If you’re attending this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando, you’re in luck. The theme park’s annual haunted house event is in its 26th year and is shaping up to be another solid year of frights.
If you’re familiar with Halloween Horror Nights, you might know about Jack, the event’s creepy clown mascot. But this year’s theme revolves around Chance the Clown: the Harley Quinn to Jack’s Joker. Two horror classics joined the Halloween Horror Nights pantheon this year, competing with a returning slasher gem.
The Walking Dead is back for its fifth year in a row. But another horror TV show gives the zombies a run for their money. So with so much to see and so many lines to stand in, read on to find out which houses are worth the wait at Halloween Horror Nights 26.
American Horror Story
Located in Soundstage 19 near the Shrek attraction, this house is an absolute must-see. Line up early, and when the gates open, go here first. American Horror Story is a perfect property for this kind of attraction. It’s fueled by bizarre images and unique monsters, and even people who aren’t fans of the series will find it a lot of fun.
The house is set up like a tour through the show’s first, fourth, and fifth seasons. You’ll see recognizable set pieces and characters, including Rubber Man, Twisty the Clown, and The Countess. The Freak Show section of the house, in particular, has some fantastic set design.
Ever since Halloween Horror Nights began to feature classic horror properties in its houses, fans have begged to see the event take on The Exorcist. Being one of the best horror films ever, it’s a no-brainer for the event, right? But the film isn’t a gory scare-a-minute blast, which makes it difficult to adapt to the Halloween Horror Nights format. While I’m happy to say that the house is a definite must-see, the concept feels spread a bit thin.
The best parts come early — the entrance is a chilling recreation of the poster, complete with the glowing street lamp. Then, in an adjacent hallway, the walls suddenly disappear to reveal the film’s desert tableau, complete with a giant statue of Pazuzu. The rest of the house hits all the expected beats. Many of the rooms are Regan’s bedroom. Then, as if they’d run out of ideas, the house features a long, black corridor where foam rods dangle from the ceiling. And instead of ending with a recreation of the film’s iconic stairs, the final set is a total head-scratcher. Like I said, it’s a must-see attraction, but not the most accurate representation of the film.
Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield
After John Carpenter’s Halloween made its Halloween Horror Nights debut in 2014, the famous slasher series is back. Picking up at the end of the first film, you enter the house through Laurie Strode’s closet. You push past the hanging blouses and through the closet doors, and there he is — Michael Myers. Just like the film, Dr. Loomis shoots Michael, and he falls from a window. But that’s when the house becomes a hospital, bringing all the thrills of Halloween II. Myers is around every corner in this house, popping out of the places you expect and the places you don’t. The final rooms of the house echo the fiery ending of the sequel, complete with glowing wooden beams that look fit to collapse at any moment.
Tomb of the Ancients
If you visit one original house at Halloween Horror Nights 26, make it this one. I don’t scare easily, but Tomb of the Ancients had me jumping out of my skin. The immersive set design and tight corridors are different from many of this year’s houses. Many of the houses ask that you enter two by two, but in this house, it’s single file. The tunnels are covered in glowing hieroglyphs and are narrow enough to prod that little section of your brain where claustrophobia takes root. The creatures in this house are loosely inspired by ancient Egyptian mythology and are fun as hell. One scareactor on stilts really startled me — I never expected to see something so big in a place where the ceilings are so low!
The Walking Dead
This year’s Walking Dead house goes all out, taking you on a journey through memorable set pieces from all six seasons. Now that AMC’s ubiquitous zombie show is a mainstay at Halloween Horror Nights, the minds behind the event need to keep zombies fresh and exciting. The show doesn’t always succeed in doing that, which is why the human drama on the show has to drive it.
This year’s house is a greatest hits of the show so far, much like the American Horror Story House. And it’s just as successful, to boot. One of the final set pieces uses mirrors and an impressive forest set to make you feel completely surrounded. It’s a great way to close out your night at Halloween Horror Nights 26.
Halloween Horror Nights 26 at Universal Studios Orlando runs on select nights up until Oct 31.