Universal Studios Orlando just unveiled its full slate for Halloween Horror Nights 2022, and it’s scary good. This year includes 10 haunted houses, five scare zones, two live shows, as well as an after-hours selection of the theme park’s ride attractions (Petition to keep E.T. Adventure open during the event).
The Universal Monsters headline the event in a two-parter house Universal Monsters: Legends Collide that will exist in both Orlando and Hollywood. At HHN East, part one will invite classic monster-heads to see the first chapter of the overarching battle between The Wolfman, Dracula, and the Mummy for a cursed amulet with mysterious powers they all seek. The fight to the death, with rotating winners of course, has its own standalone conclusion but plays into a part two of sorts at Universal Studios Hollywood. This one is the one I’m most interested to see as these mazes have recently served as theme park sequels to the classic Universal Monsters films like last year’s The Bride of Frankenstein LIVES!
As far as the other “big” movie IP goes, I gotta admit this year is a little underwhelming so far. We’ve got another take on another house based on John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was last done in 2014 (2015 in Hollywood). Music superstar The Weeknd seeks to take us into his twisted mind with slasher motifs and modern Argento vibes all set to his music in After Hours Nightmare, which could work if his creepy Super Bowl halftime show from last year is any indication. Then Blumhouse will bring The Black Phone’s The Grabber and their teen killer from Freaky. This all is wild in a year where Netflix could have collaborated on a house based on Stranger Things, which really upped the ante with Vecna, and even with Fear Street, which was long rumored on HHN speculation maps.
Thankfully where Horror Nights Orlando stands apart is with its own roster of original theme park universe characters and stories. Last year, I got to experience HHN Icons: Captured— which was essentially the cliff-notes that provided the greatest hits of 30 years of interconnected stories and monsters like park icons Jack the Clown, The Storyteller, The Caretaker, and the central fictional locations they wreak havoc upon. So this year’s house offerings deliver on a bevy of rich horror sub-genres that range from supernatural fantasy, creature features and sci-fi thrillers.
Here are some brief descriptions of their original mazes from the Universal press release.
Guests will be invited to a lively 1920s speakeasy, but something sinister is brewing beneath in “Spirits of the Coven.” A coven of seemingly beautiful flapper witches will lure those who enter into a hidden brewing area. Once they’ve ensnared their victims, they’ll reveal their haggish true form and turn guests into a witch’s brew. They’ll be cackling; everyone else will be screaming.
While touring a 1950s home of the future, guests will be swarmed by hordes of revolting insects after a pest control system failure unleashes them. Many-legged horrors, growing, mutating and laying eggs in human hosts will worm their way into the deepest of fears. Those who dare enter will be dropping like flies in “Bugs: Eaten Alive.”
The mountains of Latin America are filled with many wonderful traditions. In one tiny village, they pay tribute to the legendary creature Chupacabras with an annual fiesta. In “Fiesta de Chupacabras,” there’s more to the legend than meets the eye. And in this colorful village, the streets are lined with the crimson blood of visitors.
They too do time for their crimes. In “Hellblock Horror,” guests will have to survive visiting hours in a secret penitentiary that houses treacherous monsters and fiends of all kinds that are hellbent on taking over and destroying the world. The interdimensional power core containing the inmates has failed and the monsters are breaking out of their cells, allowing them easy access to guests, and the exit.
There’s nothing charming about this ghostly New England fishing village. A phantom sea captain is summoning undead fishermen from their watery grave, a grisly crew with rotting, barnacle-encrusted bodies. Guests may have escaped their hooks in the “Dead Man’s Wharf” scare zone in 2016 – now they’d better batten down the hatches before they’re reeled in and drug under in “Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake.”
Deep in the subway tunnels below an abandoned, toxic city, mutated humans fight for survival in “Descendants of Destruction.” The deeper one goes, the darker their fate. In the fading light of the poisoned depths, hideous creatures who’ve long ago left their humanity behind prey on all who try to make their way through the darkness.
Orlando also goes all out with festively immersive scare zones, which even feature cult icon Lil’ Boo, the cutest jack-o-lantern you’ll ever meet. (It’s the Grogu of haunts.)
Here’s their list of scare zones for 2022, again from the Universal press release.
The Pumpkin Lord, the spirit of Halloween, has returned to take over this year’s event, summoning hordes of fiendish creatures including demons, ghosts and witches. Terror has taken root.
At an abandoned farm, scarecrow sentinels have risen from the crust of the earth to hunt souls and seek revenge. They’ll harvest the screams of those who dare enter this dilapidated barn.
The sweets from Major Sweets’ candy company have turned these 1950s kids into crazed killers. With pint-sized costumed maniacs roaming the streets, Halloween will be a night of trick or treat mayhem.
On All Hallow’s Eve, a dark storm descends upon a cemetery and awakens long-dead spirits. These specters rise from their graves to capture souls for all eternity. No one living can escape them.
An evil sorceress has entered twisted stone ruins and called forth monstrosities from dark dimensions. This Halloween, blood will feed her army of the night.
Finally there’s two live shows with a new original taking the place of the Universal Horror waterside sizzle reel, Marathon of Mayhem: Carnage Factory—but we still hope to see a cool montage of scary movie moments.
The show that sparked a firestorm last year is ablaze with a new nightmare. Guests can get fired up to the beat of metal, rock and electronica as pyro and aerial performers return to reignite fears.
As darkness falls, a ghost story becomes reality as guests go beyond the grave in a spectacularly spooky show on Universal Studios’ lagoon, featuring huge water screens and sinister music.
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando runs September 2 - October 31. All tickets and vacation packages are on sale now at www.universalorlando.com/halloween.
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