It's a brave, new world of information soundbites in which we live. Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood has been twittering updates to rabid fans for weeks, regarding this year's Halloween Horror Nightsin October. Delivered in bits and pieces, this fragmentary information is little better than a box of unassembled jig-saw puzzle pieces, but gradually a picture of the 2009 haunt is emerging, and the picture is not pretty. Basically, the studio seems to have little confidence in its own classic horror legacy, so it continues to sub-contract other horror franchises in order to appeal to today's audiences. The result sounds like a hodge-podge of gore and camp with little genuine Halloween flavor.
Halloween Horror Nights 2009 will present four new walk-through mazes, four new scare zones, an upgraded back lot Terror Tram, and a new "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" production, along with “Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute.”
This year's mazes are not particularly promising:
- Saw: Game Over, based on the torture porn film franchise that has overstayed its welcome.
- Halloween: The Life and Crimes of Michael Myers, which at least has the benefit of being being oriented to the season.
- A "multi-sensory" (whatever that means) My Bloody Valentine - Be Mine 4 Ever, based on the recent 3-D remake, whose very name suggests an entirely different holiday.
- Chucky's Fun House, an attempt to milk the wise-cracking killer doll one more time.
The strategy here seems to be to go for the gore with a more modern approach, but many of these franchise are long in the tooth. Chucky is as much a has-been as any classic movie monsters. Michael Myers and MY BLOOD VALENTINE are contemporary only because they have recently been remade. SAW still has its audience, but the originality leeched out of the concept about three sequels ago.
More interesting are new scare zones, which offer a bit more variety in concept:
- Shaun of the Dead, which sounds like a lot of fun. I'm hoping they recreate Shaun's daily walk from home to work, when his familiar surroundings have been zombified.
- Welcome to Hell, which will depict the Seven Deadly Sins being punished by stilt-walking demons using pyrotechnics for flashy effect.
- Meat Market, which will feature butchers carving up carcasses for consumption amidst the rolling fog.
- Freakz, in which the cast of carnival sideshow have developed a taste for human flesh. (Couldn't we just send them over to the Meat Market?)
In addition, Universal Studios promises a "a more intense, interactive horror experience" with this year's new Terror Tram: Live or Die, which is described as a "walk-through attraction on the historic Universal back lot." The length of the walking portion of the Terror Tram tour has increased each Halloween since 2006, so I'm optimistic that this will represent a genuine expansion of the attraction, not just hype.
Also new this year is the Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute - which promises to "bring the mayhem of the classic horror spoof to life on-screen and on-stage with live performers singing and dancing in the celebrated, outrageous “Rocky Horror” costumes." Auditions were held yesterday, to find dancers who want to do the "Time Warp" again and again, through the sixteen nights that Halloween Horror Nights will run this October. I seldom have time or patience for sitting through these shows, but this one has potential to generate some laughs and giggles while you rest your feet for twenty minutes before resuming your tour of the park.
All the usual rides and attractions will also be open, many of them with a Halloween flavor added for the season: The Simpsons motion-simulator; Revenge of the Mummy; and Jurassic Park in the Dark.
Halloween Horror Nights starts on Friday, October 2 and continues on these dates: 3, 9-11, 15-18, 23-25, 28-31. Hours are nightly from 7:00pm; closing varies.
UPDATE: Tickets for the Halloween Horror Nights event went on sale today.