Saturday, November 10, 2018

Halloween Horror Nights 28 - Observations and Thoughts

This written review is a compliment to our podcast review of Halloween Horror Nights 28. For a first timers perspective of the event we recommend checking out Average Disney Nerd's podcast review.

In America, Halloween has been experiencing a kind of renaissance. Kids who grew up being told to value individuality and experiences over conformity and possessions find the holiday refreshingly undefined. Do you want to carve pumpkins and hand out candy to kids in a suburb? Do you want to dress as a sexy teacher and take shots at downtown club? Do you want to go on a hay ride and sip hot cider? Will you throw a party featuring "eyeball" deviled eggs and other spooky treats? Or will you totally ignore the holiday? Unlike other holidays which have been coopted by religious institutions, corporations, or nationalism, Halloween remains independent in the public conscious. The personal internalization of the holiday will always shine through.

Of the few Halloween institutions established the haunted house walk through remains a perennial favorite. Small businesses popped up to create walk through experiences and major amusement locations have built seasonal events around the concept. Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and Busch parks all transform their parks into halloween destinations but Universal's Halloween Horror Nights carved out a niche of movie quality haunted houses. While existing for nearly 30 years Halloween Horror Nights Orlando has exploded in popularity in the past decade from its use of familiar properties and cinematic presentation.

Image from Inside Universal
Now I sit in Pittsburgh after my Halloween Horror Nights vacation reminiscing about the event. As the fans and Universal approach the crossroads of the 30th anniversary I want to look at where the event was, where it is going, and offer thoughts on this year's event. In the end I hope to inspire everyone to look at the event in a different light, either as a long time attendee or someone booking their first trip soon.

Part 1 - History

This is in no way a comprehensive or exhaustive history. Check out videos by Expedition Theme Park for a dive deeper into Halloween Horror Nights Orlando history.

Universal built their name on horror. Ever since Lon Chaney became Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame cinemas were haunted by classic Universal Horror films such as Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Invisible Man (along with some not so classics like This Island Earth). Industry leaders in make-up, prosthetics, and costuming like Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and more more honed their skills while working on Universal’s horror movies.

After a rocky opening summer 1991 Universal Studios Florida entertainment was tasked with creating a fall event to bring in locals for halloween. “Fright Nights” was born, a 3 day after hours event with entertainment and one haunted house. In 1992 the name changed to Halloween Horror Nights and was subsequently numerically annotated from here on out, starting with 2. For HHN2 several shows were offered, including the first Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, and two haunted houses. HHN4 brought the first scare zone, a sort of free form outdoor horror attraction, to the event. As the event continued to develop more houses were added, robotic dinosaurs were unleashed, Pendragons performed, rat ladies emerged, rock legends from the dead, and deadly parades.

Halloween Horror Nights changed forever in 2000.

Jack the Clown was born, an original host for Horror Nights created by Universal Entertainment based on several urban legends and the public's fear of clowns. The character resonated with the general public through a bizarre and off kilter advertising campaign that included a photo shoot on Lake Eola. Most importantly Jack wormed his way into Horror Nights fans hearts through his omnipresence in scare zones, shows, and haunted houses. Jack was, and still is, Horror Nights.

Responding to guest demand Universal spent nearly a decade on creating original "icons" for the event. Icons are characters with elaborate back stories that tie into the haunted houses, scare zones, shows, and advertising for each years' events; they include a crazed film maker turned snuff film maker, a researcher into fear, a surgeon/mortician with a habit of experimental surgery, and an undead theater usher. Horror Nights built and identity and creative outlet while the rest of Universal Orlando was going through cut backs, closures, and decreased attendance. It was these years up till the opening of The Wizarding World that Horror Nights single handedly supported the resort (rumor has it).

While movie properties were always a feature of the event it wasn't till 2007 Horror Nights started to embrace this angle. Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw, and Nightmare on Elm Street were horror classics that inspired the creators of Horror Nights, and now you can walk through these movies. While, say Freddy, brings guests into the park for the event the properties also require more care and attention to appease the rights holders. Years would alternate between all original concepts and years where several IPs would be adapted. In 2012 the decade plus old playbook was thrown out the window with The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead (TWD) exploded in popularity through 2012 into 2013; nearly 20 million viewers tuned in per episode by 2013. HHN responded by not only bringing back another TWD house by theming every scare zone and advertising to the property. In 2014 HHN developed their longest house ever for TWD but the signs of fatigue from the creative team and fans started to show. TWD went out with one last bang in 2016 with a best-of house.

Despite calling uncle the age of IP was born, with every year after 2012 featuring at least five IP houses in addition to original creations. Horror icons and properties such as Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason, Aliens, Predators, American Werewolf, The Purge, Insidious, Dracula, American Horror Story, The Exorcist, Krampus, Jack Torrance, and Poltergeist had mazes and/or scare zones created for them. In over 7 years nearly 30 unique movie, video game, and tv show properties have been represented in HHN. For fans of the event this surge of cooperation with outside creators was a double edged sword: the event received a massive influx of cash to spend on an increasing amount of lavish haunted attractions but at a loss of original concepts and Icons. 

Halloween Horror Nights 27 ended on a mixed but positive note. Houses like Scarecrow and The Shining impressed guests and Bill & Ted knocked it out of the park on their farewell tour but fans were questions about focus and execution. There was an awkward announcement schedule with many houses announced in a small USA Today feature, a theme and icon for the event was aborted, and the scare zones (outside of Trick r Treat and Invasion) were incredibly weak. Fans wondered what the future of the event would hold.

Part 2 - #HHN28

Fans did not have to wait long, in April Universal made the bombshell announcement they were teaming up with Netflix to bring the hit show Stranger Things to Horror Nights. The news became a top trending topic on Facebook and Twitter and got everyone talking about the event. Since Netflix owns the international distribution rights this also gave Universal the ability to use Stranger Things in the USA, Japan, and Singapore, a first for the event.

Announcements kept coming with a mix of original content and movie properties. During this steady drop of information an aesthetic started to emerge: the 80s. Original houses like Dead Exposure take place in the 80s, scare zones feature properties that started in the 80s, and even the house with a tenuous connection to the 80s (Blumhouse) was explained away as an homage to 80s double features.  The VHS pause lines of the logo combined with a heavy bass synth soundtrack drove the vibe of the event.

For the first time HHN featured ten houses, up from nine the prior year. This record amount of houses came at a cost: only one show, Academy of Villains. Academy of Villains debuted at HHN in 2016 as a replacement for the Carnival of Carnage and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The idea of using a dance troupe has ties to the HHN Hollywood Jabbawockeez show that has been running since 2015. AoV combines break dancing, acrobatics, theatrical choreography, and technology to tell a narrative. Next year the show's staged was damaged from Hurricane Irma and a unique, audience focused show was created at the last minute.

For Halloween Horror Nights fans part of the fun is the lead up to the event and this we got a few surprises. Prior to the event Universal Orlando released a "live" roundtable discussion discussing the  creation of the event, answered fan questions, and even unveiled the Scary Tales haunted house.

And like a good boy I followed along, watching my friends' feeds on employee preview night and opening weekend, eagerly anticipating this years event.The pre-Horror Nights trip preparations intensified as I watched the movies and shows featured in the event. My Horror Nights mugs are brought out of storage and I start rewatching YouTube videos of past events. Double digit days turned into single days, then into under a week. My bags are packed, my out of office replies are on, and I'm on my way to the airport. I get my first ride of the trip and end up at Cabana Bay, my favorite home away from home.

For me there are five aspects of Horror Nights that keeps me coming back: the friends, the houses, the scare zones, the shows, and the vibe. Just as Halloween itself is not set in stone and is our own internalization of the holiday so is Horror Nights for me and that starts with the friends. From the Parkscope crew, Inside Universal bros, or to all the other friends in Orlando, this is why this event is special. While we will complain about the artistic merit of a house or zone in the end we make our own fun with what we have. Stupid jokes like Hannah the bottle of Coke, impersonating fake Craig T Nelson's wails in Poltergeist, resting on a curb with friends downing Coke Freestyle, or just having some Pizza Fries while drunk at 11pm is what makes Horror Nights. The spirit of fun and camaraderie echos through my memories of the event and it is what I made of it.

The headliners, E Tickets, and attendance drivers of HHN are the haunted houses. While not necessarily interiors all the time (or even a contiguous narrative) the walk through experiences combine the best audio, visual, and and scenic design in the industry to create movie quality walk through experiences. No, HHN is not the scariest haunt or the most innovated; if you're looking for industry defining scares and new concepts you are best to go to Knotts, Busch Gardens Tampa, or one of any highly rated local haunts. What HHN offers is movie quality experiences, just as the old USF tag line was "ride the movies" HHN lets you "walk through the movies". 

Stranger Things is the elephant at the event. Not only did it get the most viral attention of any single house it also was the centerpiece of the marketing campaign. This showed through two plus hour waits to see the Byers house but also the teen skewed demographic that came out this year (I'll touch on this later). I'm one to call a spade a spade on houses, but Stranger Things was fantastic and is my favorite house of this year's event. Just as with The Shining this house delivered on the sets, casting, and scares. Each actor looked like they walked out of the TV show, including the kids. The Demigorgons could have been a simple mask and suit but the creative team worked on several varieties including puppets, articulating heads, body suits, and open jawed varieties. A special shout out to the sound design team working in all the iconic music and atmosphere from the first season including the awesome Title Card room. (Spoiler walk through video)

Poltergeist was my first horror movie as a kid. The movie didn't freak me out too much and upon a rewatch I forgot about the lovely dynamic between the parapsychologists and the family as they witness the haunting. Poltergeist, for better or worse, eschews the first two acts and focuses on the final acts as we walk through the Freeling's pool construction after the bodies were not removed. The first half of the maze focuses on the corpses underground and popping up in the house along with the iconic face melting scene. From there we movie backwards in the movie focusing on the second attempt to abduct Carol Ann by the ghosts before we are told to enter the spirit realm by Tangina. At this point the houses enters a new level of inspiration as we're confronted by spirits, clowns, and other poltergeists that attack us at every turn before we see the other side of the TV and are told "this house... is clean." I won't be going into detail about the flow of each house as much as I did with Poltergeist because this house took what the movie provided fleshed it out more than any other house. In the movie we never got to walk into the light or see the other side but thanks to the unique story telling opportunities offered through Horror Nights we could. Poltergeist is many fan's favorite house, for good reason, but I never got the scares or complete experience like I got with Stranger Things; Poltergeist is my #2 house of the year. (Spoiler walk through video)

I love Mystery Science Theater 3000. My freshman year of college I was introduced to it through their episode of Eegah! and I was hooked since. I have bonded with others over MST3K and the show has gotten me through depressive episodes, deaths, break ups, living on my own for the first time, and more. MST3K defined my sense of humor and changed who I am. So needless to say Slaughter Sinema is near perfection. Unlike other houses this one follows a non-linear and abstract idea: you are walking through the movie previews and double feature presented tonight at the Carey Drive In Theater. Universal runs with the concept, devoting one or two detailed scenes per movie. Each movie leans heavy into the cheese and schlock: Schitty's Kids is full of, well, shitty kids; Sorority Slaughter has cult sisters sacrificing virgins into the pits of hell; or a very true tale of a yeti in a swamp. Each movie is set up with a movie poster on a simulated outdoor wall and an audible tag line blaring from a car mounted speaker. From here the guests then travel into the weird, wonderful, and totally dumb B-movies of legend. Every scene in here could be made into a full haunted house or movie to be riffed by MST3K. Slaughter Sinema was always a must do house and I hit it every night of the event, I rank it number 3. (Spoiler walk through video)

HHN27's scare zones were... lacking. The Purge is The Purge, Invasion was a fun romp but never
really clicked, Festival of the Deadliest was damaged by Hurricane Irma and the original concept of the area was neutered, and Altars of Horror was just scare actors standing in an unthemed street. But there is ONE stand out, an excellent zone that took a cult classic and ran with it: Trick r Treat. Based on the 2007 Halloween anthology movie of the same name the zone combined the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the movie perfectly to become everyone's stand out zone. Using this enthusiasm and love HHN28 brought the movie to life in a house, following the format of the movie offering several vignettes connected by Sam, the child-like enforcer and personification of Halloween. Of the houses this year this one felt the most Halloween with the costumes, themes, legends, and traditions echoed in its design. Plus it was just plain ole FUN! Whenever lines were long we knew we could come back here and wait 20-30 minutes for a solid house. This was my number 4 house and my fraternity brother Brian's number one house. (Spoiler walk through video)

Scary Tales is the first house this year to notice a drop in overall quality between the top of the pack and the lower tiers. The house concept and visual design is fantastic; the Wicked Witch has taken over the land of fairy tales and we get to see the bad guys win. Scary wins the best facade award with its imposing castle and a Wicked Witch that flies out over the guests casting spells. Inside the design work is fantastic to solid but never reaches the logical consistency of the houses above. Is The Little Mermaid part of the house evil mermaids or other bad guys? Finally every run though we had suffered in one or more major roles in the house missing. When it worked, it worked, but when the ending had only one, or fewer, Wicked Witches it ended on a miss. At least we got the return of HHN Bear. Scary Tales is my number 5 house of the year. (Spoiler walk through video)

How do you make plants scary? In Seeds of Extinction a meteor impacts the earth, causing all animals and humans to go extinct. Now the plants have mutated into large, vicious, sentient beings who are seated at the top of the food chain. Universal's response to "how do you make plants scary" was to blend the sets and scare actors and focus on startle scares. Like a scene from an urban explorer video guests wander through a decrepit mall taken over by moss and mutated plants. Here is where Universal's scare actors lay and wait, dressed as plants and in ghillie suits, hand puppets, and massive stilt walking trees. Seeds is effective with short, startling scares as guests gawk at the impressive and creepy sets. This house had the stand out scene of the event: a downed plane crashed into mall, complete with wind and rain. Seeds' unique concept and set design rank it as my number 6 house of the year. (Spoiler walk through video)

Dead Exposure: Patient Zero is the sequel to 2008's Dead Exposure. Both houses use strategic waves of strobe effects to simulate scattered eyesight. In 2008 created the illusion of walking through photographs during a zombie outbreak while in 2018 the impaired vision is due to a mandated inoculation's side effects. Initially the house can be conceived of being "cheap" in the same way Dino-rama is "cheap" but the end price tag doesn't matter to the guests if the effects and concept do not work. The individually outlined sets and strobes are not cheap but the effect doesn't quite work as well as repeatedly it did n 2008 (I started going in 2014). This seems to be a fact the strobes in the original Dead Exposure were more bright flashes with a slow fade do black while the strobe in this year's sequel are sharp and quick but comes in waves throughout the rooms; while one year the strobes emulated the flashes of camera flashbulbs the other is an effect more like eyesight flashing in and out based on focal length. The house never seemed the click with me and the scare actors never really figured out how to scare with the strobe effects quite well enough. Talking about the scare actors, god bless them and their ops crew for putting up with those strobe effects, they are the true Horror Nights MVPs. Due to Dead Exposures swing and a miss it gets my number 7 house this year. (Spoiler walk through video)

Image from Inside Universal
Carnival Graveyard is the disappointment of the year fueled by fans own elevated expectations and head-cannon. Guests are trespassers in a dump of old carnival amusements that is overrun with the craziest carnies imaginable. But the individual stories and open areas promised never really materialized in a four minute walkthrough of the area. Carnival Graveyard is an example of building a backstory that is more complex than what simple gags can convey. Carnival never adapted or grew, it felt stuck in a "week one" operating mode while the other houses evolved. Due to this Carnival Graveyard is my number 8 house of the year. (Spoiler walk through video)

The last two houses of Halloween Horror Nights 28 can be wrapped together in one entry. Blumhouse   2 (2 Blum 2 House) and Halloween 4 are both interchangeable as the weakest houses of the year. It is easy to write this off due to over exposure of The Purge and Michael Myers but that is too easy. Instead the biggest fault of these houses are they feel like they come from five years ago, before Horror Nights developed the original Halloween property, before 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem, before American Horror Story, and before Stranger Things. Each house feels repetitive, small, and narrow in concept. For Halloween 4, the last house to be added this year, it makes sense the house is smaller in scope. Blumhouse does not have such luxuries, it lacks ambition or creativity and seems to languish in this state of "we'll hang on by our name only". Blumhouse and Halloween are at the bottom of my list of houses this year. (Spoiler walk through video of Blumhouse and Halloween 4)

Ok, scare zone time. Scare zones are the free form. open areas of the parks that get transformed into themed spaces for Halloween Horror Nights. Unlike houses which remain constructed throughout the event, scare zones get rebuilt and torn down each event night to help facilitate a normal daytime parking experience. Major props, scenery, and characters are added to the zones after day guests have departed and the zones are up and running as that nights victims are ready to enter. It's an amazing juggling act that Universal deserves praise for every year.

Scare zones are a misnomer, so it's time to talk about Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Killer Klowns is fun, it is silly, and the actors embraced their roles to create a memorable experience for the guests. This scare zone didn't work for scares, the suits were too large and the masks were too cumbersome. The attempt at walk around human "victim" characters never clicked with the vibe set by the cheesy movie. So what did the actors do? They adapted, internalized the zone and made it fun. Killer Klowns left many guests, including my brother Brian, as their favorite scare zone of the event. It is a testament to the scare actors that Killer Klowns became the new defacto last night happening of the event. Killer Klowns was my first HHN28 experience and it was my last, it is my scare zone of the year.

In a similarly inspired choice Universal decided to expand on an idea for the Revenge of Chucky scare zone. How do you build a full zone around one character? Well, by focusing on the theme of demented and tortured toys, that is how! Chucky is relegated to his own main stage where a puppeteer ad-libs story and insults. Few times an hour a small show occurs of Chucky pulling the CEO of the toy company on stage to torture him or engage the audience in a full induction into the Cult of Chucky. Around Chucky is the land of misfit toys, grotesque baby dolls, killer cabbage patch kids, shit throwing monkeys, and games of operation with living people. Chucky manages to find variety in a concept that could be wasted by others.

Vamp 85 never lives up to the expectations and hype of the original Vamp 55. It is my running theory that "Vamp" is a double meaning, both describing the vampires in the land and the vamping (on the top of the head improvisation) the scare actors in the land do. In Vamp 55 the scare actors embraced rolls and characters as their own, while in Vamp 85 nothing meshes quite as well. This scare zone is dominated by the New Years Eve ball drop main stage which highlights the greatest strength and weakness of the zone. While the ball drop is a fun bit of dancing and showmanship it never delivers the vampire scares or energy the zone demands. Instead of running out into the crowds for more victims after the ball drops everyone sort of just leaves, letting the remainder of the cast walk around and snarl. While the costumes of the various celebrities are fun and creative the zone never ascended to the heights Vamp 55 did.

Central Park has tree cover, a scarcity in theme parks now-a-days. Using this foliage Universal has crafted intimate, atmospheric, and dark scare zones. Similar to last year's Trick r Treat, Twisted Tradition embraces the woods and builds a story around it. The story has it, and is best told when the zone is fully staffed, several teens have unlocked an ancient evil based in the church outside
out town. The evil is contained to the woods and they're actively trying to save everyone walking into the woods. Inside guests find rotten pumpkins come to life and evil manifesting everywhere. Yet as Horror Nights gets more popular and the event is lop-sided this scare zone finds itself suffocated by crowds. At one point in the event crowds were so heavy all the scare actors and staff were forced out of the woods and in front of Mel's Drive In. Horror Nights needs to figure out a future for this scare zone.

Once the iconic and mood setting scare zone crowds have doomed the Production Central area into a minimalist area often devoid of props or atmosphere. The scare actors are given precious little to work with and utilize all they have. The Harvest, just like Altars of Horror prior, suffers from offering more photograph opportunities than entertainment, with most guests taking photos in front of the Stranger Things sign than engaging with the scare zone. Universal should look at this zone and consider turning it into a photo opportunity area and moving any scare actors into a new scare zone location.

Part 5 - Final Thoughts & The Future

Horror Nights has approached yet another cross roads just like 2000 and 2012. Fans of the event can't help but notice the failing of this year's event and wonder what the future holds. I will focus on five of these topics: shows, event balance, attendance make up, lounges, and crowds.

One stage show is not enough for Horror Nights. The popularity of Bill & Ted could never be replicated a year after the show concluded and it shouldn't be expected. In prior years you had the choice of shows between magicians, satirical content, horror comedy, musical acts, and more. Hell for the first year there were 19 unique acts and even the past decade half a dozen concepts were pulled out for shows. But this year there was only one option: dancing, and if you didn't care for that there was a dancing street show in Vamp and some light show elements in Chucky. This event is big enough for two or three shows nightly that spans the gamut of tastes. For example, Horror Make Up could run with a new script and minor alterations during the event, lean in with more adult focused jokes and more gore and you'd have a hit. Universal needs to have more shows operating during the event to get people off the streets and on their butts.

Image from Inside Universal
Horror Nights feels lopsided. One one side of the park there are four scare zones and the entrances to five houses. On the other size of the park there is one show, one scare zone, and five houses. Something feels off with he vibe when large swaths of the park just aren't Halloween like. Entertainment felt this way too as a last minute chainsaw hoard was created to stand by Fast & Furious' exit. While San Francisco was never the ideal scare zone location the lighting and fog machines did add a mood to that side of the park that is now missing. I'd like to see the return of some form of scare zone to San Francisco or, to steal an idea from Inside Universal, add park wide Horror Nights decorations that match up with this year's theme and advertising.

A popular, and not entirely incorrect, statement about Horror Nights is that it's loosing some of the adult atmosphere it once had. The usual suspects for this assumption are the properties featured, the change in shows offered, and the reduction of alcohol at the event. Stranger Things brought out a new audience to Horror Nights but was it more teens than adults? Was the replacement of Rocky Horror Picture Show with Academy of Villains a factor in this propertied shift? I propose a different interpretation: there are more pre-teens and teens at Horror Nights because there are more people at the event. The photos of gaggles of teens in Stranger Things t-shirts stand out, but is this a proportionally larger amount? At this point only Universal knows, but I'm willing to bet the net increase once you account for the change in overall attendance is minimal.

Image from Inside Universal
What about the reduction in alcohol sales? It's an open secret that management made a late game decision to remove the "blood bags" and tent liquor sales in addition to turning Finnegan's into a quick service bar. Yet Horror Nights is as "wet" as ever with mixed drinks and beer available around the park and in many house lines. I think the real issue at play here is the reduction in lounge areas, places to actually sit and rest during the event. On average I walk 12 miles every Horror Nights day I attend, and I need to sit. Even at two dozen seats the Finnegan's bar area provided a place to get a drink and sit and every year the barstools are removed from, then added back to, Duff Brewery. Every year I see more people sitting on curbs than ever before. There's a common refrain in airline travel that soft drinks will always be free because if you don't offer it the flyers will walk away disproportionally angry to the product offered. I believe the same for Horror Nights, if a variety of areas to rest are not offered during the event the guests will walk away disproportionally angry to the product offered. Leaky Cauldron should be open till 11pm or midnight, Finnegan's should be a proper bar and lounge, Duff Gardens and Moe's should offer more staffing to support as a rest area, and more shows need to be offered.

The headline coming out of Horror Nights 28 was crowds, and lots of them. Stranger Things brought in new and lapsed attendees not seen since The Walking Dead's take over in 2013. The Little Event That Could has grown up, going from one of the strands holding the resort up to being a tentpole of a healthy resort. Prior to the start of HHN28 The Simpsons was cut as an open attraction; during our trip I waited over an hour for Escape from Gringotts. Why is this happening at a resort that attracts more than 20 million guests a year, sells out hotel rooms, and has a healthy revenue stream? Why are guest facing cuts occurring at the event that directly impact guest satisfaction? Universal has the revenue stream and attendance to run all the attractions they can during Horror Nights and they should. Anything less is a poor guest experience.

Universal defines the event they want to make. Nothing is out of line for their event due to preconceived notions of Halloween. Just as we define our own Halloweens (and what is in between) Universal does the same. Halloween Horror Nights has morphed from an event driven by shows and experiences to one defined by its haunted house line up. The event has discarded dozens of concepts, icons, original ideas, and shows only to reinvent itself year over year. While there are issues with Halloween Horror Nights 28 that lead to it not being The Greatest Of All Time, I am confident Universal can overcome those issues as they have time and time again. More than any other theme park offering in Orlando it is Universal with Halloween Horror Nights that most controls their destiny.

Halloween has become the holiday for transplants and those with alternative families, nowhere is that more common than Orlando. Friends, family, colleagues, and strangers all gather to bond over a love of themed entertainment and fun. Halloween Horror Nights is a celebration architected to entertain but is us, the scare actors and the scared, are who complete the ritual. The familiarity of the orange shirt brigade wheeling ticket scanners to the spinning red lights denoting bars makes us smile. Just as others go to a late night showing of Rocky Horror, binge watch Halloween specials from the 90s, or find a special someone to spend the night with it is us fans of Halloween Horror Nights who have decided to make this our Halloween tradition. Halloween Horror Nights is my internalized tradition that has shaped me into who I am now.

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