It is time to talk about this year’s HHN!
Harknell and I have been going to Halloween Horror Nights since 2008. I regret not being able to do it sooner. Orlando is the place to be for haunt fiends and I do love me some HHN. That said, this year was unfortunately a decided step down from what I experienced in 2008.
The first thing I noticed was that there were no longer any scare actors at the front gate and there was no new video playing on the big screen. All they had playing was this video that had been released to youtube and the public weeks before:
We felt this was a let down. Every year there has been some actors and a new video for us. Given that this was supposed to be the 20 year extravaganza, I’m not sure how they can justify cutting things back after giving us the excuse last year that this year would make up for the 2009 budget cuts. It was like they removed a substantial part of the event for no reason other than to save money.
Click past the jump for more rants, raves, and pictures of the event.
Horror Nights: The Hallow’d Past: I enjoyed this house even though it was just basically reused rooms from the houses of the past few years. Some fans rightly criticized that they only put new houses inside this clip show haunted house. Still, I had a lot of fun. One of the rooms was based off of the Dead Exposure house of 2008. That house is probably my favorite because it almost made me break into hysterics. I wanted to go through a second time, but we did not have time. Harknell wasn’t impressed and didn’t care to go back through.
Catacombs: Black Death Rising: This house was mostly unremarkable except for the amusing “duck shaped” masks the actors wore. We didn’t feel this warranted a second trip through.
Havoc: Dogs of War: Much like Catacombs, this house was pretty darn unremarkable. It seems that every year they do a military-themed house (probably because it is cheap). This did not warrant a second trip though.
The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes This house had some interesting fire effects and was better than Catacombs and Havoc, but it didn’t really do it for us. We did go through this one a second time because we thought we had missed some scares by being off set in the line. No, not really.
Psychoscarepy: Echoes of Shadybrook: The strangest thing is that I know I went through this house once, but I can’t remember it. Harknell didn’t like it. I had to actually look at photos online to remember it. That is not a good thing.
Zombiegeddon: This house was their comedy house for this year. Every year they do one that incorporates humor. The idea here was that they were teaching you kill zombies and they had domesticated zombies or something. I enjoyed this house alright, but Harknell did not.
This brings us to the two REALLY GOOD houses.
Hades: The Gates of Ruin: This house was amazing. They had a few 7 ft tall Medusas, angry Greek gods and I have no idea what else but it was really awesome.
Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate: This house BLEW ME AWAY! The catch is that you might have to go through twice because if you are off set you might miss scares. For example, there was a ghost guy IN THE FLOOR. There were ghosts projected on walls. There were people on roller skates. There were angry chairs and crazy possessed furniture and poltergeists. OH MY GOD was this the BEST HOUSE this year.
HHN: 20 Years of Fear: This was a photo op area/scarezone where all of the costumed characters from the past years (except Bloody Mary) walked around.
Fear Revealed: This wasn’t even a real scarezone. This was just a stage at the end of HHN: 20 Years of Fear where Fear walked around on stilts and posed. Uni, did you REALLY have to artificially inflate your attraction count? Not cool.
Zombie Gras: This scarezone was the saddest thing ever. It was a few old props from their Mardi Gras event with fake blood on them. A bunch of actors wearing Mardi Gras costumes covered in blood walked around. Whoop dee shit.
Esqueleto Muerte: This one was kind of awesome, but it was actually not as good as the Day of the Dead scarezone that Busch Gardens Tampa had done last year. I would have thought it was pretty cool if it weren’t so obvious that they copied BGT.
Saws ‘n Steam: This was an interesting scarezone because it has a guy on a stage turning someone into steam, but the rest of the darn thing were just stupid chainsaw guys. Look, I LOVE chainsaw guys, but Uni overuses them so much that I AM TIRED OF CHAINSAW GUYS. I understand that it is cheap to just give someone a chainsaw and tell them to chase people but for crying out loud! Enough with the cheapness, Uni! I paid $75 to get in here!
The Coven: This might have been the best scarezone. They had pilgrims tied up and witches running wild. Some of the witches had really cool huts that they could activate sounds from as they jumped out to get you.
Bill and Ted: I love the Bill and Ted show and look forward to it every year. Nearly everyone on the internet says that this year’s show was not as good as the previous years. Sadly, I have to agree with them. The joke of the show was that Bill and Ted were old and needed to be replaced. It’s never a good idea to joke on something that people have come to watch. It didn’t work for “embarassingly bad” The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management and it didn’t work here. I was actually bored during most of the show. WTF.
Logistical Problems: Uni is now overselling their Fastpasses. If a wait time for a house says 20 minutes, be prepared to wait for 60. There were times when our line had stopped for 30 minutes or more while they let endless streams of Fastpass people through. The posted wait times can no longer be trusted. It really made the event much less fun. It now seems that unless you buy a Fastpass, you are nothing. It went way past the ridiculous point – and I visited the first week of October – not close to Halloween.
I had fun at HHN, but looking back on it – they have really gone downhill since 2008. This is not to say it is not a fun event. You will have a blast here if you are a haunt fan. However, you are definitely paying more and getting less than you would have in 2008.
They used to make immersive websites that you could play with. They used to make up story lines that really drew you in. Now they just made up some random monster, put him on stilts, call him “Fear”, and put him in the center of the park like a Thanksgiving turkey. The website had almost nothing in the way of storyline this year. They overloaded the park with reused props, old costumes, and chainsaw guys to save money. It was really noticeable. Most of the houses were good but not great, and a few of the houses were amazing like they used to be. Combine all of this with their overselling of fastpass that left us waiting in line for 3-4x the posted wait times and the mediocre Bill and Ted show…I had fun, but I also call shenanigans.
I love HHN, but I really hope they bring back some of the things that made this event the best in the world. This dude on stilts had nothing to do with anything. Storyline makes a good haunt. Uni, I love you guys, but please go back to that.
Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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