Before I start letting it all out there, I just want to go on the record and state that I have the utmost respect for Universal Creative, it's directors, and Universal as a company. It's a hard job toput on such an amazing event that takes a team and a lot of other factors. I am not one of those bitter "the old days were the best" kind of people and I go every year to the event and I love it. I will continue to go. Having said that, this post is about the change of overall quality since the departure of James Michael-Roddy as Head Creative Director.
I personally feel that Mike Aiello isn't the guy for this job. Since the year he took control of the event and when Roddy moved over to Disney, HHN has seen major changes. Some good some bad. I feel that there is a huge difference between being a fan and being an innovator. Murdy out in Hollywood is a "fan" and by fan I mean that he isn't capable of creating fresh ideas. He loves so many horror properties and just wants to replicate them. He does nothing on a deeper level. That is why, again in my opinion, that Hollywood is never as strong as Orlando and the reason Hollywood often repeats their scarezones and houses on a yearly basis. For Aiello, I believe he is a "fan" as well. It wasn't until he took control that we saw a spike in IP houses. I have no problem with IP's as they can often be great and draw a large number of crowds. I know that a lot of this is probably out of Aiello's hands because Marketing has a pretty large say. The problem I have is that for the first time in HHN history we are starting to see repeats of these houses and scarezones. American Werewolf in London was great but to have the exact same house done within only a couple years felt very stale. I'll skip Walking Dead because we al know that was all strictly marketing's call. But The Purge? There isn't much you can do to change it or make it fresh. The lack of ideas are starting to pile up. 2 years of a Purge scarezone withing a few years, a Purge house (because Scream fell through), and now Purge represented in another house. Really?
The Scarezones have become more like mini-shows since Aiello took over. Especially this year. It seems like the actors are instructed to put on a show instead of actually trying to scare people. They even have stages to do shows. It's cool and all but if you can't blend the scares with the shows than it's pointless. Everything has become a photo-op and show. This year it seems that almost all of the scarezones are photo-ops with shows. I do love it when the scareactors won't pose for pics. Every zone this year has a "show" and it's way overused. Use that energy on maybe actually scaring people.
The Music. Since the departure of Roddy, the music has gone from an eerie sountrack to an upbeat party soundtrack. Heck, even last year I saw on some boards that people were complaining about it and magically within the first few weeks the soundtrack at the event had changed to be a little more creepy. I feel like Aiello treats the event as a party and not a horror event. Also, every year before Aiello took over, the music was different. Now the past 3 years I have heard the same carnival song. It worked for 25 and 26 but this year? What the hell. It was playing near Blumhouse. Gone are the eerie scores from Midnight Syndicate or Nox Arcana. The atomosFEAR has changed drastically. Everything is just lacking.
The Facades have drastically changed. This year is probably the year with the least. A cutout for HIVE. No real facade for The Shining. No facade for SAW. The list goes on and on. When Roddy ran the event, the entrances were grand and exciting. Some of this carried over into HHN 21, the year after he left, but it eventually transformed into the Aiello standard.
I don't want to keep going on and on so I'll end it with the most over talked about topic. The Icons and story. Since Aiello took control there hasn't been a memorable icon or story for us hardcore fans. Everything is just thrown together with a loose tie or no tie-in at all. Again, the difference between fan and innovator. When Kenny Babel and James Michael-Roddy ran the show things were original and actually had a layer of fear and creative stories and icons. They would even make amazing queue and archway videos. Fear may have sucked as an icon but at least he had a cool story that tied other icons together along with a video to explain it. This year, it's like they wanted to do some festival theme but never followed through with it. It makes little sense.
Year by year Orlando becomes more and more like Hollywood's event. 25 was a step in the right direction of creative and innovative. The perfect blend of new and old. 27 has been three steps back. I think Aiello is a great guy and loves horror. I just don't think he's the right guy for the job. The event has become less scary and more like a party. A party I will continue to go to and enjoy but I am definitely ready for somebody fresh to take over. Somebody that knows what Horror Nights is really all about.