Halloween Horror Nights 24 Original Content Revealed
So, we’ve already heard about some of the terror that will descend upon Halloween Horror Nights 24 this year (if not, click here). It could be the best collection of horror icons we’ve ever unleashed.
But that’s not enough. Not nearly enough. We’ve saved some of the best for last with the unveiling of this year’s (duhn duhn duhn) ORIGINAL CONTENT.
I met up with Assistant Show Director Charles Gray deep in the bowels of the Universal Orlando Art & Entertainment dungeon. Actually, it was a conference room. But it was the nose-piercing, disorienting scents that hit me on my way in that really captured my attention. Rotting flesh, urine and…baby powder?
My olfactory senses did not deceive me. At this point, Charles was nostrils-deep in a scent strip. He recoiled, his face so squished together he looked like a character from those bitter beer face commercials.
“Hey, come on in!” he exclaimed as his face snapped back into place. “We’re just in the middle of some scent testing. This one’s called ‘dung.’”
He handed me the inconspicuous-looking white strip and waited, now smiling, for my disgusted reaction. This was going to be an interesting afternoon.
Charles, can you tell me a little bit about what you do here at Universal?
I started here in 1993 at Nickelodeon Studios and worked my way into a roll as a scareactor. I also played Ozzy Osbourne in The Bill and Ted Show and Frankenstein in Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. Now I answer questions like, “How do you want this neck severed? Clean cut or ripped apart?” It’s pretty awesome.
I’m curious, on a scale of Gargamel to Hannibal Lecter, how sick and twisted are you?
I land somewhere around Jekyll and Hyde. I’m a pretty kind, sweet guy, but when you flip my switch I’m completely messed up and evil.
What got you into this world of scaring the hell out of people?
Funny story, I actually come from a really conservative family. I remember when I was a kid and my Sunday School teacher showed my mom these drawings I was doing of people with their heads exploding and guts flying out. So, the teacher asked my mom, “Hey, do we need to be worried about Charles?” The cool thing was my mom said, “Nope, he’s just expressing himself.” That really emboldened me.
Original House: Dollhouse of the Damned
Let’s get to the houses. Tell me about Dollhouse of the Damned.
The word to keep in mind here is ‘juxtaposition.’ When you walk into the house, you find yourself in this old-time morgue. But this little girl has set up shop and now it’s her playhouse. She’s torturing people in there. So you’re taking the sweetness of the dollhouse and childhood and combining it with something completely sinister. That theme remains throughout the maze. Another phrase we use is ‘forced integration.’ You’ll see characters with porcelain doll masks that have been smashed into their faces, and now they’re permanent. They’re victims of this twisted amalgamation. It’s really creepy.
Did you have an older sister who made you play with dolls? It seems like you’re releasing a lot of pent up anger here.
I actually have two young daughters, so there are a lot of dolls in my house. When I come home late at night and see these sparkly eyes staring at me in the dark—and I don’t have pets—it’s a little disturbing. The weird thing about dolls is that even if they’re smiling, they’re soulless. They always look sinister in the dark, even the cutest ones.
There is a feeling of innocence associated with dollhouses. What kind of fun did you have flipping that on its head?
Yeah, we have a room with baby cribs—and let’s be honest, there’s nothing cuter than a baby, so we had to mess with that. We created these muscular, mutant baby dolls and they’re crawling around all over the place. I’m telling you, it’s bizarre.
Original House: Giggles & Gore Inc.
Giggles & Gore Inc…Alright, lay it on me Charles.
So, we asked ourselves, where do evil clowns come from? And we discovered evil clowns are not born, they’re made. It’s an actual process. We all know that there are countless unsolved disappearances across the country. Where do these people end up? In the clown factory, being stretched, smashed and eviscerated.
Faces are peeled off and voice boxes are torn out. Victims are dropped into a wood chipper, and the gunk that comes out is shoved into other people to create these massive, nasty stuffed clowns.
Toward the end, you encounter the most evil of all evil clowns: The Discarded. These are the surviving clowns that have been cast down for being too dangerous to exist, even with other evil clowns.
Original House: Roanoke – Cannibal Colony
I’m really intrigued by this maze, especially because it’s loosely based on real events. What can we expect in Roanoke?
The year was 1587. It was one of the first settlements of the colonial era. The people living here were expecting supplies from Europe, but there was a war going on so they couldn’t make the voyage. Three years later, when the supply ship finally arrived, everyone was gone…except the deranged cannibals who’d managed to survive by eating their fellow settlers.
As a guest, you’re fighting you’re way through this chaotic gauntlet of flesh-hungry man-eaters. What’s cool about the set is that Karen, our décor guru, has traveled up to Virginia to some of these historic settlements and brought back photos for us to use as visual reference. So, the scenery you’re observing throughout the maze is all pulled straight from theses real-life settlements.
What’s this business about the “spirit of Wendigo?” I’m pretty sure my family rented one of those for a road trip when I was a kid.
I think that’s a Winnebago… The spirit of Wendigo is something much more sinister. It’s actually a mythical Native American creature that curses all those who ingest human flesh. These people have snapped, and they have to somehow justify their cannibalism. They think they’re being possessed by the Wendigo spirit. They start eating their own mouths. They’ve chewed away their lips. They’ve just completely lost it.
There seems to be an interesting end to this maze. What kind of carnage should we look forward to?
There’s a surprise in the finale that I won’t give away, but you will definitely meet some really interesting characters in all sorts of different states of decay. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
To learn more about our original street experiences, I sat down with HHN Show Director Lora Wallace.
First, Lora tell me about what you do here at Universal.
I am a show director for entertainment creative development. The fun part of my job is that I am never working on one thing at a time. I get to do tons and tons of projects at once—right now I’m working on HHN streets and several other projects outside of Halloween. It’s so fun!
How did you get into scaring people?
I have been a show director since 2000. When they brought me on, I was the one who held purses for Halloween haunted houses. I don’t like horror movies because I get scared. I get scared so easily! When they asked me work on Halloween, I said, “Why? This is crazy! I don’t do this right?” And they said that is exactly why…because you get scared and you know what scares you.
Original Street Experience – MASKerade; Unstitched
Again with the ripping of the flesh. You’re really out to cause some pain this year, aren’t you?
The whole concept is that these people are trapped in an old time period—their skin is falling off, they have stitched their skin back to their faces, but much of it is still peeling off. What I love about the concept is that it is like you’re entering this really surreal dance, but it is very terrifying at the same time.
There is wax holding their skin on, some are sewing their skin back on but they are doing it very poorly, and there are some whose skin is still detached.
Another period piece. I love it. It sounds like the street itself will be pretty grand. What will we be feeling when we walk through this area?
It is grand in scale—there are elements above your head while this off-putting yet harsh waltz music plays. Everyone is moving in a really surreal and creepy dance. There is beauty along with the disgust.
Original Street Experience – Bayou of Blood
Bayou of Blood, that’s got a nice ring to it. Rumor is there’s a high priestess here working some bad mojo. What should we know about her evil voodoo rituals?
Our high priestess is crazy-evil and in a trance, doing numerous spells and sacrifices to get the ultimate power in her. Because she has made these sacrifices, many other voodoo practitioners in the area have come and they are squatting outside of her shack. They feel if they make sacrifices to her, they will get some of that power when she makes the ultimate sacrifice.
Ok, so a lot of sacrificing going on here. What’s the one detail of this street experience that’s really hair-raising?
You’re going to see her sacrifice someone right in front of you…you will see every gory detail of this ultimate sacrifice. But that’s not the end—once you get past the sacrifice and the high priestess’ shack, you enter into the area inhabited by the voodoo squatters…and they are all looking for something or someone to sacrifice.
So, there you have it, folks: the low down on all the original, horrible houses and scare zones you’ll find only at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for September to get here.
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For more info about Halloween Horror Nights—including all the scare zones and houses we have already revealed, head on over here.