In a way, the big event at Halloween Horror Nights is the Terror Tram. Sure, Universal Studios has its Nightamre on Elm Street, Fright the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre mazes, plus House of Horrors, and they’re all good scream-inducing entertainment. But nobody – not Knott’s Scary Farm, the Queen Mary Shipwreck, or the Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest – has anything to compare on this scale: a lengthy walk through the studio’s massive back lot, including the Bates Motel, the Psycho House, the WAR OF THE WORLDS plane crash, and various other vignettes added especially for the season, all of them haunted by lurking monsters and madmen.
Letting people get off the tram was first tested in 2006, and it worked well, with the plane crash area infested by brain-eating zombies. 2007 expanded the tour a bit and added glimpses of the three “modern” horror characters that Universal licensed from New Line Cinema (Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface).
For 2008, the tour has been expanded again. There is a length detour uphill through an unpaved wooded area, where unwary campers are at the mercy of Jason Voorhees. The completely real, outdoor setting is perfect for the character, who is most famous for lurking in the woods around Camp Crystal Lake.
There is also a short maze haunted by Leatherface, but this is not very elaborate: a few flimsy walls and some sheets hanging in the wind. Nevertheless, its a step in the right direction, creating a more focused kind of fear. (Some of the time, the back lot feels like a generic “scare zone,” where free-roaming ghouls wander in the shadows without clear direction.)
Freddy’s there, too, performing mayhem on helpless victims and flashing his trademark gloved hand. We’re not sure that the plane crash area really resembles Elm Street, but it certainly offers some nightmarish imagery that could be taken to suggest that you are walking through a bad dream.
Our only real complaint is that the inclusion of the slasher icons leaves little room for more traditional horrors. Norman Bates and Mother are still in residence at the Bates Motel and the Psycho House, but that’s about it for classic horror. You would think the Wolf Man (subject of a remake starring Benicio Del Toro) might have been given some room to run wild in the woods, but no such luck. Universal has so many untapped resources, we simply wished that had used the back lot to take more advantage of them.
Anyway, check it all out on video.