Thursday, September 10, 2009

Step inside Halloween Horror Nights houses

Michael Roddy, Universal Orlando show producer, gave us a sneak peak of some Halloween Horror Nights elements. (The event starts Sept. 25.)

First, a rundown on the three houses built within Universal Studios' soundstages -- The Wolfman, Dracula: legacy of Blood and Frankenstein: Creation of the Damned..

"Without a doubt, from a design standpoint, these are three of the most immersive mazes we've ever designed," Roddy says.

+ "Our Frankenstein story takes place after "Bride of Frankenstein," so the laboratory and the castle have been destroyed, and Victor Frankenstein has been rebuilding it. So as you walk into this, it’s a crumbling facade of a castle, but you also see the he’s been putting the building back together using the same type of haphazard materials that is suggestive of the creature itself.”

+ “When you go over to Dracula, it’s actually Castle Dracula. It’s this big, gothic, beautiful, castle turret. As you walk through you’re actually in rooms filled with these beautiful, ornate tapestries and gothic arches and statuary. And of course you have all of Dracula’s brides, who are these feral creatures that are bloodthirsty.”

+ “In Wolfman, we were able to visit the [Universal] Pictures Group. We saw the movie. We were basically given access to all their designs, and this is a big-budget version. They have spent a lot of money, a lot of amazing production value has gone into it. It’s been taken completely serious. So then you ‘re going to walk through the actual forest with wolfman, past gypsy camp, into all these environments while being chased by this lycanthrope.”

The SAW house will include a bathroom scene, Roddy says, along with the reverse-bear trap, the hair pull and a hand in a jar of acid. (This might be a good time to note that Universal considers Horror Nights to be a PG-13 event.)

"You're actually going to walk into Jigsaw's lair," Roddy explains. "As you walk in, it's an industrial building, almost nondescripte. As you enter, you're immediately in his workshop. You'll see all of the TVs and the cameras, and you'll come 'face-to-monitor' with Billy, who'll give you your task, which is to make it through this maze."

Here's another warning, this one from Roddy: "If you are terrified by those [Saw] films, then the maze will shut you down."

"We'll never touch you, we' never hurt you, but when you leae, you're going to feel like you've been put through the wringer, mentally," he says. Feel better?

Meanwhile, over at the Silver Screams house, Roddy explains that the its mishmash theme reflects the backstory of the Usher character.

"You'll see how he became this vengeful ghostly spirit. You'll see his favorite movies like Phantom of the Opera, you'll walk through envinorment of Shaun of the Dead, you'll walk through My Bloody Valentine, and a host of others that are, again, Universal brands but we didn't think justify an entire maze," Roddy says.

We'll be seeing more of the Usher. Although advertising for the event banks of the Ripped from the Silver Screen campaign, the Usher will be on the Facebook page and Horror Nights Web site.

"You'll definitely feel his presence throughout the entire event," Roddy says. He is your gateway to the event when you get here. ... We're considering him an icon that will stand toe-to-toe with all of the others that you have known."

The scare zone called Horrorwood Die-In will also have a variety of film characters. The usual Mel's Drive-In area will be transformed into a drive-in, complete with cars and big screen showing movies and those "Let's all go to the lobby" sort of shorts.

"Then all of a sudden, you'll come face-to-face with these characters that have literally come off the screen," Roddy says.

Expect Norman Bates, the character from The Thing and assorted zombies. "It's going to be a blast," he says.

Tradition HHN favorites are back, including the Chainsaw Drill Team, the Bill & Ted show and others. "Rat Lady is our good-luck charm."

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