Last Friday night at Universal Studios, the terror began. Halloween Horror Nights 2011 released “what fear fear’s most” upon an audience hungry for horror. And yes, Arrow in the Head/JoBlo.com was there to celebrate the annual, frightfully fun event. It’s an event we’ve covered before, and you know what brings us back? The idea of living through a horror flick and making it out alive is one I could never pass up. Well, unless limbs had to be removed or something along those lines. So first here's our ON THE SCENE VIDEO, then scroll down for a detailed account!
THE EYEGORE AWARDS!
The evening started with the Eyegore Awards. The coveted award is given to artists who have contributed to the horror genre including Rob Zombie, Rick Baker, Eli Roth, Tobin Bell and many more. The presentation itself is short and sweet – other awards shows could learn a thing or two from this – but it is always filled with a few entertaining bits of humor and tons of love for horror fans.
Once again, it was hosted by one time winner Corey Feldman. He shared the stage with a sidekick scarecrow thanks to the ceremonies “Field of Screams” décor. The now blonde Feldman had fun with the introductions, even if some of the information he was given was incorrect when it came to introducing Adam Green and his HATCHET trilogy??? Last I checked, a trilogy was not made of two flicks. Maybe in 2012 – according to IMDB – we shall have an actual trilogy. Yet I’m going to give Mr. Feldman a break on that one, simply because it’s hard not to really like this guy. I hope he keeps hosting this event every year!
This year, one of the award winners happened to be the youngest recipient so far, Bailee Madison who fought off a bunch of little demons in this year’s DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. From television’s “The Office”, Rainn Wilson was presented the award courtesy of Mr. Rob Zombie himself. The two worked together ten years ago on HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. Zombie kept referring to the award winner as “Fish Boy” thanks to Wilson’s ghastly demise in the horror feature.
While the recently inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Alice Cooper was not on hand to accept his award, his daughter Calico was. She gave a lively introduction to the man, the myth and horror rock God himself as he gave a videotaped thank you to the crowd. This was especially exciting for fans of the shock rocker since his latest CD entitled “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” has finally been released. This is a sequel of sorts to his debut solo concept album “Welcome to My Nightmare” and it is available wherever you purchase your music from. Not only can you walk through his brand new maze, you can listen to his twisted rock and roll tales of terror on the drive home.
Finishing off this year’s nominees, SCREAM alum’s David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy both accepted awards for their genre work. And finally, the evening’s most attractive winner was Emma Bell who was awarded the prize for her work in FROZEN, FINAL DESTINATION 5 and the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” Certainly Ms. Bell was happy to be there, yet she seemed a little oft-put when the scarecrow started to joke around with her during her acceptance speech. That is when she announced she was moving forward from their banter. Maybe she felt it was a bit too corn-y. Get it?!?
The final award of the evening went to the winner of the 2011 Hollywood Horror Nights Short Film Competition. This year, the winner was director Brent Bokovoy for his curiously cute MONSTER IN MY SWIMMING POOL. He was presented the award by Universal Studios Creative Director John Murdy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Brent was joined by one of the film's stars, Lia Marie Johnson who was very excited to be a part of the event.
THE PARK! THE RIDES!
After the awards, the crowd was set free into the park. For me, that is where the fun begins. As a fan of Alice Cooper, I was extremely excited to check out his maze which I will get to later. However, the first maze that caught my eye was La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas, which according to legend, La Llorona is a woman doomed to wander the Earth forever consumed with the guilt of drowning her children and then herself. This spine-chilling maze takes you through the remains of a haunted Mexican village – and beware, for those who hear the screams of La Llorona are marked for death!
Mexican-based film star Diego Luna served as a creative consultant on this creepy journey into the mind of a vengeful spirit. While there was a certain amount of jump scares thanks to the cast of creepy ghouls inside, it was the simple design and atmosphere that was really startling here. The images of drowned children floating in haunted lakes really had an effective chill factor on some of us wandering the ghostly village. Considering this was not based on a feature film, this is one maze I would be much too horrified to spend the night in. I guarantee you could make a pretty damn chilling horror film based on La Llorona.
Next up was my most anticipated maze of the evening, and it most assuredly didn’t let me down. Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare is a wild and wicked maze that will keep you on your toes. Based in part on his recent CD and the classic “Welcome to My Nightmare,” there were moments of sheer creative brilliance on the part of the designers. I for one love the song “The Black Widow” and happily, she is represented very well in this shocking world of murder, snakes, spiders and decapitations. This beautiful and deadly spider even smacked me with one of her shiny black legs. As a fan, this was more than I could have ever imagined in a maze, there were even times I found myself lost wondering which way to go. It was quite literally a pulse-pounding, heart-racing experience.
Afterwards, we took a break from the maze, only to take the studio tour. However, this is not your average, every day tour. Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life clearly owes a lot to the upcoming October 4 release of the SCREAM 4 DVD and Blu-ray, yet they cleverly brought it to life as you get that rare opportunity to walk through the “War of the Worlds Crash Set” and the “Bates Motel” and “Psycho House Set.”
While the idea here was an intriguing one - The Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life will take guests to visit the production of the fictional Stab slasher film, which is currently “shooting on location on the backlot.” When aboard Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life guests are transported through Universal’s famed backlot and find themselves being stalked by one of the most dangerous slashers in horror history: Ghostface. As cool as this sounds, it was much too crowded in the beginning to really get you in the mood. And be prepared for a lot of walking uphill. Ironically enough, the most intense part of this experience was when walking up this dark hill, the sound effects that growled in the black of night were a tad unnerving. Ghostface however, not so much! Yet this was an improvement over last year’s Chucky theme.
The other big surprise of the evening would have to be The Thing: Assimilation. Based on the prequel opening on October 13 starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, this particular maze is a recreation of Thule Station in Antartica. The grotesque creatures that were hiding inside were frighteningly impressive, and much like Alice Cooper’s maze, there are times when you can get a little lost in the madness. The make-up and the special effect designers at this year’s HHN have really outdone themselves. The monster effects here are beyond amazing, and the overabundance of savagely brutalized corpses you have to push your way past really added to the creep factor – this includes most of the attractions. Walking through this recreation actually made me a little more curious about what the film has to offer. This was some pretty f*cked up shite!
As for the rest of this year’s walking terror traps, Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses in 3D Zombievision returns in all its gruesome glory. This was a highlight last year and it remains one of the better experiences. Sure the glasses are gimmicky, but the effect they give once you are inside this 3D nightmare certainly amps up the horror of it all. However, Eli Roth’s Hostel: Hunting Season brings you to a totally different realm of the senses. This is one gory f*cker that includes some of the most goretastic images you will ever see in a haunted maze. One includes a man being put through a meat grinder, and the other features the shocking sequence in HOSTEL 2 where a woman bathes in the blood of her kill. There seemed to be gallons of icky blood and guts splattering thanks to Mr. Zombie and Mr. Roth.
Finally, the night ended with The Wolfman: The Curse of Talbot Hall. They restructured the theme parks year round House of Horrors into “a treacherous stroll through Blackmoor’s haunted countryside.” I wasn’t expecting much from this particular maze, but it was truly a nice surprise. It was especially fun to see Lawrence Talbot’s transformation take place throughout the maze. Each turn you take you see him further and further into the painful process. While this didn’t have the sheer insanity of Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare or the over-the-top creature effects of The Thing, it was a great way to finish off the night.
Thus, Halloween Horror Nights came to an untimely end for me, and I was free to escape from it all unhinged. As much as I adore this event, last year was a tad unimpressive with its remake happy mazes, so how did this dark and stormy Friday night compare? Thankfully, this year returned HHN to its horror glory with a couple of original stand-out mazes thanks to La Llorona and Welcome to My Nightmare. In fact, there wasn’t a single maze I didn’t find something to thrill and chill me. While I didn’t quite jive to the Scream 4 Your Life Tram as much as I should have, they still have time to turn that around and maybe cut down on the people they bring onto the trams.
This brings me to my biggest qualm for HHN. The crowds this year seem to be even more monstrous. Some of the mazes you can wait up to 75 minutes or more on a crowded night. If you bring a group, or have a couple of good friends to chill with it might not be so bad if you have to wait. My recommendation would be to either get a front of the line pass or make sure you go on a weeknight when it is much less crowded. This is a massively cool event for horror fans, and this year they’ve amped it up even further with more mayhem and mazes. This is a bloody blast that is worth experiencing; however it might be worth checking out on a school night. Except of course for the nightmares that will haunt you afterwards… Just pray they don’t follow you home!