Halloween Horror Nights 2012: The good, the bad, and the bloody

From the Walking Dead’s zombies to a decent into hell with Alice Cooper, our quick takes on this year’s Halloween Horror Nights.

Universal Monsters Remix

We’d knock this one as being uninspired, a poor gimmick even more poorly executed, but overall we actually enjoyed walking through this maze.  If you’re a even the most casual fan of Universal horror you’ll probably want to check this out and see cameos from monsters coming from throughout Universal’s wide catalog of horror films. If nothing else, the short wait line makes it enticing,

When Universal Studios first announced this as featuring dub-step music instead of a particular horror property, we immediately pictured a mad doctor type in Frankenstein’s laboratory as the monster danced around. And, I kid you not, this is exactly what was inside. But beyond that, the dub-step music played throughout didn’t seem out of the ordinary in a haunted maze, on par with the overuse of techno.

La Llorona

Horror Nights does their best work when working without their creativity free of established franchises, with La Llorona as a prime example. Each set seems fresh from a nightmare, each creature a horrifying vision. While I’m sure people who grew up being told the legend of “the weeping woman” (la llorona’s English translation) may nitpick the urban legend adaption based on how they knew it, Universal’s version will likely inform future retellings and reinforce the nightmare for others.

Alice Cooper Goes To Hell 3D

Of note: we’re neither familiar with Alice Cooper’s music or a fan of the use of 3D in haunted attractions, but while both are featured here, we thoroughly enjoyed this maze. Playing with the theme of the seven deadly sins, Cooper’s music was seemingly inconsequential to the inventive and detailed sets, including my favorite, the bedroom of a gluttonous hoarder packed with laundry baskets spilling over with moldy clothes, old Christmas decor, and stacks of over used litter pans… accompanied with a realistic odor (or maybe just my imagination). Intentionally disorienting, the 3D manages to make the whole thing feel like a bad dream, which is exactly what a good maze is intended to do.

Silent Hill

Unlike the Alice Cooper maze, our unfamiliarity with the materialize on which this maze was based very likely hindered my enjoyment of it. While the costume and makeup work here was incredible, including stilt walkers and faceless nurses, the narrative structure of the maze was completely lost on me, not helped by the slow movement throughout due to the ever growing opening night crowds. Hot tip: characters entertaining the queue line outside occasionally give out prizes to attendees who know the right passwords, as shared on the Halloween Horror Night’s twitter feed (@horrornights).

Walking Dead: Dead Inside

With any maze adaptation, it’s difficult to scale down the immense worlds of a film or, in this case, a TV series, to a series of enclosed paths and rooms. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead makes this even more difficult as most of the key events from the AMC show is set outside. Horror Night’s does a fantastic job of recreating some of the most memorable zombies from the show (including a severed at the waist crawler), but the sets rarely feel real or add to the terror. Regardless, if you’re there for the zombies, it’s a terrifying maze, and a B+ effort at bringing the Walking Dead to life (so to speak).

Terror Tram:  Invaded by The Walking Dead

Playing off the the recurring theme in the Walking Dead that the living can often be more terrifying than the undead, Horror Night’s starts off their Walking Dead themed backlot experience by having visitors being confronted by masked humans ready to kill anyone they think may be a zombie… which means everyone. The outdoor setting also allows the Walking Dead zombies to be in their natural environment, where they were scattered about so much that visitors were even jumping at the shadows of fellow guests when nothing else was around. 

In summary — Horror Nights again scores its highest points with having, hands down, the best production value of any haunt in Southern California. While it does a noble job of trying to make literal adaptations of horror properties like Walking Dead and Silent Hill, we’re always most impressed when they have free reign over ideas such La Lllorona and even the up for translation music of Alice Cooper.