This past Friday the Eyegore Awards kicked off the opening of Universal’s annual Halloween Horror Nights exhibition of mazes, trams, people in masks lunging at you and… long lines (if you get there too late at least). Not only was this my first time attending Halloween Horror Nights, it was my first time (after 6 years of living in Los Angeles) being on the Universal backlot while it was actually open to the public. I’d been to parts of it before, for various reasons at various times, but never while it was teeming with so many people.
While the red carpet didn’t bear much fruit, it was cool to see some genuine talent get props at The Eyegore awards and the mazes themselves were a blast.
Hit the jump for the full report.
Rainn Wilson, Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark), David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy all received accolades. As did Emma Bell, whom I already liked in Frozen, but whose clip reel (after a heartfelt introduction by Adam Green) reminded me of her work in “The Walking Dead” as well as the still-unseen-by-me Final Destination 5. In that moment it kind of dawned on me that we may actually have a new scream queen of sorts on our hands.
At the tail end of the awards we also got to check out the contest-winning short film Monsters In My Swimming Pool directed by newcomer Brent Bokovy. It ran under 3 minutes and was obviously culled together with extremely limited means, but it actually had some nice, creepy imagery. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more from him in the future.
But, let’s get real, you’re here for the mazes. How are they? Let’s break them down one by one (in the order attended)*.
ALICE COOPER: WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE
As mentioned earlier, I had never been to HHN before this evening. I was expecting the typical horror mazes of my childhood, just people jumping out at you in masks basically. While Universal’s mazes lack the literal darkness (I’m talking pitch black lack of light here, not thematic stuff) they more than make up for it with copious amounts of gore.
The Cooper maze is somewhat random, it incorporates bits from his stage show and mixes them with just flat-out weird sh*t. The music is a blend of his own along with some stuff apparently repurposed from the Friday The 13th maze from years gone by.
Overall I was kind of expecting this to be the worst one of the night (maybe something to do with Alice Cooper in general seeming like expired goods to me), and while it certainly wasn’t the best, it’s definitely a good bit of fun and well worth checking out.
ELI ROTH’S HOSTEL: HUNTING SEASON
The first “new” maze of the evening was also the shortest. And it taught me a vital lesson for enjoying these things as a movie fan – check your ideas about continuity at the door (for me this was brought on by the fact that the maze gets a lot of mileage out of a certain mask only worn once in the original film – by our reluctant hero Paxton). This realization was vastly helpful in this maze and every single one that followed it.
However brief the Hostel maze is, it’s not lacking for intensity. One of the first things we encountered was the crazed gun-toting businessman from the first film – you know, the guy who wants to know if he should do it quick or slow – and I have to give props to the performer based on how intense it must be to keep that act up the whole night.
The rest of the experience features plenty of mutilation, mostly dead corpses reaching out for help a nice nod to Bijou Phillips’ character from the sequel and even a translucent homage to one of the sex clubs from the beginning of the first film. A lot of the set, from what I’ve been told by my companion, is repurposed from the Nightmare On Elm Street maze but it makes total sense to have boilers and furnaces in this dungeon so it doesn’t affect it negatively.
If you’re a fan of Hostel, or the line is short, it’s a definite recommend.
BTW Spoiler – these are horror mazes. They’re all fun. I’d recommend any of them depending on line length. Which brings me to….
THE WOLFMAN: THE CURSE OF TALBOT HALL
This maze is easily the longest of the bunch. So if you have to choose only one line to stand in for 3 hours, you might want to factor that into your decision.
The Wolfman is a fairly luxurious stroll that incorporates plenty of characters, designs and soundbites from the 2010 film. Of course, there’s not just one werewolf, there’s sh*tloads of them. Which helps. It’s also a multi-leveled maze that even has a rotating room which might make you a bit dizzy. It’s fairly obvious that the maze is a pre-existing structure with a bunch of Wolfman ephemera tossed in but, again, it’s long with lots of decent scares.
Also – it has Chucky and the remnants of a “Good Guy Doll” assembly plant. Remember what I said about continuity? Yeah, don’t bring any with you.
ROB ZOMBIE’S HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES (IN 3D)
The 3D actually kind of works! I assumed it wouldn’t but this is also a fairly fun trek through some scenes from the film (and some images from Devil’s Rejects) along with a bunch of other stuff thrown in – including a pretty dead-on Sid Haig lookalike.
Lengthwise House Of 1,000 Corpses feels about average – somewhere between Hostel and Wolfman but if you’re a fan of hillbilly horror and 3D this is probably the one for you. In terms of gore and scares it’s right up there the the rest of ‘em.
THE THING: ASSIMILATION
The second “new” maze of the evening was pretty great. Definitely longer than Hostel and it did good job of incorporating the vibe of the 2011 film. In fact I suppose some of the images could be kind of spoilery to those who don’t want some of the cooler effects from the film ruined for them, but there’s so much other stuff in there that isn’t from the movie I guess it doesn’t matter too much.
It was probably the most consistent maze of the evening in terms of maintaining a specific mood and it definitely offered a lot of jump scares (my glasses were almost knocked off my an animatronic monster) to go with the cool designs. While it’s not as long, or as layered as an overall experience, as Wolfman I’d say that if you have real love for the 1982 Carpenter film or any real curiosity about the 2011 prequel, then make this first on your list. If last night was any indication, the line for this one grows the longest most quickly.
*We didn’t have time to hit up “La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas” or the Scream 4 terror tram. Maybe next time!
Halloween Horror Nights continues on September 24, 30; October 1,7, 8,9, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.