Halloween Horror Nights is a hard ticket event that takes place on select nights from September through November at Universal Studios Florida. From 6:30 pm to 2:00 am, the biggest names in horror come to life and you are faced with the task of surviving the night–if you dare.
With this being my third straight year attending HHN, I decided it was time to share some tips on how to make the most out of your night and reviews of the houses I went into. Because I am a super scaredy cat, this was actually my first year going into more than one house, so I’m even more excited to share my experience!
Here we go:
Tip 1) Get There Early
It is not enough to get there on time; you need to get there EARLY. My family and I arrived about an hour and a half early and we were literally the first people to enter the event (aside from VIP guests who had entered the park at an earlier time). You want to arrive early because A) there is a pre-show that takes place before you’re let into the park and B) you get as much time as possible to get everything done. If you don’t arrive early, don’t expect to get into every house unless you have bought fastpasses (which, in my opinion, you don’t need if you get there on time and have a game plan). This brings me to my second tip.
Tip 2) Do Not Worry About Rides
Look, you can go on rides any other day you visit Universal. And if you REALLY love Universal, I would suggest getting a day ticket as well as a ticket to HHN. This is why: You are paying anywhere from $59 to $79 on a ticket for this event, and while seven and a half hours may seem like a lot, in retrospect, it isn’t. There are eight haunted houses, four scare zones, and two shows. The lines for the haunted houses get long, and they get long FAST. If you waste time going on rides that are there year-round, you will not be getting the most bang for your buck. If you’re there for the houses, do the houses. You’ll be more satisfied that way.
Tip 3) If You Like The Walking Dead, Make That Your First House
HHN has collaborated with AMC’s The Walking Dead for the third year in a row, which is what originally drew me into the event back in 2012. The house created for this year is the largest ever created for a HHN event, which, of course, makes it the headliner house. If you have any interest in going through this house (which you should, it’s phenomenal), then this needs to be the first house you go through. The wait time throughout the evening climbs to two and a half hours, and if you’re waiting that long for one house you will probably only get to experience two or three out of the eight. Trust me–DO. THIS. HOUSE. FIRST. It’s at the front of the park, so just make a beeline for it.
Tip 4) Have A Plan/Know Before You Go
This being the third time my family and I have attended the event, we’re pretty much veterans at this point. Since theme parks and theme park events are my thing, I always follow the social media accounts and read up on the events beforehand. This makes it a lot easier to devise a plan of action so that you aren’t standing around trying to figure out where to go next. Go to the event website, make a list of your must do houses, and then map it out once you’re there. There are also wait times available online once you’re in the park, so be sure to utilize those as well.
Tip 5) Don’t Ignore The Scare Zones
I know the houses are the best part of HHN, but don’t forget about the scarezones! It’s easy to just power walk right through them while you’re rushing to the next house, but you really should stop and experience them. For example, The Purge scare zone has a few ‘shows’ that they put on and if you walk right through, you’ll miss them. They really are worth watching (even though they freaked me out, but that’s why you’re there, right?).
And now, onto the reviews:
*Side Note: I only went into six houses so I will only do a review and rating for those six houses. I did not go through Giggles and Gore Inc. mainly because clowns sort of creep me out (thank you, American Horror Story), but also because I wanted to get a drink with my dad. Priorities, people.
My entire family also decided to not do Dracula Untold because I read a few reviews that said this house wasn’t really worth going through. We easily could have since we passed it and the wait time was short, but we wanted to experience the scare zones and see a show instead.*
Haunted House Reviews and Ratings:
The Walking Dead: End of The Line- 5 out of 5
I am a HUGE fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead, and this house was absolutely fantastic. I know a lot of people were a little iffy about HHN bringing this back for the third year in a row (I wasn’t because I’ve loved it every year), but this was absolutely well done. I went from screaming to being in complete awe of the details and how visually stunning the maze was. The creative team did an excellent job of making the guest feel like they were walking through season 4 of TWD. I’m also always impressed with the makeup they do for their ‘walkers.’ They must watch a lot of episodes to get the makeup accurate, and boy, is it accurate. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but there is one ‘room’ that will make you disoriented and terrified–it’s the best room in any of the houses, in my opinion. If you go, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. If I could only do one house all night, this would be it. I know it would annoy some people, but I think they should bring it back next year because based on the season premiere of the fifth season, I can see them coming up with an INCREDIBLE maze. I’m just saying.
Halloween- 5 out of 5
While TWD was my favorite house of the night, this was a close second. I actually have never seen Halloween (I know, it’s a classic, but scary movies terrify me) but that didn’t make the experience any less scary. The fact that they made the outside of the house look exactly how it does in the film (from what I was told) is impressive and really makes you feel like you’re stepping into the movie. I thought the projection on the outside of the house was interesting and certainly got me a little scared before I even got into the house. Once inside, I was getting scared around every corner. If you’ve seen the movie and you’re a fan, this house will please you. This is also the first house where you must walk side by side instead of in a straight line, which I thought was interesting. Overall, another solid house and job well done. Side note–this house isn’t over until it’s over. You’ll see what I mean 😉
Alien vs. Predator- 3 out of 5
While this house was not a favorite of mine, if you’re a fan of the movie (which I have not seen), then you’ll be pleased. As much as I hate being scared, I actually enjoy live scare actors and getting REALLY frightened to the point where curse words seep out of my mouth without my being able to control them. This house, however, relied heavily on animatronics, which were actually really impressive. This was another visually stunning house which I really did appreciate, and while I did jump a few times, it wasn’t on the same level as the other houses. There were scare actors, but they didn’t ‘scare’ me so much as startle me, which really isn’t the same. It was a decent house, but not as scary as the others. What really gets you in this house is the weird string-like things that hang from the ceiling that you have to navigate through. It makes you feel like someone is touching you, which only adds to your distress.
Dollhouse of The Damned- 3.5 out of 5
This house was very creepy. As a little girl, dolls are kind of a staple in your life. Even now, I still have several stuffed animals in my room and on my bed. In this house, your dolls come to life–and they want to kill you. Every little girl’s nightmare. There were a few things that REALLY got me, and any scare actor who is waiting for me around the corner is bound to make me scream. This gets a little bit better of a rating than AvP simply because I genuinely got scared a number of times in that house. I also loved the design of the house outside–really super creepy.
Roanake: Cannibal Colony- 3.5 out of 5
This house gets a better rating from me than AvP because this was the first house I walked out of SHAKING. It was not particularly stunning, the makeup wasn’t to die for, and the idea of the house itself has probably been done a million times before. However, the scare actors were SCARY. They were not afraid to get as close to you as possible without touching you. Several actors nearly touched my face and came at me more than once. There was also an actor on the ceiling, and when I realized that, I ducked so low I almost hit the ground. The scare actors truly made this house what it was, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine.
From Dusk Til Dawn- 2 out of 5
In my opinion, I don’t really know why everyone loves this house. Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen the show or movie the house is based on, but it just didn’t strike me as particularly scary. Yes, scare actors popped out of holes in the wall and behind scenery and such, and yes it startled me, but it wasn’t…scary. I have never seen Halloween, but that house scared me. Even AvP scared me more than this house did. If you’re trying to plan your evening and this house isn’t someone’s ‘must do,’ I wouldn’t even bother with it honestly. The only reason why this has a rating of two instead of one is because I did get startled, so the actors did something right. But other than that, this house was a dud for me.
A quick review of the scare zones:
The Purge: Anarchy
I saw the first movie and it definitely freaked me out a little, and this scare zone got me good. Chainsaws freak me out, and there were plenty of those. Creepy masks freak me out, and there was no shortage of those. The little ‘shows’ they put on really drew a crowd which made it even better. They ‘auctioned’ off people to audience members, and I liked the fact that they interacted with guests. Then they had the truck come by with ‘purgers’ inside and they went into the crowd and grabbed people and threw them in the truck. (The people were actors, don’t worry.) All in all, a solid scare zone, and probably my least favorite because of how scared I got, which I guess makes it the best one, right? One guy decided to follow me and scare me several times. I was pretty much done after that.
This zone wasn’t particularly scary, but it was interesting to walk through. The costumes were beautiful, and the actors towering above you does add a little intensity to the area because they can swoop down right in your face at any moment and you really won’t see it coming (which happened to me a few times). It wasn’t my favorite scare zone but it was alright.
Face Off: In The Flesh
This scare zone was my favorite simply because the makeup/costumes/masks were ON. POINT. I’ve never seen the show, but that didn’t stop me from taking pictures and really taking my time walking through this area. Not too many scares to be had, but it was really truly interesting.
Bayou of Blood
This area was a dud. The only thing that made it semi creepy was the amount of smoke. The smoke compromises your vision, you don’t see a scare actor, then they’re there, boom, you’re startled. But no one scared me in this area. The smoke just really bothered me. I know some type of show happens in this scare zone but we didn’t stick around to watch, so I can’t really comment on it.
Here are a few things I think could’ve been better:
1) Where is The Walking Dead Scare Zone?
This is probably my BIGGEST hang up. I know last year the entire park was crawling with walkers instead of the traditional scare zones, and I know a lot of people disliked it. I was not one of those people, but that’s probably because I enjoy the show so much and I LOVED how well done the makeup and costumes were. But aside from that, I just didn’t understand why we didn’t have a scare zone for TWD. It was the headliner house because it was the biggest house ever created, it had the biggest banner in the front of the park, it’s the focal point on the limited edition pin, yet we did not have a scare zone. And yet, HHN in Universal Studios Hollywood had a scare zone AND a terror tram (which I hear is AMAZING). So, I’m confused as to why we also couldn’t put together a scare zone. I think it would’ve done really well over some of the scare zones they chose to implement instead, but I digress.
2) The ‘Welcome’ Show…Eh
Every year they do a ‘welcome’ show/skit before they let you into the park. Last year, because the theme was TWD, the show obviously featured walkers. Smoke filled the streets behind the gate and from the smoke emerged a hoard of zombies. It was INTENSE. I was already shaking and we weren’t inside yet. Of course more than that happened, but I can’t recall. However, I do remember it being longer, and better, than the show this time around. It was quick, it wasn’t particularly scary, and I’ve seen it done better at HHN in California, so it did not meet my expectations. But, again, I digress.
3) Spread Out The Scare Zones
When I can walk through half of the park without coming across a single scare actor, we have a problem. I should be watching my back, no matter where I am. That’s another reason why I enjoyed it so much last year–while there were still certain ‘zones’, they were spread out across a vast amount of the park. This year, I felt that they were kind of all in one big area and then you were pretty much free from all terror unless you were going to a house. It was weird.
4) Bill And Ted–Not As Good As Last Year
Maybe it was all of the digs at Disney that really bothered me, but this show just wasn’t as funny as last year. I found myself really bored and barely laughing. If you’ve done the houses you want to do and want to take a breather, then I’d recommend seeing it. Otherwise, it’s really not worth the time.
All in all, despite my few hang ups, HHN 24 was super fun and did an excellent job of keeping me on my toes and scared. This was the first year I actually made it through more than one house and I didn’t get chased by any scare actors, so for me it was a success. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m already looking forward to HHN 25.