Tag Archives: John Murdy

Universal Studios Hollywood Opens Strongest Halloween Horror Nights Event to Date

horror-nights-hollywood-2016_1202Without a doubt, 2016 is the strongest intellectual property lineup that Universal Studios Hollywood has ever assembled for Halloween Horror Nights. Fronted by the long-awaited maze The Exorcist, HHN features a powerhouse ensemble that includes mazes based on American Horror Story, Halloween 2, Krampus and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s more – so let’s dive right in and pick apart Halloween Horror Nights 2016 piece by fleshy piece…

SPOILER ALERT: This in-depth review contains spoilers regarding the mazes and scare zones found at Halloween Horror Nights 2016. It also features images and video that contain spoilers as well.

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First Look: American Horror Story and Krampus Come to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood

hhn-preview-2016-2Historically, the one maze that has been the most elusive in Halloween Horror Nights history has been The Exorcist. For more than a decade, Creative Director/Executive Producer John Murdy and Art Director Chris Williams have chased the rights to use that intellectual property for a walk-through Horror Nights attraction, which finally has become a reality. The devil in the details remained challenging Monday afternoon, when Theme Park Adventure was scheduled to have a behind-the-scenes tour of The Exorcist with Murdy. Just prior to our arrival, inspectors came to walk The Exorcist maze, making it impossible for media to take a tour. Stubborn to the bitter end, we now wait on pins and needles with the rest of Universal’s fans until Halloween Horror Nights opens this Friday and we can finally see The Exorcist in person!

Switching gears from The Exorcist, John took us on a tour of American Horror Story, a maze that is comprised of three of the popular franchise’s seasons: Murder House (Season 1), Freak Show (Season 4), and Hotel (Season 5). The maze is still under construction at the time of this writing, but it’s pretty damned close – and looks really good.

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The Walking Dead Delivers Horror Nights-Style Thrills Daily at Universal Studios Hollywood

The Walking Dead Attraction_6523Universal Studios Hollywood has opened its newest attraction, a walk-through experience based on AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Halloween Horror Nights-style haunted house soft-opened to the public just a couple days before its announced 4th of July grand opening. Days before that, Theme Park Adventure was on hand for the media preview, which featured a whole herd of walkers bent on getting their 15 minutes of brains… er, fame.

If you’re familiar with Universal’s wildly-popular Halloween Horror Nights event, then you already get an idea of what’s in store once you make your way through the exterior switchback queue and enter the abandoned remains of Harrison Memorial Hospital – the location where The Walking Dead series begins. True to HHN-style attractions, this new year-round haunt takes approximately 6 minutes or so to get through. Park fans will find it a lot shorter than House of Horrors, which existed as Universal’s daily-operating haunted attraction from 2006 to 2014. That said, The Walking Dead packs a lot into each scene, putting it on par with the former experience and right up there with most Horror Nights mazes to date. Guests are leaving the attraction laughing, clapping, and yes – even crying; that’s exactly what designers John Murdy, Chris Williams and everyone else involved in this project wanted to see.

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Inside The Walking Dead Attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood

The Walking Dead USH (2)If you’re a horror or theme park fan (preferably both) living in Southern California, chances are you are well aware that there is a brand-new walk-through attraction based on AMC’s The Walking Dead opening July 4th at Universal Studios Hollywood.

And, if you’re not or weren’t aware… now you know.

Under the creative direction of John Murdy and artful eye of Chris Williams, The Walking Dead will become the newest addition to the Los Angeles park, which is still undergoing an epic transformation that will see more exciting additions in the wake of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, which opened this spring. While involved in other aspects of creative development for Universal Studios Hollywood, Murdy and Williams are best known as the dynamic duo of terror behind the theme park’s wildly-popular Halloween Horror Nights event.

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Walking Dead Attraction a Solid Move for Universal Studios Hollywood

TWD attraction at USH - dateEarlier this week, Universal Studios Hollywood confirmed what fans have been speculating for a while – that a year-round attraction based on AMC’s blockbuster series The Walking Dead is close to opening at the Southern California theme park.

This is a major boon for haunt and horror fans in the region who lamented over the closure of Universal’s House of Horrors in summer 2014. House of Horrors was a year-round walk-through haunted attraction that featured such notable silver screen heavies as the Mummy, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Norman Bates, and more. It’s closure and demolition was part of the unprecedented property-wide makeover that Universal Studios Hollywood is still undergoing in large to make way for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened last month.

For the past five years, The Walking Dead has been a featured intellectual property at Universal Studios Hollywood during its annual Halloween Horror Nights event, taking on every form from sprawling scare zone to intense mazes reflecting whichever season ended that spring. Over time, two very defined groups of fans have found their voice – those who are totally into The Walking Dead, and those who have had more than enough of it at Halloween Horror Nights. The latter group becomes more and more vocal online each season that Universal announces that The Walking Dead will be returning. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the show, and I’ve already figured that it’ll be part of HHN for at least a year after the show finally ends.

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What an Excellent Day – The Exorcist Maze is Finally Coming to Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights

Exorcist at USH-HHN 2016Fans of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights will tell you, John Murdy (Creative Director, HHN Hollywood) and Chris Williams (Art Director, HHN Hollywood) have wanted to land The Exorcist for a long time as an HHN maze property. At the same time, whenever the subject has been brought up in public, fans return the desire with enthusiastic cheers and applause. This week, that unholy wish has been granted, as Universal announced The Exorcist for both its California and Florida events.

In an interview I did with Chris Williams, he noted that the one IP he’s always wanted to have as a maze at Horror Nights is The Exorcist.

“I began entertaining that thought five or six years ago. I’m a very spiritual person,” explained Williams. “The more I thought about it, I would love to make it so scary on Saturday night, that you might find yourself sitting in church on Sunday morning!”

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Knott’s Berry Farm Joins Universal Studios Hollywood, Queen Mary, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Walt Disney Imagineering at Midsummer Scream

Knott's Scary FarmMidsummer Scream Halloween Festival proudly announces that it has secured the biggest names and brands in themed entertainment as partnering content providers for its debut event to be held July 30 – 31 at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Midsummer Scream is California’s premier Halloween, haunt and horror festival featuring more than 100,000 square feet of artisan vendors, live entertainment, specialty workshops, makeup demonstrations, a screening room, haunted attraction previews and experiences, a darkened scare zone and more.

Fans of all ages will be thrilled and captivated this summer by world-class panel presentations by the leaders in themed entertainment as they wow Midsummer Scream audiences with 2016 maze reveals, special guests and heart-stopping surprises throughout the final weekend in July at the Long Beach Convention Center.

Knott’s Berry Farm is the most recent major attraction to join Midsummer Scream’s world-class lineup, rounding-out the bulk of Southern California’s theme park/major Halloween events that draw millions to Los Angeles and Orange County each autumn.

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Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood 2015 Review

Horror_Nights_2015_4957It’s always a weird thing when the opening of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights comes and goes. There’s so much hype leading up to the event – from Creative Director/Executive Producer John Murdy’s cryptic messages and hints on social media, to the major announcement he and Art Director Chris Williams make each summer at ScareLA in Los Angeles, and the sneak preview of some of the mazes that Theme Park Adventure has been privileged to attend for the past several years. It’s strange, because before we know it, we’re there, walking through the mazes, shooting video in the scare zones, taking it all in, and then – just like that, we find ourselves driving home at 3 a.m. discussing what we liked and didn’t like about the event – and how crazy it is that HHN has already come and gone for us.

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Sneak Peek of Insidious: Return to The Further at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights 2015

Halloween Horror Nights Insidious MazeOne of the hottest mazes at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights in 2013 was Insidious: Into The Further, based on the popular Insidious film franchise. While I am personally not a huge fan of the movies, I felt the 2013 maze was really well done; it certainly was a fan favorite. When this year’s Insidious: Return to The Further was announced for Halloween Horror Nights, fans reacted very positively to the news.

Recently, Theme Park Adventure was invited along with a handful of other media outlets to get a sneak preview tour of Insidious: Return to The Further by John Murdy, Creative Director and Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. Total transparency here – on that same day, we toured Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home. Being a huge fan of Halloween, that was the one maze I was absolutely interested in checking out; Return to The Further was a “whatever” for me, since I am not really into the film franchise itself.

That said, after walking through Insidious: Return to The Further, I have to say that I was beyond impressed – and if the maze looks half as creepy and incredibly well-designed in the dark as it does in the daylight, this could very well be the maze of the season at Halloween Horror Nights. Without doubt, if you are a fan of the films, Return to The Further is going to make your mind melt.

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Sneak Peek of Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights 2015

Halloween Michael Myers Comes Home HHNOne of the most highly-anticipated maze of 2015 at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights is Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home. Announced to cheering fans during ScareLA this summer, this marks the second time Myers has been featured as part of the HHN lineup here in Southern California, the first being in 2009.

Creative Director/Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights and Art Director of HHN here in California, John Murdy and Chris Williams, both have a long-standing love of John Carpenter’s Halloween, and have been waiting for the perfect time to bring The Shape back to terrorize the inhabitants of Haddonfield, and the thousands of guests who flock to Universal Studios Hollywood each night during the world-famous Halloween event.

After 6 years, Michael Myers has come home.

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