Halloween Horror Nights is almost here, and this year, Universal Studios is adding an all-new Stranger Things attraction to lure more guests to their parks around the world. In 2016, Matt and Ross Duffer - who are simply referred to as the Duffer Brothers, professionally - created the critically-acclaimed science fiction series Stranger Things, in which the first season follows a group of children (and adults, for that matter) who look for a boy that went missing in Hawkins, IN.
The thing is, the boy, Will Byers, didn't just disappear; he was taken by a monster whom the children call the Demogorgon. Incorporating a monster into an already compelling mystery story, and coupling that with a host of other science fiction tropes from the '70s and '80s, and Netflix had an extraordinary hit on their hands. In addition to consolidating various sci-fi aspects into one property, Stranger Things also has a tinge of horror in it - and it's that particular element Universal Studios is looking to exploit.
For this year's Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando Resort, and Universal Studios Singapore will include a Stranger Things maze in their annual special event, which has been the brainchild of creative director John Murdy. Before the maze opens up to the public on September 14, Screen Rant was provided an opportunity to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of the maze in Hollywood. Here's everything we learned about the new attraction:
- This is the first time that a Horror Nights maze has been built on a soundstage, thus allowing for greater verticality in the Hawkins Lab. It was actually built on the Family Feud stage.
- The maze is based on season 1 of Stranger Things. They thought about including season 2, but focusing on one, singular story arc made for a more immersive experience.
- It's a journey throughout the entire season, beginning with the disappearance of Will and concluding with Eleven defeating the Demogorgon in the school's science classroom. Along the way, parkgoers will visit the Byers' house (going through Will's bedroom as well as the living room where Joyce is trying to communicate with Will), Hawkins Lab (where the Upside-Down is starting to leak into our world), and more notable locations.
- Attendees will also see all kinds of objects, such as Will's bike, lying around.
- And to further enhance the maze's immersion as well as its connection to the Netflix series, Universal has replicated the same flooring, wallpaper, etc. as the ones used in the TV show. Even the background paper in the Upside-Down section has been taken directly from the series. In order to make sure everything was accurate, over 40,000 pictures from the series were sent to the prop department for reference.
- Moreover, every sound heard in the maze also comes straight from the TV show.
- Getting the Upside-Down right was perhaps the toughest thing they had to do, according to Murdy. They understandably went through a lot of trial and error with that particular portion of the maze.
- There are 10 Demogorgons in total, spread throughout the maze - in places such as Castle Byers in the Upside-Down. Each one is a person in a creature suit, which were created the same people who made the suits for the show. But to enhance to horror factor, Universal also uses digital effects at times.
- One thing that Murdy noted towards the end of the tour was that, over the years, they've noticed people letting out a sigh of relief when they feel like they've reached the end of the maze. While they're usually "safe" once the maze is over, Universal is taking a different approach this time around, giving attendees one last scare before the maze is really over. We won't reveal what happens, but it's something that people will surely enjoy.
- Characters from the show - Joyce, Will, Nancy, Hopper - appear at various points throughout the maze, sometimes mimicking specific scenes from the show's first season.
- In the maze, attendees will be guided by things such as the Christmas lights, Dr. Brenner talking to them, and Chief Hopper yelling, "go, go, go!"
- If it's not digital or fake, then every person you see in the maze is real. Animatronics weren't used because they don't work all too well for live experiences.
Given that this is the first time that Halloween Horror Nights is utilizing a soundstage instead of a black tent outside, it will be interesting to see how it compares to traditional mazes in its final form, not to mention how it stands up against permanent attractions like The Walking Dead. AMC's zombie series was the annual event's former icon, but now that it has become a cornerstone of Horror Nights, it was time for Universal to look for another property to take The Walking Dead's place, and they couldn't have selected anything better than Stranger Things.
Since Stranger Things' popularity is shared across multiple generations, and since it's not as rooted in the horror genre as slasher and zombie movies and TV shows are, it just might be what Universal Studios needs to take Horror Nights to the next level.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood runs on select nights from September 14 to November 3. Tickets are on sale now on the official Horror Nights website.