Halloween Horror Nights 26 Complete Review

After last year’s big Halloween Horror Nights celebration, expectations for this year’s event were high, and Universal Orlando did not disappoint. Featuring nine terrifying houses, five frightening scare zones, and two outrageous live shows, Halloween Horror Nights 26 is living up to what was hoped for.
NOTE: This post may contain spoilers.


American Horror Story (house)

Scare ranking: 4 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 5 out of 5
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: American Horror Story is by far one of the best houses at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event. The house immerses you into three seasons from the hit show (Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel), allowing you to relive scene after scene of sinister threats. Although I wouldn’t consider this to be the most frightening house at the event, I would deem it to be the most detailed.


The Exorcist (house)
Scare ranking: 4 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 5 out of 5
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: The Exorcist is one of the most profitable horror movies ever produced, and perhaps one of the best to ever be released. The film tells the tale of a young girl who is possessed by a mysterious entity, creating a perfect storyline for a haunted attraction. The Exorcist house consists of numerous pop-up scares throughout the house, a handful of special effects, and a highly immersive atmosphere. Best of all, the house even features the spider walk scene. When The Exorcist was first announced for Halloween Horror Nights, it instantly became one of the most anticipated houses for me, and when I finally experienced it, it instantly became one of the top houses. The more I walk through it, the more I appreciate it.

Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch (house)
Scare ranking: 2 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 2 out of 5
Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Review: Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch is an original house developed by Universal Orlando. The house is intended to tell the story of doomed souls who went searching for gold but found death instead. The tale goes on to add that those who perished are now seeking others to join them. Although I adored the intricate sets, the house didn’t offer a sufficient amount of scares (except for the sudden overhead pop-up). I felt that this house didn’t properly portray the story either. Rather than “dragging” you into the plot where they are now in search for other beings, the characters throughout the house continuously exclaim, “that’s my gold!” So you may be wondering, how did this house receive an overall rating of 3 when the other rankings are 2’s? I came to this conclusion because I felt that the house has some potential. I also, as already mentioned, truly enjoyed the overall atmosphere despite the upsets.


The Walking Dead (house)
Scare ranking: 2 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 3 out of 5
Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Review: The Walking Dead has once again returned to Halloween Horror Nights. About two years ago the house was outstanding whereas last year it was quite frankly…appalling. So, how do I feel about it this year? Believe it or not, I actually didn’t mind it. This year’s Walking Dead house recreated scenes from the beginning of the series to last season, and I felt that Universal executed it fairly well.


Lunatics Playground 3D You Won’t Stand A Chance (house)
Scare ranking: 0 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 1 out of 5
Overall rating: 1 out of 5
Review: I have never been a fan of 3D houses so it should be no surprise as to why this house is rated so lowly. When Chance was announced as this year’s Halloween Horror Nights icon, I was actually very pleased. The resort revealed her as the icon in a brief trailer and blog post, describing the storyline and her character, and later disclosing that she’d feature her own house. Based on the given information throughout the weeks, it seemed like a promising experience. This all changed, however, when it was announced that Chance’s house would be a 3D experience. And, as I expected from previous 3D houses, Chance’s was no better. As I said in last year’s review for Asylum in Wonderland, this house offered no scares. It’s bright and vibrant atmosphere didn’t aid it; I didn’t find it amusing. I did, however, enjoy the moving tunnel illusion at the beginning of the house.


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (house)
Scare ranking: 5 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 5 out of 5
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: I find The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to be a rather odd production. The film starts off fairly slow-paced (and tedious) and eventually converts into a film that is uncanny and infuriating. If you haven’t seen the original movie, it basically begins with a group of friends (two of them being siblings) in a van traveling to a grave site after learning that it may have been vandalized. Because this takes up a considerable portion of the film, I’ll forward to when the group later encounters Leatherface. To briefly explain this, the last survivor makes terrible attempts at escaping the masked character. Basically, everything about the movie is strange, but I knew that it had the potential to be an extraordinary house. Why? Well, when you have peculiar characters and one of them uses a chainsaw, it can create a terrifying experience, quite frankly. From the roaring of the chainsaws to the shrieks of frightened guests, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre sends chills up your spine that leaves you begging for more (if that’s even possible). And just when you think the house is over…it’s not. Leatherface can be found at just about every corner coming out from the gloom to scare you with his trusted “companion” in hand — his chainsaw.

7 Tomb of the Ancients (house)
Scare ranking: 5 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 5 out of 5
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: Telling the story of an ancient evil and immortal beings, Tomb of the Ancients has a dark and eerie atmosphere. Being an original creation by the Halloween Horror Nights team, the house has a solid storyline and a handful of scares, making it a top house at this year’s event. Although a large majority of Universal’s original houses consist of elaborate sets, I don’t find all of them to be alarming. Tomb of the Ancients, however, was both immersive and frightening, leaving you with little to no room to escape the chaos.


Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield (house)
Scare ranking: 4 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 5 out of 5
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: The original Halloween house was beyond superb. Not only did it revolve around one of the most iconic horror characters (Michael Myers), but it also created a petrifying setting with Myers at every turn. With the original house being one of my favorites, I was hoping the second house would be as well, and though it wasn’t as great as its predecessor, it was indeed outstanding. However, I did not feel this way when I first experienced the house. After my first walkthrough, I was left quite displeased without having a real explanation as to why…I just was. But I decided to revisit the house, and I’m glad I did. Following this experience, I actually admired the house. Throughout the walkthrough, Myers repeatedly appeared at every turn with his lethal knife ready to strike.


Krampus (house)
Scare ranking: 1 out of 5
Must-see ranking: 2 out of 5
Overall rating: 2 out of 5
Review: I wouldn’t consider the Krampus film to be the best of films or even frightening, but I did enjoy the setting, and I felt no different towards the house. The Krampus house was short in length and wasn’t exactly startling. Perhaps the only things I enjoyed was the setting (mainly because it took place during Christmastime) and the aroma. Other than that, there is not much to say.

12 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure (show)
Must-see ranking: 4 out of 5
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Review: Overall, I usually enjoy the Bill & Ted shows performed at the event. The show is based upon the adventures of two “dudes” — Bill and Ted— who present the audience with an awesome Halloween party that includes music, dancing, and jokes about pop culture, politics and more. The show doesn’t exactly have a true plot, but that’s because it’s not intended to. The idea behind the show is to make guests laugh using somewhat cheesy jokes. Though I enjoyed the introduction to last year’s show more than that of this year’s, I liked everything beyond that point in this year’s version more.


Academy of Villains: House of Fear (show)
Must-see ranking: 5 out of 5
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: Academy of Villains is an all-new dance show that was introduced for this year’s event. But this dance show is different from most. This dance show revolves around an entire story, making it truly authentic and compelling. And there isn’t just dancing in the show. Academy of Villains: House of Fear shows the actions of inmates running from an asylum after a riot broke out. The show features fire, dancing (obviously), and tricks like a performer jumping rope on a unicycle. Although I am not a fan of dance shows in any way, Academy of Villains is definitely top quality.


A Chance in Hell (scare zone)
Overall rating: 1 out of 5
Review: A Chance in Hell is located near the front of the park at a narrow, short pathway. Because of this, there is limited space to work with. Therefore, the scare zones in this area are usually tamer and less intriguing. This scare zone in particular though seems like a downgrade from previous years. The area lacks scare actors and features no major prop (or props) but rather stages with minor props, such as a body. One stage, however, is used by Chance to interact with guests. Considering that Chance is the icon of the event, I feel that the resort should have established a more immersive scare zone for her.


Survive or Die Apocalypse (scare zone)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Review: Even though I found the storyline for this scare zone to be unusual, Universal carried it out effectively. The many props and decorations in the area set a tone that fit perfectly with the actions from the scare actors.


Dead Man’s Wharf (scare zone)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Review: Dead Man’s Wharf is probably one of my favorite scare zones at this year’s event. What I really love about it is the eerie environment that is set by the fog machines, strobe lights (to create a lightning effect), thunder sound effects, props (like the ship), and disturbing characters. The only downside to this scare zone is its small range, which is what drops its rating down one point.


Lair of the Banshees (scare zone)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Review: Lair of the Banshees is situated in one of my favorite locations for scare zones — the walking path along Central Park. This is my favorite site because of the narrow pathway and abundant amount of trees that can be used to set a mysterious, dark ambiance. Because of these factors, any scare zone placed here has the capability of being phenomenal. But Lair of the Banshees exceeds previous scare zones I have walked through in this area. Unlike those from the past years, Liar of the Banshees, I feel, incorporates some of the best characters — they are recognizable, genuine, and frightening. These characteristics perfectly compliment the zone’s ghostly environment.


Vamp ’55 (scare zone)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Review: Vamp ’55 was not necessarily the worst scare zone but it wasn’t the best either, which is why I rated it in the middle. What I enjoyed about this zone were the music and scare actors that clearly never broke out of character. What I didn’t enjoy was the lack of sets and somewhat poor acting from select actors. Nevertheless, the scare zone is not all that bad. I liked the theme but just felt as if it could use additional improvements.

About the author

John Sala

John is an avid theme park fan who has a passion for journalism, photography, videography, digital art, and website designing. His goal is to cover topics in entertainment and travel that universally matter.

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