PHN 2009: Paul invades the Halloween Horror Nights Opening Night Media event!

One more update!  Check out another review of the opening night at Orlando Attractions!  These guys were in the same VIP group as me, and they were great fun!

This post will be at the top through the weekend – scroll down for the latest news!

Last night, I was invited to the opening night media event at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights: Ripped from the Silver Screen event.  How cool was it?  This cool:

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Me with Brian O' Halloran, from Clerks and Clerks 2!

Check out my full story after the jump!

The night started at 5:30 with the media check in.  As I walked up to the main gates of Universal Studios, the first thing I noticed is that, even an hour before the event was to open to the general public, the crowds outside the main gate were MASSIVE.  There were thousands of people already lined up, and even more in special “waiting areas” inside of the park, who paid extra for special early access to the haunted houses.

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The Usher welcomes visitors to Halloween Horror Nights

After waiting a while in the hot, sweaty sun, finally, John C. Reilly and the two main actors from the upcoming movie Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant were brought out and did a VERY short question and answer session with the audience.  They were up there for maybe 10 minutes, half of which was clips from the movie.  Still, the crowd loved Reilly, and the two other actors, Chris Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson, seemed pretty cool, and were genuinely excited about the movie, which looked better from the clips than from the trailers I’ve seen.

After that, we were lead to the media party, and man…was I impressed!  Tons of free food (including some delicious burgers) and, perhaps most importantly, a bar!

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Last year, I was deadly curious as to what was happening inside this theater. This year, I was in it!

Chatting it up with some of the other theme park site owners, including the guys from HHNVault, Orlando Attractions, Jim Hill Media, and Screamscape (four of my favorite sites), I was then given a brief opportunity to talk with J. Michael Roddy, show director for the event (the audio on the video is a bit crappy):

While talking to Roddy, he mentioned that Doug Jones (from Hellboy I and II, and Pan’s Labyrinth) was at the event, so I made it a point to seek him out and talk to him!  He and Brian O’Halloran (from Clerks and Brutal Massacre) were there recording for Fangoria Radio, and I was able to talk to them very briefly.  Jones said he was trying to study all things Frankenstein in (hopeful) preparations for Guillermo Del Toro’s Frankenstein movie.  He’s a super awesome guy and I really enjoyed talking to him!

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Doug Jones and a sweaty me (it was 94 degrees)!

After more drinks and more food, we were then split up into groups and given the VIP treatment, taken to all of the houses!  Here’s some quick thoughts on each one (with more pictures and thoughts coming when I hit the houses again next weekend!):

Universal Orlando Resorts UOR
From Dracula: Legacy in Blood

Dracula: Legacy in Blood: A Hollywood-level house in terms of set design and production values.  You walk through Castle Dracula and are greeted by his brides, and plenty of giant scares!  Really elaborate, and expertly done.

Frankenstein: Creation of the Damned: Much bloodier than I imagined!  Dr. Frankenstein has tried to rebuild his castle and perform experiments once more after it burning down.  Just as great as the Dracula house, with a great design on the Frankenstein Creature, and plenty of other good scares from his other experiments!

The Wolfman: My second favorite house of the night.  You walk through the story of the movie, through the woods as a man is infected with the curse of the Wolfman, and all the way through the asylum from the movie’s trailer.  This house was not only scary, it was absolutely amazing.  I’m hoping to get a behind the scenes, lights on look next week, so keep your eyes here for that!

Universal Orlando Resorts UOR
From Frankensteing: Creation of the Damned

Leave it to Cleaver: This one was a little disappointing.  The story of the house, about a butcher in Carey, Ohio who uses people for meat, could have been a lot of fun, playing off of the 60’s motif from the teaser art, but really felt more Texas Chainsaw Massacre than I was expecting.  Still, the final room, where you walk into the 60’s style butcher shop, was really cool.

The Spawning: My least favorite house.  Not only was it not scary, it felt a little lazy.  The design of the creatures reminded me of Sleestak (sp?) from Land of the Lost, and the maze itself was almost entirely sewer.  Nothing as imaginative as the blacklight/strobe light zombie sewer scene in Dead Exposure from last year.

Universal Orlando Resorts UOR
Friends to the End!

Chucky: Friends to the End: Much better than I expected!  You go through a toy factory that has been taken over by Chucky – you see giant mutant teddy bears and crazed army men!  Lots of fun stuff in this one – maybe not the scariest house, but a lot of work and love went into it.

Saw: I really wasn’t expecting much out of this, not being a huge fan of the Saw franchise (despite having seen all of them).  Fans of the movies will LOVE this house.  Having seen all of them, I was able to pick out all of the subtle hints to the movies, and the scenes being re-enacted.  Not only that, the house was scary, bloody, and intense.  Really well done.

Silver Screams: We saved the best for last.  I absolutely LOVED this house!  You walk into the Universal Palace Theater, which is uber-creepy, and are greeted by the Usher, and guided not only through his story, but through his favorite movie, including: Phantom of the Opera, Shaun of the Dead, Army of Darkness, The Thing, My Bloody Valentine, and The Strangers!  Universal went all out on this house, and between each movie, you go through a small lobby, where cleverly-designed posters showcase what’s in store for you in the next room.  In addition, you get more of the Usher’s backstory, and the tragedy that occurred at the theater.  Hit this one early folks – it’s the best of the bunch!

We also walked through all the scarezones, but I’ll have more thoughts and pictures on those next weekend.  Due to the frenetic pace of the tour, I wasn’t able to get much!

We also hit this year’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure Show! I wasn’t really thrilled about last year’s show, but this year’s was a lot of fun.  Lots of Star Trek jokes, and plenty of dirty humor.  A must if you’re attending the event!

Well, that’s it for my report on last night’s event!  I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck this morning, but it was totally worth it!  Like I said, keep it tuned here for more HHN news as I can get it!

Check out all of my opening night photos by clicking here!