Friday, October 11, 2013

Walking With the Dead: Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights!

*Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part post. Here is the overview and review. The next post will have all of the pretty pictures. 

I know, I know. It's a third of the way through October, and I haven't started my Halloween posts (for reals, anyway). I have a good excuse! I've been out of town at Universal Studios Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights. Then, when I got back to town, I realized how loved and needed I am at work, and have been swamped trying to play catch-up. Anyhoo, I thought I'd give you lovelies a rundown of the event, and maybe even share some pics of the behind-the-scenes tour Thomas and I took.

***WARNING! If you are planning to go to HHN and don't want to be spoiled, STOP READING NOW!***

Alrighty, now that's out of the way, let's have some fun!

So...I'm a wimp. I didn't sleep for three nights after watching The Woman In Black, and the bride on The Haunted Mansion ride gives me the heebie jeebies. I am a grade-A, number-one, yellow-bellied, scaredy-cat wuss. Our trip to Halloween Horror Nights actually came about, oddly enough, because I'm too chicken to go to Halloween Horror Nights. Really.

See, for the past few years, Thomas and I have trekked down to Orlando for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. It's sweet. There's trick-or-treating. Small children come dressed as dwarves, Muppets, and KISS (seriously. I love those parents). The scariest thing in the park is the Headless Horseman, and last year he fell off his horse. This is my kind of Halloween, and it also happens to be more Thomas's speed. He's not really into the hard scares, either.

Again, I know, I know. Cue the record scratch. This is probably disappointing to a lot of folks, considering we make movies like Night of the Krampus. We can dish out the scares, but we can't take 'em. I'm sorry.

Anyway, every year, we go to the Disney party at night, and hit the Universal parks during the day. And every year, we find ourselves spending those days wandering amidst the un-hideable decorations, awestruck at the design and production values. And every year, we contemplate sucking it up and getting passes for the event. And every year, we chicken out.

It's the haunted houses, man. I just can't do haunted houses. Being confined in a dark space, smack in the middle of a crowd, with scary-looking people (or even normal-looking people, if we're being totally honest) jumping out and screaming at me tends to send me crying toward the nearest exit. Panic attacks ensue. It's less than fun, and the thought of spending a lot of money to not have fun doesn't appeal to me. I just want to see the pretty (creepy) decorations!

So, wonderful man that he is, Thomas did some research and found out that the park hosts Behind the Screams tours. These are lights-on, actor-free, guided tours of the haunted houses. You get to see all of the artistry that goes into the houses without getting the you-know-what frightened out of you. We signed up for an afternoon tour of An American Werewolf in London, The Cabin In the Woods, and La Llorona (morning tours visited three differing houses) the day they became available.

And then insanity set in.

After all, if we were going to see the houses, then it seemed a shame to miss out on the rest of the decorations. Plus, there was a Bill & Ted show and a tribute to Rocky Horror (which I detest, but it was a live musical performance, so I had to go). We could suck it up. We could just stay out of the houses and ride some rides and see some shows, right? It'll be fun!

Oy, vey...

I have no pictures of the actual event. I was too busy trying to avoid The Walking Dead walkers that had taken over the park, and really, it was just too dark. We did walk through most of the "Scare Zones" while it was still light out, just to see what was there, and kind of test out how well we thought we'd handle them at night.

We avoided those suckers like the plague.

I still got swarmed by about a dozen zombies.

Thomas still regrets not having the video camera rolling.

If you're planning to go this year, here's a lily-livered rundown of what's what:

Scare Zones
Atlanta: This takes place on New York Street. It's supposed to smell of death, but I only smelled concessions, so I guess that'll depend on how you feel about the park's food offerings. There are a number of walkers to contend with, but there's also a tank (!!) and some pretty cool theatrics, with ordinary people being turned into zombies.

The Farm: Herschel's barn is ablaze! Supposedly, if you walk through the barn you'll see a bunch of walkers, including the infamous "well walker". I wouldn't know... I did get into a stare-down with the cutest little "scareactor" walker, though. It was still daylight, so I didn't scream or throw-up on her, and her makeup looked amazing.

The Woodlands: This is another that we took in during the day. Michonne's zombie buddies hang out in there and look pretty cool. There's also supposed to be a deer walker, but he was off, so I only saw the deer. The "bicycle girl" zombie is also on display...just not while we were there.

Camp: The RV and some tents are set up in a very small area that feels like walker central. At night, projections on the tents make it look like zombies are eating the campers inside. You really can't avoid this zone, either. It's the only unavoidable zone, though, and it is very small.

The Highway: Yeah...we just flat-out skipped this one. From what I could see, abandoned cars and a school bus are around the Disaster attraction. We had no reason to go down that way, and no desire to get attacked.

The Van: This is a roving scare zone. It's a van full of walkers that, more or less, randomly appears, lets loose its cargo, and then gathers them all back and moves on. It's terrifying.

Clear: Technically, this one has the fewest walkers, and those are impaled on scaffolding and easy to spot. The entire street (over by Terminator) has grafitti projections to match the ones in the episode that the zone was based on. The only time that it really becomes frightening is when the *&$#@ van comes through and dumps a ton of walkers and they decide you look nice and weak and swarm you, causing you to scream and your husband to laugh and try to lure more over. *ahem* The walkers are effective.

*Word of warning: As the night wears on, and guests become tired and/or drunk, it becomes more and more difficult to tell guest from walker. Just sayin'...

Bill & Ted: In a word: Excellent!!! This is a rip-roaring, high-energy, ridiculously funny, musical treat. Nothing in pop culture is sacred. This is PG-13, however, and definitely raunchy. Someone brought a small child who was seated next to me, and I felt more than a little awkward at moments, so bear that in mind if you have kiddos.

Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute: Meh. The performances are fantastic, but if you're not a die-hard fan, you can probably skip this. Several people walked out of the performance I caught. Also: You will get wet. If you are a fan, you're going to love it. Gorgeous costumes, wonderful singers, and lots of audience interaction.

Drinks: We ate at the Simpson's food court, so I can't rate the event fare, but I did order a drink in a souvenier glass from one of the bar carts. The glass is heavy plastic with a light-up element in the bottom, and worth the ten bucks I paid for it, including the drink. I ordered a mixed drink (from a very limited bar) of cherry vodka and cola. It tasted incredible, but it was very weak. For me, that was perfect, but if you're looking for a buzz, this isn't it.

Shots: I didn't get one, but I had to ask. There are "nurses" roaming the park with "blood bags" of jell-o shots. They're vodka, peach schnappes, and cherry jell-o. I kind of regret not trying one.

I loved it, and really hope to go back next year. Maybe I'll be a little braver by then.

Next Post: The House Tour!

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