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Freak's HHNH 2011 Review

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After thinking about the awesome time I got to have last night, I finally got the time to write a full-on review of the event to get all of my thoughts out. Here you go. :)

After picking up some friends and blasting our metal and top-volume, we drove up to Universal and arrived about ten after six. Our excitement for the event grew as we drew closer to the gates and fought against the crowd that was going the opposite direction of us; it looked like they were exiting the park after the regular hours.

We finally got into the park and saw the opening scaremony just in time. Unfortunately, the crowd was so talkative and loud that I could hardy at all hear what was going on. It would have been nice if they made the speech a LOT louder just so everybody could hear what was going on (I was standing on the far right end by WaterWorld). Despite all of that, it was probably the best opening scaremony we've had so far IMO and is one other factor we have over Orlando's event.

As soon as the clowns were unleashed unto the crowd, we raced down to the lower lot. We got to listen to some of Alice Cooper's new album on the way down to the area, but it was unfortunate that they didn't play any of his really good songs like Brutal Planet or Feed My Frankenstein. I guess he wanted to use that as a marketing "dumping ground" to promote his new album. Oh well. When we arrived, we reached our first house:

Eli Roth's Hostel: Hunting Season! - We hit this maze first as we arrived at the lower lot and passed the Reapers. I loved the facade and how they portrayed the Elite torture factory; definitely one of the best facades HHN has ever had. To enhance the experience, I was at the head of my group and there was no one in front of me. All of the actors (Including Steven) were on top of their game! The cast just gave it their all and got some really good scares out of me. Even though most of the maze felt completely new, there were a couple of scenes that just screamed Saw to me (Ahem, the boiler room). The environments were a tad bland and a bit repetitive for me throughout the maze since it is set in an industrial building.

Scare Factor: 10/10

Environment: 7.5/10

Overall: 9/10

Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare! - As all of us know, this was the location for the KK360 3D Express last year. As cool as it was to see parts of the backlot you would normally never see at night on the tram, I would much rather have this than Kong again. Our group entered Steven's foreclosed home as the thunder crashed with the song "Welcome to My Nightmare" playing. As soon as we walked through, we could instantly hear the piano piece from Steven playing, setting the eerie mood for the maze. Alice Cooper's music can be heard throughout the zany nightmare, but the songs fit very well and only enhanced the setting. The haunted house had a great variety of environment but also contained several "traditional" scares that you would see at a Knott's maze, but pulled off perfectly (i.e. the classic "statue scare" or the "jump-out-from-the-corner scare"). I loved the ending and how the the effects were done. Probably my third favorite of the year. My only complaint was how many bodies I had to push through. I felt like they overdid it.

Scares: 8.5/10

Environment: 8.5/10

Overall: 8.5/10

Terror Team: Scream 4 Your Life! - Being a fan of the Scream movies, I have always wanted for the longest time for Universal to incorporate Scream onto the Terror Tram since it would be a perfect fit for such a theme. When it was announced that Ghostface would be loose on the backlot and be the face of HHN Hollywood this year, I was absolutely thrilled. By then I could hardly wait to see how they would pull it off.

The premise is simple enough, but it works (Almost). Stab 8 is being filmed on the backlot, we're invited to the Stab-A-Thon party, some crazy killer is loose in a Ghostface costume, and four other "fake" films are being filmed in the backlot. I like how they established this in the queue area video monitors and tram monitors. Not to mention the fake trailers and news spots. Little things like that add a great touch to the storyline of the attraction.

Throughout the trail, it was usually just the same thing we've seen from past years. Bushmen (Who are really good and blend in well), burnt house, tree, and the War of the Worlds. It would be nice to just change it up and bypass the WotW sets one day. The actors were good, but it just felt like there was a small lack in hiding places. At the end of the experience (Don't worry no spoilers), we board the tram and head back to the park. The closing video for the Terror Tram was really good and had a clever twist at the end. I loved the fact that they finally bypassed the Mummy tunnel for once, but I just felt like the story and the Scream property wasn't established enough on the Terror Tram. Oh well. It was better than last year's tram and arguably 2009's.

Scares: 6.5/10

Environment: Eh, I'm not going to give this a rating. We're walking on the Universal backlot for Pete's sake....outdoors.

Overall: 6.5/10

The Wolfman: The Curse of Talbot Hall - I've been dying for the hairy fellow to get his due at the event since after 2009. When I heard he was finally getting his due, but shoved into House of Horrors, I was happy, but at the same time sad. I wanted to see a full maze, not a throwaway maze for Wolfman. I have noticed that they have added some things in there to make it feel different, but alas, those additions were few and half-hearted. What made me sad was being able to see the Mummy's tomb and the the Chucky dolls. C'mon, seriously!? Would it cost them that much to just put some black curtains up? The overall story didn't make any sense and was just a pitiful attempt at trying to tie Wolfman into House of Horrors If they just had enough imagination and possibly the budget, it could be pulled off effectively. I did like the costumes though.

Scare: 7/10

Environment: 2/10

Overall: 4/10

Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure! - Well, I thought the parodies in this were a bit weak and feel like they could have done better. There was a LOT filler in this show and I feel like the writers for the show were just lazy this year. The big finale of the show was some dance number that lasted waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long. It was flippin' ridiculous! I did like the use of laser lighting a pyro, though. Hopefully the show will be better next year and that they'll have some better material to write on. I will admit it did have its moments.

Overall: 6/0

The Thing: Assimilation - After all of the hype Murdy put into this house with the whole bit about the creatures, the virtually pitch-dark room, the loud noises, and how cold it would be in there, I got really excited for this maze. The facade looked very promising (Definitely the best facade the West arena has ever had) but the maze delivered a bit less than I had anticipated. I probably would have liked this haunted house a lot more if Murdy hadn't have hyped this maze up beyond belief. There were two rooms in here that were utterly pointless (Unfortunately, the dark room is one of them). I won't spoil what the other one is, but when I went in there, my initial reaction was, "WTC do they have this cheesy scene in here? I've seen this effect pulled off better in a carnival dark ride!" Unfortunately, this is where the line jammed up and I was stuck in there for fifteen seconds. This room annoyed me so bad I wanted to get outta quickly. On the flip side, the effects were really cool (No pun intended) and the creature was very well-done. I couldn't tell if the creatures were puppets or live actors! Oh, by the way, about the "chill factor" of this maze, it wasn't cold at all. You could feel a few cool spots when under the vents, but the maze was in no way freezing. Hopefully they can fix this as the event's run goes on. I was anticipating wild environments like ice caves, a trashed base with supplies all over the place and wreckage; sadly, hardly any of that appeared in the house. It was mostly rooms that felt a bit more like Fallout Shelter at Knott's, There were some good rooms with good amount of detail put into them with good scares, but what bothered me was that there were a LOT of hallways that just seemed blank and repetitive. Overall, the maze house had okay sets, and descent, but often repetitive and predictable scares.

Scare: 6/10

Environment: 6/10

Overall: 6.5/10

La Llorona: Villa de Almas Perdidas - I think this wins haunted house of the year. The facade was amazing and the environments were just incredible. The sets were incredibly detailed, beautiful and appeared to be almost the same scale as Orlando's mazes! I won't give away too much, but they finally used that "dark room" trick the way it should've been done. The last scene, I thought, was probably one of the most shocking I've seen HHN do. Definitely a must-see!

Environment: 10/10

Scare: 10/10

Overall: 10/10

Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses: In 3D ZombieVision - What's a better way to finish the night than a repeat? <_< The 3D wasn't as good as I remembered it being and the scares just felt predictable and just...stale. Tiny go me in the foyer room but that's about it. Even the two guys in the body room didn't scare me. It's such a shame to see such a great venue go to waste for a repeat, but that's the way the body rots. Hopefully next year, they'll put that space to good use by having that original maze that John and Rob had originally intended for this year. If you've never been in this maze before, then you'll love it. If you have, then do it last and only hit it if you have some spare time on your hands. I honestly liked Wolfman better.

Scare: 2/10

Environment: 8/10

Overall: 2/10 (Because its a repeat).

There you have it ladies and gentlemen. That sums up HHN 2011. Despite its flaws, I do think this is our best year. This year has stood out with its originality, quantity, quality (Though it was lacking a tad in some of the mazes) and scares. I really hope that next year, when Transformers opens, that they'll allow a bigger budget for the event allowing higher quality in set detail and in the scarezones (especially). I hope that they at least give a descent attempt at House of Horrors for making it feel different. I'm not asking for a complete overall, just more new additions and things to cover the "obvious stuff" up. I mean, the couldn't at least turn the lights out completely in the Chucky doll shelf? SERIOSULY? Would it kill them to at least turn the lights out in that? As much as I liked this year, I still have some criticisms:

Now let me talk about the repeat. I was bored silly in HoTC because I saw it last year and many times on YouTube. It absolutely sucked to go through all of those cool new haunted houses and then, "Oh let's do this maze even though we saw it all last year". <_< The repeat is forgivable this year because of Transformers and the addition of the sixth maze but next year, they have no pathetic excuse to repeat a maze; especially since one of the six mazes is an always half-hearted overlay of a year-round attraction! Since next year, they will have earned all of that money from Transformers and should be keeping the same amount of houses as this year, they better have all-new stuff or I am going to drop my head in shame on how our event is becoming like Knott's in repetitiveness.

Speaking of repetitiveness, I've noticed WAY too many familiar props and sets reused from last year. The Saw facade, bodies from NoES, Room from F13 were all reused in Alice Cooper, the Saw boiler, the vice and bodies from F13 were reused in Hostel, Scream reused the burnt house and the WotW dummies, and La Llorona reused the Saw pigs and the Freddy snake, I understand the need to reuse props to save money, but I felt like it was just a bit excessive. There were a lot of expenses with the puppets and the sixth maze so I don't think I should criticize too much here.

The scarezones really need to be amped up. Again, I understand because of budget cuts, but it felt like the scarezones were all completely rehashed. Would it kill them to just have one or two props were Reapers is? Speaking on money, where did that $ all go with the ticketing option changes? I get the vibe that it was all just a money grab. It better be for the event's future good and not just plain greed.

I thought the advertising for this year was not that great....at ALL. Same slogan and same commercial. The main icon of the event this year was represented poorly. They tried to advertise it as several themes (Which I don't like). If they're going to say "What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?" In the event all of the time, WHY NOT MAKE IT THE SLOGAN? Was there a rights issue or something?

Finally, I didn't like the lack of a consistent theme. I would like to say that Scream is the main theme, but it just doesn't look like it. I see all of these Ghostfaces, yet why is Rob Zombie on the gates!? I thought Scream was supposed to be the theme? It would be great if Hollywood got a good icon (Movie based or not) and had the event themed around it. They could've had "What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?" and have Zombieville represent zombie movies and so on. Just thinking out loud here.

Overall, this year did have flaws, but I liked it anyway. Hopefully the quality of our precious event will increase as time goes on and Transformers ranks in the cash.

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Thanks for sharing Freak! I can't wait to go on Friday!

Sounds like La Llorona is a highlight (and very popular as well) which makes me happy. Hopefully that means more risks being taken with original content in the future.

The SZ's all completely sound like rehashes of last year's, which is so disappointing. Have you seen/read about Orlando's SZs? Nightmaze? Acid Assault? Grown Evil? Some truly original, unique, and creative stuff happening over there! The very least they could do here is change the theming a bit.

And I'm about over the Terror Tram. The video changes but everything else seems to stay the same. It's a huge time suck and I'm starting to wonder if it's worth doing anymore. What a sad waste of Scream. We all know how much more could be done with it.

Ah well, at least we got an extra maze this year and some original content. It sounds like the new houses are all great. I just want to see the event firing on all cylinders sometime in the near future.

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La Llorona was definitely my favorite maze of the event. Just the environment, detail, and the scare tactics were amazing. Hostel would be my second favorite with all if the intense scares followed by Alice Cooper.

Unfortunately, the scare zones just felt like big rehashes. No change at all was felt in the zones :-/

I'm kind of split over the Terror Tram. I'm hoping it get a lot

better since they've blown a LOT of the TT's budget on e soundproof walls. Thanks alot neighbors :(

The original content did make up for those flaws. You'll have a great time so don't worry. :)

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Yeah, I always have a great time so it's all good. I love Halloween and HHN is like pizza and sex, even when it's bad, it's goooooooood :lol:

You can just see the growing pains. We get an extra maze and some original content (yay!) but recycled SZs (snooooore). I just want the event to get to a point where everything is new and exciting. Instead of "we'll do these four new houses and everything else the same as last year". We have a long way to go if we're going to be at Orlando's level.

At least the repeats in TT (more or less) and HOTC allows me extra time to enjoy the new mazes more than once. If I have a chance to do La Llorona twice or instead of HOTC, that's what I'm doing!

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That's what those random walls were on the TT?! So why the hell is it closing at 9 on Thurs and Sun again?

And yeah, this year was a total cash grab because they knew it was going to be popular. However, they did not sell out either Friday or Saturday. I don't think they even sold out of FOL passes or RIP experiences (which is probably why Murdy was GIVING them away the day before). They made a gamble with their fans and so far, I don't think it's paid off and a lot of the people that went this year were disappointed in the event as a whole and I think the word of mouth is gonna go around. Where all the money go? The creature and puppets for The Thing? Because it sure wasn't the sets for it. The facade, bloody props and devices for Hostel? Sure wasn't the sets for that either. Terror Tram? It doesn't cost that much to throw up a fence and some plastic around it since everything was it's usual self. Wolfman? They did practically nothing to change it. HOTC? Same crap as last year, from what I hear. The scarezones? Once again, same stuff and they even got rid of a scarezone. Buying the rights to Scream 4? Well if it was for that, it was sure as a hell a waste of money since they did nothing that represented the movies. Did they really just blow their wad all over La Llorona and Alice Cooper? I doubt it. I don't know finances or the specifics of how they use their budget but even though they technically had MORE this year, it felt like they spread their budget thin instead of really enhancing everything. I don't know... I kinda want them to go back to 4 or 5 mazes. Quality is being suffered here and it's starting to show. And that's the last thing I want.

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^I think the event is going to stay at six mazes since cutting a maze would be negative awareness for the event; that's especially if they repeat something from this year. I could only imagine what the response would be like: "So we're paying more money in admission, more money for the few FFPs that were sold for only three nights, and now you cut back the maze amount to five!? You greedy pigs!!! I'm going to Knott's!"

I think I know where the money went. It's been put into two things: The sixth maze and the walls on the Terror Tram. I think I remember hearing somewhere that they like to reuse walls because they are REALLY expensive; in fact, when we were talking to Murdy at our HHN fan gatherings, he said that the walls are so pricey that they actually tell the actors not to hit them when scaring people. Now add the cost of the new walls for the sixth maze AND the new walls to be built for the Terror Tram to keep the neighbors from ending the Terror Tram. I'm sure while Murdy was planning the Terror Tram, management told him that two-thirds of the budget that would be used for the Terror Tram would have spent on building those sound walls or there would be no TT at all. Management and Murdy obviously would not want the latter so they went with sacrificing those things Murdy had planned to keep the Terror Tram. I expect next year's Terror Tram to be much better since they will have gotten that financial obstacle of building those out of the way. They can simply just reuse them and use the budget for the TT on the things that Murdy has wanted.

With Transformers open and ranking in the cash, the cost of building the TT sound walls and the sixth maze out of the way, next year BETTER show in increase of at least some quality in the mazes and the scarezones, or it will show that Universal is getting really greedy and would rather cut quality for the sake of making a quick extra buck.

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I expect next year's Terror Tram to be much better since they will have gotten that financial obstacle of building those out of the way. They can simply just reuse them and use the budget for the TT on the things that Murdy has wanted.

Every year we say this, and every year the Terror Tram is essentially the same. It feels like the biggest repeat of all. I'm so bored with it.

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^^^than your gonna be even more disappointed when you see that they completely removed the fence maze :( sucks for the people who didnt get to go last week and experience it. that was the only thing that really gave the "stab 8" sets some little recognition. Great review though freak i enjoyed reading through everything :)

Edited by HorrorNights93

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^^^than your gonna be even more disappointed when you see that they completely removed the fence maze :( sucks for the people who didnt get to go last week and experience it. that was the only thing that really gave the "stab 8" sets some little recognition. Great review though freak i enjoyed reading through everything :)

I went on Friday and saw that!!! I couldn't believe it! It was one new element to enhance the TT and they got rid of it! I'm assuming it was causing too much bottlenecking? What a shame! (I'll be writing up a review soon)

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I know i actually liked the fence maze :/ it wasnt much but it did enhance the experience and was a good replaceable for the sheets maze. I wanna boycott to bring them both back next year lol

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Now that I have reviewed everything in detail, here's my overall review from my blog:

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, the Western United States' premier Halloween event, has returned for the 2011 haunting season--except this time, the event has grown to seven haunted attractions since its return in 2006. Though it may be bigger than ever before, is it actually better?

First of all, what I like about this year is how they have expanded their horizons by delivering original content to the variety of haunted attractions. The wonderful thing about original theming is that the haunted house designers are not restricted to just scenes in a movie. Though in certain cases, they may be able to "go outside the box" and do some original scenes specifically for the house (Just like they did with Hostel), they have to abide by the film's world and stay within that realm; this gives patrons a sense of predictability before they enter. With original theming, the designers are free to do the sets and scenes the way they want.

Secondly, This year has the most diverse line-up by far. When I go to an event like Halloween Horror Nights, I not only want to get a good scare, but to be immersed in rich, detailed environments to escape reality; just as if I were in a horror movie. With places ranging from a haunted Mexican village to a ruined Antarctic research outpost containing a loose space alien, this event provides great diversity. In fact, this year is so diverse, I fear we may not have another year with this much variety in quite a while.

With Universal's Halloween Horror Nights stepping up their game this year, there are some flaws that need to be addressed. The scarezones feel like complete rehashes of past ones and are really nothing new. Same old props and some new costumes. After seeing how Halloween Horror Nights Orlando's scarezones look, the ones here need improvement...very badly. Secondly, the Terror Tram is has grown stale and repetitive. The attraction really needs to be relocated somewhere else on the backlot in order to stay fresh. Maybe next year they can utilize Six-Points Texas or Little Europe. If they do insist on keeping the trail at the same location, at least be creative and add some more sets, mini mazes, or anything of that sort. Another thing that bothered me was the return of House of 1000 Corpses. I will admit I had a good time experiencing that house once again this year, it was disappointing to do all of these new haunted houses and then go through a repeat from last year. Though the repeat is forgivable since they have added a sixth house, I do not wish to see Universal rehash another one from this year. Lastly, the House of Horrors overlay feels like the same thing as it always has been. To be fair, I will give the designers some credit for putting some effort into adding some things, but the house needs to be redressed. Hopefully in the future they will add more sets, props, effects and lighting to the overlay without having to interfere with the daytime experience.

Despite the event's flaws, 2011 is Universal's best year for Halloween Horror Nights. With its improvement on variety, originality, and diversity, this event sets itself apart from all of the other years it's been around. Anybody who enjoys horror, haunted houses, or even Halloween Horror Nights should not miss out on this year.

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^ Thanks! It does bother me to see some typos in that review. >.< Hopefully I can fix it whenever I can.

EDIT: Fixed the typos. It's all good now. :)

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