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Darth's Final Review of HHN26


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So we all took a chance and Halloween Horror Nights came and went with the seasons, and now at the end, I am left with several thoughts. The easiest way to sum them up is that I did not enjoy this year nearly as much as last overall, but it had so many little things working for it that I still had a blast. I went over 20 times thanks to my Frequent Fear Pass (and Universal being generous in the wake of a hurricane) and I think overall, it was a good year, not great. 




1. Tomb of the Ancients - a solid favorite from the start of the event all the way through the finish. The amount of excellent runs I had through this house were in the dozens. The casts, both of them, were always on point, and the setting and story really fired my imagination. It was my favorite original house of the years that I've been attending. The room with the light up heiroglypics was one of the coolest things I've seen Universal do in a non-soundstage house. 


2. Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield - I loved the first Halloween house they did, so I was bound to enjoy this one, but I expected it to fall short of expectations. It didn't really do that. It captured the essence of Halloween II in a house, and has some clever scares, finding new ways to make Michael a scary, startling figure. Obviously the Michael in the Dumpster was a crowd favorite, but I also really enjoyed the Micheal with the Hammer. A worthy sequel house. 


3. Ghost Town: Curse of Lightning Gulch - What an amazing looking house. Some say it lacked scares, and I admit on some run throughs the actors felt like they were there for looks more than anything, but other times, they were in my face, shouting their memorable quotes and firing guns left and right. The energy of this house always made me smile, and the giant set piece in the center of the house is breathtaking. 


4. American Horror Story - I wasn't expecting to like this house nearly as much as I did. I enjoy Freak Show and Hotel, but goddamn, this house was wonderful. It was huge, full of interesting twists and turns, not to mention some genuinely good scares. I got spooked pretty good on many occasions throughout this house. I do think the ending falls a bit flat, but this year, it's clear the budget got cut in several places, and the end of this house is one area where it's most evident. I am not super keen on having a multi-year franchise again, but if one has to stick around, I'd rather it be AHS. 


5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - This house got under my skin, no pun intended. Leatherface really unnerves me, not because of the chainsaws, but rather because of how big he is and how intent he is on killing people. The house smelled like the haunts I used to work in back in New England, so I felt quite at home, then got scared out of my wits. This was a good adaptation of the original film, and it'd be interesting to see them do something with this Leatherface in the future.


6. Krampus - Short but sweet. This tiny house was not what I expected it, but it grew on me quickly and I love the playfulness of the house. It isn't nearly as meanspirited as the movie it's based on, except maybe in the attic scene. The lack of unique scares is kind of a problem, but the house found it's footing with some very playful scareactors who embraced their weird goofy little haunt. 

7. The Exorcist - I am mixed on this house. I had good runs, but I also had bad runs. It also feels heavily hit by budget cuts. A lot of wasted space (random noodle hallway that is not nearly as cool as it was in Insidious last year just leaves me baffled every time) Once they got a good bunch of scareactors as Regan, the house clicked a bit more, but in the end, I feel this wasn't nearly as cool as past "classic horror movie" house tributes. It fell a bit flat in the end. 


8. Lunatic's Playground: You Won't Stand a Chance - I thought I liked this house upon my first and second walkthrough, but after a while it wore on me and I realized just how unoriginal the damn thing is. It's basically the same 3D house as last year with Chance and her inmates slapped in place of the Alice in Wonderland characters. It had some interesting set design (the power plant-esq room was something I enjoyed) but the scares were lacking, and the whole concept of switching between Chance's mind and the real world was super half-baked. A big disappointment, especially with it being the icon house. 


9. The Walking Dead - A weird byproduct of ignoring a haunted house for most of the event dates is that when you do decide to pay it a second visit, it can actually lead to some good startle scares. I went through TWD on preview night and then not again until a few weeks ago when I got bored and it had a short wait. Those scares are the nicest things I can point about about the damn thing. The house is uninspired and lacks any sort of originality that even some of the earlier TWD houses had. It's a re-hash because they had those props and sets. So done with Walking Dead. So done. 


Scare Zones 


1. Vamp 55. I am blown away by Vamp 55. This zone took me by complete surprise. I was expecting garbage, and i got one of the best haunt street experiences I've ever had. The cast, both sets, were phemonemal, creating full blown characters who filled the streets with humor, charm, and screams too. If Vamp 55 doesn't get a house in the future, I will be shocked. It's that good. 


2. A Chance in Hell - First few times I went to the event, I was so disappointed in this zone. The sets are so lacking, not anything worthy of what I was expecting when I saw concept art and the storyline of the zone, but you know what, the residents of this scarezone won me over. They all had defined personalities, and were a blast to hang around with. The Chance stage gave them a unique way of blending into the crowd to get scares (or even just a few laughs) It also helped that the people playing Chance eventually began to find ways to find humor and scares in the perpetual meet and greet state they were forced into. 


3.  Survive or Die - I was never fully on board with this zone, but the storyline eventually won me over for how in depth it was, and it was certainly an immersive area that made you feel the storyline as well as see it unfold. It had a few kinks, and it was clearly a product of changed ideas and budget cuts, but the actors made it work, and the music choices were great. Not a great horror zone, but a great themed area, for sure. 


Tie: Dead Man's Wharf/Lair of the Banshee. Both of these zones are creative and fun to look at, but the cramped quarters, while good for certain scares, made me avoid them if I could. Banshee is the same as that zone is most years, foresty type stuff, and Dead Man's Wharf was a beautiful set that was just way too small and placed in the wrong section of the park. Had it been closer to where Beetlejuice used to be (an empty area now that they don't have a house entering there) it might have worked better. These zones weren't bad, but could have worked a lot better given their unique props and looks. 




Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure - Ugh. I hated this show. I saw it twice and neither time did it manage to get more than a mild chuckle out of me. There is a difference between satire and simply referencing something and hoping to get a guffaw from the crowd, and Bill and Ted has overtime leaned more towards the latter, which is so sad. I kind of enjoyed last year's show to a point, but this year it just fell flat from every angle. Even the dance party at the end wasn't all that entertaining. 


Academy of Villains: House of Fear - Holy shit, this was great. I was expecting to hate this (because god, most famous dance troups make me mad, like the Jabawoceez) but these guys delivered a high energy, heart pumping, fun show. The dancing was great, the stunts were fun, and the cast of performers were so charming that they really just connected with their audience. This show was a huge hit and I expect to see AoV back again, possibly working with Universal to intergrate some characters into it, which would be amazing. 


The event was not overall as fun as 25, but it's still wonderful that I get to spend September and October just roaming these realms of fear and fright. I know this means my reviews may come off as a bit soft as I tend to see a lot of everything and form my opinions based on multiple viewings rather than one or two trips. I look forward to HHN 27 and hope we keep up the Icon thing. I like having Icons in the park, it makes the event feel a bit more real and way more fun. 

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