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Event Review: Halloween Horror Nights Orlando Opening Night

By: Jaimz Dillman

The moon was full as the fog rolled in on the opening night of the much-anticipated HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 30! As the scareactors approached the gates to usher in a new normal, the excitement of the crowd could not be contained. Cheers, claps, and screams erupted as Universal’s Jack the Clown welcomed guests into the park and the gates swung open.

This year’s HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 30 at Universal Orlando has a little something for everyone. Veterans of the event will appreciate the nods to old favorites as well as the easter eggs around the park, and newcomers to HHN will find themselves enveloped in a world of fright like only Universal can provide.

Guests of this year's event can expect to see their favorite icons from years past as well as some unofficial icons throughout the park.

For example, in Hollywood, you will find “Lights, Camera, Hacktion: Eddie’s Revenge,” where you can see fan-favorites such as Ring Mistress Carey from HHN 28 (my personal favorite), the Alien Queen from "Invasion," the Ice Cream Man from "Vamp 55," and not to mention Eddie himself. This scare zone is Eddie’s time to finally shine! The display of nostalgia for past zones and characters is not limited to Hollywood. Reflections of the event’s 30-year history can be found in the “30 Years 30 Fears” area, and “Gorewood Forest” as well.

New Scare Zones for this year are “Seek and Destroy,” located in the streets of New York, and “Crypt TV” in San Francisco. These zones may be new to HHN, but there is no shortage of scares. In New York, we found ourselves taken in by the cybernetic overlord, who was gathering bodies to sustain his existence, and San Francisco was serving up some of the best from Crypt TV’s content.

This year, all of the mazes are strong contenders for “the best” house. There isn't one, single dud. While IP houses always have the appeal of recognition to the general masses, I found myself especially drawn to the original concept houses, most notably, “The Wicked Growth: Realm of the Pumpkin” stood out from story to design and immersion. Everything simply worked, and worked very well. I was able to go through all of the houses, and here's the must-do order of an evening in the fog:

  1. The Wicked Growth

  2. Beetlejuice

  3. HHN Icons: Captured

  4. The Haunting of Hill House

  5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

  6. Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives

  7. Welcome to Scarey: Horror in the Heartland

  8. Revenge of the Tooth Fairy

  9. Puppet Theatre: Captive Audience

  10. Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth

If the list of houses this year doesn't get your blood pumping, one MUST-SEE is the all new show “Nightmare Fuel.” It takes place in the Fear Factor Theater, former home to "Academy of Villains" and the beloved Bill and Ted show. Some people have described "Nightmare Fuel" as the best show HHN has ever done. During the show, a majority of event-goers were left in awe. It's packed with an incredible mix of fire dancing, stage magic, dancing, aerial work, acrobatics, and of course, the ever-necessary scantily-clad performers!

Now for the ghost in the room. Vinyl dividers. While the streets use height and different scare tactics to help everyone keep distance, at the same time maintaining the quality of the experience, the houses don't have the open spaces of scare zones. Vinyl dividers are strategically placed throughout the houses for the safety of guests and scareactors alike. While initially the dividers may prove to be a distraction, they will ultimately disappear once you've gone through one or two scenes. The houses are expertly-designed, and the dividers became unobtrusive. The spirit of the event was able to be upheld, despite COVID-19’s best efforts.

I'd be remiss not to note the weather for opening night. It was pouring rain for a good amount of time, not that that deterred anyone from waiting in long lines to get their horror fix! However, it did mean that it took quite a bit for things to get going, as the scareactors in the scarezones weren't out when it was full-on down-pouring.

All in all, I would rate Universal Orlando's HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS 30 a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Stay tuned for more from HHN Orlando throughout the haunting season!

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