Horrors of Halloween

Courtesy of the Undercover Tourist

Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) has unfortunately come to an end for the 2022 Halloween season. This was the 31st anniversary of HHN, consisting of 10 scary houses, 5 scare zones, and 2 incredible shows. Many went this year due to the plexiglass from previous years being completely gone, allowing for a whole new scary experience for those that had only been there when the glass was up due to COVID. Taylor Rodriguez, a Junior here at APK felt the experience was, “a lot better this year without the plexiglass. The scare actors had more room to scare you, and do their jobs more strategically. The scare factor increased dramatically without the plexiglass.” Although there are fewer houses this year compared to last year, the experience is much better. Everything is unexpected as you never know what could be lurking around corners or even behind the curtains that separate the rooms in the house.

Courtesy of Click Orlando.

The first house took after the iconic 1978 Halloween movie. As you walk through popular scenes in the movie, you encounter Michael Myers numerous times throughout the house. Those who have seen the movie tend to have a more enjoyable time through the house as they make connections with the elaborate set around them. Taylor mentioned the Halloween house as one of her favorites, “because first off it’s a classic horror movie and personally I love the Halloween movies. Second, the detailing and placement of the scare actors and room set-ups were amazing.” On a scare level, we felt this house was an 8/10 as Michael would appear through windows and come running through doors in an attempt to scare you, which was successful in most cases. One room that got people the most was the end where there would be about 6-8 Michael Myers surrounding you in a room of mirrors, not knowing which ones were real or fake, your mind would get paranoid as you tried to rush out of the house to safety. Jessie Marquette, a Junior here at Apopka, went this year and mentioned how most of the houses “weren’t that scary but they were still fun to go into.” However, when she mentioned the Halloween house as not only her favorite house but also the one that “actually scared me badly,” specifically the part where Michael would surround you.

Courtesy of Orlando Informer
Courtesy of Attraction Tickets Direct.

The next house is also based on films, the first half of the house being based on the 2020 release Freaky, and the second half of the house is based on the 2022 release The Black Phone. Aidan Pickard, a Senior here at Apopka said he “really liked this house, it was a two-in-one deal, definitely worth it.” Freaky is about a high school girl who gets stabbed with a “cursed knife” and ends up switching bodies with her attempted killer. While the movie is scary, it’s more of a comedy as you watch an adult man try going back to high school to try and convince his/her friends that he/she isn’t the killer and they switched bodies. The Freaky part of the house isn’t that scary, except for one section where you walk in a hallway of lockers and one of them opens to reveal the main character with a knife, ready to kill you. After walking through Freaky you get a short break that informs you that you’re transitioning into The Black PhoneThe Black Phone was an extremely popular movie over the summer, making over $100 million at the box office. It’s about this kid living in a small town, where a lot of people that go to his school start mysteriously disappearing.

Courtesy of Orlando Informer.

Suddenly, the main character encounters the abductor and gets kidnapped and trapped in this basement with an unplugged phone. The phone rings and on the other line is the ghost of the previous boys that have been kidnapped and killed, working with what the ‘ghost’ boys say, the main character, Finney, manages to escape. Of course, there is more action than that in the movie but this isn’t a movie review, it’s a house review. Inside The Black Phone house, you see all the missing children posters from the movie, you then walk in complete darkness as you encounter “The Grabber,” or the known villain in the movie. There were a lot of good scares in this house, as you would have to walk down dark hallways covered in black streamers as “The Grabber” would pop out at you in the darkness. It was unexpected but thrilling. Although the first half of The Horrors of Blumhouse may have been a bit weak, The Black Phone definitely carried that house in the second half.

Courtesy of CNN.

Another featured house is Universal Monsters: Legends Collide. Universal always manages to bring back some of its most iconic monsters; last year Universal included The Bride of Frankenstein. Universal Monsters: Legends Collide, brings fans, face to face with The Mummy, Dracula, and The Wolfman. One of the main attractions of this house was its breathtaking, elaborate set design. The minute you walk in, it’s almost as if you have stepped right into Egypt, as you are just outside of a dig site with a massive Anubis statue. This sets the scene, as you are put in the midst of a battle between all three monsters. Of course, while you’re taking in the detailed set around you, this allows for the scare actors to make their move in an attempt to scare you as you’re distracted. Throughout the house, you encounter a lot of good scares, as you get attacked from both sides simultaneously. In the end, there tends to be a “winner” as you see one monster holding a different monster’s decapitated head. The cool thing about this is every time you go through it’s a different monster winning, there are also different changes everywhere so you get scared in different places every time.

Courtesy of Undercover Tourist.
Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times.

The last featured house, and probably the most popular, is The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare. This house is based on the artist The Weeknd, you are placed directly in his music videos from the 2020 released After Hours album. This house was more of a rave than actually getting scared. Taylor Rodriguez felt the house “was very creative, but it wasn’t all that scary.” You could find many people dancing through the house as The Weeknd plays in the background. However, the light effects in the house were intense, as you walked through hallways of flashing lights. The effects in this house definitely make up for its lacking scare factor. Aidan Pickard felt, “The Weeknd house wasn’t scary, just more disgusting and disturbing. I saw people ripping off heads and putting them on weird bodies, how did we get here?” It could have been confusing for those who may have not seen the music videos, but the house may have been targeted for fans of The Weeknd rather than those who don’t listen to him often.

Courtesy of Positively Osceola.

Getting into the other houses that just consist of themes not related to movies or past events, we are starting with the “fan-favorite” according to Paste Magazine, Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake. Similar to The Weeknd, this house also has some really cool effects. As you walk through the house you are in a town close to a pier, it is freezing cold as you walk through the house, which is nice, especially when you have been standing outside in Florida’s heat for 60 minutes. Once you walk past the town, you enter this fishing shop before eventually making it to the pier where a shipwreck has occurred. On top of the shipwreck is this “spirit” playing the violin. One of the other effects that may have drawn people back is as you walk on the pier, it feels as if it’s raining, which it is. Obviously, the effects don’t make a house number one, there were other factors that may have contributed to this house being a fan favorite such as the elaborate set designs and costumes, you can tell Universal had this one planned and definitely put in the effort. Overall, from the incredible characters to the elaborate set and effects, it can be seen how this house ranks as a “fan favorite.” Located right next to the Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake is Fiesta De Chupacabras. The house is based on the Urban Legend of the Chupacabra (supposed dog-like monster that attacks livestock). This house takes place in a Latin American village, when you walk in, there are fireworks going off and a celebration occurring. There are a lot of good scares in this house, especially if you are sensitive to blood and guts. You walk through rooms in which bodies hang from the ceiling. There is also an animatronic puppet Chupacabra that comes out of holes in the wall, this part may get many as the puppet jerks around a lot when coming out, which becomes a little unsettling to look at.

Courtesy of Attractions 360 on Youtube
Courtesy of Attractions 360 on Youtube.

Next we get into one of the most popular fears… bugs. Universal definitely wanted to hit this fear with the Bugs: Eaten Alive house. This house revolved around “giant mutated bugs infesting an exhibition for a new gas that aims to kill bugs,” according to the Halloween Horror Nights Fandom. As you walk in, it seems you have walked into an advertisement for this gas that is supposed to kill bugs. The gas exterminator then breaks and you walk into a large infestation in the next room. The house wasn’t considered scary but more, uncomfortable, as you see walls covered in roaches and large human-sized roaches on top of the counters. This house definitely made many squirm as people would pop out with their skin being eaten off by the bugs. Aidan felt the house was “disgusting” in this manner, he also mentioned how “disturbing” the scare actors looked. The makeup on the scare actors were incredible, and the prosthetics to make it look as if the skin was being eaten looked incredibly realistic. Spirits of the Coven, as many may assume, is about witches. This house takes a historical approach as it brings you directly into Salem. You walk into a 50’s style bar where everyone seems normal except for the occasional witches screaming in your face every once in a while. This house was considered to be on the weaker side of scares, and it was also incredibly long. Taylor felt the house barely had, “any scares,” and “the house was decorated very well, the themes of the house didn’t line up together.” As you walked through you would see symbols representing witchcraft, glowing doors, old pictures, and other cool effects that were fun to look at. However, not necessarily recommended if you’re looking for a good scare.

Courtesy of Orlando Informer.
Courtesy of Orlando Informer. Hellblock Horror

On the list of the last two houses are Hellblock Horror and Descendents of Destruction. Starting with Hellblock Horror, this house was actually a last-minute change made by Universal, “to popular belief, this haunted house was originally going to be based on the 2022 horror film Evil Dead: Rise. However, due to unknown circumstances, that house was scrapped and was replaced by this instead,” says the Halloween Horror Nights Fandom. Hellblock Horror is set in a prison full of supernatural creatures that have escaped their confinement. Inside the house, you had scares coming left and right as you walked down multiple hallways with open jail cells. Universal made sure not to lose the incredible set design and scare factor when quickly preparing for this house. Walking through, you can tell Universal didn’t spend as much time on the house as there weren’t very many effects compared to the other haunted houses. Still a good house to go through when looking for a scare. The last house of the ten houses this year is Descendents of Destruction. This house was set in a post-apocalyptic subway station, as you walk through you encounter many different mutants. The set design for this house was elaborate as well as you walk by trains on their sides, and through trains that look to have been abandoned as there is overgrown vegetation. The whole house was definitely cool, however, Universal always has to include some cool effects, so during this one hallway you walk through UV light and everything glows around you, including the scare actors’ makeup. You see scare actors with glowing makeup come out of stalagmites and other UV vegetation. This house definitely had some good scares along with some cool scenery.

Courtesy of Universal Parks News Today on Youtube

Overall, this years Halloween Horror Nights was one of the best compared to the past couple of years. Many were ready to jump back into the Halloween spirit with the intimidating featured houses and unexpected scare zones. Hopes are high for what Universal will bring us next year.