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Wesker's "FANBOY ONE: AN HHN HOLLYWOOD REVIEW"

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HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS HOLLYWOOD 17:
"THE CARNAGE RETURNS"

 


A long time ago, on the west coast in a theme park not-so-far far away...

The night sky turned dark, fog filled the streets and monsters started to creep from the shadows. Fanboys waited outside the gates anxiously awaiting the most terrifying thing of all- ridiculously long wait times & overpriced food/merchandise! For those keeping count, 2016 marks the 17th year of Universal Hollywood's annual "Fright Nights" event known as Halloween Horror Nights. As much as I'd like to tell you there was an icon... a ringmaster of sorts... to bring all of the nightmares to life, sadly there was not even an overall theme to tie it all together... only a tagline- "Beyond Your Wildest Screams!"

This year's line up was to die for... And it gave me so much nostalgia for Orlando's 2007 HHN event with its "Carnival of Carnage" theme (which was also the same theme for Hollywood that year). You had the iconic slashers Freddy, Jason, & Leatherface along with an assortment of five other houses ("mazes" for those on the west coast), two of which were IP based & the other three being "original" concepts. Hollywood's event however only featured a maze for each of the big 3 & then their permanent "House of Horrors" attraction, along with the Terror Tram. This year however, would add Michael Myers to the terrifying trio. As for the similarities with 2007's Orlando line-up & this year.... There was an xmas themed maze based on the film "Krampus". In 2007, Orlando had an original xmas themed house titled "PsychoScareapy: Home for the Holidays". Then there was the icon house, "Jack's Funhouse in Clown-O-Vision", now while we didn't get a clown themed 3D maze here in Hollywood this year, our Terror Tram was themed to an original clown concept. While Orlando had a creepy puppet themed house based on "Dead Silence" and an assimilating alien themed maze based on "The Thing" in 2007, we got mazes based on "The Exorcist" & "American Horror Story" instead. They had an original nightclub themed maze concept "Vampyr: Bloodbath", we have a new permanent "Walking Dead" attraction (womp womp). To round out this year's line up, we got "The Purge: Election Year" in the form of an outdoor maze & 3 scarezones. Unfortunately, unlike 2007 which featured four shows (one of which was of course "Bill & Ted") on both coasts, we only had one show this year. All that was missing (besides B&T) was an iconic figure to bring it all together in one overall theme.
 

"ONCE YOU'RE INSIDE, THERE IS NO WAY OUT!"

So when it comes to the operations side of HHN Hollywood & Orlando, they are drastically different. I'm always amused when someone, especially a team member, asks me which event is better or do I like better. They both have their upsides & downsides. One of my major annoyances with Hollywood's park is that if you buy the "Frequent Fear Pass", they “can't” give you a physical ticket. You have to use the paper ticket you printed out at home... EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. I had a fun time with guest services about that crap. I pointed out that Orlando, Japan & Singapore all have physical tickets for their FFP. "Yea, we don't do that". THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!! They also tried telling me that they couldn't do it because "its only for select nights". Of course I pointed out that the annual passes with blackout dates are ALSO ONLY FOR SELECT DAYS! Yea, they didn't have a response for that one. ^_^ The guest services inside the park at least tried because they completely understood why/what I was wanting. Guest services outside the park were dumb twats. Its stupid to sell an HHN lanyard if you're not going to provide a ticket for guests to put in it, especially those with a FFP. I was not the only FFP-holder to be highly annoyed by this asinine ticketless crap. I ended up cutting out the barcode to scan & putting it in the lanyard. It was so lame.

If that shit wasn't enough, it gets even better! As those on the east coast know, the smart thing to do is get into the park before it closes for daytime guests and do 'Stay-n-Scream' to avoid the nightmare that is the arches/front gates. Its one of the major perks to having an annual pass. Well here in Hollywood, they don't like to make it that easy. They'd rather do the least logical thing possible. If you're an annual passholder and have an HHN ticket (one night or FFP), they require you to EXIT THE PARK and go through the security check AGAIN, only to wait in line at the gates until they let in for "Early Entry". Yes, you read that correct. I made sure to be very vocal about the ridiculousness of how their operations were and of course totally named dropped Orlando's superior handling of park entrance/HHN procedures. It was such a pain in the ass if you were there early enough to have time in the park because you basically had to be outside the park gates by 4pm so you could be one of the first in for early entry. They didn’t let in until 5pm, although they started letting people in as early as 4:30pm about halfway through the event to help with crowds.

The ONLY people that are allowed to stay in the park are those who have a "Day/Night HHN Combo" ticket. Once they enter, they are given a wristband so its easier for team members to know who should be in the park and who shouldn't. Considering an AP & FFP is basically the same thing as having a Day/Night ticket, you'd think they'd give you a wristband as well. Unfortunately that is not the case. As I mentioned above, you have to exit, go through security AGAIN, only to wait at the gates until they let in. Once they let in, then they give you a wristband. <_<

Early Entry pretty much saved my ass this year in being able to do everything. Of course, having a "Guest Assistance Pass" (GAP) also helped most nights (Yes Orlando, we still have them). I finally got around to getting it after the first weekend. I always ended up saving it for the later half of the night. Anyway, early entry was great. However, they don't close the park to daytime guests until 6pm!!! Personally, I feel they need to do what Orlando does and close the park at 5pm, in order to sweep the park. They can still let us in around 5pm for Early Entry, but kick everyone else out. Of course, the lack of having a "Stay & Scream" area is just dumb. Hollywood knows how to have a pretty great event, they just don't know how to handle the transition from day-to-night.

 
welp... thats Part 1... the other 3 parts will come later today..

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~ PART 2 ~
"FANTASTIC SCAREZONES & WHERE TO FIND THEM"


As I've said many times over the years, I'm really not a scarezone type of guy. They don't do much for me when it comes to the scare side of things. I prefer to enjoy the atmosFEAR and the antics of the scareactors. Streetmosfear is a big deal when dealing with an event like this. So having "The Purge" as a scarezone AGAIN was not exactly something to get excited over. Especially when toted as a "park-wide sz" (FUN FACT: In 2007, Orlando's event was a "park-wide sz", but suffered budget constraints). Sure The Purge scareactors are great, but the theme has already been seen more than once & this year it also severely lacked in the scenic department (despite John Murdy saying it'd be very themed). The entrance scarezone had 5 patriotic/historical skeleton dioramas & the infamous flame bar. Nothing else except lighting & fog. Sure the 2014 Purge SZ didn't have a lot as far as scenic went, but the set up was better.

Sadly there wasn't any other scarezone on the Upper or Lower Lot of the park, it wasn't until you headed to the backlot that you'd encounter another scarezone. So the whole "park-wide" term was VERY LOOSELY applied. "The Purge Tunnel" only had a banner above the entrance that said "Purge or Die" (of course at first glance I read it as "Survive or Die", which was the title for one of Orlando's SZs this year). Inside the tunnel there were red, white, & blue strobes with multiple strobe combinations & a heavy techno soundtrack. As for the scareactors, they looked like they came from a patriotic spirit rally sponsored by Party City. It was beyond terrible. "The Walking Dead" tunnel scarezone in 2014 was A LOT better than this half-assed attempt & also included some themeing. Walking to the backlot is A LOT better than having the tram shuttling people instead. So I'm glad the tunnel returned this year.

The 3rd and final scarezone was found among the Metro Sets on the backlot. It basically used the exact same set up as 2014's TWD sz & 2015's Purge sz. There were very minimal differences between last year & this year's "Purge" scarezone in that location. It was very disappointing. Thanks to "Early Entry", I didnt have to go through this scarezone until later on when I'd hit up the three backlot mazes again. They did manage to get a startle or two out of me though, so that was nice. But this was still a wasted opportunity for something better (like "Dark Xmas 3.0").

It would've been amazing to see some variety in the streets. The park entrance needed a much bigger statement for this year's event. Again, the Purge scareactors were amazing, but it lacked the proper "welcome to hell" that you'd expect. Guests needed to know that the carnage returned! While I'd love for Hollywood to get The Usher as an icon & have a "Die-In" SZ filled with horror movie icons since that theme would've worked with our incredible maze line-up. But again, in some ways it wouldn't exactly fit. Especially when this year so closely resembled 2007, which was a carnival theme. I'd want that same carnival theme to return, especially park-wide, but on steroids. I know this coast is tired of seeing "Klownz" & "Freakz" in the streets, so having that at the entrance may not be the best choice. However, if done right... it could be fresh & new. Down in the Metro Sets was a huge missed opportunity to bring back the fan favorite 2014/2015 scarezone "Dark Christmas" for a 3rd time since it'd lead to the Krampus maze this year. It would've been an amazing way to prepare you for the maze & change up that location's scarezone set up since it has remained the same for the past 3 years I've been attending. Not having anything in Springfield was a terrible move as well (at least last year had the dancing vampires!). Sure the Lower Lot is limited on space, but it needed something!

While we had go-go dancers in the park entrance Purge scarezone... there were only ever two at a time... and they'd swap locations every so often. They had two platforms at the front of the park near the entrance and the other two under the flame bar. Considering the line up this year, I felt it was a huge missed opportunity not having a Freddy girl go-go dancer again like 2007/2008. Not too mention a Jason girl go-go dancer... Hell, you could've easily had one for Leatherface & Michael Myers too (although now I'm just thinking about Orlando's 2013 B&T show opening dance). The point is... we needed more half-naked dancers! :tongue:
 

Part 3 of 4 will come later... ish.

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~ PART 3 ~
"EPISODE 7: THE MAZES AWAKEN"


With the four iconic "Titans of Terror", the event should've had the subtitle "The Carnage Returns"! The mazes this year put the 'maze' in amazing. Yea I made that pun, but it was called for. I loved all the mazes this year... well okay, not all of them, but pretty close...

FREDDY VS JASON [Location: Metro sets] (48 times)
This maze was the stuff of nightmares. It was scary & so well done. It was not based on the movie itself, but done as an original concept. The best way to describe it would be a "Nightmare on Elm Street" maze that features Jason Voorhees as the victim. The scareactors were ONLY Freddy & Jason, EXCEPT for one scene that featured Pamela Voorhees next to Jason's grave & another scene featuring a little girl outside the 1428 Elm Street house. It was awesome. There were 3 scenes devoted to F13, the rest were NOES & two "transition" scenes... sending you to Crystal Lake and 1428 Elm Street. There were some really great effects pulled off in this maze too! One scene looked like a hallway of cracked concrete walls, but were actually scrims that'd disappear revealing Freddy on one side & Jason on the other. It was so affective & scary! I loved it. Similar to 2014/2015's AVP maze, there were times where you'd find yourself between Freddy & Jason. The two-way mirrors were great. The cabin windows changing into Freddy's eyes. Everything was just so awesome. Young Jason getting eaten by a Freddy snake. Lets not forget the finale... Depending on which cast you had, depended on the ‘winner’. There were always two scareactors- Freddy holding Jason’s severed head & Jason’s headless body (“WINNER!”) OR Jason holding Freddy’s severed head & Freddy’s headless body (“LOSER!”). The headless body scareactors always got some great scares.

The only negative I can really say about this maze was the lack of NOES songs (Nightmare on my street, Dream Warriors, Nightmare) playing outside for guests waiting in line. It was a huge disappointment & missed opportunity. Lets not forget Alice Cooper's F13 song "He's Back". This would've been perfect to hear while waiting in line. They could've shown the musicvideos to go with or montages of famous kills (instead of showing the announcement videos for the mazes & this year's commercial!). They could've even had a Freddy & Jason girl go-go dancer in the queue dancing to said songs! Aside from that, I loved this maze!

THE EXORCIST [Location: Mummy queue] (39 times)
"Its an excellent day for an exorcism!" This maze ended up being a huge surprise hit this year. It was a huge mystery on how it would be pulled off due to John Murdy saying he was inspired by the "banned trailer" and the fact that it takes place almost entirely in Regan's bedroom. I was unsure of what to expect, but what I experienced was so awesome. It had great representations of six specific scenes from the film- "main foyer/staircase" (with spider-walk Regan), Regan's shaking bedroom, Head spinning vomit Regan, Regan levitating, Regan with long tongue/dead priest, & dig site demon statue. The rest of the maze was made up of solid black hallways (Murdy's favorite!) between each scene that provided all of the scares. Most of the scares were from the demon Pazuzu, along with two scares from Regan & one from the priest, Father Karras. There were also three Regan "static" figures, one of which was a "floating Regan" scare. Lastly there were giant images of Regan's face that morphed into Pazuzu, the further you got through the maze, the more the two faces became one. It was incredibly creepy. I've never cared for the movie, but I loved this maze. Lets not forget about the priests because they ALWAYS hit me with holy water! Never exited the maze dry... :wacko:

HALLOWEEN II [Location: JPRA queue] (41 times)
Last year's Halloween maze was based on the original 1978 film and it was very well done. This year was an amazing successor to last year's maze since they based it off of the original sequel "Halloween II". While it did rely on timing, it still provided some great scares. It picked up right where last year's maze ended with Dr Loomis shooting Michael. And just like last year's maze, this one also featured an original ending. While it would've been nice to have gotten the burning hospital ending, the jack-o-lantern ending was pretty great. My only complaint would be the missed opportunity for more scares inside the jack-o-lantern with all of the mirrors. I loved seeing the "Silver Shamrock" commercial on the tv screen.

KRAMPUS [Location: Metro sets] (47 times)
As someone who was incredibly excited for this maze, it was hit or miss with me... I don’t think I ever had a perfect run through sadly. I got some great scares in there, but it all came down to timing. There was too much open space. Of course I still firmly believe that they should have done this maze last year BEFORE the movie came out (instead of last year's god-awful "Crimson Peak" maze. It was terrible- sorry, not sorry). I feel the scares would have been greater & allowed them more freedom. Having to rely on basically retelling the movie just wasn't as exciting as doing an "original" concept (like the "Dark Christmas" scarezone) based on the folklore of Krampus. They could've easily used things from the movie here/there. It would've been a great way to help promote the movie too. I didn't love this maze, but I also didn't hate it. What I did love was, the Gingerbread men in the kitchen chugging the bottle of wine! (wish I had a pic of that). Also this was the twitter password maze... so yay for Krampus postcards!

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: BLOOD BROTHERS [Location: Waterworld queue] (28 times)
As someone who enjoyed Orlando's 2007 "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds" house that was based on the 2003 remake, I was excited to experience Hollywood's maze based on the original film. Similar to Freddy vs Jason, this was sort of done as an "original" maze. It was basically a sequel to the original movie, but also a prequel to the original sequel. I was really looking forward to the amount of scares that would come out of this, unfortunately, it was hit or miss. There were times I got multiple scares, other times the entire cast was phoning it in. I understand what John Murdy was trying to go for, but the bedroom scenes for Chop-Top & Leatherface were pointless & lacked scares. A few other scenes left something to be desired too. As for the location of this maze (Waterworld queue), they haven't used it for a maze since 1997's "Creature from the Black Lagoon: Monsterquarium". I would love to see what that maze was like and how it was executed. Unfortunately for the scareactors, there was no "tent" covering the maze like the others, so the nights it rained, everything was wet! The scenes that had ceilings were leaking. Despite that, this was a decent maze. It could've been a lot better, but it certainly was not one of my favorites. :leatherface:

 

AMERICAN HORROR STORY [Location: Metro sets] (30 times)
I've never watched every season of "AHS", so I was happy with the route they were taking with the maze and only using 3 out of the 6 seasons. Thankfully, I had watched 2 out of the 3 seasons they were using ("Freak Show" & "Hotel"). The "Murder House" section was the only one foreign to me. My first run-through was actually pretty decent & got some scares here/there, but every time after that it was just kinda "meh". It had a great facade (unlike Orlando, who only had a giant poster on the side of the soundstage) & archways for each of the three seasons, but it was pretty underwhelming in the scare department (but this was also probably due to timing). I loved the "Freak Show" facade with the banners and the cymbal playing monkey scareactor was definitely my favorite. Aside from a few good interactions from specific scareactors, this was definitely my least favorite maze this year. Hopefully they do the other 3 seasons next year and not turn this into another incident where it returns for 4+ years like The Walking Dead!

THE WALKING DEAD ATTRACTION [Location: Upper Lot] (32 times)
Unfortunately, this new attraction does not live up to the greatness that was House of Horrors that it replaced... For one, it went from being a 3 level haunted house attraction to a one level attraction, making it significantly shorter. Sure it has some nice set details, but it just completely lacks in the scare department. And the scares are sadly quite obvious too. On top of that, it is incredibly understaffed for a haunt attraction. During HHN they doubled the amount of zombies in the attraction & added a "survivor" to the queue. While it was nice having more zombies, it unfortunately did not improve the scare factor. It really is disappointing how bad this walk-through attraction is compared to TWD mazes they had in 2014/2015 at HHN, which actually were scary! And I really enjoyed those two mazes, especially 2014's maze! This is up there with 2014's Terror Tram: Invaded by TWD "bad"! This attraction is so bad you'd think it was an Orlando created TWD maze (both their 2012 & 2013 TWD mazes were beyond terrible). Generic with an IP name slapped on it. :zombie_attack:

THE PURGE: GAUNTLET OF FEAR [Location: Upper Lot] (65 times)
Unfortunately, despite being given a title, this was classified on the event map as a "scarezone". This was definitely NOT a scarezone, but instead our 8th maze and it stole the show as far as mazes go. It was located in the Universal Plaza, French Street & Parisian Courtyard. It was a completely outdoor maze that never had a wait (let alone a queue), with a cast that really made this special and worth every damn trip through it. They even got quite a few scares out of me, which was a pleasant & welcome surprise! It had so much themeing too! Sure A LOT of the scenic was recycled, but there was so much to look at. I would have killed to have gotten a daytime walk-through tour, especially the first half (Universal Plaza)! During the daytime French Street looked questionably underwhelming with the wood palette/door scenic, but at night... it became a techno wonderland of fog, lighting & crazy scareactors. Parisian Courtyard was made up of fog, lighting, statues & camo scareactors. This maze was probably my favorite due to the originality with an IP and the antics of the scareactors! Instead of having the 3 Purge scarezones, this maze should've been the ONLY Purge attraction. The scareactors in here were some of my favorite. One of them ended up being a “camo scareactor” one night & got me twice! He was so happy about it, he came rushing up beside me just to tell me he’s been trying to scare me every night. Another scareactor would do the B&T pose when he saw me! (Yes even on this coast & without the show, I have that fanboy reputation). Another scareactor that I’d always interact with, the night before the final night, he came up to & let me know he wouldn’t be at the event the last night due to having to be at his sister’s wedding. The scareactor that got his token scare out of me, gave me a flower twice lol. There were so many great moments to come from this maze. I’ll miss it & the cast!  :wub:

ELI ROTH PRESENTS THE TERROR TRAM [Location: Studio Tour] (13 times)
Terror Tram... oh how you've been a disappointment ever since I first experienced you in 2014... That year was TWD... last year it was The Purge... This year it was a "Klowntasm"... It was such a simple and easy theme, but it did not live up to its potential. All it needed was a little more effort, some tweaking, & maybe a tad more money thrown into it. They even slapped Eli Roth's name on it despite the fact that he probably had nothing to do with it other than MAYBE the backstory video. The execution was too gritty & grounded in reality (seems like Murdy's "go to"). Not exactly the best route to go for clowns. Even the god-awful "Clowns 3D" maze in 2014 had more "creativity" (and I use that word very loosely for a maze made up of A LOT of recylced parts). It lacked the fun, the humor, the terror... it lacked effort. And it was such an easy theme. It wouldn't have taken much to improve what was done. The one upside was that it removed the unnecessary walk around the hill. They even added an alternate path through the 'War of the Worlds' plane crash set to help with crowds (however it was poorly handled & they didn't let you choose which path to take). Was this better than the past 2 years? I'd say yes, but that also doesn't mean anything since they were underwhelming. It was great seeing an original character created, but to excessively use him throughout the Terror Tram... not so much. For a clown themed Terror Tram, it also suffered the same problem TWD/Purge had the past two years- NOT. ENOUGH. LIGHT.
 

Part 4 of 4 coming soon-ish... maybe

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~ PART 4 ~
"NBC_UNIVERSAL'S SAME SHOW: LIVE!"


JABBAWOCKEEZ [Location: Castle Theatre] (3 times)
Sadly the only show this year was Jabbawockeez... and while it was being heavily toted as "ALL NEW", it was pretty much the SAME. DAMN. SHOW. as last year! The only thing new about it was they added narration. The show was basically a 30min highlights version of their Vegas show "Dreamz". I suffered through 3 viewings... first to see it, the other two times due to wanting to sit for 30mins. It was so disappointing, especially since Orlando got "Academy of Villains" this year (who actually had a theme for their show). While I didnt care for Orlando's Bill & Ted show this year, at least they had B&T as well! We only had Jabbawockeez... again. In 2007, both events had 4 shows... its sad to think that 9 years later one event has two shows, the other only has one. Its disappointing really.

We will probably never get the "Bill & Ted" show back here in Hollywood, (nor will we get Slaughterworld back... SIGH), but the event needs to find ways to include more entertainment options to help alleviate the crowds. I'd love it if we could resurrect an updated "Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue" for the daytime/HHN during haunt season. A show in Animal Actors would be nice too! For an event that used to have multiple forms of entertainment many years ago, its unfortunate that it lacks in that department now.

As if only having one show during HHN was bad enough, there was no dancing vampire street show during the day. I'm guessing this was a budget cut seeing as they have had the vampire dancers for the past several years. Sure it wasn't part of HHN (except for last year's "After Party" nights), but it was still a nice daytime addition for the park during haunt season.

 

"REFLECTIONS OF FEAR"

Overall this was a really great year for Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood. Sure it had some downsides here and there, but so does every year... and I've been attending the event for 12 years now. My first 9 years being in Orlando, these past 3 years being in Hollywood. I will never say the event is "the best" considering how many other haunt events are around, especially when I haven't gotten the chance to experience them (YET!). I really enjoyed going to HHN this year because it is the first year since 2013 that I was able to attend multiple nights (15 to be exact), so it really felt like my usual haunt season in Orlando. Most people out here, especially ones not part of the theme park/haunt community, will never understand the fun & escape going multiple nights provides. So it made me happy to be able to do that this year.

One thing I didn't really touch upon was the food options, other than the normal stuff found at the quick service restaurants in the park. The backlot had a food truck that had "grilled mac n cheese with bacon" sandwiches, "nutella smores sandwich", & a few other options. Over at Ben&Jerry's on the Lower Lot, they had a "creepy crawler milkshake" (milkshake with crushed oreo & gummy worms). Of course its not HHN without turkey legs. While HHN Hollywood is a "dry event" (no alcohol), they do sell "jello energy shot" syringes & blood bags! I got both!

I'm really looking forward to seeing what next year's event will bring! I do believe this year has opened up doors to great things for future events. So until next year.... watch out, because you never know what might be lurking in the dark!

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