Presenting the best that Disneyland and Universal Studios offers for the scariest time of the year.
By Charly SHELTON
Who doesn’t like to get scared? Well, I’m sure that there are some out there who don’t care for the thrill that comes from a good fright, but for most of us a good-natured Halloween scare does us good.
Some local haunts, like Disneyland, provide scares suitable for kids and teens with Halloween-themed decorations and merchandise along with more lighthearted fare. But for more adventurous scarers, Universal Studios presents its Halloween Horror Nights again this year. With six mazes including The Thing: Assimilation, House of 1,000 Corpses, and Hostel, there is something for every level of scare comfort in the L.A. area.
Disneyland brings back its Halloweentime celebration again to delight the young and young-at-heart alike with its fun activities like Haunted Mansion Holiday, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and Halloween Screams Fireworks Spectacular. Haunted Mansion Holiday is a tradition going back to 2001 when Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, found the Haunted Mansion at the Disneyland Resort. He felt right at home among the gravestones and ghosts, but something was missing. So around the end of September 2001, he decided to bring Christmas to the Haunted Mansion the same way he did for his own Halloweentown in his 1993 movie, Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Ever since 2001, Haunted Mansion Holiday has been such a hit that the Disney Company has invited Jack and his friends back every year to the Mansion to make Christmas for all the guests from Halloweentime till early January. This is great for kids and anyone who is looking for a little fun with a Goth-kid twinge rather than a scare.
If Haunted Mansion Holiday isn’t your cup of tea and you’re looking for a little more of a thrill with some creepy overtones, head over to Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy to be launched into the deepest reaches of a haunted galaxy where the nebula comes alive and literally chases your space ship through the galaxy as you flee from him. This is an amazing ride, not only from the point of view of a guest and reviewer, but also from an imagineering stance. To turn this beloved ride into a horror experience for one month out of the year and still be believable is impressive. This one is a little scarier, definitely not for little kids. If you think you can handle a ride with a little scare, definitely give it a chance. But get there early for a Fastpass or expect to stand in line for a while.
Closer to home, Universal Studios is hosting its annual Halloween Horror Nights with six mazes, some of which are actually pretty good. The six mazes are The Thing: Assimilation (based on the upcoming Universal movie which is a prequel to John Carpenter’s “The Thing”), La Llorona (as imagined by Diego Luna, this is the classic folk tale of a mother who drowns her children and is so ridden with guilt that she kills herself and becomes a ghost who wanders the earth moaning for the loss of her kids and steals other children from their beds to join hers in death), Alice Cooper’s Nightmare (based on the songs of Alice Cooper, legendary singer and terrifying man), The Wolfman (based on the Universal remake starring Benicio del Toro), Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses (based on the 2003 film and returning to Universal’s maze lineup for the second year in a row), Hostel (based on Eli Roth’s truly disturbing horror films of the same name) and the fan favorite from last year, Terror Tram, this year starring Ghost Face from the Scream franchise.
The wait times for each maze can be upwards of an hour, so be sure that you choose your mazes wisely. The number one best maze to wait for is the Terror Tram. Guests board the legendary Studio Tour trams, only to be dropped off for a haunted walking tour on the backlot near Whoville, just around the corner from the infamous Bates Motel and the house on the hill where Norman Bates’ mother sits taunting him from her window. Guests follow the path around the motel, up a dark dirt road and up to the War of the Worlds set where a real 747 jet has demolished a neighborhood. Getting to walk through these sets is awesome enough, but then to have it become a Halloween maze makes it even better. Definitely worth the wait.
The maze with the best scares is Hostel. On the lower lot, guests can come into a youth hostel to see the torture scenes from the movies of the same name. Now the situations are scary, but the way the scares are designed is the real gem – a “scare-actor” will jump out on one side, causing you to jump back just as another scare-actor pops out from behind you to give you a double scare. It is a ping-pong ball effect that works really well. This maze is definitely worth the wait.
Finally, The Thing: Assimilation has the best sets and look to the maze proper. The giant monster bug Things are really well done and the use of plastic strips hanging between rooms to keep the “Arctic Station” closed off makes for really good scares. This reporter actually hit the floor screaming from this maze. It wasn’t so much a scream as it was a battle cry. A macho, manly battle cry, not a little girl shriek, and I don’t care who laughed – it was a battle cry. But this was an a-maze-ing maze that is definitely worth the wait.
For those of you who don’t want to wait, the Gate A pass is a great idea. For about $20 more, you can cut straight to the front of the line, one time, for every maze. It will save you some time and make the whole event less stressful.
So whether it’s Haunted Mansion Holiday or The Thing, have fun this Halloween season and be safe.