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Tripping over Scareactors at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 2012

Where: 1000 Universal Studios Plaza [map], Orlando, FL, United States, 32819
October 16, 2012 at 6:10 PM | by | Comments (0)

Once again, Universal Studios Orlando is doing its best to scare nightly visitors as the park is in the midst of the 22nd annual Halloween Horror Nights. You know the drill—each fall crowds converge on the park to experience the transformation; by day Universal Studios welcomes guests of all ages to experience the new Despicable Me ride, ET's bike, and pose for photos with Spongebob, while at night (22 nights, ending on Halloween night) the park turns itself into a giant live action horror movie.

A gaggle of writers work year-round to come up with the themes and schemes that inhabit Universal's annual Halloween Horror Nights. For this 22nd incarnation of fright, Universal went heavy on the partnership route, teaming up with AMC's Walking Dead, Penn & Teller, Alice Cooper, and Silent Hill for four of the seven houses. Furthermore, the park ditched the "scare zones," opting to let the legions of horror scareactors freely roam the streets to search for victims in bars, restaurants, lines, and inside every henhouse and outhouse inside park boundaries.

We toured each of the seven haunted houses and searched out all the scareactors roaming the streets and here's what we think, in order from scariest to not-so-scary:

HAUNTED HOUSES

Walking Dead, Dead Inside
As you approach this house a blow torch of fire shoots off the roof of the building, stopping you in your tracks. If the fire doesn't cause you to pause, the scare actors directly outside the house just might. The volume of walkers outside is impressive, but what really stood out was how aggressive these particular zombies were. While some scare actors were cautious and tame-looking (even stopping to pose for photos with park goers), these walkers were not partaking in such social activities. They were just there to scare.

Once inside the house the aggressiveness continues with zombies chomping on hospital patients and jumping out from behind walls at house visitors. Of course, with all the houses the scare factor is dependent on many factors—from timing to if you have a screamer behind you in line (scare actors are trained to go after the most outwardly frightened)—however, the general ferociousness of these walkers should assure you are a bit jumpy as you walk in, through, and out of this house.

Gothic
The gargoyle theme was our favorite and this house was the most aesthetically pleasing. The gargoyles make great use of the space above, below, and to the side of you as you walk through their cathedral.

Dead End
Classic haunted mansion with excellent special effects. Keep your eye on the girl in the mirror and then brace yourself.

Universal's House of Horrors
Visually stunning black and white theme, this house had a panic inducing ending involving mirrors and walking into yourself.

Silent Hill
Snow ash falling, scare actors jumping, you can get spooked good here if your timing is right. The set was meticulously designed with plenty of faceless folks doing the scaring.

Penn & Teller's Newkd Vegas
Bright colors, 3D glasses, and campy. Important note: As you go through the buffet line you may feel your shoes getting sprayed. Once you get to the back side of the buffet, start hitting the buttons on the control panel and you will be squirting water at the folks on the other side of the wall.

Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare
Felt like we were in a music video from 1988 that was a cross between Alice Cooper's Poison and Genesis' Land of Confusion. Rock and roll isn't very scary.

STREET EXPERIENCE HIGHLIGHTS

Aside from the haunted houses this year the scare actors are free to roam the park. On the surface you would think this makes for scarier scenarios, but it actual humanizes the scare actors in many ways. There is something about seeing the warriors in Finnegan's Pub that makes them less scary. That said, giving these "legions" free reign of the park means they can sneak up on you at any time, so be prepared. Here are some of the highlights:

Beasts
Not only did the beasts have the scariest looking costumes, but they also possessed the best scare tactics. These beasts were not afraid to sneak up on folks, jump directly into your path, and get on all fours and pounce up at you.

Prisoners
All-woman chainsaw gang. There is something about the sound of a chainsaw that just freaks people out.

Vampires
Creepiest looking, though we didn't have much direct contact with these guys.

Iniquitus
While their all-black-and-stilts get-up was nightmarish, these guys were quick to jump in and pose for photos with guests. It is cool to let guests get photos with the scare actors, but it shouldn't get in the way of their main job: to frighten.

Warriors
Not scary. They were wearing full-body muscle suits that looked more comic than horror. We watched them go into Finnegan's pub looking to scare dinner patrons, but they fell flat as many folks didn't even look up from their meals.

Traditionals
Many of the traditionals were child-size actors, which was a neat idea, as they could blend in with the crowd and sneak up on folks, however, their costumes were also child-like, which meant that they possessed more of a cute factor and less of a scary one.

RIDES

The Rip Ride Rocket, Revenge of the Mummy, Despicable Me, Men in Black and the Simpson's Ride are also open until 2AM during horror nights.

VITAL STATS

What:
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights 22

Hours:
6:30PM – 12AM: SEPT. 21, 22, 27, 30, OCT. 4, 17, 24, 28 & 31 6:30PM – 1AM: SEPT. 28, 29, OCT. 7, 11, 14, 18, 21 & 25 6:30PM – 2AM: OCT. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 & 27

Cost : General admission $88.99 plus tax

Official Site: http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando

Full Disclosure: We were a guest of Universal Studios at Halloween Horror Nights, but rest assured all photos and opinions are completely our own.

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