Local 6 Theme World: What's worth your time at HHN 23

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By Ken Pilcher - Producer
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September 24, 2013

HHN 23 - What's Worth Your Time
I'd like to thank our friends at Universal for hosting myself and several other Local 6ers at the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights 23.
From the entrance, you get the theme "Evil Takes Root."

 This is THE must-see year for fans of the AMC show "The Walking Dead." All of the scare zones recreate iconic moments from the show's first season.

And even as someone who has never seen the show -- I appreciate the detail that went into the costumes, makeup and prosthetics. These walkers look better in the night -- especially in the fog. But they still work as you wait for night to fall.

The only real criticism I can give of the street side of the area's premiere scarefest: It felt like there wasn't enough of it, if you are into being scared. Even recreating the fall of Atlanta -- complete with tank.

 There were several places where it felt like the regular Universal park -but with some spooky lighting.
 Lighting is another area that excels, though. From adding projections of graffiti to re-naming park icons

For those looking for laughs, not chills, the Bill & Ted show turned in an above-average roast of pop culture.

Yes, there is Twerking and some deep jabs at Disney (Avatarland opening in 2065).

But the heart of HHN is its 8 haunted houses. With waits as short as 35 minutes and as long as 2 hours, it would be almost impossible to see all of them in one night without purchasing Universal's Express Pass (for an extra $50-$110 per person!) So here are Universal's descriptions and then my thoughts after each one. I present them in order of my personal feelings.

An American Werewolf in London
"Based on the John Landis horror classic, you'll travel to the Slaughtered Lamb, experience the gruesome wolf
attack on the moors, and live the chaos of Piccadilly Circus. Beware the moon because tonight it brings only

This is my pick for overall best house. The werewolf puppets that pop up all over the place work very well -- especially the 1st one which is strobe lit so it just hints at what is to come. They even do a credible job at recreating the famous transformation scene -- though it isn't as effective walking by it than it is seeing it close up. I went to HHN with someone who had never been before, for a fresh perspective. This was the house he called "intense." It was also the one I felt did the best job at telling a full story.

The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven
Yes, more zombies: "Walk in the footsteps of the survivors as Season 3 of AMC's horror hit relentlessly attacks you from all sides.
Stay alert as walkers could trap you anywhere along your journey from the town of Woodbury to the claustrophobic confines of the derelict prison."

Again, I'm not  a fan of the show -- but one member of our party was practically drooling at the recreation of the show's events and sets,  including an entire prison and an office full of zombie heads in bubbling fish tanks.
I thought the scale of it alone makes it well worth walking past walkers and those trying to not become walkers. Excellent lighting and good pacing.

The Cabin in the Woods
"Experience a live recreation of the film that ripped the horror genre inside out. Beneath the cabin's rustic
appearance lies a secret facility that unleashes terrifying beings that you thought only existed in nightmares."

The photos Universal has provided me don't do justice to the sheer creativity of the costumes. Yes, there's an evil clown -- but watch out for the ballerina with something bizarre for a face. The layout was not the most innovative but there's even a guy who reaches out from above.  Very well done.

Havoc2: Derailed
"Hang on tight aboard a militaristic train convoy that is secretly transporting the "Dogs of War"-a genetically engineered super soldier outfit. These bloodthirsty maniacs are only bent on mayhem and destruction of a speeding train. This is Havoc!"

Not everyone is going to agree with my choice here. But I think this house did the best at being different. You are in a simulated train with some of the most dangerous prisoners. What could go wrong? Plenty -- and in a good way. This would be my pick for the best-paced of all of this year's entries. And the most different -- except for one other we will discuss below.

Urban Legends: La Llorona
"She is known as the weeping woman. To hear her mournful cries sends chills colder than the murky, watery depths she drowned her children in. Forced to eternally walk the earth, she seeks others to share her pain and suffering, now and forever."

This was the first house I did, and I loved the level of detail to the sets -- even the outside of the tent housing the maze has a beautiful facade. It gets a little surreal - including some creepy dead kids and a transition made to make you feel like you go underwater. Like many of the houses-- when it ends it just ends -- but a solid effort.
There are plenty of other years where this would be number 2 or 3 of the 8. There's just a strong lineup this year.

Evil Dead
"Relive "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience" as gruesome Deadites try to possess your soul. There is nowhere to hide as every creaking floor board and tangled vine is ready to pull you down, making you one with the Evil Dead."

The only thing negative to say about this maze -- is that after experiencing a more surreal "The Cabin in the Woods," this trip to A cabin in the woods falls short in comparison. It did have some good touches including the opening reveal  -- and the final scene where the main villainess confronts you at pretty close range, as you have to walk into a "burning" building.

 Afterlife: Death's Vengeance
"Serial killer, Bobby "The Blade" Galletta, is about to meet Ole' Sparky. 2000 volts are going to send him into a horrific realm of pain and suffering. His victims are bound to turn Bobby's afterlife into an unimaginable and infernal torment."

This was the "3D" house of the year. It's also the weirdest.  It's too short, and the story feels very cliched. But the use of the bright colors, light changes and  3-D still make this worth a short wait. Go in with modest expectations and it is fun.

Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City
"Raccoon City is overrun with Umbrella Corporation's most terrifying experiments-and the only option is complete destruction. You'll need to duck and dodge Lickers, Hunters, and Nemesis himself if you have any chance of escaping Capcom's video game terrors before missiles send everything back to hell."

This was the last I made it through and the least on my list.  I like that in the first scene the actors acted like they were video game characters with slightly stilted movement. That worked.  But despite some interesting sets -- and a good effect midway through with a machine gun, it was an overall miss. It was the 3rd house to use puppets -- in some case large puppets -- but it didn't add up to much. Just a lot of random images -- and the least scary of all of the mazes.

That's the lineup. And those are my opinions, your mileage may vary. Remember Halloween Horror Nights runs through November 2nd this year. Do look for Florida Resident discounts.

Keep your emails, questions, tips and comments coming! I always appreciate the feedback.

Here's a link to my most recent Theme World blog entries.

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