Last week, Daily Dead joined a group of journalists and esteemed Creative Director John Murdy for a preview tour of both the Creepshow and Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man mazes, which are set to open on Friday, September 13th (the perfect day!) as part of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights event, which runs through Sunday, November 3rd.
The first maze Murdy took us through was Creepshow, and as a longtime fan of the original film, I couldn’t have been more excited to go see what John and his tireless crew were cooking up for the attraction. Before we began the tour, Murdy discussed the approach of the Creepshow maze, and how integral Greg Nicotero—who is spearheading Shudder’s new Creepshow series this fall—was to helping make sure everything came together.
“As you can see, this maze is inspired by the 1982 film directed by George Romero, which was one of the first anthology horror films. The catalyst for doing the maze this year was that Shudder is doing a new TV series based on Creepshow, and it's being produced, co-directed, and all the makeups are being done by Greg Nicotero. We’ve known Greg for a long, long time. Last year, it was opening weekend and I was sitting down, talking with Greg, and he started talking about Creepshow, which is typical, because even though we are still working on things to get ready for this year, I’m already planning for 2020.”
“But we were talking [about] how this could be a really fun maze, and we thought it would be best to mash up the original film and the new TV series. There are five stories as you go through the maze: three from the original movie, and two from the upcoming Shudder series that debuts in September. There is also the prologue and epilogue, which are both inspired by the film.”
“Working with Greg, one of the big advantages is that, first and foremost, he is a makeup artist, so we were able to use the actual molds that Greg had created for all the creatures and monsters for the new show. So, what you see our characters wearing is exactly what you’ll see on the television series. Part of the conversation with Greg was how to approach the maze, and we both landed on the same idea: Creepshow is inspired by comic books, specifically EC Comics from the 1950s that George Romero would have grown up with, so we decided to really embrace that aesthetic for the maze. That’s why the façade of the maze is a giant comic book,” Murdy added.
The maze itself is completely badass, featuring “Father’s Day,” “The Crate,” and “They’re Creeping Up on You” from Creepshow OG as well as “Gray Matter” and “Bad Wolf Down,” which will be segments on the brand new Shudder series. John also filled us in on these two environments (since the Creepshow series hasn’t debuted yet), describing “Gray Matter” as a body-horror type of scenario where things go very badly as a character’s drinking problem begins to overtake his world, figuratively and literally, and in “Bad Wolf Down,” the story is set during the latter part of WWII in a French jail, and as you may have guessed, there will be some werewolves involved. In fact, Murdy mentioned that attendees can expect to see three types of lycanthropes: one based on the classic Wolf Man, one based on The Howling, and one based on An American Werewolf in London.
As you walk through the maze, you’ll also see recreated ads and different panels inspired by the EC comic books, too. The Creepshow attraction also opens with The Creep serving as the host, and they also incorporated the kid whose dad berates him over reading comic books (much like we see in the film version) into both the epilogue and prologue segments in the maze. Murdy confirmed that he is utilizing the extreme lighting changes that you saw in the original Creepshow movie to highlight whenever something big is going to happen in the maze, and he was also able to use the original molds for Fluffy from “The Crate” that Tom Savini created in the movie, thanks to Nicotero.
After we finished up with Creepshow, Murdy took us over to the Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man maze, which will be centered on the story from the classic 1943 film. He discussed how the success of last year’s throwback Universal Monsters maze was the reason he decided to do a spinoff maze for 2019. “Last year, we did Universal Monsters and I resisted doing that maze for 13 years because I’m a huge, huge fan of those films and they’re the reason I do what I do today. From the age of four, I was obsessed with the classic monsters. I know in my heart of hearts, for as much as I love those movies, it’s really hard to scare people now the same way you could scare people back in 1939, or even back in the 1920s, which is when some of these films came out.”
“At the same time, I really hated the idea of throwing away what's iconic and classic about it, for the sake of reinvention for reinvention’s sake. So, I wanted to resist the temptation of throwing away everything that everyone knows and loves about these characters. The approach that Chris, my art director, and I took was to start with what was iconic about these monsters and what everyone knows about them.”
“Let’s take Frankenstein: square head, bolts in the neck, green skin. Then, we were going to tease out aspects of what was horrific about their story in particular, and in the case of Frankenstein, he’s a corpse. He’s been stitched together from multiple bodies, and he’s dead flesh reanimated by a bolt of lightning. To us, there’s a similarity to zombies. Plus, in Bride of Frankenstein, he burns down the lab, so now he’s badly burned, too. So, the 1943 movie Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man has a few story beats that would work for our maze, so we used some of that for this and then incorporated our own aesthetic with it.”
Murdy also discussed that rock icon Slash wrote new music for the Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man maze (he was also involved in last year’s Universal Monsters maze), and that the attraction will feature several of the iconic set pieces that fans of the classic film should undoubtedly recognize. The maze starts off with Frankenstein stumbling into a gypsy camp around the same as Larry Talbot, and attendees will get to see a werewolf transformation early on as they make their way through the maze. Murdy mentioned during the tour that they have incorporated a new character into the mix for Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, based on the concept of Dr. Frankenstein having more failed experiments after finding success in creating “The Monster.” Also, one of my favorite characters ever, The Bride of Frankenstein will be making an appearance as well, but it’ll be much different than how we saw her in 2018’s Universal Monsters maze.
As a whole, being able to see both mazes come together has only intensified my excitement for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, and I’m so excited to see what Murdy and his team have concocted for the event’s other attractions as well.
To buy tickets for Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights 2019, you can visit their site HERE.