There are plenty of haunt events each fall in Southern California, but Universal Studios Hollywood’s annual Halloween Horror Nights event has the distinct advantage of being able to license some of the biggest titles in horror movie history, both contemporary and classic.
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the highly-anticipated “The Shining” and “Insidious: Beyond the Further” mazes during the day, and received a lights-on tour of both attractions from Universal creative director John Murdy.
WATCH “THE SHINING” MAZE PREVIEW:
“Like ‘The Excorcist’ last year, [‘The Shining’] is a property that we’ve been wanting to do a maze [inspired by] for over ten years… pretty much as long as we’ve been doing Horror Nights,” Murdy told my media tour group. “But [also] like ‘The Exorcist,’ it’s an incredibly difficult property to translate into what we do.”
“Like a lot of films of its era, it’s a slow burn. It’s a slow burn. It starts off slow, and the action builds in intensity. You also have two main things going on with the movie, both of which are really hard to translate to a live experience: this idea that Jack Torrance is losing his mind, and Danny, his son, who has the Shining– the ability to telepathically communicate, [and] to see future events before they happen. You kind of have to deal with both of those things.”
From what we were shown inside the maze, it certainly appears as though Murdy and his team have figured out a way to depict those ideas. The experience has a significantly more conceptual bent to it than I would have anticipated (I was expecting a simpler, more straightforward walk-through of the hotel) but the scenes they have come up with– including a corridor plastered only with pages straight out of Jack’s “all work and no play” treatise– will likely make the finished product all the more memorable.
WATCH “INSIDIOUS – BEYOND THE FURTHER” MAZE PREVIEW:
“What’s unusual about this [‘Insidious: Beyond the Further’] maze is this movie doesn’t come out until January. So in the words of my longtime collaborator on a lot of mazes Jason Blum, this is the ultimate trailer for his movie.”
“In the new film, Tucker and Specs get a call to investigate a paranormal case like they often do, and when they tell Elise the address she realizes that’s her childhood home. And you start to realize that she has real reluctance to go back there. It’s because her history with the paranormal began when she was a child in a very bad way, growing up in this house.”
“When I read the script, I immediately responded to the new movie and the new characters that were going to be in it– particularly the new demonic characters and ghost characters. But also the idea that there was a new setting for this movie gave us a leaping-off point.”
One thing’s for certain: whether your tastes lie in more recent popular horror movie series, or with acclaimed and time-honored movie’s like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s third novel, there will be something for all haunt fans at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights this year. Not to mention “The Shining” and “Insidious: Beyond the Further” are just two of seven fright-filled mazes (plus three Scare Zones, Terror Tram, and much more!)
HHN 2017 runs on select nights between Friday, September 15th, and Saturday, November 4th. Be sure to visit the event’s official website for more information and advance ticketing resources.