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Zombieman's 2 day HHN review (and comparison to Hollywood's HHN)


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Just returned from my annual sabbatical to Orlando.  Attended HHN on the 1st and 2nd (and HHN Hollywood a couple of times before that).

What a difference a day makes!  I'd give the overall event a 3 out of 10 based on my experience on 10/1, but the next day everything was MUCH better, raising my rating to a 7 out of 10.  On Thursday, everything just seemed off.  The actors were not into it.  Timing was off.  Effects were not working properly.  Friday was a completely different event.  So in every case, Friday had better scores than Thursday.

Let's get to it, in no particular order:

I need to start with something new at HHN this year that is truly ruining the event - the overly aggressive/obnoxious ops in and outside of the houses.  These are the people who stand there for a 45 minute shift, moving their hand to point the way.  Well, that's what they used to do.  This year they are yelling "keep it moving" and flailing both arms to move you in what is CLEARLY the only direction to go.  They are breaking every aspect of the spell of the houses.  They are droning on telling you to keep moving even when you are 2 inches from the person in front of you.  It is completely out of hand this year.  And the spiel of the ops as you enter the house is a new world of WTF.  At every house they are screaming things like "Keep up with the group in front of you.  Do not wander off from your group.  If you leave your group, [Freddy/Jason/Body Collectors/monsters/Mad Hatter/walkers] will find you."  Seriously?  We really need this?  I am certain that this is all the brainchild of one new talent coordinator at HHN.  I would like to find that person and tell them to "untrain" staff, because they are damaging the event.

AWIL (Thursday: D,  Friday C ).  I have despised pure IP houses since forever.  My complaint is simple and has never been refuted - Since creative is firmly handcuffed to a narrow script, how is it in any way scary to go through a house knowing exactly what you are going to experience?  That being said, AWIL in 2013 was one of the few IP houses that I enjoyed.  Went through it half a dozen times that year.  The Orlando version stands on its own as a great house; Hollywood's was terrible.   My Thursday visit suffered from few actors, and unenthusiastic ones at that.  I always seemed to get the "reset portion" of scares.  Friday's visit was far better.  Even so, I cannot justify a grade better than a C when HHN decides to bring back a house in its original form.  Sadly, I called this "synergy" effect between the two parks several years ago; Orlando is adopting (or being told to adopt) Hollywood's bad habit of repeating houses.  Less and less of a reason for me to be flying across the country to see HHN Orlando...

Insidious (Thursday C, Friday B).  Hollywood has done this three times now, and it has been a huge favorite every year.  I never really saw a firm connection to the movies.  To me, the houses were decent classic haunted house style presentations.  Usually, Orlando versions of houses are far better than Hollywood's (AWIL being a prime example).  In the case of Indisious, Hollywood's were all far better than this Orlando hodgepodge.  I think it's because the movies have such different villains, and trying to stuff three iterations of the film into one house doesn't make sense.  Orlando's comes across as a series of three teeny tiny houses.  And for the first time I can recall, the Orlando sets were really poor in comparison to Hollywood's.  Orlando's seemed thrown together.  

Alice in Wonderland (Thursday B-, Friday A-)  Like most Orlando 3D houses, this is either a love it or hate it.  To me, it comes closest to matching the intensity and beauty of the In Between.  I do not enjoy 3D houses, but Orlando has proven it can be executed to near perfection.  This year was possibly the most effective vortex tunnel yet.  I cannot tell you how much the Unmasking tour helps explain this house.  It also lets you really take in the beauty of the fabrication of this house.  As it exists in another land, many of the walls in the house are curved rather than straight.  Also, every leaf, petal and stem of the jungle/flowers are also curved.  This detail is easily missed as you walk the house.  I urge you to go to the UTH tour and really take in the beautiful set construction.  

Freddy Vs Jason (Thursday B-, Friday B+)  As I mentioned earlier, my main gripe with IP is that A&D is handcuffed by contractual obligations to present the IP in specific and limiting ways.  In this house, those handcuffs were noticeably looser.  Hell, Jason appeared in a photo-op scarezone for the first time.  The presentation here had typical movie-based sets, but for the last third of the maze, it seemed like A&D got to do what they wanted.  And that was the fun part.  The dual ending was also fun (but if you don't get to experience both endings, know that you won't miss much).  The ending changes every 45 minutes.  I'm not sure the video walls worked well.  

Walking Dead (Thursday F, Friday D-)  I think this was the weakest version of the WD houses yet.  Don't need to say much.  We are all over it.  It's laughable that I have now taken two HHN surveys that practically ask "We all know you are sick of Walking Dead at HHN.  How much would you like to see it back in 2016?"  Comcast Synergy at work...  But you want to know something really weird?  Hollywood's Walking Dead house was actually not bad this year.  Everything Orlando represented Hollywood did much better.  They didn't have some dumb walker in a hot tub scene.  Hollywood's revolving door was light years better.  Mind you - WD should have been gone from Hollywood, too, but I'm just saying it was not bad this year.  And I feel dirty just typing that.

Purge  (Thursday D-, Friday D)  I don't care that this was intended to be Scream, and I hope we never have to sit through Scream at HHN.  I love the Purge as a concept, but the movies were just bad.  I wouldn't even call this an IP house, because it was IP in name only.  Only the costumes and the Purse message were from any of the movies.  The death metal music was awful.  The sets were awful.  The scares were ok.  Even if they had called this an original house based on a concept of random thugs attacking you for no reason, it falls flat.  

Run (Thursday C+, Friday D+ )  As this is probably the final house that will appear in this location, I was hoping for a huge send-off like they did with Saws and Steam.  This was a good concept but just did not do it for me.  For the life of me, I don't know why they picked Run as one of the original concepts to use for the 25th.  I think people would have preferred to see the next chapter of Nightengales, or Ship of Screams.  I missed out on the first Run house, but thought the next two versions were not good (I'm including 2004's Rat Run mini-maze), so after two poorly received sequels why they for a third?  I'll share a freebie I learned from the UTH tour.  I don't consider this to be a spoiler: This house has the only discovered Guest Activated Trigger (so far).  It is located at the end of the Canadian room.  Just before you exit the room, there is a storage rack on your left.  At waist level there is a bright yellow chainsaw.  There is a button on the chainsaw itself that can be pressed.  I was unable to locate the button any of my times going through.

Body Collectors (Thursday A-, Friday A) An amazing, must-see house.  A&D's mastery of original content is the thing that separates HHN from all others.  You can just feel the creative juices flowing from this house.  You know they had fun doing this one.  Like Gothic, it was a joy to walk through.  See if you can locate Jack and Eddie in this house.  You are unlikely to find them, but they are there...  Let's just say it helps explain Jacks & Eddie's origin.

Anniversary House  (Thursday A+, Friday A+) I don't know if it was the best HHN house ever, because it is technically presenting a sliver of the best of the best, and not advancing any original storylines.  But it was stunning in detail and presentation.  From the moment I walked in and got a whiff of The Hallow, I was instantly transported into a world I love.  There is no sense that brings back memories like smell, and A&D knew this.  Every walkthru I had a stupid grin from ear to ear.  There were no dead spots in this house.  It was packed wall to wall and floor to ceiling with greatness.  With one exception.  The Christmas scene near the end.  I don't get it.  It was not from Blood N Gutz.  Not from Home for the Holidays.  Even as an original standalone scene, it seemed unfinished.  If anyone knows what it was supposed to be, I'm all ears.

 

Scarezones

I was underwhelmed by the Steampunk area.  Had high hopes, but it fell flat.  Really, the only area I truly enjoyed was Shadybrook.  I spent over an hour there just watching it all.  LOVED the little performances at the various booths.  LOVED that they used older actors for the cast.  They were really more enjoyable than the younger ones.  LOVED that they used older music here.  Probably my favorite scarezone of all time.  Cannot think of a thing I could change to make it better.

 

Shows

Carnival of Carnage (B)  Too long of a show for me.  Was surprised to see how similar it was to the last Jack show.  Same kills.  LOVED Chance.  Really enjoyed Jack.  Wouldn't mind this being a yearly show, but needs new content.

Bill & Ted (B)  Very happy to see B&T return.  Very happy to see they have not succumbed to PC.  Middling show for me.  Hope to see it return next year.

 

Overall

As an "Anniversary Year", HHN 2010 blew the doors off of HHN 2015...  2010 had all original content.  It had fan favorites (Hades, Catacombs, Havoc, Legendary Truth, Zombiegeddon).   It had its own excellent anniversary house.  It had the awesome Saws & Steam scarezone.  This year we have a whole lot of IP - which did nothing to enhance an anniversary theme.  We had a complete copy house repeated in its entirety.  We had yet another awful year of Walking Dead.  Just a yuck year compared to 2010.  And compared to any other specific year, it falls squarely in the middle - not awful and yet not great.  2015 was an OK year.  I can't blame it on Jack, because he delivered.  I can't blame it on poor original content, because it delivered.  I can't blame it on scarezones or shows.  To me, this year was held back because of all the damned IP - two of them that should not have returned (AWIL/WD) and one that was so God awful (Purge) that it should have been scrapped when Scream fell through.  These three left a bad taste in my mouth.  They do not give me hope for the future of HHN.  We shall see.  Next year will be very important.  Will they finally put Walking Dead out of our misery?  Will they shove another unchanged fan favorite down our throat because the think we want to see it again?  Are they hopefully running out of IP?  Seems like the well is going dry to me unless they start repeating those, too.

 

So how was HHN Orlando compared to HHN Hollywood this year?  Well, Hollywood was 100% IP.  So you can guess my feelings about it.  Of the IP in Hollywood, over half was repeats from previous years (AVP - unchanged, Insidious - same theme, Walking Dead, Halloween - people are eating it up for some reason, and Purge in the Terror Tram (yawn).  The only "new IP" we had was Crimson Peak and This is the End (in 3D).  TITE was a piss-poor house on any level.  I could write a thesis on how Crimson Peak is the personification of how IP detracts from a house.  Let me give you a synopsis, though.

Crimson Peak will not hit theaters until mid October.  So for all intents and purposes, the house is a complete unknown to all but a tiny few.  So how does that house come across for the masses who have no idea what Crimson Peak is about?  After all, IP houses present key moments from the film.  These moments are either the most memorable kills or otherwise creepiest moments.  So let's see what is presented in the house...  We repeatedly hear a female voice talking about how her mother died of some terrible disease and how sad she is.  We hear (presumably) her mother telling her to "beware of Crimson Peak".  We are told during the Tram ride over that the real main character of Crimson Peak is the house.  That the house is alive and the walls bleed.  Jeez, sounds a bit like The Shining.  So we enter the house and it looks pretty cool.  Nice sets.  And some lady in black is popping out at us from boo-holes.  Reminds me of Insidious, actually.  But the "house" isn't really doing anything at HHN.  There is a stretch wall on one hallway.  I guess that's some creepy thing from the movie.  Don't see any bleeding walls.  Oh look, there's some naked lady in a bathtub with an axe in her head.  I'm sure that must be in the movie - bet it was a scary scene, too.  Means absolutely nothing to me, though.  Just a random thing.  Ok, we're going into a bedroom now, and it looks like a nice set.  Cool video projections in the window.  But nothing's happening in the room.  No idea what this must represent.  But I'm sure it's something really important in the movie.  Oh well.   Ooooh, the finale room.  They mentioned this in the Tram movie.  Something about "Blood Clay" that the house is built on.  Yup, well it's a hallway with bubbling clay pits and some pop scares.  No idea as to why that exists in this house or why I'm supposed to be scared of it.  So, as we exit the house, guillermo del Toro and John Murdy and Universal are all anxiously hoping we want to plop down $18 to see Crimson Peak.  I for one will wait for Netflix because this looks like a stinker if the "best scenes" have just been presented to me.  What a disaster of a house.  

So overall, 2015 Orlando kicked butt over 2015 Hollywood.  2015 for Hollywood was one of the weakest years ever.  And I'm sitting here thinking back to how cool 2010 and 2011 were in Orlando...    

Hoping for a better 2016.

 

 

 

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Good review, but I can't really agree with some of the stuff you're saying, I feel like just because something is an ip, you are pre-determined to hate it, it seems like you don't give anything a chance, and if its original, it must be one of the best of the event just for that reason. You said clowns 3D was the best house in Hollywood last year even though that was one of the worst, and that's just not my opinion, it's mostly everyone's. I mean your reason for thinking HHN 20 is better than 25 is because it was all original. I can't have an actual input on that because I only saw one of those, but that idea is ridiculous. I.P. Houses can be just as good or even better than originals. This is all just your opinion though, nothing I say will change it, I just don't get/agree with it

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I need to start with something new at HHN this year that is truly ruining the event - the overly aggressive/obnoxious ops in and outside of the houses.  These are the people who stand there for a 45 minute shift, moving their hand to point the way.  Well, that's what they used to do.  This year they are yelling "keep it moving" and flailing both arms to move you in what is CLEARLY the only direction to go.  They are breaking every aspect of the spell of the houses.  They are droning on telling you to keep moving even when you are 2 inches from the person in front of you.  It is completely out of hand this year.  And the spiel of the ops as you enter the house is a new world of WTF.  At every house they are screaming things like "Keep up with the group in front of you.  Do not wander off from your group.  If you leave your group, [Freddy/Jason/Body Collectors/monsters/Mad Hatter/walkers] will find you."  Seriously?  We really need this?  I am certain that this is all the brainchild of one new talent coordinator at HHN.  I would like to find that person and tell them to "untrain" staff, because they are damaging the event.

A-Fricking-Men! They ruin the houses. It's already bad that you are practically dry humping the person in front of you with how close they are packing people in, but then they have to go on and on endlessly. Oh and the ones that think they are part of the experience or need to be your narrator need to be fired. I was in M&M and this chick while I'm gawking at the beautiful facade starts saying:

"Look guys I want you to survive this house so here are some things you need to do in order.. blah blah blah"

I'm sorry... Shut the hell up! I didn't pay these ridiculous prices to hear some stupid OP, who thinks they are God's gift to the house, ruin it for me.

Great review. I agree with a lot of your sentiment. It was a "meh" year... But, for the price hikes and crowds I had to put up with, I didn't pay for that. It would have been nice if I could have had another day to form an opinion but the event is so inconsistent in experience there is no guarantee a second day would have made anything better.

I know I am and have harped on the price here but it has gotten out of hand... I had AP discount and $60.00 in gift cards and I still paid over $60.00 for two people. No express, no frill, no UMTH... and it isn't just Universal either.

Disney's new AP restructure is just obscene... and there is no way in hell I'm paying for MNSS at $80.00 a pop to stand in candy lines (Even if my daughter would love it). Then you have parking raising to 20.00 yesterday... PARKING... when you are already paying 100 bucks or more just to go to their stupid parks. I know they are building and bettering their parks... but since when is it my job to flip the bill for it? If anything they should be charging the international tourist for it as they clearly have no qualms with paying it. Then give bigger discounts for FL residents and AP holders who are their loyal patrons. But that would mean either park caring about their AP members and they clearly don't. I guess they both forget how the AP's kept them a float after 911 when tourism took a huge hit.

Anyway, rant over. It's good to see someone who doesn't think everything Universal craps out is gold. I love the work A&D does. Just wish I could see it through all the red tape.

 

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Why can't Ops at least wear hooded cloaks like HHNH?  Do something to at least try to keep the general ambiance of the house.  Surely there's a way to combine safety along with preserving the house integrity.

And separately, as a Disney AP holder, I got that email about the price hike and shit a brick.  Disney has never been a local friendly park.  They do the absolute bare minimum for locals, and that's not much anyway.  Unfortunately Disney is its own separate economy and can do this type of stuff simply because they can, and get away with it.

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Good review, but I can't really agree with some of the stuff you're saying, I feel like just because something is an ip, you are pre-determined to hate it, it seems like you don't give anything a chance, and if its original, it must be one of the best of the event just for that reason. You said clowns 3D was the best house in Hollywood last year even though that was one of the worst, and that's just not my opinion, it's mostly everyone's. I mean your reason for thinking HHN 20 is better than 25 is because it was all original. I can't have an actual input on that because I only saw one of those, but that idea is ridiculous. I.P. Houses can be just as good or even better than originals. This is all just your opinion though, nothing I say will change it, I just don't get/agree with it

HHN does do some IP well.  I gave FvJ good marks, and raved about AWIL in 2013.  And Cabin in the Woods.  And Dead Silence.  They have done some awful original houses - I did not like Dead Exposure, or Disorientorium, or Cold Blind Terror, or Spawning, or Havoc: Derailed, or this year's Run, to name a few.  2010 had almost all spot-on houses (for me) compared to this year.  So did 2011.  I guess you could coincidentally say they happened to be all non-IP, but I don't think that's much of a coincidence.  When I hear A&D talking about their original houses, I feel more excitement and energy coming from them.  I think they are into their original ideas more than the IP.  

I do try to give all houses a chance.  I'm paying MORE to get into HHN Orlando than everyone else, because I have a built in airline ticket, so I'm not going to short change myself by hating something before I try it.  I would go so far as to say I walk into original houses with a higher expectation.  Look, there will be an eternal battle between pro-IP and anti-IP forces.  We can agree to disagree. 

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Overall

As an "Anniversary Year", HHN 2010 blew the doors off of HHN 2015...  2010 had all original content.  It had fan favorites (Hades, Catacombs, Havoc, Legendary Truth, Zombiegeddon).   It had its own excellent anniversary house.  It had the awesome Saws & Steam scarezone.  This year we have a whole lot of IP - which did nothing to enhance an anniversary theme.  We had a complete copy house repeated in its entirety.  We had yet another awful year of Walking Dead.  Just a yuck year compared to 2010.  And compared to any other specific year, it falls squarely in the middle - not awful and yet not great.  2015 was an OK year.  I can't blame it on Jack, because he delivered.  I can't blame it on poor original content, because it delivered.  I can't blame it on scarezones or shows.  To me, this year was held back because of all the damned IP - two of them that should not have returned (AWIL/WD) and one that was so God awful (Purge) that it should have been scrapped when Scream fell through.  These three left a bad taste in my mouth.  They do not give me hope for the future of HHN.  We shall see.  Next year will be very important.  Will they finally put Walking Dead out of our misery?  Will they shove another unchanged fan favorite down our throat because the think we want to see it again?  Are they hopefully running out of IP?  Seems like the well is going dry to me unless they start repeating those, too./quote]

 

COMPLETELY agree.

 

Edited by criticalanalysis
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