As a horror fan, going to Halloween Horror Nights is something I have always wanted to do. I grew up with scary movies and television shows, staying up late on weekends to watch Tales from the Crypt and Monsters on the SciFi Channel. I was reading Stephen Kings from far too young of an age, and thought there was nothing better in the world than a good scare. I also love a good haunted house, and so the massive event that is HHN had always appealed to me, I had just never really gotten around to going.

That all changed this year.

We went down to Florida for vacation, primarily to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I know a good opportunity when I see one. After a lot of waffling we finally bought tickets for Horror Nights while there was a deal going on where you bought one night and got a second night free. Perfect! From the minute we bought the tickets I dug into my research for the event, watching videos of past houses and waiting eagerly for Universal to announce all the houses (mazes) and scare zones for the year. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed!

Because we were visitors already at the park who held a ticket for the event, we got to do something called Stay and Scream. Basically that just means if you’re already in the park and have the ticket for Horror Nights, you never have to leave. This allows you to line up right away, and typically they let you in about 15 minutes early or so before the regular crowd filters in. It was really nice to get to just hang around and not have to go in and out, and it was also cool because we got to see them setting up some of the bigger props (like cars) in the scare zones. Mostly though this allowed us to knock out two of the biggest houses (Stranger Things and Ghostbusters) right out of the gate so we didn’t have to wait in those lines once the general public was allowed in.

I had booked this vacation at a very specific time of year because it’s considered the off-season and the crowds are minimal. This turned out to be true, and it worked in our favor immensely. We were able to ride all the rides we wanted during the day because the wait times were so low, and it even allowed us to get in a couple of rides during HHN while also getting in all the houses that we wanted to see. It was great!

We manage to do seven of the ten houses, and we could have easily have done the remaining three had we wanted to. None of us had a real interested in the three remaining houses though, so we skipped them. Those were US (a movie none of us had seen, but that we knew the premise of and were not into it), Yeti: Terror of the Yukon, and Nightingale’s Blood Pit. We had thought about doing Yeti, but in the end decided pizza fries were more important. Can you blame us?

Allow me now to rank the houses we DID visit, though they were all great and this was an admittedly hard list to do.

  1. Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The night before our first round at HHN I made my friends watch this movie. I love it so much, but I knew the house might make less sense to someone who hadn’t seen this campy classic. Shell had seen it years ago, but Mandi never had and so we watched it in our hotel room. I adore this cheesy 80’s gem, and being a fan just enriched the experience of this house. There were some good jump scares, but mostly we were laughing and having a good time. The boxing clown even broke character when I yelled out that he’s my favorite, and he came bouncing over to me with his gloves up. It was so fun! I also got to have my picture taken with some of the clowns on the second night we were there, and had a custom boxing clown shirt made. This house was my favorite of them all, though it wasn’t the scariest. My sentimental nature knows no boundaries!

2. Universal Monsters: This house was SO cool! It was a re-imagining of all the classic movie monsters we know and love, giving them a more terrifying and modern update to their looks that really enhanced the scare factor. This was one of the only houses that actually got me! I got scared by the Phantom of the Opera at the end when he came out from behind a black curtain that looked like nothing more than a dividing wall. The Wolf Man in this house was also SUPER crazy looking and just very, very well done. The costumes were excellent, and the overall experience was a good one.

3.  Ghostbusters: They did this house in honor of the 35th anniversary of the original film, and it delivered! All the scenes were taken straight from the movie, as were all the lines that the scare actors “spoke” during their scenes. While it wasn’t scary at all it was fun, and a really great house if you’re a fan of the OG movie like me. I think we all liked this one quite a lot, and it was one of the biggest houses of the year. The wait time was always an hour+, but because of stay and scream we got into the line before it really started and were able to get in and out fairly quickly.

4. Graveyard Games: This is a totally original house with a pretty cool premise to it. It’s about two teenager who are desecrating a cemetery, and how the spirits are fighting back. It was a beautiful house with lots of incredible sets, and the overall vibe was really there. The original houses are pretty cool because they can do what they want and get more creative, and I really appreciated that with this house.

5.  Stranger Things: Okay, so…it wasn’t that great. I mean I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped for. I’m putting it at number five because I’m such a huge fan of the show, but in all honesty it should probably be at the back of the pack. Sorry, Stranger Things, but you just weren’t all that great. This year they combined seasons two and three, and while they had a ton of great moments to work with they just sort of dropped the ball and picked the safer, more bland scenes. Which maybe that was for a reason (monetary perhaps?) but there was so much more they could have done.

6.  Depths of Fear: Another original house with a pretty cool concept! In this one a research submarine has been taken over by these weird sea creatures, and it gives the illusion that you’re trapped under water. There were some cool moments in this house, specifically toward the end, and they again did a great job with the costumes and the scenery!

7.  House of 1,000 Corpses: This house was not bad at all, but was rather small. I’m not a fan of Rob Zombie’s movies, but Mandi is and so I went along with her while the others sat it out. The line to get in moved fast though, and it did have a nice visual appeal outside to get you amped up for the interior. I never actually finished watching this movie, I didn’t like it at all, but the house itself was pretty cool looking inside. Visually it gave me enough that I was able to be entertained, and it went scene by scene through the movie (or at least that’s what my friend the fan told me). So while it ranks here at number seven, know that it’s just because I’m not a fan and had no idea what was good and what wasn’t!

The scare zones were all great, except for Vanity Ball which just didn’t do it for me. The pizza fries were good, and so was all the merchandise available. It was hard not to spend all my money here, believe me!

Now that I’ve been I know I’ll go back again and again. We’re already talking about next time we go and where we want to stay and everything. That’s how you know it was a good time!

Life List Item: Complete

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