Not only has THE WALKING DEAD become a huge part of pop culture, but it’s also been a very prominent aspect of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights for the last couple of years now. On some years, it’s acted as one of the horror mazes at the park. Other times it’s been featured as a part of the interactive “terror tram” experience. But this Halloween, it has now become a full-time all-year staple of the theme park. It will be here to stay long after the Halloween season wraps, but this month, it’s naturally become one of the top destinations for Horror Nights.
Just as a quick crash course refresher, THE WALKING DEAD debuted to an unsuspecting public as a graphic novel from Image Comics back in 2003 from co-creator/writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. Kirkman said in early interviews that his idea for the on-going zombie epic came out of his love of the classic films of George A. Romero. What happens after DAWN OF THE DEAD or DAY OF THE DEAD? What would it be like to keep following those characters we’ve invested in for the last 90 minutes? Hence, THE WALKING DEAD comic book was born with Rick Grimes in the lead.
Frank Darabont, most well-known for his adaptations of Stephen King’s THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GREEN MILE and THE MIST, obtained the rights to develop the comic book as a TV series and spent 7 years trying to get it off the ground before landing with AMC. The series premiered on October 31st, 2010 and immediately became a huge hit. It’s amazing to think it was just 6 years ago that this phenomenon began and has become so ingrained in pop-culture in that short time frame.
As you walk the entrance path towards THE WALKING DEAD maze, you’re greeted by the familiar Bear McCreary title theme, which immediately helps set the tone. You start your journey in the hospital that Rick woke up in after his coma. Right into the courtyard where we see the half corpse of Hannah from the very first episode. Ah, we’re going in chronological order of the series! Interesting!
We wander of few streets with zombie performers doing their thing and lunging out at us. I’ll tell you this, they’re a lot faster in real life than the zombies on the show are! The war zone leads us to the jail setting of the 3rd season. And then we’re walking through the Terminus setting from Season 4. The most impressive bit here is walking by a truck with the back open and the half-corpses of a dozen or so animatronic zombies on chains thrashing about. Seeing it in person is tremendously unsettling.
One of the coolest parts of the attraction is towards the end when we’re forced to walk past thin paths between gates holding back hordes of zombies. Naturally, some of the gates have openings where they’re chained up, which gives a performer the opportunity to lunge at us when we least expected it.
Before you know it, you’re back on the main streets of the Universal park, having barely escaped the horrors of the show’s first 5 seasons condensed into one fully interactive maze. If you’re a WALKING DEAD fan, you’ll love it for all the Easter Eggs and zombie jump-out scares. And even if you’re not familiar with the show, you’ll still get a kick out of it as one of Halloween Horror Night’s stand out mazes.
What I’d be curious to see is if it gets altered in any way post the Halloween season considering it’s now an all-year attraction, or if little tweaks will be made to coincide with new episodes of the upcoming 7th season. Either way, Universal Hollywood has brought out all the big guns this year with Freddy and Jason, Michael Myers, The Exorcist, Krampus and now THE WALKING DEAD!
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!