Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Don't Open, Dead Inside"

Although we couldn't come up with an exact amount of time, it had been a while since Eric and I visited Universal Horror Nights. We were lucky to be invited by Ricky, along with a few others. Ricky's  boyfriend Greg and Ricky's brother Tim also joined the fun. We also were on the lookout for a friend/former Fantasyland coworker, Erin. 

The night began early. Ricky had special passes to the Pass Holder event that kicked off at 5 PM. There we would walk through a maze during the day and hear a Welcome speech by a Horror Nights creator. 

At first we aimlessly wandered through the European side of the park. We finally came across someone that was announcing the El Cucuy walk through. This maze is based on the Latin version of The Boogeyman. I expected a sort of creative narration during this walk through. Instead, guests were funneled through the maze quickly. If anything, we at last saw the detail that go into this event. 

Looks like a scary birthday party gone wrong. 

After this "behind the scenes" look, we gathered at the adjacent arena for a presentation. What it ended up being was a constant reel of YouTube promos for Horror Nights. The four of us waited for a bit, but we decided to leave. I know everyone there was full of anticipation, so these little commercials were slightly annoying.

When the barricade was moved and we we gained access to the rest of the park, we went straight to the lower lot. Ricky led our strategy to start at the furthest area. Even the creator announces, via twitter, to do this. We saw many head to the lower level, but it wasn't busy at these mazes. 

A little fog sets the right mood. I'd say it's the easiest method to creating that Halloween spookiness. Even at Knott's, this stuff spills into the neighboring streets. 

We conquered the Evil Dead attraction. None of us had seen the film, but it sure kept us on our toes. Even though these sets felt recycled from the Friday the 13th mazes from the past (trees and tents), there were some good scares here. What made this creepier was the group ahead practically ran through and left us. At one point I was in a room alone, and Eric was in the previous room alone. When that happens the actors really make an effort! There was an instance where someone would appear where a wall once stood. They'd be there scaring us and the wall would be gone. Clever!

A tram would take us to our next destination. All of us were dropped off at storage facility that was infested with zombies from The Walking Dead. Fog filled our path and strobes flickered sporadically. This environment really messed with our pupils. I'd get blinded by lights and suddenly have a zombie in my face!

This path led all of us to the prison featured in the hit show The Walking Dead. The setting was so great and our group of four became very excited. It was awesome that they recreated so many sets from the show. There was even a moment in The Governor's office where Penny comes running at you from her closet. When the scare actors reveal themselves, there's a lighting and audio cue. The timing is another nod to the professionalism of the Universal Studios mazes. 

Eric and I jumped as we walked through the maze, into a dark hall. A group of 6 "walkers" came flying at us via a hidden track. We were not expecting that! I wish I had video of our faces. 

The maze sitting right next to the previous attraction was the Black Sabbath themed maze. It featured black light sensitive paint and we all wore 3D glasses. I was impressed by the opening cemetery scene because of its detail and size. We were accosted by a small female who's skull head appeared to hover a foot in front of her body. I blame the cool use of 3D for that. I don't know a thing about the band Black Sabbath, but the maze was fun. 

After our friend Erin, along with her posse, joined us we headed to the Insidious maze. It's based on the film of the same name that follows the paranormal happenings within a home. This maze was awesome!!! The whole gory/watching people beheaded act is "tired" and over used. It was refreshing to walk through a maze heavily focused on  being haunted and not gore. 

As we waited in the queue for this, we asked Erin her thoughts on these types of events. She said these mazes don't scare her, the films do. Cut to 10 minutes later, I see Erin running away from a scare actor in the Insidious maze. Well, I guess this maze got the best of all of us. Our whole group felt this was the strongest maze they had. 

There were scenes where ghosts were "alive" in portraits then were in the hallway with you. A sceance scene conjured up a dark spirit that reached out at you. The medium conducting the sceance had a scary looking gas mask on her head and she shook violently in her seat. I could go on and on about this chilling maze. 

Eric and I with our pal Erin. 

We all made our way back to the Upper Lot to experience the Terror Tram. I never get scared with this experience. To be honest, the novelty of walking this path has worn away. This attraction is out in the open and nothing really comes as a surprise. I do enjoy getting a close view of the Psycho House. We also made use of the photo location and met Norman Bates. 
We can see Mother hanging out in the window. She had some unkind words to yell down at Norman. 

For a serial killer, Norman looked pretty cute. Eric was in Norman's grip during the photo. 

As shown with this terrifying baby, the Walking Dead team also was present. Although I enjoy the show, I'd say there were zombies in too many places. I hope they skip the Terror Tram in the future. Or, maybe our group should decide to skip it. 

The final two mazes we visited were El Cucuy (this time lights off with actors) and then Monster Maze Re-mix (classics horror). I'm gonna come right out and say that the El Cucuy was just bad. As we saw earlier, a lot of detail and time had been put toward this. Too bad for us, it failed. The theme was weak and it didn't make any sense. 

The Monster Re-mix maze is there for day guests as well and has been for a few years. It's nice to see come classics characters like The Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's Monsters, and of course Mother from Psycho popping out of a blood splattered shower. I agreed with Ricky that it's always great to come across a Psycho reference in a Universal maze. 

By this time it was nearing 12 AM. We were surprised that the event lasted 2 more hours! We finished all we hoped and felt good about our visit. I've walked away from this event annoyed, after waiting two hours for one maze. The El Cucuy maze wasn't impressive, but we only waited about 15 minutes. I gave the event a 4/5 stars. It has a great environment for Halloween and is a must so for those looking for a some scared and laughs.