Jump to content

Zombieman's 2018 Orlando HHN Review- UPDATED for end of season return


Recommended Posts

Dates attended: 9/19, 9/20, 9/22, 9/23.  9/19 was the Wednesday that they added late, and the crowds were nice and low.  The other nights were packed.


Here is a link to a bunch of easter eggs and other stuff I learned from the UTH tour

Here is a link to my 2018 HHN Hollywood review

Here WILL BE a link to my Hollywood vs Orlando comparison


I'll list the houses from my least favorite to my favorite, but keep in mind that with the exception of Blumhouse and Trick R Treat, they were all very, very good.  


Blumhouse II (D) - While I like Blumhouse movies, I just don't think they translate well to houses.  They are just not for me.  Orlando did a better presentation of Happy Death Day than Hollywood did last year, but Hollywood did a much better presentation of First Purge this year than Orlando.  I just cannot get excited for this, and only went a couple of times in my four nights.  Definitely avoid this house when AOV lets out, as it gets slammed.  Best time to visit is when it opens or just after start of AOV. 


Trick R Treat (C) - I did not rate this highly in Hollywood, and I'm still hoping it was a bad walkthru, but I honestly thought Orlando's was just OK.  I went through about 6 times total, and got all the scares.  I've seen the movie several times, and they did a great job of recreating scenes.  Orlando presented the scenes in a much different order, but that doesn't detract.  I felt there were too many static Sams, and too much effort spent recreating the grandiose rooms rather than on good scares.  For me, the wolf puppet was poorly placed, and I missed it more than half the time, forgetting it was even there.  If you love the movie to death, you will love this house.  If you've never seen it, you will have no idea what is going on.  I thought last year's Halloween II was much better than this was.


At this point the rest of the houses range from very good to GOAT.


Halloween 4 (B) - I don't see the need for yet another Halloween movie, but we got one.  And this is a good house, but I'd easily prefer Hive II over this.  It felt like one of the longest Shrek queue houses, which was a plus.  I think that's because they didn't have giant set pieces in the middle like Halloween II did.  The Bucky scene was not very strong (whereas Hollywood's was).


Stranger Things (B+) - As everyone else says, beautiful house.  Was great to see the kids throughout (didn't get that in Hollywood).  Nice to see so many face actors not using masks.  Loved that they had three Demigorgon types, including the face that opens and closes.  Finale room (snowglobe room with Eleven) was a real letdown.  Nothing was flying around in any walkthru for me, and Eleven is too hard to see.  If you took the best from Hollywood's version and the best from this version, you'd have one hell of a house.


Seeds of Extinction (A-) - Three of the originals are jam packed with easter eggs, and this one did not let me down.  In my opinion this was the riskiest one of the lot, because it had no humanoid creatures and no spoken words.  It relied completely on every human being a puppetmaster of their own body parts.  You could almost call it the Mime House.  The queue video sets the story well, but I think it needs to punctuate that you are entering this only 5 days after the Meteorite has struck.  And I know it still makes no sense - why are you still alive?  Who (or what) are you supposed to be?  The house is filled with so many nods to past houses.  You should read my easter egg post, because this is one of the more packed ones.


Dead Exposure (A) - I did not like the 2008 Dead Exposure.  Was bottom on my list.  I got the concept, but the lack of detail was too much.  This prequel was the polar opposite.  It did the same thing, but did it right.  It felt like the detail was there, and the scares were very effective.  I think the subway scare was the best of the event.  Sadly not many will see it because of the long reset time (and I'm not convinced they will be able to continue it for safety reasons).  I think for most, this will be the scariest house of 2018.  And more puppets!  Loved the second monkey!  Took me a couple of passes to understand the ending.


Scary Tales (A) - Breathtaking facade and witch actor.  This almost rivals the riverboat from Dead Waters.  Odd was the intermixing of funny (Hansel & Gretel) and gory, but in reality we have already turned gruesome stories into happy fairy tales.  And of course Leave it to Cleaver successfully mixed funny and gory.   I feel every Scary Tales has topped the previous one, and I don't get the feeling it is played out.


Slaughter Sinema (A+) - Was hoping that HR BloodNGutz would return, but I'm glad that didn't come true.   The queue video was perfection and the house was a perfect followup to that.  Every time I think back on any scene I get a big grin on my face.  I think it's unanimous that Cult of the Beast Baby was the weakest point, with a poor payoff.  I'm hoping they can find some way to fix that.  Schittie's Kidz is going to live with me for a long time.  Doesn't get much better than that.  I hope we see Slaughter Sinema II, III, IV, etc.  To me, this is the next new franchise of HHN.


Carnival Graveyard (A++) - Is it just me, or does this seem like it was bigger than the Anniversary house and the WD mega house?  This just seems to go on forever. I loved that A&D have started experimenting with an open floor plan that sees the same set from multiple angles.  I raved about that in Knotts' Dark Ride house.  I think we are going to be seeing quite a lot of this open floor plan in the future.  I did notice two excellent scares not happening as of late in the second weekend, and I fear one is gone for good.  Refer to my easter egg post.  This was at the top of my most anticipated list and and it lived up to it (except for the GOAT house...)


Poltergeist (GOAT) - I can't stand IP houses.  You all know that.  A&D are handcuffed, you know what is coming next, yada yada.  In the case of Poltergeist, Hollywood seemed to proudly wear the handcuffs and they presented a mediocre house, while Orlando had no boundaries.  Every square inch of this house feels like I'm reliving Mike Aiello's worst nightmares after he watched the movie as a kid.  It wasn't about regurgitating scenes from the movie.  It was about how we remembered those scenes growing up.  We don't just remember Robbie being attacked by the clown, because we remember ourselves being chased and haunted by the damned thing in our sleep.  And that's what we got.  Over and over again.  To me, it didn't need to present events in any particular order, so starting in the pool was fine and dandy.  Welcome to Poltergeist.  We throw you into one of the most intense scenes and we will not let up for a second.  If all the IP houses were presented like this, I'd be loving IP houses.  The way they did it made Poltergeist feel like an original.  I loved Cabin in the Woods because A&D got to do a few things their way.  I loved AWIL, but that was mostly because it was our first glimpse of the puppets.  And 2018 is the year of the puppet - no doubt.  I don't know about you, but I am NOT getting puppeted out.  They are being presented in new and exciting ways.  I don't feel like I'm seeing the same thing again and again, and as long as they keep presenting them in new ways, I'm all in.  Between the giant head puppets, the giant white monster puppets, stiltwalker, the doorway that moves away from you, the wind effects in Robbie's room, the rain in the pool - POLTERGEIST WAS UTTER PERFECTION - and this was really low on my anticipation list.  If you told me I would call it GOAT, I'd call you crazy.  One thing they NEED to do is get the damned blackout out of the kitchen.  She stands right in the middle of it, just killing the scene.  Also, when I went later on week #2, the rain was absent in the opening scene and the clown was not dropping from the ceiling.  Those two things are really essential and I hope they are not gone for good.



Scarezones from least favorite to favorite


The Harvest - Photo op zone.  They can do great stuff here.  Path of the Wicked was great.  They need to get this back to its former glory.


From here on they are very good to excellent


Twisted Tradition - Another beautiful scarezone.  


Revenge of Chucky - I've never been a huge Chucky fan or a big fan of the Insult Emporium.  I much more like his minions.  That guy in the diaper is just plain disturbing.  Quite possibly the scariest thing in the park.


Killer Klowns - This one grew on me.  On the first night they just took pictures.  On the last night they were getting more comfortable with the scares, and the non-clown actors were doing a lot of fast-paced scaring and entertaining.  I was expecting a lot more from the shadow puppets, but it was cool to see them.  And I was really hoping to see something happen with a silly straw and the cotton candy cocoons. 


Vamp '85 - Excellent zone.  I grew up in the 80's and this was designed for me.  The only thing I really did NOT like was the insipid "YEEEEEEEEAH!" every 5 seconds from the guy with the microphone.  That wore on my nerves real fast.  He needs to generate a bit better monologue, because he's the weakest link.



AOV (D) - I really liked the House of Fear show in 2016.  Thought the 2017 was good, but not as good as 2016.  This 2018 show is not good.  At all.  I'm sorry, but it's just not entertaining to me at all.  Yes, I'm still pissed that they have an 80's theme but no Bill & Ted.  And that they got rid of Bill & Ted partly because they were tearing down the theater.  Which they didn't.  And then they didn't bring back Bill & Ted (released in 1989) for an 80's theme event.  That is a most heinous series of events.  So they gave AOV the spotlight.  And what we got was not much better than Jabbawockeez.  The set and set pieces were just awful.  The plot made no sense to me.  I still can't understand the ending, nor do I want an explanation.  Worst of all, I went to HHN four nights, saw the show on night one, and had no desire to return.  Bill & Ted was a must-see every night for me.  No two shows were the same.  No matter what, I was leaving with a smile on my face.  I just don't get that with AOV in that venue.  I think they need to put AOV back on the street, where they can be more intimate with the audience.  That's not a step back - that's putting them where they are most effective.  Then have AOV give us an intense HHN themed show as they did in 2016.   As good as this event was, you know what would have made it twice as good?  Close Blumhouse.  Put AOV on the streets doing something throwback related.  Use the Blumhouse money to bring back Bill & Ted.  I think that would have been a checkmate for the 80's theme.  I know Trick R Treat was not 80's, but it does have a bit of a timeless feel to it.



There's been a good deal of talk about this year feeling like a turning of the page, repurposing it for a new generation of customers.  The argument is supported by the cancellation of B&T (a show that offends this overly sensitive generation), almost zero gore (thought being this generation sees way too much of it in the real world), and having a mind numbing show that as I said, is clearly not aimed at me.  I don't fully agree with this theory.  I've been going to HHN long enough that I see it more as a pendulum.  It reacts to society, but society itself is a pendulum.  Young people see the world only as it is now.  Older people have seen societal norms shift back and forth.  I expect HHN to go gore-heavy again some day.  Expect almost all original some day.  They may do another pop culture show and I won't understand 90% of the references.  To those under 30 who are reading this: it's going to happen to you, too.  Sooner than you think.  As long as A&D is pushing out the quality of houses we have this year, "In time, everything will be alright".


Excellent year: A

It's not often that I'm flying back to L.A. repeating the houses in my mind, smelling the same smells, and hearing all the scares.  For the first time, I'm looking at my calendar, trying to see if I can fly out again for two more nights in November. It would require me to upgrade my ROF+Express to the Ultimate Fear+Express.  $300...  If they added Sunday Nov 4th, I'd go it in a split second.  



EDIT: I forgot to add something - Definitely play the trivia game!  You need to download the Universal Orlando app.  Go to any of the houses on the app (where you see the description of the house, not just the wait time).  Scroll down and you will see the trivia game.  The cool thing is that it's highly replayable.  There are 11 games (ten houses plus a history game).  Each game is 13 questions, but it seems to have a total pool of about 10 questions per game.  They are randomly given and the multiple choice answers are randomly arranged.


Each game can be unlocked once you are near the queue.  Simply passing by unlocks the game.  So if you've been to the event before and went to all the houses, everything should be unlocked.  Once unlocked, the game STAYS unlocked, so I can continue to play from California, as I unlocked everything in Orlando.


At one point, I was #69 on the leaderboard, so of course I had to save that screenshot!  EXCELLENT!


You can keep replaying each game, but once you restart one, you lose that score, so it may go up or down.  If you want a score of 10000+ on any game, you gotta answer every question correctly and within a couple of seconds, so the key is to learn the correct answers, and not even read the questions.  Of course, there is the occasional True/False question that slows you down.  My current score is 107270, and I am #45 on the board.  I want to write down all the questions, but if I take the time to, my scores will all go to hell...  This really passes the time in the queues. 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • zombieman changed the title to Zombieman's 2018 Orlando HHN Review- UPDATED for end of season return


I flew back to HHN for three more nights at the tail end of the season for the first time in 14 years.  It was just that good this year.


                                         September Grades                       End Oct Grades

Poltergeist:                     GOAT                                              DEFINITELY GOAT

Carnival Graveyard:       A++                                                 A+

Slaughter Sinema:         A+                                                   A+

Dead Exposure:             A                                                      A

Scary Tales:                   A                                                      A+

Seeds of Extinction:     A-                                                     A

Stranger Things:           B+                                                    B

Halloween 4:                 B                                                      B+

Trick R Treat:                C                                                       C-

Blumhouse:                  D                                                       D-


Favorite Zone:             Vamp                                                Chucky

AOV:                             D                                                        D


From early in the run to late in the run, everything was the same with these exceptions:

  • I didn't see the rail witch at the end of Scary Tales even once end of Oct.  Just a dark hall
  • Metal barrels in Carnival were replaced with plastic barrels and a crashing sound
  • Rain in Poltergeist pool was tamed just a smidge, like Ghost Town.  Was really pelting first couple of weeks.
  • In Twisted Tradition, the pumpkin character with the giant human toothy grin was nowhere to be seen late October.
  • Bars ran out of souvenir cups.  They sold drinks at the refill price.
  • UOAP HHN pins sold out (but the Stranger Things two-pin set remains), as does the Stranger Things lite up pin.
  • Express Pass merge points got really bad for most houses.  Seeds was the worst.  Stranger Things (strangely) had a shorter post-merge line late October.
  • The chocolate smell in the vomit scene of TrT seemed much stronger at end of October.
  • Dead Exposure lab monkey puppets were not moving any of my Oct nights.


To me, the talent in every house got much better by the end of the run.  There was no cast that seemed to "give up" like The Fallen did last year.

10/27 was super packed, but gave me the best runs for all houses.  The actors were relentless.  I did not do Blumhouse that night.

The reason house ranking swapped a bit was that I asked myself which of the houses I would miss most next year.  Scary Tales just got better and better, and Carnival Graveyard while still gorgeous lost a bit of it's shine.  Blumhouse was lower in the rankings because it just seemed so out of place compared to all of the strong houses.  It was a waste of space.  But Trick R Treat was probably the biggest disappointment for me personally.  I can't explain what it is.  It just never grabbed me.  Yeah, cool school bus scene.  Maybe any other year it would have seemed so much better, but with stronger houses at the event, this becomes a low performer.  I won't miss it at all.


There was so much to see in Vamp, but that DJ guy was the pits.  I've always loved what they did in this area in terms of scarezones.  I think where Vamp faltered most was that for the first time that performance loop was too apparent.  Repeating the same show constantly.  In past years, it didn't feel as if I was walking in during some scene I'd seen several times before.  Klownz grew on me even more.  It must have been really tough to be a clown scareactor there, with such a limited range of movement - and so slow at that.  They made the most of it.  I mentioned elsewhere how they all came together for a mini show whenever the balloon animal popped.  I love stuff like that.  I've never seen such a detailed IP zone given this much love.  If this doesn't become a house I will be shocked.  Chucky won my heart as favorite zone - because of the toy actors.  They were so much fun.  Chucky himself was meh.  These guys also went all out, doing a little impromptu show when commonplace things happened - like someone dropping their cup.  


On 10/30 I finally did something I've never done at Universal Orlando, believe it or not.  I finally went to the Horror & Makeup Show.  What a great little place!  Why this is not open during HHN is completely lost on me.  It makes no sense to be closed.  Granted, it can't eat very many people, but it seems like such an inexpensive yet HHN-related thing to offer.  HHN would have easily benefited from a second show of any kind.


I also visited Williams of Hollywood for the first time.  Almost bought the Jack wall bust...

Ended up spending the $$$ on the complete set of Slaughter Sinema shirts from the tribute store.  Expen$ive, but I will have a shirt for every night I go next year.

LOVED the idea of customized shirts.  Hope they do it again next year.   By the way, I decided at 12:30 on 10/30 to pull the trigger and buy the Slaughter Sinema shirts.  I found out they take 25 minutes each to make.  The guy who runs Horror Ink Shirts (Kyle) is SHIPPING them to me (free shipping).  Still took me 30 minutes to print six separate receipts and pay at front of store, then make shipping arrangements.  But it's cool that he's doing this for me!  They will be here tomorrow...



Best things of HHN Orlando season 2018:

  • YOU ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES!!!  WHY?? WHY???  Who is this Zombieman guy, giving an IP house GOAT?  When IP is done like an original and this well, it's GOAT.  Previous GOAT for me was Gothic.  
  • Incredibly strong house lineup, with 8 houses getting B or better. 
  • The Slaughter Sinema previews, and that popcorn smell as you approach the Slaughter entrance...
  • The Luv Shak
  • Frequent Fear (with Express) options
  • Tons of HHN merchandise, and the custom shirts!
  • Freestyle cup!  Good God, this thing was amazing.  Worked every day even on non HHN days.  Free Icee refills?  Yes, please.  I must have put $300 in drink in that thing.
  • HHN entrance for on-site hotel guests.  Words can't express how important this can be if you don't do early entry.
  • Universal Customer Service, for letting me upgrade my Rush of Fear AFTER September.  They worked with me to give full $300 credit against a more expensive Freq Fear pass.  I stood in line for an hour on 10/27 to process this upgrade, and they gave me a bunch of Express passes for the daytime for free because I flew all way out a second time for HHN.  I'll talk about what I learned from this in a different post.


Worst things of HHN Orlando season 2018:

  • That I have to fly 2200 miles for a decent HHN event.
  • Aventura - the shiniest, most polished turd of a hotel ever.  Beautiful on the outside, but not ready for business.  In a three day span, I experienced at some point a hosed hotel router, no hot water, insane room controls, inability to fully illuminate a hotel room at night, Shower doors incorrectly installed so as to flood the bathroom floor, a granite bed mattress, bar that calls 2 oz of sangria a "drink" for $12.  And no offer of compensation for the lack of Internet or hot water.  This Loews felt like a DoubleTree.  Never again. 
  • First HHN with no repeatable shows.  Easily the worst year for entertainment.  AoV missed the mark.  Don't be HHN Hollywood, Orlando...
  • The lines.  We can blame Stranger Things for adding so many people to the event, but I think some blame has to be put on all the Frequent Fear passes.  In my opinion, they need to restrict the number of these sold.  Looks like there is no limit at all.  Don't get rid of them - just cap them.  And open Simpsons, Horror & Makeup, and Fallon on peak HHN nights.  We are now seeing HHN Orlando actually sell out some nights.  They need to eat more of these crowds.
  • Amulet of Fear.  Ugh.
  • Missing the gore a bit in the houses.  In some podcast interviews, I've heard A&D saying that they find today's kids are less into gore.  I think you gotta have at least 25% of your Halloween event have s decent level of gore.


Despite Aventura, it was a great couple of trips.  I walked over 70 miles during my 7 nights at HHN.  Aside from some serious leg cramps this was one of the best HHN years ever.  HHN Orlando keeps getting better and better and HHN Hollywood is unfortunately going the opposite direction...




  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I kind of expected that Carnival Graveyard and Dead Exposure suffered from some changes by the time I visited. Such a bummer that I missed out on the last bungee witch in Scary Tales too. 


Definitely relieved now that I picked Cabana Bay over Aventura. Sorry you had such a rough time there. :( Only issue I ran into was a leaky air conditioner. We let staff know the day we noticed it and they fixed it while we were out to lunch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...