Saturday, September 25, 2010

Halloween Horror Nights: Here’s the skinny on the scare zones

Friday’s Calendar section features a roundup of the haunted houses for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. We talked to the creative types behind the event, which begins Friday night. But now we’re talking “scare zones,” open-air presentations keep the thrills going in between the houses.

It’s the 20th edition of HHN, and the scare zones include nods to the past, some re-imagining of old standbys, a zone that ties directly to a haunted house (thematically and physically) and brand-spanking-new material, such as where to meet Fear himself.

For years, the chainsaw drill team has patrolled the streets of HHN, revving their saws and generally being menacing. The noise is enough to get your heart rate elevated. A little bit of change is in the air.

“We wanted to take those guys and completely retheme them for the 20th year,” says show director Mike Aiello. They’ll be in a scare zone called Saws ‘n Steam, and it will sport a steampunk look.

“The basis of the storyline is that water in this realm is under a shortage. But the entire city is powered by water — steam,” Aiello says. “The only way to get the water they need is to chop up the living, then put them into a machine that then transfers their water into steam.”

Aiello says that they probably have more chainsaw wielders than in other year.

The Zombie Gras scare zone is immediately outside the exit of the Zombiegeddon house. It calls on, of course, Mardi Gras, another popular Universal Studios annual event. In this case, it’s a parade gone wrong. A wreck has cause of power outage, which results in all sorts of havoc in the Zombiegeddon house.

“Take everything you know about Mardi Gras and everything you know about zombies and put that stuff together. That’s Zombie Gras,” Aiello says. “There’s a bit of a comedic tone to it, but, still, it’s a very terrifying zone.”

The zone with the most distinctive look this year could be Esqueleto Muerte.

“It’s a neon nightmare, loosely based on Mexican Day of the Dead,” Aiello says. “That look is so amazing. We wanted to take that and amp it up.”

“Visually, it’s unlike anything we’ve done before.”

The Coven will feature sirens, drawing folks into a wooden area … before being overcome by what Aiello calls “horribly terrifying hag-like witches.”

The HHN: 20 Years of Fear zone is a bit of an extension of the Hallow’d Past house.

“There are probably the bigger costumes that we’ve created, the more elaborate ones that can’t fit into the house,” Aiello says.

It’s time to meet the big guy in Fear Revealed.

“You’re going to come face-to-face with icons of the past and a presence of Fear himself,” he says. “Icons from the past will range all the way from Jack, to the Caretaker and the director to some pseudo-icons like Eddie, Chance from Carnival of Carnage that we did a couple of years ago .. and perhaps Cindy.”

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