The Latin-themed Halloween horror maze is fast becoming de rigeuer at Halloween events in Los Angeles. After Chupacabra and La Llarona, what is left? El Cucuy - the Boogeyman - that's who! The new El Cucuy maze at Halloween Horror Nights brings the folk-tale to life, with the elaborate production values that are the hallmarks of Universal Studios Hollywood. El Cucy is not the best maze on the lot, but it earns points for originality and for tying its horrifying themes in with the Halloween season (a surprisingly rare occurrence at Halloween theme park attractions).
The story unfolds with the assistance of narration read by actor Danny Trejo, but unless you stop and listen closely, you are unlikely to follow more than the general outline of the story (something about a child who sees a scary movie, encounters El Cucuy, and learns the unfortunate fate that awaits disobedient children).
The sets are sometimes a bit simpler than you expect from Universal Studios: empty black corridors, broken doll parts, and flat wooden fences with "missing children" flyers (in Spanish of course) suggest something more along the lines of the Knotts Berry Farm Halloween Haunt.
Fortunately, the demonic denizens of the maze are ugly and horrible enough to generate a thrill, especially among younger visitors. The usual discrete doors and false paintings provide plenty of surprise entrance points for the monsters to make sudden appearances, and El Cucuy's lair - inside a cave - is quite the nightmare abode, with dangling child-sized sacks and caged Jack-O-Lantern-headed humanoids (presumably depicting what happens to the aforementioned disobedient children).
The familiar burnt corpse prop - practically a perennial Halloween Horror Nights - makes an appearance near the end, spitting liquid on those who wander too close, and there is an old-fashioned music cue that sounds culled from the library of Universal Studios' classic horror movies - providing a felicitously melodramatic touch.
On the scare-scale, El Cucuy does not rank particularly high, but it is fun and at least a little bit difference. Check out the video to see for yourselves.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood runs on weekends through November 2. The address is 100 Universal City Plaza, Univeral City, CA 91608. Check out halloweenhorrornights.com for more info.