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Zombieman's 2017 HHN Hollywood review


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Chris Williams, I want to play a game.  

For the past dozen years, you have put Horror Nights fans inside their most cherished films.  Your vision was their reality.  But your vision now fails you and makes you lazy.  Those people who once praised your creations are now forced to walk the blank, black hallways that are nothing more than monuments to your apathy.  You must now choose: repent by giving your fans the same level of quality as your sister park, or do nothing and see the remainder of your career fall into obscurity.  Make your choice.


John Murdy, I want to play a game.  

You have the enviable vocation of instilling fear into the minds of others.  Yet while others who share your position have kept their mental saw sharpened, so to speak, you have become a very dull boy.  Your scare mechanisms have become slothful and outdated, cluttered with endless hallways of hanging bodies, shaker cans, drop panels, and pig heads.  Leave pig heads for the experts.  Before you are two roads, John: leave the past in the past and show the world you can innovate, or allow the event you claim to love to fall father behind by standing still.  Choose your road, John Murdy.





Sep 21-24: Attended HHN Orlando four nights

Sep 30: Attended Knotts Halloween Haunt

Oct 5 & Oct 12: Attended HHN Hollywood


Coming off a very good year for Orlando and one of Knotts best, I had high hopes for Hollywood.  I avoided any reviews that might taint my opinions.

Thursday 10/5 was not crowded at all.  Thursday 10/12 was also not crowded.  I spent 15 min at most in any line.  The evening had a lot going for it, but HHN Hollywood failed almost in every way, I'm sorry to report.


I will do a very large comparison between Hollywood and Orlando in a separate topic (I've not the same IP executed so drastically different before).  

This review is of HHN Hollywood in a bubble.


[EDIT] After posting this review, I'm starting to read HHN Hollywood reviews from others, and it is pretty clear I am seeing Hollywood is a very different light than a lot of you.   This is making me think my Hollywood opinion is being tainted by the great job Orlando did.  Likewise, I look back at my Orlando review and in comparing it to Hollywood I would be grading Orlando an A- if I was writing the review now.

Keep in mind I held off on this Hollywood review until I attended a second night.  

I think many of you will disagree with my Hollywood review.  All I can say is that if you attended Orlando this year, you would lower your Hollywood grade a few notches.  Believe me.  If you saw what was possible with the exact same IP, you would be feeling that HHN Hollywood was lazy.



EVERY SINGLE attraction at HHN Hollywood felt like something I had done many times before with minimal tweaks to the skin.  Nothing seemed original in any way (and I don't mean original vs IP).


Scares used as a crutch - Hollywood is employing the same three scares over and over and over and over:

Bodies, body parts, body bags, animals hanging in hallways.  I stopped counting the number of houses that used this in 2017, but it's most of them.

Drop Panels everywhere.

Black alcove pop-outs - they are effective, but not when every.single.house uses them multiple times.  


Black hallways - We've grown used to the need for blank, black hallways when there is no other option available.  Any house in the Parisian Court has to have some of these.   Any of the 15 versions of Insidious that have been at HHN used them to excess - the excuse being that you are in the Further, after all.  But, my God, I could not find a single house this year that did not use them.  Some used them a little - Roanoke at the beginning and end.  But they were everywhere.  It was random yet formulaic - if you were entering a black hallway, expect there to be an alcove with a strobe and someone popping out.  When EVERY house has MULTIPLE instances of these, it's being overused.  I first recall seeing this in La Llorona (and it was effective).  Then it was in Insidious, This is the End, Exorcist.  And now every goddamned house at HHN.  That is not creative.  It is lazy.


Multi-scare endings - Seemed like EVERY house this year ended with black hallways with multiple alcoves and pop scares from each side.  If that was the case for ONE of the houses (i.e. Insidious), we would say it had an amazing ending.  But when every house does it?  Not only is that predictable, it's lazy.  


And lazy is what HHN Hollywood is this year.  No original presentation.  Again, I'm not talking about IP versus original content.  I'm talking about HOW the IP was executed.  It was just the same exact stuff we have seen before with a new skin on it.  


Knott's Halloween Haunt blew the doors off of HHN Hollywood this year.  I cannot recommend that anyone waste their money at HHN, because if they have ever gone before, they have seen everything there is to see this year.


To give you an idea, on 10/5 I arrived at about 8PM.  There were no lines.  Paradise, right?  I went through everything once and had NO DESIRE to do anything a second time.  

10/12 I arrived at 5:30.  Walked on to Shining and everything in the back lot.  back lot was so bad, I went through everything back there a second time not because I wanted to.  I just wanted to see if I had a bad walkthru.  I did not...

Did the stuff on main level once each.  At 8PM, had NO DESIRE to do anything else. so I left  


You all know I don't like IP houses.  But please believe me when I say that none of that bleeds into my house reviews.  I put the IP stuff aside, and tell you what I thought of the house execution.


Blumhouse : D+

Why we had done this before - Purge was nearly the EXACT SAME layout as last year's outdoor scarezone.  

What did not work - Happy Death Day.  We enter the exact same room several times. I know that's what happened in Exorcist (which was an all time great HHN Hollywood maze), but it made sense in that house.  Not here.  We get attacked by the exact same thing over and over.  No variation.  LOTS of blank, black hallways.

What did work - Sinister had a decent amount of variation to it.  Still, there was so little eye candy in this house, it did not belong at HHN.  It was something anyplace could have done.

The final room ending back in the Purge was interesting with Big Daddy in the van, but two problems - we have seen this exact same scare many times in various Purge scarezones, and they obviously took away Big Daddy's machine gun thanks to that asshole in Vegas.  But even as Big Daddy comes at us with a blade, we hear the machine gun sounds.  They need to fix that, cause it ain't working.


The Shining: D-

Very hard to see this in a bubble, because I went to Orlando's version.  Hard to say what I would have thought if this was all I saw.  But I will try.

Why we had done this before - remember everywhere Regan popped out of a black alcove in a black hallway last year?  Exact same thing here, except it's Jack Torrance.

What did not work - the God-awful Nicholson masks.  He looks like he's frozen in a constipated state.  Looked like a human version of Chucky.  And because it's a full mask, we hear Jack Torrance's voice and the character's lips don't move.  Gee, wouldn't it have been so much better if they had a PARTIAL facial appliance?  Spoiler alert: Orlando did just that.  Also what did not work was the elevator scene.  THE iconic scene of The Shining, and it looked like utter crap.  This is where you may say that you liked it.  And maybe I cannot be fair because Orlando's version was SOOOOO much better.  Then there are the Twins.  The characters that are so iconic, they made it onto the shirt.  Onto the mug and shotglass.  Yet in this house, they are a static display behind a scrim - not scareactors....   Yeah, you may be guessing Orlando did it differently.  And I cannot get over this one at all - the corpses in the Gold Room all used SHAKER CANS.  What the everloving hell?  Why, John?  Why?  No pre-recorded sounds.  Nope.  Soup cans filled with nuts and bolts.  Direct from 1990.  That is just moronic.  This was supposed to be a Great White Whale for Murdy, but he showed no love for this property.  None.  

What did work - The "All Work and No Play" hallway, if for no other reason than it was not a black hallway.


Titans of Terror (the house): B

Why we have done this before - Immediately after the creative "home haunt" portion, we enter the "black hallway with the red light" and we are transported back to Freddy vs Jason, which was Freddy's realm, then Jason's realm, etc.  They did it the same way.  And when we finally get to Jason ("Green light") and Leatherface ("Yellow light") realms - we see the EXACT SAME things we see in the Terror Tram?  Seriously?  The exact same face peel and body in half?  Same grandpa scene?  My God!  How lazy can you possibly get?  They are not just puking up the same scene from a prior year - they are puking up the SAME scene from the SAME year!!  

What did not work - Black hallways, repeated scenes from Terror Tram

What did work - the Home Haunt theme

I am so disappointed by the lazy copying of exact same scenes from Terror Tram, that I am temped to fail this house.  But in a vacuum, the house works.  It is the "least bad" of the event.  I am being overly generous on this one....


Titans of Terror Tram: D

Why we have done this before - because we have done this 10 times before (omitting 2006 because they did it better than any subsequent year).

What did not work - queues for every part of the experience.  Same exact scenes from the Titans of Terror house.  Existence of Chucky for no other reason than to advertise a direct to DVD film.

What worked - Most creative use of Freddy.

I'm now of the firm opinion that Terror Tram must close.  They can easily put one or two tents in the extended queue ares and used the queue for those.  Terror Tram is a blight at this point.  I don't think Murdy likes it, so why not get rid of it?


Insidious 4, 1, 2,3, 4: C-

Why we have done this before - Because we have.  

What did not work - knowing nothing about Insidious 4, how are we supposed to understand random scenes?  I had the same problem with Crimson Peak, Dracula Untold, and Happy Death Day.  And of course, endless black hallways.  Aside from Turner and Hooch outside, it didn't really feel like Insidious anymore.

What did work - Nothing for me, but other people seemed to like it...


Saw: C

Why we have done this before - Because we have.  

What did not work - The formula: Scene.  Black hallway with pig.  Scene.  Black hallway with pig.  Repeat until you are sick.  Shows how one dimensional Saw franchise is.

What did work - The pendulum scene was cool.  The final "you are in the trap" was cool - but could have been a good, memorable scene from any original content house.  Spoiler alert - it WAS, back in 1997.  They had the same sort of effect, but you were in a hallway of sawblades, and the walls pushed in on you as you walked the hallway.


Ash: D-

Why we have done this before - This house felt the least like anything before it, so I did not get this feeling.

What did not work - The full Ash mask.  This time a constipated Bruce Campbell.  Did not look like Ash.  Also meant character could not lip sync to audio.  No "Hello Pussies".  Instead it was "Hello".  No comedy whatsoever - purely played it straight, which the series does not do.  That was a fail.  Krampus had more comedy than this.  You NEED to have the comedy, because the show does not take itself seriously.  NO GORE!!!  WTF!?!?!?  How can you represent a show that bathes in a hilarious amount of blood and have no blood?  They missed the mark entirely.  No Ashy Slashy puppet.  And, of course, black hallways for no reason.

What did work - The scene where Ash and a demon come at each other from adjacent walls, rather than opposite walls.  That was clever, and worked well.  Also, the Henrietta puppet was well done.


Roanoke: D-

Why we have done this before - The outdoor scenic felt and looked like Friday the 13th.  The catacomb scenic felt and looked like any other HHN catacomb scenic we have been through before (El Cucuy, F13)

What did not work - The majority of scareactors were pig heads.  Roanoke deserved better.  Did not feel grand or large or long.  Last year's AHS felt like all of those.  With only one season and no "reality show" portion, you'd think they could have told a coherent story, but it was just random scenes.  The "surprise ending" was just terrible.  Felt like the gingerbread man from Shrek was trying to attack us.

What worked - The intestine pull scare was great.


Jabbocrappeez: Did not waste my time


Overall: F

What a dismal year.  Monumental step backwards for HHN Hollywood.  Some are saying that it's because last year had such a "stellar lineup".  That they shot their wad, so to speak.  I don't see it that way.  Last year was good because they executed well.  This year they phoned it in.  The scare effects were lazy - same stuff over and over.  Hallway after hallway of black freaking plywood.  Honest to God, these houses felt incomplete because of it.  Chris and John are not what they used to be.  Orlando's design team working in Hollywood would have blown your socks off.


HHN Hollywood is dying on the vine.  If they want to save this thing, they need to get rid of Terror Tram, give us a REAL SHOW, and add more houses - executing them in a unique way.  They can add houses in the Terror Tram area, or use the Despicable Me queue, or use the Globe Theater, etc...    I think this is the worst year ever.  And I've been to them all.


I'll say it again - do not attend HHN Hollywood this year.    Save some money and go to Knott's.  It is far better.  Or fly out to Orlando and see a comparatively  GREAT event.

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I completely agree! I went to Knott's last weekend and had such an amazing time and was way more impressed by their mazes (something I never thought I'd say). I can't tell what went wrong behind the scenes, but this year was a failure. My favorite aspect of HHN is the sheer amount of detail in every room and this year felt so scaled back and repetitive. You hit it right on the mark, repetitive scares and black hallways galore. I'm going to HHN again tomorrow because I planned it with a friend months ago but I'm really just wanting to go back to Knott's. Changes MUST happen at Universal or else this event will lose a lot of visitors. 

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An' yup, I knew exactly how this was gonna' turn out from your Orlando review. The moment you praised Scarecrows for it's seamless transition/no blank hallways, I knew HW was going to be quite the eye opener for you.


Now a couple things to add, one of the factors of the mazes being blank disasters is budget issues. Apparently when they wanted to put in a extra maze, it would put them over budget, so in order to make it fit, they slashed the budgets for all the mazes. (Though also not surprisingly, there's word going about HW is realizing that was a mistake.)


Also, I do have to give this slight thing to Happy Death Day in Blumhouse. Since the film is a horror "Groundhog Day", it does make sense for the rooms (and slasher) to repeat. (That's all I give it though, as it would've benifited if they actually had some kill scenes/no blank walls etc.)


As for the Titans of Terror maze, while it's the least worst of the bunch, I'd still ding it hard for opening with a wonderful concept with the home haunt...but not ending with it. Seriously, if this was in Orlando, they would've ended the house with you returning to the bedroom and showing the aftermath with all the titans. It's a concept they've done plenty of times before with Dead Exposure, the In-Between etc. HW on the other hand did yet another black hallway group box scare, that's a waste of a good theme.


An' you're not alone in your opinion, I've seen plenty of reviews from HW vets who feel this year was a downright flop. Word of mouth has been doing it's thing since the event is not getting as packed/sold out as it usually would be around this time of year. Conversely, Knott's is doing gangbusters since positive word of mouth is doing it's thing for them.


Either way, things do need to change for HW. Since if you're charging top dollar to get in, you better be giving something akin to Orlando, Knott's or HHN Japan or Singapore. Blank walls do not cut it for a place touted for it's detail.

Edited by Tobias
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I personally don't mind the Jack and Ash masks. Gives it a bit better uniformity. Plus walking by fast enough and at every minimal pop out appearance, I'm not necessarily focused on the expression on their frozen faces. I distinctly actually had the thought while watching the Orlando videos, "man, I'm so glad we used masks." I thought that Jack head piece looked ridiculous. But that's just me!

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I'm working on my Orlando/Hollywood comparison, but as you can imagine, it's going to be long.


I'm really sorry to hear that HHN Hollywood succumbed to the budgetary restrictions.  And this while Comcast is obviously opening up the purse so much lately....

Given the consistently good show that Knotts has been giving customers for several years, I don't know if HHN Hollywood can easily recover from this misstep.  I mean, these six weeks account for such a huge percentage of the park's revenue - how can they screw that up so bad?  It's good to know they are realizing what a misstep it was.  So they add a new maze for what purpose - to address complaints about crowding.  Good for them that they tried to address it.  But growing the event without putting additional capital into it?  What did they think was going to happen?  Did they think no one would notice?  And make no mistake - the cost of licensing the IP for that additional house came out of the budget for other houses, too.  


So it sucks that HHN 2017 comes in 2017....

My daughter has been begging me to go to HHN for  a couple of years.  I took her to Knotts last year and this year, but given Hollywood's intensity last year, I thought it would be too much for her.  Consequently, I have fed her this idea that HHN is something into which you graduate from Knotts.  Given that she has seen The Hanging twice now, I think I may have been wrong...  That thing will add two years street-wise to any kid.


I want to take her to HHN this year, but I'm wondering if she will look at me and say "THIS is what you thought was too intense for me?"

I have NOT told her that HHN sucks this year or given her any reason to expect anything bad.


So I will take her to HHN Hollywood and it will be a big science experiment for me.  I think you guys might be interested in this...


You all know I am in the "I really dislike IP houses" camp.  It had nothing to do with my disgust for Hollywood this year, but it's there.

Much of the basis for my dislike of IP in houses is based on three things:  

1) If you are familiar with the IP, then you know exactly what and who you will see.  

2) If you are NOT familiar with the IP, then you will not understand most of what you see; it will be random scenes.  

3) IP is not free - the cost of IP licensing comes out of the house budget.  I'd much prefer a better non-IP house.


My daughter is 14, and has not seen ANY of the IP movies or TV shows from HHN this year.  No, we are not Mormon.  No, we are not trying to shelter our snowflake.

We've just tried to keep our kids involved with sports and school and not pop culture.  

My son is the same age (they are twins), and he is not into haunt stuff at all.  Scares him, frankly, and that's OK with me.  He's not ready for it.

My daughter is totally into it.  Blood.  Guts.  Gore.  Scary stuff.  She still holds my hand going through the Red Barn at Knotts.  Special ops scared her.

So with my daughter I plan to do the following experiment:


Take her through all of the houses without a scrap of detail from me as to what the IP is.  She can read the two sentence description in the map, but that's it.  I want to gauge her reaction.  All she knows is I told her that HHN mazes are a lot scarier than Knotts.


Once I get her reaction, I will find the quietest location I can and talk to her about the IPs.  Tell her an unbiased backstory, and ask her if she got any of that from the house.  


Armed with knowledge of the IP, we will then go back into the houses a second run and see if she finds it scarier or more interesting. I imagine she will, but how much?


At HHN Orlando, I do this myself by going to HHN on my first night, and then taking the UTH tour the next day.  I ALWAYS find the subsequent runs much more interesting because I know what to look for and understand the backstory.  It's like going to two different events.  I would never do the UTH tour first thing.  The fact that UTH makes even the originals more enjoyable means that A&D is not necessarily doing the best job of conveying the story - which is one of my complaints about IP houses.  I mean, The Fallen was beautiful, but without the backstory it's confusing.


So my little experiment should make dismal Hollywood at least a bit fun.  I'm glad I got the HHN season pass, because I wouldn't pay a thin dime to go again myself.  


And because you touched on the turnout Tobias, it really looks to me that HHN Hollywood is going to have a miserable attendance this year.  I still see very few sold out nights, and RIP/Express only seems to be selling out on Saturdays.  That is bad news.  Or I guess it's great news, because that should tell the bean counters that the budget was to blame for this.  I really would not mind it if Murdy was replaced with fresh blood; someone has to take the fall.  I'd like to see someone from Orlando brought over.


I'm surprised at how FAST the word of HHN sucking got out.  The first two weekends were sold out, and then the crowds failed to materialize.  I don't follow HHN on social media, but I can only imagine how Hollywood is getting shredded.  I am finding new respect for the power of social media.  






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