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YourPallbearer

Review of an okay year

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I was disappointed by the event as a whole. Major step down from previous years, that isn't to say it was a total loss for me but I won't be recommending the event if anybody asks me about it. I'll try to say good things about the elements I disliked greatly.

SILENT HILL 4/10

Never played the games. Only seen the film which I enjoyed. It didn't have any real semblance of a plot but you don't need that in a horror film when you've got atmosphere, and it had that in droves. The house itself wasn't so good. Never felt immersed as I should have. A set depicting the main drag of the abandoned town could have fixed things but we jump straight into the bowels of the buildings. There really should have been a sense of exploration and wonderment (much like DEAD END and GOTHIC) to this property but we're just given a lot of boiler rooms and filthy lavatories where strange entities jump out for cheap scares.

A set piece mimicking the scene where the main protagonist has to slowly maneuver through a gaggle of twitching nurses could have been effective for guests to wade through but this idea is sadly absent. This can easily be remedied by clumping several mannequin nurses and a few live ones together.

A take it or leave it affair at best.

GOTHIC 9/10

A member of my group who has come to every HHN event without fail since 1992 claimed this to be the best house he'd ever experienced. I don't feel the same way but this was certainly very high on the list of houses I've experienced during my years of attendance. Unlike previous glider rooms of recent past (2009's DRACULA) it's very hard for the customer to miss the winged beasts sailing over your head as they seem to do their thing often. These two glider rooms were in desperate need of grounded actors to come at a distracted guest though. Also, it seemed to end abruptly. A large house such as this needed a proper finale (2009's FRANKENSTEIN).those are my only complaints of this beautiful house.

It was a toss up between this and DEAD END for "best in show" but I think GOTHIC wins out for its expansive set design.

DEAD END 9/10

For the past two events HHN has rewarded us with more traditional Horror Houses. 2010 began this trend with LEGENDARY TRUTH (Spirit infested Haunted House) and continued in 2011 with WINTER'S NIGHT (Haunted Cemetery). DEAD END continues the tradition with another spook house. The background story of tales manifesting into reality makes a ditch effort to separate it from LEGENDARY TRUTH but that isn't apparent on the surface and the word "tulpa house" will never cross the mind's of the guests. But it doesn't really much matter. From the creepy old crone ascending/descending the stairs at the start to the sailor baby ghoul at the end, I had a blast! Loved the pepper's ghost effect but was puzzled by the "other side of the bed" projection. Didn't think it was funny or impressive as a gag. Also, the house needed a climax. Like GOTHIC it just ends.

ALICE COOPER 5/10

Big Cooper fan but even I was underwhelmed. I actually found a bit more enjoyment watching the difficult to see imagery of last year's Hollywood effort on a youtube video. That house had much better set design and seemed to do the Coop's musical oeuvre proud.

This had skimpy half-human spider women (whereas Hollywood actually had a Black Widow animatronic that spat fluid) and a stripper for cheap thrills. A silly looking jock getup represented the SCHOOL'S OUT album. Lame. The three saving graces were the soundtrack, the big "Cooper Eyes" stained glass window room and the big finale (I even got a tip of the hat from showman Alice when he noticed my Cooper t-shirt). Odd that a tiny tent house would get a climax and not some of the larger efforts this year (DEAD END and GOTHIC).

HOUSE OF HORRORS 7/10

Big fan of the Universal Monsters so I was thrilled to hear they were going to incorporate them in a DEAD EXPOSURE styled house.

I wasn't disappointed... for the most part. Unfortunately, a lot of the sets and costumes looked really cheap (particularly the early WOLFMAN segment) but this wouldn't have mattered if the DEAD EXPOSURE lighting had been done properly. Unlike the popular 2008 house you could see where every beasty and ghouly lay due to their glow in the dark regalia. The idea of having the monsters and surroundings appear as if they were black and white also didn't gel. Every surface was neon blue.

This was a sort of odd and rushed experience but not without its merits. If you could get passed the problems you'll have a lot of fun and it can be very rewarding for those like me who love these characters. A highlight is the Mummy sequence in which you have to crouch for longer than I expected! I hope this trend (which was started last year during the lopsided barge sequence in THE FORSAKEN) continues in future events.

Hope this improves during the event's span even if I won't be there to enjoy it.

PENN AND TELLER NUKED VEGAS 3/10

When operating properly, the interactive effects worked but the 3-D didn't. I took off the glasses during the final third of the house.

The attraction is not all that compelling and despite it being one of the last houses of the night my memory of the experience is mostly blurred.

WALKING DEAD 1/10

Zombies have been over exposed since the dreadful remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD. Any mention of Romeo-esque. shambling corpses gives me a big ole yawn, so it is little wonder why I found this to be the total clunker of the evening.

There was no unison to the set pieces. We travel from inside a hospital to the interior of a clothing store within a few steps. At least the Cooper house has an excuse... It's a nightmare. the surroundings don't have to be cohesive.

Just like the show it was generic, surprise-less and derivative of every zombie property you’ve ever seen! I suppose that was the intention but it doesn't make for a compelling experience.

About half way through I found myself rushing for the exit to try and go on DEAD END one more time before the park closed its doors.

STREET EXPERIENCES 6/10

An interesting experiment for the event but not an overly successful one. Scare zones seemed to still exists, they just weren't recorded on the park atlas. Scareactors were able to leave their areas to chase guests as far as they pleased (one popped up in the CURIOUS GEORGE area while in line for HOUSE OF HORRORS) but seeing these guys in an unthemed area wasn't as exciting as you might expect. The parks lighting was perhaps better than any year in recent memory as it was mostly dark and eerie (many scare zones tend to be too bright) but overall I hope the construction is finalized next year so the scare zones can return.

Event overall 6/10

I think the year relied heavily on how well versed you are on the subjects being presented with the exception of DEAD END and GOTHIC which are entirely original concepts and work on their own. I shouldn't need to know all that much about Alice Cooper in order to enjoy his house but it seemed that only Cooper fans could get the most out of it. Same for the other IP houses with the exception of HOUSE OF HORRORS which I believed worked as an experience everyone can enjoy, not just Universal horror buffs.This is an event people pay top dollar for, I don't believe Universal should almost require us to delve into these franchises in order to get the most out of what is showcased. IP houses should stand on their own terms. They failed that philosophy this year.

Edited by YourPallbearer
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Great review. I have very similar views. I appreciate your ability to provide illustrations to highlight the positive and negative aspects of the event.

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Thank you for the compliment. Didn't think much of my write up as I merely had 20 minutes to spare and wrote quickly so it is nice to hear it was actually appreciated by somebody. I have a much more detailed (and better) review of last year's event. It was intended as a piece for a website but the deal fell through.

I half expected to be flamed for my opinions as I have been in the past but your response has given me some hope.

To be even more helpful I wish I could have included reviews for the shows but I never catch those to save time for the houses; the heart and soul of the event.

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75jxX.jpg

Image I took during the festivities. This is in the, what I believe is called, the central park area.

And the following is a less atmospheric image but I liked how it turned out anyway.

VBq6T.jpg

Edited by YourPallbearer

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I agree with the others, real good review. It helps to hear the good and the bad. Good Job! I got a question about Silent Hill... Was ash falling and did you hear the siren?

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I really respect your review & this forum; you might occasionally get someone that will attack you for your opinions, but most of the time, people are really respectful...even when they disagree with you. That's a sharp contrast to the Facebook site where negative reviews are removed & people constantly attack any less-than-glowing review of the event.

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I agree with the others, real good review. It helps to hear the good and the bad. Good Job!

Thank you.

I got a question about Silent Hill... Was ash falling and did you hear the siren?

I was disappointed by the lack of these two things also.

In my run through, guests couldn't notice the ash falling unless they craned their neck to the heavens.

The ash seemed to dissipate before it reached eye level.

Not sure why such a minimal amount was used.

I also didn't hear the siren. Must have been a timing issue because I've heard it on several videos.

You're in the first room of the house for a very long time, there's really no excuse as to why anyone shouldn't hear the siren.

Edited by YourPallbearer

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There was probably just an issue with the machine generating the ash.

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I might get another chance to actually see the ash it as there is a good possibility I will be going again on the Friday the 13th.

A second visit during the events run is a first time thing for me, wish this opportunity had presented itself last year. Oh well.

I'll definitely update my review if I see any improvements.

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I also didn't hear the siren. Must have been a timing issue because I've heard it on several videos.

You're in the first room of the house for a very long time, there's really no excuse as to why anyone shouldn't hear the siren.

the siren is during the beginning, but is spaced WAY too far out i think. the first time i went through i heard it. second time not. the ash was on pretty low both times i saw it. the snow in WH/THING last year was pumping fine and i always saw it, so i don't get the problem this year.

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the snow in WH/THING last year was pumping fine and i always saw it, so i don't get the problem this year.

I remember thinking how strange it was that they didn't have snow in THE THING last year (at least not on my one run through) especially since it was abundant in WINTER'S NIGHT.

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They did have snow for The Thing, but unlike WN it wasn't on consistently or quite as thick.

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Just got back from my visit on Friday night.

Went through every house by 7:30pm

It became rather crowded soon after but we managed to do HOUSE OF HORRORS, ALICE COOPER, GOTHIC and DEAD END multiple times after that.

The Cooper maze went up in my estimation. It seems that it's a house that gets better the more times you run through it. Not sure if that is due to the fact that I know what to expect and can't be disappointed again or that it is genuinely rewarding on multiple visits but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Noticed a bit of a story among the incoherence (again, not an issue for me as it is supposed to be the fever dream of a killer), Steven seeking retaliation from all the abusive figures in his life, but I can't fathom a Jock yelling out "I wish you were never born". Seems like something an abusive parent would say.

WALKING DEAD surprised me in negative way. It somehow managed to be a more flaccid experience than before. it's been nearly a month working the house and the actors still aren't aggressive enough to make that house as intense as it should be to make up for the ho-hum material. Shambling isn't going to cut it.

I would have gladly by-passed this house in the first place but was with a large group who love the show and wouldn't ya know it(?), they ended up really hating the attraction.

The biggest improvement of this visit was HOUSE OF HORROR. Going to have to raise my rating up on that one by one point (now 8/10). Didn't notice the Frankenstein Monster rampage upon my initial visit (was it there in late September?) and the two (three?) Wolfmen really learned how to utilize their scene.

Also, I never noticed the Dracula mannequin above the scareactors Dracula. Nice touch.

A minute objection are some of the heights of the scareactors. Bela Lugosi was over 6 feet tall and Karloff was nearing that height. Why did I tower over both Dracula and The Mummy?

I'm only 5'7".

Edited by YourPallbearer

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A minute objection are some of the heights of the scareactors. Bela Lugosi was over 6 feet tall and Karloff was nearing that height. Why did I tower over both Dracula and The Mummy?

I'm only 5'7".

That seems like a bit of a stretch for criticism.

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That seems like a bit of a stretch for criticism.

I did say it was minute.

Still bothersome. Again, I'm very short. The monsters mentioned are over 6 feet tall. If I'm taller than them it's a bit disconcerting.

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The Cooper maze when up in my estimation. It seems that it's a house that gets better the more times you run through it. Not sure if that is due to the fact that I know what to expect and can't be disappointed again or that it is genuinely rewarding on multiple visits but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

i agree with this. My first visit left me incredibly underwhelmed to the point where i didn't even want to do it again(but i was also drenched and not in the bests of moods, so that made it a little worse). but every time i went through it became more and more fun. It's still not an amazing house, but it's becoming more fun to walk through then some others (TWD especially).

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"The Cooper maze WHEN up in my estimation"

Jeez, I gotta start proof reading my stuff on here.

i agree with this. My first visit left me incredibly underwhelmed to the point where i didn't even want to do it again(but i was also drenched and not in the bests of moods, so that made it a little worse). but every time i went through it became more and more fun. It's still not an amazing house, but it's becoming more fun to walk through then some others (TWD especially).

Yeah, TWD has proved, to me at least, that it's the exact opposite of the Cooper house in that regard. It gets worse every time.

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Yeah, TWD has proved, to me at least, that it's the exact opposite of the Cooper house in that regard. It gets worse every time.

i can agree with that. I loved my first walkthrough. it was a fun house and got some good scares. second time a got a few, but not a very good runthrough. my last one was incredibly boring. not much activity at all (besides the dept store hallway and that damn cop).

SH is...weird. My first runthrough i LOVED, my second one was meh and my third was great. it's uneven.

DE, Gothic and P&T have been consistently fun for me. HoH was not a very good house on opening night for me. but after opening weekend, that house became so amazingly fun and scary to walk through. I actually think it's the scariest house this year.

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SH is a mixed bag. HOH, despite my reservations, I always loved. Then again, I didn't experience opening night.

After my initial run through on P&T I didn't recall much, hence the low rating. My second run through only aided my memory, not the rating itself.

It's okay I guess. I'm just not into comedy houses. To add insult to injury...I'm not a fan of the ChromaDepth houses either.

I thought the 3-D was a major step down from the effect in last year's THE IN-BETWEEN which I wasn't crazy about either (the lowest ranking attraction for me) but I thought the effects worked very well.

I thought last year (2011) was the best HHN in a while. Loved the heavy emphasis on history (FORSAKEN, POE and NIGHTINGALES) alternate or otherwise. I even enjoyed the comedic house as it was drenched in period iconography (tv horror hosts). I'm also a bona fide fan of the Holiday Horror sub-genre.

Scarezones were a step up from the two previous years as there seemed to be less emphasis on photo opportunities and everything wasn't as well lit.

NIGHTMAZE was a very interesting experiment; the success of which depends on who you speak to but I thought it was pulled off.

My few gripes were only about the icon and the theme itself. Wasn't crazy about Lady Luck (Apparently Universal wasn't either seeing as they regulated her to a tiny scare zone with no house of her own) and the event was sorely missing a gambling house (odd that we got a Vegas style one this year) and overall high risks theme. Yes, you can point to the houses' back stories but they weren't overtly evident in the attractions themselves and are thus irrelevant. Would have been interesting had they incorporated games of chance in the attractions themselves like having two routes you can choose (such as in the early years of the event). Or not showcasing the titles of the houses on the park atlas, making navigation a game of chance and your destination random.

2010 was a solid year but a real let down as a major anniversary year.

They really oversold the "pulling out all the stops for our 20th event" hullabaloo. In reality it was the same package the customer had been receiving since 2008 but with different theming. To my mind nothing was added and no risks were taken to solidify the idea that the event was ushering in a new era.

That said, I thought it was a well rounded year in context to what had come before.

2009 was half a good year for me. Thought SILVER SCREAMS was excellent as were the major three monster houses (Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula) to varying degrees but the other houses were for the most part stinkers.

Almost all the scare zones were awful with the exception of the kitschy WAR OF THE LIVING DEAD and the rather gruesome CONTAINMENT.

2008 I know is a favorite of many (and there is good reason as to why) but I thought it didn't run on all four cylinders.

BODY COLLECTORS, DEAD EXPOSURE, SCARY TALES and THE HOLLOW were all wonderful houses! Some of the best I've been in. Unfortunately all that excellence was juxtaposition-ed by some of the worst houses in recent history/memory. CREATURES and INTERSTELLAR TERROR were huge let-downs as Sound stage houses. Especially when compared to the 3 hit punch of the previous year's sound stage haunts (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, DEAD SILENCE and HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS were marvels!).

DOOMSDAY's concert finale saved that house from being a total non-event and REFLECTIONS OF FEAR's potential was totally wasted.

What saved HHN 2008 from being a half good event were the scare zones! Good Lordie were those fantastic! THE SKOOLHOUSE is perhaps the best zone the event has ever put on! AMERICAN GOTHIC was also a favorite of mine. ASYLUM IN WONDERLAND's party atmosphere, to its detriment, was heavy but I'm not going to fault them for wanting variety. PATH OF THE WICKED rivaled THE SKOOLHOUSE on elaborate presentation and STREETS OF BLOOD was right up my alley even if the presentation was paltry when compared to the others.

2008 had a lot of problems... but many people, myself included, remember it fondly for the overall atmosphere. The mood was drenched in the Halloween spirit in a way that we haven't seen since.

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I agree with you on a lot of what you said. I have a lot more memories of 2008 than most other years. The feeling walking around that year really is unrivaled. I hope we go back to a lot more elaborate sets next year. I like how unpredictable the scares were this year, but it just felt like you were walking down the streets of universal (which you are) and you stumble upon a random group of actors. I like the idea of roaming hordes but I much prefer feeling like I am "in a zone" than walking through Universal at night.

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I can see why they did what they did, though. Because of the parade, they needed props for several zones that would be able to be very quickly moved in and out of the park within less than an hour. The Amity construction has removed a viable path that could have been used as a zone, as did the SS44 construction site. Because of their 24-hour work schedule, the construction lights are constantly blazing bright enough to blind people walking east through the lower Central Park path and they even had a flatbed partially drive into Central Park during our set in order to back through the Mel's gate.

Traditional scarezones would have been very difficult to do considering the sheer amount of things going on. Roaming hordes were actually the best way to use the hand they were dealt, and allowing them free reign to roam the full zone and enter every nook, cranny, and store/restaurant they could find was a way of making up for the lack of immersive zones by doing something that fans would enjoy.

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Not putting down the roaming hordes at all. Gave them a favorable rating in my review. They did well with what they had I just hope that once constructions clears (is next year a possibility?) we can revert back to the tried and true scenario.

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At least the Amity construction will be continuing next year, and it's very likely that SS44 will still be worked on as well (though they may have moved the construction walls closer to the final site by next October). And of course, you never know when they may decide on ANOTHER construction project.

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