Ah, September. The kids are back in school, fall is around the corner, and if you’re in Central Florida, the Halloween season officially kicks off. While most people celebrate Halloween by watching their favorite scary movies or trick-or-treating to score free candy, Orlando has a few unique traditions of their very own to celebrate the spooktacular holiday. SeaWorld has its annual family-fun event, Disney World hosts Mickey’s Not So Scary, but if you’re looking for something far more frightening, head on over to Universal Orlando to face your fears and experience the nation’s premier Halloween event: Halloween Horror Nights.
On select evenings from now through November 4th, Universal Orlando transforms into your worst nightmare. The streets fill with hordes of terrifying creatures, monsters and maniacs while you try to survive the night. Come face to face with some of horror’s scariest icons as you’re put right into some of the most pulse-pounding moments in horror history. This year, nine new bone-chilling and immersive haunted houses come alive to deliver a most sinister night of events. In addition, five creatively themed scare zones, two fearfully entertaining shows, and access to some of the most exhilarating rides make this an event you won’t want to miss.
Backstory: The visually intense psychological thriller is now the most terrifying haunted experience imaginable.
Our take: This beautifully detailed house will be sure to impress even the most horrified guests with the high tech effects to represent some of the most iconic scenes from the 1980 thriller. The twins, the tricycle, and yes, even the “here’s Johnny” scene all make it’s way in this house. Aesthetic aside, however, we’re giving this house a C for screams, opting for more lackluster, effortless scares than anything.
Saw: The Games of Jigsaw
Backstory: The traps are set. All that’s missing is you. The Jigsaw killer has returned to torment you with his twisted take on poetic justice.
Our take: In an attempt to market the new Jigsaw film, out later this year, guests can enter the mind of the puppet master himself as you go back to see the top games from the franchise. Sticking extremely close to the films, this house runs more as a movie replay than a haunted house. In short: it’s gory, just not scary.
American Horror Story: Volume II
Backstory: Experience three horrifying stories in one disturbing house as a deranged cast of characters seek not only your life, but your soul.
Our take: The critically acclaimed television series comes back to Halloween Horror Nights for a second chapter, featuring select characters and scenes from the Asylum, Coven, and Roanoke seasons. In arguably one of the most detailed houses this year, American Horror Story: Volume II takes the cake in perfect storytelling. Don’t worry though, you’ll do more aweing than screaming. That is, as long as you don’t see Papa Legba…
Horrors of Blumhouse
Backstory: From the deranged filmmakers behind Insidious, Sinister and The Purge comes the Horrors of Blumhouse. They’ve all come back to haunt you.
Our take: One word — CREEPY. Though what are you to expect from Insidious demons and Bughuul himself. Admittedly, the house falls short from any kind of real storytelling, and instead focuses on your fear of these monsters. So while it’s scary, it only lasts a couple of minutes at most.
Ash vs. Evil Dead
Backstory: The STARZ original series, Ash vs Evil Dead, expertly blurs the line between horror and comedy in this horrifically hilarious addition to Halloween Horror Nights™.
Our take: Fans, rejoice! Everything you love about the show and movies is in the house. Ash is back and he’s making you wonder one thing: how gore and horror can be so comical? While there are in fact scares in the house, we have to wonder how many people will consider this scary? After all, Ash has a chainsaw for a hand.
Backstory: Enter a pestilent swamp that oozes evil, the hellish realm of the Voodoo Queen. If you fail to escape, you’re in for a gut-wrenching sacrifice.
Our take: Hands down the most creative design this year. Incredible theming, fantastic storytelling, and more importantly — great scares. One of our favorites of the night, this house was designed to transport you to a new world and scare you. But beware… while you should focus on making the Voodoo Queen doesn’t catch you, we recommend you also make sure you watch your feet and be careful where you stand!
Backstory: You’re about to be caught in the crossfire of the eternal war of light versus dark and no one will be saved.
Our take: Overall, an extremely well down house, but we just weren’t impressed with the storyline — or rather, lack of storyline is what was disappointing. The detail of the house and performers were great, but it’s unsure where the war between light and dark was. Though, maybe that’s because we had our eyes covered…
Scarecrow: The Reaping
Backstory: At a long-abandoned Depression-era farm, vengeance takes root, and the only harvest that will be reaped is you.
Our take: We have a name change suggestion: “Total Darkness.” Or perhaps “Blind” seems more fitting. The house is crazy packed with things hanging from the ceiling. So much in fact, we had a hard time navigating throughout the course. And as far as scares go, we think Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Scarecrow in the Dark Knight Trilogy was far more menacing and terrifying. You’ll leave the house with one thing in mind: NEXT.
Backstory: The crumbling house on 19 Hemingway Lane harbors a nest of bloodthirsty vampires. If you awaken them, you will face a savage, bestial hunger.
Our take: The Hive wins the most disappointing house this year. We think Universal Creative got vampires and zombies mixed up. What can only be described as the creatures from the 2007 I Am Legend film, these “vampires” are more sad than they are scary. Thankfully, the house isn’t too long and you won’t waste much time. One visit is all you need, if that.
Backstory: The Purge has returned to Halloween Horror Nights™ and overrun New York. No one is safe. Be a part of a proud American tradition. United we purge.
Our take: The Purge as a haunted house? Yawn. The Purge as a scare zone? Yesss. The streets of New York puts you in survival mode as the citizens take on the annual purge. We can’t quite put our finger on it but there’s something about Uncle Sam and a giant teddy bear with knives in their hands chasing you to get the adrenaline going.
Backstory: Break the rules. Pay the price. That’s the murderous moral of the five twisted stories in Trick ‘r Treat, a darkly hilarious tribute to Halloween.
Our take: WOW! This scare zone will leave you breathless — the scares are great, but the aesthetic is so beautiful. Sam and his friends come to live to make sure you follow all the traditions of All Hallow’s Eve! Simply put: best scare zone this year.
Backstory: The dead are throwing a hell of a Hollywood party and you’re invited. Your spirit will fuel the frenzy of this ghoulish gathering.
Our take: It’s your standard scare zone: good theming, good performers, good scares.
Backstory: The year is 1955, and a UFO has crashed onto the wharf. Their goal: to conduct experiments upon you to prepare to invade Earth.
Our take: We think Universal Creative might have missed the memo. Aliens aren’t “in” this year, and if they were trying to scare us, the only thing truly frightening was the quality of the costumes. Put E.T. in it, and maybe then it’ll be scarier.
Backstory: Enter the nexus of evil, where all the most fearsome characters and nefarious creatures from each of the Halloween Horror Nights™ haunted houses lie in wait.
Our take: Serving more of a preview of the night as opposed to a proper scare zone, it was neat to see all the horror icons come together in one place. And because it’s the first scare zone guests typically walk through, it sets the mood for the rest of the night —
just don’t expect too many screams.
If you think the event may be too intense for you, have no fear. Halloween Horror Nights offers alternatives: select rides (e.g., Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, and others) are operational throughout the evening. And don’t forget the live entertainment– Academy of Villains: Afterlife, a performance troupe brings all new mind-bending dance routines and special acts; Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, the farewell tour where Bill and Ted have one last chance to make fun of the past year’s pop culture and entertain the masses. Get tickets here.
You won’t want to miss all this excitement this fall! Book now to save up to 20% off your next vacation. Check out our specials page for more information.