After a couple of years of playing around with their tried-and-true formula, Universal Orlando has brought back traditional scare zones for Halloween Horror Nights 2014. Filling four large areas of the park with interesting characters, haunting music, and mesmerizing visuals, this 24th year of the event gives fans what they’ve been asking for.
Last night was the “Advance Screaming” event for Universal Orlando employees and their guests – a final dress rehearsal for Halloween Horror Nights before its official debut tomorrow. Though this year’s event doesn’t have an icon or theme (perhaps for its 25th next year?), Halloween Horror Nights 24 succeeds on so many levels. The scare zones are a great mix between startling and stunning while the houses are a nice blend between original concepts and experiences inspired by outside intellectual properties.
Each year I rate the event’s haunted houses, scare zones, and shows – but we’re not quite there yet. Last night’s performances were a chance for actors and the event’s creators to fine tune it all before unveiling it to the public. So I will hold my analysis of the event until this weekend.
(And please forgive the iPhone photos below. We will definitely be taking many better pictures beginning Friday night.)
I will say my favorite houses, for now, are definitely Alien vs Predator (incredible environments, surprises, characters, and use of technology), Halloween (pure classic horror thrills), From Dusk Till Dawn (a great blend of sexy and sinister), and The Walking Dead (they finally got it right with huge sets, better makeup and prosthetics, and massive numbers of walkers).
Though it was a preview last night, the park’s scare zones were in full swing. The event opens with a special moment based on The Purge in which the Purge itself commences, making all crime legal for 12 hours – and chaos ensues.
Video: The Purge opening moment for Halloween Horror Nights 2014 at Universal Orlando>
The best way to see that each night of the event is to get there early and wait outside the park’s gates until 5 minutes before it opens.
All of the scare zones have great potential. Though they don’t reach the backside of the park at all, they do load the front half with plenty to look at and many chances for a good startle.
Video: Halloween Horror Nights 2014 scare zones at Universal Orlando – Face Off, Purge, MASKerade, Bayou of Blood
The Purge scare zone is huge and definitely draws the most screams from guests, repeatedly startled by the menacing purgers throughout the area. On top of that, victims are auctioned off every once in a while in a mini show that gathers guests together to entertain and set them up for a scare at the end. The variety of characters and high energy of this area make it work great as a scare zone.
Video: The Purge victim auction in scare zone at Halloween Horror Nights 2014 at Universal Orlando
While Face Off: Into the Flesh isn’t the scariest street experience, it does offer fantastic photo opportunities with creepy creatures that have jumped right out of the TV show. Roaming between these vignettes are other characters meant to scare. But most people just want to take pictures with the familiar monsters. Axe Girlfriend is definitely among the most popular – again a mix of sexy and sinister.
MASKerade Unstitched wasn’t exactly scaring people on preview night, but has potential to do so as it evolves. It’s certainly a beautiful scare zones.
Bayou of Blood was also incomplete on preview night. Though the voodoo queen was wandering the area, she wasn’t quite ready to begin her hourly human sacrifices. More to come.
Halloween Horror Nights 2014 is no doubt one of the best the event has delivered in a few years. Though Universal is still heavily reliant on outside IPs, they handle them extremely well this year, even overshadowing their own original creations – an unexpected feat.
We’ll have much more to share from Halloween Horror Nights this weekend, from the official debut of the event at both Orlando and Hollywood as well as a lights-on tour of 6 of the haunted houses and lots of high-quality photography throughout the event’s duration – so keep checking back.
More photos from preview night of Halloween Horror Nights 24 at Universal Orlando: