I still vividly remember burying my face into my father’s shirt as I clutched onto him for dear life during my first trip to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. Fast-forward 15 years and not much has changed: On a recent press trip to Halloween Horror Nights for a “RIP Tour,” I was abruptly seizing a fellow journalist whom I had met only the day before—my 10-year-old self had come back full-force upon encountering the truly gory horrors that are still alive and well at Halloween Horror Nights. I relished every bit of it.
This year’s 25th anniversary event kicked off Sept. 18, but fear not—pun intended—the festivities continue through Nov. 1, so there’s still plenty of time for your clients to create their own terrifyingly amazing memories.
Hello Old Friends
My recent press trip to Universal Orlando included an RIP Tour of Halloween Horror Nights 2015, which features two live shows, five scare zones and nine haunted houses—the most in all of the event’s 25 years. For its 25th birthday, the folks at Universal decided to bring back past icons (twisted character hosts invented by the theme park’s design team) for one epic scare zone (a designated area of the park where dozens of mutants, monsters and escaped asylum patients roam free). The Caretaker, a maddened surgeon; The Storyteller, an elderly woman who spins wicked tales; The Director, a deranged filmmaker who makes torture films; and The Usher, a vengeful movie theater usher whose accidental death spurred a lifetime of revenge, were all in attendance, as was Halloween Horror Nights’ original icon and 2015 host, Jack the Clown, who made his first appearance in 2000. In the Scary Tales—Screampunk scare zone, everyone’s classic fairytale characters—Snow White, the Tin Man, Prince Charming, etc.—receive a dastardly twist (although Prince Charming was still pretty dashing, even with a blood-splattered face).
Fortunately, our fabulous RIP Tour guide Shawn was able to pepper in bits of history about the annual event and strenuous production process to divert my group’s attention away from the various “scareactors” who were hissing, jumping and thrashing realistic (but fake) chainsaws in our faces. Unfortunately, our fabulous RIP Tour guide Shawn also brought us to the front of every haunted house line, so I never got the chance to fully regain my composure after each maze.
House of Fear
As my group made its way through each haunted house, Shawn was able to offer his comforting insight. He informed us that Universal’s creative director Mike Aiello worked with John Landis, the writer and director of the 1981 cult classic “An American Werewolf in London” on the haunted house made in the film’s likeness—English moors, bloodthirsty wolves and all. We also learned that the creative team brings in a special vendor to create smells to pump into the different houses, so Camp Crystal Lake in the Freddy vs. Jason house smells like dirt, while the quaint cottage in the Jack Present: 25 Years of Monster and Mayhem house smells of cinnamon snickerdoodle cookies.
A newer feature of the event are the scareactors who are now located in front of and outside of many of the haunted houses. I especially enjoyed the perfectly coiffed “murderous vigilante” dressed in prep school attire outside of the house based on “The Purge.” A heckler in the crowd, playing along with the premise of the movie, began pointing and calling out one by one all of the people walking into the house that would meet an unfortunate end for entering into the “purge zone.” The scareactor, standing on a platform, mic in hand, was spot on in his eerily calm response—“I like your thinking.”
For a moment of comic relief, suggest your clients take in a Halloween Horror Nights tradition, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. In this year’s show, the dynamic duo returns to poke fun at the biggest names in politics and pop culture, including Hilary Clinton, Kanye West and, of course, Disney. Tickets start at $101.99 per night. RIP Tours start at $139.99 per guest. Florida residents receive a special discounted rate of $53.99 by using the UPC code on specially marked cans of Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero or Sprite. For more information, visit halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando or universaltravelagents.com.