‘Tis that time of year again! And like other like-minded horror fans, in an attempt to celebrate the Halloween season to the fullest extent, I’ve mapped out my itinerary of all the local haunts, attractions, mazes and revival screenings. At the top of my list, and always a highlight, is Universal Studio’s annual Halloween Horror Nights, a full month-long celebration that covers the entire park and consistently delivers on studio quality scares from the moment the sun goes down.
Walking through the park feels like walking through a real-life PURGE zone, and not just because there are actual PURGE stretches on the grounds, but it’s just the fun, mischievous spirit of Halloween surrounding you from all around. And all the biggest names in the genre are all here with mazes devoted to them; Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, The Exorcist, Leatherface and Chop Top. But obviously, the one I made a beeline to was the king of them all, Michael Myers and the HALLOWEEN: HELL COMES TO HADDONFIELD attraction.
Last year, Universal spotlighted the HALLOWEEN series with a maze that gave you a good amalgamation of the entire franchise within the confines of Myers’ old childhood home façade. But this year, they did something so niche, so unexpected and so awesome, that it was by far my favorite of all of this year’s mazes. Granted, when it comes to the original HALLOWEEN franchise, I am a huge fan of Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 sequel HALLOWEEN II. While I recognize the original John Carpenter film as a masterpiece, HALLOWEEN II was the one that would play repeatedly on television and the one I watched more than any other. I also can’t help after watching Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN to go immediately into the sequel and watch them as one long movie. So, I already have a deep affinity for this particular entry in the franchise. Little did I know that this year’s HALLOWEEN maze allowed you to literally jump right into the narrative of that film, and see it unfold, scene for scene from room to room.
You enter the maze right where the original HALLOWEEN movie left off. We enter the Doyles’ empty living room. Howard Hawks’ THE THING plays on the TV as we make our way upstairs and witness Doctor Sam Loomis’ confrontation with Michael Myers, unloading 6 rounds into him and forcing him off the balcony.
Next, we’re in the back alleys of Haddonfield, overhearing Loomis vent to Sheriff Brackett that his former patient is inhuman and unstoppable. This was fun for me, in particular, because HALLOWEEN 1 and 2 were shot in parts of South Pasadena and I’ve walked the actual alleys that these characters from the movie have! So, seeing them re-created here was surreal, and quite a trip. A fun Easter egg scare was seeing a little boy with the “skull” mask from HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH pop out from one of the dark corners to give us a quick jolt.
Before you know it, we’re headed to the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, but not before running past the little boy that bit into a razor in his candy sitting on a bench out front. Once in the hospital, we get to walk room for room, and witness each of the film’s key sequences play out in real life. Poor Mr. Garrett has the back end of a hammer in his head. Michael is lifting Nurse Jill off of her feet with a little scalpel. The Doctor sits at his desk with a needle jammed straight into his eye. And my personal favorite, we make our way past the hot tub where Michael is drowning / burning Nurse Karen in what is still today considered one of HALLOWEEN II’s most graphic, yet memorable set pieces.
The final show-down awaits us as Laurie fends off against Michael by shooting him right in the eyes. He violently swings his little scalpel as Loomis turns on all gas in the room. “It’s time, Michael.”
The last few rooms of HALLOWEEN II are what really set it apart. I was already impressed with the level of detail that went into the construction of this maze, making it feel authentically as if we were teleported into the frames of the sequel itself. But then, we enter a room with floating pumpkin / skull heads. Basically, it’s the theatrical poster art come to life. But as you walk through, a few of these pumpkin skulls jump out at you! It all leads to a giant-sized version of the pumpkin skull head, and upon entering it’s mouth, we’re now inside the texture of a pumpkin. It’s a really wild and a fun way to call back to the opening title credit scene in HALLOWEEN II, which slowly pans into the split pumpkin.
Universal is the best when it comes to delivering these types of mazes, celebrating the key bits that stand out about each particular franchise, but this was especially unique. This time, they literally set their sights on one sequel in the HALLOWEEN series and let us live through it in a totally 3-dimensional way. I had a great time in several of the other mazes, but HALLOWEEN: HELL COMES TO HADDONFIELD really played to the fanboy in me. So this is the maze that’s going to be tough to beat!
Halloween Horror Nights runs from 7pm to 2 am at Universal Studios Hollywood. Go to www.halloweenhorrornights.com to find out more.
This story is part of a series done in partnership between Blumhouse.com and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights .
Listen to our interview with John Murdy, the creative director of Universal Halloween Horror Nights, Hollywood for a behind-the-scenes chat explaining how the event comes together every year. Exclusively on Shock Waves, embedded below!