Test your luck this year as you venture on down to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 21. This year features the main icon Lady Luck and the theme is based around gambling and testing your luck. Did you catch the "21" reference yet? Now, for the past years the main icon usually has a house but this year Lady Luck only gets a wimpy scarezone, poor lady. The Haunt-iday season started in late September this year, going from September 23rd to October 31st. The event starts at 6:30 PM but your best bet would be getting there around 5:30 - 6:00 because they will open early a lot! (Plus, getting in early means more time to do and see everything the event has to offer) Back on the subject of the theme; it doesn't have have much to do with any of the houses or scarezones, so don't think every house revolves around gambling and casinos. The houses were however, based off those who have tested their luck, most of them not being successful. If you have been to Horror Nights in the past you'll know this is a great event; scares, shows, drinks. The past two years, in my opinion, were absolutely incredible. This year I think Universal tried something new and just missed, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, anybody who is anybody will love the event this year, it just doesn't have that same feeling. Maybe it's because last year was HHN XX and the big thing was "A New Era of Fear." I feel as though the houses were designed spectacular, but the scareactors weren't as scary as the previous years. It could of just been my timing in the houses, but I will admit, most of the houses had many predictable scares. You see a odd wall behind a corner, of course there's going to be a scareactor behind there waiting to get you. I don't know, it just seemed to lack that old scarefactor it's always had. I was extremely excited this year because it was the first year that Hollywood Rip Rockit was open during Halloween Horror Nights. Of course, with the bad Florida rain, it was shut down often, but i got "lucky" enough to ride it with the lights on in the dark. Besides the Rip Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Jaws, Men in Black and the Simpsons Ride were all open aswell. Now, I'm going to give you all a breakdown on each house and scarezone to give you a better taste, while trying to exclude as many spoilers as possible. Ratings will be rated out of 10. (Ratings based on overall scares and design)
The Forsaken was one of those "ehh" houses. This house was one of two houses located by the Barney and Feivel playcenter. The house was themed after Columbus' voyage and the undead members of his fourth crew who never returned. I actually really liked the idea, I think the Universal team could of went far with it, but it wasn't their best at all. The effects throughout the house were superb. Small spoiler alert: There was an awesome effect added to the house which was a sinking ship in the water. Also, you will get semi wet in this house! What I didn't like about the house is that all of the scareactors had bright, and I mean bright green eyes. So you say, "What's so wrong with green eyes?" Well, the audience always knew were the scareactors were due to their green eyes. Lets say you're walking through a room, no idea were the scareactors are. They could be around this corner or that corner or that rock, when all of a sudden you see the glow of two bright green eyes. Oops, there is the scareactor. I can say I walked through this house with maybe one or two scares, but that was it. Like most houses, I liked the design but it wasn't executed the way some of us wanted it to be. Out of 8 houses, this house was my 7th favorite.
The Forsaken gets a 6/10
Here it is, my personal favorite house at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights 21, The In Between. Something HHN Orlando has never done before, a 3D house. For first timers at a 3D house I was kind of expecting a let down. I didn't set my bar high for this house, but I definitely should of. Wow. That was my reaction after walking out. The whole house feels like an acid trip. It's one of those houses were you have no clue what the hell is going on but you're still afraid because at any given time something can pop out at you. I mean all of the effects going on in the house; from strobe lights, to 3D beams of light shooting at you. The scareactors were dressed with 3D costumes too, some being skeletons and another was some sort of bird-monster-thing with wings. I don't know what the hell it was, but it sure scared the poop out of me. I got tons of scares throughout the house and actually had to hold on to the person walking in front of me's shirt because I had no clue where to go! It even had one of those portals you step into and it feels like you're spinning. The vortex tunnels that they had last year in the 20th anniversery house.. except this tunnel was in 3D. Overall a perfect house and I'm really hoping Universal does another 3D house next year.
The In Between gets a 10/10
Located near Men in Black comesNevermore The Madness of Poe which was definitely was my biggest letdown. It was a good house regardless, it just didn't meet the bar I set for it. It was my most anticipiated and my biggest letdown unfortunately. Let me say one thing though, the design of this house was phenomenal! As you walk into the dark house you are greeted by none but Poe himself. He looks like a mad scientist on crack and he's writing journal entries and novels; it's great. The scares could of been better in this house. Many of Poe's stories were incorporated into the house and my personal favorite, The Raven, made a big appearance. It is a sick and twisted house with some good scares and some unneeded parts, but overall it wasn't too shabby. The design creates the house and really helps out it's rating on my list. Just don't set your bar too high for this house like I did because most likely you will be let down. Nevermore comes in at 6th out of 8th place for me.
Nevermore The Madness of Poe gets a 7/10
Saws N' Steam Into the Machine was the first house of the night for me, and I really wish it wasn't. I'll start off by saying this was my least favorite house for sure. Not once did I get one scare. This maze is found in the Jaws Queue and has a similar structure to the way the Saw house was set up back in HHN 19. When I first heard about this maze I said to myself "What?" There's nothing scary to it, really. The scareactors look like they are construction workers and didn't even try to scare me. It was like they were on break while I was walking through the house or something. Atleast put some scary creatures or somewhat scary looking people, not humans barely dabbed with makeup and some weilding chainsaws. It was a huge disapointment and I can easily say that this house was my least favorite of the night. Note to all readers, try doing this one last. It's almost in the back of the park anyways. Who knows, maybe the scareactors won't be lethargic for you all when you go to the house.
Saws N' Steam Into the Machine gets a 5/10
This year's comedy house was H.R Bloodengutz Presents Holidays of Horror. I absolutely loved this house. It definitely had that Leave it to Cleaver feel to it, if you remember it from HHN 19. The house was designed perfectly and the acting was done amazing! First off, the queue video while you're waiting in line is hilarious and it shows H.R. Bloodengutz (your host) doing gruesome actions to his producer who cut him off air. All the torture that Bloodengutz does all has to do with a holiday. Then, as you enter the house, it's like almost being in that line queue video. Every room is a different holiday and as you transition into the next one, you go through a small room with a television that has Bloodengutz introducing the next holiday. The holidays included are Christmas (final room) Easter, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, Fourth of July, Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day and Presidents Day. Each holiday has their own holiday themed, comedic torture. Some good scares to be found in this house, but it doesn't even matter because the comedy and the design of the house is just amazing. H.R. Bloodengutz comes in at number 3 out of 8.
H.R Bloodengutz Presents Holidays of Horror gets a 9/10
Halloween Horror Nights 21 only had one house this year based off a movie; The Thing. This was the old fashioned movie based house I've come to love! It made me feel as if I was back at HHN 19. The Thing was brilliant. It had great scares, an awesome design, loud noises, cold temperature and crazy looking "things" on the walls. All the scareactors in this house did an amazing job. The costumes were crazy looking and whoever designed them is a genius/Da Vinci. The one complaint I do have is about the last room. Spoiler alert : The last room is the ending of the movie. Yeah I said it. So if you want to see the movie without being spoiled, don't pay attention to the last room. But when I saw that "thing" on the wall and the guy shooting it down with a machine gun, I said to myself "holy sh**!" It reminded me of Gears of War in an odd way. Overall, The Thing is a solid house and a must see. Go quick after you get in though because it is right by the front on the main street! This house comes in at number 2 out of 8 on my list.
The Thing gets a 9/10
Over at the Twister queue you will find Nightingales Blood Prey. This is similar to Havoc: Dogs of War last year, but I believe it is so much better. It's another cold house (thank god) and it has a World War I theme to it. The whole house reminds me of Nazi Zombies from Call of Duty, or maybe I just play too much Xbox.. The overall design is excellent with barbed wire above your head at almost all times. It even has scares that get you from up above which no other houses had this year. Some scares won't even be the scareactors jumping out at you, but will be the fake guns shooting in your ear. I walked past a turret that went off and shot out air and got freaked out. The actors have a great makeup job and look just like a zombie soldier if it was real. Great effects, scenery and scares puts Nightingales Blood Prey at number 4 out of 8 on my list.
Nightingales Blood Prey gets an 8/10
Last but not least comes Winters Night The Haunting of Hawthorn Cemetary. Now you all know that Florida doesn't have the best weather with it's humid nights, especially after rain. Well, taking a step into Winters Night will honestly feel like heaven to your body. It's very cold inside the maze, which is obvious because it is called Winters Night. This house is located where Wolfman was at HHN 19 and as you walk in, not only do you notice the apparent change of temperature, but you notice that the first part of the maze looks just like Wolfman did. It even has the same carriage busted right to your left! The scenery in the house was beautiful and all the effects done on it were fantastic. Probably one of the best looking mazes this year but unfortunately, the scares weren't all there. There were some decent scares and some just obvious, right-in-your-face scares. In the end, the house did prevail and did definitely beat half the other houses that this years Halloween Horror Nights had to offer. The scareactors were dressed up... I don't even know how, but they did look pretty cool. Overall a solid house that if the scarefactor was raised, could of topped the list. Winters Night comes in at 5 out of 8 on my list.
Winters Night The Haunting of Hawthorn Cemetary gets an 8/10
For a main icon scare zone you would think they would of put a lot of effort into this scarezone. They didn't. Located in that claustrophobic alley right by the random Starbucks lies Your Luck has Run out. All it was was about 5 actors dressed up as Lady Luck with cheap masks and a bunch of fog. Actually, there was so much fog, you can't see where you are going. I actually ran into one of the Lady Lucks. There's two or three other guys wearing black that try to scare you but just get in your face and grunt awkwardly.
Your Luck has Run Out gets a 5/10
7 in my opinion was the only really good scarezone this year. It's a wide scarezone which is the bad thing but it has seven temptresses that are all on a different stage and distract you while you walk through. As you're distracted the scareactors take advantage and scare the crap out of you. I'm pretty sure a couple of them had chainsaws. Overall, it was a really solid scarezone which was definitely unexpected.
7 gets a 9/10
Acid Assault was a decent scarezone this year. Located right by the Twister queue it contains survivors of an acid rain downfall. These people are all alone in the city and want to get you next while their city crumbles to dust. I loved the effects that Universal did in this scarezone. They made the buildings around the scarezone look like they were crumbling and falling down, which was excellent. The scares, yeah, not so much.. But it wasn't bad.
Acid Assault gets a 7/10
Nightmaze was the biggest letdown of a scarezone ever. I was expecting this really cool maze to switch around and freak me out, kind of with a trippy effect. Boy was I sadly mistaken. All it was was a couple of weird looking guys in black robes moving walls back and forth "so that you won't be scared the same twice." Honestly, was just a bad scarezone. I was majorly disappointed.
Nightmaze gets a mere 3/10
Grown Evil was honestly a really good looking maze, however the scares were just terrible. All the scareactors were dressed like purple birds (they were all girls) and just flapped their wings in your face. I loved the design, I hated the scares. Not much to say about girls in asian looking costumes flapping your wings in your face. They were good looking, but hey some of us want to get scared sometimes too!
Grown Evil gets a 5/10
Canyon of Dark Souls had so much potentional but it was just way too short. The whole scarezone was almost pitch black with lots of fog and scary looking, almost ghostface like, creatures. They did a great job at hiding and did get some scares from myself and others, but we were all disappointed at the length of the scarezone. If this was were Grown Evil was it could of been an amazing scarezone. Extend the length of this and we got a high rated scarezone but for now..
Canyon of Dark Souls gets a 7/10
Wrapping up, Halloween Horror Nights 21 wasn't the best year in my opinion, but it did prevail in different areas. It was definitely different from any other year we have seen before. When the creators said that it is a new era of fear they definitely were right. This is all brand new to us. Hopefully next year they change up what needs to be changed in the "new era." Unfortunately, I was not able to attend any of the shows so you're going to have to look at another review for those. Death Drums was new this year though and I have heard mixed reviews on that. Some people don't even know what to rate it. Bill and Ted is obviously the same old Bill and Ted everybody has come to love and is probably a well rounded, funny show. I would go to Halloween Horror Nights 21 again and go through all the houses again if I could just to see if anything is different. This is all from my experience of opening weekend. Keep in mind that over the course of the event, little things will change, thats for sure. Lets all hope next year is an even better year! Until then, see you all and happy haunt-idays.
Overall, this years Halloween Horror Nights 21 gets a 7/10