makes up in atmosphere. I feel that this zone has THE BEST atmosphere out of any of the other zones in the park. The crazy amounts of fog, mixed with the trees and lighting gives you a sense of unease. And then mixed with the amount of walkers scattered in this, actually, fairly small space adds an extra layer of dread. I would keep walking forward and a walker would be hiding amongst the foliage, near a fog machine where I couldn't see it until I was right next to it and they'd snap at me. Several scares were to be had in this area which makes it one of my favorites.

I do wish that they would use some of the other pathways in the area though that are near the lagoon and what not because that'd help out with a lot of the congestion in the area as well as provide more more “hunting” space for the walkers.

Atmosphere: 4-5/5

Scares: 4/5

Overall: 4-5/5

I also have the same complaint about them not utilizing the alleyways in the main portion of the park. There are a lot of these creepy alleys, and unused pathways that people just wander through to either avoid streets or to break for a moment. FILL THOSE LOCATIONS UP UNIVERSAL! Those are prime areas to place actors to scare the crap outta people.


We'll we've come to the big cheese. This house was one of the houses I was most looking forward to. It is one of my favorite werewolf movies, and just an overall great film in general. And it became my favorite upon going through it my first time. At first I was worried that the hour plus wait time would make it not worth it, which was defiantly what happened with Evil Dead. But upon entering that fear deminished.

Immediately you are hit with a bitter, bone chilling cold as you look at the AMAZING facade of the Slaughtered Lamb. This is the kind of cold, and eeriness that I remembered and longed for that was in '09s Wolfman house, which was my favorite house of the that year.

The facade was breathtaking, and then moving through the pub, and then back outside listening to all of these sounds filled you with a sense of impending dread until you see the first full body puppet of the werewolf. It was beautiful to watch as it ripped in to David. Then you turn a corner and BAM you are face to face with the beast itself and let me tell you... coming that close was defiantly one of the most terrifying experiences of HHN 23. As you walk through the rest of the house you come face to face with David's HELL-ucinations, all of which are terrifying to experience all leading up to his transformation which was awesomely done. The detail, and the sounds mixed with this room were breathtaking. This lead in to the subway station. Seeing the shadow of the wolf on in the tunnel really was probably one of my favorite moments (it was such an awesome atmospheric trick) and then you are suddenly attacked by another werewolf puppet. Once you recover from that you head in to the theatre where you are attacked again by the werewolf before you leave. This was probably the best scare in the house for me, because I actually wasn't expecting another puppet that soon. Then you go outside where all hell has broken loose. The actress in the bus got me real good as I passed, and then you end up in the final room where you come face to face with the beast one last time.

I will say that this house didn't leave me running out of it like I did Wolfman or Frankenstein in 2009... but it came pretty close. Everything about this house was perfect, and just enjoyable. It was scary, fun, beautiful, and well planned. Basically everything that the Evil Dead house wasn't. You knew that A&D took there time on this house and wanted this to be an amazing experience for fans and general public alike.

Atmosphere: 5/5

Scares: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

I don't really have anything to say about B&T this year other than the fact that I did find it enjoyable although it seemed rather rushed/thrown together and repetitive.

The sounds and use of score this year was, across the board, wonderful. Lots of iconic bits of score and ambient sounds that really helped set an overall mood for the event.

Overall I had a great experience. I do wish that this “Evil Takes Root” theme was more utilized and panned out to be more than what it ended up being. I, for one, am also curious as to what happened to PS. There was a scope to the picture, I’m just curious as to what it was.

From what I have seen of recent past years, and heard, I do think that this year was a step above what has been done in the last two-ish years. The Walking Dead was utilized to, I think, pretty much its full potential this year. They had some great ideas, and got a lot of projects now under their belt and I feel like ideas and designs that were used this year can now be a launch pad for years to come. I’m excited to see where it ends up.

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