1. Travel

Halloween Horror Nights 2012

It's the 22nd Annual Halloween Event at Universal Studios Florida

By

Halloween Horror Nights 2012

Want to play doctor? The strange nurses from Silent Hill, who have their own method of taking blood samples, are featured in a new maze at Universal Studio Florida's Halloween Horror Nights 2012.

© Arthur Levine, 2012. Licensed to About.com.
With its huge budget, big crowds, and considerable talent, Universal Orlando always has one of, if not the best park Halloween event. 2012 is no different. The seven haunted mazes, -- the claustrophobic walk-through experiences that have surprises lurking around every bend -- are all top-notch. (Some are better than others; see links to my reviews below.) Universal's two Halloween Horror Nights shows are also great (if pushing the boundaries of theme parks' traditional goody-two-shoes image). The street characters, however, don't live up to the hype.

Save money and time and get discounted (up to 30% savings) Halloween Horror Night tickets in advance. Buy direct from Best of Orlando.

See the haunted mazes and other scenes and read mini reviews of the event in my Halloween Horror Nights 2012 at Universal Studios Florida photo gallery.

Zoned Out

Universal is trying something new this year. Instead of presenting individual "scare zones" throughout the park, it has decreed the entire park one giant ghoul-filled scare zone. Saying that there is no escape and no way out, the monsters lurking in Universal Studios Florida have free rein to terrorize guests in all of the streets, sidewalks, alleys, stores, restaurants, and wherever else people might want to hide. While it sounds good in theory, I found the concept lacking.

It seemed that there were roughly the same number of actors running amok as past years (with the glaring exception of the San Francisco area, which was positively teeming with "walkers" from The Walking Dead maze). And, at least the night I was there, the ghouls mostly hung out near the mazes and didn't seem to be invading every nook and cranny of the park as advertised.

Instead of having the clever scare zone sets from past Halloween Horror Nights (who can forget the nuclear fallout area with hazmat-suited officials directing people to walk through ankle-high toxic goo?), the streets felt kind of barren. To me, the "no-escape" premise is a minus instead of a plus. Also, other than the generic "The Iniquitus," the ill-defined demons who are in charge of the legions running through the streets, Universal has no central unifying character this year, such as The Director and The Storyteller who have presided over past events. That is another HHN staple I (and presumably others) miss.

Amazing Mazes

The haunted mazes, however, are wonderful and demonstrate Universal's considerable creativity and mastery of the genre. The four major houses have the benefit of highly recognizable intellectual properties and make the most of the connection. But even the original mazes are quite well done and are suitably creepy in their own right. I have reviews of all the houses:
  • Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas - The duo brings its absurd sensibility of magic and mirth to HHN with a 3D haunted maze that is the highlight of this year's HHN. Read my review of the Penn & Teller maze.
  • AMC's The Walking Dead: Dead Inside - Based on the highly popular TV show, the maze brings the zombie apocalypse story to life (although the zombies are, of course, quite dead). Read my mini review of The Walking Dead maze.
  • Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare - The classic rocker, who has built a strange career out of melding hard rock with horror, has a house based on his seminal 1975 album, Welcome to My Nightmare. Read my mini review of the Alice Cooper maze.
  • Welcome to Silent Hill - The horror film and video game series gets the HHN treatment with guests facing the alternate-reality world of deformed nurses, knife-slashing wackos, and other eerie hallmarks. Read my mini review of the Silent Hill maze.
  • Dead End - A classic haunted house...that is based in a haunted house. Read my mini review of the Dead End maze.
  • Universal's House of Horrors - The classic Universal monsters, such as The Mummy and the Bride of Frankenstein, come to life in a new light. Read my mini review of the House of Horrors maze.
  • Gothic - The sleeper maze at this year's event, Gothic has a great premise and some mind-blowing effects. Read my mini review of the Gothic maze.

Most Heinous Shows

It just wouldn't be Halloween Horror Nights without Bill and Ted, who are back with one of their excellent adventures. For the uninitiated, the slacker time travelers (who first appeared in a cult classic 1989 film) skewer recent events and people in the news as part of an annual Broadway-esque song and dance romp. Among the targets for this year's show are The Hunger Games (which is hilarious), Mayans, the iPhone's Siri, competing Snow Whites (also hilarious), Rock of Ages, and, of course President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, who square off for a memorable rap showdown.

The park also presents 20 Penny Circus, an entertaining magic act that has performers hammering nails into their noses and other freak show, um, staples against a backdrop of heavy metal music and copious sexual innuendo. (Sample patter after the spike-up-the-nose trick: "I nailed a clown.") One masochistic dude has a cinder block broken on his crotch. Ouch! Which begs the point: Anybody may enter, but Universal doesn't skimp on high-anxiety thrills, gross-out gore, vendors hawking liquor every few feet, and, in the case of the two shows, plenty of profanity and mature themes. The park advertises the event as being rated "PG-13" (and I'd make that a "hard" PG-13). You probably wouldn't want to take younger kiddos.

Many of Universal Studios' premier rides, like the wonderful Revenge of the Mummy (which, of course, fits right into the Halloween vibe), are open during the event.

Quick Facts

  • Location: Universal Orlando.
  • 2012 dates: Sept. 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, 30; Oct. 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 & 31
  • 2012 times: Each evening, the event starts at 6:30 p.m. and continues until midnight (1 a.m. on select nights and 2 a.m. on weekends).

Halloween Horror Nights Admission Info

The popular event often sells out, especially on weekends, so you are advised to purchase tickets in advance. (See online discount ticket offer near the top of this page.)
  • Cost: $88.99 at the gate. HHN require separate admission from daytime theme park tickets. There are no discounts for children (who probably shouldn't be attending anyway) or seniors. HHN/theme park day passes combo packages available (called "Stay and Scream"). HHN/Hotel combo packages are also available (called "Gory Getaway"). Residents of Florida qualify for discount tickets. Group tickets are available.
  • An online "Frequent Fear" pass costs less than a one-night general admission ticket purchased at the gate, but includes admission to HHN for select nights in September and early October. For additional fees, other Frequent Fear passes are available that include additional dates.
  • Although the extra cost is high (and varies according to date of visit), you may want to consider purchasing HHN Express passes, particularly for weekend nights, to skip long queues at the haunted mazes.
  • "RIP" Tours, which include a guided walking tour, reserved seating for a show, and VIP access to the mazes, are offered. Again, this is a high-priced option, but if you have the bucks to spare, it's a great way to experience the event.
  • Halloween Horror Nights 2012 Official Site

Looking for Park Tickets to Visit During the Day?

Save time and money. Get discount Universal Orlando tickets before your visit. Buy direct from Best of Orlando.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.