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Dispatch: Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights

Destination & Tourism | Barry Kaufman | September 19, 2015

Dispatch: Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights

Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort. All other photos by Barry Kaufman.

I write this from a countertop at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, gingerly nursing a morning coffee because its usually soothing heat is playing havoc on a throat shredded and worn by the effects of a night spent screaming.

It’s the morning after my first experience at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, and despite my throat’s complaints, it was amazing.

I was lucky enough to hop on an “R.I.P.” tour that hit all nine of the annual attraction’s haunted houses, wound through all five of its scarezones, and allowed a group of journalists to find out which one of them can scream the loudest.

The haunted houses are the big draw here, and they didn’t disappoint. Never straying too far from the tried-and-true strobe lights and jump scares formula that has defined haunted houses for decades, each takes its own theme and takes it in brilliantly terrifying directions. Expect the full house-by-house breakdown in another dispatch, but suffice it to say there’s plenty to see here.

Themes on these houses range from tried-and-true franchises like "The Walking Dead," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Friday the 13th" and "Insidious," to some home-grown creepiness like “Body Collectors” and “Asylum in Wonderland.”

In between the houses, the streets of Universal are flooded with roaming performers tasked with keeping you on your toes. As an insider tip, don’t look at any one of them too long and never walk and gander at one of the performers. That’s a different performer’s cue to take advantage of your inattentiveness by scaring the bejeezus out of you. These roving “scareactors” create some of the biggest scares of the night, popping as they do out of the darkness to rev a chainsaw or simply stare with menace. Insider tip: Watch where you’re walking. These guys love catching unawares those poor souls doing the walk and gawk.

An opening panel brought together Greg Nicotero and Chandler “Carl Grimes” Riggs, along with legendary horror and comedy director John Landis.

Landis, the director of "An American Werewolf in London," was on hand to discuss the haunted house based on his film. This year’s house is a faithful recreation of a AWiL haunted house from two years ago, with one difference.

“I went and saw it two years ago, and I was very happy but I said, ‘The wolves should be better. They’re good but they should be better,’” said Landis in the opening panel. “They called and said they wanted to do it again, and I said, ‘Great. You must step up with the wolves.' And I’m very happy to say they did.”

We’ll let you see for yourself:

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