After attending the event twice now, I feel like I am firm in my opinions of the event. On Saturday we experienced each maze once, and on Thursday we pretty much hit up every maze 3 times because of walk ons. My opinions changed so much after truly taking in all of the details and having both excellent and awful run throughs of each maze. As a whole, this year is disappointing to me. It's simply a stepping stone above 2017 in terms of detail. Since 2010 I have been attending Halloween Horror Nights for the sensation of walking through my favorite films. I relish in feeling like I am actually IN the locations from my favorite films. I love walking into rooms adorned with furniture and miscellaneous items that make the space feel lived in. You can imagine, then, my hatred of BLACK HALLS. I truly hate them. If a maze has more than two I'm automatically annoyed and docking points. I'm one of those people. So in order for me not to repeat the same criticism of black hallways every other sentence, just note that every maze had black halls and therefore no maze was perfect in my eyes. Let's begin from my lowest rated to my highest rated:
The Horrors of Blumhouse: Chapter 2
I adore Blumhouse as a whole, but these properties are my least favorites. I admit I walked in with low expectations. The Truth or Dare segment is the strongest one. The church is a great setting and the scares with the nun are good. I also liked the sound design in this portion. Too bad it was so short. Unfriended did not work as a maze. Every mask in this portion was HORRENDOUSLY bad. The eyeballs make everyone look like a cartoon character, from the demon friend to the hair curler and eye gouge deaths. The bedrooms were not detailed enough and all scare actors felt a bit far away from you (though I do like a variety of room sizes). There were SOOOO many black halls and it feels as if half of this maze is black halls, especially before and after Unfriended. The Girl section is odd and never worked for me. It's not very scary and the demon is just random. And of course we have a bland boo hole ending. This maze never made me jump more than once in any run through, and even when my group was the only one walking through we were not scared at all.
I give Blumhouse a 2/10.
The First Purge
This one started out so strong with real tension, and then just fizzled out. The set design is incredibly forgettable and no memorable scenes are utilized from the film. Again, I hated the masks in this one, especially Skeletor's mask. The only redeeming factor is the cast who really got into their groove later in the season and had a ton of energy. I actually got a few scares in this maze. But still, it never reaches the potential that the property allows it to and you can tell this maze got the short end of the stick. This maze doesn't even have an ending, which is bizarre.
I give The First Purge a 3/10.
I had SO much hope while watching the on board video. It truly encapsulated what the mood of the terror tram should be. We want some fun mixed in with some brutal kills and maybe even a few scares. Right away the tram just gives up. The random sequences seemed great on paper to add variety but it all just feels random when walking through. You can overhear more observant guests asking what is supposed to be happening. I have no idea either ma'am. It's crazy how they reuse the same route, complete with the same fence near war of the worlds and the same small building near the exit. SWITCH IT UP! I miss things like the Scream mini maze in front of Bates Motel and the cargo shipping container things from 2016.
I give the Terror Tram a 3/10.
Trick r Treat
This was my top anticipated maze. I wanted a TrT maze for yeeeeears and what did we get? An entire maze of black halls with minimal set design. The first two thirds are just black walls with maybe some picket fencing or foliage, but it still doesn't feel complete. The amount of boo hole scares is just sad, as the variety of scares that this property allows for is through the roof. I had so many expectations. I really thought we would walk ON the bus and have the students jump out at us. I thought we would get to see the return of the La Llorona lake. Maybe even recreate the Halloween festivities from the film? Seeing Sam pop out over and over just isn't fun to me. And even though we see most of the characters from the film we do not see them often. I wanted the wolf transformation scene to be sexy and terrifying and moody and atmospheric. Instead we didn't get it at all. The final two rooms in Krieg's house are spectacular. Then it ends. I just can't explain how sad I was when I exited the first time. This is my best friend's favorite because it reminds her of Krampus (she didn't know it was the same director lol) but she has not seen the film and therefore doesn't know what is missing. This doesn't even come close to Krampus in terms of detail. I have officially stopped wishing for my favorite properties to come to HHN because this is what will most likely happen.
I give Trick r Treat a 5/0.
Now we get to the good stuff. Stranger Things is one of my top favorite shows so I was very excited for this maze. I knew it wouldn't be too scary and just wished for some excellent atmosphere, and boy did it deliver. Let's get this out of the way first, which is the first half. It's all black walls with some trees and foliage. This could have been better and admittedly this section is boring and plain to me. But once we enter the house, Hawkins, and the lab, we are transported into the series and it's just amazing. I actually got some good scares in this maze from all scare actors and I feel like it just took them a while to find their scares. Is this maze perfect? Nope. I wish we only had one room in the forest. I wish half of the maze took place in the Upside Down. I wish the demagorgons had a variety of scares and moving mouths. I wish we had more face actors throughout. Still, I never lost the excitement of alking through those huge sets. If we get a season 2 maze I hope and pray they put some more effort into it and amp up the scares and detail.
I give Stranger Things a 7/10.
I love this classic film and was traumatized when my family finally let me watch it at age 10. I just didn't know how this could be translated into maze form. Well, it worked out in the end. The house is very detailed an sets up some atmosphere from the start. The special effects are excellent and I appreciate that this maze has a bit more variety in the scares than most other mazes. I loved the water effects and the puppets genuinely startled me every time. I'm just never anticipating their massive size and how close they get. I'm also a sucker for the coffin scene. The first time I walked through I was leading a conga line of people and I didn't want to walk through. That is the magic of HHN and that's when I know a maze succeeded at scaring me. The cast here is on fire and I got many scares each and every time. If it weren't for those dang black hallways in the middle of the maze I would have considered this a favorite. Also they really missed potential clown scares and focused a bit too much on the face peeling scene, which I didn't even really think would make it into the maze ironically.
I give Poltergeist an 8/10.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
I was not expecting to love this maze as much as I did. Every single room had me screaming and jumping every single walkthrough. The sets are really good and make me think more fondly of the film, which never left an impression on me. I love the façade and the large scale of the garage in the first room. I love that even though there are black walls, the picket fencing and white sheets are high enough to almost completely cover it. I loved the electrocution scene as well. The cast of scare actors here are on fire every single night and my heart was always racing. I understand that some are jaded by Michael popping out at you in every room and I respect that, as that was what most of my group thought, but I was pretty scared walking through this maze every single time. The layout and design of the maze set a mood that never let's up. It all works very well. I just wish this maze had a proper ending with no boo holes.
I give Halloween 4 an 8/10
WOW. I was hoping this maze would deliver and it definitely did. The atmosphere is palpable because everything comes together perfectly. Slash created a gorgeous moody score that works for every scene. The masks here are perfection and the costuming is great. The scare actors are excellent and understand that often they are acting out a scene rather than trying to pop out at guests. I loved how detailed these sets were and how long the maze felt. I also liked that a variety of environments were used well to help each section feel fresh. I do loathe that one long black hallway as well as the awkward non-scary villager scene. I also think the boo hole scares were cheap and that the maze allowed for a variety of scares that just weren't used. There was also an unbalance with the representation of all of the monsters. Dracula deserved his own segment, as well as the Wolfman. I am guessing that this may come back next year with those segments/ rooms? I miss the House of Horrors, but this felt like a little revival and made my heart happy.
I give Universal Monsters a 9/10.
They were definitely a step in the right direction. I pretty much liked them all equally. Holidays in Hell is essentially a best of HHN scarezone with all the reused props, but it grew on me. Hell's Harvest is a fun entrance scarezone but I just miss the go go dancers so much. It's insulting to keep the cages and just place some props in them. Monster Masquerade is so fun and I pretty much had a photo shoot here because it was so excellently decorated. Trick r Treat has so much potential (see Orlando), but it's cute and it works. Toxic Tunnel gets a lot of hate, but I'd rather have this fun little zone than a plain white boring tunnel. It works. I think we need to work on having more scare zone scare actors and less props rolling out on wheels. Let's take some elements of Knott's Scary Farm and Universal Orlando and try to combine them with something unique to create some excellent atmospheric scare zones.
Overall, this year was good but not great. I really do feel like the team is getting lazy. The black halls are a disaster every single time and the same boo hole ending for every maze is the ultimate letdown. Furthermore all mazes feel smaller in scale compared to the good ol' days of mazes that had some open areas in balance with the smaller, claustrophobic rooms. And I'm really starting to see a decrease in detail. We don't always see small things like keys on a hallway side table or family portraits on the wall and that makes HHN comparable to all other haunts. I only really noticed this in Blumhouse, First Purge and Trick r Treat but I don't want to notice this issue in multiple mazes. This is a year where I am already bored after two trips and that is very sad. I'm going again mostly for my favorites but this year I had much more fun and scares at other haunts. Horror Nights needs to stick to their roots with detailed film quality sets, while also stepping out of the box and using a variety of scare technique. Us veterans can walk into a room and find the curtain or boo holes if we want to. This needs to change.