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instamatic

instamatic's VIP Experience 9/21/13

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This review will be long with spoilers for the VIP portion, but I’ll keep the houses and scarezones short and mostly spoiler free.

This Halloween season will be the busiest ever for us, so my mom, boyfriend, and I decided to try VIP this year since we most likely will not be making it back to HHNH. I woke with a killer head cold and hoped it would not put a damper on our evening. We got to the park around 3:45pm and hung around City Walk until about 5:00 since we weren’t able to check in until security was set up. Once security was up we checked in and received our wristbands, VIP lanyards, and the first tour time of 7:20pm.

We were near the front for Opening Scaramonies, which I found dull, leaving not much promise for The Purge scarezone. In the end, I actually really enjoyed the scarezone. The Purge theme fit well, the actors were on their game, and the lead guy under the flame arches was entertaining.

We headed straight for VIP Horror Lounge to grab a drink and check in for our tour. We snagged our first free beers and bottles of water, then took off with our guide, D.J.. He was a wonderful guide, full of little trivia nuggets, jokes, and lots of personality. He had asked my mother and I if we had any experiences with the paranormal and we definitely have (yes, I’m a believer) so he asked us to share our stories later in the evening when prompted. We boarded our private tram car and drove down onto the backlot, taking almost the same route the daytime tram tour takes. We watched a short video of Specs from Spectral Sightings (Insidious) warning us not to head to Amity because there was a violent spirit whose energy the team could not harness. Guess where we were headed?

The backlot was in complete darkness, making it the perfect setting for D.J.’s ghost stories surrounding deaths, tragedies, and haunting around Universal’s historical lot. During these tellings my mom and I were asked to share our stories, so we did, adding a layer of anxiety for this group of young girls who were now obviously freaked out. We were taken to Old Mexico to watch the flood scene in complete darkness while D.J. told us the legend of La Llorona. Then the tram drove the short distance to Six Points Texas, where we were instructed to get off the tram and walk. Again, we were in complete darkness, it was hard to see anything at all. But we explored an area while D.J. told us of more ghost stories involving some of the most famous cowboys. Every shadow, every sound, every stray cat was a cause for concern over our impending doom. Our group stood in anticipation, waiting for that scary moment to come, but it never did. We were told to head back to the tram to continue our tour, but when we walked back the tram was gone. D.J. put on a show, trying to get a hold of our driver but he couldn’t. Conveniently we were right next to Amity, and when D.J. spotted the sign he said ”Well….we may as well, right?”

Now here’s where a small hitch in our otherwise fabulous experience occurred. We began to walk the hill up to Amity when a lady in staff attire ran to our guide and explained they were having difficulties setting up our experience so we had to wait a bit. She was very quiet in her explanation, but I had been talking with D.J. so I was right next to him and could hear every detail she gave him. He played it off well, telling the group we needed clearance from Spectral Sightings and embellishing a bit on the severity of this violent spirit. We waited around in a dark alleyway for about 10 minutes until we were given the go ahead.

Once again we trekked up the hill to Amity, and were greeted by a nervous girl from Spectral Sightings. She told us we weren’t supposed to come to that area, but since we were there she guessed it was ok and hoped her supervisor Sam wouldn’t be upset. She passed out Spectral Sightings cards to the whole group (the same cards given away if you gave the password at the Insidious maze), then went on to scan us with a makeshift device that resembled a 1970s Polaroid camera. She explained that the scan results in a number, and the lower your number is the more likely you are to come in direct contact with the paranormal. Mom and I knew we were screwed at this point. LOL. Other members of the group were scanned resulting in numbers like 63, 27, and 10. D.J. pointed my mom out to the lady, and when she was scanned the lady dropped the scanner (it was tethered to her neck) and stepped back. Mom had scanned at a 2, which was the lowest of the group and the lowest the lady had ever seen or heard of.

We were taken to Sam at a house along the coast of Amity, the sets where Murder She Wrote was filmed. Sam played angry at first but then had the same ”Well since you’re already here...” attitude. Every part of this experience at the house was done with practical water effects as well as high definition projections that matched up to the house extremely well and looked excellent. The lights of the house flickered on and off, shadows of children playing were in the windows, a silhouette of the old lady spirit from Insidious appeared and disappeared in the windows, the door rattled every now and then. It was a bit silly, but well done and overall pretty cool.

Then Sam called upon mom (Trish) and asked her to come front and center. He gave her a whacky spirit sensor device with a light indicator. She was asked to hold it up in front of her and scan the house, giving it a good shake each time she saw something, causing the device to recalibrate it. So she’s scanning the house and the silhouetted disappear and now you see the woman herself (still a projection) through the windows, slowly pacing the upstairs. A record scratched on and ”Tiptoe Through the Tulips” started playing, then stopped. Then the house caught fire and started burning, then went out and dark completely. The Darth Maul demon face appeared on the house and hissed ”Triiiiiissshhhhh”, and he burst through a window and crawled all over the whole house, then jumped off causing a spray of water to hit us all. Then the house returned to normal and you saw the old lady spirit peering from the middle window upstairs, the lights flickered off, we heard her coming downstairs as the porch light came on. After a moment of complete silence a scaractor dressed as the old lady spirit came at us from behind, scaring the crap out of everybody. Sam screamed at us to run and get out of there, so we briskly walked along the whole coast of Amity back to the tram as scaractors came running out of the old houses at us. Those final scares were so simple but so effective.

We were back on the tram and taken to Dead on Arrival to experience The Walking Dead maze and SZ and Black Sabbath. Then once we finished that area we were back on our tram and taken to the Terror Tram. After the Terror Tram we took our final ride on our private tram car back up to where we started. We caught the 9:15 Bill and Ted show then went back to the VIP Horror Lounge to hit the buffet, get some more free drinks, and rejuvenate to finish out the rest of our night of mazes and rides.

THE WALKING DEAD: DOA and NO SAFE HAVEN:

DOA was great. It was much smaller than anticipated but the actors were on it and made so much out of so little. NO SAFE HAVEN was definitely an improvement over last year, but it wasn't scary at all. The sets were neat and it has one of the best animatronic scares I've seen. The scent was overbearing, it was all I could smell for about an hour after we left the maze.

BLACK SABBATH:

I liked this maze in one way and one way only. I got to hear some great music while looking at some interesting visuals. It wasn't scary, the flow was off for me, and I wore my 3D glasses for about 10 seconds before my eyes were killing me. I didn't HATE this maze, but it wasn't my favorite either. I did like the girl cut in half though, and the way her intestines moved around.

TERROR TRAM:

Yawn. There were a few added props but all in all it felt the same as previous years. I'm growing pretty bored with this attraction. I did have one cool thing happen though...I got to walk about half of it directly behing John Murdy and Eli Roth! I tried to get up to then and just say hi, but their security was like "John, we gotta cut off the Psycho house photo op and take Eli that way, people are recognizing him." So he ducked out of dodge. I understand it, but I also thought it was kind of a douche move. Hard to explain but the way Eli acted like a little girl afraid of something was disheartening to a fan of his work. John was very nice and you could tell he was just trying to accomodate his guests. But hey, it was cool seeing them in person.

EVIL DEAD:

This maze had me on edge from the moment I stood outside of the entrance. My scares don't come from people jumping out at me, but from loud sudden noises. A majority of this maze was walking through scenes met with a quiet-ish soundtrack of crackiling and whispers, then BAM crazy lous sound effects. It was scary in that sense. The set design wasn't entirely memorable save for a few rooms, but I did spend a lot of this maze freaking out about the soundtrack so maybe I wasn't entirely focused. I really enjoyed the makeup of the lady in the bathroom, and tongue cutting scene. The vomiting Mia wasn't working and just kind of sat there looking static and misplaced. The chainsaw through the mouth effect was fun. Overall I liked this maze. It scared me, it looked good, it got the job done.

INSIDIOUS:

Let me start by saying I wasn't a big fan of the film. I found it to be a huge rip on Poltergeist and the demon was laughable. That said, this maze was my favorite of the night. I walked out of this maze shaking and covered in sweat. I got every scare in every room, the music freaked me out, the kid stuff freaked me out, the stupid demon freaked me out...halfway through it I just wanted out. LOL. I don't know how I could find the film so incredibly lame and the maze so scary, but I did. MAJOR kudos to every person who works on or in this maze because it is a definite hit. Loved it!

EL CUCUY:

I liked Danny Trejo's voice and El Cucuy's lair. Otherwise this maze was just okay. The scare factor wasn't there, there seemed to be alot of transition areas and unused space. I don't speak Spanish so some of the narration was lost on me. The under the bed scare was fun, but the rest of the maze just fell flat.

We didn't waste our time in HoH so I have nothing for that.

THE PURGE:

Better than I expected. Actors were aggressive and on point.The theme fit well to the environment.

CHUCKY:

Walked through this twice and only saw Chucky once, and no other actors. Completely dead and lacking both times we went through.

FRENCH CLOWNS:

Rolled my eyes at the thought of more clowns, but I actually really enjoyed this zone. Our lounge was in this zone so I spent a fair amount of time watching the crowds pass through and the actors did a great job. The props were ok but the character designs were wonderful.

SCARECROWZ:

As a whole this SZ was terrible. No fog, no ambient lighting, 3 stilt walking scarecrowz you can usually see from a mile away...just bad. HOWEVER, I did get a scare in this zone. I was walking past a trash can and one snuck up behind me and banged on the can and yelled in my ear. As I said earlier, sudden loud noises get to me so it freaked me out. Was a little peeved that my ear rang for the next 20 minutes, but eh, what can you do?

BILL AND TED:

Let's just say that the theater was only half full, and half of that crowd left 10 minutes into this stinker of a show. We stuck through to the end in hopes that it would get better. But it never did. The show went nowhere, the ending was abrupt and didn't even complete the storyline, there were hardly any jokes, and the musical numbers never seemed to end.

We had a really great night! We managed to stay away from what little crowds there were and we got alot of stuff done at least once but mostly twice throughout the evening. It's hard to say if we'd splurge for VIP again, but it was a new experience that had to be tried at least once.

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Wow, amazing review! It sounds like the tour entertainment is at least a step up from last year (although in the same location). So the experiment, backlot attractions, and Terror Tram are all part of the VIP tour?

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Wow, amazing review! It sounds like the tour entertainment is at least a step up from last year (although in the same location). So the experiment, backlot attractions, and Terror Tram are all part of the VIP tour?

Yes, the experiment and the backlot attractions are where you end up definitely. Then we were given the option to stick with our guide and private tram up to the Terror Tram, or stay behind on the backlot and take the general public tram back to Transformers. It allowed us to be by ourselves for a bit during Terror Tram too, until we caught up with the previous group on the climb up to the Psycho house.

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Great review, your opinions reflect a lot of the same that we've been saying around here. How would you rank this year with the other years?

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Great review, your opinions reflect a lot of the same that we've been saying around here. How would you rank this year with the other years?

It's hard for me to rank it because our VIP experience (the experiment and just the perks of VIP in general) were all completely new to us and we had such a great time. But I think if you take away that aspect and I were to have gone with FOL like usual, I would rank this year amongst my lesser favorites.

The event as a whole felt off. It wasn't BAD, but it didn't feel right. Maybe it was because I was sick, maybe it's because some of the mazes didn't live up to their potential in my mind, maybe it was all of the construction walls, maybe it was the major waste of time wtf moment that was the B & T show. It just wasn't up to par with what I was expecting. The park was dead and it all just felt disjointed. But Insidious was a major and unexpected hit that shot some life into the event for me, and I was blown away by the intensity of Dead on Arrival. I wanted that SZ to last for a long time because it truly was that good.

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Hey hey hey.

There's five scarecrowz in the lower lot. Not three.

Coming down the Starway and walking around the area I only saw 3 at a time. Maybe the others were on break or out of my line of sight?

I saw a typical scary scarecrow, one in all white, and another with hay tufts coming from his chest.

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Thanks for posting your review! I'm looking forward to my first time VIP'ing it this coming Saturday. One thing you didn't mention - how was the food in the lounge? :)

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Thanks for posting your review! I'm looking forward to my first time VIP'ing it this coming Saturday. One thing you didn't mention - how was the food in the lounge? :)

It was decent. There was a lot to choose from such as sandwiches, BBQ items, burger sliders, a very yummy Mac and cheese, stuffed pasta shells....there really was a variety. My only complaint was that the hot items weren't actually hot. They were pretty cold. But the food tasted good and I was satisfied after eating.

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It was decent. There was a lot to choose from such as sandwiches, BBQ items, burger sliders, a very yummy Mac and cheese, stuffed pasta shells....there really was a variety. My only complaint was that the hot items weren't actually hot. They were pretty cold. But the food tasted good and I was satisfied after eating.

JV, thanks for asking this question. I'll also be be first time VIP'er this coming Saturday. We'll be coming from the Dodgers game, so I was hoping the buffet would be good, since we'll be hungry! :)

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So, I was wondering where the VIP lounge is located? And where exactly do you check in for VIP at upon arrival to security? I've never noticed either in past years. Thanks.

This will be my first time doing VIP as well (I've done FOL for the past several years), but realized I wouldn't be able to go more than once this year, like I have been in previous years, so wanted to get the most out of my time in the park with unlimited front-of-line access. The extra tour, and the free food is also certainly a bonus.

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So, I was wondering where the VIP lounge is located? And where exactly do you check in for VIP at upon arrival to security? I've never noticed either in past years. Thanks.

This will be my first time doing VIP as well (I've done FOL for the past several years), but realized I wouldn't be able to go more than once this year, like I have been in previous years, so wanted to get the most out of my time in the park with unlimited front-of-line access. The extra tour, and the free food is also certainly a bonus.

The lounge is located right next to where T2 was/Despicable Me is being built. It's in a convenient location haunt-wise because it's in a scarezone and right at the exit of the El Cucuy maze.

The check in is really easy to find. There's a huge yellow sign directing you to two security lines on the furthest right of the entrance. Once you go through security they have you line up at Will Call right next to the VIP door. Once they begin check in you show your ticket and ID then go through the VIP door to trade your ticket in for a lanyard and wristband.

One tip I have based on what I experienced, get there early and grab the early tour times. We had the first tour group of the night so we were able to have a quick drink then head off on our tour while the buffet line was HUGE and there wasn't enough space for everyone to sit down. When we got back from our tour the lounge was mostly empty, so there was no wait for food or drinks and we didn't have trouble finding a place to relax and enjoy our meal. Plus if the tour is more of bonus to you and not really your focus, it's nice to have it out of your way so you're able to enjoy the event without keeping track of your time.

ALSO NOTE we were told the food and drink service stopped at 11:30pm and the lounge closed at midnight.

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Thanks for the tips instamatic! I have no problem getting there early (I often show up around 5, sometimes even before security barriers are completely set up). It would be nice to grab the first tour time. Perhaps since the lounge is near the El Cucuy exit, I'll pop through that maze first upon opening if there is enough time. Do they begin checking in VIP people at the same time they open the ticket turnstiles or before?

I'll certainly hold off eating until later as well, probably get something small on City Walk beore getting in security line, then having dinner after the tour.

Thanks again!

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Thanks for the tips instamatic! I have no problem getting there early (I often show up around 5, sometimes even before security barriers are completely set up). It would be nice to grab the first tour time. Perhaps since the lounge is near the El Cucuy exit, I'll pop through that maze first upon opening if there is enough time. Do they begin checking in VIP people at the same time they open the ticket turnstiles or before?

I'll certainly hold off eating until later as well, probably get something small on City Walk beore getting in security line, then having dinner after the tour.

Thanks again!

They begin VIP check in first, then FOL check in, then open the gates and walk you to the Opening Scaramonies. It was every man for himself madness!

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Did you have Horror Night Nightmares shirt on, Chipper?

Yes, I wore my horrornightnightmares T-shirt..I really enjoyed the VIP ..It was the first time I made it through all the mazes (Insidious twice) and Juraissic Park. There were so many good scare actor moments . I would like to give a big thumbs up too..The razor tongue girl (evil dead) and all the Insidious actors..The lipstick faced demon behind the glass (scary) and the Bride in Black got me good when I wasn't expecting it...I have been attending since 2008 and this was my favorite year...Good job Universal.

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Good for you chipper ^.^

But I gotta ask with VIP, you only did insidious twice and everything else once? 0.o

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Good for you chipper ^.^

But I gotta ask with VIP, you only did insidious twice and everything else once? 0.o

Yes..But, i recently hurt my leg and back and I am on a cane.....It was slow going for me as far the walking and terror tram took me twice as long as normal...,,I was with my sisters and my 15 year old nephew and his friend...My nephew and his friend parted company with us (we were too slow lol) and they did most of the mazes twice and Jurassic Park, Simpsons and The Mummy...This was my first time going VIP and even without the slower pace this year, I really enjoyed it...The Insidious Experiment was fun ... my sister was chosen to participant and everyone in our group was in a good mood and seemed happy to be there...It was a fun night from start to finish and I think I will do the VIP again next year..The food was good too and a glass of wine was nice as well.

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