For today’s review, I’m doing something a little different from the norm. I had the opportunity to go the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood the other night and I thought it would be a fun thing to rate the horror mazes and overall park experience. I’ll be giving things a standard rating as normal but I very nearly decided to give each of them separate ratings for things like production value, scares, flow of maze, and so on.
The first maze of the evening was one based on Stranger Things, the Netflix show. The smartest idea for this was that it was inside one of the buildings which meant that even though it was still pretty light outside, the maze remained dark and, thankfully, air conditioned. This was clearly the big attraction as Stranger Things stuff was on all the merch and they definitely went all out on the production value from the woods of Hawkins to the laboratory in the Department of Energy building to the upside down. While not as heavy on the scares, it did have some fabulous set pieces and good points where actors got to be creepy and not just jumping out at you. Overall: 4 out of 5
The second one that we made it to was Trick r’ Treat, which was almost disappointed after going through the last one. While definitely not low on production value, there wasn’t much showmanship on display. Due to the anthology nature of the movie it was based on, you just went from set piece to set piece without really getting much out of it. The flow for the scares also seemed to be a little more predictable than some of the other ones at the park. Overall: 2 out of 5
After heading through a tunnel rave of masked men, we got to the maze for The First Purge. For what could easily have been the laziest of the mazes with the theme of “masked guys jump at you”, they put a lot more effort into it. This was probably the best in the park as far as scares go, with very well timed appearances and distractions so that you can be caught off guard. They even had a point where someone gets their throat cut and a hidden water spritzer hits you. The production value was good for what was there but there’s only so much you can do with the theme of “city streets” to make it visually interesting. Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Next up was Poltergeist. It’s hard to make a lot of good jump scares when there is so little in the film that is an actual antagonist aside from the house itself. That said, it manages to start out with a strong initial scare and maintain a good level of both jump scares and ambient unease with several very large, cool pieces in particular. I don’t think it ever really hit the same highs in any of the categories that some of the others did but it managed to be solid in all of them. Overall: 3 out of 5
Finally, we hit up the Universal Monsters themed maze, which we had heard many good things about already. I was definitely eager to see how they translated the old black and white horror into a jump scare maze. The answer to that is: perfectly. The costuming and set design was wonderfully evocative of the old time movies. The flow of the maze was such that there were often 2 different scares that could happen per room so even if you got spoiled ahead and saw one of them, you could still get surprised by another. There were even sections that took you outside of the maze where there was more space for actors to creepily get in your face. For sure the best maze there and, honestly, probably one of the best I’ve seen done period. Overall: 5 out of 5.
The park itself had plenty of places with roving bands of actors get spooky on people as well as areas that were clear of that in case you needed to just chill out for a bit without worrying about a dude in a mask running up on you. I highly recommend going to one of these, specifically Universal’s since they are a functioning movie studio already so all the makeup artists, sets, costumes, and so on are already there and already high quality.