Haunt season is here and we’re ready! MouseInfo recently had the opportunity to experience a lights-on walkthrough of sine if the all-new terrors for this year’s Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights and we’re happy to share a creep peek at what’s in store!
We got to hear from none other than the legend, Creative Director John Murdy learning about the intricaties and detials of The Horrors of Blumhouse house (featuring the films FREAKY and THE BLACK PHONE) and Universal Monsters: Legends Collide a fun mish-mash of classic characters. While both houses are slated for both coasts, we were assured that Murdy’s carney inspiration would shine through and even take one of these houses in a completely different turn.
Setting the Stage
After two years of complete uncertainty when it came to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and one year where all the hard work was quite literally torn down, the 2022 event streams to life after a 2021 season where everyone was on, “pins and needles.” Murdy mused, “We didn’t know whether we were going to have an event or not.” Thus, with the certainty of the 2022 season, “…we’re just kind of going mad.” says Murdy with a level of whimsy, “We’re just like Go!! Let’s go… live life to the fullest!”
Consider this your first and last warning. Spoilers lie ahead!
The Horrors of Blumhouse
Murdy detailed that the inspiration for changing this year’s Blumhouse house setting came quite literally from a joke. “Why don’t we do a video store?” Murdy recalls his art director suggesting as they tried to solve the issue of the movie theater façade being too big for its’ new WaterWorld location. “That’s Brilliant!” Murdy recalls responding.
Set in an abandoned strip mall about to be torn down, this last-of-its-kind video rental store harkens back to its real-world counterparts, a relic of a bygone era. However, this store is only, “…open one night a year and only rents horror movies.” In this case, just FREAKY and THE BLACK PHONE.
As you approach, you see the movie posters in the store windows, red smoke is to surround you while an eerie light will illuminate the black-light store sign out front. “Blumhouse Video” is open for business. clearboth
Stepping inside, we’re greeted with the title card of the first film in the house, FREAKY. A glass case sits in front of the sign with the “La Dola” dagger encased within. Murdy mentioned that snippets of audio from the movie, specifically that of the Spanish teacher detailing the curse, would be playing here to set the atmosphere.
- Walking past, we find ourselves in the opening sequence of the film. It is here that Murdy wants to, “bam…bam…bam…Hammer you with the Butcher”. No sooner do you realize that The Blissfield Butcher has already broken the case holding the dagger and stolen a mask from the wall before he seemingly appears out of nowhere hitting you with your first scare of the house.
- Yet you can’t take a sigh of relief yet as the hallway he’s chasing you down leads to a dead body pinned at the end of it with a set of suspicious curtains right beside.
- Turning the corner, you start to hear a disturbing gurgling along with a horrendous vomiting sound emanating from the body of a boy choking on a wine bottle that has been violently shoved down his throat. Originally envisioned as a performer-controlled gag, this was retooled by a group of Technical Services volunteers that approached Murdy about wanting to help HHN for the 2022 season. It’s here that this group of highly skilled “fans” innovated on the dummy puppet gag by having a set of IR sensors now controlling the sound, light, and water effects allowing for a more guest controlled experience.
- Once past the choking dummy, we are once again greeted by our old friend the butcher this time smashing a dummy’s head by way of a toilet seat.
- Smash cut to the next room and a title card with the date Thursday the 12th plastered on the wall. Now in a football stadium hallway with a nondescript grey stone wall on our left, Murdy details that this same wall will disappear and give light to the Butcher and Millie struggling atop the same Aztec temple as in the movie. This will be a similar disappearing wall effect that has been used since one of its earliest appearances in another Blumhouse house, Insidious, and most recently in The Haunting of Hill House.
It’s at this point that the house takes a story driven shift in tone and provided Murdy with the greatest challenge to its creation. He recalls trying to figure out how to convey that a body switch has happened using visual story telling amidst the controlled chaos that is a haunted house. Inspired by a split-second nightmare montage from the movie, Murdy used this sequence to build out a room resembling Millie’s own in every detail, even expected smells, except an out of place ‘Pin Head’. This the allows the guests to infer the body switch as the next room finds Millie’s bed now in the middle of the Butchers lair.
- It’s here that Murdy attempted to feature some of FREAKY’s dark humor into the house. In this scene Millie will be tossing and turning in the bed as a mirror in the back corner bleeds through to reveal the Butcher inside. Millie wakes as the Butcher comes out of the mirror. But then, subverting all expectations, the Butcher freaks out in surprise of seeing Millie and heads back into the mirror scared.
- As we head into the next scene, we pass a banner for Friday the 13th and find Butcher-Millie in the middle of refining her shop skills as she splits the shop teacher in half using a table saw. Guests will have to ease their way past and attempt to avoid the sprays of ‘blood’ coming from the body.
- The final scene of the FREAKY portion of the house pushes guests into the final confrontation scene. Butcher-Millie holding a chainsaw facing off against Millie in the Butcher’s body as they face off all the while the bodies to the three football players lie mutilated on the floor.
Answer THE BLACK PHONE
If you survive, you’ll make it onto a long dark hallway plastered with missing children’s posters, even one of a young ‘Carney’. At the end is the title card for the next section of the House, THE BLACK PHONE. That’s when the Grabber, true to his name, pierces through the silkscreen title card and attempts to grab the guests.
- Entering the world of THE BLACK PHONE by way of the Grabbers house we find ourselves in a scene where the cops are at the door, Samson is barking like crazy, and Max is trying to calm Samson down. It’s here that we’re hit with our first encounter with the Grabber jumping out of a corner and driving us deeper into his house.
- Entering the kitchen scene, Murdy wanted to elicit the same sense of creepiness as can be felt when watching the film. He even recalls asking if the Grabber cast would be comfortable sitting shirtless in the scene just as in the movie. If you can make it past the sleeping Grabber and a surprise Samson in the hallway, you’ll find yourself in the basement. Looking around to find Max dead on the floor, phone ringing, and Finney’s voice is heard saying, “It’s for you” setting up the first of several final scares.
- Running past a gauntlet of Grabbers, each with a different style mask, you overhear the Grabber’s voice, “If you want to get out of here, you’ll have to get through me.”
Find out more about this maze at our post below.
Universal Monsters: Legends Collide
Once out we headed down to the lower lot of the park to an area right behind the Mummy rollercoaster attraction to check out the Universal Monsters: Legends Collide house.
Scoring Hollywood’s version of the house will be none other than long time HHN collaborator Slash with a completely original score. This will mark the fifth time Slash has provided the music for one of Murdy’s nightmarish creations. However, this won’t be the only way in which Legends Collide Hollywood will differ from its Florida counterpart. Murdy explained that when conceiving the concept for the story, HHN Florida’s Mike Aiello very much wanted an Egyptian tomb to be the setting while Murdy wanted to focus the story in London. Then at a certain point they just went, “…why don’t we do that?” Murdy said, “Why don’t we make it a two-part story and you guys can tell part one and we’ll tell part two?” clearboth
Set in Victorian age London, Universal Monsters: Legends Collide thrusts the guests into a cautionary tale of why one should never mess with ancient curses. Walking up to the immense façade, based on a real warehouse in the Limehouse district in London, the “Alucard Trading Co.” building’s sheer size allows the audience a sense scope of the battle they are about to step in between. At the center is the amulet of Amun-Ra, a recent discovery shipped over from a dig site in Egypt. This amulet will serve as the catalyst that will bring the Legends to battle on this fateful night.
- Stepping inside we hear Renfield’s iconic lines, “Master, we’re here.” whispering through the room. Surrounded by Egyptian artifacts, we are funneled around the ‘docks’ towards a check-in counter. It’s here that we have our first encounter with Renfield as he bangs on the window.
- Moving past, we find ourselves walking through another room packed with screen-used props from the various Stephen Sommers Mummy movies. With Egyptian statues, boxes, even sarcophagi all around, it’s here that we are hit with a double scare as The Mummy emerges from his sarcophagus and Dracula appears fresh out of his coffin. This scene also serves as an introduction to one of the protectors of the Amulet, the “High Priest of Karnak.” Guests will run into him searching for the pilfered artifact right before entering a storage rack hallway.
- Beyond the hallway we enter the Paymaster’s office. Here we find Larry Talbot, the Wolfman, mid-transformation while a pale blue moon shines through the office windows. Each item in the room having been sourced or recreated from illustrations of Charles Dickens’ office, this scene demonstrates the level of detail that Murdy and his HHN team have become known for.
- In addition, this transformation scene will feature one of the rare times that a full-face prosthetic makeup has been used at HHN. Requiring a painstaking process to apply, this type of makeup is rarely used due to it taking 90+ minutes to apply per scare actor. This level of time and effort-intensive makeup will also be featured by the “La Llorona” house for the eponymous character.
Enter the graveyard, because “…there’s always a graveyard.” Murdy said jokingly as he led us into the next fully immersive scene. Walking past the crypts, we see digital boards that are promised to have performer-controlled illustrations providing an eerie distraction allowing the scare actor to catch the audience off guard.
- It’s in this manner that the set design and technical innovations for this year are once again allowed to shine. These digital screens are to be used throughout the house and provide a new dimension to both scenes and scares, one example being the colors of the moon. In the house, the color of the moon is to change based on the Legend that is being featured: Pale Blue for the Wolf Man, Harvest Yellow for The Mummy, and Blood Moon Red for Dracula.
Fright at the Museum
After creeping through the cemetery, we find ourselves in the office of the slain museum curator lying on the floor. Renfield’s laughter can be heard right before he attacks guests. But that’s just the appetizer as the windows above the desk illuminate and as Dracula burst through lunging at the guests. This scene will also feature the solitary appearance for the “Brides of Dracula” in this year’s iteration of “Universal Monsters.”
- Venturing further into the museum, guests are once again confronted by the High Priest of Karnak. Now in possession of the Amulet, he stands upon an altar attempting to summon to life the mummies throughout the museum. As the priest recites the incantations, the mummies around us will start to move, eyes glowing red.
- However, one must never mess with Egyptian curses as the Priest soon finds out. Now lying on the floor of the next scene, the priest is heard crying out, “The Curse…the Curse!!!” as guests are hit with a triple scare right before and Anubis-sized surprise.
- A giant stilt walking werewolf Anubis awaits to give chase as Larry Talbot’s words can be overheard saying, “Some curses are like the gods themselves, immortal.”
Find out more about this maze at our post below.
See it for Yourself
Halloween Horror Nights returns this year to Universal Studios Hollywood (Thursday, September 8, 2022) and to Universal Studios Florida (Friday, September 2, 2022) and both events run select nights through Monday, October 31, 2022.
DON’T MISS: Get details and ticket information!