Let’s be real for a moment. After 26 years of continuously raising the bar from the previous mark it has set with each passing year, the Universal Orlando creative team for Halloween Horror Nights might have finally maxed out. After last year, one could easily surmise that the bar may have been set so incredibly high that merely maintaining the level of fright and fun is an extraordinary feat on its own. And yet the Universal Orlando team has, unquestionably, managed to hit its mark again with another spectacular edition of Halloween Horror Nights.
This year’s lineup of horrifyingly fun mazes offers Universal Orlando guests nine distinct themes, including five based on intellectual properties (The Shining, SAW, American Horror Story, Blumhouse and Ash vs Evil Dead) and four original concept mazes (Dead Waters, The Fallen, Scarecrow: The Reaping and The Hive).
icFlorida has chosen GHOULS as our unit of measure for ranking the mazes. Five ghouls being the best, and one ghoul being the lowest. When reading our reviews, you should keep in mind that the rankings are entirely subjective as everyone has their own unique likes and dislikes when it comes to scare tactics and maze themes. While some people enjoy sudden jump scares, others are there to be completely creeped out by visual or auditory stimulation. And some enjoy original storylines and others prefer recreations of classic or contemporary horror films. All of which remain in abundance at Halloween Horror Nights 27.
Without a doubt The Shining has been the most talked about and highly-anticipated maze of HHN 27. If there is one thing that the Universal team has perfected over the years it is the ability to adapt what one sees on film into a tangible, real life recreation. Film director Stanley Kubrick created several eerily unforgettable visuals in his 1980 thriller that still resonate nearly 40 years later. Upon entering the The Shining maze, guests are transplanted into an incredibly realistic version of the Overlook Hotel where Jack, Wendy, Danny, the Grady twins and so many iconic moments are brought to spectacular life. Complete with an ax-wielding Jack, an elevator pooling with blood and plenty of REDRUM, The Shining house gets our nod for the best maze of HHN 27.
Utterly insidious games of physical and psychological torture play out before your eyes as the Jigsaw Killer “tests” his victims with a variety of maniacal mechanical traps inherently designed not to end well. While walking through the maze, guests will find spine-tingling recreations of fan-favorite scenes from the seven feature films of the Saw series. How does the reverse bear trap sound, for example? Get ready for crazy trek through this maze, with creepy-looking people in pig masks, diabolical scenes of death and despair, and a whole lot of laughter and fun. We thought this maze really captured the essence of how frightening and fun coexist at HHN.
It would be a good idea for you to pace yourself when traipsing through this depiction of the second season of the hit FX television series, as it is easily the longest maze of HHN 27. Guests are greeted by statuesque angles crying tears of black before stepping into Briarcliff Manor mental institution where popular scenes and characters from the series wait at every turn. Fans of the series will notice Raspers and Bloody Face from Asylum, Salem witches from Coven and the ghosts of the blood moon in Roanoke. This maze was full of horrifying visuals that were often so bizarre in nature that they did not seem to make sense to your brain. I exited the house believing that this might have been a near perfect HHN maze.
Three cult-favorite, low-budget horror films go from the big screen to before your eyes with this maze’s portrayals of Insidious, Sinister and The Purge, all of which are Blumhouse Productions films. This maze featured some of the best jump scares of the night, along with accurate depictions of well-known characters and scenes from the films. One unique aspect of this maze is that its creators worked with Blumhouse Productions to include a tease to their upcoming film Insidious: The Last Key, set for release in January of 2018. The only critique of the maze is that it left us wanting to see a little bit more of each one of the themes. I guess it’s time to go back and watch the films again.
With its horror film history dating back to 1981, this maze is an absolute treat for both fans of creator Sam Raimi’s trilogy that includes The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, and also for new fans of the subsequent television series reboot, Ash vs Evil Dead. Keeping true to its roots, this maze combines classic horror film elements of thrills, suspense, and gore with just the right amount of comedy and campiness. Hardcore fans of the Ash vs Evil Dead storyline will appreciate the depiction of key moments from the television series and, of course, the presence, attitude and unmatched comedic timing of protagonist Ashley J. “Ash” Williams.
Immediately upon entering this maze you notice something is different. You think to yourself, “I don’t think I’m inebriated,” but you’re fairly certain that your equilibrium is off. As it turns out, Universal’s HHN designers are up to their old tricks again, toying with your senses and physical abilities in ways you do not expect. Upon entering an old, decrepit, abandoned paddle boat that is lodged in a ghostly bayou, guests will encounter uneven walkways and voodoo themed characters. This maze is short but sweet, containing excellent visuals, above average jump scares and a fun, original storyline complete with a hellish Voodoo Queen.
For Halloween Horror Nights fans who have a particular liking for dark and demonic imagery, this maze is likely to have you applauding its designers and getting back in line for another go. Being an original content maze, we were thoroughly impressed with the remarkably creative and otherworldly characters that perfectly compliment the supernatural scenery. The Fallen is without a doubt one of the more unique and pleasing mazes at HHN 27.
I have to confess, ever since seeing the film Children of the Corn in 1984 I have always associated corn fields with sinister happenings. I’m fairly certain that many people share that sentiment, and can probably safely assume that was exactly what the maze designers had in mind when they came up with Scarecrow: The Reaping. This maze is another great example of how HHN designers create a multisensory experience in order to evoke fear, and it’s really quite brilliant. Darkly lit walkways play off the dusky scenes where imposing characters (all actors in this maze stand at least 6’ 2’’) deliver frequent scares while the unnerving calls of flocks of birds sends chills up your spine. So creepy cool.
Halloween just would not be complete without some sort of portrayal of vampires, and The Hive maze takes care of that but not necessarily in the manner you might expect. Playing on stimulating unsuspecting senses yet again, the first thing you might notice in this maze is a distinct but difficult to identify aroma. The most refreshing aspect of The Hive is that these are not your modern day, good-looking, partying, sweep you off your feet vampires. No, these are much more reminiscent of the Nosferatu-style vampire and they are wonderfully freaky and frightening. This is one of the longer mazes that you will encounter at HHN 27, and the designers take advantage of its length by packing it full of blood curdling scares.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure – Farewell Tour
We want to give a big shout out to the actors, dancers, set designers, stage crew, writers and producers of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure who have been making us cringe, shake our heads and laugh out loud for the past 26 years. The annual Halloween Horror Nights fan-favorite announced that 2017 will be the final year of the annual live production that parodies pop culture and current events. Aside from the subject matter changing from year to year, the show itself has not evolved much and that is the beauty of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. We highly recommend that you take in the show one last time and relish in the campy writing, digs at the other theme parks, scantily clad dancers, loud pyrotechnics and smart pop culture references. So long, dudes!