Written and reviewed by: Jen Juneau
Sporting a tagline of “Nobody Beats the House”, Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights 21 is marketed as a Vegas-lover’s dream. Sadly, the only real gambling-themed aspect of this year’s event is the icon herself: Lady Luck. However, disconnected theme aside, HHN’s 21st year proves otherwise fairly epic – possibly due to the fact that I attended early in the season. But, more likely because the profits raked-in over the last year from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter were put to practical use.
One of the first Scare Zones you encounter upon entering the park is 7. It’s a clever portrayal of the seven deadly sins, where portly men representing gluttony approach you with fake vomit all over their faces, and those representing greed have dollar bills protruding from their mouths. Sexy, sinister showgirls dance on stages, representing their respective sins. Another not-to-be missed Scare Zone is Grown Evil. This takes you through a (mis) enchanted garden, where flora and fauna have gone amiss.
Of the eight haunted houses offered this year, there are quite a few winners, depending on your taste. For those like me who love a good cheesefest, H.R. Bloodengutz Presents: Holidays of Horror is a riot – let’s just say you’ll never look at the Easter Bunny the same way again. For those who appreciate a bit of history (and its urban legends), Nevermore: The Madness of Poe is perfection. Modeled as Edgar Allan Poe’s home/”nest”, it will give you chills. Are you a movie buff? Saws ‘n’ Steam is very reminiscent of the Saw film franchise, and will leave your skin crawling. The Thing is right up your alley too. And, as a bonus, you’ll be hit with Antarctic air-conditioning throughout your walk, which is nothing to sneeze at in Florida (where it doesn’t get cool outside until mid-November, if you’re lucky).
Without a doubt, the standout is The In-Between. It’s a trippy 3D house where what you see is not truly there. What you don’t see…well, you can imagine how that ends! Even for a HHN veteran like myself, who has learned which nooks and crannies to keep her peripheral vision on, this house takes the cake for the unexpected.
Don’t miss: 7 (Scare Zone), Grown Evil (Scare Zone), The In-Between (House), Saws ‘n’ Steam (House), Nevermore: The Madness of Poe (House), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure (Show)
Scare Zones: C+
Haunted House: B+
Overall Event Grade: B