- May 26, 2010
This is a very, very fair review on all fronts.I don't feel like I have the patience to write a long, lengthy review full of detail. This year's event left me bored, sad, disappointed on many fronts, though that's not to say there weren't highlights... it's just that it seems John Murdy has decided they aren't the elements that should drive the event anymore.
Everything more than ever feels like it's less about being scary and more about being a pseudo-rave with droning dubstep (remember scarezone music? Remember that?!), constant strobes and dance lighting with themeing in most SZs reduced to roll out floats. Only the Trick R Treat scarezone had a hint of identity and consistent thematic design. The budget was clearly scaled back resulting in a cheap, thrown-together vibe. This of course is coupled with the fact that alcohol and food sales seem to drive everything now more than ever (especially with the Stranger Things items), making it all seemingly less about the scares and theme and more about a party/festival atmosphere. However, instead of this being a Halloween festival or celebration, it's more of a frat boy/EDM dealie. I never felt out of place at Orlando's HHN or at Knott's. I felt out of place here. HHN at USH is changing rapidly and I'm not a fan.
The staff was also standoffish and rude. After realizing the turnstile TMs forgot to hand out wristbands to the first hundred for 2PM entry, I was stopped by a team member who refused to let me move and also had no option to call anyone but instead wanted me to wait for a lead to eventually come along. I tracked one day, and the dude constantly refused to apologize despite me giving him several options to. The woman who gave me my wristband was the first person to apologize to me and listen. Maze watchers all had the permanent "please kill me" look on their faces, many of which refused to let me even soak in a scene lest I not move along. Luckily F&B were all very nice and welcoming, which was a nice change of pace. The stress of the event and the crowd coming in has clearly already taken a toll on them.
Still, there are mazes and let's go through them:
Stranger Things: I love this show. I did not love this maze.
So much about this is pulled straight out of Orlando's playbook and boy oh boy did they fumble that interpretation. Playing the 80s music outside, having extra queue space in the soundstage... ok, I get it. The problem is that 1) they forgot to include the facade once inside the maze proper and 2) they forgot to shut the doors in the bulk of the stage which leads to light leakage and 3) there was no roof over this thing despite it being a tent in the SS leading to EVEN MORE LIGHT LEAKAGE.
Would be nice if the maze were consistent but no, the demogorgans are not very effective and only a few effects work. I did like the lab scenes and appreciate the scenic but the Upside Down is poorly done with fiber optics instead of the very obvious foam effect in use in Orlando, and the child statuettes are pathetic. There's good elements there, but they just don't work together. I hope they can make for a better showing next year.
Trick R Treat: black freaking walls. Light leakage like crazy. Bad location. Dumb repetitive scares. Yeah, some cool sets here and there but there's some major flaws here. Worst maze of the event.
Blumhouse: it's ok. I don't get the Unfriended stuff and was bizarre and felt cheap. I liked the Little Girl ending, that had some really neat creative elements and some decent scares.
The First Purge: I barely remember this maze outside of thinking, "eh that wasn't that bad". Say what you will.
Poltergeist: aaahhh I get to praise something and say nice things! Yes, this is not a perfect maze (there's a black wall switchback and clearly had a missing scareactor) but there are so many really neat rooms, puppets and effective scares. The scenic in this one is perfect and reminds me of all the best Insidious mazes. Lots of great practical effects, and man I loved that skull. Did it three times, second favorite. Dug the Jerry Goldsmith score outside the house as well.
Terror Tram: the whole Hollywood Harry stuff is a delight, and I enjoyed the cheesy video on the tram. It reminded me (fittingly) of the macabre Jack humor, so consider me happy as a clam upon seeing a reference to ol Jack in the path itself. I liked how it was segmented and while everything here is pretty rote and tired, at least they put a fun, creative spin on everything.
Halloween 4: it's a gauntlet of Michaels with some pretty decent scenic. Another solid WW queue maze. I really wish I had more to say but at least it was nice.
Universal Monsters: now here's the stuff! Insane scenic, wonderful makeup and scare placements, amazing effects (the invisible man) and something that felt fully like a love letter, a genuine, sincere ode to the old Universal Monsters. This was the clear winner and I adored all three walk-throughs. This is one that Orlando peeps would rave about, and it's a shame most of the other mazes aren't even close to this level.
So yeah, I didn't have a great time at this year's HHN but it wasn't a total loss. I really hope the team learns their lessons and sees why UMR was a success and why some of the other things weren't. Nothing is an automatic win, and if they want to keep up, they need to put the effort back in. Raise budgets, be creative and stop giving into your worst tendencies.
Also, no, I didn't see Jabbawockeez. It's not my thing, but I'm glad people seem to enjoy it.