Halloween Horror Nights 2018
My Halloween events have been somewhat limited to just those at Thorpe Park and to be honest, my mind was still being made up as to whether I enjoyed the events. This question of enjoyment didn't come from a too scared
point of view, but more from a do I find this entertaining
view, where several times I came away from attractions thinking, well was that worth the wait? With this in mind, I hesitantly bought a season pass to Halloween Horror Nights over a single admission ticket, with the thought that worst case I can go for a few hours and leave. Five visits later and leaving the park at 1am a couple of times, I can say without hesitation that Halloween Horror Nights is a great experience and one that I look forward to doing again. So with that, here is a little bit about the 10 houses, 5 and a half scare zones, 1 show and an assortment of tasty treats.The HousesStranger Things
The headline act for Halloween Horror Nights, the Stranger Things house had the longest lines, typically upwards of 120 minutes. Although I was lucky to also be there on a bonus day Universal added to the event that was quiet, meaning the queue at one point reached 45 minutes. Inside the theming was exceptional, taking you through the locations of the first season: the forests of Hawkins; the labs; the Byers house; the school; and of course the upside down. In each were a number of jump scares, with the demogorgon stalking you, but there were also a number of character pieces where they had actors who resembled enough the majority of the Stranger Things cast - both adults and children. Of course, if those set pieces could get a jump scare - then that was a bonus, where I saw someone get completely scared by Jim Hopper, whose scene was actually meant to be him helping you. Of all the houses, this was the most scenic and themed house, with the number of potential scare points being quite low, although a demogorgen very early on in the house did get me.
As expected, no photos are allowed anywhere near the house, however there was a scene within the Halloween Horror Nights shop, which gives a good representation of some of the houses theming. Especially the tiny bubbles they were using within the upside down.Seeds of Extinction
Set in an area that has been hit by a meteorite, causing a massive change in the environment and a rapid evolution of the plant life, Seeds of Extinction was my favourite house of Halloween Horror Nights. Unlike the majority of houses, which rely on jump scares caused by actors who are hiding in cupboards or behind doors, in Seeds of Extinction the actors can be stood right in front of you but you wouldn't know until they moved. With each actor in bushy camouflage and the house containing a huge amount of foliage, this was one house where I didn't trust a thing. From large bushes that would suddenly move, to snapping carnivorous plants coming out of a bush, it was a simple and somewhat repeated experience, but to great effect through the varied and interesting scenes.
I should also say that the effect of this house stayed with me. On getting back to hotel I got jump scared by a potted shrub that was placed next to the elevator I was coming out of.Slaughter Sinema
A house made up of many one or two scene homages to 80s bad horror B-movies, Slaughter Sinema was my second favourite house and the one that I probably visited the most. Starting from the queue, where a large drive-in movie screen plays appropriately cheesy trailers for the movies including: Attack of the Swamp Yetti
; Devil Dogs
(wherewolf biker gang); and The Cult of the Beast Baby
, the house had a playful energy not found elsewhere. Inside each room had an incredible amount of details, from a biker bar with pinball machine, bottles and chairs, to a laboratory with a bunch of critters feasting on a body, their heads moving up and down, chattering away. Each room was varied as well: from a sorority dorm room, to a cultist ceremony, to a science lab with a giant eating thing, to finally a swamp. Each time was different and it was a brilliantly fun house. The Horrors of Blum HouseA 2-for-1 experience, with the first half of the house being from Happy Death Day and the second half being from The First Purge. For me the first half was stronger than the second, with it playing out the waking up scene several times as in the film. The second half was a slightly more by the books jump scare type maze and didn't really do much to make me think of The Purge, other than the siren and announcement at the start.Dead Exposure: Patient ZeroHalloween Horror Nights' only zombie attraction, this was a pretty intense experience. Set in Paris, you begin outside entering a military quarantined area, with smoke randomly being blasted at you, in a very atmospheric environment. Inside, pretty much the entire house is strobe lit. It begins in an animal holding area, with cages forced open, monkeys screaming and the occasional moving thing. It has a real 21 Days Later vibe. Beyond that, the scenes are a little blurred due to the continual flashing lights, loud noises and screams. It was a sensory overload, where I came out exhausted, but not entirely sure what exactly just happened.Trick 'r TreatConsistently the house with the shortest queue, it seemed few people were interested in seeing the extremely large number of pumpkins this house had on display. More great set design, with you first entering an old wooden house that appears fully constructed within the sound stage that this attraction exists in. I did this house twice and honestly don't remember too much more, other than the house at the start and an awesome werewolf scene later on in my first run through, which I somehow completely missed on my second. Given this had a walk-on queue a couple of times, I could have done it more, however the literal 5 minute walk to the house along the queue and then the 5 minute walk back afterwards, was too much for my tired legs for the reward of the attraction.Carnival Graveyard: Rust in PiecesSet in a twisted fairground, where the rides and sideshows have been adjusted to become torture devices. The size and scale of the set pieces were like all of the houses, incredibly impressive. One difference this house had over most of the others was its verticality. In two scenes actors were above your heads, with one simulating falling on you - which I fell for - and another throwing containers at you as you pass underneath. Another fun house.Scary Tales: Deadly Ever AfterThe untold dark sides of fairy tales. It begins with some great aerial work with the Wicked Witch of the West leaping from above you as you enter the entrance castle and circling around over you on the wire she is attached to. Inside are a number of fairly tales gone evil, with adjusted endings to some, including Humpty Dumpty. Again, not a scary house as such, but one with great atmosphere and smells.PoltergeistThis was a house that consistently had a two hour queue for and one that people said was perhaps the best house at Halloween Horror Nights. For me though, I walked in, I walked out. Nothing really stuck with me. I suspect I had a bad run on this house, mixed with being somewhat exhausted. A shame given the views of others that I heard, but overall I'm not disappointed, as I got so much from Halloween Horror Nights as it was.Halloween 4: The Return of Michael MyersA series I know nothing about, but a house that also typically had one of the longest lines. Like Poltergeist, not much really stuck with me on this one. Some people jumped out at me, I carried on walking. The Scare Zones
At the start I said there were 5 and a half scare zones, so I'll begin with the half. Essentially there is a gap between the front of the park and the back of the park, where they're unable to do much. So they stuck various crazed people there with chainsaws, to ensure that the crowds moved along at a moderate
pace. Not an official scare zone, but it had actors and a lot of people screaming and running.Vamp '85: New Years Eve
A stage, a new years party, an MC, some reporters - oh and a load of vampires. What more could you want? Roughly every half hour a new years celebration would occur, which followed a similar format. A vampire taking the role of the MC would lead the celebration by bringing on a group of vampire dancers. A reporter and her camera man would be wandering around and visit the stage, where she would be brought up. The countdown would occur, and on zero the MC would feed from the reporter and the vampire dancers would run into the crowd. The music was loud, energetic and heavily banned from being hosted on YouTube - it's an instant video block, which is sad because this was a great event to watch and would have been great to share. Added to the vampires already mentioned, were a host of party goers, vampire Prince, vampire Michael Jackson and a vampire turning up on a motorbike. I spent a long time enjoying the festivities at Vamp 85.Revenge of Chucky
I spent too long here. Way, way too long. Set in the streets of Hollywood, the Chucky scare zone had a large number of roaming toys, including evil teddy bears, green army men, toy monkeys and ballerinas that stalk you whilst they dance. Then there were the side shows, including: a recreation of the operation board game, just with a slightly more alive patient; an easy bake oven with someone inside it; a barrel of monkeys; and of course Chucky. Set as an audience with Chucky, the murderous doll would frequently hold a question and answer session, where you could get advice such as "how can I get a man?" and get brilliantly funny and evil responses as you can see in the video [viewer discretion is advised]. Each question was genuinely from the audience, with responses ad-libbed. Just be sure not to use the opportunity to show off that it's your birthday, or that you're getting married, as Chucky doesn't like that and will refuse to continue until the offending party has left. Mixed in with that was the occasional swearing in ceremony of the audience to the cult of Chucky, electrocutions of toy maker CEOs and a good old fashioned Chucky stabbing. The humour of this scare zone made it my favourite place to hang out and take a break. Killer Klowns from Outer SpaceGoing in I knew nothing of this movie. Coming out and the sound track is burnt into my mind. The smallest of the scare zones, but with perhaps the largest character. A group of Killer Klowns wandering a street, with laser pistols and other outer space stuff, following and chasing those who don't want to be, and often deliberately ignoring those who did want a photo. All the while the sound track with "killer klowns from outer spaaaaaace" continuing in the background and a fairground theme. A hidden aspect of this maze was that if you stood on the other side of the lake, occasionally they would project a hand puppet scene from the film onto the top of one of the buildings near this scare zone - culminating in a dinosaur eating people.Twisted Tradition
I have no idea what the story is here, but it had some great scenery. An abandoned church with occasional screams coming out of it. Trees covered in jack-o-lanterns. Eerie stilt walkers roaming. And women turned walking sacks, standing perfectly still for minutes at a time, waiting to get the unsuspecting person who thinks they are a prop. This was a spooky area and had some great interactions between the actors. Occasionally a group of high school kids would turn up and then be ganged up on by the creatures of this area, running screaming asking why no one was helping. Whilst another time I saw a somewhat heart warming scene of one of the sack ladies trying to teach a walking scarecrow type character how to do pat-a-cake, with limited success due to the scarecrows limited movement - her hope it could happen and the scarecrows sad inability to reciprocate was surprisingly powerful for a random encounter.The HarvestActing as an introduction to Halloween Horror Nights, this scare zone was right at the entrance and had a small number of actors, signage and props from all ten houses. The stilt walkers from Twisted Tradition were a focal point of this zone, along with the Stranger Things sign.The ShowAlong with all of the houses and scare mazes was a twenty five minute dance and acrobatics show, Academy of Villains. I saw this once and was extremely tired when I did. Like a couple of the houses, I don't remember too much, other than the performers had a lot more energy than I did and it was an entertaining way of spending the time, with loud music, audience participation and a couple of explosions. One of the entrance staff had a hugely fun time it seemed, as every time I went past they were full out dancing to the sound-track from the stadium.The FoodUniversal include a range of speciality food and drink. A lot was Stranger Things themed, with Eggo's waffles making up a large number of the desert dishes. My favourite was pizza fries, basically just fries with a meat lover style pizza topping thrown on top. After all that walking, it was a great treat! The speciality burgers were disappointing, I found nothing special about those. Whilst the Fudge Dipped Waffle on a Stick, was perhaps hugely overpriced!Final ThoughtsI loved Halloween Horror Nights. Granted some days were incredibly busy, with over two hour waits for nearly all houses and the pathways completely full, but even on those days I had great experiences. I was lucky to be there Halloween week, where an extra day had been added, which was nearly empty making getting into all of the houses easily do-able, along with repeats on some. But if you're there for only a single or couple of visits, you may really need to invest in an Express Pass for the event, to get you into the houses quicker. The queues can be fairly miserable and even though people were a lot more up-beat and in a somewhat party atmosphere across the park, you will be spending a huge amount of time in the cattle pens in what would normally be behind the scenes areas of the park. They're not that pretty to look at! Thankfully the houses are all of decent length and have great designs. On busy days you will basically all file through the house continually, however there are enough scare points within each house that you stand a good chance of being got by something. On quiet days, they do batch you into medium sized groups, for some bonus intensity.A great event and one that I look forward to going to again in future years!