Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort is relying heavily on media tie-ins this year, including Silent Hill (of which I have a lights-on tour video), The Walking Dead, Vegas magicians Penn & Teller, and rocker Alice Cooper.
I don’t have strong feelings one way or another on media-based houses vs. originals. Some of my favorites have had a tie-in, like Saw and Freddy, while originals like Catacombs, Leave it to Cleaver, and Havoc also rank among my top picks in years past.
This year, I’m shocked to say that over the past month, Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare has risen the ranks to become my favorite Halloween Horror Nights of 2012. I’m not an Alice Cooper fan, so I never expected to give him a high ranking. However, it wins on general good haunted house criteria, and the Alice tie-in doesn’t really matter one way or another to me. Instead of worrying about how it ties to the album, just go in and enjoy.
At the beginning of the season, The Walking Dead and House of Horrors vied for my top slot. The former slipped rapidly because it seems to be much tamed down from its vicious aggressiveness in the 2012 season’s early days. The latter is still a favorite, but it’s something of a one trick pony. It relies on darkness and strobes for its effect, and this is true throughout the whole place. That makes for great scares, but it’s lost a bit of its appeal for me as the weeks have gone by because I like more scenes and types of scares.
Meanwhile, Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare at Halloween Horror Nights has retained its aggressiveness, and it incorporates a number of different scare elements. It has jump scares, strobes, scareactors in the ceiling, and a suitably freaky finale where you might get ganged up on. I prefer a scareactor-heavy ending rather than a finale that has one or two major timing-dependent elements that can easily be missed if you walk through at the wrong time.
The Alice Cooper house is very old-school in terms of effects, and it has a lot of scenes laid out in various rooms. The strobe area is suitably disorienting, and there are several spots as you walk through where stealthy scareactors can hide and target you.
Gothic has also risen in my rankings, mainly due to its visual beauty. It’s a lovely attention for detail, with some truly sweeping expanses that make good use of the soundstage, and it has decent aggressive scares, too. You can see some of it in my lights-on tour.
However, when Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort is shuttered for the season, I think Welcome to My Nightmare is going to be the venue I miss the most.