Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Halloween Horror Nights gets bigger but not better Hollywood

Halloween Horror Nights gets bigger but not better at Universal Studios Hollywood

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

After years of getting better, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood got bigger this year — and it’s still not big enough.

Crowds overwhelmed the already cramped theme park during my visit on opening weekend, resulting in hour-plus wait times and bumper-to-bumper traffic inside the most popular haunted mazes.

Compared with its haunt rivals, Universal’s hallmark has been its movie studio-quality mazes with brand-name monsters. This year, Universal chose quantity over quality, increasing the number of mazes while repeating themes from years past.

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
2010 mazes & scare zones | ‘Elm Street’ maze preview | 2009 review | Chainsaw-wielding pigs

Knott’s Berry Farm Halloween Haunt
2010 mazes | 2010 scare zones | 2010 shows | 2009 review

After several years of steady improvement, Universal’s Horror Nights is fast approaching the popularity of larger, more established Halloween events — only without the capacity to handle the horror hordes and the potential for growth hindered by the park’s space constraints. Dropping the “Rocky Horror” stage show from the 2010 lineup pushed thousands more people into the already crowded park.

Over the years I’ve come to expect the best from Halloween Horror Nights. Unfortunately, HHN 2010 fell short of my high expectations.

My favorite mazes, from best to worst:

1) Rob Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” maze was the lone standout — and fan favorite as evidenced by the lengthy queue. The vibrant colors made the 3-D effects pop and pulse like an acid trip gone bad.

2) The “Friday the 13th” maze featured the best kills of the night with a gruesome grindstone scene and clever cleavered corpse sight gag. But like “Nightmare” and “Saw,” too much of the didn’t-I-see-this-last-year?

3) Two dozen Freddy Kruegers provided an abundance of startle scares in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” maze. The highlight of the maze was following a Japanese TV crew whose female reporter leaped out of her skin in every room, much to the delight of viewers back home.

4) While the “Saw” maze looked great and included some great scares, far too many of the kills repeated scenes from years past (including a boiler room scene lifted from an old “Elm Street” maze). The girl sawing her arm off gave me chills.

5) Each year, the House of Horrors maze always fails to impress and this year’s generic “Vampyres” overlay is no different. The pack of screaming 16-year-old girls in front of us provided the only entertainment.

Out on the streets, an abundance of generically themed scare zones failed to frighten, although the chainsaw-wielding Klownz proved to be an exception. Equally disappointing was the Terror Tram, which proved heavy on Chucky video clips and light on scares.

The always brainless and witless “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure” roasted the usual celebrity suspects (Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and the “Twilight” stars) plus a few pan-flashers (Snooki, Justin Bieber and YouTube’s Bed Intruder meme) but ran about 20 minutes too long.

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