By Joseph Kilis
Screams are heard in the distance as you walk through a pitch black hall. Losing all sense of direction, you follow the person in front of you, hoping they know where they are going. Suddenly, a strobe light and loud booms play in front of you as you walk into a psychopath flipping around a chainsaw.
This reality is only available within Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, on select nights from September 9 to October 31, of which I had the privilege to attend on Saturday, September 18th. I had always wanted to go, as a computer screen was the closest I had gotten to anything remotely scary, and I wanted to experience the real thing–the pure adrenaline running through my body with every corner I walked around. So when I bought my ticket, I was ready.
We began the night by going through The Texas Chainsaw Massacre themed maze, based on the original film of the same name that premiered in 1974. The set design was absolutely stunning; from the skull-and-bone art pieces to the dried skin hanging from the ceiling matching almost exactly to its film counterpart. The sounds of chainsaws were terrifying, along with the gruesome visuals of mangled corpses and a lot of blood. Seriously. A LOT of blood. I even recall running out of the maze to avoid being scared once more due to the intense horror visuals I had never experienced before. Whether it was the fact that it was my first maze, or that it was my first ever intense scare, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze was by far the scariest one I had walked through.
After the terrifying Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze, my group made their way to what was known as the Terror Tram, which was based on the very popular movie franchise The Purge. This Terror Tram is the ride that Universal Studios has during the day, known as the Studio Tour but with a twist. Halfway through the original tram route, the trams drop off the riders and put them through different sets that are shown during the normal Studio Tour, but dressed with walls that people jump out of, actors, and dead bodies. The scares for the Terror Tram were fairly mild, which was a lot of fun, and a great cool down from the more intense scares within the mazes. Although the sets were gory and gruesome, the actors interacted greatly with the people walking through by lunging at them with all sorts of weapons, such as knives, chainsaws, daggers, and even a guillotine making an appearance.
The next maze we went on was based on the Netflix original show, The Haunting of Hill House which premiered in 2018, with one season. This maze was by far the best one of the night; the sets were insanely detailed, along with unique scares by using the power of mirror illusions and lighting. Almost as terrifying as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Haunting of Hill House made almost exact replicas of the sets introduced in the show, and gave off a great scare for the people there. I have to admit, I almost was too tired to go in; but by the end, the adrenaline made me ready to go the rest of the night.
The Curse of Pandora’s Box was the next maze we travelled to, as the entrance was near that of the Haunting of Hill House maze. This maze had really good scares and moderate sets, as they were really simple builds all on black painted walls. What made this maze stand out was its use of blacklight and glow-in-the-dark effects. Every set piece glowed in bright neon colors such as green and yellow highlighters. This allowed for a bright maze, where scares were somewhat predictable, but made up for it with its use of neon and lighting. The contrasts from bright to dark made those dark scenes that much scarier, as the black hallways you walk down in are to the point where you could not see your hand waving right in front of you.
Our last, and one of my personal favorite mazes, was Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. My favorite horror icon (i.e Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Pennywise the Clown, Chucky, etc.) has always been Michael Myers. The Halloween movies have always been some of my favorite films, so naturally when I had the chance to do the maze I was ecstatic. The set design was great, bringing in a diner, an auto shop, and a house into the different scenes that I got to walk through. This maze had a great balance with jump-out scares, similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and mirror illusions from The Haunting of Hill House. Although, to me, it wasn’t one of the scariest ones of the night, it did manage to be a lot of fun. This maze, though, had by far the best ending out of all the previous mazes of the night. The ending was some sort of a mirror maze, where figurines and people dressed as Michael Myers stood at every corner, giving the illusion that he was everywhere. And I mean, everywhere. The ending was the cherry on top of a great maze, making it one of the most memorable ones of my visit.
Although overall tiring, Halloween Horror Nights is a MUST do for anyone that has any liking for horror. Being able to see some of your favorite horror movie characters in real life, and then having them chase you, is an experience like no other. The mazes were top notch; with movies and shows ranging from the early 1970s to the late 2010s, they gave a great lineup for any horror lover. If you like being scared, DEFINITELY buy a ticket, and try your best to survive Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights!