On Friday, September 15th, I was fortunate enough to attend Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights on behalf of Bloody Disgusting in Los Angeles, California. During my visit, I witnessed a Stephen King nightmare unspooling before my eyes, came face to face with Henrietta fresh out of the fruit cellar, and was chased by many, many pig- men. When it comes to Halloween time in the great city of angels, there are many places where you can choose to spook yourself and watch some of your favorite cinematic icons cut and slash their way across the screen, but the most exciting event of all is without a doubt Halloween Horror Nights.
First, I hit the red carpet, where I chatted with some of my favorite people in the horror industry, including Tobin Bell, a.k.a. “Jigsaw” from the SAW series, who told me that his favorite entries in the franchise are the ones where Jigsaw punished his victims out of karma for bad behavior, and Jason Blum, head honcho of Blumhouse Productions, who refused to tell me almost anything at all. With Blumhouse taking over the Halloween franchise, placing David Gordon Green in the director’s chair, and returning Laurie Strode herself, a.k.a. Jamie Lee Curtis to her famous role and John Carpenter himself behind the scenes strumming up new tunes and looking over the script, I was eager to learn as much as I could from Blum himself, but all he would tell me is that his favorite entry in the Samhain inspired franchise is the original entry, John Carpenter’s Halloween. Malek Akkad, however, was a bit more willing to open up. When placed under pressure about when exactly the new entry will fall in the timeline of the series, the renowned Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 producer told me that this will be the eleventh film – whatever that turns out to mean. It’s a confusing response, but when the question was asked so clearly, one can’t help but take the man at his word. I also had the privilege of speaking with a few other starlets, including Frank Grillo, star and writer of The Purge who beamed happily over the recent announcement of a Purge inspired television show, Happy Death Day director who told me about his Groundhog Day inspired slasher film, and John Murdy, creative director of the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, who excitedly spoke about all of the new additions to his park, citing The Shining inspired maze as his personal favorite.
Up next, I was told to meet Leigh Whannell at the Globe Theater, which was decked out with spooky candles, smokey trees, screens in every direction playing footage of the new mazes, and people like Slash and Vanessa Hudgens and the members of The Losers Club casually wandering around, making merry sport of the Halloween spirit. From there, a bus brought me over to the “Insidious: Beyond the Further” maze, which I walked through with Insidious stars Leigh Whannell and Lin Shaye leading the way, and composer/consistent Conjuring universe creature man Joe Bishara close behind. This haunted attraction, along with the Saw inspired maze, were both interesting not only because they paid attention to the little details of the franchise, with the Saw maze even going as far as to have actual (fake) saws flying out at you as you carefully dodged their swinging chains and made your way through the house, but also because they both gave insight to fans for what to expect from the upcoming installments in each series. Insidious 4 may not be out in theaters yet, but anyone who dares to venture into its darkly lit strikingly good interior will get a sneak peek into the upcoming film, and learn a little bit about what we horror fans can expect from the latest entry in one of the many James Wan inspired creations.
I loved all of the little details in the “Ash vs. Evil Dead” maze, which not only rewards fans of the show with intricate snippets from the series (you even enter the maze through Ash’s dirty old trailer), but also because it’s littered with homages to the original series, most notably Evil Dead 2, where you will actually be attacked by a crazed Henrietta stumbling deadite, and also get to see her in her fullest form, as the giraffe-like Henrietta with an elongated neck and buck teeth snapping at you as you stroll by.
However, my favorite maze of the evening, without a doubt, was definitely “The Shining” inspired haunted attraction. Although it may not be as frightening as the “Titans of Terror” killer maze which beckons back to the big dogs of the horror world, a.k.a. Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare On Elm Street, Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th franchise, or as oddly intriguing as all of the pig-men running around in the “American Horror Story: Roanoke” inspired maze, the little nods to the impeccable Stanley Kubrick horror film we all know and love really make it the most memorable of the entire Halloween event. Anyone who knows and loves The Shining will find joy in this little-personified homage to the classic slow burner – at one point, you’re even in the infamous bathroom where Jack witnesses a beautiful woman morph into a hideous monster, and it’s hard not to get a kick out that. Even the carpet is accurate to the film. You can tell just by looking at it how much love John Murdy has poured into his little creation – not to mention how many gallons and gallons of blood.
No matter your overall preference when it comes to the park, horror fans will not be disappointed with the outcome of their trip to Halloween Horror Nights this year. Sure, you can go see a movie on the big screen at New Beverly (which is a great option as well), or you can head down to Dark Delicacies and purchase some of your favorite Stephen King novels (another solid choice, really, these are all great choices L.A. is the best), but why not spend an evening living out your fears in real life? Go wander through the Scare Zones, get lost in the Toxic Tunnel and become terrified as you watch what appears to be real tourists being yanked out of line and demolished by demons in fiery pits in the Urban Inferno. No matter what’s your poison, Halloween Horror Nights is guaranteed to have something special in store for you, which is why it should be at the top of your list to visit this weekend, and every weekend, until the holiest of holy days is finally bestowed upon us: October 31st, Halloween, the greatest day of the year.