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Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Review

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood is back! Unfortunately, so are the black passageways that you may remember from 2017. Despite these empty corridors of nothingness, fans are eager to return and revel in the HHN experience, with its blend of returning maze favorites, updated storylines, new additions, three scare zones, and a show.

After Universal’s forced hiatus of 2020, we’ll do our best to show you why HHN was the hot ticket item on opening weekend. So come along with us…if you dare.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Review: The Mazes

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Since we attended with media credentials, we were put in a different entrance from the general public. Therefore, our perspective on Halloween Horror Nights 2021 might not represent that of the average attendee.

We entered the park behind a new area, not too far behind Diagon Alley in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The area was new to us because we’ve never previously experienced walkthroughs there. Our first thought was: they must’ve spaced the mazes out because of social distancing in order to avoid a log jam of a scarezones and mazes in the lower lot like in previous years.

Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House struck fear in the audience’s hearts and minds, but does the maze achieve the same effect? Entering the maze, we immediately felt immersed into the movie…or well series. We say ‘movie’ because our first experience with this storyline was with The Haunting  – the 1999 film that scared the bejeezus out of us. The maze did the same. Walking through, we have to say that it did feel like we were part of the story line – especially because of sets and props which looked high quality enough to make us feel like we were part of the series. Universal HHN Hollywood is famous (or infamous) for its repeated usage of black corridors and black cut-out windows; however, this worked nicely inside this maze. Since the whole scare is centered on what goes on in a dark, haunted mansion, the effect served to emulate walking through a shadowy hallway within Hill House.

The Curse of Pandora’s Box is a returning favorite from 2019. What monstrosities are inside Pandora’s Box you say? Well, when you explore Pandora’s Curiosity Shop, curiosity might just kill you. Ancient evils from all walks of life are continuously unleashed. Do you think you have what it takes to survive before everything in the box escapes? We really appreciated the props , which were  mainly in fluorescent colors which showed up great in photos and video. This maze was very heavy on the eye candy.

In The Exorcist, we took multiple trips to Regan MacNeil’s room, each separated by black corridors so you have time to expect what’s coming. Visiting the same room over and over may seem repetitious, but we did enjoy seeing Regan become more and more possessed each time, and the special effects emulated several different famous moments from the film’s exorcism.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was next on the list, located where you would normally find the last maze before the lower Lower lot. (We are glad we did not have to suffer through the logjam down there this year.) We entered the TCM house after sharing an awkward moment with a photographer-actor documenting the outside of the house, who gave us a sinister look as we entered. Inside, we noticed cowhide…or should we say human-hide plastered over the walls. In the second room, were bones and skeletons everywhere. In the third room we finally met Leatherface and good ol’ Grandpa Sawyer, who  took a swing at us. After that, nearly every room featured Leatherface either mutilating a victim or coming after us, and we enjoyed not knowing which version of Leatherface it would be.

On the Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge, park-goers get tricked onto a tram tour on Purge Night. This was, surprisingly, the best maze/walkthrough experience of the night. We liked being dropped off in the middle of the Purge, feeling helpless and desperate to evade the franchise’s most iconic characters. We loved it because nothing repeats, and there are no black walls or corridors. The only thing amiss is the opening scene at Bates Motel, where you walk by a Norman Bates photo-op at the Psycho house, which doesn’t exactly fit with Purge Night.

In Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives, the Bride was ready to wreak vengeance and take on everyone, along with Dracula’s brides. The Bride of Frankenstein takes on the role of doctor in an effort to resurrect her dead lover. Cleverly, each scene had a giant story book with the chapter number labeled on it. The sets weren’t bad either; it definitely felt like being inside a dungeon or an underground lab inside a castle. Very minimal black corridors here. The end of this maze leads to the Silver Scream Queenz scarezone (more on which below).

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers gave us exactly that. Though old sets were used from previous years, they did give The Shape an updated look which was relative to the new Halloween movie coming out October 15th this year. (Of course, from the trailer, we would expect a Michael Myers with fire damage to his head, and we were able to see just that.) What was a bit jarring was Dr. Loomis wearing a face mask; since that character existed long before any current pandemic, it was hard to be immersed into the story after seeing that. However, the rest of the maze was pretty much normal enough. Halloween 4 utilizes lots of black corridors/walls/windows and holographic walls which fade when it’s time for The Shape to come in for the kill. This is probably the only maze where we did not mind seeing Michael Myers on repeat with the same strobe/sound/pop-up scare effect in an all black corridor or quick-fading holographic wall. Something about these black walls – and not knowing when The Boogeyman will appear – makes it feel so organic. The final room was our favorite – full of mirrors and Michael Myers in black-light. Good luck!

We saved AMC’s The Walking Dead for last. Not because it was the best, but because it is a year-round attraction, and it is one of those “if time permit” things. We did notice that they turned up the intensity for Halloween: more actors and zombies and perhaps more fading holographic walls with zombies behind them.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Review: Scare Zones

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The park opened with the Chainsaw Rangers scarezone. Where Universal got this idea was puzzling to us. Some scare actors wore animal masks; some had chainsaws, and some look demon-ish? Consequently, this scare zone, between the water fountain and some pyrotechnic, blurred with Demon City, which is located immediately afterward.

In Demon City, you can expect what seems to be Lucifer’s goons and henchmen doing his bidding. No matter where you turn, you will find yourself face to face with demons straight from hell. If you are brave enough to hang around, you might be able to spot a neat prop bar called “Dante’s Bar.”

Silver Scream Queenz, was located next to The Bride of Frankenstein Lives maze. In this scare zone, the Bride of Frankenstein summoned an army of horror Queens from the silver screen to make all who enter scream. However, we noticed some non-Queen (male horror characters) were also brought back to life to scare you as well.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Review: The Other Things

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The JABBAWOCKEEZ show is always on beat, providing a good rest-break. It allows you to get off your feet and enjoy music and fresh hip-hop/urban dance moves with creative video graphics and scintillating effects. And don’t forget their cute Covid face masks, available at the booth in front of the theatre. You should watch this if time permits, especially if you have the Universal Express pass.

New for this year, The Dia De Los Muertos Bar courtyard has a giant bar and open area for you to relax and to decompress. (Of course, Knott’s also has their own Dia De Los Muertos area. We’ll let you decide which is better.) Similarly, there is a hidden lounge (shhh, don’t tell anyone we told you this), between the Jurassic World ride and Jurassic Cafe on the second floor. Just follow the green neon lights….

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Review: Conclusion

Though Universal Halloween Horror Nights offered the same repeat scares that regulars are familiar with, it seemed that everyone was willing to overlook that in their enthusiasm to experience one of the premier haunted attractions in L.A. once again. We often talked about the sameness and familiarity of the scares, which make HHN predictable. However, with a sold-out crowd during the first weekend, it was clear that the haunt-goers did not mind the repetition and the black walls and window openings. A good portion of scare actors wore generic face masks inside the mazes, which diminished the immersive impact of being inside the story. However, it is L.A. County, and they are able to open so we’ll take what we can.

We were able to enjoy pretty much everything HHN has to offer. Those purchasing General Admission tickets might not be so lucky. We highly recommend the Universal Express pass if you want to do it all. With the popular mazes having as much as a 75 minute wait time on a weeknight, we can’t imagine how crowded the weekends will be.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Ratings
  • 95%
    Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge - 95%
  • 90%
    Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives - 90%
  • 90%
    The Curse of Pandora’s Box - 90%
  • 90%
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - 90%
  • 85%
    Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers - 85%
  • 85%
    AMC’s The Walking Dead - 85%
  • 80%
    Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House - 80%
  • 80%
    The Exorcist - 80%
  • 85%
    Demon City (Scare Zone) - 85%
  • 75%
    Silver Scream Queenz (Scare Zone) - 75%
  • 50%
    Chainsaw Rangers (Scare Zone) - 50%

Bottom Line

This year, Halloween Horror Nights offers the same repeat scares and black corridors regulars have come to expect, but after a hiatus last year due to the pandemic, it is easy to overlook the flaws and once again enjoy one of the most elaborate Halloween theme parks in Los Angeles.

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood continues on Thursdays through Sundays from September 16th to October 31st. Hours are 7pm to 1am weeknights; 7pm to 2am Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays. The address is 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 91608. Get more information from the official website here.

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 Photo Gallery


Media Correspondent, Videographer, Photographer @Hollywood Gothique, Halloween Fanatic.