This year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios/Florida is called “Islands of Fear.” Its mascot is Albert the Caretaker and his slogan is, “Your time has come.” The commercials for this year were incredibly cool. You can check them out at www.hauntfreaks.com.The following is my review. Ratings are based on a 1-5 scale, with 5 shrieks being the best.
If you’ve ever been to Islands of Adventure, you know that the trek from the parking lot is fun in itself: the throngs of people streaming back and forth and the sound of pop music blaring. It’s like the Grand Central Station of Horror! From the parking structure, you descend into Citywalk, a neon-filled jungle of bars and restaurants. Turning to the left, you proceed to the Islands and immediately see that the entrance has been covered in white flapping sheets, each about a foot wide. I hear that if you arrive at night, “Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear” is projected upon it and is quite a sight.
You part the curtains and fog billows out. This first land is called “Port of Evil.” This land has Albert and his wife greeting you. The land also has tortured souls meandering around. The costumes here are the best- very creative. For example, there’s a blood-soaked Red Cross nurse and a person with a noose around her neck; what makes it special is that the noose is in the “hanging” position, with its rope sticking straight up, and the actor seemingly straining for oxygen. Ha!
Turning to your left, you enter “Island Under Siege.” This land is themed as if supervillians took over Marvel Super Hero Island. There are several crashed police cars littering the walkway, mutants with chainsaws running around, and villains up on the rooftops or in stands spraying the crowd with water guns.Near the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster, you’ll find the first of 5 haunted houses: Maximum Carnage. I loved the energetic queue. It is in front of the house, which in turn is comprised of industrial metal and squished cars. On either side are huge flamethrowers that erupt every minute or so. The music is heavy metal and is really cranked up. Even if you’re not a fan of heavy metal, it really gets you pumped. Unfortunately, I just didn’t ‘get’ the house itself. It mostly consists of strobe lights, chain link fencing, and lots of loud noises. Was it the loudest and most disorienting house? Yes. But there was no storyline. With all those sounds, I think they should have called it, “The Haunted Chop Shop”, or something automotive.2 shrieks
Proceeding counterclockwise, you enter the land called “Treaks and Foons” (it took me awhile to figure out the wordplay). This land’s streets have pumps that deliver a constant flow of foam. Interspersed with the foam are characters in totally bizarre outfits. They are kind of cute, until you get up close and see their gnarled faces. Ew! These playful actors are eager to twirl around with you in the foam. There are also green laser lights directed from the rooftops.
The second house is Scary Tales 2. This is a ‘sequel’ to last year’s haunted house called “Scary Tales” (duh!). The theme is of twisted fairy tales. Its queue is filled with the sounds of farting and burping (think Adam Sandler on steroids). The soundtrack is fun for a few minutes, and then just gets annoying. Last year’s house was built in a soundstage and had a lot of room to work with. This year, it was built in the Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges queue and is consequently very cramped. However, I think the claustrophic layout suits it perfectly. I loved the outdoor ending where you think you’re done, so you let down your guard, and then you realize you have to run a gauntlet of pumpkin-headed freaks.3 ½ shrieks
After passing Dudley Do Rights’ Ripsaw Falls, you see the next haunted house: Fear Factor. That’s right- this house is based on the famous TV show. This house’s queue is awesome! It features a movie theater screen showing the “eating” portions of the show Fear Factor, edited to Weird Al Yankovich’s song “Eat it” (that’s to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Beat it.”). The clips were disgusting and hilarious! Devilish wickedness, shoved in-your-face, Universal style! For maximum effect, go with some people who have phobias of spiders, etc. They’ll freak out in the queue itself! The song is intercut with none other than Universal management showing all the gross things that you will encounter in the house. It gets you as pumped as Maximum Carnage’s music, but in a “I think I’m gonna throw up” kind of way. The queue is adjacent to the building that houses Jurassic Park River Adventure. On the wall, there’s a big, blood-red projection of a spinning clock with, “Your time has come” underneath- very cool effect. While the house sometimes features amateurish effects, I thought Universal did a great job in incorporating so many fears. Not only are creepy insects covered, but so are claustrophobia (both confined walls AND ceilings), rabid dogs, and a “throwing up room” (don’t ask).3 shrieks
The exit to the house dumps you right into the land called Jurassic Park: Extinction. The land features half dinosaur/half humans, velociraptors, and crazed scientists begging for forgiveness for the species they created.
The land’s house is called Project Eviloution. Its queue has an immediate calming effect, because you’re funneled away from the maddening crowds. It then winds in front of the lagoon (eerie reflections of the attractions are seen on its surface). Then you go past a series of TV monitors showing a fun mini-movie of the creatures that await inside. The last part of the queue is actually the creepiest part of this open-air house. You go past dead bodies strewn on the ground while a red warning light flickers. The award for “could have been much better” goes to this house. Great setting and, based on the constant crowds, most anticipated house. However, the house lacked in dinosaurs. Wouldn’t it have been cool to have had 2 raptors along the trail, stealthily looking at the guests, while a 3rd raptor pounces from another direction? That would tie in perfectly with their cunning and running in packs that they supposedly do.3 shrieks
Your next land is “Island of Evil Souls.” The entrance to this land is guarded by a huge horned beast. Lots of exploding fireballs and monsters scaring you by banging gongs.
The final land is Boo-ville. This is actually my favorite land because of its understated terror. Wind, lightning and fog are used to great effect here.
This land features the last haunted house: Screamhouse- Wow! Universal hasn’t done as elaborate a house in several years! I loved the queue with the sound of the Caretaker’s chilling rhymes heard in the commercials [“Eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch a body by the toe, if he hollers cut him low, Eeny, meeny, miny, MO!” (ya gotta see the commercial, folks! shudder)]; the huge banner of him beckoning you to his house; and another projection of this year’s slogan on the soundstage wall. The last part of the queue is inside the soundstage and winds in front of the Caretaker’s house. The lighting is incredible and there’s a mini-movie about why the Caretaker’s house (full of screams, hence the name “Screamhouse”) has been burned down by the locals. The movie has Night of the Living Dead-realism to it. The house itself is very detailed and was full of eye candy. The ‘gag’ at the end was ingenious. *SPOILER ALERT* The gag is that, on your right, you see a mirror with the Caretaker in it. You think it’s a photo or an illusion. Instead, the caretaker is alive and well and is behind you, chasing you with his antique disemboweling tool! People run screaming from the house, a nerve-racking sight for those waiting in the queue. 4 shrieks
Overall, this year’s event was the best in 3 or 4 years. Good job, Universal!
*** This post was edited by Anastasia BeaverHausen on 10/23/2002. ***
Sound like Orlando knows how to provide a great time during these wonderful holidays.
One thing about Scream House that was odd for me was that at the end Caretaker was just all the sudden in front of me ... no mirror surprise or anything ... just there. Still scary, though.
HHNs was very fun, although I never thought I'd see people urinating in the middle of a themepark walkway ... but when you push THAT much alcohol at an event I suppose you must expect that. The event was sorta a cross between a theme park halloween event and a frat party.
They sold Alcohal at IOA? Thats interesting...hmmm
Anyways, great TR. I was there in June and had a blast.
Kennywood Park, America's finest traditional amusement park.
You must be logged in to post