I have to say that I had a ton of fun and am glad I was able to make it to the event this year after missing last years event due to we'll call it a difference of opinion. Last year was the first year I'd missed since 2002 so I was extremely bummed to have missed one, but getting back into it this year was exactly what I needed. My girlfriend and I decided to make a 3 day trip out of my birthday this year so we decided to get a campsite at Fort Wilderness which is something we'd never done before and hit as much as we possibly could over those 3 days. We decided on a campsite because with our schedule we wouldn't be spending a lot of time in the room so a tent fit our needs perfectly. We checked in on the 16th, and started at the extremely busy Magic Kingdom. We then went and checked into our campsite, set up our tent and then beat feet to Universal to get our evening started.
We got to Universal around 3p and picked up our tickets and express passes before heading inside. We walked around the park for a few hours and took in the various set pieces that were scattered about the park, scoped out the location of all the houses and rode all the rides so we wouldn't have to worry about them at night.
Since we were already inside the park we decided to take advantage of the 'Stay and Scream' holding area at Finnegans which is something we'd never done before as we'd always arrived prior to gates opening but not early enough to make it inside the park before daytime closing. From an outsider looking in it seemed a bit disorderly and confusing but they got the job done and we had no issues getting where we needed to be. One thing I wasn't aware of was that each S&S location was given access to one of the haunted houses before everyone else and then you were able to roam to the other houses by the other S&S locations. This was a nice little perk as the holding area at Finnegans was walked directly over to The American werewolf house which was the house that I was the most looking forward to experiencing so that was awesome.
After the park was clear of daytime guests we were gaggled over to the American werewolf house and brought right into the queue line without having to use our express passes! It was kind of cool being one of the first dozen people through the house that evening. I came into this house with some really high expectations as the TBT had done quite a nice spread on this house and its puppets, set pieces, etc. I can safely say that I enjoyed this house quite a bit! The puppets, the sets, the actors, everything was awesome. I got my 2 biggest scares of the night in this house on this initial walk through so the night definitely started on a very high note.
After the American werewolf house we headed over to the other houses that were being offered to S&S guests and the next one we came upon was the Cabin in the woods house. It already had a 20 minute posted wait time so we decided to go ahead and use our express passes as we only had 1 night to see everything and I wanted to see everything! The CitW house was great! Another house that delivered high quality sets and atmosphere! The cast working inside this house definitely put on a great show! This house would end up being my girlfriends favorite house of the night.
Once we got out of the CitW house we headed over to The Walking Dead. This house wasn't super high on my list as i'm not a huge Walking Dead fan and hadn't really watched the shows (but I'm planning on jumping on that bandwagon soon). This house advertised a 5 minute wait so again we decided to save our express passes. Overall I enjoyed the house and some of the scenes were really cool but this house hit middle of the road for me as far as favorites go.
After TWD we were in a pretty good situation to hit several houses in pretty quick order. As we were walking through the exit of TWD we were able to jump into the line of La Llorona without having to go all the way back up to the front of the kidzone. Thanks to that random team member for saving everyone a lengthy walk, and once again no need for express passes! I didn't go into La Llorona with super high expectations but I definitely walked out a fan! I thought they did a great job with what could potentially be an extremely touchy subject. I had a lot of fun going through this house!
Since La Llorona exited right next to After Life we jumped right into that queue line and again no need for express passes so we could save those uses for later! I've always been a big fan of 3D houses, I don't know what it is about them but I've always thoroughly enjoyed them. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed this one, but I don't think it was executed as well as some their others in the past or as well as some of the 3D houses from their neighbors in Tampa.
From After Life since we were making great time through the houses and still had a lot of unused scans on our express passes we decided to slow it down a bit, have a couple drinks, enjoy the scare zones and casually meander over to Resident Evil. At this point the haunted house waits were starting to climb pretty drastically so we started relying on our express passes to help us get through the remaining 3 houses. So our first stop was Resident Evil. My anticipation for this house was again pretty middle of the road and after going through it stayed pretty middle of the road for me. I enjoyed it but it didn't leave a super long lasting impression and it seemed to be over REALLY quick.
The next house we hit was The Evil Dead. I'm a big fan of this franchise and I was looking forward to this house. I thought they did a really good job telling the story and producing high quality sets all the way through.
The last house we had to hit before we focused on 2nd walk throughs and shows was Havoc. I thoroughly enjoyed the original version of this house so I was looking forward to seeing what they would do this time. Unfortunately I don't think it was as solid this time around as it originally was. I thought some of the actors put a heck of a show forward and some of the sets were really cool but I left slightly disappointed.
We'd managed to hit all 8 haunted houses and only had to use our express passes on about half of the houses. My girlfriend really wanted to see the Rocky Horror tribute show and I had to see B&T before leaving and there were some houses we wanted to try and hit again since we hadn't had to use our express passes. Thankfully it was still early enough that this was all possible! We went right over to American werewolf and hit that house a 2nd time utilizing our express passes. The 2nd time was just as awesome as the first time. I once again thoroughly enjoyed it and was able to focus more on the sets and get more out of it.
After our second walk of werewolf it was time to grab another drink and get a good spot for the Rocky Horror tribute show. We both had recently gotten into seeing the live stage shows in Tampa on Saturday nights so we were both looking forward to seeing Universal's job of truncating the movie down into a 30 minute show. We were both blown away! The entire production was sensational! The audience participation, the performers, everything was great! We both thoroughly enjoyed the show and wished we'd had more time to try and see it a 2nd time. My only complaint is that there was no Meatloaf!
We were lining ourselves up to see the last B&T of the night but we had a little bit of time to spare. We thought about trying to re-do another house but we didn't want to risk not getting a good seat so we once again grabbed another drink and queued up nice and early and got primo seats just behind all the reserved seating center stage. As always I enjoyed the slightly risqué comedy and the general adult theme of everything but I felt like it wasn't what it had been in years past. Not my favorite year of B&T but not my least favorite either.
We had just enough time to see 1 more haunted house before the event closed at midnight and since I got to see American werewolf twice my girlfriend wanted to see La Llorona again, and just as the first time we enjoyed it just as much.
The scare zones overall were ok. I know Universal is all about riding The Walking Dead train as far as they can but enough is enough as far as I'm concerned. You've got a haunted house, all the scare zones and most of the merchandise was brandished with TWD. Maybe if I were a bigger fan of the series my opinion would be different, but meh it's my opinion. I enjoyed the scare zones for what they were. There was definitely a few stand out actors and they did a good job with the little mini shows or whatever you'd like to call them but overall they were just ok. I was excited to see the chainsaw drill team again and watching them torment the crowd will always be a favorite of mine.
Overall I was very pleased with the event and definitely stoked I was able to make it out this year. I'm truly looking forward to continuing my visitation of the event for years to come!
Here's how the cards fell for me:
1. American Werewolf
2. Cabin in the Woods
3. Evil Dead
4. La Llorona
5. Resident Evil
6. After Life
7. The Walking Dead