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Theme Park Review (LA): Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights

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If you saw how many happy faces there were at the opening of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios L.A., you wouldn’t even remember that we are in the middle of a recession. 

During the Halloween season, Universal Studios transforms from a regular theme park to the coolest, scariest Halloween attraction in the L.A. area. There are four mazes, three shows, the terror tram, and rides.

There’s so much to do, I couldn’t get it all done. I was there opening night and managed to fit in everything except for the Slaughterworld show (which I, for some unknown reason, have now missed three years in a row) and the Chucky show (which I would have seen, but I mismanaged my time and missed it.)

I’ll tell you the real scoop on why this event is crazy good.  When you enter the park, there will be a ton of monsters just lurking around outside, waiting to pounce. There’s smoke, chainsaws, helicopter noises, the works… everyone's getting scared. The monsters working the streets were some of the best. There was this pig, and I was coming out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze and I was writing stuff on my clipboard for my article. He came over and starting yelling about how journalists were bad. It didn’t faze me; I don’t scare that easily. So, he leaves, and I put my clipboard down and start talking – and he turns his chainsaw on. I thought he was going after these two girls, because I was far away now, but he comes charging at me. I’ll tell you, I don’t get scared easily, but he scared me so bad I almost wet myself. I came to be scared, and he delivered.

The first maze I entered was the Friday the 13th maze. No monster scared me there. I got freaked two or three times, but other guests were getting scared a lot more. That’s what happens when you start going to these places when you're three – you just don’t get that scared. But there were very good visuals, like a guy in a mattress popping out. (I was there at 8:15 and there was only a ten-minute wait, but the line got longer later.)

From there, my father and I made our way to the Nightmare on Elm Street maze. It was much better than the first. The monsters were hidden better; that was key. But again, I didn’t get scared. (My dad got scared in both mazes though.) This was at 8:40 or so, and there was a 30-minute wait. I recommend getting a Front of the Line Pass, because the lines just got longer. Get there early too, because it gets crowded.

The House of Horrors with the Strangers was next. Around 9:00, the line was 45 minutes. But this maze was the best, complete with body bags, mirrors, and a tunnel. This is where the Van Helsing ride is. I finally got scared. The monsters double-teamed me. I was focused on one and the other sneaked up – rookie mistake.

We continued on to the show, "Bill and Ted Meet Hellboy." That’s right, the lovable slacker duo who travel back in time and meet Napoleon have returned, with friends and pyrotechnics. This show is not really scary; instead, it has all the summer movie hits combined in a comedy show where Bill and Ted must defeat Hellboy. Harrison Ford is there with Miley Cyrus, Hancock, Juno, Sarah Palin and the rest of the political candidates, the Joker… the list goes on. The show is really funny and it’s nice to have a comic break to recharge your body. This is NOT meant for kids. There’s swearing, and people wearing only bras and underwear on stage.  It would be a big mistake to bring children to this one.

I’m not going to say don’t bring kids to Halloween Horror Nights in general, because I went to this stuff when I was three, but there are loud noises, so here is what I would advise: know your child. If you have a child like me, who doesn't scare easily, yeah, take him. But if he’s like my twin, Amanda, do not. You’ll have to leave early and that just ruins the fun, right?

Now, back to the scary stuff. One thing cool about Universal’s Halloween experience is the Terror Tram.  You ride the tram, and you can get off and explore the backlot. Last year, guests could walk by the Psycho House/Bates Motel, Whoville, and the War of the Worlds set. This year it's 20 times better and twice as long. Like the streets, the monsters here are very good. You’ll see a campground and you are much closer to the plane on the War of the Worlds.

There’s also a maze, but it’s pretty lame. It’s like sheets with fences. I’m so not kidding. That needs to be redone. The monsters in the maze were good, though. The tram also was very fast. Last year, it took an hour. This year, ten minutes. Plus, there’s a sneak peek of the new Wolfman movie due out in April.

The last maze is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze. The wait was 60 minutes! (Again, get the fast pass.) It was really good. There were body bags again, and the monsters were very good in this maze. It's not worth waiting an hour, though, so get there early.

Now the adrenaline has worn off and I can’t wait to go back. Halloween Horror Nights, although a bit pricy at $54, is the most fun Halloween attraction around. There’s absolutely no competition. Halloween Horror Nights continues on October 4, 10-11, 17-19, 24-26, 30-31 and November 1.

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  • Daisy H.

    Good article and thanks for promoting us! A quick fix tho: there was never a Van Helsing ride. It was a maze after the movie came out and then the maze was turned into the “House of Horrors”, which houses a lot of Universal monsters, including the new addition this year: the STRANGERS!

    Also, for those of you taking your children, the Chucky Show is NOT intended for children under 13 (a lot of cursing, but a funny show after all).

  • ANDREW MAVADDAT

    OMG HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS IS SO FREAKIN COOL. I LOVED THE SCARE ZONES AND TERROR TRAM AND RIDES, OH BUT I MISSED THE SHOWS AND MAZES WHAT A BUMMER BECAUSE OF LONG LINES AND SUCH, OH WELL IN 2009 IM GETTING A FRONT OF LINE PASS WHERE I GET TO DO EVERYTHING IM DEFINIATELY GOING BACK TO GET SCARED SOME MORE, SEE YA!

  • lalo

    Question can i take my 1 year old to holloween horror nights?