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A Horrifying--and Excellent--Halloween Adventure

Halloween Horror Nights 2003 at Universal Orlando

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Halloween Horror Nights Picture

Nothin' says lovin' like this guy in an oven. From HHN's "Scream House."

Arthur Levine
The following article is about the 2003 Halloween Horror Nights. Click here for a feature article about Universal Orlando's 2005 Halloween Horror Nights event.

If you're offended by off-color humor and other slightly risque business, advise the performers at Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure at the start of their raucous show, you might want to leave for the tamer "Holyland Horror Nights" on the other side of town. While the bible-themed park doesn't really have a Halloween event, there's some credence to the warning; from the moment you enter the alterna-universe of Universal's annual paean to panic, it's abundantly clear that this is not your father's (let alone your minister's) theme park. That's not to say that Halloween Horror Nights isn't incredibly creative, exciting, and a whole lot of fun--it is. But, it's so un-theme park-like, it may have Walt Disney turning over in his grave. (And I regret writing that for fear that Universal's creative team may co-opt the concept for one of its haunted houses at next year's HHN.)

Things to know

  • 2003 Dates: Oct. 3,4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 15 to 19, 22 to 26, and 28 to Nov. 1
  • Cost: $51.95, reduced price for theme park ticket upgrade and other discounts available
  • Tips: The event is not appropriate for young children--it's really scary!
    Consider purchasing a Universal Express Plus pass or buy R.I.P. (V.I.P.) Tour tickets to skip the long lines.
  • For more info: 877-237-4448
Theme park Halloween events have become a big deal over the last few years, and Universal Orlando has one of the oldest and grandest. In its 13th year (ooh, spooky!), this marks the second HHN at Islands of Adventure. (The previous ones were at the original Studios park.) By day, the whimsical theme park is all bright colors, upbeat songs, and beloved characters like Spider-Man and Popeye. When the sun sets, however, Universal gives the park a radical makeover: they dim the lights, crank up a sinister soundtrack, and unleash a roving horde of lunatics and netherworld denizens. It's a startling and complete transformation; the park oozes creepiness from every corner and adopts an ominous overtone.

The weirdness starts on the other side of the turnstiles. Instead of IOA's welcoming Port of Entry, the gateway to the park is bathed in a blinding, fog-enshrouded red light. Feeling their way along through the murkiness%com/uests encounter hurricane-force wind machines that literally push them into the bedlam.

At the front of the park, a scene that could have been lifted out of Dante's Inferno takes place. Barely-clad, bound women writhe on a makeshift stage as ceremonial drummers keep the beat. Presiding over it all is none other than Beelzebub and his female companion (Beelze-Barb?). Standing eight-feet tall, they taunt guests, using heavily amplified and appropriately distorted voices, with biting, but hilarious barbs.

Next page: Jittery Bugs-- More HHN 2003

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