With another Halloween looming over the horizon, Universal Studios Orlando is reviving its annual Halloween Horror Nights, bringing together the most recognizable horror properties on the planet and original content to offer visitors a horrifyingly fun experience.
This year's event is its biggest yet, debuting more houses than any other year while still offering guests the immaculate production value you've come to expect from the park, delivering a variety of chills and thrills to delight a wide range of interests.
Along with its record-breaking attractions, along with it will come record-breaking crowds, which will oftentimes result in a guest having to make decisions about how they spend their evening, as many of their popular attractions will see more than 90-minute waits to enjoy the attraction. Whether you're limited on time or need to prioritize the various activities, we've ranked the event's attractions for production value, narrative engagement, and overall entertainment value for anyone planning to attend.
Whether it be a full-blown haunted house or merely a Scare Zone which allows visitors to walk through on their way to the next major attraction, we've ranked them all. Scroll down to see how the attractions stack up!
16) 'Seeds of Extinction' - Haunted House
After a meteor has struck the earth, humanity is eradicated as otherworldy vegetation has grown to deadly proportions. From intimidating vines to razor-sharp thorns, everything green could potentially kill you, causing death as it spreads its life.
Much of this maze's production value relies on the decay of a former town, from school buses to diners, which are all impressive. The drawback to covering an entire haunted attraction in greenery is it's difficult to distinguish one set piece from the next, while human performers are relegated to shocking you while dressed as ambiguous green monsters.
The experience is uncomfortable, as you'll regularly be the victim of erratic drips of liquid, making you wonder if this is part of the experience or merely the air conditioning system sprung a leak. The experience is sure to appeal to some, but the promise of the concept left us ultimately underwhelmed by the experience.prevnext
15) 'The Harvest' - Scare Zone
Perhaps in hopes of whetting a visitor's appetite for what their night will hold, "The Harvest" is meant to be a treasure trove of items that are collected from all the various haunted houses at this year's events. Whether it be a Castle Byers sign referencing the Stranger Things maze or a Jack-o'-lantern paying tribute to Trick 'r Treat, "The Harvest" is full of cool set pieces that are lurked by monstrous hay bales and straw creatures.
This scare zone houses many staples of the fall season and is sure to build excitement for what to expect throughout your evening, yet anthropomorphized hay bales don't exactly instill fear into the hearts of guests. The area is still worth a visit for seeing staples of the Halloween season, though you shouldn't have to worry about spending much time there.prevnext
14) 'Academy of Villains: Cyberpunk' - Show
Universal Studios Orlando describes the event, "With a wicked mix of dance, acrobatics, and theatrics, Academy of Villains is back for an all-new performance of pounding synths and neon lights."
The narrative of the show takes place three hundred years into the future where humanity is on the run from a cyborg threat which seeks to infiltrate and infect what remains of the species.
The dancing talent on display is impressive, combined with ear-shattering techno beats and explosions in an event that is sure to recharge your batteries. The show itself might not necessarily be as horrific as anything else the park has to offer, yet it is sure to give you a burst of energy after a long night of waiting in various lines, making you glad you aren't as tired as the performers surely will be when the evening is over.prevnext
13) 'Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces' - Haunted House
The business of traveling carnivals has seemingly died, leading those who used to rely on the showcases as their livelihood to head into the shadows as their big top decays around them. The former carnies don't take kindly to strangers, as macabre versions of sideshow staples let the guests know they're unwelcome while showing off the fatal consequences of the poor souls who happened to wander into their tent.
If you think carnivals are creepy, this maze is sure to unsettle you, as it brings you twisted versions of the characters you'd come to expect from such a location for a number of eerie set pieces. If you aren't big into carnival culture, however, this house might not offer you much in the way of surprises.prevnext
12) 'Vamp '85' - Scare Zone
A major theme found throughout all of this year's events is a celebration of the '80s, so it comes as no surprise that one scare zone takes place right in the middle of the decade.
On New Year's Eve, 1985, partygoers prepare to ring in the new year in an area littered with '80s stereotypes. Unbeknownst to them, a group of vampires has a much deadlier plan for celebrating the occasion as they let loose their primal instincts to kick off 1986 soaked in blood.
The area has plenty of comedic caricatures of who we'd expect to see at a party in the mid-'80s, while also offering vampiric interpretations of such characters. Additionally, the area features a stage and a blasting sound system to emphasize the party atmosphere, with the scare actors offering guests plenty of funny photo opportunities.
When the vampires tear into the crowd while blasting The Misfits' "We Bite," you'll feel like you stepped right into the world of The Lost Boys.prevnext
11) 'The Horrors of Blumhouse' - Haunted House
Blumhouse Productions has delivered some of the most memorable horror films and franchises of the last decade, with this haunted house offering you tastes of two of their recent thrillers, Happy Death Day and The First Purge.
The first half of the maze plunges you into the nightmare of what it would be like to live the same day over and over again, each day ending with your murder at the hands of an unknown killer. The overall structure mostly follows the "Masked Killer Jumps Out and Kills People" format, though guests will truly begin to feel disoriented and overwhelmed as they make their way through the same exact dorm room multiple times throughout your journey, heightening the unease you'll feel along the way.
After being properly disoriented, the next alarm you hear is the signal that the annual Purge has begun, taking you through a primal display of makeshift disguises used by killers embracing their bloodlust. This chunk of the house adequately captures the feeling of being thrust into a lawless society in ways which the films themselves don't always succeed at doing.prevnext
10) 'Revenge of Chucky' - Scare Zone
Everyone's favorite killer doll is back and, as the name implies, he's out for revenge.
After having starred in seven films, audiences know there's only one Chucky, which this scare zone takes to heart. Rather than having multiple pint-sized killers running rampant, the area is full of other horrifying toy store terrors which have seemingly been brought to life by Chucky's voodoo incantations, from sinister dolls to oversized teddy bears, all of which look like they'd tear you apart.
The area features multiple set pieces themed after familiar toys, with Chucky himself appearing at one to taunt, tease, and terrorize guests. The attraction captures Chucky's antagonist nature, foul mouth, and proclivity for voodoo rituals, yet it's the creative original set pieces that bring more charm to this event.prevnext
9) 'Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers' - Haunted House
Halloween Horror Nights has featured various incarnations of Michael Myers over the years, with the 30th anniversary of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers signalling the perfect opportunity for the masked killer to return to the park.
The maze mostly follows the trajectory of the film itself and Myers' warpath after he wakes up from a coma, seeking his niece Jamie. Dr. Loomis is never far behind, as we see the two face off in multiple locations before they meet for a "fatal" encounter.
Much like Halloween 4 aimed to make up for Myers' absence from Halloween III: Season of the Witch by overwhelming audiences with the killer, so does this haunted house, delivering Myers around virtually every corner. While you might find out it is possible to get too much Michael Myers, this maze also featured one of the strongest narratives for guests to follow.prevnext
8) 'Slaughter Sinema' - Haunted House
As evidenced by houses like "Seeds of Extinction," not all of the interesting concepts created by the Halloween Horror Nights team requires an entire house devoted to them, with "Slaughter Sinema" offering visitors the biggest bang for their buck.
Modeled after a trip to your local grindhouse for a marathon of B-movies, "Slaughter Sinema" delivers multiple set pieces, ranging from "Cult of the Beast Baby" to "Amazon Cannibals from Hell." Around every corner, visitors are treated to completely different vignettes, which makes "Slaughter Sinema" the attraction most likely to deliver everyone in your party something to be excited about.
The variety of horrors means that each individual guest will have ups and downs in their anxiety when they pass through areas in which they do or don't connect with the vignette, allowing everyone to appreciate the things they do like that much more thoroughly. At the end of the adventure, discussing which area you enjoyed most and why is an added benefit of the whole experience.prevnext
7) 'Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After' - Haunted House
In this fifth incarnation of the "Scary Tales" premise which, as you might have deduced from the punny titles, offers disturbing twists on familiar tales. From the Three Little Pigs to Humpty Dumpty, guests are treated to truly gruesome reimaginings of iconic pieces of folklore.
Given how most fairytales already include a fair amount of creepy subject matter, whether that be from the inclusion of witches or monstrous animals, blending the macabre with children's stories is well-worn territory for horror. This version of "Scary Tales," however, doesn't pull its punches with its horrifc subject matter and depicts some truly disturbing imagery with each vignette. Many fairytales are inherently in the PG-13 realm, but "Deadly Ever After" offers visitors some full-blown R-rated gore that is sure to surprise guests.prevnext
6) 'Twisted Tradition' - Scare Zone
A frustrating component of attending an outdoor attraction in Orlando, Florida in the middle of September is that, even at night, it can be 90-plus degrees, reminding you that chilly fall weather will have to wait many more weeks. Luckily, "Twisted Tradition" totally transports you away from the sticky Florida heat and onto the streets of a small Midwestern town on a chilly October night.
A much more effective version of "The Harvest," this scare zone leans into, as the title implies, traditional Halloween iconography that is a joy to walk through, even without any scares. Virtually everywhere you look, you'll see lit Jack-o'-lanterns, including in the trees overhead.
The Scare Zone still offers some startling components, mostly thanks to trick-or-treaters in antiquated Halloween costumes, giving you the feeling that you stumbled not only to a different part of the country, but to a completely different decade, where you'd have to check your candy apples for razorblades due to the disturbing tricks of the local residents.prevnext
5) 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space' - Scare Zone
Thanks to its blend of humor, horror, and heavy metal soundtrack, Killer Klowns from Outer Space has a devout fan-following, and for good reason. We doubt anyone who has ever seen the movie would ever think Halloween Horror Nights would spend the time and money to dedicate an entire Scare Zone to the film, which makes walking through it so enjoyable.
As the name implies, the film focused on a group of aliens who appear as clowns and began wrapping up victims in cotton candy which would liquify them, leaving these clowns to slurp their remains through a straw.
As you walk past screen-accurate costumes and masks while brushing passed seemingly cocooned victims enshrouded in cotton candy, it's hard not to have a giant smile on your face, all while you hear the signature guitar riffs from the film blasting through the streets. The appeal of the film is in its absurdity, with this Scare Zone being more fun than frightening, though wholly entertaining.prevnext
4) 'Dead Exposure: Patient Zero'
This haunted house delivers guests the zombie infection that is missing from the rest of the event, ultimately offering attendees arguably the most unsettling experience of the evening.
A key component of "Dead Exposure: Patient Zero" is that, as guests in the maze are inoculated on entry, your vision is impeded, with a majority of the maze taking place in darkness. Of course, were the entire maze to be shrouded in darkness, we wouldn't get to enjoy its many horrors, with the maze using heavy doses of strobe effects to disorient guests and manipulate the ways in which we perceive the fast-moving monsters contained in the attraction.
Moments into the experience, we found ourselves surrounded by stacks of cages full of shrieking chimpanzees, reminiscent of the opening moments of 28 Days Later. From there, the terror only got worse, as "Dead Exposure" delivered the biggest assault to most of your senses that you'll find in the entire park. Narratively, the maze left much to be desired, but as far as a purely visceral reaction, you won't find anything as terrifying as a stroll through this maze.prevnext
3) 'Stranger Things' - Haunted House
One element of Netflix's Stranger Things is its feeling of nostalgia, yet the maze inspired by the series feels quite fresh.
Following the narrative of the first season, this maze takes your from the laboratory from which the Demogorgon escaped through the Byers' house, into the Upside Down and out the other side to Eleven's telepathic showdown with the monster. Thanks to the incorporation of the series' official soundtrack, fans of the series will love walking through the first season's most iconic moments, bumping into Joyce Byers and her pleas for help while having to duck out of the way of Chief Hopper firing shots at the beast.
While guests do get a throwback vibe as we walk through a bedroom blasting The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" which is adorned in '80s accoutrement, we plunge deep into the Upside Down itself, including an effective recreation of the bizarre physics of the realm which allow for floating ash.
If you love Stranger Things, you'll love this maze, and if you aren't a fan of the series, you'll appreciate the production value (while complaining to your friends about the long wait times at the event's most popular attraction).prevnext
2) 'Poltergeist' - Haunted House
A definitive film in the haunted house subgenre, Poltergeist has been overlooked in recent years when compared to contemporary "classics" like The Conjuring or Paranormal Activity. Luckily, Halloween Horror Nights brings the film back to its rightful glory with an exceptional blend of recounting the film's narrative and delivering massive scares.
In the film, little Carol Anne is taken into a ghostly dimension, leading a family to seek the help of experts in the paranormal field to bring her back. In the haunted house, it's the guests themselves that travel to this realm and are tasked with rescuing the girl, but only if they can handle the horrifying entities the other side has to offer.
Taking a page directly from the film's playbook, this haunted attraction combined twisted versions of real-world objects to instill fear in guests with terrifying specters that lunge out at you, offering a variety of horrifying moments. Each moment section through the maze amps up the intensity as you go deeper, making it the highlight of Halloween Horror Nights when it comes to delivering an exciting narrative, fulfilling scares, and an immersive set design.prevnext
1) 'Trick 'r Treat' - Haunted House
The 2007 film Trick 'r Treat might not have made a big splash upon its straight-to-video release, though it has gone on to become a beloved favorite in the horror community for its depictions of all the things that make Halloween special. Much like the film itself, its haunted house tribute recreates every last detail about the film to deliver guests a complete Halloween experience in a manner of minutes.
The film is comprised of multiple short vignettes that represent various components of Halloween traditions, from the dangers of playing a prank on your friends that goes too far, the repercussions of denying trick-or-treaters candy, or the aftermath of eating candy without checking it for hazards.1comments
As far as scares are concerned, visitors hoping for a heart-stopping experience should stick with the Poltergeist or "Dead Exposure" mazes, but as far as getting into the spirit of the season, this Trick 'r Treat-inspired maze is hands-down the most gratifying experience of the evening. With the film itself relying on a real-world atmosphere that is heightened by Halloween staples like jack-o'-lanterns, fog, and costumed characters, the maze feels like you have stepped right into your TV and into the world of the film, down to the most minute of details.
If you only do one thing at Halloween Horror Nights, nothing will get you into the Halloween spirit as effectively as the Trick 'r Treat-inspired maze.prev