This is a review of my Opening Night (9/23) experience. It contains spoilers for those worried so wanted to warn just in case.
So this year for the first time ever (or since 2006 when I first got to go to HHN) I decided to go to Halloween Horror NIghts more than one night. With my brother's girlfriend and assorted other friends only able to go on October 21, we were worried about being able to see all of the houses. So we decided that opening night would be a great time to go as well and we dragged our friend Rachel with us. For background my brother is 6'3" but still gets scared even when girls half his size surprise him at the event, while Rachel is pretty jumpy so is amusing to go around with. For this reason, in all of the houses I went first, followed by Rachel who likes to be surrounded so people can't sneak up on her.
She and I both have annual passes so we decided to do the AP event to get in the park at 5. We got to Universal at 5, and after picking up our tickets at will call and getting our wristbands we were in the parks by 5:15. I really applaud the workers doing the wristbands since it was a long line when we got into it, but they were really organized and got through quickly. We headed directly towards the Kidzone and passed through 7 and Grown Evil without scareactors. Grown Evil looked amazing even with the light and no fog. But since there was no one to scare us yet we headed to our first house, The Forsaken. The wait said 10 minutes and it was about that long. At the front of the line right before going in we had a small chat with a police woman. She had gone through without scareactors in the house because she is a little jumpy as a night cop, but loved the look of the house. We were even more excited and went into the house.
The Forsaken (5:20)
This house was beautiful. The sets for the most part were amazing. There weren't many scares in the first couple of rooms, I saw the conquistador in the jail cell but he never tried to scared while we were near. The ghost sailors looked awesome, but I agree with the complaint that it's too easy to see them with the eyes so they can't get many surprise scares. I don't think any of them actually actually scared me, but they definitely got Rachel a few times cause she was pushing me trying to run away so they did their job. The chapel room was awesome and I loved the hurricane going on outside the "windows" here and the ghosts appearing at the windows. I didn't think anything in the house would top that until I got to the courtyard. WOW. It was raining in there, the wind was blowing and the whole scene was so big it almost made me forget I was in the parade building. The actors in here were good and played it well so that you couldn't tell which ones were real until they struck for the scare. The final scene on the ship was pretty great, but I could see issues happening here with people walking on the deck. Either way, the actors here had so much energy and were awesome. I had a great time in this house and loved almost every aspect of it even if there were only a few scares. If they could add more actors this could easily be one of the most memorable houses I've been through.
We got out of the house and immediately got in line for the In-Between. Now the only 3-D house I had ever been in before this was Jack's Funhouse in Clown-O-Vision. While I enjoyed that house for what it was, it didn't leave me with a good impression of 3-D. For this reason I wasn't very excited about the house, but I was definitely going to give it a fair chance. After about a 15 minute wait we got into the house.
The In-Between (5:40)
The 3-D here worked better than I expected. It started outside with the facade seeming to pop out at me. The dorm room opening was cool, kinda reminded me of my old dorm room, and the rune game from the website was sitting there open with the runes all glowing. I never get disoriented in the tunnel, but both Rachel and my brother had to shut their eyes and hold on to me to get through it, and the Ops lady was yelling down it to get people to just look at their feet to make it through. I can easily see drunk people getting sick in there. In the rest of the house, it just seemed like the actors were a part of the walls and popped out everywhere. The laser room was awesome and I think I walked through it with my mouth wide open the whole time amazed. And the floorless room was a really cool effect, and the actor right at the beginning had so much energy as we were passing him going for scares at everyone. I loved the dorm room at the end looking possessed by the In-Betweenness but missed the final scare that first time. Either way I left that house with a great impression and loved all of the effects in the house.
While we were waiting in line, they were just opening the line for Nevermore so we headed there next. The line was actually formed outside of the queue entrance and the sign said it was a 25 minute wait. While we were in line it started to rain a little bit, but since we were all born and raised in Florida that little amount of rain didn't faze us at the time and we stayed waiting for probably my most anticipated house. I remember in 2nd grade my teacher reading us Masque of the Red Death which terrified me at the time. And in high school we read a ton of Poe and even went to a play series that included The Fall of the House of Usher once, so I was excited and a little apprehensive about scares. The rain was stopping as we entered the house.
Nevermore: The Madness of Poe (6:10)
I loved the look of the facade, but it seemed like the pages were peeling off already as I could see what looked like foil peeking out, so I hope that won't be a problem later on in the event. The first room set up things nicely and I loved the feeling that we were following him throughout his nightmares, seemingly the same Poe throughout the house. The Tell-Tale Heart room was huge but I think we just missed the scares. I never saw the Red Death in that room, but the dancing actors were jumping out with good timing and got a few people I saw. The ravens were pretty cool looking too. In the Cask of Amontillado room the Poe got a startle out of me by hitting his trowel on the bricks as I passed. I think we just missed something in the finale, because the lights went out as I left the room, but the house was still pretty great. I don't know if I'd wait an hour to see it again, but I definitely hope I get another chance to go through it.
By the time we were done they had let people into the park, but were holding them in front of Grown Evil until 6:30 I think. However there were actors in Grown Evil and we walked through it to go towards the soundstages. We were pretty much alone in it and all of the actors came after us despite the lack of fog and it still being light out. The costumes here were beautiful and the actors have their groove already, especially everyone with wings. They were great and I knew we had to see this again when it was dark. We got to the soundstages and got in a 10 minute line for Winter's Night. I told a few people that I was secretly terrified of this house because as a kid I was definitely afraid of death and dead bodies. So I was a little worried that I would end up screaming like a little girl here. However I was hoping to see the Weeping Angel here from my favorite episode of Doctor Who, so I pushed on.
Winter's Night: Haunting of Hawthorn Cemetery (6:30)
The facade looked amazing and the horse drawn hearse out front was really cool. I loved the snowy effects and it was definitely a good deal colder in here than outside so it gave it a good setting. The Weeping Angel at the beginning looked pretty cool, but scared right in front of us. There was a photographer in the house right after this scene taking pictures of people getting scared, but that didn't distract for too long. Soon I got my first real big scare of the night. There was a scene where you walk past a number of crypts and one looks to be opened with a ladder going underground to a grave with a skeleton. Well I was mesmerized by the scene and when I finally looked back to go forward, there was a bride staring right in my face, making me jump backwards. There was a great scare from above that I didn't expect at all right after this. I loved the look of the groundskeeper's shack in the middle of the house and he popped out from seemingly nowhere right at us. The finale was so open and looked like we were really outside, and I loved looking to the left in the room and spotting Mary Shaw's tombstone from Dead Silence in the corner. This was a really great house and should be experienced by everyone.
We left and went towards The Thing. I was hoping to see some of Acid Assault, but no one was there yet and the projections weren't started. So we got in line with a 5 minute wait. I was disappointed with The Thing: Assimilation back in 2007 so I wasn't sure about this one, but with the trailers and sneak peeks of the movie I've seen I was holding out hope especially for the scene where the thing popped out of the ice (even though I had no idea how they could pull that off in the house).
The Thing (6:40)
The facade here looked great and I loved more snow. The actors here were very intense and sold that they were being attacked by this alien creature. One girl in a room was standing still looking scared until a thing attacked. She had a pistol in her hand which shot at the creature and the sound was really loud and got a small scare from me. I loved how they did the ice block scene and the finale was pretty intense. The sets here were all pretty great, and altogether this was so much better to me than the house in 07.
We got into a 15 minute wait for Nightingales next. While in line it started to rain, and as we walked inside it was picking up, so we knew what we had waiting at the end here, but still were ready for the house.
Nightingale's Blood Prey (6:55)
The trench looked awesome and there was a Nightingale above attacking a soldier almost as soon as we were in the house. I was hoping the war sounds would have been louder in the house, but it still seemed to put us right in the middle of things which was cool. The tent scene was great and had at least one victim reaching out for help that I remember and then the Nightingale walking over the dead bodies got a good scare from me. The finale was cool and the gun shooting air was a nice effect. I hope to be able to do this house again to be able to see the scenes again.
As we expected we exited to a downpour. Everyone was congregating under the roofs in the soundstage area, but we realized that it was going to get crowded there quickly so we braved the rain and went to the Mummy. There was absolutely no wait, so we did the ride and the fire and wind actually dried me off slightly which was nice. We realized that the rain couldn't last so we waited it out in the arcade and gift shop area, and just before 8 it slowed enough for us to go out. Although the plan had been to go through the scarezones at this point, we thought they wouldn't be open because of the rain, so went towards Holidays of Horror. The sign said it was a 5 minute wait, and it wasn't even that long. I wish we could have had a little longer to see the queue video, but we did get to see the end of Valentine's I believe, the Fourth of July and part of Easter (I might be getting these wrong, but definitely saw all of Fourth of July). Anyway, before long we were in the house.
H.R. Bloodngutz: Holidays of Horror (8:00)
The facade here was pretty great and I loved little nods of being channel 21 and WHHN. The first room had no scares, but H.R. was interacting with people in line and making some good jokes. I thought the Easter room was pretty cool with the eggs moving up and the Fearster Bunny popping out at us. I had to tell everyone what the Arbor Day room was, but the girl at the buzzsaw was demented and that tree was amazing when it popped out. We got stuck in the Christmas room, but the scenery here was awesome. The elves kept up the scares even though we were stopped and they kept up a great energy. We just missed the final elf scare and I had to explain to my brother that there weren't actually 2 elves in that room, it was just a nice mirror trick. Anyway, this was obviously the joke house, but I still enjoyed and still want to experience it again.
We headed towards Saw n Steam and the sign said 0 minutes. We later realized that this was because the house had been flooded and wasn't open right away. People had stayed in line anyway, so once it finally opened we had about a 45 minute wait anyway. We had hoped to at least be in the house by the time Bill and Ted started at 8:45, but just missed and heard the opening songs, even though we did tune out most of the jokes. We got in the house though before anything big was ruined.
Saws N Steam: Into the Machine (8:50)
I loved the Saws N Steam zone last year so was looking forward to this even though it was in Jaws. The first scene with the posters on the scrim was pretty crazy and a lot of the scenes following were cool. The whole thing felt like a machine and I loved the fish tanks of flesh. I wasn't expecting the hallway with the water effect (where the fire was last year) and got splashed. The actor behind the waterfall looked spooky with his goggles and the chainsaw was extremely surprising. The actor at the exit was scaring everyone as we left and that was a great end.
With all the houses done we decided to go through the scarezones next so headed towards Canyon of Lost Souls. This was so claustrophobic and the actors were amazing here. They seemed to come from nowhere despite their skull heads and I loved the light effects they turned on when they went for the scare. This was tied for my favorite scarezone and we did it three more times later in the night. Grown Evil was even more amazing in the fog at night and I know I got a few startles here with actors right in front of me. I loved the whole look of this zone and was my other favorite.
We headed towards 7 next and I believe they were in their second stages. The girls on the stages definitely drew you in to distract and their minions were seemingly everywhere getting scares. The Greed minions were awesome with the money stuffed in their mouths. One time during the night one of the gluttony minions growled in my ear, while the other moved right in my face to scare me, definitely making me uncomfortable. We went towards Mel's through Nightmaze next and I really liked the shaped actors outside, getting in the way. I only got one gate shut near me and barely any scares, but I can see some potential here and hope it gets better next time I go.
We got to Acid Assault next and this zone seemed full of actors. They blended in really great and surprised me a few times. I loved watching the buildings crumble and we sat there watching it a few times and watching the actors scare, they were doing great jobs. We then walked through Your Luck Has Run Out. It was nice to be able to see Lady Luck, but you could see a few of them at the same time, so kind of killed the illusion. The guard were great and their staffs effect was cool. Although the bad Lady Luck's masks kind of sucked, one of them popped out of dense fog right next to me giving me a pretty good scare and a probably audible scream that never happens. It wasn't the greatest zone, but it obviously has potential for scares.
It was around 9:30 then, so we headed back and saw the Canyon of Lost Souls cast change and headed towards Bill and Ted for the 10 o'clock show. Bill and Ted was alright, some of the jokes fell flat and although a lot of people cheered the bin Laden jokes, I saw more than a few leave when he came out. (Also, what happened to the "Mission Accomplished For Realz" banners there were pictures of, the saying came on the screen but the banners would have been a better joke?) Eric from True Blood played the part perfectly though which was great. I also think Charlie Sheen was spot on. I enjoyed the show enough, but wouldn't be too upset if I didn't see it again.
We decided that we could get a few houses done again after the show and went to The Forsaken at 11:00. The actors were still energetic and going after scares and this time I got to really enjoy the scenery. Unfortunately the rain seemed to be off in that scene and it didn't help convey hurricane weather. Even so, it was still a great house. We did the In-Between next with a 20 minute line and got in at 11:30. The effects still amazed me and when we got to the end, the Ops guy was calling to me trying to get me out of the house and the demons used the opportunity to scare the hell out of me in the finale. That was an awesome ending for that house. We hurried over and did Winter's Night once more at 11:50 and the actors there were working hard too. We had a pair of teenage girls in front of us that were screaming at everything and getting all the scares directed at them, but it let me take in more of the scenery of this amazing house. I still loved it this second time, but want to do it some more to hopefully see all of the effects.
The night ended after that, but I can't wait to go back again. This is probably tied for the second best HHN I've been to and definitely had the most consistent line-up of houses. Sorry this got really long, but thanks for reading.