Sunday, October 19, 2008

Universal's Halloween Horror Nights: Reflections of Fear

This article does contain elements of the entire event, therefore it does contain some SPOILERS!
Each zone is rated ouf of a scale of one to five (X/5)

Reflections of Fear is the name of this year's event, the story behind it rather vague. In fact, unless you visit their encryptic website (, you won't know whats going in. Entering the park, you encounter walking mirrors, who slink up next to you only to reflect your own scared face, or in most cases, slightly annoyed frowns. Another thirty feet ahead takes you into:

The Path of the Wicked (Scare Zone) 2/5
Not as much a path as a stroll through a drive-way. Cashing in on Universal's WICKED franchise, the Wicked Witch has taken over OZ (or at least this hundred foot stretch of pavement) and her flying monkeys are trying to kill you. But they can't kill you, they can barely fly. The horribly costumed monkeys zip over your head on lines whilst screaming like children. The Wicked Witch stands atop a castle made of scaffolding and banners taunting the passers by. The only reason to walk through here is the Tin Man, a horrifying version of his former self. Pass the path lies the first haunted houses.

"Creatures!" - 3/5
The story is an alien monster has crashed outside this backwater town. It has taken over the old bar and hotel in the woods, and turned its regulars into brain-dried zombies. The scenery is actually pretty good, but the make-up definately looked cliche. Pale faces and bloody heads, not much is used besides the actual aliens near the end. They looked very similar to the monsters from the Half-Life video games. It's a legthy run, and provides some amusing satire of rednecks in the woods, other than that nothing.

"Interstellar Terror" - 2/5
Remember ALIEN? I do, and so did the creative forces at Universal! Remember the horrifying creature that lurked in the shadows, the ever-evolving Xenomorph? The deadliest creature to ever reign terror on the silver screen? Well, it seems Universal did not. As you enter the mammoth set of a crashed space-ship, you navigate through egg crates and vacuum hoses. It's entirely too well lit, thus crushing the scares. But I didn't notice many scares here. It all seemed to be about the scenery. Flashing lights, alarms and zombified space explorers that just look at you. I don't really know what happened storywise, and it doesn't matter. The house was just horrible.

Leave Interstellar Terror and enter the
Streets of Blood - 3/5
Re-creating the streets of London at the turn of the 19th Century, women with cut throats wander aimlessly as mutilated men watch your every turn. The period costumes are wonderful, and the gore is awesome. The only sad part is the scare zone is very small, and with no scenery besides a carriage used in the Van Helsing movie and some lights. If you listen closely to the music, it contains a ten second clip of some very royalty-free music often used in cartoons as recent as Ren & Stimpy. Navigate the streets to enter

Body Collectors: Collections of the Past - 3/5
A sequel to the popular house from HHN 15, the Body Collectors return, and show the truth behind the Jack the Ripper stories. Turns out, the Collectors were using plagues and serial-killers as covers to harvest humans in the streets of Merry Olde England. As you enter the streets, you encounter the Collectors harvesting bones and organs from hapless victims. The characters themselves are very bizarre, and are always looking at you. The house uses several optical illusions, and is an exhbit-style house, as you pass by scenes of people being dismembered. The only problem was the fact that it's too easy to miss something. Other than that, a definate must see.

Leave the house, re-enter the streets and head forward to the San Francisco, where the Chainsaw Drill Team chase women around street lights. There is no scare zone here, in fact there won't be one for quite a while. Just take a left and enter

Doomsday - 1/5
I didn't see this movie. I didn't want to see this movie. Therefore I didn't want to see this house, but we entered anyway. In case you missed it, clips from the movie are projected along the side of the Disaster building's big white wall. It doesn't explain much, so we entered oblivious to any story. It seems there was some sort of disease that wiped out normal people and good music. As you walk through the dark hallways, people are constantly busting your ear drums by hitting pots and pans. The lighting was horrible, so I didn't see much of what was going on until the end, where I guess the main antagonist from the movie is singing on a stage. After passing the horrible lip-synch concert, you're done.

Next to the Doomsday house is the Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute. I didn't see this, as I have seen the movie in theaters for several years now, and didn't want Universal to ruin this experience for me. I plan to go back and see it after hearing positive reviews, so I'll write a seperate review if I do. Head past the show and walk aimlessly pass more bars and absolutely nothing scary to

Reflections of Fear - 1/5
This year's icon house. Bloody Mary apparently was a psychologist specializing in fears. Her method of curing people of their stereotypical phobias was to subject them to their fears until it didn't bother them anymore. Okay, seems weird enough. You enter the house and once again it's another exhibit style. You pass bizarre experiments and victims, and nothing really happens. It's not scary at all. No one really pops out, they all just sit there and die. The ending results in Bloody Mary lunging out for you from the darkness with a blast of air and some breaking glass sounds (I guess she's coming from the mirror). It's really bad, and unfortunately had the longest wait. Boo.

Leaving reflections, we head past the Men In Black ride, where it was littered with shot girls. No not girls that had been shot, just girls dressed like slutty nurses selling IV bags filled with sour vodka. For six dollars a pop, I passed. We then went into

Dead Exposure - 3/5
A reporter, armed only with a camera, is fighting for the story of his life as zombies attack his office building. The sets are entirely black, as well as the monsters. The only time you can see is within the flash of a strobe light, a black-light strobe light to be exact. The sets are remarkable, and are proof that black light houses are not all the same. As the creatures shift in the darkness, you're presented with the fact that at any point you could be surrounded. The soundtrack was a little odd, but a good Zombie house.

After leaving Dead Exposure, I got my drink on with a ten dollar glowing cup filled with shelf-booze and stumbled into another house. We entered the next scare zone

Fractured Tales - 3/5
Featuring more costumed evil, you wander through yet another prop-devoid area of smoke and strange music. Classic fairy tale characters wander through and use some awesome use of costumes and props. We would've scored an extra point, but taking public domain characters and making them slutty doesn't count in our book. I've already seen thirty slutty Red Riding Hoods downtown selling drinks, these were no better.

The Hallow - 3/5
The story, we didn't get at all. We walked through this labyrinth of stone walls and bizarre monsters, a lot like that movie with David Bowie...oh yeah, Labyrinth. The costumes were great, but the lack of story and some really horrible sound effects took away from the experience. We ran out and beelined for

Scary Tales: Once Upon A Nightmare - 5/5
This was it. This was the best house out of all of them. You enter through a two-dimensional facade of a fairy-tale house. No introduction needed, its childhood cautionary tales gone demented. The best use of lights, costumes and music over all. We even did this house twice. The best scene we tied with the Mad Tea Party complete with a demented Alice in a rave-like scene of tablecloths and teapots and Goldilocks and the Three Bears starring a big angry bear that lunges out of the dark.

We opted out of the Brian Brushwood show to instead backtrack and catch this year's Bill and Ted show.

Bill and Ted meet Hellboy - 2/5
Starting off with topical humor on this year's crucial election, Obama and McCain hold a town-hall forum that happens to contain the warning for the show: loud noises, bad language and scantily clad dancers. The set was mediocre, a bunch of boxes stacked on top of each other that housed the best and worse of 2008's Hollywood. This year Bill and Ted had to defeat the elf-prince from the Hellboy movie (sorry, I can't remember his name for the life of me, and I couldn't write his name down because they only said it twice during loud music). They battle the bad guys, smoke some weed, use the word "shit" four times and then dance for no reason. I kind of wished we saw the magician.

We headed back towards the front, needing to see the other scare zones. Quickly, we headed towards

The Skoolhouse - 2/5
Based on the HHN 15 haunted house the Skool, you can actually walk through a tiny one room schoolhouse, and be harassed by masked school-children in gothic-american clothing. The costumes were cute, each actor holding a trick-or-treat basket with a loud bike horn, a bell or bloody prop inside. Speaking of American-Gothic...

American Gothic - 3/5
Another scare zone, this time wedged in a crowded street. Odd music and gunshots in the fog, it was incredibly dark inside. I guessed these were the older people who inhabited the village next to the Skoolhouse, providing a sense of continuity. Equally as frightening, the actors really got a good hold of how to hide in the mist. More period costumes placed us in the post Civil-War era. We enjoyed this one so much, we U-Turned and did it again, but also because we had to see

Asylum in Wonderland - 3/5
The final point of our night, the Wonderland set was the largest scare-zone. Filled with lasers, lights and a giant mushroom with a foul-mouthed catepillar. After being mauled by the White Rabbit and chased by the Tweedles, we sat and watched the rather eccentric characters torment people as we had one more drink.

Overall, the experience was mixed. We had no idea what the story was, and how these scenes tied together. We visited the website to tie up loose ends, but I feel I did a better job than they did. For the price of admission, the night was overpriced and way too crowded. I highly suggest going on a Sunday or Thursday night to avoid the waits, or to buy a Halloween Express Pass. To be honest, we Press Pass'd our way into each house and still missed the magic show and Rocky Horror.

FINAL SCORE - Three out of Five
Scare Zones were lacking, and stories behind the events did not exist. Little to no continuity. WAY TOO EXPENSIVE AND WAY TOO CROWDED.