Appearing at Midsummer Scream on Saturday, August 3, 2019, John Murdy previewed this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, offering details on two mazes and several scare zones.
The big news was that, of this year’s ten mazes (an all-time high for the haunt), one will be based on Creepshow, both the 1985 film directed by George A. Romero from Stephen King’s script and the new television series on Shudder, overseen by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead, which debuts on September 26 – while Halloween Horror Nights is open for business.
The project began last year when Nicotero, who has relationship with Halloween Horror Nights because of their Walking Dead attractions, mentioned the Creepshow series to Murdy, suggesting a maze. Hosted by The Creep (a riff on the Crypt Keeper from the old Tales from the Crypt comic books), Creepshow will recreate the style of Romero’s film, which emulated the look of classic horror comics with exaggerated colors and cartoony graphics, such as a red lighting bolt pattern seen behind actors at intense moments. There will also be graphics inspired by the outrageous ads and often obviously misleading ads seen in vintage comic books (e.g., “authentic” X-Ray vision glasses).
Set in the back lot of Universal Studios Hollywood, after the Toxxxic Tunnel scare zone, the maze will be structured like a horror-movie anthology, with a prologue, five stories, and an epilogue. Visitors will walk into comic book which comes to life with panels that foreshadow stories to come. The first three stories are based on film, the last two on the series.
Up first is “Father’s Day,” about a man murdered by his daughter who returns on the titular day seeking revenge and cake. “The Crate” features a small but lethal monster (nicknamed Fluffy by the film’s effects crew, though the name is not used in the film). Fluffy is rather short, so actor playing the part in the maze will be in a monster suit from the waist up, with the lower half of his body embedded beneath set. The final section inspired by the film, “They’re Creeping Up on You,” recreates the climactic moment of bugs bursting out of a corpse. Since releasing real cockroaches in a maze is impractical, the effect will be achieved with digital imagery projected on a live actor, lying on slant board so that, except for his head and shoulders, most of his body will be hidden beneath the set.
The last two sections of the maze are based on episodes 4 and 5 the upcoming series. “Grey Matter” involves some strange human mutation. “Bad Wolf Down” sees World War II soldiers stumbling upon an enemy stronghold with caged cells that were housing something even more dangerous than expected in a battle zone…perhaps werewolves?
Holidayz in Hell was the only other maze discussed in any detail. Based on a concept used previous scare zones, the walk-through begins on New Year’s and proceeds chronologically. The twisted depictions of traditional holidays were inspired by vintage greeting cards, which sometimes look rather creepy by our contemporary standards. Other sources of inspiration include an abandoned nursery in Chernobyl.
Like last year’s Universal Monsters maze, which was directly followed by the Monster’s Masquerade Scare Zone, Holidayz in Hell will lead to a scare zone that continues the theme – in this case, Christmas in Hell, featuring Satan Claus.
Other scare zones include Fallen Angelz, All Hallow’s Evil, and Spirits & Demons of the East. The latter two are designed to incorporate new supernatural elements not seen previously at Halloween Horror Nights. Inspired by Samhain, All Hallow’s Evil will feature pagan imagery, including The Green Man and Wendigo stilt-walkers. Spirits & Demons of the East will delve into mythology from China and Japan, including dragon demons and the archetypal long-hair ghost girl – depicted in over-sized form by stilt-walkers adopting a four-legged posture (that is, stilts for arms and legs – the first time this technique has been utilized at Halloween Horror Nights).