HHN Editorial: What’s in an Icon? I Don’t Know Jack!

The Director, the only Icon that was semi-shared with Hollywood

On both coasts, Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights is all about one thing, the houses.  Usually,  the Hollywood and Orlando parks have some overlapping themes, like this year’s “The Shining,” but there is one thing that the parks have really never had in common.  Say it with me, “Hollywood always skimps out on an icon!!!”

Year after year, around this time before the season, I find myself refreshing the Horror Nights web page, and solving clues on Twitter for both parks, eager to get that next taste of what is to come.  Also, year after year, I see Orlando get a cool, new icon, or a re-vamped favorite like “Jack the Clown” or “The Caretaker,” while the Hollywood park chooses to go without an icon.

I have always wondered why Universal Hollywood just can’t seem to get this right.  Every year I see fans of the event plead for an icon, and every year, we are disappointed, even when HHN Hollywood makes an attempt at creating an icon.

I know, I sound like a spoiled child, but come on!  Universal aside from 2006 and

Photo Credit: Undercover Tourist; Hollywood Harry stalks guests on the backlot near Bates Motel.

2007 when you used “Jack the Clown” and “The Director” as mainly marketing devices, with little use in the actual event, you haven’t really given the fans much in the way of an icon.

At the 2016 event, there was a fine attempt to create an iconic character in “Hollywood Harry” in the month leading up to the event.  The entire Terror Tram was even themed around this character who was really, quite cool.  Sadly, the only place you could glimpse “Harry” was by waiting to board the Terror Tram, one of the park’s most popular attractions.  Even a scare zone with “Harry” would have at least created the guise of a mascot.

The scare zone tactic was tried in previous years with La Llorona as a scare zone theme, and the face of the 2010 event in most marketing campaigns.  She even came out to meet the press at the Eyegore Awards, but sadly, her scare zone was pretty sparse and seemed more like a sneak preview for the maze she would own the next two years at the event.

Eli Roth at The Eyegore Awards Photo Credit: Metroplague

Hollywood has been lucky enough to have iconic celebrities in horror sponsor mazes.  Some of them include Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper to start.  While these mazes were popular, it would have been interesting for at least one of them to create an icon in their name that would control the madness consuming the park.

This begs me to question, why hasn’t HHN Hollywood taken the steps that it’s bigger sibling in Orlando has?  Does it really cost that much more to create a new character, or even utilize characters from Orlando’s prior years in a larger scale way, OUTSIDE of the Terror Tram?  I personally feel like it would increase appeal for the event and make the event seem a little more streamlined and themed as a whole.

La Llorona meets and greets the press

Don’t get me wrong, I love my HHN Hollywood but with Orlando having original mazes on epic scales (that’s another topic), and awesome icons,  I feel like Hollywood is severely lacking in the unique aspect of its production value, especially when it shares mazes with big names like “The Exorcist” and “Krampus” with the Orlando crowd.  Where’s the reciprocation, Mike Aiello?

Orlando and Hollywood fans alike, I am dying to know what you think of the lack of icons in one park and the abundance of icons in the other.  Is there something that Hollywood has that evens out the scale for Orlando?  Let’s get a discussion going.

Editorial: Halloween Horror Nights 2017?Announced Mazes

I have been a long-time visitor to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights event in Hollywood, California.  I have never been to the Florida event but it is a “must do” on my bucket list.  Keep that in mind, since I will primarily be focusing on Hollywood’s upcoming event and will only sprinkle in some thoughts on Florida’s currently announced lineup. 

Trouble in Paradise?

That’s right, there was some big buzz on news feeds since the 2016 event that fans were certain to get a maze based on James Wan’s Conjuring series.  Well folks, it does not look like we are going to be getting that anytime soon.  Seeing as author of the book “The Demonologist,” Gerald Brittle is currently in a lawsuit with Warner Brothers Studios regarding the producers not having the rights to properly use the likeliness of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  This is a 900 million dollar issue that Universal surely avoided during their selection process and rights acquisitions for the 2017 season.  Yes, it really sucks, but I can’t blame them for not wanting to get thrown into WB’s quicksand.  

The rumored Hollywood replacement for this maze is said to be a haunt based on horror “it” man Jason Blum’s productions.  Think of this as an anthology house that could include Get Out, Insidious, Lights Out,  Split, Sinister….the list goes on.  This house, based on which films it chooses to portray could either be amazing or complete trash if they opt to re-hash old Purge scenes that we have seen on the streets of Sunset Boulevard and on the backlot for the last four years of HHN.  Time will only tell.

Announced Maze: The Shining

After HHN ringleader John Murray finally obtained the rights to his crown jewel intellectual prouduct The Exorcist, it only seems right that fans get to step inside of another classic.  

Personally, I’m surprised that Murdy did not opt to use The Exorcist again, especially after the success of he maze which had wait times that exceeded 2 1/2 hours. So, it’s out with the old, in with the new and I am loving it!  Yes, The Shining is a slow burn of a movie with maybe 3-5 scenes that could be considered straight horror, but I feel like Murdy is going to be able to pull this one off.  Muddy describes the maze as a glimpse into going insane, and as one of the most difficult mazes to pull off.  

My predictions are we will be seeing the hallway twins in both living and dead forms, the bathroom scene, and of course, Jackie Boy going nuts on the audience with his axe through a simulated hedge maze.  I would love to see the bloody elevator scene happen, but I can’t fathom how they would pull it off without making guests wear rain boots throughout the attraction.  However, something tells me that such an iconic scene in horror will not go unnoticed by the HHN creative team.

Both parks have announced that The Shining will appear at the 2017 event.

Maze Announcement: American Horror Story: Your Roanoke Nightmare

Last year, AHS made its debut at Horror Nights where it essentially showcased three mini-houses for the Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel (my personal favorite) seasons.  I had a gut feeling that AHS would return this year showcasing Coven, Asylum and Roanoke, and I was both right and wrong in my predictions.

Recently it was announced that Orlando would get all three seasons in one house, and Hollywood would be a solo venture into the most recent season, My Roanoke Nightmare.

Roanoke promo art. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Let me preface my next statements by saying that I absolutely LOATHED My Roanoke Nightmare.  It was poorly written, played its plot too close to Murder House and Hotel, and it played with some formatting choices that just came off as a cheap gimmick.

However, while the show was a mess, I can confidently say there was enough content in the season to merit a solo house.  While I thoroughly enjoy Asylum and Coven, I’m eager to see what a solo AHS house can put out for guests of the event.

I would look forward to a scene that portrays being lost in the woods, a basement attack by the witch of the woods or Shelby, a Cannibal scene, and even an appearance by the murderous sister nurses.  Just please, don’t let it be a constant slew of Butcher characters bursting through the walls yelling unintelligible Irish slurs or us being hunted down by the damned Pig Man.  Sadly, judging by promotional pictures, Pig Man is front and center. Yaaaaaaay….

Keep your eyes peeled for more HHN 2017 announcements as the news is released on my end. Until next time, Plague Rats!

-RR