Afternoon Abominations: Halloween Horror Nights 23 Unmasking the Horror (Resident Evil, An American Werewolf in London, and Evil Dead)
by Derek Burgan
We’re continuing our review of the Unmasking the Horror tour, a lights on tour of Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) houses. Our Morning Menace tour included La Llorona, The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven, and The Cabin in the Woods. After a brief lunch, our tour picked up at 2:30PM for Afternoon Abominations and our first stop would be at Resident Evil: Escape From Raccoon City.
Throughout the tour we were shown little details that we never saw the night before when we toured all the houses as part of HHN. It is either too dark or we just didn’t have enough time to see everything with all the action going on around us. For example, in the opening room to Resident Evil, we never noticed this tribute to the Nightmare of Elm St. franchise that is off to the side.
Remember, you can click on any photo to see the full size original.
As wrestling fans, we were surprised to see an emergency exit plan for TNA Impact still on the soundstage’s walls. TNA stopped taping its television show on this soundstage back in March (although it is returning to tape some shows in November), but what stood out the most was this exit plan used TNA’s six sided ring as the centerpiece, a ring they haven’t used since 2010. However, that actually makes total sense knowing how TNA runs its business.
We’ve mentioned before that Universal Creative likes to repurpose elements from previous HHN events. This room had a picture of “Samuel Meetz,” a character from the Leave it to Cleaver haunted house in 2009. The person playing Meetz for this photo is actually Mike Aiello, Creative Director at Universal and the man behind many projects we have seen over the years including the Frog Choir at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Cinematic Spectacular nighttime show.
One of the coolest rooms in any of the houses at HHN 23 was the “paused” room within Resident Evil. This room took the concept of pausing a video game and brought it to life in spectacular fashion. It was a “wow” moment at night, but during the tour we got to see the nuts and bolts behind how they created this impressive effect.
There was a good amount of street graffiti that Universal created for this experience, this piece was one of my favorites.
As we exited the house we were shown another show prop that we had no idea existed until the tour, that being a reference to the Spirit Seekers from the Legendary Truth. For those that don’t know, the Legendary Truth is an insanely immersive online and in-park interactive experience that Universal has set up for hardcore HHN fans. As part of HHN 20, the Spirit Seekers were part of a storyline for the Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate haunted house with the end result being they were never heard from again.
Our next house would be the one pretty much everyone in our group was looking forward to the most, An American Werewolf in London. Our tour guide Meg did a fantastic job filling us in on many of the details that we didn’t pick up on during our HHN walk through the night before, including pointing out it’s the only house in which you don’t encounter a scareactor through the first two rooms. This lack of interaction actually built up the suspense, much like the shark not working ended up making Jaws a much better film. The anticipation of finally seeing the wolves paid off big time. However, our first stop though would be inside The Slaughtered Lamb pub.
Fans of the movie may remember why one of these darts is in the wall.
The attention to detail is so amazing that when John Landis, the director of An American Werewolf in London, toured the house he saw a hat in the bar area and remarked, “why is that hat black? It should be brown.” Universal quickly brought in a brown hat.
In a graveyard scene, our tour guide Meg pointed out tributes to King Kong and Jaws. This had been used last year at HHN in a streetmosphere scene, but they worked perfect here. One of my favorite parts of the tour.
Seeing the werewolf puppets up close was something else.
We were led through several recreations of scenes from the Werewolf movie, including seeing a great “trick” in which the hinges of a door were on the same side as the door knob, allowing a scareactor to freak a guest out. One of the most stunning rooms to take in was the “transformation” scene. This is the only room in any of the HHN houses in which Universal shuts down both the entrance and exit while the actors inside are changing roles (I believe it’s 45 minutes on/45 minutes off). You’ll notice a lot of 70s references throughout the room.
Our next section went through a wonderful recreation of the London underground. But the highlight was this guy..
Our next scene was an adult movie theater playing “See You Next Wednesday.” That’s right, a recreation of a adult movie theater within a theme park. Hide your snowflake’s eyes!
In the movie theater there were some repurposed characters from The Thing house in 2011.
Right outside the movie theater was a wonderful tribute to The Usher character. The Usher the HHN 19 icon character
Nearing the end of the house we ended up in Piccadilly Circus.
While we were told in no uncertain terms throughout the tour that there would be no touching of the werewolf puppets, we were allowed to take pictures with the last one on our way out of the house.
Overall I would say the tour of the Werewolf house alone was worth the money of the tour. But we still had one more house left. Evil Dead. Not the good Evil Dead, the remake from earlier this year. This was the house that had me the most confused during our walkthrough during HHN, but the tour cleared up all the questions I had and actually made me want to revisit the house again to see the story unfold.
In the Evil Dead house, you keep circling back to the same room, much like they do in the movie. We did get to pass through the bathroom, kitchen, and other rooms of the cabin as well.
While I enjoyed the tour of Evil Dead because it clued me to into some of the story that I didn’t quite get during my original walk though, I still think it was the weakest of the tour. If I had one suggestions to make to Universal it would be capping off this section of the tour with An American Werewolf in London because walking out of that house you are completely blown away.
Overall the Unmasking the Horror tour was the best tour I have taken at any theme park and I’m pencilling myself in for repeating this experience every year going forward and am kicking myself for not doing one until now. I’m sure it helps having a good tour guide, and I can’t say enough good words about our guide Meg. She was there with a ton of information and answered every question we had. Seeing the props with the lights on is one thing, but getting the behind the scenes info and seeing how the entire HHN operation works takes this tour to another level. Highest recommendation possible for horror fans and theme park junkies like myself.
For more info on Unmasking the Horror tours or other RIP tours, visit HalloweenHorrorNights.com.