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zombieman

Hollywood vs Orlando - 2010 comparison review

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Just got back from Orlando, where I went to HHN two nights and Howl-O-Scream for one night.

As a background, know that I have been to every HHN Hollywood since 1992, and the Orlando/HOS events since 2004.

Never before have I seen such a quality difference between the two coasts. For that matter, never have I seen HHN Hollywood compare so badly against Knotts.

I'm afraid that HHN Hollywood is being left in the dust by its competitors, and John Murdy appears to be leading the decline.

I know that USO has the big budget, and that USH is a much smaller park. But in past years, my comparisons have shown that Hollywood made up in Quality what it lacked in Quantity. In 2007, I felt that Hollywood was as a whole superior to Orlando - they just pulled off their houses in a more effective manner. And in 2006, when there was pretty much only the Asylum, I said that that one house was as good as any Orlando had done in the past few years. So Hollywood has proven time and again that even with a smaller budget, they are capable of upstaging their big brother.

So now it's 2010, and Orlando continues to offer a brand new event each and every year. Each of their 8 houses is completely different than prior years. Their theme, while it brings back icons of the past yet again, does not feel recycled. Even the house that is a salute to the past 20 years does not feel like a rehash - it is easily the best house of the event. This year, Orlando tackles an edgy take on a traditional haunted house, a zombie house in a very unique way, Greek mythology, creepy kids, a viral outbreak in a military setting, to name a few. While not all succeed, they each have a definite flair to them as only Universal could do it. The backstories of these houses are incredibly elaborate. The detail is stunning. The talent is in some cases - completely off the wall (I have never seen more intense talent at HHN than I saw in Havoc).

And what's happening on the West Coast, where Knott's unveils two new mazes and one new ride? Where the Queen Mary haunt gets a fresh coat of paint? And where Six Flags....well, Six Flags hasn't done anything new in 10 years. What's happening is that Universal Hollywood is suffering from a bad case of "business as usual". For the third year in a row, customers are subjected to a seemingly random mixture of slasher "icons" that are growing very long in the tooth. What started as a one year New Line Cinema deal has become an endless conveyor belt of the same stuff year after year. Saw returns with a couple of new traps....and Murdy claims it's "NEW!". Freddy returns for the third time and Murdy claims it's "ALL NEW!!". And it was new - so why complain? Well, if you are going to go through the expense of changing a maze layout, why populate it with the same characters? What makes a house "new" is not just the look, but also the feel. That means changing the theme as well. So I refuse to validate this house as "New" at all. Jason makes a return visit as well - and Murdy claims it's "ALL NEW!" - but once again they play fast and loose with the term "new". In what I believe is the ultimate irony, he created a kill that was never even used in a movie, which implies there is no reason to EVER drop the New Line characters - Murdy can create brand new kills for years to come (and maybe New Line will make a movie based on the house!) The Terror Tram - once a mighty facet of HHN - returns for another helping of exactly the same thing. Of course, because there is a different movie playing on the screen, Murdy claims it is "ALL NEW!". How anything can be called All New when it centers around the same character that has been at HHN Hollywood since 1992 is beyond me. On the bright side of HHN Hollywood is surprisingly House of Horrors, which admirably succeeds in taking on a different look and feel, by removing the characters that never belonged in the first place. The last glimmer of hope for this event is House of 1000 Corpses, which delivers in a grand scale. It is really an amazing house, but one great house does not a HHN make. It's too little too late to save the park, and it's a great shame.

So while HHN Hollywood is left completely in the dust when compared to Orlando (for that matter, it's left in the dust compared to Howl-O-Scream), how does it compare to its California competition? Unfavorably, I'm afraid. This is the first year that I have ever said that Knott's owned HHN Hollywood, but it's very true. My justification comes from this: Look at what each park has to offer that's new this year, and you will realize that it's House of 1000 Corpses at HHN versus Sleepy Hollow, Virus-Z, and Fallout Shelter at Knott's. That's really it for the average customer. One versus three. And frankly, the way things have been going at both parks, these new houses will be there a year or two from now. Maybe just go to the cheaper of the two? Maybe go to Queen Mary, where things are supposed to be new because of management change? We know for sure that because of the death of Bob Koritzke there are about three fewer haunts in the LA area competing for business. You'd think that HHN would be going all out to build its market share. Instead, we are seeing even deeper discounts than in past years, which result in higher park attendance - and lower revenue - leading to a lower budget - leading to more of the same. And so it goes.

In my opinion, Murdy has painted himself into a very tight corner this year. What is he supposed to do in 2011? Will he have the budget to create four brand new houses? Is he capable of coming up with any new themes? As much as I did not enjoy Orlando's Catacombs house, I'd take a Hollywood version over another year of Freddy in a New York minute. I'm hungering for anything really new from HHN Hollywood - that means something NEW from A&D - not something from a movie. How creative is it to recreate something from the Big Screen, versus something terrifying from the recesses of your mind? Will we be subjected to Chucky for the 11th time? (seriously - it would be 11 HHN's out of 11). Tight corner indeed.

If you were running the show, and the majority of your customers were finally seeing your event as stale, how would you save yourself in 2011? I've heard alot of untapped movies thrown around on this board. Do you really want that? HHN Hollywood has access to all design plans for every house that Orlando has ever done. Wouldn't you like to see what the big deal was about Scary Tales, Psychoscarepy, Screamhouse, Ship of Screams, Demon Cantina, Hellgate Prison, Deadtropolis, Body Collectors, or Dead Exposure? These were legendary houses - none of which came from a movie. Tweaking these design plans for HHN Hollywood layout would be minimal in cost. The blueprints are completed. The elevations are completed. The backstories are completed. Hell, the costuming is defined. These are TRIED AND TESTED - having gotten endless praise from Orlando crowds, yet seen by 0.0001% of California crowds. Give me one single reason why they should not be brought to California. You'd seriously rather see a Trick R' Treat house?!?!?

Here's my honest opinion - if Murdy was to go to the Orlando vault and bring over the best of the best, it would be an overnight sensation. People would forget all about Knotts, and HHN Hollywood admission prices would double. Sounds good, right? Not if you're Murdy... His superiors would quickly begin to question what his value is to the company. HHN Hollywood would essentially have been outsourced to Orlando, and Murdy's value would have diminished greatly.

No, I have a sickening feeling that as long as he is running the event, we will see more of the same, along with endless tweets trying to convince us how "NEW" everything is. You know, come to think of it, Michael Meyers hasn't been the star of the Terror Tram yet.....I'm smelling something "ALL NEW!!!" And next year in the Shrek tent.......wait for it......Chucky vs Freddy.....vs Jigsaw!!! I'm feelin' it! I'm in the Murdy Zone.

Edited by zombieman

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*APPLAUDS* BRAVO!!!!! BRAVO!!!!!!!

As a Fan of HHN, who's heard TONS of good vibes from the Orlando side..... I was wondering when a HHN Hollywood fan would finally stand up and demand that Murdy uses the mazes that made Orlando such a Legendary event.... as someone who has wanted Murdy to use the Orlando Icons and maze concepts, this post recieves kudos from me..... It saddens me that Murdy, instead of stretching his wings and being creative with maze ideas for HHN, has opted to just keep recycling the same movie characters over and over and over again!! True, we're Hollywood and we should make movies a major part of HHN, that does not equal "Hey let's see how stupid our fans are and recycle the same maze and characters but switch out a room or two and slap a new subtitle on it"... Not at all.......

Edited by horror lover

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I enjoy movie mazes and enjoy that it's what Hollywood is all about. I just don't like them using the same characters over and over again when claiming things are new, as you said. I've never been to Orlando but I've been going to Knotts since 00 and as a So Californian, these movie houses feel much more refreshing than the original ideas at Knotts. I love being able to relate, see scenes before my eyes, and totally feel immersed in my favorite movies. That's why I go to HHN because in all honesty, I don't get scared any more anyway. If it were just all original houses, I wouldn't have much of a reason to go. I'm just there to see the recreations of the sets and other people squirm. I could care less for sets that I know nothing of. I'll elaborate more later because now I must go but I think you see where I'm getting at and I totally understand your guys' VERY valid opinions but this is just mine :)

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I enjoy movie mazes and enjoy that it's what Hollywood is all about. I just don't like them using the same characters over and over again when claiming things are new, as you said. I've never been to Orlando but I've been going to Knotts since 00 and as a So Californian, these movie houses feel much more refreshing than the original ideas at Knotts. I love being able to relate, see scenes before my eyes, and totally feel immersed in my favorite movies. That's why I go to HHN because in all honesty, I don't get scared any more anyway. If it were just all original houses, I wouldn't have much of a reason to go. I'm just there to see the recreations of the sets and other people squirm. I could care less for sets that I know nothing of. I'll elaborate more later because now I must go but I think you see where I'm getting at and I totally understand your guys' VERY valid opinions but this is just mine :)

I can really appreciate what you are saying - I used to believe the same thing myself. Do I really want HHN to put on original houses if they were all like Knotts or Shipwreck? My mind officially changed once I decided to fly east and see what else was out there. When I first discovered The Vault, HHN 13 was in the works, and I saw those wonderful commercials with The Director - you remember, the one where the guy is dressed as a jester and fishhooks on strings were pulling his mouth into a grin? I was stunned that there was a place that did such a thing. And the website promised so much more. I really-REALLY wanted to visit that year, but my wife was pregnant with twins, and was having a very difficult time, so I couldn't get away even for a day. The next year, the HHN website was even better - promising an event spanning both parks. Six houses with full backstories that drew me in. I mean, these backstories painted a picture as good as any movie I had seen, and left me wanting - NEEDING - to go. So 2004 was my first year going to HHN Orlando (my very first visit to Orlando for that matter). But I wanted to make a full trip of it, so I routed my return path through New Orleans to visit House of Shock, then up to Kansas City to see The Beast and Edge of Hell.

Let me tell you, that year was a game-changer for me. It made all the stuff in California seem like amateur night. In HHN Orlando, big, goofy masks that are commonplace at Knotts are almost completely absent. It's all about quality prosthetics and makeup. Also absent are the rediculous shaker cans that were so effective the first time you ever encountered them, but quickly became absurd. HHN Orlando houses are SHORT - very short compared to Knotts and even slightly shorter than HHN Hollywood. In fact, I think they are quite a bit shorter than most houses in the industry. They come in at about 300 linear feet on average - 4-5 minutes absolute max. Knotts are at least 500 liner feet. But it wasn't just Orlando that changed things for me. Imagine a house that takes close to AN HOUR to complete. One as big as a Costco, spanning multiple floors. One where you have to crawl and climb. One where you may get shocked. One where the only way to exit is by taking a 50 foot slide into darkness. And yet somehow for that hour, you are not stuck in a conga line, but rather in a very small group. That describes The Beast. It's got some highly detailed sections, some total darkness maze sections, and some sections that serve only to disorient you. Even if nothing scares you anymore, at some point during The Beast you are going to ask yourself if you are EVER going to get out. Claustrophobia WILL set in. And you WILL at some point wonder just how near the emergency exit is, as you wander around blind while random scareactors whisper at you.

There are houses out there that are 100% original concepts that would blow you away. One of the best was Rocky Point Haunted House in Salt Lake City that closed in 2008. It had movie-quality sets that blew away HHN Orlando. These sets actually had something that Orlando lacks - a ceiling. That added element completes the immersion.

I'll go so far as to say that there are very few haunts that do movie based houses. Sure, there were about a thousand Saw houses in the past few years, but only a couple were backed by studios. The truth is that the vast majority of haunts use original themes. Many fail, but those that work are solid gold.

What you need is a different perspective that *may* change the way you feel about Knotts and HHN (and make you expect much more from both). Promise yourself that you will take a trip one year to Orlando and see Howl-O-Scream and HHN. They are about an hour apart, and October happens to be a great month to visit Disney World (low crowds and pretty nice weather). One trip is all it will take to (maybe) make you care a little more about non-movie themes. I'll give you about a dozen suggestions of places to visit that will raise your mental bar of what to expect from a Haunt.

Edited by zombieman

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Zombieman, I agree with you on these counts..... Orlando made a name for itself doing such movie-quality yet original in terms of story and character design haunted houses for their HHN... I think Murdy needs to realize just how amazing houses like Body Collectors, PsychoScareapy, Scary Tales, ScreamHouse, Hellgate Prison etc... would be if pulled off by HHN Hollywood.... and the Icons as well.... the way the Universal Orlando design team tied together ALL of the Icons into FEAR this year was nothing short of amazing..... and they continue to create new Icons that blow the Orlando crowds away with each new year that passes by..... Sure they do movie houses as well but even those were tied into the amazing ORIGINAL backstory concocted by Universal's A & D department for the years that they were featured....... Characters like Jack, The Caretaker, The Director, The Storyteller and The Usher are all proof that original characters are enough to keep bringing in the crowds and the $$$$$.. and Murdy needs to realize that.. otherwise people are going to start getting bored with just movie characters and mazes and they are going to say "Ehhh Universal is starting to run out of ideas if they just keep reusing the same characters over and over"........

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That is a luxury I do not have, lol so for now, I won't wanna ruin my tastebuds, so to speak. However, The Beast sounds amazing. When I think "maze", that's what I think. How often do people just give up half way in that thing? What's the line for that like? How much does that one maze cost? That sounds like something I'd wanna experience!

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That is a luxury I do not have, lol so for now, I won't wanna ruin my tastebuds, so to speak. However, The Beast sounds amazing. When I think "maze", that's what I think. How often do people just give up half way in that thing? What's the line for that like? How much does that one maze cost? That sounds like something I'd wanna experience!

The BEast and Edge of Hell are about a block apart. They are about equal in size and are put on by the same people. They added a third attraction a couple of years ago - based on the works of Poe. The tickets are about $13 per house, or $20 for a combo ticket (at least they were in 2005). I stayed at the Hotel Philips while I was out there, and they gave free tickets with a hotel stay. The wait was about 20 minutes.

Here's another one to consider one day - easily one of the most extreme haunts in the country - Google "Haunted Hoochie". It's in Ohio. Just one house (that's all it takes...) About a 30 minute walkthru. Go to their site and watch their videos. They look like promos, but they are actual scenes you will see in the house. I personally love the "Demon Baby Delivery". Nearby in Akron Ohio is a place called the Haunted Schoolhouse. Terrible website, but detail that rivals Rocky Point. Just a beautiful, massive haunt.

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Horror Lover, Saw 3D will be out in a few days.....how much you want to bet Murdy is seriously considering turning it into a 3D house next year with 3D a'la HOTC? I bet he's already got several rooms storyboarded.

I just read the OC Register article that gave an impressive account of Murdy's carreer. He worked at USO, he played a big part in the design of USH Mummy ride (no mention if he was involved in the far superior Orlando version). He then came back to USH and did every HHN since 2006. That's interesting, since the Asylum in 2006 was not movie based - and was an incredible house. And the Terror Tram kicked major ass that year - and all of the "movies" represented in the Terror Tram were generic (i.e. Sorority Massacre instead of Bates Motel). It's never been that intense or interactive since. So, the creativity is there. Until 2006, icons in California were unheard of, but he brought over the Director from Orlando. USH didn't present the same sort of edgy commercials that worked so well in 2003. He certinaly wasn't given any major role at the event - only appearing in the Terror Tram video. For a guy that loves horror movies so much, Murdy blew it when given one of the top three icons of all time.

The question is why he's not recognizing that the event has grown stale with all the repeats. I have to believe he's reading the message boards. Most of the highly positive reviews are coming out his own mouth. He opens every interview in almost a defensive manner, mentioning that Hollywood is where the movies are made and how Orlando is suscessful in what they do. And in just about every interview he says that the fans demand to see their favorite horror icons return. He just doesn't get that the key to Orlando's success has been: if people love what you did this year, then take it away and do something even better next year. Leave them remembering what they loved, and with a positive memory of it. Maybe bring it back several years later and change it up, but always leave them wanting more.

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Great write-up Zombieman!

I agree almost completely on all points. Murdy and the USH crew really need to step it up and have to courage to CREATE something new instead of just replicating their favorite horror movies. And sure, the new Freddy and Jason mazes are "all new" but that doesn't mean they're not also incredibly (and sleep-inducingly) familiar.

I've been going to HHN Orlando since 2000 so this was my 11th year and, every year, you can always see how they strive to top themselves. They don't always succeed (I agree that this year's Catacombs was a noble failure) but you have to have respect for their ambition and creativity.

I understand the thought of "Hollywood should be about movies". I really do. I always enjoy seeing my favorite horror films come to life in a maze (Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween were amazing!), so I'm not opposed to that as a concept. But why not have some balance? Two movie-themed mazes and two originals, to start (and I don't count the HOH overlays). That way you have the name recognition of the films but can also start branching out into new ideas and themes, educating your audience in the process. Seems like a no brainer to me.

The one point a (slightly) disagree with is the idea of just bringing old Orlando mazes over here. On one hand, I would LOVE to relive some of my favorite classics from Florida and it would definitely make it easier on the design team out here. On the other hand, I do want to see Hollywood create it's own persona and come up with its own original ideas. Instead of borrowing an old icon from Florida, why not create a completely original one specifically for Hollywood? Make Florida jealous of Hollywood for once! Of course, if things keep going the way they've been, I'm sure next year will bring Saw: Game Still Not Over. Sigh.

BTW- great meeting you briefly in Orlando :)

Edited by Creeper06

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*APPLAUDS* BRAVO!!!!! BRAVO!!!!!!!

As a Fan of HHN, who's heard TONS of good vibes from the Orlando side..... I was wondering when a HHN Hollywood fan would finally stand up and demand that Murdy uses the mazes that made Orlando such a Legendary event.... as someone who has wanted Murdy to use the Orlando Icons and maze concepts, this post recieves kudos from me..... It saddens me that Murdy, instead of stretching his wings and being creative with maze ideas for HHN, has opted to just keep recycling the same movie characters over and over and over again!! True, we're Hollywood and we should make movies a major part of HHN, that does not equal "Hey let's see how stupid our fans are and recycle the same maze and characters but switch out a room or two and slap a new subtitle on it"... Not at all.......

hes not the only ones we just gave up on it when Murdy sated that "Thats our Brand Movie Mazes" Me StvnfrTmrrw and Electro were always wanting original and anything simiular to Orlando then 2008 happened and slapped us in the face as the first repeat year when we thought we were doing the bloody mary thing as well what it is there no use crying over spilt milk this year, will he learn from this year not to do this ever again I highly doubt it since even with more dates nights have been selling out by 3:30 day of event at this point the only way were gonna see a Orignal maze soon is if the GP recieved Vampyre well which we'll see come november the bright side Murdy did say he would like to use the Director again and the Usher if they are recieved well it may entice him to borrow more of Orlando's philosophys when it comes to HHN but for now might as will suggest good movies that dont suck

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The question is why he's not recognizing that the event has grown stale with all the repeats. I have to believe he's reading the message boards. Most of the highly positive reviews are coming out his own mouth. He opens every interview in almost a defensive manner, mentioning that Hollywood is where the movies are made and how Orlando is suscessful in what they do. And in just about every interview he says that the fans demand to see their favorite horror icons return. He just doesn't get that the key to Orlando's success has been: if people love what you did this year, then take it away and do something even better next year. Leave them remembering what they loved, and with a positive memory of it. Maybe bring it back several years later and change it up, but always leave them wanting more.

audience-clapping.gif

Let's also remember what Orlando's creative director said (I forgot his name and I'm too lazy to look it up.): "This event will only thrive if we give our guests horrific NEW characters and terrifying NEW ideas." I realy don't want Hollywood to borrow maze ideas from Orlando; I'd rather it become its own separate beast. I would like to see the Director used again or the Usher but I want Hollywood to stick with its brand of bringing our favorite movies to life but not repeat them year after year. House of 1,000 Corpses was awesome, but I don't want to see it again. Time for something new. How about a Scream maze? Hellraiser? Texas Chainsaw Massacre I'm sure it was great (I never got to see it), but it is time to move on. The GP shouldn't calling the shots on what the event holds to a certain extent. If they're demanding that Saw and Freddy come back next year because it was so awesome, just reply with "we just did that. What other properties would you like to see?"

Now for my comparison review to go along with Zombieman's. After going to Orlando's event, even though I love movie-based mazes, originality TRIUMPHS! I really hope John does do an original maze outside of House of Horrors next year. One thing I really liked about the Hollywood event was that the park was more compact and allowed the park to feel more "alive" even with the few detailed scarezones they had. Plus, even in the dead spaces they had a couple of the bushmen in the Shrek area and some roaming Chucky soldiers roaming around the Animal Actors area which was pretty cool. They even had a slider around the T2/HoTC area. Orlando, however, while the few scarezones they had kicked butt, about 3/4 of the park was just completely dead. It felt like I was just walking through the park at night. What's interesting is that while I think Orlando has better scarezones and mazes (though the haunted houses there do feel a tad shot, especially Orfanage), I didn't enjoy it as much as Hollywood since I went by myself and I couldn't find a non-alcoholic energy drink anywhere!

I do think Hollywood has potential as being better than Orlando. but I wish Hollywood would use it by having at least more original material (Don't completely do away with Hollywood's brand with movie based mazes, just have one or possibly even two original mazes outside HoH and have an original icon that would fit the brand that Murdy is going for.) and by not recycling characters and mazes or even some major props from years past. While I like the flame towers in the NY Street, I think they should move them somewhere else to change it up a bit and put something fresh and new there. I don't want to see characters like Letherface, Jigsaw, or Michael Myers reused since they had their time. It's time to move on.

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Talk about a small world!

Creeer mentioned that we met briefly at USO. So how's this for a coincidence - HHN Orlando is running for, what, 23 nights? And the park is HUGE compared to USH. So out of those 23 nights, two people from California happen to be there on the same night, and happen to be within a few feet of each other on the way out of the event - among 10,000 people. In 2008, I had a hell of a time even meeting up with a couple of people from The Vault - knowing where they would be an when they would be there.

I happened to hear Creeper mention the letters "DCA", and that's all it took.

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Oh, hey, one more thing (not worthy of being in this thread, but who cares?)

I just got back from a one-night haunt trip to Austin, TX. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G place there - 99% chance you've never heard it, but you NEED to go. Look for a big review in the "Other Haunt Destinations" section on this board in the next day or so.

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