Even before the Krampus Kraze swept the US, I was professing my love for the original Christmas demon, Santa’s “bad cop” partner who punishes naughty boys and girls in truly horrific ways. It was nice to be ahead of the curve on that one, but especially rewarding to see Krampus-themed merchandise and other goodies becoming much more accessible… and then last year we were gifted with a crazed, monster-packed Krampus movie to seal the deal.
Naturally, when it came time to explore this year’s crop of haunts at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, the KRAMPUS maze shot straight to the top of my list… and while the film is a cinematic spookhouse in itself, the KRAMPUS experience is even more fun when the hairy demons’ minions are literally breathing down your neck.
The first impression was a doozy: the maze’s entrance façade is a life-size recreation of the Engel family house as depicted in the film’s advance poster art — complete with swirling snow, strings of colored lights, and the mighty Krampus himself, as recorded narration briefly summarizes the old European legend of the holiday boogeyman which inspired the events of the movie.
Once through the door, the maze’s atmosphere literally chilled me, as I realized the entire house — despite this being a typically warm Los Angeles evening — was refrigerated, with icy winds coursing through several of the rooms.
Another high point of this maze is the incredibly detailed set design, which recreates the holiday-bedecked rooms of the large house in the film, complete with twinkling lights, Christmas trees and creepy, warbling vintage carols playing in the background. It’s all quite moody, surreal and slightly unsettling… but of course, we’re just getting started.
Growls, screams and banshee wails begin echoing through each turn, as the rooms become progressively darker and more twisted, with possessed dolls darting in and out of the shadows, and children’s toys (including “Der Klown,” a living Jack-in-the-Box) and even gingerbread cookies transform into maniacal killers.
After a much chillier passage through a dark “outdoor” corridor lined with demonic snowmen (this stretch was actually cold enough to warrant bringing a jacket), I was confronted with a glowing portal to the underworld, literally bursting through the floor.
The design was so interesting, I made the mistake of stopping a few seconds too long to peer into the hole… and when I turned around again, I found myself face-to-face with a hairy, horned hell-beast, sporting a mouthful of inch-long fangs, blocking my path. I managed to edge past him as he crept closer, finally escaping as he launched himself at the person behind me — who screamed loud enough to hurt my ears.
It was a fitting conclusion to an extremely surreal experience, which manages to capture the macabre and often gruesome fun of the film, scoring high marks with me for overall set design, lighting and overall ambiance along the way, while throwing in a few startling twists here and there, just to keep you on your toes.
So… is it wrong that I kinda want to decorate my own home like this, come December?
Halloween Horror Nights runs from 7 pm 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 Studios’ 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!