Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights 27 Wrap Up
We’ve arrived at the end of yet another year of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. It feels like the event gets shorter each year while the actual dates grow in leaps and bounds. So begins another 6+ months of speculation of which properties Universal may use for the next round of their spooky celebration. Will Stranger Things make it to the park in 2018? Will the popularity of IT bring more clowns to our streets or a fully dedicated fun house? Let the speculation begin while we take a moment to give some thoughts on what Halloween Horror Nights 27 (or is it 2017) delivered.
Halloween Horror Nights 27 promised a wide variety of houses (9) and scare zones, split between license intellectual properties (IPs) and ground up creations. The Academy of Villains were to return for the event and it would also be the curtain call year for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. As in most years, some creations were stronger than others and the following is where we believe the properties ranked:
- Without a doubt, Scarecrow: The Reaping was the standout house of the year. Our biggest knock on HHN each year is that the event is not very scary, while it is overly slick. Scarecrow challenges this perception in every way. While the exterior is fantastic (a tent house with a real corn field?!?), the grit gets deeper the more you explore on the inside. Scarecrow delivered a ton of scares in a variety of means in a very constraining house. Even if we didn’t get a jump scare every time through, we were petrified of having to make the trip through the house.
- The Fallen proved to be a really fun ground up house with many fun moments. I can’t help think of games like Diablo or WoW while walking through the house and pondering if there was a missed opportunity to do a similar house with official characters from Blizzard. The first devil when you enter the house was amazing and the use of swinging/flying scares were delighters.
- Dead Waters was simply gorgeous. While many guests may call out the facade as the selling point of the house, the true MVP was once again Man As Bush in his many appearances throughout the maze. This house would have scored even higher if it was longer in duration.
- The Shinning was a fun tribute to the movie with iconic scenes being brought to life. Highlights included the blood elevator and bar scene from the movie. We were also very amazed throughout the HHN event at how many shorter female scare actors were cast as the twins in the house and associated piece of the Altars scare zone were perfect.
- American Horror Story returned this year as a mega maze, representing 3 years of the loved tv show. The sets and acting were awesome in the house this year, but it seemed to lose some of the steam that the 2016 house had.
- As many hardcore HHN fans know, HIVE was a replacement house for an IP house that did not move forward as planned. That said, HIVE was a great, simple house that stood on it’s own this year. Similar to Scarecrow, HIVE was chock full of scares, despite the contents of the house largely being not visible as they were tied to the prior property that was switched out late into development. Kudos to the commitment of the scare acting cast as they shaved their heads for the roles in HIVE this year.
- SAW: The Games of Jigsaw was in line with a sort of greatest hits from the franchise. This house improved over the run of the event and was fun to walk through depending on how rushed you were in between the traps. We had the opportunity to experience the house during a couple of slow periods and while viewing the traps at a slower speed, the house performed at a much higher level.
- ASH vs EVIL DEAD was one of the properties we were most looking forward to this year. While the house acted as a testament to the tv show, many of the scenes were did not deliver any scares and very few key scenes from the series were depicted through the house.
- The Horrors of Blumhouse rounds out our rankings for HHN27. We were incredibly excited to see a house feature Sinister as we are huge fans of Baghuul. It was a disappointment to find Sinister represented in what amounted to be 2 rooms, The Purge taking up another 2 rooms and the remainder of the house represented by Insidious, which we had already seen in a prior year of the event.
The streets of Halloween Horror Nights are a key reason why we love to go to the event often each year as they are unpredictable and it’s enjoyable to see actors take on the various roles to scare guests in the open. This year had some amazing promise and this is how we thought the streets ended up:
- Festival of the Deadliest started off a little rocky as the zone was missing the floats (destroyed by Irma) and many of the costumes for the actors. Over time, this zone has become one of our favorites as it provided the vibe similar to “Little Nicky” in that you were included in a party in hell. Bone (or is it Bones, or Big Bone Daddy) was a very fun non-icon that acted as the boss of the street. We saw many scares throughout the event in this zone.
- Trick R Treat was a gorgeous zone that seemingly was lifted from the movie and place in the Central Park area of Universal Orlando. All of the main characters from the cult classic movie were included and the zone will go down in HHN history as being one of the best translated IPs ever.
- The Roaming Chainsaw Clowns were back this year in the Springfield area of the park and they delivered an incredible amount of nightly scares. I’d love to see the clowns take on a much bigger role through the streets or house in the future.
- Invasion! had a ton of promise with an incredible central prop of a crashed UFO. While the visuals delivered in this zone, the scares didn’t always go along hand in hand. It appeared that the alien costumes were not conducive to providing a high level of scares and coupled with the high traffic area, many of the actors were handicapped to scare from the sidelines of the pathway while the crowds flowed through.
- The Purge returned this year in an almost identical format to it’s last appearance with updates to the characters to reflect the last Purge movie. While there is a clearly an audience for The Purge, I wish Universal would move away from the property in light of real life events over the last year in Orlando and Houston.
- Altars Of Horror had the potential to be an incredible “selfie” zone as the street contained characters from all of the popular IPs that were represented in houses at the event. However, the zone lacked star power in that while The Shining and Ash vs Evil Dead were represented, it did not include Jack or Ash as characters in the zone. Scares were hit and miss in the zone as well, with the overwhelming majority coming by way of Pablo in the AVED section.
The Academy of Villains show this year was hit hard by Hurricane Irma taking a toll on their stage. While AOV rose above and performed their show on the side of the street, they only managed to perform a shorter/different show than originally intended. Weeks into the event, Universal Orlando build a replacement stage for AOV, but it did not meet the needs of their “Afterlife” show and as a result, AOV extended components of their temp show for the larger stage. As major fans of the work that AOV performed last year and within the confines of their temp show, we’re only left wondering what could have been.
Universal Orlando bid farewell to Bill & Ted this year with a show that was much better than in recent years. This year’s story was fitting and will certainly leave the audience wanting for more.
That about does it for another awesome year of scary times. Please feel free to check out our HHN27 playlist and enjoy the photos in our gallery. So begins the countdown to next year!