An American Werewolf in London Maze Preview 2014

Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors… That warning lives on in the hearts of An American Werewolf in London Fans everywhere. And in just a matter of days, fans of the John Landis film will get a chance to live the American Werewolf experience at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights!

An American Werewolf in London at Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights 2014On Friday, September 12th, Theme Park Adventure joined Creative Director/Executive Producer of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, John Murdy, for a special behind-the-scenes look at arguably the most highly-anticipated maze this year at the theme park’s event, An American Werewolf in London. A handful of selected media outlets piled into a waiting van and were driven to the park’s Lower Lot, where the maze has been built in the extended queue of the Jurassic Park attraction.

While Halloween certainly hangs heavy in the air, it was hard to ignore that it was over 90 degrees here in Los Angeles as we stood outside the facade of the maze – a perfect reproduction of the Slaughtered Lamb pub, as featured in the movie. Inside the maze, temperatures rose to probably close to 110 degrees as the finishing touches were being put on the attraction. We have utmost respect for the folks that have put the Halloween Horror Nights mazes together in really nasty heat the past several weeks; there are no fans, no ventilation, or reprieve from the oppressive temperatures within each maze.

A lover of American Werewolf in London since I first saw it in the movie theater in 1981, I was really bummed when Universal Orlando got first crack at the IP in 2013; it was really well-received by fans in Florida. I figured that we’d not see it here in Southern California, since it was already done on the East Coast. Luckily, Universal engaged in a kind of “monster exchange” of sorts this year, and Hollywood ended up with American Werewolf (Universal Orlando ended up with Halloween, based on the John Carpenter film, which was featured at HHN here in Los Angeles in 2009). Like many other fans of the film, I was excited by the announcement, which was made on stage during ScareLA 2014 by John Murdy, Chris Williams and An American Werewolf in London writer and director John Landis.

One thing that Universal Studios Hollywood does very well when translating IP-based themes to mazes for Halloween Horror Nights, is to recreate the environments and most memorable moments from each film with stunning accuracy. That definitely rings true every step of the way through the American Werewolf maze this year – from the interior of the Slaughtered Lamb (complete with red pentangle drawn on the wall) to the porno theatre in Piccadilly Square where David has to face all of his freshly-killed victims. Without describing the maze scene by scene here, I will say that just about all of its most notable sequences – and their settings – are represented here very nicely.

An American Werewolf in London at Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights 2014Murdy explained to our group that the American Werewolf maze is very complicated, both from makeup and technical points of view. The soundscape is also very rich, as Universal had the chance to go through and use the film’s audio tracks to help tell a condensed version of the story throughout the maze, so that guests who haven’t ever seen the movie (say what!?) will get an understanding of what’s happening as they progress from room to room.

Since An American Werewolf if London features a handful of main locations, the maze has several identical sets that had to be reproduced faithfully; guests will feel like they are returning to the same hospital room where David in the film is in bed, recuperating from the attack, for instance. It’s a clever game of smoke and mirrors that the HHN team and those building the maze have pulled off, and it will leave guests feeling like they have somehow doubled-back on their own paths and have gone full circle within the maze, when in reality, they are progressing through the maze as planned.

Once sequence that is in the maze that isn’t specifically from the film takes place in the London Underground; it features a commuter train scare that Murdy described to Landis during the concept planning stage of the maze. Landis thought the gag was really cool, and so Universal had his blessing to go ahead and add it into the maze for 2014.

An American Werewolf in London at Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights 2014Like the film itself, this maze will rely heavily on the use of large puppet effects to bring the famous werewolf to life, whether it be attacking the character of Jack on the moors, or lunging at guests in a dark, narrow alley. We didn’t get to see any of the creatures, as they had not yet been loaded in to the maze – and that was okay with me; while it’s always cool to have early access to events and attractions such as Halloween Horror Nights, I’m still a huge fan when it comes to haunts, so not seeing the werewolves until opening night is totally fine, and I am really looking forward to that! I have absolutely no doubt that the creatures will look perfect.

One of the biggest questions that fans have had leading up to the opening of this attraction, is what music will be used from the film. Murdy has opted to use all three versions of “Blue Moon” from American Werewolf in the maze as well, which will strongly anchor the nostalgia we all have for this IP and movie into place.

The maze will of course, feature the movie’s famous transformation sequence that won Rick Baker an Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup following the film’s 1981 release – a category that was created due to his incredible work on An American Werewolf in London. In the maze, the transformation comes at the heart of the experience, spread over two rooms – two different vantage points, which is very cool. Following in the footsteps of masters, the full-bodied werewolf in mid-transformation will be done pretty much just like it was in the film – with the actor actually lying under the floor of Nurse Price’s London apartment, which was elevated in the movie – and is also elevated in the Halloween Horror Nights maze. This is an awesome gag that will bring HHN fans within feet of the iconic moment from the film.

An American Werewolf in London at Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights 2014Theme Park Adventure shot both stills and video of the tour of the maze. The catch however, is that no more than 45 seconds of interior maze footage can be shown, and the scenes must be presented out of sequence (even though the maze is completely linear to the film’s story in its layout). I felt the best way to do this would be to simply drop very quick clips in over John Murdy’s general discussion about the maze as we began our tour outside. Remember – the purpose of this sneak peek is to whet your appetite, not show you the maze as a whole!

I’ll go on record as saying An American Werewolf in London is the maze I am most looking forward to seeing in its entirety this year at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. Like many of you, the film had a tremendous impact on my childhood, and I am incredibly fond of it for many reasons.

Congratulations to John Murdy, Chris Williams, and the entire crew that have brought Werewolf to life at Universal Studios Hollywood; and a huge shout out to the talent team that will work their butts off every night scaring and entertaining guests from around the world!

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights begins September 19th! Visit the event’s official website for dates, hours, information and tickets!

Crap. Look at that… we’ve wandered off the road…

– Rick West

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