When I was a wee lad (which, granted, was a heckuva long time ago), Halloween pretty much consisted of kids putting on cheap costumes and begging door-to-door for candy. The holiday has evolved into a huge deal today. It's a really huge deal at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Orlando. Arguably, they present the best theme park Halloween events – and possibly the best Halloween events anywhere – in the nation.
The movie-themed parks ring up their buddies at other film and TV studios and raid their own Universal archives to build inspired attractions based on popular horror franchises. Abetted by lavish sets and special effects, brand-name monsters run amok and terrorize visitors brave enough to face their wrath.
While there are some features unique to each park, the two events have a lot in common. For example, zombies from the hit AMC TV show "The Walking Dead" will again infest both indoor haunted mazes and outdoor scare zones at both parks. They have become recurring nightmares at the past few HHNs. This year's mazes, called The Walking Dead: The End of the Line, will draw on last season's story arc for inspiration.
The zombies on the show, called "walkers, " move lethargically. At the parks, however, they pick up the pace a bit and lurch at visitors who cross their paths. It's quite a hoot to see the walkers, er, in the flesh. In Hollywood, the zombies will also invade the famous tram tour, which the park redubs the Terror Tram.
Another hit property to get the HHN treatment at both parks will be "AVP: Alien vs Predator." Universal is promising sophisticated effects will blow guests away (presumably not literally) as they duck the fallout from the major-league slugfest. As in Robert Rodriguez's cult film, "From Dusk Till Dawn, " HHN visitors on both coasts will make their way to Mexico's The Twister nightclub and encounter muy peculiar creatures.
HHN often highlights Universal's stable of classic movie monsters. This year, Dracula takes wing. Instead of the Bela Lugosi original, however, the mazes at both parks will be featuring Vlad the Impaler, the Transylvanian ne'er-do-well from the "Dracula Untold" movie set to unspool this October.
Scare zones at both parks will also insert guests into the warped world of "The Purge" movies (assuming they haven't already been impaled, nuked, or zombified). The visitors will have to fend for themselves on the one night when the government condones murder and other sinful acts.
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Online they're $44, general admission is $55.