Halloween Horror Nights Rises from the Dead

“The Bride of Frankenstein” maze should be at the top of the list of every attendee.
Photos by Charly SHELTON


Last year there wasn’t a Halloween. The world was actually scary enough and it didn’t allow for the fake, fun scary that is found in the annual theme park haunt events. Although I understand and vehemently agree with the shutdown procedures, I still missed having these events. But this year’s haunts have risen from the grave – with a vengeance – and I am super excited they have. Universal Studios Hollywood just opened its Halloween Horror Nights event and, although expectations were high going in, they were surpassed by the quality found at year’s outing.

Though there were relatively fewer and smaller mazes than in recent years, the event felt just as robust as always. The biggest difference was the crowd levels. In years past, it was not uncommon to see wait times in the hundreds of minutes. But this year’s wait times were considerably shorter, topping out at about 50 minutes with occasional spikes to 75 minutes, then quickly coming back down. Overall, most mazes held between a five-minute and 30-minute wait for most of the night. Whether this is due to a more limited number of tickets being available, guest hesitancy to come out to the event, or better management of lines and crowd flow, it was a much more pleasant experience crowd-wise than in most recent years.

The mazes were a mix of new houses and returning properties, refreshed for this year’s outing. Old standbys like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Walking Dead” were trotted out again and were relatively unchanged. New entries – “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives” – entered the fray with original takes on the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House” and a reinvention of the classic monster storyline. “The Exorcist” was a property that debuted several years ago to disappointed guests; this year some of the problems were fixed and presented for a second try that (almost) made up for the original. “Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge” and “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” are mazes that, much like the films they are based on, are virtually indistinguishable from previous iterations in their respective series, with minor changes of costume or decoration to become a “new” maze. Not that anything is necessarily wrong with that, but for those looking to duck out early and can’t hit all the mazes at the event, these would be the ones to skip.

The Bride’s storyline puts her front-and-center as the mad scientist.

“The Bride of Frankenstein” maze should be at the top of the list of every attendee. This is hands-down, far and away, one of the best mazes Universal has ever done, putting it high in the running for one of the greatest mazes of all time. This original take on the Bride’s storyline puts her front-and-center as the mad scientist. Finding the mangled body of her husband in the wreckage beneath a collapsed windmill (as seen in the finale of the classic 1931 Universal Studios film), she does what she must to bring him back to life … again. When she finds that vampire blood is the secret to eternal life, she must go up against a horde of the undead to get enough of their blood to resurrect her hubby for good. With plenty of inventive twists and turns, great scares and some incredible mad scientist lab set pieces, this is one for the ages. The “Silver Scream Queenz” scare zone at the exit of the maze features the classic lady monsters from Universal properties including Anck-su-namun from “The Mummy,” Dracula’s daughters, the She-Wolf of London and more. It is one of the rare pieces of media anywhere that handles female representation well by making the Bride a character of her own, more than just the Monster plus one. In my limited male viewpoint, I can only speak to the subject of female representation in a purely academic sense seen through the lens of media. That being said, I think this maze does what many other female representation efforts have not – fleshed out a character in her own right, rather than her existence being predicated on the loneliness of a male monster and in doing so does not be patronizing or slapdash. To me, too often representation is just getting all the lady characters to go against the lady villain, i.e. “Avengers: Infinity War.” This maze puts the female monster as the lead and the creative team deserves much more credit for a job well done than they will likely get.

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights is on now with select nights through Halloween.