Review: Halloween Horror Nights 28 at Universal Orlando


It was a year of Halloween Horror Nights defined by the 1980s. The yearly event takes place at Universal Studios locations around the world. This year, I attended Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, where the event expanded to 10 houses this year.

The annual event takes some of the biggest films in the horror world and places park goers at the center of the action. If you want to live through the visceral world of walking through a horror film, few experiences come close to the thrill. Let’s dive into looking at the houses that made up the HHN 28 great. Let’s count down the Top 10.

Halloween Horror Nights Top 10

10. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Sadly, the world of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers fell short of the expectations this year. Part of this comes from overexposure to Michael Myers in recent years, who also showed up as the big bad Halloween and Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield houses in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

The character remains excellent, but Halloween 4 remains one of the weaker films in the franchise as far as kills go. You got to see pretzeled Deputy and Kelly impaled with a shotgun.

Halloween Horror Nights “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

Still the overall “blah-ness” of the film show up here. Sadly, despite Michael Myers being the best horror icon here, the team had the weakest material to work with.

9. The Horrors of Blumhouse: Happy Death Day and The First Purge

Halloween Horror Nights “The Horrors of Blumhouse featuring The First Purge & Happy Death Day” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

While each of the films from Blumhouse is decent on their own, a mashup house didn’t really make for compelling entertainment. The repetitive nature of Happy Death Day wore on you as walked through the house.

While it was true to the story, it was a mostly campy and silly piece about the house. However, if you love the film, you’d be hard pressed to be upset with the adaptation.

On the flip side, The Purge might be the only property more overdone in recent HHN years than Halloween. The franchise has been present in four of the last five years. Even so, there were many good scare actors present throughout the house. Great job on that team to bring crazy energy into the house.

8. Seeds of Extinction

Halloween Horror Nights “Seeds of Extinction” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

There’s a lot to like in this house, despite the lower ranking. The story follows a world decimated by a meteor blast, and as you walk through the apocalypse, it’s clear that plants have taken over. As a result, there are some genuinely creepy and scary creatures wandering in the dystopian landscape.

For Halloween Horror Nights fans, there are plenty of references to previous characters and houses, including Jack the Clown, an icon of the event for years. Additionally, the scare actors are covered in gilly suits and stay so still, you don’t realize they’re upon you until seconds before they jump out at you. This can be especially impressive because the house features bioluminescent plants and was very well lit compared to many other houses.

Scary and immaculately designed, it falls short due to a low scare count, and some repetitiveness in the scares. While there were some puppets that were used in the house, they felt few and far between. Still, the original concept made for great moments to enjoy as you walk through.

7. Trick ‘r Treat

Halloween Horror Nights “Trick ‘r Treat” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

Based on the 2007 film from Legendary Pictures the house features each segment of the anthology film to near perfection. Sam, the child/spirit of Halloween in the film is present throughout. He’s an extremely creepy icon and does a lot to add a through line for the house.

We got some very creepy scares here, including a giant werewolf puppet and Dylan Baker‘s character, Steven, coming at you with a shovel. More could have been done with the zombie trick or treaters, and because they feature in at the end of the house, you leave on a bit of a down note compared to the few minutes of frights that precede.

6. Stranger Things

Halloween Horror Nights “Netflix’s Stranger Things” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

While the house for Stranger Things will impress fans of the show, it falls a little lower on the house rankings. That does not mean it is a bad house, it just does little in the way of scares.

The Demogorgon pops up throughout the house, early and often. In many scenes in the show where no Demogorgon was present, we actually get him chasing you down.

What makes this among the best IP houses in Halloween Horror Night’s modern history is the impeccable detail throughout. The world of Stranger Things remains immaculate and highly detailed, which is just one reason why it struck a chord with so many.

The house follows that trajectory, dropping you into the Byers house, Hawkins Lab, and Hawkins Middle School, highlighted by an amazingly detailed walk through the Upside Down.

5. Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces

Halloween Horror Nights “Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

The concept behind Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces feels simple: walk through an abandoned carnival. Yet the graveyard nomenclature does the story a disservice. Instead, the corpse of this fair creates a dump infested with hillbillies, scary carnies, and clowns. So. Many. Clowns.

What truly elevates Carnival Graveyard are two elements. The first is the presence of many callbacks to houses of HHN past, including some not too subtle nods to Jack and the evil clown family he stems from.

The second, and perhaps far cooler aspect, to the house, is interactivity. Red buttons are placed throughout the house, setting off effects for other patrons. While you might think you’re safe from a scare actor, your friend behind will not scare you but soak you in the process.

4. Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After

Halloween Horror Nights “Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

The Wicked Witch of the West has never wrought such carnage on the world around her. Returning to the Scary Tales world for Halloween Horror Nights means resurrecting many of the fairy tales you grew up loving, only to watch the aftermath of the carnage. The twisted storytelling featured throughout the world of Scary Tales will make you second guess those stories for the rest of time.

There were many highlights throughout the house, and some were truly spectacular. My personal favorite was a room centered on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where Mama bear watches as Goldi butchers the Baby Bear over and over again. The carnage was real, and the scares from both the giant bear and Goldi were truly spooky.

Another room featured Rapunzel, scalped as her hair turned against her while her prince screams for help. Bodies are pegged to the walls around her.

Finally, Hansel and Gretel chow down on Red Riding Hood in a room filled with Gingerbread Spice (you can seriously smell it from two rooms away). Altogether, this makes for a very enjoyable, if not twisted spin your favorite fairy tales.

3. Slaughter Sinema

Halloween Horror Nights “Slaughter Sinema” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

Halloween Horror Nights is often at its best when running mashup houses, forcing their team to come up with new and creative ideas for each room. The previous entry, Scary Tales, thrives for that reason as well. Here, the world of B-movie horror (or really a number of films that would make Rifftrax and Elvira squeal with glee) brings out the best in the HHN creative team.

The fictional list of films combines legitimate frights with pure comedy for a winning combination. While some rooms, including Devil Dogs and Amazon Cannibals from Planet Hell, offer legit scares, a room full of Chucky E. Cheese murders (Schitte’s Kids) and evil gremlin aliens (Midnight Snack 2) let you laugh your way through the house. It’s a great combination, executing a part of the horror world that many of us have learned to love.

2. Poltergeist 

Halloween Horror Nights “Poltergeist” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

When Halloween Horror Nights announced Poltergeist would join the lineup, some shook their heads. After all, the movie is not “that scary” and really feels more at home with E.T. than something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I don’t really disagree with that logic either.

However, this house might be one of the very best interpretations of a horror classic yet. In the previous two years, The Exorcist and The Shining felt like wonderful homages to the iconic films. Yet neither one was actually scary. That’s where Poltergeist differs.

This Poltergeist house drops you straight into the climax of the film and does not relent until you leave the soundstage. You walk through the pool and underground the house, where the legions of bones from the cemetery stalk you.

Then, you run into the house, where that evil clown doll, giant spider ghost, and the Beast have taken control. You even walk through the other side, leaving you in a claustrophobic tunnel as scare actors reach out from every side.

To be frank, the film Poltergeist does not scare me. Yet Poltergeist will be known as the best IP house since Insidious at Halloween Horror Nights 25. The frightening experience makes this one stand out as one of the best houses of Halloween Horror Nights in the past five years.

1. Dead Exposure: Patient Zero

Halloween Horror Nights “Dead Exposure: Patient Zero” House Poster. Image Courtesy of Universal Studios Orlando Resort.

There may not be a more intense or unsettling house in Halloween Horror Nights this year than Dead ExposurePatient Zero. The story drops you into Paris in the 1980s as a zombie outbreak washes over the city.

The only cure is to “get” an inoculation that leaves the disinfected periodically blind. You are then thrown into one of the darkest houses you’ll ever walk through.

What makes Dead Exposure so frightening is how Universal Orlando sends their scariest creatures after you at an unrelenting pace. There seems to be a creature at every single turn, leaving you vulnerable as you attempt to get over the last one. Puppets of virus-filled monkeys immediately greet you, only to leave you surrounded in the subways and streets of Paris.

The disorienting aspect of the house comes from infrequent bursts of light to offset the darkness. There are dayglow effects and UV lighting throughout that allows you to see creatures and silhouettes in the distance. That’s when a creature, not unlike a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park comes at you from the sides.

Then there are rooms that are prepped by many flashing lights. In one instance, you literally enter a room with lightbulbs flashing all around, and then immediately dropped into a strobe room that goes completely dark for 2 to 3 seconds. Yet each of those seconds feels like an eternity.

I was able to attend the event for two nights, and with each walk through each house, they had uneven performances. Sometimes a house on its second or third run would falter or the scares would be infrequent. This just feels like it is part of the experience.

This was not the case at Dead Exposure. Instead, every turn I was met with something terrifying. Every turn, someone hunted me. Dead Exposure made me terrified every time I went through the house, leaving me in a perpetual state of shock as I left.

More. Want more Universal Monster Mayhem? Check out Alan's piece on The Phantom of the Opera!. light

This one might be the best house that has ever been done at Halloween Horror Nights excluding the All-Star mashup, Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem. This house is one for the ages.

What do you think of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights? Which houses were your favorites? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!