REVIEW: Halloween Horror Nights 2019 scares up ‘more mazes than ever’ at Universal Studios Hollywood
Another haunt season is here and for 2019 Halloween Horror Nights is scaring up new experiences and new ways to expand the popular Universal Studios Hollywood event. During a media preview, we were given access to the park to check out all of this year’s mazes and the changes to this year’s event!
Join us now for a full look all around Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights 2019!
This year, Universal Studios Hollywood is serving NINE new mazes plus the year-round WALKING DEAD attraction.
The marquee maze for 2019. GHOSTBUSTERS is a phenomenal rewind into the world of the 1984 classic blockbuster. Key scenes and moments are faithfully re-created for an experience that delivers more on the fun than on the scares. It’s truly a highlight and yes you can smell burning marshmallows in the scene with the Stay Puft marshmallow man!
Having not seen this film, we didn’t know what we were getting into. We certainly didn’t expect it to be one of our top favorite mazes of the evening. With so little actual monsters or boo-box jump scares the maze benefited tenfold by being insanely creepy and unnerving. From several walks through a mirrored forest to walking through fully realized and believable homes, this maze takes seemingly very little material and works it out into a fantastic and insanely creepy maze.
After such a strong first entry last year, we were very excited for the return of the Netflix hit series to Halloween Horror Nights. Unfortunately, this year’s maze left A LOT to be desired. It does seem every year at a certain time during the evening one maze or another will end up seeming to be missing A LOT of performers. Such was the case when we ventured through set piece after set piece seemingly without any scare actors. The visuals from Season 2 took up the large majority of the maze which is fine save for the fact that it was advertised as containing scenes from both seasons 2 and 3. Instead, we get mostly a season 2 maze (with scenes that seemed a little bit like a rehash of last year’s maze) and then literally ONE scene at the end from season 3. When you see WHICH scene they brought to life, it might leave you scratching your head — it’s certainly iconic but in a very strong season with SO MUCH to draw from it seemed that perhaps this maze would have been stronger to just focus solely on the second season to deliver a truly wow-factor finale.
With that said, we REALLY hope next year the maze returns and goes full force into Season 3 which is ripe with so much potential to deliver truly amazing scenes. For this year though, you can save yourself a lot of heartache by skipping the very long lines to experience this maze.
Taking inspiration from both the comic and movie, this maze delivers an intense amount of creeps and crawls bringing to life various chapters from the mythology. Encounter the Creeper several times along with haunting scares divided into succinct chapters.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
This movie is absolutely bizarre and the maze pays homage to it perfectly. For the uninitiated, the sights, gags, and scares in this maze might seem completely off the wall and that’s basically how they come across in the movie. Clowns are inherently creepy so the maze works on that level. If you’re a fan of the movie, be on the look out for a ton of familiar sights including a giant vat of popcorn and the cotton-candy cocoons! Lots of blacklight and silly gags are afoot in this 1980’s nightmare.
The Curse of Pandora’s Box
What a surprising delight! This maze had no official tie-in to an existing intellectual property and so it had both more and less to prove — more to prove because it could not rely on existing familiar visual narrative to tell its story but less to prove in that it wasn’t forced to try and hit particular familiar story beats that fans would know. Instead, we get an incredibly simple premise that aligns well with the retro 1980’s vibe of the entire event: Enter a creepy old curios shop and unleash a vile and wicked curse… or in the case of this maze… ALL OF THEM! Playing off familiar curse tropes from mummies to medusa, this maze is absolutely satisfying in its use of both bright and dark show scenes for a cursed experience that you could say was quite enchanting.
Holidayz in Hell
Such a fantastic expansion of last year’s scare zone. We get a taste of some of the major holidays with a disturbing twist starting with New Year’s Eve and working though to Thanksgiving before exiting out to a Christmas In Hell scare zone. Absolutely phenomenal and this is a maze that could easily have sequels and bring something new to the table every single year. We hope this is what happens. Such a delightfully wicked twist on the expected.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
Not much to say. This was not a favorite. After last year’s Universal Monsters remixed maze brought some fresh life into very classic movie monsters, we found this maze to be almost entirely forgettable delivering perhaps too faithfully on the original 1943 film.
House of 1000 Corpses
We’ve never seen the film so we can’t say we understood much other than some great creepy visuals that made no sense in relationship to each other, at least not obviously. The scares seemed mostly repetitive with Captain Spaulding making a large number of surprise scares through-out; definitely some interesting scenes within though.
The Walking Dead Attraction
The regular walk-through attraction returns again as an offering during the event. Virtually nothing is changed inside which seems like a wasted opportunity. The fact that the maze was never updated after it was built to reflect newer seasons mars it further. The upside is that there’s not usually much of a wait at all. Otherwise, an easy skip.
Several noteworthy additions this year!
Christmas in Hell
This scare zone actually serves as a finale to the Holidayz in Hell maze offering up yet again a wonderful mishmash of a cherished holiday season gone horribly, horribly wrong.
All Hallows Evil
Every year this portion of the Lower Lot promises a really fun scare zone that can almost in itself be deemed amaze. This year it expands on Halloween with some fun visuals and creeptastic performers.
The dark lighting at night prevents you from really appreciating the amazing craftsmanship that goes into the creature creation for something as simple as a scare zone. These looks are so good, they hold up quite well in broad daylight.
Spirits and Demons of the East
Blessfully MUCH less reliant this year on irritating strobe effects, this scare zone is basically a forced walk-through to get to the Lower Lot mazes. Mostly non-noteworthy.
Although not technically listed as a scare zone, the main stretch of the Lower Lot has been taken over Purge-style gangsters in creepy masks… and yes, they have chainsaws.
Jabbawockeez are back again this year. It’s often said “you can’t win them all” and we find that to be the same year after year with this show. We really miss Bill and Ted and are ready for something new in the theater.
Eleven’s Waffle Sundae from “Scoops Ahoy” was pretty good. Strawberry sauce, M&Ms, and Jelly Beans on vanilla ice cream are a classic combo topped with small waffles which we didn’t particularly enjoy; they were a bit dry with a texture similar to cornbread. Starcourt Mall across the way offered burgers and the like.
On the Lower Lot, Slimer’s Dirty Water Dog from Halloween Horror Bites is a fun treat that has clearly been visited by the goopy Ghostbusters ghoul. It’s basically green sort of nacho cheese sauce with bits of peppers served with super crispy tater tots. We balk at a $14 price tag but the flavors are good!
Spirited libations from a Dia de Los Muertos bar on the Lower Lot offering up fun glowing cups.
Ghost Trap popcorn! Not quite sure what the ghostly goop drizzle is on top…
Universal has seriously stepped up the merch game this year not just with merchandise specific to the big mazes but also general event branding.
More to Explore
Although they didn’t seem to draw much interest, there were some simple carnival games set up which also seems like a nice way to add more things to see and do with the event.
Caricature artists were also on-hand to paint your likeness or a creeptastic commission.
Every Thursday, guests are encouraged to dress up in their 1980’s best and enjoy some throw back fun. Highlights include:
- A not-so-friendly welcome from Chucky himself
- Live tribute band and DJ dance party hosted by Beetlejuice
- Classic ‘80s music videos and songs played throughout the event
New Ways to Interact
Each year, Universal seems to try new ways to get guests to find deeper ways to connect to the event. This year, that comes in the form of Achievement Checkpoints with QR codes that you can use to interact in the Universal app and face off against park guests in various game-play.
The Achievement Checkpoints are located at the exits for each of the mazes.
We noticed a lot more photo opportunities this year than before and find it a welcome addition to add some interest to the event… not to mention give some way for people to create buzz on social media about being at the event. The fact that scare performers are included make it all the better.
The cold never bothered this goblin, anyway.
See it for Yourself
Halloween Horror Nights returns this year to Universal Studios Hollywood (September 13, 2019) and to Universal Studios Florida (September 6, 2019).
DON’T MISS: Get your tickets now before they sell out!