Chainsaws whirring in the distance and screams echoing down the nearly abandoned streets— sounds cutting through the fog that fills the air—portend danger and madness and the potential for unspeakable torment. Why would any sane person choose to wander these streets? The viscous fog has a sweet, unique smell to it; easily conjured later but hard to describe accurately.It is opaque and obscuring, providing a blind for the beasties that lurk, mere shadows at the moment, just beyond the limits of your perception.
There are nightmares here. Vast sprawling dreamscapes for you to explore, to wander through, filled with twisted and macabre visions. Blood runs freely here. Creatures hatched from the night terrors of a diseased mind scamper and scurry about, grasping and growling. You close your eyes, overwhelmed by the horror of it all, feeling pure terror as those growls and chainsaws get closer and closer. You wonder how this happened, how you came to be trapped in this nightmare. You wonder where you are.
Welcome to Halloween Horror Nights Orlando, Florida’s most popular haunted attraction.
The room is so dark I am completely blind, behind me screams ring out as crazed clowns and blood drenched beasts reach from behind bars and lunge from around corners. This room is different though, quiet and black as pitch. The slow flash of a strobe light indicates where I should be headed. It pauses one long second and then flashes again, ahead of me I see my brother and best friend illuminated. They are almost at the doorway. I am alone in this room. A sound, I hear a sound. It is slithery and leathery and quiet. Foolishly, I become a horror movie cliche.
“Hey, guys,” I say. “Are you in here?”
A voice in my ear.
“They aren’t, but I am.”
The rest of the haunted house is a blur of brutally pulsating lights and twisting hallways as, terrified, I bolt from that room, from that voice, and never look back.
This was my first experience at Halloween Horror Nights, in the first house we went into, and it has kept me coming back year after year. After that one moment I was hooked. Some years have been huge hits with me, and others not so much but there has never been a year where I cannot or have not been able to say, “You should skip it this year.” The event has grown every year, so moments like the one I described above are far less likely to occur, but this year especially HHN has proven that they are still the premiere haunted attraction in Florida, if not in the country.
The theme this year is a sort of greatest hits as the Universal celebrates 25 years of scare-tastic entertainment. What follows is a guide to the event. I’ll review the houses one at a time in the order I think you should visit them (this should be especially helpful to those without a fast pass). So pay attention, what I write next could save your life (or at least your time):
💀 When you arrive, get there early and attempt to have a rough plan for visiting the haunted attractions of your choice. You might not have time to do them all, and a list will help tremendously. I will also endeavor to help by providing you my top picks for the houses below.
💀 Do NOT do everything in order. You will miss out on a lot of the details that the event took pains to create when you do not make it around the entire park.
💀 Make sure to spend time in the following scare zones (these are the zones that are set on the streets, full of neat details and little extras designed to terrify you and your friends):
- Pyschoscareapy-Unleashed- There are a lot of interesting character designs , chainsaw-wielding maniacs and lot of great extras. Make sure to look at the windows of the buildings for some shadow play.
- All Nite Die-In-Double Feature- This scare zone was great! Featured creatures and designs right from the silver scream, I mean screen. Personally I geeked out at the creature from The Thing that was walking around, enough so that I had just had to take a picture with him. All the scareactors were well designed and the scene dressing is awesome as well, really coming across as an abandoned drive-in theater. Best part? It’s located right outside of the Diagon Alley which is open to all during the event. Nothing quite beats seeing Diagon Alley at night if you’re a fan of Harry Potter.
- Evil’s Roots- Set in Central Park, this scare zone is the most elaborate and the most autumnal. Filled with fog, jack-o-lanterns, and a variety of intricately designed characters you are going to want to spend more than few minutes exploring this area.
And now we come to what you REALLY wanted to know, what you are simply DYING to find out. Which houses were the best and which were the worst this year? Well here is your answer:
The most interesting part of run took place just outside the entrance to the attraction.
The premise of the haunt is that the world has ended. Of course since the world has ended, we need to entertain the masses and that is where Run comes in. From the description: “You’ve just been selected as a contestant on RUN, a brutal TV show where everyday people are stalked by skilled assassins. Just remember: the more horrifying your death, the higher the ratings.” Unfortunately, this house doesn’t live up to the premise. It could have been so much more, but just came up flat for me.
This house was simply a re-hash of the films. Since I am not a huge fan of the films this one did not hold my attention for long. You could absolutely pass this up and simply marathon the two films instead.
The last season of The Walking Dead was very good, best season in years (some missteps but they were minor and forgivable) which is why it pains me to declare this year’s TWD house totally worth skipping. Each year, the haunt designers do their level best to encompass the entire season into one experience that you can stroll through. This year was no different, but the energy level and the scareactors (people and gags designed to make you jump) did not work at all. The make-ups — which were so good in every other house— are simply rubber masks and some grease paint to make zombies. Honestly, skip this one until the very end.
And that is it for the worst of the houses. Just three that I can wholeheartedly recommend passing on or holding off until you’ve done the rest.
AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR TOP HAUNTED HOUSES FROM THIS YEAR’S EVENT*:
Coming in at number six is this haunt that walks through the always entertaining film that was Freddy VS Jason. Key scenes are depicted, the make-ups and effects are completely on point and the scareactors were energetic, as Freddy fought Jason all through the haunt.
The description of the haunt says it all: “Enter “The Further” and travel through all three parts of the Insidious saga. Denizens of the afterlife try to find their way back into the world using the living to guide them. The house isn’t haunted–we are.” If you even remotely enjoyed the Insidious series then you will find this haunt to be a rewarding experience.
This year’s 3D offering is a revamped version of the previous Asylum in Wonderland, and is as delightful now as it was back then. Your mind will melt at some of the 3D trickery on display here, but that’s ok we are all mad here.
This house was our first stop and I recommend that it be yours as well. A conglomeration of the best pieces of all the best houses from the last 25 years, each vignette is carefully fitted together and the house flows like a river of terror. It’s like listening to a greatest hits album from that band you used to love and realizing why you loved them so much in the first place. This house will create new life-long Halloween Horror Nights fans and remind the jaded among us why they fell in love with haunted houses and Halloween Horror Nights in the first place.
This haunt is not for the faint of heart. It features violence, gore, and depictions of graphic surgery. In other words how could you pass this one by? The Body Collectors have returned to Shadybrook Asylum and they are taking no prisoners as they reap their bloody harvest. My recommendation with this one is that you do not rush through, take your time and take every detail in. The interactions between the scareactors are superb and gruesome and totally worth a watch.
Here it is, the best of the best. This house is astounding. It was great a few years ago when it was first introduced to Halloween Horror Nights. The make-ups, the animatronics, the snapping jaws, the Nazi-wolf-monster, the transformation and the twist all make this my pick as the best haunt that HHN has to offer. So much greatness in one six to eight minute experience. Try to take this one in twice if you can, there are so many details and actions by the scareactors that things could be easily missed the first go round.
So there you have it, a somewhat comprehensive guide (spoiler-free too!) to this year’s awesome Halloween Horror Nights. I hope that you found it helpful and informative. Enjoy the event and keep coming back here all this month as we post additional articles, lists of movies you shouldn’t miss and engage in Halloween-themed mayhem.
*You’ll have to forgive my gleeful tone, I simply loved this event.