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Halloween Horror Nights 2021 (USH): Reviews & Photos

HHNManics

Veteran Member
Jun 6, 2016
1,935
This thread is for reviews, photos, and videos of HHN 2021.

Please limit all general discussions of the event and keep it in the News & Info thread.

Reminder: There will be SPOILERS in this thread.
 
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HorrorGal2000

Newcomer
Sep 8, 2021
5
Based on one particular media's review, it seems that Bride of Frankenstein is a top contender this year! They gave it a "13/10". Does anyone else have any thoughts of this particular maze? I think that it's amazing!
 

Freak

Veteran Member
Jan 10, 2013
5,798
No man's land: SoCal
Went last night. Arrived at 4:10, got some Taco Bell, then lined up at 4:45 at the gate. Did early entry and did Exorcist then TCM. Followed the gameplan I posted but I did Hill House and Pandora before tram. I also got some rides in since crowds were significantly lower than expected! Was able to even get repeats on Pandora, Bride and Hill House! Okay, here is my quick review of everything in order of what I went through:

The Exorcist: Eh, same maze. It's fine. Got a decent runthrough. Just why put this in the sound stage? This could've easily gone in a tent or even Parisian! Like utilize this venue for Hill House or Bride. That would've been a far better use of the space.
Overall: C

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: While similar to the (terrible) 2012 maze, which was also based strictly on the original, this was quite an improvement! Also got a good runthrough in this one. All of the rooms were detailed and consistent no lazy black hallways except for that one that transitioned to the gas station. But for real, it's time to give this IP a long, LONG break. It's outstayed it's welcome for HHN.
Overall: B-

The Haunting of Hill House: Well the line poked along a lot slower than I would've liked being that they were filming a runthrough in there with the cast or something. Anyway, aside from the horrendous facade, I was pleased to see that there were no black walls until the very end. I liked the scrim and Pepper's Ghost effects they used. The combo of that and the "grand" scenic made it feel like a hybrid of Insidious and Crimson Peak. While the scenic was good it was a little lighter on scares than I would've liked, specifically in the first 1/3 of the house. But I liked it. At least it's new and there are barely any black walls so I'll take it. Oh, and the Bent-neck lady costume looked TERRIBLE. Like, you could literally see the real person's head next to the dummy head. It looked really bad an unconvincing. Also, I was kinda hoping for an effect of seeing the tall man in his "invisible" state. That imagery in the show was pretty unsettling for me, so it was disappointing to not see him in that form in the maze. Oh well. Also, I saw some horrible parents drag their infant son into the this maze. Great parenting guys. :rolleyes:
Overall: B

Curse of Pandora's Box: Again, same with Exorcist. Same ol' same ol'. Got a decent runthrough. Liked this slightly more than Exorcist though.
Overall: C+

Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge: Well, it's the tram. It was kinda awesome and nostalgic to be able to go on the tram again I have to admit. I did like how the changed up the path slightly to go around the Psycho house and I liked the camo people in that area. Other than that.....eh. It's still the tram. I feel the GP has the same feeling as I do because the wait did not exceed ten minutes the whole night! Also shoutout to the guy on the tram right before the drop off yelling "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! AAAAHHHH!!" LOL
Overall: D

The Bride of Frankenstein Lives!: Probably my favorite house of the night. Out of the three Universal Monster mazes Murdy has done, I actually enjoyed this more than FMtWM! I was very impressed with how spacious the sets were in that cramped venue. It could've easily passed as a "sound stage" house. I do think the blind man's cottage could've benefitted from the use of SIF upon entering. Some really good scares got spoiled in that room. But man this house was absolutely gorgeous. Biggest gripe was the rough transitions. Would it have killed them to add a little something to the walls? Also, I really wish they would've had a legit facade of Frankenstein's castle being in ruins. That and better transitions would've made the maze all the more better. But hey, it was great!
Overall: A-

Halloween 4: Yet another repeat house. This one actually wasn't too shabby. Got a decent runthrough and I liked how they changed up the ending. Although I feel like Halloween is another IP that has outstayed it's welcome. Kinda over it.
Overall: C

The Walking Dead Attraction: Just did this for ol' time's sake as the last time I was in there was before Covid started. It was a little nostalgic but it's time to can this thing.

Overall it was just an okay year. Not the epic dumpster fire of 2017 that I was expecting but not the greatest year ever either. I was really shocked at how light the crowds were! The most I waited was for Hil House at around 70 min. I waited about 30 min for Exorcist and about 20 for TCM. Everything else was 10 or 15 min! Pandora was only a 5 min wait both times I've done it! I did enjoy myself overall, but I don't see myself going again unless I have a few friends that really want to go. Still glad I haven't bought the FFP.

But yeah. No more black walls, please make better transitions, no more Texas, Purge, or Halloween, give TWDA the can, and go back to replacing the tram with two houses. I also miss the Metro sets but I understand why they didn't bring it back this year. Also, it was great seeing Potter at night! Loved the projection mapping on the castle! I will also say I liked the themed food they had for TCM. I got the pulled chicken sandwich and the funnel fries. Both were delicious.

So yeah. Despite the event being just okay at best this year, it was good to be back!
 
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Spookies n' Stuff

Veteran Member
Oct 9, 2016
1,335
Not sure if this really counts as a formal review per say, but this is my first impressions ranking and thoughts on all the mazes this year, based mostly on notes I took along the way.

8.) The Walking Dead Attraction:
This honestly isn't even a real ranking. This maze really has no right to be up here even with the repeats. I was hoping in this venues last gasp they'd do something more to spruce this maze up, but no. It doesn't even measureup to what it was during day operations, its an absolute shell of its former self. Half the cast was missing, the pulsing was kinda a nightmare, if the line isnt literally empty and youre feeling nostalgiac, don't bother. You'd be better off watching an old POV of what it was like in 2016 or 2017.

7.) The Curse of Pandora's Box:
Welcome to the bottom of the barrel. I honestly struggled as to whether to put this or Exorcist at the bottom, but given that despite the fact this maze only had a 5 minute wait as I was preparing to leave, and I still chose to not do it despite the fact that I'm only able to attend the 4 days of opening weekend speaks a bit to its quality. Technically its not a horrible maze, it functions. But it's a repeat in the truest sense of the word. Exorcist may have objectively less scenic and scare alterations, but this is literally just the same maze from 2019 with 2 extremely minor changes, and you can tell that the team probably either had no real say in this maze or just wasnt feeling its return, because it feels completely stagnant. One of the better things I can say about it is this is a perfect maze if you just wanna do a maze and dont want to wait long, because even though the sign said 45 minutes shortly after opening, it was clear that it wasnt more than 10, and this same short wait remained for a majority of the night. I will say, they seem to have fixed the pulsing so now basically every group gets the preshow, so thats a notable improvement on 2019. Frankly I just wish this had at least been a sequel. If we really needed a recent original to return, this shouldve been Holidayz. Might be a hot take, but that's my opinion.

6.) The Exorcist:
I suppose this should be a little obvious given that I mentioned it in the last section, but yeah, The Exorcist. It's more or less exactly as you remember it from 2016 with a few teeny tiny changes. The layouts a little different, some scenes look slightly different like the pazuzu statue scene, no more puke smell, and for whatever reason it sort of feels like theres less scares than before. This could also be me slowly devolving into a jaded old person, but it really just wasn't scary, which was really depressing given how scary I remember my first walkthrough being in 2016, and the fact that my guard is no longer up given that I hadn't been in a haunt in practically years at this point. Some people have also mentioned already, but a lot of the effects arent quite working. I didn't notice issues with many of them, but the spider walk was completely out of commission when I walked through, though I was among the first groups to go in so my experience may not be universal (heh). Although, some of the glass dividers we're seeing more of this year actually improved the scares a lot for me. They blend into the black wallz much better than the curtains ever did, making the few new scares far more unpredictable. I'll also say it feels strange to see such high demand for this maze. During early entry the queue filled up easily as much as Stranger Things 2 did within minutes when texas chainsaw was right there as an alternative, so its clearly not because its the only option available. Certainly not as good as what could have been, but its return at least feels less bad with the absense its had in between.

To be continued (cuz I exceeded the character limit)
 
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Spookies n' Stuff

Veteran Member
Oct 9, 2016
1,335
To be uncontinued

5.) Halloween 4:
Don't kill me. I know it must seem strange seeing this so low from what people have been saying, but honestly everything past the exorcist is pretty stellar. This year and this maze especially are certainly dark horses, managing a surprising amount of quality despite all odds. The maze in general is a drastic improvement on its 2018 counterpart in nearly every facet. It's really strange to say, since it's still built on the bones of Halloween 3, (and I'd love to see some location comparisons to get a better idea of what couldve been if anyone wants to go through the trouble to compare), but it really is kinda night and day. It follows the movie better, it's scarier, it actually feels worthy of its 2015 and 2016 predecessors. My only real little nitpick is I don't like that theyre still using the Trick or Treat Studios Halloween 2 mask. I get that murdy doesnt like the H4 mask, I dont like it either, but a mask you can buy at party city for 50 bucks kinda rips me out of the illusion, especially with how inconsistent those ones tend to look. I'm sure they consider it not worth the budget alotment, but they should really just task magee with recreating the H1 mask and using that for all future Halloween mazes, if there will be any. In terms of specific improvements, I'm glad Jamie is in it more, especially with that iconic ending scene, even if in my 2 runs not a lot was really happening in there, there was no Loomis and no scare though i dont know if theres supposed to be, but its inclusion at all is satisfactory to me. It's probably entirely due to the Halloween 3 debaucle making imagery no longer viable for them to do, but I also thought it was really cute that they had the dead police officer watching The Screecher on tv, was a really fun easter egg even though Michael was never involved with Titans of Terror. Maybe this is what he was busy doing that prevented him from showing up. I also like that they at least tried to differentiate the mirror room finale from its counterpart in 2015. It almost felt like a fusion of that ending and H2's in 2016, since all the michaels in there are decked out with UV paint. Really fun maze despite what we had to lose to get it.

4.) Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge
For some people it might seem weird for this to be so high, especially above Halloween 4, but I've always been biased for terror tram and I think this one's definitely good, even though it's still not the best. Maybe 3rd best falling behind Klowntasm and the original Purge tram. Starting with a negative though, I really wish they would've filmed a new video for this year. I'm sure most people won't notice it, but using the exact same 2015 Purge Party video with some new bits tacked on at the end to mention the forever purge just feels a bit lazy. Especially so when they repeatedly refer to it as the "first annual" purge party. So i guess this is some alternate timeline where 2015 is 2021. I know thats nerd stuff, but going that extra mile really would've made a difference. Anyhow, I think this really reinforced my belief that tram is where The Purge belongs. I still kinda hope this is the end for it, but this just feels right. Importantly, it also doesn't really feel like a retread. We've seen these masks before but it doesnt feel like a cluster of reused gags from the mazes and anything else they have on hand. The scares were actually surprisingly effective this year and there was some clear thought put into their placement. I also really liked how much the little micro show they do at the start as you pull in reminded me of opening scaremonies. It's also kinda cool to see something like the sheet maze which we havent seen in years and years make a return. Also the path they take seems to actually be more affective. Having to wind up alongside the war of the worlds sets really helps you focus on their size in a way walking straight down them on one path doesn't really. I think that paired with the few roaming purgers seemingly only out there in the outskirts for atmosphere some of my favorite parts. The chucky ad at the end is really tacked on though.

3.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:
I know some people are putting this as their number 1 this year, but it doesn't quite hit that mark for me, I really liked it, but I like its competition more. Unrelated, but wow, a 50 minute wait time (turned out to be closer to 30) at 6:07? I guess thats what you get when you take 3 backlot mazes worth of early entry users and push them into one space. Tbh they really need to have more going on on the upper lot when early entry begins so the 2 mazes on the lower lot dont get swamped. I like terror tram, but I know most people dont wanna do it at 6 pm. There needs to be more to take the weight off. Overall this is a really solid maze. Some of the scares hit really well and this is definitely the loudest house of the year but I'd say this is definitely a maze who's details and strengths are improved by darkeness. Was lucky enough to get both a night and day run and I can say with confidence the night run is better, though dont completely forsake it just to wait if you can get it with a short wait line. It's still worth the day run. The whole maze is certainly reminiscent for the 2012 maze, but I think it's still different enough to not matter so much. Not to mention, only really one black wall section to transition to the gas station. Still not ideal to have them at all, but its barely there. It also repeated a lot less of the standard leatherface motifs. Of course we see him chopping people up and peeling off faces, but the context feels different now. I also just really love TCM in general so this one is really fun, hopefully i can catch it with shorter wait times soon to get a better view. Easily the best maze on the lower lot, no question.

2.) The Bride of Frankenstein Lives:
This is probably gonna be my hottest take of the night, but. I liked this version more than orlandos. Sure its got some black walls, but I feel it does a better job selling its premise compared to orlandos with some really effective scares. In general it's definitely a much more scary approach vs a scenic one, even though the scenic thats there is still really nice. You don't think about it that much but this is basically a vs maze, and the designers clearly deigned it as such. Lots of double and triple scares in interesting places. It definitely feels kinda short and like I already mentioned this is the only new maze that kinda suffers from black walls, but I think the execution of the other aspects and the cast really make up for it. I'm also glad they finally chose to let the queue wrap into pets place rather than clogging up the entirety of the plaza, if theyre not gonna put a scarezone back there this is still the best way to do it. (fun fact btw, theres a path along the side of that queue to get to minions lab cafe, but you can also use it to go through scream queenz without going through the maze, for the time being at least.) Really fun successor to the past 2 Universal Monsters mazes, though I think the sequels have both suffered from a lack of variety compared to the original since that one just had so much to work with. Lines for this were also always criminally low, it hit 50 minutes a few minutes after opening, but dropped to 20 a few minutes later and stayed there for most of the night. This ones probably gonna be controversial among the fans, but I really liked it.

1.) The Haunting of Hill House:
Dang. This maze had better be the standard to build off of for Hollywood moving forward. Not the facade, of course, since that actually kinda looks worse in person. They try to do some kinda lighting effect on it but its basically nothing. The inside of this maze makes up for it tenfold however. Easily one of the most visually stunning and just large scale mazes theyve ever done. A thing of note is I think they actually made the walls tall enough to prevent most lightbleed, even though I went pretty early when it was still more or less light out. I really hope they use that for future mazes, since lightbleed is one of the biggest things that kills Hollywood mazes. In terms of scenes I think its got less variety than something like crimson peak, but scenically its definitely on par if not a bit better. I will say if youre willing to wait or catch it when the line is shorter later in the evening, I got 2 runs in and during my second there were some effects like the basement ghost that were working that weren't when I went through the first time. On that topic, I think the bent neck lady looks slightly better in person, but it's still pretty far from perfect, most of the other effects worked really well however. The scare placement is really solid too with some characters coming from places you really wouldn't expect, but I feel like the timing still needs to be worked on a bit, since even though I was more or less alone I missed a lot of scares both times. This is the kind of maze that I want to do lots of repeats of, but given that it's sorta this year's Stranger Things in terms of overall night wait times, thats gonna be difficult. Also, the walk to the curious george mazes feels just as long if not longer than the backlot, though that might just be me.
 

viking_wizard_eyes

Contributing Member
Apr 26, 2019
752
L.A.
Not gonna give a full rundown yet -- I'll wait until I've gone at least a couple more times. But right off the bat, I think overall this is a strong year, especially when you consider the circumstances. The thing I love about going opening night is the scare actors are extra hyped, and last night was no exception. They were amazing, even in some of the weaker houses. Kudos to them, I hope everyone had a blast. Quick impression grades are

Pandora's Box: D-
Hill House: B-
Bride of Frankenstein Lives: B+
Halloween 4 (x2): B+
TCM (x2): A-
Exorcist: B
Terror Tram: C

The way they "plussed-up" H4 and especially TCM was great. (Love the new ending to H4, gave me chills when I turned the corner and saw that scene.) Wish they could have done more to build up The Exorcist but I did enjoy revisiting. Bride was great but felt kinda short? Only did it the one time but felt like it was over really fast. This is the one I'm most excited to do again.

Hill House felt kinda . . . empty and incomplete to me? I dunno, need to do it again. Scenery was great but it lacked tension. Terror Tram was fine; always happy to be on the backlot. Pandora's is and was trash and I'm really not looking forward to originals becoming more common at this event.

Excited to go back soon.
 

deadbydawn

Contributing Member
Mar 23, 2015
875
Orange County, CA
We had a good time last night. It was nice to see a lot of old friends we normally only see during the haunt seasons and be back at an event like this. I'll just rank the mazes and add some thoughts.

1) Bride of Frankenstein Lives
2) The Haunting of Hill House
3) The Exorcist
4) Pandora's Box
5) Halloween 4
6) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
7) Terror Tram

For me, Bride of Frankenstein brought it. The sets, the actors, the story and the score all knocked it out of the park. I'm a huge fan of the Universal Monsters films so it gets bonus points for nods to the lesser known sequels and themes in the exit scare zone as well. Loved seeing Dracula's Daughter and She Wolf of London posters in the theme park in 2021. I was able to go through more than once and I wish I could have done it third time.

Haunting Hill House was my most anticipated, but my walk through wasn't the best. Scenically it looked great and I loved seeing it represented in the park so that was neat. Exorcist I felt was about the same as 2016. Still scared me! I wish Haunting of Hill House of Bride of Frankenstein would have utilized the soundstage, though. Pandora's Box is still fun - I am a sucker for fluorescents and I enjoyed it in 2019.

I think Halloween 4 was a fine maze this year, and I loved the additions of Jamie. It was sort of a bummer seeing the shell of the Silver Shamrock factory and overall think 2018's version was better. Texas Chainsaw Massacre I feel pretty indifferent about. I think I'm ready for Horror Nights to take a break from Michael Myers and Leatherface for a while. Terror Tram was the Terror Tram.

I'll be going back one more time in October so I'm excited to see how things compare!
 

HHNManics

Veteran Member
Jun 6, 2016
1,935
After having just done Orlando's event last week I was interested to see how I was going to react to HHN Hollywood last night. There were some stuff I did notice outside of the mazes and shows I liked.

- More Outside Theming with stuff like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Tribute Store and Projections on the walk to the CG Mazes.
- The Several Food Options throughout the Event which were all well themed. We hung out at Terror Labs which looked really awesome. The Day of the Dead Area in the Plaza looked excellent as well.

Tram - The Introduction and WOTW Sets part were cool but the rest was kinda whatever. It's bad but it's the Tram so that's kinda expected.

Zones:
3. Chainsaw Rangers - Great costumes but lack of theming in the area. Liked it more than Fallen Angelz and isn't a bad zone.
2. Demon City - Might be my favorite zone in the area since the Purge 2016 Zone. Felt very vicious and angry. Loved the costume design especially the Stilt Walker.
1. Silver Scream Queenz - Ironically enjoyed this more than the Maze. The Music was fantastic. Costume Design and lighting was excellent. Might end up being one of my favorite zones by the time the event is over.

A Much Better Zone year than 2019 absolutely.

6. The Curse of Pandora's Box (1 Time) - I mean it's the same maze so if you didn't like in 2019 you won't like it here. I hated in 2019 so I hated it here. I did like that the Lighting turning off effect was added to the Castle as that was one of the gripes with the 2019 version. The Pre Show is still very cool. But it's just really bad. Hoping for less originals like this in the future.

5. The Exorcist (2x) - Again if you liked it in 2016 you'll like it here if not well... But to be fair I felt this was significantly weaker than the 2016 version in multiple ways. Especially audio design. I hate how the scene where Father Karras is interacting with Regan and Father Karras is just a Mannequin, such a dumb switch up. Felt less special effect heavy than the 2016 version too. I did think the ending bit was actually done much better but it's just an okay maze.

4. Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives! (4 Times) - I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this Maze. I'll start by saying I genuinely believe it is the worst Monsters maze we have done by far. I'll start with the stuff I liked. The Opening Scene is really cool but not as dramatic in the voice acting as Orlando's. The Finale Scene was also very cool. I liked the Scare where the Bride of Dracula pops out with a Stake in her heart in the Chapter 3 Transition. The Cabin Scene is almost cool. The Artwork was fantastic, really wish the Maze incorporated more book like elements like Orlando's Tooth Fairy and found a way to prevent stopping the maze each time to go into a black hallway with a Chapter posted on the wall.

This Maze has a lot of Black Walls. Lot of choppy Transitions where each chapter is only 1-2 scenes. Felt the Bride voice acting was honestly kinda bad. It doesn't help that Orlando's Bride voice acting was fantastic and some of the best I've heard in a haunt. But here with the voice acting I never got the sense that the Bride actually cared about the Monster which is really bad.

Speaking of the Bride you can barely hear her in the Maze. The audio mixing is so bad like Pandora's Box where everything else except for the Main Character's voice throughout the Maze is loud. So the storytelling gets muffled because of that.

I thought this Maze was fine but definitely not the best of the Night. Went with 3 other friends and we all collectively felt the same about this Maze.

3. Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers (3x) - Didn't like the 2018 version. Oddly enough enjoyed this one. You can tell that they improved it a lot. Really loved what they did with some of the Scares (Scrim Effects, Michael Banging on the windows trying to come in and then him coming in through the next window).

The Head Rip Gag was awesome. The last 2 Ending Scenes are very well done as well. It's a good Maze. Nothing phenomenal or anything but good.

2. The Haunting of Hill House (1x) - Despite the God Awful facade this Maze was well done. I'll start with the bad stuff. Obviously the Bent Neck Lady Effect which was really weak. Kinda wish this version had more of Background Ghosts throughout the Maze which would have made it scarier.

This Maze has some of the Best Set Design I've seen Hollywood do. It's incredible how this Set Design was accomplished in a Tent. Some of the Scrim Effects are really cool. I enjoyed how this Maze is a more Atmosphere Heavy maze versus a Scare Heavy one. I loved the Tea Party Scene with the Scrim Effect which looked incredible.

The Maze was not perfect but I did enjoy what Hollywood did with it. Obviously not even close to Orlando's but really solid overall.

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (3 Times) - To get it out of the way I thought Franklin's death was slightly poorly executed but that's it.

The Facade is huge and incredible. The actor out front doing the Van Monologue was incredible and got super into it. Inside it's very immersive. Having the Leatherface Sound Effects be from Dead by Daylight was a neat change up. The Scenic Design was also incredible.

One of the Triggers I really like in Orlando's 26 House was the "I thought you were in a Hurry!" which I didn't expect to be in this version so I was very happy to see it on my first one.

It's a extremely Detailed and Immersive Maze. Best Maze of the Night for me.

It's an Okay Year. Despite the horribly String Tight Budget HHN Hollywood has this year they pulled off a Okay Year. It's definitely better than 2017 and 2018 and pretty much on par with 2019 which I also found to be a Okay Year.
 

highdefrex

Rookie
Jun 18, 2019
309
Los Angeles, CA
So if anyone saw my comments in the other thread, you'll know some of my general thoughts about last night (Friday, September 10th): Miserable, exhausting, disheartening, frustrating...

I've been going to the event every year since 2010, typically trying to stick to Thursday or Sunday nights for crowd mitigation, and last night was hands down one of my least favorite nights ever, probably the most, and it had nothing to do with the mazes themselves! I usually avoid opening weekend--I like going on week two or three, nestled between the initial burst of the opening weekend crowd and the October, "pumped for Halloween" crowd, but yesterday was an exception simply because of how great we'd heard Thursday (opening night) had been, with a capped crowd of 10,000 people and wait times that barely breached 30 minutes.

In contrast, last night felt like Universal said "Screw it" and just let everyone in Los Angeles roll into the park. Wall to wall people. Wait times that often pushed three hours. Express pass lines getting blatant priority over the general admission lines, to the point where they were just conga lining the Express line people into mazes while people who'd been waiting an hour or two and were right there at the entrance were forced to stand and watch upwards of 10-15 minutes before anyone in general would be allowed in.

We did early entry, got in line around 4:50. Went straight for the Exorcist, only to discover it already had a huge line due to day/night combo people, which would be fine had it not taken nearly 15-20 minutes or so for them to let people into the soundstage and another half hour after that by the time we actually made it in. As for the maze itself, it was fine as a repeat, still had the ambiance from before even if there was still light bleed, some actors weren't in place, and even some of the effects (like the head spin) weren't working. Figured whatever, we'll be able to go through it again later (spoiler alert: We couldn't.)

At about 6:00ish, we hopped over to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, waited another 20-30 minutes, and enjoyed the maze for the most part. Light bleed was horrendous -- again, figured it'd be better later once we were able to do it again -- and we got caught in the middle of a multi-actor swap in the dining room scene, which was weird and awkward. But it was a fun maze that I was hoping to revisit later once the wheels had been greased for the night, albeit nowhere near being the best TCM maze the event has had in the past.

After we got out, it was coming up on 6:40ish, so we booked it up through Wizarding World and out to Pandora's Box/Hill House. Both mazes had about 40 minute waits when we arrived, and since the sun was still kind of out, we figured we'd do Pandora's first, then Hill House, so that it'd be nice and dark for the latter. Pandora's ended up being about a 20 minute wait, not too bad, but still the same "enjoy it or not" experience from before, and we got into Hill House's line around 7:15. This was when I knew the rest of the night was going to suck...

This line took forever. And I mean it. A sea of people. And right when we were almost in, with about two dozen or so people ahead of us to the entrance, the cast and crew of the show turned up and were taking photos and so on, all while no one was being let into the maze. When they finally finished, they all went into the maze, with no one still being allowed in (obviously, as I'm sure you'd have people sprint through the maze to catch up with them). Then after about ten minutes or so after they went in, the Express line started being let in... And only just them. A constant flow. And then an RIP tour showed up and the line got halted. Then more Express people. And then the cast and crew showed up again, which meant another full stop. And when they were done, guess who was getting in again? Express! I'm not even kidding, they just kept letting them go. People in the general line were making comments and getting genuinely upset, because it honestly felt like we didn't even exist. We were stuck a stone's throw from the entrance for a good 40-50 minutes, and that's on top of the 40-50 minutes we'd waited up to that point. We didn't get out of the maze until 9:00...

The maze itself was tainted by just how frustrating it had been to get in, which just made all the more obvious things, like how bad the Bent Neck Lady was, my god, stick out, though the production design of the maze itself was pretty cool. But for a wait that lasted nearly two hours, it was kind of disappointing on a scare level, especially as it had been the one I'd most been looking forward to. Felt like there were a lot of dead zones, and stuff like the cellar scene (which was an awesome, effective moment in the show) just didn't work in the maze when it's just a creature on a track. By the time we were out, I was just happy to head back to the park proper.

(Part 2 below!)
 
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highdefrex

Rookie
Jun 18, 2019
309
Los Angeles, CA
At this point, they were hungry, so we figured we'd get something quick... Every restaurant, every quick stop, every bar, all of it were long, long, long waits. It was nuts. Places like Cletus and Krusty Burger had lines out the doors and down the Springfield street. We managed to get into the pizza place by chance; due to its tucked away nature, I think people just didn't realize it was a thing, but by the time they were done eating, people had caught on, and it had a long line of its own. (And god help you if all you wanted was a water bottle or something anywhere on the upper lot... enjoy waiting 15-20 minutes at least at a stand.)

After that, we only had four other things to do on our to-do list: The Terror Tram, Halloween 4, Bride of Frankenstein, and Jurassic World. The former closed at 11:45, and - for some reason - JW was closing at 12:15. We decided on Terror Tram, which as it started nearing 10:00 had a 125 minute wait, with a line that stretched across almost the entirety of the Simpsons plaza to the archway down to the lower lot! We bit the bullet, waited, and... It wasn't worth it. As high energy as the Purgers were, the whole experience felt like it was over in a couple minutes; the only upside was that the wait turned out to not be 125 minutes, as we were headed back to the upper lot by 11:35. Honestly, unless the wait is 30 minutes or you haven't done a Terror Tram iteration in years past, don't even bother--allocate your time elsewhere.

So after this, we go for Bride, and - finally, at last - had a short wait, as we were in and out of the maze pretty quickly. This had been my second-most anticipated maze of the night, and while I enjoyed it, it was definitely my least favorite of the Universal Monsters mazes we've been getting. Loved the design stuff, especially the first scene of the Bride and the creature in the rubble, and even found the story it was trying to tell interesting, but there was just a spark that was missing from the previous ones. I really can't put my finger on it; I dug it, but I came out thinking, "Yeah, that was all right," when I'd been hoping to be wowed.

With Jurassic World marching towards its early closure, we decided "screw it" and booked it down there. The wait was an hour, and we decided just to go into single rider, where there were only a few people ahead of us. We ended up getting put on the same boat together anyways, and we were on and off in ten minutes flat! At this point, this could've been our chance to re-do The Exorcist and TCM, but the wait times... Exorcist was at two hours! TCM was over an hour and a half. We decided against it, and went back up to end the night with H4.

And good god. Even with the queue not coiling between each of the Waterworld bleachers this year and being a straight shot behind them all, the posted wait time at around 12:15/12:20 when we got in line was 50 minutes. We were out of the maze... just before 1:45. And again, it seemed that Express was just being conga lined in while the rest of us schmucks got to enjoy feeling the slow agony of our ankles splintering into fragments. H4 felt oddly low energy, to the point I caught myself just looking more for signs of where Halloween III was covered up, and we all agreed when we got out that it just didn't feel like a great way to end the night; I think the promise of getting back to my car felt more like a burst of energy than H4 gave us.

The behaviors I saw from guests last night didn't help, either. The amount of times I saw maskless people coughing and sneezing into their open hands while in queues or walking around was staggering, which is disgusting regardless of the pandemic. We saw countless people just hard-shoulder bumping into other people without so much as an "I'm sorry" or an "Excuse me." We saw a family with a stroller with not one but three kids, one a straight up baby fresh out of the oven, the oldest no more than two or three years old, which is just so bizarre to me. While waiting in the Terror Tram line, some woman was screaming and yelling - and believe me, I mean it, everyone was watching - into her phone having an argument with someone. And in the actual H4 maze, in the room with the dead body on the couch and another body nailed to the wall, there was no Universal employee in there monitoring guests for some reason, which people took advantage of: The line got held up because a group started sitting on the couch with the corpse taking photos and posing, and then doing the same with the body on the wall, touching everything!

All in all, last night was such a headache. Why Universal decided to swing in the complete opposite direction after Thursday is beyond me, and by letting in so many people only to then blatantly favor the Express people, they created a monster of insane (and insanely unnecessary) wait times. And people, in my opinion, always suck, but considering how it was just wall to wall people last night, it means you have more of the people who suck, which compounds the issue and makes the whole thing worse. We managed to still have "fun," I guess, but Universal really needs to pick a lane here going forward and find a middle ground between their wildly different operational decisions on Thursday and on Friday, otherwise this is going to be a long, miserable event for people these next few weeks...

Anyway, this concludes my TED talk, thank you for coming.

EDIT: I guess I should add... If this isn't your first year going, and you end up going with wait times that are just utterly insane, too, make TCM, The Exorcist, Bride, and Hill House your first priority. Make Pandora and H4 second priority if you've done them in years past. Put Terror Tram at the bottom of your to-do list.
 
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DTH

Veteran Member
Nov 7, 2016
1,336
9/11/21 Trip Review
6 PM - 2 AM

As always, this is a very detailed review. By its nature, spoilers are abound. This is for people who have already gone and want a refresher, for people who will never be able to go and want perspective outside of just watching walkthroughs, and for people who don't mind spoilers and want to just get more excited.

PROLOGUE
Wow, it’s been 2 years since leaving Horror Nights and it felt good to be back. At the end of the season, I always say goodbye to the event, but who would’ve thought it would’ve been this long of a “see you again soon.” I mourned HHN in 2020 pretty heavily, as it’s easily my most favorite time of the year, so finally returning felt great. The only downside was the lackluster announcements of mazes returning that sounded like a “mediocre best of” years previously passed. Did the mazes feel like that too? Or did they kick everything into full throttle to make this a return we’ll never forget? Let’s find out…

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EARLY ENTRY
We lined up around 4:50PM and got a pretty good close spot. If you can get there a bit earlier, I’d definitely recommend it so you can be just that much closer as it does make a big difference. Gates open at 5:30 and we ofcourse headed down. However, I noticed something that makes an even bigger difference — if you have an AP, an all day ticket, or 2PM entry, you can get much further ahead in those lines. While I don’t think it’s necessary, it will make you finish the event maybe 2 hours ahead of everyone else in regular early entry because they can get up top to Haunting of Hill House before 7, while rest of the regular early entry people are just about finishing either TCM or Exorcist at this point. Anyway, moving forward… I sure missed the Starway and heading down those escalators.

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THE EXORCIST
Advertised Wait: 30 minutes
Time in Line: 5:48pm
In the Maze: 6:48pm
Actual Wait: 60 minutes

The line was already long with people who were already in the parks earlier, so again, if you can swing that price of ticket, I’d recommend doing it as it backed up our line an extra 30 minutes. The vibe in the outside line is very standard, so no music to the set the mood or anything here (MAYBE the theme music was playing, I can't remember, so if it was, it was kinda low), which is kinda disappointing. It’s not until you’re in the soundstage, you’re hit with a barrage of the loudest soundtrack blaring through the speakers that you will barely be able to talk to your neighbor. I mean, it’s a cool soundtrack, but it doesn’t really set that eerie of a tone, so I’m not fond of it.

As we entered the maze, it was very clear that this was going to be the same exact thing. And as a few other reviewers noted before, just somehow it felt like a lesser version. The maze seemed less “busy” with effects. I also felt like the cast just wasn’t as into it. I’d also say the layout isn’t as claustrophobic — like they just had a little extra space this time and it kinda ruined what made it so good in 2016. Even if I was told it was the same exact specs, I wouldn’t believe it. But like what other reviewers said, this does not utilize the sound stage space well.

I did get some good startles to begin my night though. My first run through, the ending was lackluster, with not a single person there. I came back at closing at 2AM and had a slightly better run through with people filled in those space, and also major shout out to the chair in the first room that scared the hell out of me by moving towards me which I did not see the first time or expect. I think it was a nice re-introduction to HHN and I’d prefer doing this first to get over with instead of hitting TCM with massive light bleed from the sun. I will say, I don’t think I saw the new “desert” ending that was mentioned before. It was the same statue scare, no? And then just a bunch of dark hallways after? With that said, it’s a fun maze, but it’s seen much better days. I think if the cast can really bring it over the course of the season, it could move up higher in ranking, but for now, it’s like a —
‘C’-

(Same old maze, so I won’t break it down point by point.)

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THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
Advertised Wait: 60 minutes
Time in Line: 6:54pm
In the Maze: 7:45pm
Actual Wait: 51 minutes

This is another one I don’t feel like breaking down with points, because it feels very similar to things we’ve seen in the past. People saying this is on par with the 2012 version are sorely mistaken, I’m not sure what maze they saw of that version, but I’d say it was much better. Is this one of the better mazes of the night in the context of this year’s event? Sure, but I’d still even pick Blood Brothers or the 1/3 segment in Titans of Terror over this.

It was fun, I can say that much, and I also dug the Hitchhiker out front. I got a pretty good jolt from someone slamming on the glass window right next to me somewhere in the beginning of the maze. I thought this was all a lesser version of things we saw before, with some rooms having an odd way of taking you through the scenes. Like the dinner table scene just didn’t feel as claustrophobic as it could’ve been. The Franklin death seemed oddly placed and may have made sense on paper, but seeing it in person makes me feel like it needed to be thought out again so that Leatherface can ultimately be a bit closer to you.

The night felt like it was picking up as the cast seemed more into their roles (as oppose to The Exorcist), so that was a good sign at least. But it still wasn’t on par of some of the “just okay” mazes of HHN past. Was this going to be a trend throughout the night? This one was fun, but knowing how terrifying TCM can be, especially when compared to the 07/08 iteration in the same venue all those years ago, this was just “fine.” For the context of this year’s event though, I’ll give it a —
‘C’

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HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
Advertised Wait: 75 minutes
Time in Line: 8:08pm
In the Maze: 9:25pm
Actual Wait: 77 minutes

I really enjoyed the walk through Harry Potter Land and down this road to get to this place, especially that really big projection on one of the walls. Some music over here would’ve helped spruce up the vibe, since Hogwarts has the projection and music, but after that it becomes kinda stale of a view. Also, the walkway is pretty narrow compared to the old walk through Toxxxic Tunnel, so be prepared to feel like the wait starts over in this area. Once arriving to the Curious George lot, there was a massive sea of people hitting both mazes, so I knew already we were going to skip Pandora (for now). Got in line for Haunting while enjoying a Butterbeer. This makes me want to bring up the line layouts for the mazes this year — who the heck designed them? They seem so oddly configured.

Anyway, the facade isn’t as laughable as I thought it’d be, with the lights hitting and music playing. It just feels massively cheap, like something a carnival or something would do. Entering the maze, things started off slow. I don’t think there were any scare attempts for the first 1/3. After that, business picked up. Scares were pretty decent and set design was gorgeous. I also dug the makeup design and effects, like disappearing hallways as you’re standing in them. Best part hands down is a dinner table sequence where the walls disappear and there’s suddenly a dozen people surrounding you. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the Neck Bent Lady — I don’t know, she looked okay to me. It was dark, so I didn’t really see how they accomplished it, and just enjoyed it for what it was. I haven’t finished the show, only about 4 episodes in, so I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but this still felt like a nice step up of the usual “haunted house” genre of mazes. Is it as good or intense as the Insidious mazes? Not by a long shot, but the spookiness of it worked on me and this became the first maze of the night I genuinely enjoyed.

FACADE — 2. They at least gave it some light, but a real facade would’ve been way more foreboding.
SET DESIGN - 9. Gorgeous once you’re inside.
SOUND DESIGN - 9. The sound is where the storytelling really could’ve come alive, but at least it provided a nice spooky soundtrack that set the scene.
SCAREACTOR DESIGN - 9. I thought everyone looked great! But that’s just me. Wish they would’ve went with a scareactor in the basement scene though, but I still liked the scare, so it evened out.
CAST PERFORMANCE - 8. They were fairly into their roles, just not aggressive. I can see them picking up hardcore over the season.
ATMOSPHERE/TONE/IMMERSION - 10. Nice spooky vibes and it started to feel like Halloween.
LENGTH - 10. This was a great length for a maze! It kept going and going.
SCARES - 8. First third, nothing. Second third, great and some of the best scares of the night. Final third, we missed whatever was supposed to be happening within the finale black walls, but oh well.
STORY - 8. Even with knowing the foundations of the show, I still couldn’t really follow what was going on 100%. I’ll eventually finish, but yeah, “generic haunted house” it was what it seemed like for me just with a twist of something very specific. It’s an interesting specific, so at least there’s that.
PERSONAL BIAS POINTS - 10. I was feeling a bit “meh” on the mazes so far, and things finally picked up, so I’ll give it that it gave me a boost of hope this point in the night.
83 out of 100. ‘B’-
 
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DTH

Veteran Member
Nov 7, 2016
1,336
DEMON CITY

I totally forgot about scare zones until we got to here. To have all the zones at the top towards the front of the park does a major injustice to the vibe of the event. Anyway, this zone was rocking and these guys were plenty intense. I just wish the zone itself had a more scary vibe. Felt like a bunch of stuff we’ve all seen before. I liked it, just didn’t love it. I don’t think I got to see Chainsaw Rangers, but seeing how there was very little decoration in that area, I don’t think I would’ve liked it much anyway.

‘B’

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HALLOWEEN 4
Advertised Wait: 60 minutes
Time in Line: 9:50pm
In the Maze: 10:35pm
Actual Wait: 45 minutes

We skipped Pandora for now and figured we’ll come back when we can, if we wanted to. Headed over to H4 since it was the shortest wait at this point and I knew it’d get longer after Terror Tram closed (which I didn’t know or remember WHEN that was, so I was just trying to get there before the pile up). I love the line for this one since they always pump in the appropriate music through the venue. Also Waterworld is a cool sight at night with an eerie vibe.

Since this is yet another direct repeat with very little variation, I won’t break this one down point by point. I think this year’s maze is very strong, but maybe only as equally strong as it’s previous version. There’s a few things holding it back: nearly half or more of the Michaels are behind glass. I dang near want to say all of them, but I know that has to be wrong. Next, it’s missing the cool scene with that one guy getting electrocuted. I did enjoy the addition of little Jamie, but just to make it different or fun, the last half of the maze could’ve used more of her just for the heck of it. Mirror room Michaels were on point and were just about every where — it seems like the closest contact you’ll get in with some scare actors this year, which was creepy in of itself since a lot of the scares seem kinda distant. Since the cast was so aggressive, even behind glass, I have to give this a pretty good ranking for the context of this year. I flip-flop between this and Haunting as my number 2, but for the constant scares in this one, I’ll say this is my number 2 for now.
‘B’

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DINNER
Everything was SLAMMED just about everywhere. My biggest piece of advice, if you do want to eat… go to Harry Potter land for Three Broomsticks. It was dang near empty all night. I went to venture off and get pizza and it took a little bit longer than I was hoping, but not too long. I think this is where I messed up and ended up missing Terror Tram, because I spent about 20-30 minutes in line and finding a Coke machine that worked (this is also when I got my souvenir sipper!) and then another 20-30 minutes eating/resting. Gonna have to stay mindful of my dinner slot next time and keep it down to 40 minutes tops if I want to hit Terror Tram. Just be weary that a lot of Coke machines don’t work, don’t have ice, or are missing half of the options for whatever reason and you’ll have to go find another one that works. Also keep in mind, there’s no souvenir sippers or refilling stations in Harry Potter Land.
 

DTH

Veteran Member
Nov 7, 2016
1,336
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN LIVES
Advertised Wait: 15 minutes
Time in Line: 11:37pm
In the Maze: 11:46pm
Actual Wait: 9 minutes

This was my most anticipated and it did not disappoint. I do think the new line and entry makes taking in the book facade a little hard though. I thought the story was well presented as the pages were fairly easy to read. There was maybe one with a bit too much text as I didn’t want to hold up the line to read it, but I think I got the general vibe of what that scene was going for. Now, I wasn’t a super fan of UCM all those years back, but I did love Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. While not as aggressive as that maze, this one is a step down, mainly because the cast kept coming out a beat too early. It was the strangest thing as they consistently came out early as if there was someone in front of us even though I was front of the line — even the people in the blackout room boo holes would come out before we were anywhere near close enough. Is this another protocol for social distancing, or are they just off here?

Storywise, I love the Dracula’s Brides stuff. I just think it’s so freakin’ cool. All the sets were gorgeous, the music worked, and emptying out into Silver Scream Queenz was a nice touch. I wish I had to say more about the maze itself, but I just really loved it and always appreciate Universal Monsters at HHN, and I especially love the continuation of this story. The Bride being the lead also made this very fun, as she was front & center for the whole thing, making this especially unique considering how little she is used in the movie. So being an original story as a sequel to the film/mazes, it gave the audience to really chew into a story that was easy to follow.

FACADE — 6. I’m not a fan of book facades and I didn’t get much time to take this one in either. Loved the picture on it though.
SET DESIGN - 10. Best sets of the event, hands down.
SOUND DESIGN - 10. Great music and soundscape.
SCAREACTOR DESIGN - 10. I love the Bride’s more modern look and everyone else was fantastic looking. Frankenstein’s Monster could be a bit more bulky, but this has been a consistent problem for years now at this event, so I’ve mostly gotten over it at this point.
CAST PERFORMANCE - 7. As mentioned, they were all a beat too early with their scares. Maybe 20% of the scareactors came out at the right time. At least they were all aiming for us and the intention was in the right place.
ATMOSPHERE/TONE/IMMERSION - 10. The gothic environment and the way it was all presented felt very old school and new school at the same time, giving us a classic story to be inside of with a modern spookiness.
LENGTH - 8. It felt maybe a scene too short and could’ve used a better finale moment.
SCARES - 8. I think the ones they’re working with do work, I just have to get the full brunt of them next time.
STORY - 10. I felt like I was very engrossed in the story and following along. This is one of the best told stories of the event’s history.
PERSONAL BIAS POINTS - 10. This was what I was waiting for during the last 2 years — just to be able to go through a GREAT HHN maze again.
89 out of 100. ‘B’+

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SILVER SCREAM QUEENZ
I love this zone. Easily one of my favorites. They were rocking it and there were so many scareactors here aiming for us. It could use a bit more fog, but maybe it was just the time I went. I hope they turn this into maze form next year, ala Holidayz in Hell, as that would be perfectly appropriate and feel like the genuine next step of the UCM saga (as long as they finally include Creature from the Black Lagoon).
‘A’

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MISSING THE TERROR TRAM
Ran over to Terror Tram, as it felt time. But maybe I should’ve done it before Bride, but seeing that line so short was so tempting. However, I didn’t see any signage throughout the park saying when the final Tram departed. Maybe it was at the top of the virtual boards, but while on the go, I never had time to observe. And even worse, it’s not stated in the app. I missed getting to the line by merely 3 minutes. I was super annoyed they closed this early, especially on a Saturday night. So we decided we might as well go back through Harry Potter Land and hit —
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THE CURSE OF PANDORA’S BOX
Advertised Wait: 65 minutes
Time in Line: 12:18am
In the Maze: 12:49am
Actual Wait: 31 minutes

Thank God this line was half what it was stated, because I was already dreading returning to this maze to fulfill my completionis heart and I couldn’t let it slide after missing TT. So, I bit the bullet and went back in.

Yeah, it still sucks. And I really hate saying that because the cast is SO GOOD, but I will never for the life of me get over how ugly the entire maze is. From set design, scareactor design, sound design — to just everything. I really wish it used the vibe from the facade and first room, because it’s a good feeling, but once it hits black light zone, any feeling of scariness or immersion is over for me. If you hated it before, you’ll still hate it now. It was exactly the same. Skip it if you already hate it — it’s not worth the wait or the walk. If you still somehow never seen it, I ofcourse can’t say don’t do it, but I do recommend doing it when the line is SHORT.

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TRANSFORMERS & THE EXORCIST ROUND 2
Advertised Wait: 30 minutes
Time in Line: 1:12am
In the Ride: 1:15am
Actual Wait: 3 minutes

The line times were starting to lie at this point of the night. Things were either much longer or shorter. For example, Hippogriff said 5 but looked like 15. Mummy said 50 but looked like 120. Transformers said 30 but was really only 3. As a 30 minute wait, I was prepared to do it because I was down here to hit Exorcist again anyway before closing, but it turned out to be a good gamble at only 3 minutes long (which is hard to judge since the line is entirely inside). A nice diversion and it felt great to sit for a bit.

As for Exorcist, I thought it was possible we had a bad run through in the beginning of the night, but it was still very lackluster. The line was posted at a 40 minute wait but was only 22, especially since Express was gone. We entered right at 2:00am. This is not one I’d recommend hitting for a repeat, but some of our group missed it at the beginning, so I was glad to return and so we could have a final maze of the night. If that’s not the case though, just hit it first then move on, and hit a different one for a final repeat.

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OVERALL
This felt like a “recoup” year. And the lineup of “mediocre best of” felt pretty accurate when going through. The best maze, “Bride of Frankenstein Lives” is still not even as good as my 2019’s third favorite maze, “Frankenstein Meets the WolfMan.” So that’s the vibe this year has so far — a reintroduction, but don’t expect the quality you know HHN to usually put out. I won’t say this year was “BAD.” I think the conditions in which this event was made, you have to be excusable just a little. I also want to say it was great just being there again and at no time was I NOT having fun. I think if this was just a regular year and there was no pandemic, I guarantee I would be jaded and say this was the worst year. Even now, I rank it dead last out of all the years. But I think this proves, even on a VERY “off” year, I still find a lot of enjoyment in HHN that other Haunts don’t bring me. The maze quality, even with repeats, is stellar. Go this year, for sure, just know to keep your expectations low and with the situation of the last year and a half in mind. I also didn’t hit the Terror Tram, and while I don’t expect that make a major difference, I can’t imagine that’d bring my score any higher but I do have to keep that in mind. I look forward to next time with a revised game plan!
‘C’

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RANKINGS —

MAZES:
AMAZING - N/A
GREAT - Bride of Frankenstein Lives
GOOD - Halloween 4, Haunting of Hill House
AVERAGE - Texas Chainsaw Massacre
OKAY - The Exorcist
BAD - N/A
WTF - Curse of Pandora’s Box

OVERALL YEARS:
*PERFECT* - 16
AMAZING - 14, 08, 12, 10
GREAT - 13, 09, 18
GOOD - 19, 15, 11
AVERAGE - 07
OKAY - 17, 21
BAD - N/A
WTF - N/A
 

Rub

Newcomer
Sep 18, 2019
36
HHN 2021 Review (9/11/21)

HHN is back! After a two year break, it feels so good to be back into haunt season. First, a couple of disclaimers. I want to start by mentioning that lines were very long and it did feel like express got too much priority since they were letting 3 groups of express in before managing to allow one group of the regular line to enter. That was extremely frustrating since it happened with basically every maze. Additionally, we lost about 40 minutes to an hour of finding a spot to refill our sippers, which was absolutely insane. All of the lines were 30+ minutes. The "Dia de los Muertos" area was super nice and creative, but packed to the brim with people everywhere. We had arrived to the park at 5:00 pm, yet by the time we were at the Exorcist we still waited 40 minutes as the line inched by extremely slowly. And this was the second lowest wait time all night (Bride was constantly at 20 minutes all night). The final thing I must mention is that the Terror Tram was posted at 125 minutes and we purposefully did not do it, and we do not regret it since we will be going back throughout the season. Now we may begin the rankings.

So here is how it works: the lines were so long that we did each maze once only. That indicates that I may have gotten a bad run on one of the mazes, and that is natural. Therefore, these rankings are tentative and every time I end up going to the event, I will update my rankings. It will be from my least favorite to my favorite of the night. This year was an interesting one for sure, so let's get right on into the rankings.

6) THE EXORCIST
This was our first maze and having not been to the event for 2 years had us excited. However, I must say that ultimately, this maze did not deserve to be located in the soundstage. It felt too repetitive, and it seemed like there was no variation. I did like that it followed the movie well and was cohesive. I just found the black hallways to take us out of the immersion and story of the maze. I also felt as though there were not as many scareactors as there should have been. The ending was not memorable in the slightest and a lot of the coolest concepts (stair-crawling Regan, puke scene, cave statue) seemed mediocre at best. I just felt underwhelmed for the most part, especially since it was high on my anticipation list. (D-)

5) THE CURSE OF PANDORA'S BOX
Since we had this maze in 2019, I was not too excited for it to return and would have preferred a new maze or a sequel instead. It was essentially the same maze as before. The lighting was improved but other than that there were not any major differences. The scareactors are truly aggressive, but the maze layout doesn't allow them to show off their true potential. The effects are still cool, especially the opening pre-show. However, the story is non-existent, and every original maze should be able to portray a story. I like the idea that the box has been opened and all evil has been unleashed. But...I don't get the correlation between a camouflaging monster, skeletons in cages, birds, and spiders. It just seems so random and is not cohesive whatsoever. (D+)

4) THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
The Haunting of Hill House was a show that I have not seen, so I did not know what to expect from it. The tent itself was huge, and I knew that we were in for a big surprise upon entering. The facade was lackluster (compared to the other facades), but the lighting that it had did make it more bearable. The maze itself was so detailed. I felt like I was truly in a mansion and its design was truly some of the best we've ever gotten at the event. But what it did with design it severely lacked in scares. It was an amazing maze to go through slowly and appreciate all of the detail and care they have put into it. But for the first half it seemed like there were not any scares. There were a lot of moments utilizing the walls from revealing certain characters then turning back into walls, but the scareactors were not scaring us, but merely observing. The Tall Man was amazing and yes ... I did run out of the bedroom scene as he chased me with his stick. But other than that, I felt too comfortable inside, which perhaps should not be the intent of mazes at HHN. Minimal black walls, decent maze. (C+)

3) UNIVERSAL MONSTERS: THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN LIVES
This was my most anticipated maze going in, so thus I had high expectations. I enjoyed this maze a lot, mainly due to the story element that it offered. I love the idea of having a book as a facade and trying to create an innovative story. Every chapter made sense and the maze was full with amazing details that I could not take my eyes off. The way that the characters and scares were positioned were incredible. I loved the interaction between the Bride of Frankenstein and the brides of Dracula. It was extremely fascinating how they accomplished everything that they did. It had room to be more scarier, but it was great nonetheless and one that I enjoyed immensely. (B+)

2) HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS
This was such a huge improvement to the 2018 version and it was better tenfold. Being the last maze of the night, it was a great one to leave off of for sure. The facade was the same for the most part and it was nice. This maze was truly terrifying. The actors are extremely aggressive, each and every single one of them very violent and belligerent. They were fast and scary, and the maze had a creepy tone in it with the eerie soundtrack that it utilized. The scares were aplenty and the design was truly phenomenal. There were many moments where a fence (yes ... a regular brown fence) would "magically" disappear, revealing Michael waiting for his next victim. I also loved how they played around having some Michaels attack behind windows, while others broke through doors and jolted straight at us. The way that they incorporated many of the kills (like Michael ripping a victim's head off) was awesome, leaving me in awe. The ending was a perfect was to end off the night, with it being very scary and up-close. The mirrors truly made it seem like there were an infinite amount of Michaels there and they all very well may be real. (A-)

1) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
Upon entering this maze, I loved seeing Nubbins standing outside of the maze. He was perfectly in character and seemed so real as he made a long eye contact with me, that it kind of scared me. The maze itself was incredible. Since the mazes are tight, the effect of the chainsaws was all the more powerful. The scareactors inside perfectly fit the size of Leatherface, making them big and all the more intimidating. The design was amazing throughout the entire maze. There were meat that we had to push aside (probably the only time there was anything like curtains or SIF (stuff-in-face)). Every scene was well designed. The dining room was unexpectedly scary, with many scareactors in there. I loved seeing the in-maze gas station facade which was honestly fantastic to see the scale of it in person. The cemetery scene in the "outside" portion had some of the best scares that I have ever gotten. The interaction between the actors and us was brilliant (in particular, putting the "mask" on our face). And the last room was so intense that I ran out of the maze so fast, my heart was pounding at what felt like 100 beats per second, and my legs were trembling with fear. This maze truly has everything I desire in all HHN mazes. It had perfect soundtrack, scareactor design, scares, set design, facades, and more. This was simply put - nothing short of perfect. WOW!!! (A+++)

Scare zone ranking:
3) UNIVERSAL MONSTERS: SILVER SCREAM QUEENZ (Loved the character design, but only spent about 20 seconds in it so definitely need more time.)
2) CHAINSAW RANGERS (Loved the masks and the variety of animals. Chainsaws are always frightening. Needs background props and would prefer if this was placed in the Lower Lot instead.)
1) DEMON CITY (Good props, aggressive actors, great masks /character design. One of the cooler scare zones overall.)

Overall, I found this year to be very pleasantly surprising. It felt like there was barely any plexiglass, the masks that some scareactors wore (over their regular character masks) did not detract from the immersive feeling at all. I had a lot of fun, got scared plenty of times, lost my voice by the end of the night, and felt like I wanted to come back and do it all again ... especially TCM! I recommend going, but preferably not on a Saturday on opening-night week lol.

*Will update rankings and include the Terror Tram when I do go again very soon. As much chance as there is for certain mazes to adapt over the season and be better or worse, these exact rankings may stay the same.
 
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Chris Galindo

Veteran Member
Feb 22, 2015
2,894
LA
Hahah, the paradox of HHN fans who will clamor no more TCM while also acknowledging this years maze was really well executed (myself included). I don't think its Back in Business good but it was really fun and felt like vintage HHN.
 

Spookies n' Stuff

Veteran Member
Oct 9, 2016
1,335
Not technically a review but technically a follow up to my review,
My first and only weekend of HHN this year is done, making this my 3rd least attended year behind 2013 (my first year ever) and 2015 (my second year ever) which in itself is a pretty melancholy thing, but also it was somewhat interesting to see how things developed even in that time.
Ultimately, the only major change I would make is switching Exorcist with Pandoras Box for my lowest spot. Initially it had the benefit of nostalgia, but once that wore off and it became an inconvenience to even get into the maze once the nights got busier, it immediately dropped. Like, Pandora may not have the benefit of nostalgia, but i also never had to wait more than 20 minutes for it.

Bride honestly very nearly slid up to my number 1 spot, but I think that's mostly a matter of exposure bias, since it's the maze I went through the most bar none, since they always seemed to keep the line moving. Hill House is still fantastic and I think overall visually it's more effective, but Bride just has aspects that work really well for me. The Slash soundtrack is easily one of the biggest ones. People really focus on the black walls and how much higher the production value in orlando is, but I think hollywood has something going for it that orlando doesnt match, and that's tone. The combination of the slash soundtrack, the voice over, and the storybook motif really send it beyond for me. I've always been really nitpicky about orlandos voice acting in mazes, but here I think especially hollywood just has it down. Can't even say really what it is about it that turns the maze into something greater than the sum of its parts, just hits different. Black walls or not, this maze was always a joy and I sincerely hope we can keep the level of quality with hollywoods Universal Monster mazes high for years to come.

I didn't really touch on scarezones much in my original review, but overall I enjoyed what there was. Like everyone's already brought up, theyre too frontloaded at the enterance, there aren't enough props, and the only way the concepts couldve been more generic is if you named them "Demonz" and "Chainsawz", but I think as always the performers really sell it. You could probably throw those guys out there in whatever Party City props you could find laying around and they'd find a way to make a good zone out of it. Though that's not to bash the art direction, since I really do like a lot of the designs. Silver Scream Queenz is the big standout this year, and was easily my favorite, just really great design and execution, and I love the opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the studios lesser known female monsters. Pretty much the perfect zone to pair with Bride and the perfect spiritual successor to Monster Masquerade. Wish I'd stuck around and watched the trailers more though.

Anyhow, figure I'll throw in my obligatory maze count, in order from highest to lowest.
Bride of Frankenstein Lives (11x)
The Haunting of Hill House (6x)
Halloween 4 (5x)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (5x)
Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge (4x)
Pandoras Box (4x)
The Exorcist (2x)
The Walking Dead Attraction (1x)
 

StopMakingSense

Newcomer
Sep 8, 2021
18
My experience, ranking from best to worst.

  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Great facade and scene before even entering the house. The smells throughout really made you feel like you were there. The scenes were all set up beautifully, and the scares were good. Overall, I thought this was the best house of the night. It felt so well thought out and executed and was a blast to walk through. This location always seems to have high quality houses for some reason. Overall: A
  • Haunting of Hill House – Starting off with the obvious, the facade was so weak. Honestly I think it significantly took away from what the experience of the maze could have been. But looking past that, I thought the inside of the maze and the execution were both fantastic. The way they designed most of the maze was completely immersive, and it definitely made you feel like you were walking through one giant mansion the entire time. As others have noted, the scares were minimal, but I think that worked so well for this maze and was likely by design since it stayed so true to the show (which is a very slow burn). The multiple times we ran into the tall guy were genuinely scary, and everything else was just fun to look at. I even felt the floor creaking on a few occasions – not sure if by design, but a nice touch either way. I do think the facade was such a missed opportunity and it detracted from the otherwise immersive feeling, but a great maze nonetheless. Overall: B+
  • Halloween 4 – This was a fun maze in 2018 and was still fun this year. The added scene at the end was definitely a welcomed surprise as I find it probably the funniest scene of the movie (Nooooo! Nooooooo!). The hall of mirrors was fun, and the plexiglass pounding scares from Michael Myers worked really well. Overall: B
  • The Exorcist – I didn’t experience this the first time around, but I watched the videos online and it looked terrible. I had no expectations going into it this time since I assumed it would be the same. I ultimately enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it’s slightly repetitive and doesn’t do much to tell a story. The facade was fantastic, I’ll give it that. Everything else was good, not great. Overall: C+
  • Bride of Frankenstein – I had high expectations for this maze and was left wanting more. I did it twice to be sure I didn’t miss anything, and I left both times feeling it was just OK. The music was awesome, and the scene where the Bride had finally finished resurrecting the monster was amazing. But the maze itself felt really short, many of the scenes I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on, and ultimately it felt like a bit of a mess. The other thing that bothered me is that you’re supposed to kind of read the story as you’re moving, but most of the words were printed in black ink at foot level and without much lighting – when you’re in the conga line, it was a challenge to read it and look at the picture to understand what was happening in the story. The scare zone at the end of the maze was a lot of fun! Overall: C+
  • Pandora’s Box – This was my least favorite maze of 2019 and I’d planned to skip it all together this year. I ended up going anyway and it was better, but I think because we somehow managed to go through it alone. We got every scare and couldn’t see any of them coming, which was fun. But the maze overall just doesn’t make sense to me. It feels like what you’d get if you sent a group of kids to Party City and told them to make a maze out of whatever they can buy. There are some creepy things in there, but the glow-in-the-dark paint, snakes, spiders, demons, etc., all come together to be a sloppy mess. A lot of people love this maze, and I don’t hate it, but it feels like what you’d get at a local haunt instead of HHN. Overall: D
I didn’t rate the Terror Tram, but I actually really enjoyed it. I’m not a fan of The Purge and had no expectations for it this year, but it ended up being one of the highlights of my night. Much like Pandora, we somehow managed to navigate the second half of the trail (after the Bates house) alone right at dusk, and that was a blast! Not sure it would have been the same had we been buried in the crowds with everyone else.

Overall, a really fun event that I wasn’t initially super excited for. It’s not necessarily something I feel like I need to do again in 2021, but I’m really glad I went and think they did a pretty good job considering the circumstances and constraints.
 

Brian G.

Editor-in-Chief
Staff member
Administrator
V.I.P.
Jan 21, 2008
22,610
Orlando, FL
The Horrah is back! Halloween Horror Nights has finally returned to Universal Studios Hollywood! We take a look at each of the mazes, scare zones, and the lone show.

 

Clive

aka Fallow
Staff member
Moderator
May 26, 2010
4,690
Okay, some expanded thoughts.

I attended on Saturday the 11th. In hindsight, I should have picked a day where my gold pass wasn't blocked out. If you want to avoid paying for parking, AMC A-List can save you quite a bit of cash if you "book" a movie before arriving.

The arrival experience was pretty fine. Early entry was clearly marked, and they let us in precisely at 5:30. As some have pointed out, people who are already inside the park get their wristbands early and gravitate downstairs to the two mazes. We were in the front 10% of the early entry holding area outside the turnstiles (and it definitely filled up behind us) and still arrived to the mostly full Panda Express switchbacks for Exorcist.

Anywho: Some general observations before I get into the individual attractions.
  • They oversold Express. It's almost comical. In some cases, the express line was as long or even longer than the standby line. Event ops were overwhelmed and clearly were instructed to keep the express queues essentially empty, so everyone in standby would wait motionless for unacceptably long periods. Express can wait a couple minutes. There needs to be a better balance.
  • The additional dining and bar areas are nice, but staffing is an issue. The Day of the Dead bar was struggling to keep up with huge lines. We had better luck at the laboratory bar above Jurassic Cafe. I do think it's preposterous the daytime restaurants and venues still sell alcohol at the same overinflated prices, while the "temporary" locations offered much better bang for your buck. Something to keep an eye on if you intend to imbibe.
  • I liked the Day of the Dead stuff fine but it felt a bit random and out of sync with the rest of the event. It was also a little frustrating so much scenic effort was put into this venue when so little was done for some of the other scare zones and experiences.
  • Overall park capacity is much lower than 2019 or earlier years. To my understanding, a "sell out" night is barely over 22K. In the past, 24-26K would be a typical "very busy" night, and a sell out would edge closer to 28K. Still, there are fewer things to do, even with Potter, so walkways are congested and lines are long. You have to remember that Metro gave people places to linger and eat, whereas the parking garage area now is basically just a funnel to two mazes. Very few people were stopping in Potter except to obtain Butterbeer, so I don't think it helped as much as they hoped in terms of expanding available acreage.
  • To that point, I realize they can't run Dark Arts as it would slam the only artery to the parking garage mazes... but it's embarrassing they couldn't get the Death Eaters out there. They already installed the projection, lighting, and audio package intended for the 2019 offering. It would've give the park another sorely needed scare zone and more of a reason for guests to linger in the area.
  • The walk to the parking garage was fine and absolutely shorter than the metro walk. Fun fact, it's also literally the walk scare actors used to do to go clock in and out for the night.
  • I mentioned this in my other post, but COVID compliance is a joke. There is the occasional maze host that will ask/order guests to put their masks on before entering a maze, but many gave up or didn't care. Most guests pulled their masks down as soon as they cleared the first maze host, and hosts inside did not interfere. Very discouraging, and I'm very happy the park will be forced to require partial vaccinations beginning on the 7th.
  • Masks on characters is largely not a big deal. It is only really noticeable in Hill House for Poppy/Olivia and in Texas for Drayton/Nubbins. It barely registers in Bride, as a mask mostly makes sense for the theme.
  • The limited plexiglass is barely worth discussing. It's stupid that it's there to begin with, but I only counted four instances throughout the mazes where it was an unthemed plexiglass sheet. Halloween 4 has an issue where too many scares are behind themed barriers (I'll get there in a second), but otherwise, it's not an issue. Nothing like Orlando. I also noticed that they seemed to prioritize not staffing the plexiglass spots when they were down actors, so, take that for what you will.
  • Park really needs more scare zones and another show. It sucks that they're all contained to one corridor in the upper lot. Throw something together in the Lower Lot again. Death Eaters in Potter. Something. Anything. We also need something other than Jabbawokeez. That show is not my cup of tea (we skipped it), but it clearly has its audience. The show in the Lower Lot was a great move in 2019 - bring something like that back, even if it's just a monster DJ or something along those lines. If we're really getting crazy, maybe tie in a stage and DJ to a lower lot scare zone.
  • Some really cool merchandise this year, especially the Bride of Frankenstein stuff. I'm not a graphic tee person, but they had some legitimately cool designs. Picked up some of the themed coasters.
  • We can't keep doing six mazes plus Terror Tram. The event can't handle it. I'm not saying we have to go back up to nine, but six isn't cutting it. It of course doesn't help that a majority of them are repeats.
Maze rankings/thoughts in the next post - I know I'm approaching the character limit.
 

Clive

aka Fallow
Staff member
Moderator
May 26, 2010
4,690
Maze Rankings --

8) Terror Tram. I've never been a fan of the modern incarnation of the Terror Tram. Yes, getting to walk on the actual backlot is very cool, and the Norman photo is a very unique opportunity. Unfortunately, the route is just too short, and the attraction seldom takes full advantage of its location. I'll admit my opinion is somewhat sullied by a posted 30-minute wait becoming 60 minutes and some truly heinous ops. Upon finishing the route, we had to wait 20 minutes for a tram. Not because there was a long line - but because no trams were arriving at all. The crowd was becoming extremely restless and they just kept sending people behind us. It was a dangerous situation. Anyway, what else is there to say? They didn't bother to switch out The First Purge trailer promoting an imminent release, so that's a good indicator of the level of effort put into this. The chainsaws at the beginning are fine (and the little sketch they do is amusing), but there are so many people pumped through this thing that no one gets a real opportunity to scare. The Bates Motel "gauntlet" was a worse version of the 2016 Upper Lot gauntlet. The camo tunnel felt like it was from a regional haunt. And War of the Worlds was set up to be too narrow to become the one-way scare zone it ought to be. I do think Purge and the Terror Tram can go hand in hand, and it sounds like the 2015 version was better... but the formula for the Tram at this point is worn out, and it's clear event decision makers brought this back from the grave because it required minimal new assets.
7) The Walking Dead Attraction. I'm glad this is being put out of its misery. The sets are nice, but it's too brief and ends just as it's picking up momentum. It was not well staffed and probably had fewer Walkers than daytime ops. I will say the actors that were there were aggressive and did a nice job.
5/6) Pandora's Box/The Exorcist. Both of these are mostly carbon copies that are also considerably worse than their original incarnations. Pandora's Box ruined its cave scene by making the one scare a truly embarrassing mechanical effect. A few masks were switched out and we got the spider puppet that I could probably pick up at Spirit Halloween. My only kind comment is that the Cerberus Puppet looked significantly better. I actually intended to skip Pandora but found it to be a walk-in in the final 30 minutes of the event, so we gave it a fair shake and did 3 laps. Nothing good. The Exorcist ditched many of its cooler flourishes, including the prologue's Ouija table and many of the special lighting effects and overbearing audio design. What's left is a maze that legitimately feels half-finished. Again, the actors that were there did their best, and some of the masks look quite nice. But otherwise, it's a real bad sign that Universal felt bringing this back as a headliner was an acceptable choice.
4) Halloween 4. I did not particularly like this maze, which speaks to my overall enthusiasm and satisfaction with the lineup's execution. A lot of people are saying they like it more than the 2018 version, and I'll admit that does puzzle me. Too many of the scares here are hidden behind scrim effects and windows. It's unclear if these were leftovers from the Halloween III install or a last-minute COVID safety effort, but either way, the result is a maze where Michael Myers never feels like a real threat. The best scares, of course, are the ones where he can get alarmingly close to you - but even those are fairly telegraphed. I did enjoy Jamie's appearance, even if the scene feels like we're supposed to be waiting for something that never happens. The Loomis casting is also a bit unfortunate, as they apparently were not able to get nearly as good of lookalikes as they have in the past. The finale mirror maze is unsettling, at least, and ends things on a high note.
3) Bride of Frankenstein Lives. I liked but did not love the latest entry in the Slash monster canon. While the sets that are here are gorgeous, I felt the action was too choppy and broken up by too many black wall transitions. I think the "storybook" conceit was a bit hackneyed and didn't really translate in the execution, even if the artwork itself was immaculate and well-executed. I was really impressed with the Bride makeup, as all of the performers looked startlingly alike. Their interactions with the Dracula brides were also appropriately gnarly, and I loved the "versus" show moments - particularly the overwhelming cabin group scare. Still, though, it feels more like a handful of really cool moments instead of a cohesive attraction. We did get a chance to catch it many times, as it never seems to develop much of a line.
1/2) Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Haunting of Hill House. These are the two mazes I can confidently say are great and worth attending the event for. Sure, Texas Chainsaw is nothing we haven't seen before, but boy, is it fantastically put together. It nails the grime of the movie and manages to hit most of the core beats without feeling like a retreat. The performers here were also on fire and were galvanized but expertly designed scares - Nubbins's crypt scare in particular got me very good. We saw a lot of people running out of this thing, and I don't blame them. It's probably the only maze that truly had my heart racing. As for Hill House, I will admit up front that we got to do this maze three times privately - no one in front of us or behind us, and that may have impacted our impressions. (To be fair, we walk slowly, so we do usually enter an empty room in other mazes.) The facade is a joke, but you can see all of the money went into the interior, which is a stunning translation of the show's opulent and spacious environments. Yes, the Bent Neck Lady effect doesn't really work when viewed straight-on, but they adjusted the lighting and blocking in some of the other scares and it did look better there. The pepper's ghost illusion for her near the end is also fantastic, and I usually think HHN Hollywood's pepper's ghost effects look unfortunate. The cast was on-point, particularly the Olivias (who have her manner down), the Tall Men (who steal the show, scare-wise), and even the Cellar Ghost (who, contrary to the rumors, is very much present outside his blackout mechanical effect). The bedroom scene and tea party scenes are real showstoppers and demonstrate how great this event can be when the money, design, and performance all come together.

I'm not going to really bother to rank the scare zones, as they all sort of run together and I enjoyed them all fine. Demon City does get the neat scenic and the appreciated pyro. Most of the costumes feel off-the-shelf or rehashes of generic characters, but it works perfectly fine as a zone. Chainsaw Rangers is every chainsaw zone you've ever seen at the front of the park - no more, no less, except there is very minimal scenic. Silver Scream Queens is a nice extension to the Bride maze, and I appreciate that we can now move freely through the space. Sadly, this meant moving all of the scenic that had been designed for a one-way route, which results in a strange cluttered appearance and leaves the actors without much to work with. Still, I love seeing niche Universal monster characters celebrated, and the cast did good work.

Overall - a pretty mediocre year, but Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Haunting of Hill House save it from being a waste of money. I would exercise every discount you can muster and go once if you are not a diehard fan, especially if those two properties interest you. Otherwise, feel free to skip this year.