The Quaker Campus received tickets to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood to visit and share our experience at the park. The opinions below belong to the respective writers.
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This year’s theme for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood is “True fear comes from within,” though after attending we would argue that true fear can also come from being chased with a chainsaw. Halloween Horror Nights definitely lives up to its name, with nine mazes and five scare zones designed to chill and thrill from start to finish.
The Quaker Campus received two tickets with Express (or front-of-the-line) passes, and we set out to experience all the truly terrible frights of Horror Nights. Our visit fell on opening weekend of Horror Nights, which will run Thursday through Sunday from now until Nov. 3.
Overall impressions: We had both been to at least one other Halloween maze event, so we did have something to compare it to, although Horror Nights is considered to be the scariest out of Knotts Scary Farm and Six Flags Fright Fest. In general, we found that Horror Nights was incredibly well-run. Attendants with glow-in-the-dark batons wave guests through mazes and scare zones, allowing for easy and safe access throughout the park. The attendants move through the lines of people quickly, which is crucial considering how crowded the park gets throughout the night. On the night of our visit, the park was open from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., though it stays open until 2 a.m. for all of October.
Universal Studios does a good job of balancing scary with comfort, and though you never feel fully at ease during your time at Horror Nights, there are stretches of the park without scarers. A few of the regular attractions, like the Simpsons ride, are operational in case you need to take a break. This allows guests to enjoy the ambiance and creates an underlying sense of community as you weave through the scare zones, dodging killer clowns, zombie security guards with bats, and monsters come to life.
Scariest experience: Although we were definitely scared in every maze, the First Purge maze was a monstrosity in and of itself. The setup alongside the line is a huge mansion with lots of long and winding hallways designed to make you feel like you’re about to be purged. Although the maze itself only occupies a part of the space instead of the entire mansion, the visual while you’re waiting to enter tricks the mind into thinking you’ve been inside for longer.
The iconic alarm blared, warning participants of the imminent threat, not unlike that of a tornado siren. All of the mazes strive for an immersive experience, but the Purge franchise is so successful because it demonstrates the most abnormal parts of normal people, and the maze is an authentic tribute. A little detail that made all the difference for us were the ticket-taking “political officials” greeting maze-goers and wishing them luck during their participation to this year’s Purge, adding to the feeling that something horrible was about to happen.
Highlight of the night: We both really enjoyed the Stranger Things maze. The creators ensured the experience was both true to the show and also scary. It is one of the more visual mazes, where the scarers are farther apart to give you time to absorb the story and scenery. Of course, some of the best scares come when you’re focusing on the plot part of the room, and something jumps out at you or comes up behind you. Universal Studios is the first to partner with a Netflix show for an attraction of this sort, and the branding for Horror Nights heavily incorporated the shows trademark 80s eeriness. This partnership appears to have paid off. We saw a lot of patrons dressed up as characters from the show or dining on the signature “Demogorgon totchos” (themed tater-tot nachos).
Is the ticket worth the cost? General admission tickets range between $60 to $97 (tickets are more expensive on weekends and prices go up closer to Halloween). Comparatively, a Horror Nights ticket with the Express Pass costs between $159 to $229, and allows for “one-time express access to each maze, ride, and seated show.” Our press tickets came with the Express Pass, and it made our experience incredibly efficient. We were able to complete all of the mazes within a three-hour period, and at no point did we have to wait in line for our spine-chilling experiences. The general admission prices are pretty close to Knotts Scary Farm, and even with the Express Pass, Horror Nights is cheaper than Disneyland’s Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Six Flag’s Fright Fest tickets start around the same price, but tickets include day admission to the park as well, whereas the other three have separate admission costs for day and night events.
After our experience, we do believe that Horror Nights is worth the price of admission. It’s a seasonal opportunity and something unique to do with your friends that’s more active than the average night out. Halloween mazes are very popular for college students, and at Horror Nights you get more for your money than some of the other parks. Parking, like at all amusement parks, was expensive ($25), but the structure was spacious enough that we didn’t encounter any traffic coming or going. Our only warning in regards to value: Eat before you go. No outside food or drink is allowed in, and water bottles were almost five dollars each.
We’d also recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time, as lines at the ticket queue can get pretty lengthy. For more information about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, visit https://hollywood.halloweenhorrornights.com.