It's time for the largest Halloween event in the world to begin again, and we're of course referring to Halloween Horror Nights taking place in Universal Parks at Orlando, Hollywood, Singapore, and Japan - an annual tradition that's been going on 28 years now.
For #HHN28 there are 10 all-new houses and five new scare zones. And by that we mean, truly all new. Every year all of these houses are taken down and that's it. A new set is developed for the next year.
This makes it worthwhile to come check out Halloween Horror Nights every year, for fear of missing out. It becomes almost a badge of honor experiencing each year's offerings, especially for horror movie fans, but it was only that year.
The Stranger Things house is the highlight of the event this year and we previewed both the house in Universal Studios Hollywood and this week, at Universal Orlando Resort Florida - where we also got a behind-the-scenes walkthrough of the Stranger Things maze with Patrick Braillard, Creative Development Show Director and Writer at Universal Orlando. Braillard is responsible for five of the ten houses, with another creative director handling the other five. Another creative director is also in charge of the scare zones so Halloween Horror Nights is a massive production that's in development all year long. Discussions for Stranger Things for example, began last year, with a fleshed out pitch in January, followed by construction beginning in April.
Stranger Things is The Big Highlight of Halloween Horror Nights 28
For the Stranger Things maze, the creative team didn't want the kids to be the scares. Many mazes and haunted houses would use that as a gimmick but it was one of the first things Patrick and his team pitched to Netflix an agreed upon. They want the audience to go on this journey and empathize with them. The Demogorgon is the villain, and while there's only one, you'll see this Demogorgon popping out everywhere. The creature is 8-foot tall and is realized through multiple puppets and tall actors, some animated to have its face open.
The Florida team sculpted the Demogorgon's mask internally, 3D printing teeth so every puppet and costume is identical. For the Hollywood studios, they got assets from Spectral Motion (who worked on the show) but their worked ended up being identical.
Netflix offered up assets, music, set decoration and collaborated on the entire thing. There are so many details, most of which can't even be seen or noticed in the dark, making it worthwhile to tour through it repeatedly. All of the items in the living room and bed room example, are real items from 1984 and before. To do that they scoured movie stories and thrift shops. Live actors help bring the Stranger Things experience to life and they cast likeness editions which - as we saw- worked extraordinarily well. There are two full casts (A and B) that swap out every 45 minutes and only one part of the house where the actual character you see changes, giving yet another reason to go through it more than once.
"This maze, this haunted house is probably the greatest example of IP adherence that we've ever done in our history because we wanted everything to be word perfect. It's like a love letter to the show, a really scary love letter." - Patrick Braillard
We won't spoil all the scenes, but it's safe to say that all the major moments and iconic scenery from season 1 of Stranger Things is realized in this house. The maze is virtually the same between the Orlando and Hollywood locations, the major only difference is the physical space.
There are lots of surprises, lots of character moments, and an epic payoff to end it - brought to life with amazingly cast talent that really do look like the characters. It's a must-see for anyone who's seen Stranger Things and could very well be the beginning of a staple of Halloween Horror Nights for years to come. Universal is already chatting with Netflix for the next two years so we wouldn't be surprised to see each season of Strange Things show up at HHN in the future.
All The Haunted Houses of Halloween Horror Nights 28
A mix of original creations and licensed IP, Universal Parks have always originally created half of the Halloween Horror Nights offerings as you'll see below and in this year's Scare Zones. There's so much more than just Stranger Things.
- Stranger Things - The Demogorgon is after you all throughout season 1 of Netflix's Stranger Things.
- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers - Michael Myers has escaped the sanitarium, and he's out for blood.
- Poltergeist - Restless spirits have overrun the infamous house atop a cemetery, and they're drawn to your light.
- Trick ‘r Treat - Five twisted stories where Sam, the vengeful trick-or-treater, waits to treat rule-breakers to his favorite Halloween surprises.
- The Horrors of Blumhouse - A unique mix of Happy Death Day and The First Purge movies.
- Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces - A dilapidated salvage yard where rides, games and carnival parts are tainted with rust and blood and the performers are out to get you.
- Dead Exposure: Patient Zero - The planet has been infected and humans have been turned into zombies.
- Once Upon A Scare - The Wicked Witch of the West turns good evil, and the evil even more evil.
- Seeds of Extinction - Humanity has been wiped out by a meteor and replaced by monstrous vegetation.
- Slaughter Sinema - Instead of catching a movie at the drive-in, the '80s B movies catch you.
The Scare Zones of Halloween Horror Nights 28
In addition to the park being decked out on Halloween decor and lighting, there's also a big live show. The Academy of Villains return with a new live performance, this one titled Academy of Villains: Cyberpunk and themed as a futuristic battle between humanity and tech played out with neon lights and synth sounds.
Stay tuned for more info soon as we partake in the premiere of Univeral Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights this evening and chat with Mike Aiello, Sr. Director of Entertainment Creative Development, to learn more.
Universal is already planning the next two years for potential Stranger Things attractions and Jason Blum is very interested in a house based on the new Halloween.
The 28th Halloween Horror Nights begins tonight, September 14, 2018 and runs on select nights until November 3, 2018.
More details: Universal Orlando Resort