As night fell the blue haze of day lifted to reveal the freckled stars. Stars look like spilled sugar over black marble. Mist swooped in and skirted around buildings like a giant eraser moving indiscriminately to eradicate what was once there into something that’s not. The night seems a little silent, except the chorus of slapping footsteps and crunching gravel, echoed throughout Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
It’s a clown. The clown was like a cake that had been sitting in the kitchen for far too long, buttercream icing all cracked. Neon coils of hair and he smiled with a crooked urine-colored grin.
A clown so terrifying he makes Pennywise from Stephen King’s ‘IT’ look like Krusty. The clown sprints towards a group of teenage girls and revs up his massive chainsaw.
“I’m Buffalo Bob,” said the clown actor at Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. The girls settle their rapid breathing and giggle.
“And just like that, you can die!” he said.
Attention all you trick-or-treaters and horror fans, it’s time to get your ghoul on. All Hallows’ Eve has arrived, and it can be fun and your favorite time of the year. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is back and they make sure your little vacation comes to life with ghouls, ghost, witches, and devils.
The annual spooky event at Universal Orlando Resort occurs between Sept. 14 and Nov. 3. The event features scare zones (haunted houses), shows, and horror movie icons. The scare zones include the revenge of the psychotic carrot-colored hair “Good Guy” doll Chucky, Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’, Michael Dougherty’s cult Halloween anthology-film ‘Trick ’r Treat’, the return of the boogeyman, Michael Myers and more.
Halloween Horror Nights began at Universal Studios Florida in 1991 under the title Fright Nights and renamed to Halloween Horror Nights in 1992. For 28 years, the award-winning Halloween Horror Nights is a spine-chilling attraction for park-goers.
Themed scare zones, which occupy major walkways within the park, are packed with possessed trick-or-treaters, ghastly pumpkin-head ghouls, goons, and the best photo ops you’ll get. Get photo-bombed by a blonde cabbage patch doll holding a knife, or take selfies with a torn tongue fleshing hanging zombie.
When Shelby Rhodes isn’t watching 2018s ‘The Nun’ and other movies in ‘The Conjuring’ series, Rhodes is an annual attendee of Horror Nights.
“This is my third time at Halloween Horror Nights,” Rhodes said. “Compared to last time, everything looks so good. I’m looking forward to the ‘Stranger Things’ house and the ’80s culture this year is so good.”
Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ comes to Halloween Horror Nights with the help from ‘Stranger Things’ creators Matt and Ross Duffer and producer Shawn Levy. As fans wait in line for the scare zone maze, 80s music plays, and the team nail the look of the show that follows small-town kids, government experiments, supernatural forces, an Eggo waffle loving little girl, and more.
Rhodes also said she believes first-time visitors will get more frightened easier. But regular attendees, such as her, know what they’re in for.
“I know what to expect,” Rhodes said. “It’s fun, something new every year. When you come again and know what to expect, you’re not too scared, you’re just having a good time.”
Rhodes is also a regular trick-or-treater and believes when wanting a costume on a budget a zombie should be your go-to costume.
“I’m the one who does the scarring, not the one who gets scared. When wanting a costume on a budget go as a zombie,” Rhodes said. “It’s gross, just put blood everywhere, act dead, and do a sneak attack.”
Zombies, creepy clowns, gravediggers, trolls, ghouls, phantoms, shapeshifters, are just some of the creepy encounters you’ll face at Horror Nights. As you venture through the walkway into Central Park, the scare zone just across Mel’s Diner (renamed Mel’s Die-In for the Halloween season) you are greeted by an old church and car. Vines twist-and-turn and it looks like a living soul hasn’t seen this place in ages. One area shows a plump pumpkin in a wagon with spilled out mushy, sticky, stringy, pumpkin guts. The only lighting comes from the walkways and trees that are wrapped in orange lights that resemble miniature pumpkins.
When entering the gift shop, the doorbell sounds like a laughing witch. Two kids purposely sound off the doorbell just to hear the laugh. A nearby woman rolls her eyes. The kids run around the store ducking under thick cobwebs, gravestones, and plastic jack-o-lanterns. One jack-o-lantern reads “Lit AF” on it.
The gift shop has great souvenirs and it offers chocolate candy for those in the trick-or-treat spirit. ‘Snickers’ bars that are thick, soft to the bite and the chocolate glistens in the wrapper. A little girl wearing thick glasses and dressed as a witch pops ‘M&M’s’ like pills. A boy pulls a ‘Twix’ bar from out of his back pocket and he unwraps the candy bar. His orange, plastic, trick-or-treat bucket overflowed with chocolate. The chocolate bar was melted in its wrapper, smooth and runny like sauce. He looks at the candy bar for just a moment too long, his eyes widen, he licks the corners of his lips and guzzles it down.
No matter how cute or terrifying these kids think they look, there is something more terrifying lurking just around the corner at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. With big-screen movie characters and adaptations like ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’ and ‘The Revenge of Chucky’. Here, guest can walkthrough 10 houses that are carbon copies of their favorite movie sets. Michael Dougherty’s cult Halloween anthology-film ‘Trick ’r Treat’ gives you the full experience of a little Ohio community following the “rules” of Halloween while experiencing a psychotic principal and teenage werewolf women, just to name a few.
The themes, houses, performances, and scare zones change each year. With having a history of classic horror flicks and television shows like ‘The Shining’, ‘Insidious’, ‘The Purge’, ‘American Horror Story’, ‘The Walking Dead’, and ‘Saw’, your favorites are bound to appear sometime.
When Windermere High School student Eli Zarate isn’t convincing his friend Justin Jones to not be afraid of Mickey Mouse, Zarate is a first time visitor at Horror Nights.
“I really love the actors with the chainsaws,” Zarate said. “It’s a good jump scare that you’ll find funny later on, especially when you’re walking through the Chucky zone. I like Chucky. He is why I’m here.”
‘Revenge of Chucky’ follows the doll at the local PlayPal Toys Company where he corrupts the toys and workers ordering them to join his cult. Chucky was first introduced in 1988 in the movie ‘Child’s Play’. The doll is portrayed as a serial killer who tries to transfer his soul from a doll to a human body.
When Zarate isn’t remembering his other favorite movie characters and scenes such as ‘Alien vs. Predator: Requiem’ and ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’, Zarate says living in South Florida can already be a scary thought on its own.
“The scariest part about living in South Florida is the way people drive,” Zarate said. “The other day I saw a bashed in car and it’s from the way people are driving here.”
The moon bleached the path and greets the guest by a gate that marks the entrance to a vast, gothic cemetery. It’s filled with fake overgrown moss, vines, and tombstones. Pumpkins grow between the graves, their vines twisting over the ruins. A thick blanket of autumn leaves covers the ground, and a fog machine creates a grey haze that wraps around your ankles. A black cat prowls along a fence, silhouetted against a changing color orange full moon.
A horror prop includes a woman lying on the floor completely still; her skin is so pale it makes the oozing blood appear redder. Where there had been smooth skin was torn muscle and blood, as raw as any carcass at the butchers. Dark deep burgundy splotches of blood are splattered everywhere, and limbs bend in unnatural ways. Brain matter looks like exploded mush coming out the side of the skull.
Surrounding the prop are clowns. The street is littered with giant clowns. A circus tent fabric is projected on the buildings lining the scare zone.
“We’re capturing humans,” said one clown actor with a lisp. “And turning them into cotton candy cocoons, twick-or-tweet!”
Creepy clowns, popular costumes, horror movie icons, decorations, and a scary-good-time can be found at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights. For more information on tickets, pricing, select nights, age restrictions, rules, and more, you may visit www.orlando.halloweenhorrornights.com. Until next time, “twick-or-tweet” and have a Happy Halloween.