Hello everybody! This will be my first review on the forums! I've lurked and posted occasionally on the forums so I figured I'd contribute something back. I haven't been going to these as long as some of the veterans on the board, so I figured writing a review might give a fresher insight on the event as a whole. I've only gone the previous 4 years, and this will be my 5th year of attending HHN. Think of it as a review to celebrate my 5th year attending. It might be my last for a while depending on my future prospects so I might as well write about one of my favorite years out of the 5 years I have attended. I'm going to talk about the general experience, and then grade each maze as well. I'll give a final grade to the event at the end of the review. I liked to be detailed, so be forewarned if you don't like a long read! Now that the introduction's out of the way, lets get to the review!
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MAZES IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN, BE WARNED.
Halloween Horror Nights 2016, Sunday, October 2nd
Beginning of the night/Early Entry
I had entered the park during the day with my group using my annual pass. They all had Day/Night combos and received a wristband, however when I attempted to ask Guest Relations if I could get a wristband or have some way of staying within the park, they told me I just had to walk over to the gate and get my ticket scanned. I asked if I had to leave and re-enter, and they told me probably not (Warning sign that I didn't listen to). Come around 5 PM I find I have to exit, re-enter security, then wait in line for early entry. Wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't for the fact that Early Entry is WIDELY advertised now, and makes it almost appear to be general entry at this point. The last few years Early Entry felt like a real early entry since not many people used it. But now that capacities are hitting maximum, I think USH is trying to get people in whenever they can. The crowd was almost like general entry and took me nearly 40 minutes to get back in the park. Probably one of the only major gripes of the night, but it didn't really ruin my momentum! I made a quick dash to catch up with my group and we went to the back lot to start the night!
The Main Course
American Horror Story
Advertised Wait-time: 10 minutes
Actual Wait-time: 10 minutes
This was the first maze I hit for the night since I knew the lines were going to get immense by the end of the night, and I didn't think I would have time nor the stamina to drag my group back to the backlot. The maze was practically a walk-on when it opened up around 5:45 PM. First thing I noticed is the facade to the place, it looked a little cheesy to me with just the cut outs of the characters. But, it didn't deter me too much. Entering the red curtains made it very interesting since it felt like I was entering a movie or screen and made the immersion into a show pretty interesting. The facades for each part were awesome, and I appreciated the fact that you got to hear the theme song and saw the intro in the little screens. Again, it continued to make me feel like I was entering the show itself through a television. Murder House was interesting, and I thought the scares were pretty good. I enjoyed seeing the Piggy murderer, and the Vinyl suit, and even Larry and his burnt household. However, I missed the doctor operating since the curtain was unfortunately closed the whole time I passed it (They just closed it too!). Entering into Freakshow was awesome, and I enjoyed the Twisty's in the woods. The Twisty right before the actual Freakshow tent looked a little slim for the character, but he had a good energy scaring the girl in front of me! The Dandy inside the tent had an awesome presence, and it made it recognizable for me that it was supposed to be him. Definitely my favorite part of the maze like everyone. I especially enjoyed the cymbal monkey at the end. Hotel dropped off a bit for me, I didn't really enjoy the season that much so that might have added. The scareactors were still fantastic and the Lady Gaga actresses particularly liked attacking me. There was a strange room that was completely empty right before entering the hallway with the Infected Hotel guests, so I'm wondering if there was somebody that just happened to be missing there. Overall, the energy was great, and it did a good job condensing 3 seasons into one maze. Unfortunately I was squeezed between two groups (not my own) that got scared more than me, so they were targeted more than myself. As a result, I missed a lot of scares, so it dropped the grade a bit for me.
Advertised Wait-time: 30 minutes
Actual Wait-time: 15 minutes
This maze was probably my favorite of the night. I just enjoy the idea of a twisted Christmas, or Christmas gone horribly wrong. Something about the juxtaposition of holiday cheer and horror really delights me. Anyways the facade is simply gorgeous. I got into it during the day, so it wasn't completely lit up, but passing by it at night after FvJ made it look 100 times more amazing. The frozen delivery guy was great, and gave me a present when I whispered the secret code to him :). The first room, while a little barren, really set-up the climax of the movie when Krampus basically invades the house. The kid's feet in the chimney got me with a good laugh, and the elf in that room got me good since I was paying more attention to the fire place. The gingerbread room was awesome, and while I wish there were more scares there, the design was simply superb. I had the most enjoyment out of the attic scene with all the demented toys. The actors being attacked did a great job of conveying their own fear, and that last doll, even though I was ready for it because I could see it, still caught me off guard with the timing since it appeared like I wouldn't trigger it until the last minute when I did! The gust of cold while entering the outside was awesome, and I enjoyed the snowmen attacking me. I personally didn't expect the whole thing to move so that made me jump a little bit when I thought it was going to fall on me! The only thing I wished the outside scene had was a way to represent the monster that's hidden in the snow that eats everyone in the movie! The scene with Krampus was cool, and the elves again got me since I was so fixated on the hell hole! The hall before the last scene totally left me unnerved because I simply didn't know what was going to happen and walking through it was difficult. The final scene was just icing on the cake, and I enjoyed the smells and final scare of the room. Really great way to end the maze. I really enjoyed the movie, so I knew I would enjoy this maze a lot. Other than it feeling a little barren in places, the set design and monster design gave this maze my title of favorite of the year.
Freddy Vs. Jason
Advertised Wait-time: 50 minutes
Actual Wait-time: 35 minutes
The wait times in the backlot were giving me hope that the rest of the night would be super smooth (Boy I was wrong, but more on that later). The facade for this maze was simply awesome, and it definitely made me feel like I was about to enter one Freddy's nightmares. I have to say, the actors in this maze did a good job, especially considering the temperatures of some of these rooms. So major props to any of them. I enjoyed the little Freddy at the beginning lying on the floor trying to be sexy. I had seen the FvJ movie, so I was glad to find while it felt like some of the stuff in their mental battle from the movie was there, it felt like it was still original like Murdy had intended it to be. I got a hoot out of Freddy saying "BITCH" a lot for some reason. Must be due to the parody of him from Rick and Morty. Anyways, him torturing poor little Jason made me feel for the Machete slasher himself, but it really setup for the next scenes. Getting to Camp Crystal Lake was awesome, and Jason's menacing appearance and constant attacks kept me on my toes. Even the scene with his mother, and him without his mask got me good. Who knew a screaming old lady with a shovel would make a 24-year-old man jump a little! The boiler room scenes were intense (And quite warm), and I really enjoyed the use of the disappearing walls. The final fights with them swinging at me was cool the first time, then it seemed a little repetitive. But I enjoyed it nonetheless! The finale was great, and it ended with Jason being the winner. Apparently according to other people in my group, the body of Freddy got up and chased them out. I missed it though since I was leading the charge. Overall, great maze, and I think it captured the essence of these two characters very well. The only problems I had was a little repetition of the scares didn't set well completely with me.
Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
Advertised Wait-time: 60 minutes
Actual Wait-time: ~140 minutes
Unfortunately, this maze was the decline in getting things done efficiently and with plenty of time to spare. The advertised wait we got upon entering the maze was about 60 minutes. Little did we know it must have not been updated recently and this became the longest wait of the night. I don't know what happened, but by golly this wait almost ruined all my plans for my group that night! Anyways, a little foresight about the maze from my perspective: I haven't been able to watch Halloween 2 (I intend this Halloween season), so my friend was the master in explaining things that happen in this maze. Regardless, the facade was cool despite it being essentially a repeat of last year's. However, I won't knock it too much since like Halloween 2, it is a direct sequel to the previous maze and has it take place on the same night. I thought the scenes in the alley were cool, I only wish the police weren't behind the fence and that we could actually see them. But it made sense. The kid that received a razor apple was also cool, I only wished it was an actual actor that walked up to you! The hospital scenes were great, and the Michael actors were really on top of being this man who is pure evil! The first scene got me good with him coming out from behind rather than right in your front. I enjoyed the ones that made me have to look over my shoulder and turn fast. The water room scene was awesome, and my friend that loved the movie got a hoot remembering that scene. The final scenes with the pumpkins were amazing. I just loved the overall look and feel of the scene with Mr. Sandman playing in the background. The final scenes were intense and I think the Giant Skull pumpkin is the first time I've just went "WOW" in a maze. This would probably be my 2nd favorite maze of the night, and would probably be my first if I had watched the movie prior.
Eli Roth Presents: Terror Tram
Advertised Wait-time: 50 minutes
Actual Wait-time: ~42 minutes
The time it took for us to get on the tram and back, gave me a little more hope that the rest of the night was going to go great and that we had a possibility to make it through the rest of the mazes. I enjoyed the story behind this, and the drive there was kind of fun since I enjoyed the spooky song they had playing as you rode there. The actors at the start were great, and really enjoyed attacking me. I don't know what it was, but they really liked me this time, despite not getting a super big reaction! The Bates Motel part was great, and I liked the effort they went to making this a stronger terror tram. The victim was a cool part, and I thought it would have been cooler if she was in a USH jacket or shirt or something to represent the guides going missing. Nonetheless, I enjoyed that portion. The flasher was also great, and a good character to have up the hill. However, I got stuck with the extra path with nothing really on it, and felt like I missed a lot. It got us through faster, but I felt pretty annoyed I didn't have a choice. In the end, we hit all the paths that had practically nothing on it. Luckily the energy of the actors made up a bit for it. Felt much better than before, but still wasn't SUPER IMPRESSIVE. However, if they continue in the direction like this, I can see it getting much better.
Advertised Wait-time: 140 minutes
Actual Wait-time: ~50 minutes
After the Terror Tram, the time was around 11. And with the current wait-times for The Exorcist and TCM, we had to make a choice whether we wanted to do The Exorcist or TCM, because we would probably not be able to make both. My group unanimously decided on The Exorcist. We got in line, and surprisingly it wasn't too far back, and it moved super quickly. First thing's first, the facade was probably the best next to Krampus for me. It really captured the iconic scene of the Priest's arrival. Upon entering the house, I was assaulted with a smell from another dimension. It was horrible, and honestly the only maze throughout the night to have a truly horrible smell. The spider walk was pretty dang cool, but I didn't get to see it in action as I missed it actually descending the stairs as I entered the next room. Now, the black spaces were annoying to have, but I liked the scares in them. While it got super predictable that there would be scares in them, they made up for it with intensity, and guessing who would pop out. Whether it was Pazuzu/Captain Howdy, or Regan, it kept me on my toes because of how uncomfortable I felt being the presence of those things. The actual scenes of the bedroom were great, and the puke spraying was pretty cool. The priests looked a bit funny since they had like a mask to make them look older, but it was cool nonetheless. I was got pretty good when a Pazuzu actor attacked me from my left, and then the possessed Regan flew at me immediately after that. It was a great 1-2 punch and I enjoyed that a lot. The final scene with the Pazuzu statue was pretty cool, but he wouldn't move for me :(. I again enjoyed the use of the disappearing walls that Pazuzu was behind, and the final scare was a great way to end the maze. It was pretty much the favorite for my entire group, and while it wasn't my FAVORITE, I enjoyed it very much. Despite the initial reaction, I'm pleased to say it has really shaped up to be an awesome maze. My only problems were the predictability of the scares in the black rooms and the black rooms in general.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers
Advertised Wait-time: 60/70 minutes
Actual Wait-time: ~110 minutes
Again, another unfortunate event where the advertised times were completely changed once we entered the actual queue. It happens, but it just sucked since my group and I were pretty dead by the time we got into it. We lost a lot of spirit upon entering the Waterworld part of the line. It was probably a bad sign when the signs around USH was 60 minutes but the one outside was 70 minutes. Again, the energy for the actors here were AMAZING. Especially at this point in the night. Major kudos to this maze's actors. Anyways, upon entering the maze, I thought the facade was neat, it felt cool because there was no true "entrance" or sign before the facade, so it really felt like it was in it's own little world. The first actor that played who I'm assuming is the Old Man/Drayton, did a good job of mocking us upon Leatherface scaring the crap out of my tired group. Most of us definitely woke up for the rest of the maze. I have to say the claustrophobia of this maze impressed me. I felt way too close to things, and it was definitely adding to the tension and fear. The first scene of Leatherface sawing up the actor on the table was awesome because I felt so close to the action and it didn't feel like a little set-piece I was viewing from off-stage but I felt like I was on-stage with the actors! The rest of the maze was intense with Leatherface's random attacks, and even different masks. I really enjoyed the scene with the Chop Top and the Grandpa was great, and I enjoyed the actors dancing around. I joined them a bit, but the grandfather started swatting at me with his hammer. Must have hated me! The weird trippy scene with Chop Top was pretty cool, and I didn't mind the Neon/3D type paintings at all. If anything it added to the atmosphere of that room specifically. Overall, the maze was great, and I thought an improvement over Saw is the Law which I enjoyed in 2012 a lot! This is coming from someone who did not get to experience Back in Business, but I gotta say this TCM maze was top notch. If I had hit it earlier in the night I feel like I might have enjoyed it a bit more.
The Purge Scarezones
Overall, I enjoyed the Scarezones this year. Party in the USA being blasted in the backlot portion was hilarious, and the actors were very strong down there. The Gauntlet was definitely my favorite, and I liked the overall length and feel of it. My favorite character in there was definitely the Chainsaw-wielding Bunny. Finally, the Entrance scarezone was cool, but didn't feel super impressive. Overall, I enjoyed the scarezones, but I wished they still kept variety in and didn't keep it solely to The Purge.
The Walking Dead Attraction
Advertised Wait-time: 5 minutes
Actual Wait-time: ~10 minutes
I didn't get to go on this during the actual event, so I decided to just add in the final section of my review. I went into this maze right before I had to leave to do Early Entry. Since I started coming to HHN at the time they first started doing The Walking Dead mazes, I enjoyed seeing their evolution. While it had its ups and downs it was always awesome to walk through that world I enjoyed in the comics and TV show. I could tell they took the best pieces from the older mazes and incorporated some new elements and characters. Overall, it was a fun little romp, but nothing too impressive and it had a very "Been there, done that" vibe.
For the last 5 years, I have enjoyed coming to Halloween Horror Nights. As soon as mazes started getting announced in the year, I couldn't stop counting the days until I set foot into these damned grounds again. I usually went with a friend who always came along, but since he moved to Taiwan, this was the first year I went without him! It felt weird in that sense and it bummed me out a lot that he honestly missed probably my favorite year I've been so far. Each year always had a "Meh" maze for me, but I never left any of these mazes feeling that. I felt like each maze was done so well, and with so much care and attention to details, that I felt like it was probably the best year yet. It still isn't perfect by any means, but perfection is never achievable, and if it was, that would get boring! I like to see it get better and better each year. I can't wait to see what's in store in the future. As I said in the beginning, it might be my last time going to USH for a while, since I'm trying to get a job in Japan. So if I get that I'll be missing it next year, hopefully I can try to go to the one there in Japan. Regardless, this was an awesome year, and probably the first time I've considered buying another ticket on a different night to go again!
Final grade: A
I hope you enjoyed reading my review as much as I enjoyed writing it :). Hope everyone's spooky season continues to dish out the scares and haunts!