Here in Los Angeles, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights is always a highlight of the haunt season, and for 2019, John Murdy and his tireless team have pulled out all the stops. For this year’s fright-filled festivities, HHN is delivering up nine brand new mazes, one additional scare zone maze, plus the permanent Walking Dead attraction as well, making 2019 their biggest year to date. There was no Terror Tram for attendees, but considering the amount of walking you have to do throughout the course of the night already (I logged 6.5 miles myself), I was glad that Murdy decided to give fans two additional dedicated mazes in its stead.
As usual, I always recommend those heading to Halloween Horror Nights to head straight down to the Lower Lot first, as those are the mazes that tend to fill up the fastest, and that was definitely the case for this year as well. Easily the longest lines to be found were at the Ghostbusters maze, with wait times for general admission guests clocking in at around 120 minutes (with the Express pass, we still waited about 30 minutes), so I recommend that if you’re heading out to HHN, you should start your evening there to get ahead of the lines. That being said, Ghostbusters was still a highlight of the night, as it felt like you were completely immersed in several of the key set pieces from the 1984 original film (and one of the Scoleri brothers from Ghostbusters II makes an appearance at one point as well), and as someone who has 35 years of fond memories of being a fan of all things Ghostbusters, the maze was rad as hell.
Maybe it's because I’m someone who grew up in the ’80s, but two other Horror Nights attractions that were also highlights for me were the mazes for Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Creepshow, as I felt like a kid again as I was making my way through both of them. Killer Klowns was also probably the most on-point house of the night, as I managed to hit the right pace to be subjected to every scare that Murdy and his team concocted from start to finish (the only bummer was that Klownzilla wasn’t functioning when we went through, but I still got a look at him, and he was so freaking cool). With Creepshow, I will admit the three rooms that took its cues from the original movie fared a bit better than the rooms from the upcoming Shudder series, as the area for “Gray Matter” didn’t have a performer in it when we walked through, and as we hit the area based on “Bad Wolf Down,” we missed out on most of the lycanthropic scares, which was a bit of a bummer (the design of the room was still awesome, though).
The lower lot of Universal Studios is also where attendees will find the Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man maze, which is a spinoff of last year’s Universal Monsters celebration, and when it comes to classic scares, this one offered up tons of fun. It take a little time to get going, but by the time you hit Dr. Frankenstein’s burned down lab, the monsters are in full effect, and it was amazing (The Bride also makes an appearance and it made my heart so happy).
The upper lot area of Universal Studios hosted several different mazes as well, including Holidayz in Hell, which was an expanded take on last year’s impressive scare zone, and you can tell Murdy had some fun putting this one together, as the scares were a ton of fun (it was so packed that we weren’t able to grab any worthwhile pictures, unfortunately). Another attraction that became a highlight of the night was the House of 1000 Corpses maze, which was somewhat tucked away in the corner, so we almost missed it. But as someone who has reveled in this world and these characters for 16 years now, Corpses was totally bananas and I wish I could have gone through twice. Things kick off appropriately at Captain Spaulding’s gas station, then you make your way through his infamous “Murder Ride,” and then you’re transported into the Firefly house, eventually leading up to your arrival at the lair of Doctor Satan, who is very busy at work creating another victim.
Also, the Stranger Things maze was another super packed haunt with a long wait time, and we ended up being grouped with about 20 other people at the same time as we went through, which made it impossible to get any good photos. But for fans of Stranger Things, it’s definitely a worthwhile venture, but I do hope they stagger the lines a bit moving forward because it was tough for us to get the full experience on Thursday night.
As mentioned, there was no Terror Tram this year, but fear not, as that area plays host to both the Us maze, as well as the other HHN original attraction for 2019, The Curse of Pandora’s Box. I really enjoyed the Us maze overall, but the lighting inside the maze often made it difficult to see the performers and even the set design, which was a real shame. Things got a bit better once you hit the home of Kitty and Josh Tyler, as the brightness of their abode helped make the scares pop a bit more, but overall, you can tell a lot of love went into bringing the world of Us to this year’s HHN—I just wish I could have been able to see more of it as I went through. As we left Us, we were going to get in line for Pandora’s Box, but there was a pretty hefty wait for the Express line, so ultimately it is the one maze we ended up skipping, as we were pretty exhausted after more than five hours of trekking back and forth through Universal Studios.
But even though we left completely worn out, we were totally satisfied by this year’s creeptastic offerings at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, and if you happen to be in Southern California (or are thinking of coming out this way during October), you definitely should check out HHN. I do recommend getting the Express Pass, though, just because it is mathematically impossible to make it through all of the lines in one night without it.
For those interested in learning more about Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood, click HERE.
Photos by Heather Wixson and Brian Smith: