Geeks, I’m happy to report that I spent last weekend among a venerable treasure trove of geeky delights. Seasonal geeky delights, that is. I was able to attend Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, where the entire park turns into one giant Halloween party, with themed haunted houses, outdoor “scare zones,” and attractive women in zombified nurses get-ups selling “blood bags” and jello shots. Did I mention that the poster girl for the event is a sexy siren named “Luck”? Basically, it’s horror heaven.
If you’ve ever been to something similar — Six Flags parks usually do haunted houses around this time, for example — you’ll know the drill: You walk through a bunch of buildings with different horror themes and actors in costume jump out at you. It’s schlocky, wonderfully stupid fun.
The “Universal difference” is in the quality. Instead of underpaid teenagers in bad masks, professional “scareactors” are dressed in awesome-looking costumes, aided by actual make-up and prop people. The houses are set up by serious pros as well; set designers and lighting people who create intricate, horrifying walkthroughs for guests to scream through. They also pick awesome themes for the houses and outdoor zones. It’s not just “scary clowns” and “axe murdering nutcases” – oh, no. There’s a backstory and interesting — though subtle — element of narrative to each one, and the themes are all incredibly well done.
There was a house based on Edgar Allen Poe‘s short stories, a haunted Spanish fort with zombies, a totally accurate recreation of the Antarctic base from The Thing, a BioShock inspired “saws and steam” house, complete with a dude in a diving bell, and the coolest, spookiest Victorian graveyard scene that I’ve ever been through. There was even a truly nasty/hilarious house based on horror versions of every major holiday, complete with an insane late night terror TV host.
The outdoor areas rocked, too, including a misty haunted garden, a crazy maze that kept changing, a selection of seven sexy ladies representing the deadly sins (complete with minions!), and possibly the best – a post-apocalyptic area with free-roaming mutants running around, scaring the bejeezus out of everyone.
There’s something visceral and incredible about being able to physically experience horror like this. For a sci-fi/horror movie nut (like myself), it’s amazing to feel – if only briefly – like you’re inside one of these demented, fascinating worlds, and given the quality of the presentation, it really feels authentic. That is, it does until the lines get long and you basically feel like you’re in a never-ending string of tourists. Alas, nothing’s perfect.
No matter how crowded the place gets, I can tell you this: I am so totally ready for Halloween now.