First Look: Halloween Horror Nights 2017 Preview From Universal Studios Hollywood

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood always snags the hottest films in the horror industry for its maze and attraction themes; 2017 is no exception, with IPs that include SawThe Shining, and the hit FX show, American Horror Story. HHN brings our favorite films and characters to life in dimensional, fully immersive maze experiences that keep fans buzzing with anticipation. On the afternoon of August 22, Theme Park Adventure had the pleasure of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, to get a sneak peek at two of this year’s HHN mazes with the event’s Creative Director, John Murdy. Our Horror Nights 2017 preview included Insidious: Beyond the Further, and The Shining.

Tiptoe through the window, by the window, that is where I’ll be…

Located in the Jurassic Park extended queue, the Jason Blum-produced Insidious franchise returns to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood for its third time (2013 and 2015). For 2017, this maze will be heavily inspired by the new film, Insidious: Chapter 4, featuring all-new content. On one hand, it’s hard to understand the justification of an IP being repeated so soon at HHN, but with Insidious as one of the consistently top-rated mazes at the event, and the fourth film coming January 2018, it’s a perfect opportunity to bring the franchise back in a refreshed way, featuring content from the upcoming film.

We will never forget the past two Insidious mazes at Halloween Horror Nights – full of innovative scares, projected media effects, and art direction that made us feel like we were walking through the lost realm of the Further. Insidious: Beyond the Further continues that tradition. Guests encounter horrifying demons and entities throughout beautifully-designed scenes that are underlined by a disturbing soundscape, coupled with theatrical effects that will make even this fan girl stop in her tracks!

While it makes sense for a studio to partner with a large-scale event such as Halloween Horror Nights, it must be difficult to create a maze experience for guests based on a film that no one gets to see until months from now. Sure, trailers for Insidious: Chapter 4 are available for viewing, but one of the best parts about Halloween Horror Nights is experiencing a film you already love, and going through that world in person. Murdy and his team have done a great job meeting that challenge with this maze. Considering this is part of an established franchise, guests will have an idea of what’s going on. The maze features your favorite characters such as the Wheezing and Lipstick-Face Demons, as well as recurring components such as The Red Door, and the uber-creepy “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” song. Insidious is a scary franchise to begin with – we’re excited to see it come to life once again at HHN.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…

One of the greatest films of all the time is coming to Halloween Horror Nights – The Shining. It’s been a long time coming – 10 years, to be exact – for this IP to finally come to life. The team at HHN has definitely surprised fans every year, creating world-class mazes from iconic horror films including The ExorcistHalloween, and An American Werewolf in London. This year, it’s our chance to peer into the haunting world of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick; what a treat for all of us!

Guests will soon find themselves exploring the Overlook Hotel, where they will experience Jack Torrance’s spiraling descent into madness. The challenge of converting The Shining into a maze experience is that the film itself isn’t pure “horror”. It’s not Saw, or Friday the 13th; blood and guts, or even zombies aren’t part of this IP’s world; The Shining really is a psychological thriller. Murdy explains that there was a fine line designing presentational scenes and big scares for guests. The HHN team had to figure out a way to combine elements, making a great “art and scare” experience. While big scares are always part of these mazes, and John’s plans on how to go about doing that in The Shining are exciting, the art direction of this attraction is what impressed me the most during our sneak peek – from the Art Deco carpet patterns, to stylized retro bedrooms; the fine details are what make a maze like this. The personal appeal of The Shining for me has always been the bleak tone and heavy-handed feeling from beginning to end; it’s unnerving, which makes for a very uneasy mood. Seeing what Halloween Horror Nights has done is impressive; it truly shows the dedication of the team in bringing this film to life properly.

For The Shining, there were certain scenes that proved challenging when creating this maze. How do you recreate the “typewriter scene” in a maze setting with new guests passing by every 10 seconds? How about the vision of the bloody elevator? John and his team had to think outside the box for many of these moments, and they have accomplished each one very nicely. You’ll see one of my favorite theatrical illusions called “Pepper’s Ghost” used for the Grady twins scene. For the typewriter scene, you’ll see projection technology used in a very cool, surreal way. I promise you, you’ll be pleased by what you see!

John Murdy, Chris Williams, and their team are ready to give the fans something special; these mazes always demonstrate their dedication to the craft, because they are big fans themselves.

For more information and tickets for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, visit  Experience The Shining, Insidious: Beyond the Further, and more beginning this Friday, September 15!

  • Rick West

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Be sure to bookmark and reference our 2017 SoCal Haunt Directory for all your Halloween haunt planning!


Insidious: Beyond the Further images:

The Shining images:

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