We are told by one of Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights guides that there is a “Code Brown” alert occasionally used in the Florida park, to alert staff that someone has been…unwell. You can probably guess the specifics. It is likely to be shouted quite a lot over the next few months.
For the past 29 years, Orlando’s Universal Studios has hosted Halloween Horror Nights, during which the theme park is converted into a playground for the undead, the monstrous, the horribly maimed and those who wish to be scared half to death by them. They turn vast studio spaces into ‘haunted houses’ where various ghouls, either from famous TV shows/films or newly invented, terrorise you in enclosed spaces. You pay them money for this. We visited this year to experience the 10 – FOR GOD’S SAKE 10 – haunted houses in one night. That’s a solid four hours of code browning yourself.
These are the 10 things we saw that will be keeping us awake until next Halloween.
Universal’s biggest haunted house this year is based on Stranger Things. Covering events from season two and three, it’s full of recreations of the Byers’ house, the Starcourt Mall and the secret underground military facility, all packed with creatures from the Upside Down. Ever wanted to walk between the legs of a giant killer monster while people jump out at you from the shadows? Well come on in. We have rarely encountered anything quite so upsetting as turning a corner in a tight corridor to be welcomed by a demogorgon, face fully splayed, screaming directly at us.
Bloody clowns. Nobody likes clowns. They’re grotesque parodies of joy that pretend to bring happiness to children but bring only nightmares and sometimes suspicious sweets. Universal Studios has a whole house full of them, based on the ‘cult’, i.e. not very good but beloved, ’80s horror Killer Klowns From Outer Space. The movie is not scary at all, but being surrounded by men in clown costumes with leering grins frozen on their faces will make you feel five-years-old again, in the absolute worst way.
The Untethered from Us
If you saw Jordan Peele’s scary movie Us, you’ll remember the deeply creepy untethered, oddly deformed reflections of humans that wanted to stab all ‘normal’ people with scissors. You’ll also remember Lupita Nyong’o’s soulless, hateful guttural voice in that film. Now imagine that voice croaking at you over speakers as you walk through a room of the untethered, unsure which are mannequins and which are waiting to jump at you. You wouldn’t do it, would you? We did. You can.
Not all the horrors are contained within the houses. You’ll also find lots of actors stalking round the park in lashings of horror make-up waiting to scream at you. Worst among them are the undead Vikings, cooking up flayed humans under the stars. Lovely!
Not all the haunted houses are based on movies or TV shows. Some are entirely the invention of the depraved minds of Universal employees, like Yeti: Terror of the Yukon, in which a tribe of abominable snowmen disembowel the locals – in this scenario, you are a local – for sport. This includes a room in which three or four (we couldn’t count with our eyes shut) swipe at you through broken windows and a broken roof. Bladder-collapsing.
All the classics – Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy and Dracula – are gathered together in one house. If you were ever terrified by creaky old black-and-white horror movies on TV, then this is the place to relive those suppressed terrors. Dracula feasting on a victim is sending us back to therapy.
Another entirely invented monster and whoever came up with this one needs their head seriously examined. The Nightingales are a race of ancient beings who look a bit birdlike – beaks and talon-y hands. They feast on people. For reasons best known to the absolutely messed up loon who devised them, in this house they’re eating their way through the prisoners in a Roman arena. Why? It’s hard to say, but BAD REASONS.
House of 1,000 Corpses
Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses was a truly awful horror movie, but all the reasons it was an awful film are reasons it’s a great haunted house. It feels filthy, depraved and packed with people who seem like they’re from a family inbred for centuries. We charged through this one as fast as possible, but not fast enough to avoid screaming up a lung.
Ghostbusters Terror Dogs
The Ghostbusters house contains some very impressive reproductions from the movie, ranging from a Janine lookalike screaming “We got oooooonnnneee” to a holographic Slimer belching disgustingly at anyone within range, to even a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The thing that scared us witless, though, was the red-eyed terror dog, which we swear emerged from nowhere. It shouldn’t be allowed.
The price of a drink in America
£9 for a beer. Absolutely reasonable. That dollar to pound exchange rate is terrifying. Thanks Brexit.
We travelled courtesy of Virgin Holidays. Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, room only accommodation at Loews Sapphire Falls Hotel, car hire, and tickets to the Universal parks costs from £1379pp. For more information and to book go to www.virginholidays.co.uk. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected.