So you don’t scare easy, right?
The 27th annual Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has arrived, boasting nine haunted houses, two live shows, nearly 1,000 of its famous “scare-actors,” infamous roaming chainsaw hoards and a myriad of visual and interactive displays throughout the park that require a posted statement in all of its campaigns:
“WARNING. Event may be too intense for children and is not recommended for children under 13. No costumes or masks allowed.”
Five of the nine houses portray stories and characters from popular horror movies and shows. These are “The Shining,” “Saw: The Games of Jigsaw,” “American Horror Story: Volume 2,” “Ash vs. Evil Dead” and “Horrors of Blumhouse,” based on the filmmakers’ “Insidious,” “Sinister” and “The Purge.”
The other four houses are built on the twisted imagination of Halloween Horror Nights creative directors. These are “Dead Waters,” “The Hive,” “Scarecrow: The Reaping” and “The Fallen.” “The Hive” is Halloween Horror Nights’ take on a vampire story, but according to Charles Gray, director of creative development for the houses, you should throw whatever you think you know about vampires out the window.
“These are nasty, disgusting, animalistic vampires,” Gray said, “In fact, half the cast has agreed to shave their heads completely bald. They are bald, we’ve taken their eyebrows off, given them prosthetic noses, long teeth, UV contacts and prosthetic ears. They look the part, like rats and bats.”
Each stop presents a uniquely terrifying scene, from depictions of the classic psychological thriller “The Shining” and the modern terrors of “American Horror Story: Volume 2,” to the flying demons of “The Fallen” and the towering 6-foot-3-inch haunted scarecrows of “Scarecrow: The Reaping.”
“Every year we try to check all the boxes,” said Gray. “Do we have a ghostly house? Yes. Do we have a super gory house? Yes. Do we have a house that’s maybe a little more fun or funny to go through? That’s Ash vs. Evil Dead ... Everybody has their thing, and we want to make sure your thing is in the event.”
Through Hollywood connections, Halloween Horror Nights creators are able to give guests a first look into highly anticipated films. Portions of “Horrors of Blumhouse” are based off of the script for “Insidious 4: The Last Key,” which is set to premiere in January. “Saw: The Games of Jigsaw” is also based on scenes from the upcoming movie, “Jigsaw,” the eighth movie of the franchise, set to open in October.
“When you walk through there, it’s like walking through a movie trailer,” Gray said. “Lots of gore in that house.”
Gray has worked with Universal Studios since 1993 and started his work with Halloween Horror Nights as a scare-actor in a house called “Bone Yard” during one of the first years. He has since risen through the ranks, now serving as director. As it takes a full year to pull something as massive as this event together, Gray is immersed in horror almost every day. Personally, Gray says the things that still always scare him are creepy kids and werewolves, adding, “the houses don’t scare me but the scare-actors do.”
Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights will run on select dates from Sept. 15 to Nov. 4. Tickets start at $59.99 on halloweenhorrornights.com. Universal Orlando provided the Halloween Horror Nights ticket for the writer of this article.