Review: Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights 2012

There is a lot of competition out there in the realm of Halloween theme park experiences. Every year, the parks seem to up their game in an attempt to overshadow the competition and provide the ultimate terror experience. And every year, Universal Studios continues to dominate the competition through the combination of storytelling and theatricality one would expect from a working film studio.  Despite what some other events think, Halloween isn’t about being as gross as possible or creating the most startling sound effects.  That isn’t to say these techniques aren’t employed, but Universal understands that fear can be built gradually rather than just slammed into you all at once.  This is why Halloween Horror Nights continues to reign supreme.

Featuring six mazes, an all-new Terror Tram, a brand-new Bill and Ted show and with all attractions open, including the all-new Transformers ride, this is an event not to be missed.  As you begin working your way into the park, it’s apparent that they have really pulled out all the stops.  With grotesquely fascinating characters roaming freely through the park, it’s impossible to get anywhere without finding yourself immersed in an environment of fear.

However, it’s the mazes that are the star of the night.  Personally, my favorite was Alice Cooper Goes to Hell (in 3D), a truly original tour through Cooper’s depraved mind and his vision of Hell itself.  This is the only maze presented in 3D, and unlike previous years, the 3D fully enhances the experience.  The 3D gives the already disturbing visuals an even more unnerving dimension that proves extremely disorienting.  The performers in all the mazes, but especially this one, give actual performances rather than simply trying to startle.  These are characters living out these nightmare scenarios, and the commitment the performers bring turn this into a depraved interactive theater.

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Other highlights of the event include a maze inspired by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (featuring some disturbingly amazing makeup effects), a redo of last year’s standout La Llorona, which is as atmospherically creepy as ever, a tour of Silent Hill based on the popular film and game series, Universal Monsters remix, and a maze inspired by The Walking Dead.  As a HUGE fan of the Walking Dead, I was thrilled to find myself immersed in the world of the show.  I don’t know if the maze would have the same appeal to someone who hasn’t seen it, but if you are a fan then you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

Walking Dead gets a lot of exposure this year, as that is also the theme for the Terror Tram.  As always, they take you to the back-lot where you get to disembark and walk the actual sets, including the epic War of the Worlds set.  While it would be great to get to do this on a normal day, there’s something to be said for walking around a location of this scale while surrounded by zombies hissing in your face.

Universal has stuffed so much detail into every corner of the park, it’s a thrill to just wander around and take it all in.  Halloween is an amazing time of year, and this event encapsulates everything that makes it so wonderful.  Performance art on a huge scale, I can’t imagine Halloween without my annual trip to Horror Nights.  Scary, gross, over-the-top and subtle simultaneously, this event has perfected the art of fear.

Get your discounted tickets online now!! HHN is now open on select nights through October 31st.

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