A while ago, I told you about the media event for Halloween Horror Nights, during which I was scared half to death by Michael Myers, if you remember. After much anticipation, last week it was finally time to visit the real thing at Universal Orlando Resort to experience the terror in person. I took my friend Erica (from the Edinburgh Food website, Foodinburgh) for moral support, and while we were there, we were lucky enough to experience the brand new Loews Sapphire Falls hotel as well as some great new dining (and some old favourites) at Universal CityWalk (more of this later), but for now, brace yourself, it’s show time…
Halloween Horror Nights 26 at Universal Studios
There must be some kind of magic afoot, because as you walk the familiar path into Universal Studios, the first thing you notice is that the entire park has been completely transformed. Most of the studio lot that was there in the daytime seems to have been completely wiped out, and in its place, the streets are transformed into different scare zones filled with incredible scenery and filled with roaming ‘scareactors’, all set to scare the bejeezus out of you.
The first scare zone we encountered, Hollywood High School’s 1955 Homecoming Parade, is a kind of twisted prom scenario complete with bodies impaled on homecoming floats and screaming prom queens, their dresses ripped and spattered with blood, begging you for help (nobody actually touches you, but it’s pretty terrifying, as you can imagine). Another scare zone is full of nightmarish characters revving chainsaws, then there’s Dead Man’s Wharf, complete with abandoned fishing vessel, and hideous sea creature/zombie things lurking out of the mist. The music is perfectly chosen, and mixed with the lurching creatures and the lights and swirling mist, it’s an experience like no other. The effects are movie-standard throughout.
Around every turn, you encounter the roaming hoardes: strange scarecrows, cheerleaders… all with different ways of making you jump. You get to the stage where you try not to catch their eyes for fear of inviting their attention! At other areas, we met escaped asylum inmates, and at yet another, the Lair of the Banshees, hideous stilt walking creatures come at you from nowhere. Our nerves were already in tatters.
In perhaps the most spine chilling scare zone, Survive or Die: Apocalypse, the streets have been turned into a barren, Mad Max-esque landscape, full of burning cars, crumbling buildings, drifting smoke and roaming searchlights. Strange apocalpyse survivors rush at you (one crept us behind me and whispered ‘join us’ in my ear before disappearing into the darkness – I nearly had heart failure).
The main attractions, though, are the haunted houses or mazes. We managed to visit all nine in one night. In Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield, you feel like you’re wandering through the actual horror film with Michael Myers jumping out at you from various hiding places, and in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the scariest mazes, just as you’re leaving the maze and think you’re safe, more ‘scareactors’ accost you on your way out! In every house, there’s darkness and loud noises and screaming and smells and smoke and creepy music… your feet move from under you, you feel puffs of air in your face, people reach out to grab you… It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I was hoarse from all the screaming.
Chance’s Lunatics Playground was full of dazzling neon lights and spinning 3D effects, and American Horror Story was completely terrifying and disturbing – as a knife swings into a body and blood spatters, you get sprayed with liquid, completely taking you by surprise.
In The Exorcist, no horrible detail is left out, from the girl’s head spinning and spewing green vomit in her bed, to the creepy scuttling noises in the ceilings. It seems like the walls are moving and trying to touch you while you stumble along in the dark, barely able to see in front of you. It’s ridiculously clever. In Krampus (you must see the film this Christmas by the way – he’s like a demonic anti-Santa), you literally feel like you’re walking through the house in the movie – I actually recognised the kitchen. It’s all so well done.
My iPhone notes were a jumble of emotions and adrenaline fuelled gibberish, but that’s kind of how it makes you feel. The Halloween Horror Nights experience is so difficult to describe: it’s an assault on the senses, and while your nerves are jangling and you’re shaking with fear, it’s such a high. After every house, we were buzzing with adrenaline and already looking forward to the next one. I never thought being scared could be such good fun. By the end of the night, we were absolutely exhausted and, with the day in the theme park as well, had walked a total of 11 miles, but what a day. All I could think was how much the boys would love it. Take me back. I want to do Halloween Horror Nights EVERY YEAR!
Halloween Horror Nights run from September 16th through October 31st, 2016 at Universal Studios, Florida. Massive thanks to Kevin and the team at Universal for everything. Next up, I’ve got loads of news about beautiful new Sapphire Falls Resort and some new and exciting dining at CityWalk too.
A family of four can enjoy seven nights at Universal Orlando Resort for £1,376pp
Enjoy seven nights in Universal Orlando Resort with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick direct to Orlando, with accommodation at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. The price is based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing a room, including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure of October 22, 2016. The two-park bonus ticket with Halloween Horror Nights Combo Ticket is £467.62 for 2adults & 2children. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: call 0344 557 3859 or visit one of our individual retail stores or one of the 110 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide. www.UniversalOrlando.co.uk / www.virgin-atlantic.com
If you’re travelling independently, Attraction Tickets Direct offers a 2-park Bonus with Halloween Horror Nights Combo Ticket, priced from £242 per person. The ticket includes 14 days unlimited access to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, plus access to the HHN’s events on all available dates for the same 14 day period.
A Frequent Fear Pass Plus costs from £89 and gives access to all the Halloween Horror Nights dates (no daytime access). To book visit www.attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk