Halloween Horror Nights 2013 house-by-house review and tips as Universal Orlando unveils impressive scale in gory detail

in Entertainment, Events, Featured, Reviews, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios Florida

What evil has taken root at Universal Orlando? Quite a lot. The insanity of Halloween Horror Nights 2013 officially began tonight, with licensed film and TV properties dominating this year’s event. “The Walking Dead” takes center stage, not only with an all-new haunted house but also filling the park with zombies (“walkers”) amidst scenery representing iconic moments from three seasons of the hit AMC TV show. But even beyond that, this year’s expanded line-up of eight haunted houses features more big names in horror including the “Resident Evil” video game series, the recent “Evil Dead” remake, the clever “Cabin in the Woods,” and the John Landis-directed classic “An American Werewolf in London.” They all stand out ahead of the 100% original ideas this year, though those do present a few enjoyable experiences too.

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

This year’s event as a whole is substantially better than 2012. When Universal Orlando moved from its 21st event year in 2011, which featured nearly all original haunted house and scare zone concepts, to an intellectual property-driven approach last year, longtime Horror Nights fans balked at the lack of a cohesive theme tying the entire event together in favor of a more “Hollywood” approach. Moreover, there was no central event icon last year, a first for many years. And the highly-themed, visually appealing scare zones that had been so popular for so many years were replaced by the roaming “Dark Legions” – a plan that ultimately fell way flat, leaving the streets relatively bare.

This year vastly improves upon the new Halloween Horror Nights formula, still sticking largely with IP-based experiences, but presenting them in such a grand fashion that no one can walk away without being floored by the massive scale and attention to detail that each of the recognizable franchises have been presented with. Scare zones have been retooled once more, for the first time ever incorporating one property across the entire park – “The Walking Dead,” naturally. After that franchise brought big ticket sales last year, it was handed down from above to Universal’s Art and Design team to go even bigger with it this time, and they have done exactly that with surprising and unique elements that make this year’s street experience stand out in many ways.

Below are my thorough thoughts and opinions on each of this year’s haunted houses, shows, and the entire street experience.

The Rules

As with the past three years of Halloween Horror Nights event reviews, below you will find each haunted house, “scare zone” / street experience, and show summarized and ranked into one or more categories: Screamer (scare-filled), Gut Buster (comedy-packed), Eye Popper (visually-stunning), and/or Mind Blower (overall best in show). And in the case of a complete dud, I refer to it as a Grave Digger. Use my thoughts as a guide to help you plan your attack when you visit Universal Orlando’s event and see if you agree with me. Then return here often throughout the coming weeks for updated thoughts as the event evolves.

Read on for my review of Halloween Horror Nights 2013.

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 Haunted Houses

This year’s haunted houses are largely based on outside properties, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less good than Universal’s own original ideas. While I normally enjoy the 100% original houses more (like last year’s Gothic), this year turns everything on its head with the IP-based mazes far better than the originals.

On opening night, creative director Mike Aiello and show director Laura Wallace described to attending media all of this year’s haunted houses and street zones with clips from each experience:

That was part of a larger and entirely hilarious Q&A session not only including those two Universal designers but also a “Resident Evil” producer from Capcom and “An American Werewolf in London” director John Landis, who stole the show by cracking quite a few jokes, many to Universal’s dismay:

(Look for photo and video-filled tours of all of this year’s haunted houses coming soon.)

Now my thoughts and rankings…

1. An American Werewolf in London

RANKING: Mind Blower, Screamer, Eye Popper

REVIEW: Simply perfect. It’s clear the Halloween Horror Nights design team pumped every ounce of passion into this maze that’s based on the classic 1981 John Landis film. Anyone who is a fan of “An American Werewolf in London” will be absolutely thrilled to step into each of its iconic scenes and settings, coming face-to-face with many of its characters and, yes, the wolf itself – many times. The haunted house follows the flow of the film exactly, from scene to scene. Starting in a spot-on recreation of the Slaughtered Lamb, audio dialogue clips set the stage, bringing Horror Nights guests along with Jack and David, stumbling into an unexpected mystery. “Beware the moon” is the last line heard before stepping out into the English moors, following David into the hospital, through his nightmares (yes the nazi wolves are there), and ultimately witnessing the unforgettable transformation in person, followed by a series of believable wolf attacks. The sets are huge and detailed while the characters look like they’ve stepped straight off of the big screen. Not everything is about the scare in this maze, though there are plenty of them. But sometimes it’s just an opportunity to marvel at how Universal has perfectly recreated scenes from the film. And the wolf is beyond believable, brought to life through perfectly crafted puppets. It’s like witnessing classic movie magic in the making and it’s all incredibly impressive.

It’s also worth noting that fans of “Doctor Who” will want to keep an eye out for a particular prop in the London streets of this maze.

Video: Full walkthrough of “An American Werewolf in London” haunted house at Universal Orlando

2. The Cabin in the Woods

RANKING: Screamer, Eye Popper

REVIEW: The film “The Cabin in the Woods” took the horror genre and turned it on its head and now Universal has turned the film on its head with their haunted house that sends guests in as recruits of the “facility” behind the chaos. A fun (but a bit hard to hear) queue video sets the stage for attendees to first step through facility’s stale office and into the creepy, well, cabin in the woods. The scares start immediately upon entering this dilapidated shack, offering no time for any make-out sessions with the wolf’s head before moving through each of the cabin’s memorable moments, one-way mirror included. But it’s not long before guests find themselves passing through the basement and back into the facility where the real chaos ensues as the purge begins. “The Cabin in the Woods” is best known for its many creative characters, first contained in cubes but ultimately released – and all that is witnessed in this maze with many of the most memorable creatures lurking around every corner. The bloody elevator scene is huge, though sadly underused with only a couple characters briefly popping out occasionally. But overall the feeling of the film is completely captured, not only making this a feast for the eyes but also offering many opportunities for big scares from a bizarre set of characters.

Video: Full walkthrough of “The Cabin in the Woods” haunted house at Universal Orlando

3. Evil Dead

RANKING: Screamer, Eye Popper

REVIEW: Though it’s disappointing it took a remake to get the world of “Evil Dead” into Halloween Horror Nights, this maze is entirely successful with a particularly unique approach to retelling the story of the film. Since there’s already another maze with a “cabin in the woods,” this one presents itself in a particularly cinematic fashion, even somewhat abstract, sending guests stepping into the movie itself. Its first few scenes are like a film’s title sequence, setting the stage for what’s ahead without scaring anyone. But it’s clear that devilish happenings await as the first scene inside the famous “Evil Dead” cabin exclaims to all, “You’re all going to die tonight!” Through special effects including Pepper’s Ghost and projections, this maze is the most technologically interesting of them all this year. But there are plenty of practical thrills too. Much like the recent “Evil Dead” remake, this maze features some of the goriest moments at Horror Nights with the action taking place a mere foot or two away. With so many scenes reliant on triggered special effects, it’s all about timing, but when it’s right it’s great. The flow is unusual and keeps visitors on their toes never knowing what to expect around the next twisted corner.

Video: Full walkthrough of the “Evil Dead” haunted house at Universal Orlando

4. Urban Legends: La Llorona

RANKING: Screamer, Eye Popper

REVIEW: Arguably the most visually stunning of all the mazes this year, La Llorona is an improved take on the Mexican legend that was first featured in Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights over the last few years. Orlando has presented a similar approach to the first half of the experience, showcasing the backstory of how this fabled mother descended into madness after killing her own children, dealing with her guilt long into the afterlife. But from the moment when guests see two children lying face down in a bubbling stream with their weeping mother looking down overhead, things get creepy fast. Stepping into La Llorona’s world takes guests down a dark chilling path, among the most eerie this year. It’s a maze that frequently triggers goosebumps, far more effective than the over-the-top finale scenes of Hollywood’s version. As a whole, this maze has the potential of scaring many guests the most with its atmosphere and subject matter coupled with frightening appearances by La Llorona herself. This maze may very well move its way up my rank as the weeks go on. There’s a lot to appreciate here.

Video: Full walkthrough of the “Urban Legends: La Llorona” haunted house at Universal Orlando

5. Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City

RANKING: Eye Popper

REVIEW: Bringing “Resident Evil” to Halloween Horror Nights means bringing years of video game fanaticism to life. It’s the franchise that invented the term “survival horror” and in this maze gamers can finally step into that world in person. But all is not perfect. While the settings are perfectly recreated from their digital counterparts, from the vast Raccoon City streets to the huge RPD police station, the characters do little to scare. Many favorites are there – Leon, Jill, Lickers, zombie dogs, Hunters, and even Nemesis – but there’s never any real sense of danger present. Walking through this experience will be entirely enjoyable for any fans of the game, but those looking for a true Horror Nights experience will find few frights. The maze wins major points for its attention to detail, including so many recognizable elements from the game, but as a haunted house experience it kind of flops. It’s really fun to walk through and a joy to finally step into Raccoon City. Just don’t expect to be too scared while doing so.

Video: Full walkthrough of “Resident Evil: Escape From Raccoon City” haunted house at Universal Orlando

6. The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven

RANKING: Screamer

REVIEW: There’s something about the gritty realism of “The Walking Dead” that just doesn’t translate well to haunted houses. The same problems that plagued last year’s maze based on the TV show are present again this year, though with many improvements. The show’s success comes from its character drama. It’s a show about people first, the undead second. But at Halloween Horror Nights, it’s all about the zombies/walkers, so while exploring the prison or the Governor’s office, the focus is largely on the creatures that pop out of dark corners. Many of the sets feel flat, difficult to duplicate the wide open expanses of the show in the tight spaces of the haunted house. The town of Woodbury feels like a fraction of itself and the prison isn’t quite as grand as it should be. Thankfully this year there are some recognizable character appearances – those who have already turned, including Merle, Milton, and Penny. But even the most iconic of season 3 settings, the prison cell block where Rick and the gang set up camp, is inexplicably flipped around in the maze so its most recognizable “shot” isn’t even seen unless you turn around and look back on the way out. It almost feels like this entire maze plays out in reverse chronology, starting in Woodbury and ending at the prison, the opposite of the season. Fans of the show will enjoy the smaller details in the maze, like the ringing phone that sparked Rick’s temporary journey into insanity, but those who haven’t seen it may already be tired of zombies by the time they make their way through the streets. I’m a big fan of the show and I only momentarily became excited while wandering through this experience.

Video: Full walkthrough of “The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven” haunted house at Universal Orlando

7. Afterlife: Death’s Vengeance

RANKING: Eye Popper

REVIEW: I have not been much of a fan of Halloween Horror Nights’ 3D houses in recent years. Two years ago, The In-Between was my least favorite and last year, sadly, Penn and Teller New(kd) Las Vegas was amusing but never entirely fulfilling. Fortunately this year “Afterlife” finally succeeds for me as a disorienting and enjoyable 3D experience. It’s not as good as the highly-themed mazes above, which is why it’s so low on this year’s list, but it actually is a fun haunted house. There isn’t much detail to any of the scenes, instead relying on bright colors, laser lights, and black walls to completely spin guests around not knowing which way is up or which way they’re supposed to go. I actually got lost in one scene, which took me a minute or two to find my way out of. I wouldn’t be surprised if Universal’s design team will secretly watch guests become completely and utterly confused while trying to find their way through this “fun house” of sorts. And there are several startle-scares, including the reappearance of a few familiar blacklight characters from The In-Between, much to my dismay. Overall, it’s a solid 3D house that I’ll have fun walking through again.

Video: Full walkthrough of “Afterlife: Death’s Vengeance” haunted house at Universal Orlando

8. Havoc: Derailed

RANKING: Grave Digger

REVIEW: The original Havoc: Dogs of War haunted house in 2010 was loud, in-your-face, and not at all appealing to me. It just seemed like chaos for the sake of chaos. Now three years later, the “Dogs of War” are back. These amped up super soldiers are now escaping from a train after an accident derails it, as the maze’s title suggests. The train effect is at first wonderful, offering a sense of motion while skirting by these soldiers confined to cages. But once the train “derails,” so does the overall experience. It is indeed a train wreck with exactly the same problems as the original. Every character is exactly the same, a bald-headed, gun-wielding, fatigue-wearing muscle man (or woman), snarling and yelling after popping out of unexpected places. It gets old fast and is sure to remain at the bottom of my list for the duration of this year’s event. The train itself is fantastic. The rest? Not so much.

Video: Full walkthrough of “Havoc: Derailed” haunted house at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 Scare Zones / Street Experience

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Improving over 2012, specific scare zones return for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. But this time they’re not clearly labeled on the event’s map, instead allowing guests discover areas themed to all three seasons of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Each area is carefully crafted to resemble memorable moments from the show, many from specific episodes. And throughout are masses of walkers in various stages of decay, some aimlessly roaming while others are on the attack. None of it is particularly scary, as the zombies often blend in with the tired masses already plodding along like zombies, but it is all quite enjoyable to walk through as well as sit back and witness, especially for fans of the show.

Here is a complete tour of this year’s new street experience:

Below are rankings of each of the areas themed to “The Walking Dead” along with a few photos of the most recognizable elements from each.

1. The Fall of Atlanta

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: With all of this year’s street areas themed to “The Walking Dead,” it’s tough to pick a favorite, as they all represent their various seasons and episodes so well. But the transformation of the New York streets of Universal Studios Florida into Atlanta stands out to me as the most impressive for several reasons. First: the tank. Universal built a tank and it looks exactly like the one in the early episodes of the show. Second, little scenes play out in this Atlanta area featuring actors who blend in with regular park guests, hamming it up until they are bitten and dragged off by walkers. It’s an unexpected twist that can take place anywhere at any time, heightening the realism. Lastly, it smells absolutely awful. Normally this is a bad thing, but in the case of freshly decaying reanimated corpses, it makes perfect sense. The smell of rotting flesh permeates through the air and it’s simply gross – but brings it all together.

2. The Farm

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: A close second, Hershel’s farm packs a big visual punch. Universal built his burning barn with fire effects, smoldering smells, and walkers inside. Plus the Well Walker is lurking out back. It’s a short walk-through experience in the streets, which is always a nice touch. Nearby a pile of burning corpses nearly turns to ash, adding to the ambiance. And with plenty of walkers roaming the surrounding area, it’s always a visually enjoyable place to be.

3. Survivor’s Camp

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: One particular special effect lands this area in third. Though seeing Dale’s RV is nice, it’s the tent projections that make this zone special, showing a walker disemboweling an unfortunate victim sleeping inside. The area does give a nice feeling of setting up camp, overrun by zombies as well.

4. Woodlands

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: The woodlands is fairly uninteresting featuring a bunch of walkers simply lurking amidst dimly lit foliage. But it does have visual impact with two iconic walkers present. The Deer Walker is feasting on the side of the path, with squirts emerging from the deer as he digs his teeth in. And then there’s Bicycle Girl, on display crawling back and forth, always attracting a crowd. This walker is special, missing half of its body. And it’s no special effect, as Universal has hired an actor who is actually missing lower limbs. It’s joyously creepy.

5. Clear

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: Based on one single dramatic episode of “The Walking Dead,” the Clear zone features zombie traps throughout the Hollywood area of the park, surrounded by text projections on the buildings reading “CLEAR” and “EVERYONE TURNS.” There are many walkers in the area, some seemingly impaled in the traps though lunging at opportune times, but overall the lack of variety makes this area a bit less interesting.

6. Highway

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: A repeat of last year’s “The Walking Dead” zone in front of Disaster, this dimly lit area only features a few walkers and is so tight and crowded that it’s easy to miss them. Sure there’s a school bus but not much else interesting about this area.

7. Chainsaw Drill Team

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

REVIEW: Though it’s always exciting to hear the Chainsaw drill team is back at at Halloween Horror Nights, this year’s incarnation is nothing special. The chainsaw guys are dressed rather ordinarily, accompanied by an obnoxious girl on a bullhorn spouting insults at guests. People will always be scared of chainsaws, but it seems this year they are a little trite.

As a footnote to the street experience, there’s another element from “The Walking Dead” that doesn’t fit in one particular area, randomly showing up around the park. A van pulls up, drops a bunch of walkers into an area to flood it with activity, then a group of masked men summon them back in, baited by fresh meat. It’s a fun, amusing, and a little startling moment.

Video: Zombie van at Halloween Horror Nights 2013

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 Live Shows

Opening Scaremony

This year’s event features a brief opening ceremony (or scaremony) outside the front gate minutes before it opens for the night. A survivor appears on the second floor of the ticket window area shouting tips for everyone to remain safe. Meanwhile a hoard of walkers rushes the front gate. But things don’t go perfectly smoothly for the lone survivor.

It’s a brief but entertaining moment that does well to kick off the event without taking up too much of anyone’s time.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure

RANKING: Gut Buster

REVIEW: Bill and Ted’s annual stage show is always unpredictable. Some years it’s hilarious, but more often than not it’s a confusing mix of pop culture references with a little comedy mixed in. This year, things have definitely been amped up in every way. It kicks off with an exceptionally scantily clad dance number featuring sexy versions of horror icons like Jason and Freddy Krueger. The show continues its strong start with a bigger Halloween theme than is usually the case, presenting evil versions of teen stars. But somewhere in the middle it veers off course, reverting to a random assortment of pop culture characters showing up for no good reason and only being half funny. Fortunately, it does eventually get back on track and ends with a bang, including some hilarious jabs at Disney films and theme parks. There are no taboo topics this year, not even the Mouse. Overall, it’s a fairly solid year minus the fluff in the middle and well worth seeing.

Rocky Horror Pictures Show Tribute

REVIEW: After a three-year hiatus, The Rocky Horror Picture Show – A Tribute has returned to Halloween Horror Nights in the Universal Orlando theater that hosts the Beetlejuice show by day. It’s a roughly 40-minute version of the cult classic Richard O’Brien film featuring the highlights with an emphasis on most of its most popular songs. This year’s cast is excellent, with Frank channeling Tim Curry quite well through “Sweet Transvestite,” Janet nailing every single note and shriek of pleasure in “Touch-A Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me,” and Magenta sounds just like her movie counterpart. And yes, Columbia is indeed wearing Mickey Mouse ears during that number (as seen above), despite being in a competing theme park. Rocky is stiff, but on purpose, Brad doesn’t seem to be able to hit those high falsetto notes during “The Floor Show” and Columbia tends to lag a little behind her songs. And then there’s Riff Raff, who looks and sounds great, nailing every note that even Richard O’Brien couldn’t, perhaps too well, adding many runs to the songs. Audiences are clearly excited to join in the fun, yelling call backs throughout the performance. Unfortunately with cramped seating this venue doesn’t allow for much room to do the “Time Warp” along with the performers, no matter how much they encourage it. Overall, it’s time well spent away from the haunted houses to sit down and enjoy this show. I’ll definitely catch it several more times before the event’s run is over this year.

Video: Full “The Rocky Horror Picture Show – A Tribute” at Halloween Horror Nights 2013

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 Merchandise

Universal has quite a wide assortment of merchandise this year, including T-shirts for several of the individual properties featured at the event with the most from “The Walking Dead,” naturally. And I hear there will be a special Jack the Clown vinyl figurine released some time soon, a great tribute to Horror Nights past.

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 at Universal Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights 2013 Tips and Tricks

  • Arrive early and get to the front gate before it opens for the best view of the opening scaremony. It’s brief and easy to miss if you’re not right there.
  • Linger around the street areas for the most enjoyment, particularly in The Fall of Atlanta. There are little scenes there that play out that shouldn’t be missed, if you can stand the stench.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, look all around you, but beware when looking up. The Buckners are sneaky.
  • Keep an eye out for spotlighted items throughout Resident Evil. Each are familiar pick-up items from the game series, like herbs and ammo. And definitely look all around for static creatures you might otherwise miss. Don’t just focus on the action.
  • Go watch “An American Werewolf in London,” “Evil Dead,” and “The Cabin in the Woods” before going through their mazes. The experiences are so faithful to the films that a far greater appreciation is received after recently seeing the movies. Likewise, go play some “Resident Evil” to have a clue what’s going on in that haunted house.
  • It’s okay to turn around for a few seconds while walking through haunted houses. Universal expects guests to look all around them and designs accordingly. You’ll be surprised how much detail you miss if you don’t keep your eyes open.

  • The above opinions are my own and can and will likely change as Halloween Horror Nights 23 is tweaked and improved over its many nights that remain. I will be frequenting the event throughout the rest of September and all of October, returning to this review with updates and observations, both good and bad. So keep checking back!

    Halloween Horror Nights 2013 continues on select nights in September and October at Universal Orlando. You can buy tickets now and find more information at HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Orlando.

    Photos from Halloween Horror Nights 2013:
    (Photos by Ricky Brigante and Michael Gavin)


    1. Michel Lichand Mendonça

      Wait, no comedy house this year?


      1. I was thinking exactly the same thing! It’s strange not to have one.

    2. Great report Ricky – a truly detailed and accurate insight into what, I’m sure, most HHN fans will rate as one of the best ever. And get the Frequent Fear pass, folks, it’s amazing value.

    3. Claire

      The last HHN I did was 2009 but I didn’t enjoy it as the park was really oversold lines for the “houses” were so long we hardly got to experience anything, I know this year’s has just started but from recent years do you think that this is still a problem? I said I wouldn’t do another one because of it but LOVE the Walking Dead so I’m really tempted.

      1. Mark

        Go on Thursday of Sunday if you wan to avoid the long lines. Also a lot of Walking Dead is in the scare zones so you still will get a huge Walking Dead shot without visiting the mazes.

        1. Matt

          Aren’t there special passes that you can buy that let you skip the lines?

          1. Love2Scream

            Yes they are kinda pricey but worth it

      2. Ricky Brigante

        The lines are atrociously long on Saturdays and Fridays are often tough too. It’s recommended to get there early and stay late. Go to the houses in the back of the park right away and there will be little to no lines. Then work your way forward, taking a break in the middle to hit the shows, eat, walk the scare zones, and/or rest. By the end of the night, the houses in the front of the park will have lesser wait times.

    4. The article was spot on! Exactly what we thought after also being there opening night!

    5. Don

      Hi Ricky, thank you for recording and publishing the Q&A session of this event, it was informative and funny. It was like being there and I loved it.
      I think the fact Universal is doing this event for 23 and make every year different and awesome is a testament to their creativity, love for the holiday and respect for their guests. Instead of rehashing the same stuff every year like most parks do they go above and beyond to delight guests. It’s the only hard ticketed event that is worth it’s money.
      Thank you for covering it and share the fun and putting us the readers Inside The Magic.

    6. Dan Milligan

      The scare zones were yawn. Too much walking dead. I love the show but thou title was very repetitive! One of my favorite things to do is sit and watch people in the scare zones. This year was just flat out boring. Most people saw the zombies coming and they were average at best! Last years were much better than this attempt. They should have limited the walking dead to an area. Hopefully next year they will return to real scare zones!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        They are definitely done with zombies for a while.

    7. Joe Spencer

      For the film based houses, Cabin n the woods, and American werewolf are both available on amazon instant. Although word of warning, the American Werewolf transfer isn’t the greatest.

    8. Josh

      I love the event, but you forgot about one of the best parts. I’m not sure if all of the Universal Parks have this, but I have l seen games being played during HHN at Universal Orlando. The one this year is called Legendary Truth. I’m still new to the game but it’s really cool. You get to investigate houses and you get a card to scan at the each haunted house.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I didn’t forget… I’ll be including plenty about Legendary Truth in an upcoming separate article.

    9. Jeff Lynch

      Wow. You did an AMAZING job with this report Ricky. It was so detailed. Just excellent, excellent reporting.

      I find it interesting that Universal still feels a psychological need to take jabs at Disney. I wonder if they will ever get over that. It feels like Universal has a real mental complex with this, always feeling a need to moon or blow farts at Disney…instead of just doing its own thing. You will never see Disney take jabs at Universal, because Disney is confident in its own brand and doesn’t feel a compulsion to fart at Universal.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        The crowd loves the jabs though. It’s a chance for everyone to be a little more lighthearted about the whole theme park community.

      2. mark

        Disney doesn’t have anything to jab at… Plus where would the jab from they have no humor in any of the shows.

    10. Joe


      Do you think they Universal lessened the stench smell due to complaints? I know you as well as others said it was terrible on preview night. On Friday night it was definitely there, but on Saturday, it was not as noticeable.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Not due to complaints. It’s part of the adjustment process. The smell was definitely terrible on preview night and much less in the days after. It’s in the fog, so if you get caught up in the fog when it comes out, you’ll definitely smell it. It’s there, just not as horribly strong.

    11. Out of curiosity – it looks like each house has security or something similar posted throughout, and it seemed like they were always waving you forward. Was their function primarily to keep the line moving? Are they technically supposed to be for the protection of the performers and/or guests?

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Yes that is their primary function but they also make sure everything is running smoothly. If there are any problems, they will step in.

    12. Jakobus

      I know last year they had some (not a lot though) of Silent Hill merchandise at the Vendors, do they have any Resident Evil merchandise at the Vendors this year. I am a big fan of Resident Evil stuff so I am just curious.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        There is only a Resident Evil shirt. Nothing else.

    13. DAN

      Your review made me 1000x more excited to go this year (already have my tickets) and did substantially more to excite me than the official site!!

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Fantastic! You’re going to have a blast.

    14. Marla

      I am going for the first time this weekend! Your tips are really helpful and although I am taking the surprise factor away a little by viewing the videos and photos and I was told nothing is quite like being there in person! I am very excited!

    15. Dizzy

      I have a problem with the haunted houses that feel like you are being buried alive, you know like the ones the roof and sides move in an squeeze you. You have to almost get on your knees to get out. Is there any house like that? I would need to avoid that house, I get anxiety attacks. Thanks.

    16. Krystal

      My husband and I have always attended busch gardens howl o scream event. In recent years it has become about nothing but alcohol so we have decided to give HHN a try this year. We will be there 10/5. Thank you for the in depth reviews of everything. Gives me a glimpse of what to expect as I hear HOS and HHN are not very comparable.

    17. July

      Incredible review, thank you so much for the details and tips!

    18. Derrick

      Ricky, you didn’t mention interactive elements in the houses (such as buttons to press or ropes to pull) or a lagoon show- are neither of these elements present this year?

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I will be updating this article soon with new thoughts on all the houses and shows plus a whole lot more photos and video. There is no lagoon show, sadly and there are only a couple of interactive elements – though nothing too exciting.

        1. Derrick

          Awesome!! Any chance we can get some updates soon? I’m going to be there this Wednesday and Thursday. Maybe I’ll see you there, I did last year!

          1. Ricky Brigante

            Sorry for not updating this article as planned… but I didn’t really have anything to update. Very little has changed since opening night. I’ve noticed a few more actors in Resident Evil, including one in the Pause room, and a few minor effects changes in Evil Dead and Cabin in the Woods… but that’s about it. It hasn’t really been worth revisiting the topic.

    19. chris bittinger

      I do not recommend anyone waste their time or money on this place. I spent 2 hours waiting in line for 1 house. To only take 5 minutes to get through. Also one of the actors came out and got in my face. And I got threatened to get thrown out of the park for it. Its ran by nothing but rent a cops who abuse their power. Its 42 dollars for a waste of a night. The only decent thing about it wss the zombies on the street. Everything else was a MAJOR disappointment. and a major waste of time and money. And everyone that works there is a bunch of assholes who like talking down to people.

    20. Jennifer

      I have gone to HHN since 1990. This year was a huge disappointment! Hardly any ghouls, all zombies! Not even scary!! They need to bring back the Dead Parade and like one year they had both parks open for HHN. That would really lighten the crowds! Everything is revolved around The Walking Dead, which, I’m sorry is NOT Halloween! They used to play the song from Halloween throughout the park but don’t anymore. Afraid, we won’t be back!!

    21. marilyn

      I have not actually been to a hhn event but walking dead and resident evil are my favorite zombie flicks and I really want to go but a lot of people have told me that I shouldn’t go this year that it sucked and I should wait for a better year. Thoughts?

      1. Harvest

        My house mates and I just returned from the Wednesday 23rd HHN. I’d say it was disappointing.

        The “haunts” left a lot to be desired. It was pretty much just people with masks and bloody faces jumping out of dark spaces yelling at you.

        The houses themselves were so under decorated. There wasn’t any super impressive set design, special effects make-up or ambiance that I even recall. After an average line wait time of aprox. 60+ minutes, we were expecting some creepy WOW factor, but would walk out saying, “Umm, that was all?? after both the RE and WD house”

        I expected Universal Studios quality effects and performance and was left feeling I’d have better spent my money going to the local 15$ mall haunted house. We can best describe what we witnessed as “noise houses” instead of haunted houses. We chose to just go on the normal theme park rides which were a blast and somewhat made up for it. I wish they’d incorporate some kind of actual Halloween theme to the event, not just Hollywood TV show monsters. There was nothing “Halloweenish” at all there. Left me sad 🙁

      2. Ricky Brigante

        It’s definitely not one of the best years and those two experienced are just mediocre. An American Werewolf in London and Cabin in the Woods are much better haunted houses.

    22. Ginger Masker

      I want my money back!!! I went to HHN23on Thursday October 24th 2013. I brought with me my dad because we are both Resident Evil Fans and HHN23 advertised that Sundays and Thursdays were Resident Evil nights. We left Brandon, Fl at 5:45 got to Orlando at 7pm didn’t get through the parking gate until 8:30pm parked in 461 cat in the hat section walked to the first bag check then to the entrence gate where there was a second bag check and scanner once we finally mad it in the Universal Studio gates it was 9:15pm we went straight to Resident Evil House wait time was 60 mins. My father and I timed it to see if they were estimated times or approximate timing. Tured out to be approximate we stood in line for 90 minswent through the 3 minute house I was expecting great effects and lots of zombies and familiar characters. What we incountered was staff dressed in HHN staff shirts moving us along to the point that we didn’t have the time to see the details of the connection of the game. After the house walking to the main street we find ourselves pass two of the houses and had to back track geting lost on the way yes we had a mapwhich by the way had to hunt down in a shop. By the time we got to the next house it was 11pm we went to Havoc House wait time was 45 mins actual wait time was 60 mins I never heard of the show so my expectations were not that high. Even so once again didnt have enough time to actually experience the effects. Good thing was the exit walk way was not in BFE… 12:15am break from crowded line going to scare zones Because it was suppose to be Resident Evil night I thought that we wil experience slow zombies and street action and people dressed as the characters jill chris leon and the big t virus monster that says STAR. No on we got WALKING DEAD THEAM. … not a Raccoon Citycar crashed maze to survive ! A very boring walking dead sticks and junk statuets the barn was just like an old barn no zombie action. 12:45am enough time to go through one more house American Werewolf …wait time 90 mins and once again wrong 115 mins. Later we get in to the house I must say it was good but too many staff who look unhappy or even scary. 3 mins later we decided to go to the shops to find at less decent shirts we found the infected one that had print on both sides $22. Rough estimate. My dad bought 2 of them. We were looking for Resident Evil and only found one type with nothing on the back $25. Rough estimate. Print on front but not the back I bought one for my dad. So at closing time 2 am we were back at the car leaving and disappointed. I am a AAA member so I spent $88 for both tixs there were no discounts in the park and I forgot I bought 2 $8 each blood sucker packs which tasted like jello that went bad and I love jello shots…. will be waiting for a reply. Thank you.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        I’m not sure where you read that Sundays and Thursdays are Resident Evil nights but there is no such thing. Every night at this year’s event features The Walking Dead as the entire street theme. There is the one Resident Evil haunted house that you walked through, nothing more from that franchise.

        But I agree that the staff moving everyone along inside the houses is always frustrating. Their job is to keep the line moving so they can get as many people through as possible. But that also can ruin the experience. The best advice I can always give is go early and leave late. Had you arrived at Universal at 6pm before the event began and stayed until the very end, you would have easily been able to experience every haunted house, as the wait times are quite short at the beginning of the night.

    23. Berenice Avecilla

      I am a big fan of HHN and have been going since 2006. This year I have to say i was disappointed. The whole zombie theme was too repetitive. The houses needed more actors and people actually scaring you. Many of the actors were just walking instead of scaring people. I will be going to bush gardens next year.

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