First Person Experience: Halloween Horror Nights is a scary good time

Taylor Moore
Social Media Editor 

Spooky season is in full effect and with it, is Universal Studios Hollywood’s highly anticipated Halloween Horror Nights. 

I pride myself on being an expert on all things horror since I have been watching movies of the genre since I was four years old. To say I am a lover of the scary culture would be an understatement. Coming from a horror movie buff, this year’s maze lineup was the best one I have seen out of the three years I have gone to Halloween Horror Nights. 

Horror lovers have been spoiled the past two years since so many shows and movies of the genre have been released; The fourth season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” came out in July 2022, HBO’s “The Last of Us” was released in January, “Evil Dead Rise” came out in April and “The Exorcist: Believer” was the most recent release from this October. It seems Universal Studios utilized that to the full extent, seen in the quality of its scare zones and mazes. 

Guests were immediately immersed in the terrifying atmosphere after walking through the gates and being greeted by broken, creepy doll scare actors according to this year’s “Toyz,” which was one of the four scare zones in the park. Joining the eerie-looking dolls were the terrifying, chainsaw-wielding actors who made it a point to chase guests out of the scare zone. I was one of those lucky guests who was chased out by not one, but three chainsaw actors, as well as a ballerina actress with a broken porcelain face, who jabbed a fake knife at me. 

One of the most immersive factors were the smells. Each maze had a distinctive scent to let guests feel like they were leaving the real world behind to enter a nightmare. The most notable was in “Monstrous: The Monsters of Latin America,” which reeked of rotting meat. 

“Holidayz in Hell” made a return with a vengeance to prove it could still scare guests four years after its initial launch. Each holiday section carried its own unique smell, the two most prominent being Halloween’s pumpkin smell as guests walked through giant, glow-in-the-dark melting jack-o-lanterns and Thanksgiving’s gravy fragrance. One might ask how could New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day or Easter possibly be scary? Well add in a New Year’s party-turned- deadly, a mischievous leprechaun and a murderous Easter bunny complete with large fangs, and you have your answer. The finale was what stood out, as guests were swarmed with demonic versions of Santa and his elves upon exiting the maze. 

Another edition of Universal’s classic monster mazes returned with “Universal Monsters: Unmasked.” The maze featured the Phantom from “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925), the titular character from “The Invisible Man” (1933), the inquisitive doctor with his evil monster counterpart from “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931) and added a horrific twist to the once compassionate Quasimodo from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939). Each monster’s set was remarkable, looking like it had been plucked straight from its respective movie. I loved seeing these monsters get the spotlight since these particular ones tend to be overshadowed by the more popular Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolfman. The finale was overpouring with jump scares around every corner, quite literally, as guests were bombarded by each monster before they could reach the exit. 

“Evil Dead: Rise” took guests through each cringe-worthy, gory scene straight from the movie. The special effects were a pleasant surprise, as there was even blood oozing from the elevator that guests had to trample through with a real actor submerged in said blood inside the elevator. Seeing the bloody footprints left behind was a nice surprise. While this one was not as scary as the other mazes, I have to give props to the special effects because it truly felt like I had to try to survive the franchise’s Deadites, the demonic possessed villains. 

The “Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count” and “The Exorcist: Believer” mazes were lacking in scares, but made up for it in nostalgia and devotion to the movies or shows they were based off of. Seeing an eight-foot tall Chucky animatronic was enjoyable and I will never complain about hearing Brad Dourif deliver some great one-liners. “The Exorcist: Believer” had a fantastic ending with multiple demons, one after the other, jumping at guests. 

Another “Stranger Things” maze made an appearance, this time focusing on the amazing fourth season. Again, this maze was not about scares, but more about pleasing the mega fans of the show by dropping them in the Upside Down and bringing them face-to-face with Vecna, last season’s villain. As one of those mega fans, I thought the maze was phenomenal, but not scary. 

“The Last of Us” maze emerged guests right into Naughty Dog’s apocalyptic video game. The video game’s main characters Joel and Ellie made several appearances, as did the infamous Clickers, the zombies infected by the Cordyceps virus. The Clickers fully committed to their roles by running at the guests as if they were attacking. While the maze was not as scary as it could have been, it was certainly enjoyable for a fan of the video game series or the HBO show. 

My favorite maze of the night was “Monstrous: The Monsters of Latin America,” featuring the Latin horror figures Tlahuelpuchi, La Lechuza and El Silbón. This maze was filled with the aroma of rotting meat as they walked through a hallway covered in hanging corpses and guests were sprayed with liquid whenever a monster slashed through a victim, as if sprayed with blood. A portrait of Tlahuelpuchi seemed innocent enough until it swung out at an unsuspecting victim in front of it. The giant animatronic of El Silbón’s head creeping out of darkness was terrifying to see, but seeing the Latin whistler on stilts leap out at me was something straight out of nightmares. 

Halloween Horror Nights will continue until Oct. 31 at Universal Studios Hollywood. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Horror Nights website and prepare for a night of terrifying fun. 

Taylor Moore can be reached at taylor.moore@laverne.edu

Taylor Moore is a senior broadcast journalism major and Campus Times editor-in-chief for Spring 2024. In her sixth semester on Campus Times, she has served as the LV Life editor and social media editor twice, as well as a staff writer. She’s also worked on the University’s television news broadcast Foothill Community News as an anchor and reporter, and was a on-air personality for the University’s radio station 107.9 LeoFM.

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