Inside spook on Halloween Horror Nights’ haunted houses
With Halloween lurking around the corner, October is the season to seek plenty of thrills and chills. Or, if you want a more up-close and personal experience with things that go bump in the night, then heed Best of UMiami and check out one of our finalists for Best Weekend Getaway: Orlando.
Halloween Horror Nights 2014 in Universal Studios has been terrifying park-goers for 24 years. The park closes early at 5 p.m. and reopens at 6:30 p.m. for this special event through Nov. 1. As the sun goes down, zombies, voodoo priests and anarchists fill the streets as guests line up for the many haunted houses.
This year, the park offers eight themed houses and four Scare Zones, which take place outside. With so much terror to anticipate, The Miami Hurricane got the inside spook from Charles Gray, director of the houses, about what guests can expect.
House: Roanoke– Cannibal Colony
Concept: Based off the historical account of the lost settlers of the Roanoke Colony in South Carolina, this house takes a turn at figuring out the mystery behind the disappearance of an entire colony in the late 16th century, three years after a ship from Europe dropped off supplies. The creative team decided that cannibalism was what led to the colony’s demise.
“If you are with your neighbor and you are starving to death, and you may love that person but after a month or so, they might start looking tasty,” Gray said. “So that’s what we think happened there.”
Concept: There are different approaches to creating a house, and with this one, the creative team referenced the original “Halloween” movie and recreated iconic moments and scenes. To stay true to director John Carpenter’s film, the killings all take place in the same order. Guests follow protagonist Laurie’s journey as she discovers her friends’ bodies all the way to the finale. Gray said it is one of the most critically-acclaimed houses of the year.
“It is intense from beginning to end,” he said. “There’s Michael Meyers around every single corner.”
House: The Walking Dead- End of the Line
Concept: This year’s house, based on AMC’s TV show about zombies, aka “walkers,” is the largest Halloween Horror Nights has ever made, with three times the number of actors and double the size of the house. The house picks up where season three left off, with members looking for Terminus and going through all types of scenarios. After years of wanting one, this is the first time the creative team put in a horde, a group of up to 14 zombies, attacking at once in a lightning storm.
“It’s pitch black and then lighting flashes and you’ll just see arms coming at you, so make sure you wear your Depends,” Gray said.
House: Giggles & Gore Inc.
Concept: Clowns can be a popular theme for Halloween events, so to create something unique, this house is based on the idea that evil clowns aren’t born, they’re made. A gypsy-like clan of clowns travels to various abandoned areas and kidnaps people to put through a torture gauntlet. This gore-ridden house includes scenes of someone being lowered into a woodchipper and those remains being stuffed into someone else, people being thrown into smashing machines, and a character named Dr. Clown ripping the face off a girl. And since it is called “Giggles and Gore,” the clowns are laughing the entire time.
“It’s a little gory, not for the faint of heart,” Gray said. “I love standing out there and just watching people come flying out of that house screaming.”
Check out what Director of Houses Charles Gray had to say about the four original Scare Zones:
House: Doll House of the Damned
Concept: As a father of a two girls, a two-year-old and a four-year-old, Gray had no trouble coming up with terrifying ideas for the house, because “as a father, these things are terrifying.” This house has a room full of babies, including “creepy” muscular ones, baby cribs and excrement splattered all over the wall.
“People come out of it and they’re just like ‘what was that?’ It’s not a typical scare, scare, scare,” Gray said. “It’s so twisted and it’s one of the houses [where] we created the characters first and then placed them into the scenarios from there.”
House: From Dusk Till Dawn
Concept: This new TV show airs on El Rey Network, a newly formed Comcast channel. This house pushes the envelope, as Gray describes it as a “PG-13 plus” house with exotic dancers and snake-like vampires with fangs in the front of their mouths, like a snake would have, rather than incisors.
“A lot of times, that romanticized kind of Dracula is that bat form,” Gray said. “In there, they’re all based on snake.”
House: Dracula Untold– Reign of Blood
Concept: Based on the upcoming film, the house features scenes that never made it into the final cut of the movie. This explores the origins of the iconic vampire, Dracula.
“We’re actually excited about is we created from that script and some of those scenes got cut, so we actually have stuff in the maze that will be in the director’s cut of the movie,” Gray said.
House: AVP- Aliens Vs. Predator
Concept: After meeting with FOX, who owns the rights to the franchise, they allowed the HHN team to create their own storyline, which is not often the case with established brands. However, FOX said the AVP universe is huge, with a lot of alien and predator lore, so the team’s specially designed puppets and costumes were accompanied by a custom-built plot.
“That’s a pretty tough order, that’s pretty intense, because if you’re gonna do something like that, you’ve gotta do it right,” Gray said. “You can’t just have a silly looking predator or a hand puppet alien, it’s not gonna sell, right?”
In addition to the characters roaming around in the dark with chainsaws, the park offers a production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.” For more information visit halloweenhorrornights.com.
This article originally appeared in The Miami Hurricane on Oct. 7, 2014.