Halloween Horror Nights 2016: One Night. Nine Houses

Reading Time: 5 minutes
The nation’s best Halloween event, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, is now open at Universal Orlando Resort, with more nights than ever before. This year, you won’t stand a Chance as the twisted right-hand woman of Halloween Horror Nights legend Jack the Clown steps into the spotlight as the star of this surreal world of horror. Nightmares come to life in nine disturbingly-real haunted houses based on everything from haunting original tales to some of the most terrifying names in pop culture, including FX’s "American Horror Story," AMC’s "The Walking Dead,” and critically-acclaimed films “The Exorcist,” “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” “Halloween II” and “Krampus.” The event also features five scarezones with dozens of menacing scareactors lurking around every corner, and two outrageous live shows. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 26 takes place select nights now until Oct. 31, 2016.
Take a Chance on Halloween Horror Nights 2016. Image courtesy of Universal Orlando.

Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, Florida is the most popular Halloween attraction this side of your family reunion. In its 26th year, HHN features nine houses, five scare zones, and two shows. And with Chance, the “twisted right-hand woman of Halloween Horror Nights legend Jack the Clown running the show this year, it’s a fun and crazy ride from start to finish.

TRIGGER WARNING! 
Halloween Horror Nights is not recommended for anyone under the age of 13, so it’s safe to say if you have someone of that age or younger looking over your shoulder right now, you should check this post out later. 

With so much insane creativity to cover, I’ve broken down my coverage into two posts to help you take it all in. Today, let’s dive into the houses!

Each house has been given three scores to help you decide if it’s right for you.

Scare factor – How scary the house actually is.
Design – Visual aesthetics and special effects.
Creepy – Will it make your skin crawl?

American Horror Story

American Horror Story  Image courtesy of Universal Orlando
American Horror Story Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

I’d like to start by saying we don’t watch this show in my house so this experience is from the eyes of a non-fan. With that out of the way… yikes. This house scared its own cast members, so imagine what it will do to you. We give this a three on the scare factor because the main mission of this house is to creep you out or intimidate you and not scare you. The design is fantastic with the segments of the show that it told (it covers seasons 1, 4, and 5). Despite being a non-fan, my husband thought this was a really fun house to go through.

Lunatics Playground 3D (Chance’s house)

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Lunatics Playground 3D, Universal Original Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

One word–Crazy. Chance returns to Halloween Horror Nights, but this time as the villain in charge. If you are unfamiliar with her backstory, pay attention in the queue line because the tv monitors will clue you in. The house itself tells the story of how Chance takes over the asylum. At some points, it gets really weird because the house takes you into her mind. It gets a scare factor of three because there are not a lot of good scares. On the plus side, the scenery is well done and it’s overall a lot of fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. This is considered the “first act” in her story (her scare zone at the front of the park is the second act). This is one of three Universal original houses and not based on a licensed property.

The Walking Dead

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The Walking Dead Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

The Walking Dead house showcases every season of the show so far. Greg Nicotero, Co-Executive Producer/Special FX Make-Up Designer for the show gave the house creators high praise for taking something that he helps put on a flat screen and translating it into an environment that is interactive and surrounds you. Compared to past years, this house is an improvement. If you are familiar with the show, you will understand the story and appreciate it more than if you are not a fan.

Halloween II

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Halloween II Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

This house is unique because it’s the first house that is a direct sequel from a previous house. And the first scene you walk into is the last scene from the Halloween house from Halloween Horror Nights 2014. To prevent spoilers, the only thing my husband could really say about it was that it was awesome from start to finish with a nice surprise ending. Fans of the 2014 house will enjoy this one.

The Exorcist (A near perfect house all around)

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The Exorcist Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

Universal creative has been chasing this one for a while and boy did it pay off because it is a visually beautiful house. The creators had the challenge of taking a movie where 90% of the story happens in one space and make it into a house for people to walk through. The creative director described the house as if you’re having a fever dream. It is by far the creepiest house of them all and it will make your skill crawl. One of the fun points that while you are busy looking at the special effects, the scare-actors are getting into position to get you.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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Texas Chain Saw Massacre Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

This is another property that my husband hasn’t seen. He walked into it with no prior knowledge of anything but the familiarity with Leatherface. He said, from his perspective, the story seems to be that you’re going into this backwoods, hillbilly home, and the whole family is involved in some form of cannibalism (a quick Google search told me he was right).

Leatherface comes out of nowhere several times, which is impressive considering how tall the scare-actors are. The mix of Leatherface coming at you with a chainsaw and the cannibalistic decor makes it a very scary environment.

Krampus

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Krampus Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

Krampus is not that creepy of a house, but it’s crazy! Based on the movie Krampus, the house takes you into the family home from the movie where Krampus’ minions are waiting to torture you. The major disappointment to this house is Krampus is not a scare-actor but a statue. And, quite often, you can see the scare-actor before they even make a move. It was still a fun house with some unexpected scares.

Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch

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Ghost Town: Curse of Lightning Gulch, Universal Original Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

This is the second of the three Universal Original houses, and they let their creative flag fly high on this one.

A group of gold prospectors were looking for gold but found death and destruction instead. Some of the ghosts are only concerned with going after other ghosts and, other times, the ghosts are concerned with revenge and attacking anyone in their area (this means you!).

One of the reasons why this house is a favorite is because of the visual effects. In one scene, you will see a ghost appear and then when it fades, a performer takes the place of the ghostly image. In another scene, it’s actually raining on you (light enough that you don’t get soaked, but hard enough that you feel it). The entire set from start to finish was fantastic and drew you into the old west haunted ghost town from beginning to end. It’s a house that is not necessarily scary but it is a lot of fun.

Tomb of the Ancients (FAVORITE OF ALL)

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Tomb of the Ancients, Universal Original, Image courtesy of Universal Orlando

We’ve saved the best for last. Tomb of the Ancients is the third Universal house that is not based on a previous property. The story idea is that in ancient times, tombs were not built as places of worship, necessarily, but more they were built to contain an evil threat. Archaeologists unwittingly release the evil entity of the tomb they are exploring and you get caught up in the chaos.

The design of the house itself is flat out amazing. They borrowed from the Egyptian’s sense of style and ideas of the demonic forces, and they also borrowed from Inca and Mayan architecture.

There are areas that get really dark and really cramped, which adds to the scare factor. The characters, half the time, just seem to come out of nowhere. The way the house mazes through combined with the placement of the scare-actors makes this the must-see house out of the nine.

Of the nine houses this year, the only one that would not get a return visit would be The Walking Dead. If you only had to go through three of them, our picks would be, in order: Tomb of the Ancients, The Exorcist, and Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch. All of the houses have something special about them, though, so if you are able to, give them all a “Chance” and pick your own favorite.

Halloween Horror Nights runs select nights through October 31st. For more information or to purchase tickets head over to their website.

Be warned. This event is not encouraged for anyone under the age of 13, and, to be honest, as a parent, I find that age a little young to experience some of the scary, creepy, and sometimes sexualized things you will encounter.

Disclaimer: GeekMom attended a media tour of this event.

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