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Team Instinct
Jan 12, 2012
in the rear
I finally crossed Halloween Horror Nights off my bucket list for the first time ever on Wednesday. It was a wonderful time to be had. The crowds were heavy and the park was rocking out even with teh delayed opening. With the crowds we had, I could never visit the park on a peak night. At the height of the event, maze lines were hitting up to an hour+ and this was just for employee previews. Mako Madness even posted an image of the waits for American Horror Story reaching 140 minutes early in the night.

Now onto the mazes from worst to first.

American Horror Story - This maze had quite the hype, but it was lacking in a few departments. I really thought the actors performed well and there were some beautiful sets; however, there was a lot of dead room between scenes and the exit queue easily took longer than the actual maze itself.

Lunatics Playground 3D - Maybe its just me, but the 3D doesn't really work for this maze. It felt really distracting because I couldn't see what was going on with the glasses on. Took my glasses off and it kinda ruined the effect of the maze. I'd rather just see a maze without the 3D gimmick if all of them are like this. Roommates didn't really care for this maze either.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - If you like chainsaws, this maze is for you. We ended up getting stuck in a conga line halfway through the maze and it messed with the pacing a bit. I still loved the set pieces and the actors. If you're a stickler for the movie like my roomies are, you'll probably be disappointed because the maze relies mostly on chainsaw scares (which can get a little old after a while), but it's still pretty fun.

Walking Dead - The sets were pretty stunning to look at. Pretty solid pacing throughout the maze. I just wish some of the scenes didn't seem as rushed. This maze definitely does the show justice though.

Krampus - Like all the other HHN mazes, the set pieces here were stunning. The main thing holding this maze back is that while stunning, the sets seemed a little cramped for a regular sized house and the actors all looked like troll dolls from the 80s.

Halloween - While TCM relies on chainsaw scares, the Halloween maze relies pretty heavily on Michael Myers jumping out at you and trying to stab you. Its fun at first, but when all the scares are just that, it sorta loses its effect. There's a couple little gimmicks like my favorite Deadline subway car/Doll Factory exit room where you're surrounded by a bunch of Michaels and its hard to tell which is real. Those gimmicks are pretty hard to come by though.

Ghost Town - Probably one of the most impressive mazes set-wise. The theming is stellar and the scares are pretty solid. There's a room where its supposed to simulate a thunderstorm complete with rain (from the sprinklers of course). The gimmicks are really cool despite the maze being kinda short. What really makes this maze stand out is halfway through the maze, you're thrown into the middle of a gunfight with sound effects and wind going off all over the place. The biggest thing holding this maze back is the lack of staffing. Some of the main rooms (like that gunfight scene) would be so much stronger if there were actors jumping out at you or something.

Tomb of the Ancients - Probably the most impressive maze gimmick-wise. While most of the other mazes rely on jump scares and people shouting lines of dialogue through a microphone, this maze utilizes all those, and a few really cool gimmicks. There's a scene where you step on an actuator and a hidden door slams shut behind you. There's a room where you're being "shot by arrows" after you pass a certain point. I don't remember there being too many actors but most of them were pretty good. This maze unfortunately has enough hanging things to put Cut Throat Cove to shame.

Exorcist - This maze combines the best of the other HHN mazes and combines it all into one. Amazing special effects, amazing actors, amazing set pieces (even though a good portion of the maze takes place in Regan's bedroom). There's all kinds of interesting gimmicks here and there like the stair scene and Regan's famous spinning head. A couple jump scares here and there and you've got a really solid maze. If I were to change anything, there is a bit of dead room around the maze that could be made shorter, but the pros totally make up for that. Did I forget to mention the maze smelled like bacon all over the place?

Scare zones
We only got to do a handful of the scare zones. The crowds were unfortunately too heavy for us to see most of the actors plus we were a little more focused on hitting the mazes. Chance was pretty sweet though.

Bil & Ted was fantastic. Probably one of my favorite theme park shows. Nothing is safe from Bill & Ted's antics.

Some stuff I noticed.
I thought the park would be fully decked out for Halloween like Busch is, but aside from some lighting changes, most of the park remains normal Universal during the event outside of a few lighting/music changes and the obvious scare zone rethemes.

I can see where Cedar Fair gets their habit of theming up the facades. Granted most of the facades are unfortunately inside the soundstages so you don't really get to see much outside. Busch/KD definitely did something right theming up some of their facades on the outside as well as the inside.

Like KD's mazes, the enclosed feeling of the mazes kinda loses their effect when you can look up and see the warehouse roof.

Universal uses lots of hanging things. Not as bad as Busch but lots of hanging ropes, burlap sacks, and even the same pool noodles you find on Cut Throat Cove all waiting to attack you.

The crowds for employee night are insane. I can only imagine the crowds during a peak night. I heard those can get pretty brutal.

Overall, HHN is a really great event and I'm looking forward to attending a few more times in the future. There are a few pros and cons to the event and I feel I might've made my expectiations a little out of reach but I still had a wonderful time.
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