Halloween Horror Nights is back at Universal Studios Hollywood!
After a highly successful 2022, this year’s event is anchored by extremely strong properties – most notably Stranger Things and The Last of Us.
So, what were our first impressions of this year’s event? The first weekend tends to have that “new car smell” when it comes to rankings, and hyperbole finds its way into the discussion. Another thing to keep in mind is that unless outright stated, none of these issues fall on the actors and are not a reflection of their performances. They are the heartbeat of the event and give their all, night in and night out.
It’s very possible, and very much likely, this could change; but after opening weekend, here’s where we stand: (Some Spoilers. Video links to each house and zone are included in the title.)
On the heels of the incredible La Llorona house last year, Murdy & Co takes another crack at the monster myths of Latin America to great success. While not as intense as La Llorona, it features great creature creations – including an awesome La Lechuza animatronic – and fun, gruesome moments, especially during the El Silbón portions.
We found ourselves laughing at all the killer carnage of the infamous doll. The house perfectly captures Chucky – from the sarcastic dark humor to all the references from the films and TV show. It also features great puppet work, as there are Chuckys EVERYWHERE! (Including Mega-Chucky!).
A theatrical, yet scary gem of a house – it’s a video game come to life. You truly feel as if you are joining Joel and Ellie’s saga through Pittsburgh. You’ll see the duo throughout the maze as they try to escape Clickers, Bloaters, and more. The mask and make-up work is also incredible.
For a house that’s a “teaser”, it does a fantastic job of leaving you fulfilled. The Exorcist: Believer is unsettling, and intense – especially with the smells, as it features some foul odors in several rooms. It’s also worth mentioning that the demons’ masks are creepy as all hell, no pun intended.
Each monster has a chance to shine in a unique angle of storytelling as we traverse the catacombs of Paris. The Phantom is definitely the star, and we love the Red Death appearance. The sets are also top-notch, but there are instances where the dreaded “black walls” appear a little too much to prevent the house from being top-tier. With that said, it’s still a great house.
Holidayz in Hell (★★★½)
A repeat of 2019’s event, it’s still a great house. There are a few changes from the original that work better for this year’s version. Starting from the New Year’s Countdown with a twisted version of “Father Time” and encountering a blood-thirsty Cupid, a demented Easter Bunny, and the murderous Turkey Lurkey… the premise is a lot of fun and we expect first-timers to really enjoy it.
A solid recreation of the film in maze form. There are some good scares, but it’s not as gory as the film – which may work better for some. It also can get a bit repetitive due to the apartment setting. The house is also LOUD – but that works in its favor, especially when the Deadite fun begins.
Despite Stranger Things being last, it’s still a solid house that will surely please fans. Like Orlando’s version, the house focuses on Vecna for the majority of the maze. The reason we have it last is we wish there was a bit more Eddie – especially the famous demobat scene; and whereas The Last of Us felt like we were in the game… in Stranger Things, we felt like we were watching moments from Season 4.
It’s fine. Larry Larva is a great host for the bugs gimmick – and it’ll definitely bother those who have a fear of the little critters. Most of our issues came from the crowds as the line got extremely congested to really enjoy the trail, and on the nitpicking side of things – the creepy version of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” along with Larva’s “Sqwoooooge!” sound trigger was played too much where it became grating
Despite it not being horror, the Death Eaters are some of the best stuff going at Universal Parks during the Halloween season. This could be 5 stars if they were allowed to roam the entirety of Hogsmeade, instead of regulated down the alleyway.
El Terror De Las Momias (★★★★)
If you liked last year’s El Pueblo Del Terror, you’ll enjoy the Momias – as most of it is pretty similar. The actors in the zone are on their A-game as guests exit Monstruos. We saw some pretty intense gotcha scares throughout the weekend. And of course, we love the booming soundtrack that plays throughout the zone.
The zone has some very creative toy and doll designs, and the actors are relentless. The Opening Scaremony is also a lot of fun, especially as they repeat it several times throughout the night for guests to see. As far as props, though – it’s pretty basic and barebones.
It’s ghosts and chainsaws… and the scareactors are among the best of the bunch because they make it work. The zone comes to life due to the intensity of the actors, especially as they blend in with the Toyz zone – but because there’s not much else, we can only give it so many stars.
Taking over the role of the Jabbawockeez dance show after 7 years, the show is pretty straightforward but is a lot of fun! It’s essentially the Purge version of WaterWorld, but with pretty gnarly kills – including a slashed throat stunt. It’s defintely a guilty pleasure.
A fun experience that offers a behind-the-scenes museum of costumes and props from the Blumhouse line-up; including the upcoming Five Nights at Freddy’s. The highlight is the MThreeGan dance troupe that interrupts the show. Just know, it’s essentially a glorified living trailer. That’s not a knock, but make sure to check expectations. We would love for this concept to return next year in grander form.
For food & drink options, the Plaza de los Muertos features some great Mexican dishes – including the Birria Tacos and Esquites. We also checked out the Stellar Bar and tried the Demogoron Pizza, which was basically a fancy pinwheel hot pocket – and most importantly, it was tasty.
New this year as the Early Access ticket, which allows guest an hour and half headstart in the Lower Lot before the event officially opens at 7pm. It works great, and we would recommend it except for the fact that a lot of the houses were empty before the 7pm official start.
While not perfect, this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood is one hell of a good time, anchored by one of the strongest house line-ups to date. We cannot recommend enough that you find the time to make a visit.
Yes, while we spend time ranking houses and discussing the minutiae of which scare is best, or what sets look incredible – it ultimately doesn’t matter unless you’re having fun and that’s why we keep coming back every year.
Halloween Horror Nights 2023 takes place on select nights through October 31, 2023, at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Until then, we’ll see you all in the fog!