It’s a personal favorite day of the year since Halloween is not only an excuse to stuff your face with candy, but it’s the time when being scared is actually FUN.
And, you know that Halloween Horror Nights is basically the way to spend your spooky season, if you’re looking for the most thrills and chills possible. While we weren’t able to attend a full event this year, Universal Orlando still incorporated two daytime houses, a decked out Tribute Store, terrifying treats, and grown-up trick-or-treating into its parks.
Maybe it’s our affinity for the fears that we’ve encountered during Halloween Horror Nights from the past, but we can’t help but think about all the outstanding houses, scare zones, and shows we’ve seen at previous events when October 31st hits.
We’ve learned some awesome insider details from RIP Tours and gone down many rabbit holes about past events. And, there are over 180 houses (!!!) to consider from the past 30 years of Halloween Horror Nights in the parks. But, there are some that have really rocked our world and changed the game for horror events as we know them.
In honor of (arguably) the best day of the year, we’re giving you a look at 13 of the BEST Halloween Horror Nights houses over the past 30 years of events!
If multiple horror documentaries and critics place a house as a renowned work of art, you know it’s got to be good. Screamhouse at Halloween Horror Nights 12 literally changed haunted houses as we know them. It changed how Universal Orlando continued to build its event, setting a bar with the level of detail put into its facade and story.
The set design was unsettling as you tried to maneuver through hanging body bags as you smelled the scent of rotting flesh, all while you could hear the voice of the Caretaker overhead. Universal also instituted its famous mirror trick during the finale of Screamhouse, which has become a major component of other houses for years to come.
All-Nite Die In
Also at Halloween Horror Nights 13, the All-Nite Die In was a predecessor for many combination houses that we’ve seen later. The attraction took horror giants like Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, and Leatherface and let guests walk through their own slasher movie extravaganza. And, that’s not even a joke, since the facade was actually a movie theater with a torn screen!
The sets for each of these movies in the houses were crazy good, making you feel like you were actually outside at Camp Crystal Lake or inside the boiler room from The Nightmare on Elm Street. Each time we binge these scary movies at Halloween, part of us wishes we could turn back the clock and experience All-Nite Die In another time.
Although there were past Body Collectors houses, one of the stand-out houses during Halloween Horror Nights 15 was its Body Collectors attraction that year. The Gentlemen were brutal characters that really turned up the gore factor. The story played into the Terra Queen prophecy that was prominent in the parks that year (and will hopefully be fulfilled during HHN 30 next year), tying both plot and character development together neatly.
And, we can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the gruesome SPINE RIP that the Body Collectors house showcased. This house was all about the blood and guts of the Halloween Horror Nights franchise (and there’s a reason it’s so well-known by fans today).
The Thing: Assimilation
The reason that The Thing: Assimilation from Halloween Horror Nights 17 has become such a favorite was that it kicked off the growth of puppeteering in Universal Orlando’s haunted houses. The design and tools used in the house really paved the way for later houses (which we’ll note again later) paired with the amazing scare actors and sound queues used throughout the walk-through.
But, honestly, this house has remained one of the most intense experiences to date. The costumes were terrifying, taking gore to the next level with ripped-open bodies and distorted faces. The scare actors ran after people, making The Thing: Assimilation feel incredibly real and terrifying (our hearts are pounding a little just thinking about it). If you want to see what we mean, you can look behind-the-scenes of the attraction in Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights series!
An American Werewolf in London
A few years later during Halloween Horror Nights 23, The Thing: Assimilation paved the way for the An American Werewolf in London to become such a hit. While the house found its origin in a classic movie, it continued on an upward climb with the realistic puppets and special effects brought to life in the house. An American Werewolf checked everything off the “haunted house” necessity list as it contributed a great story, detailed elements, fantastic facade, and life-like puppets into the realm of Halloween Horror Nights.
Jack Presents — 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem
The 25th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights was a big one as hosts from past years came together to scare the socks off guests that year. And, Jack Presents — 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem called back to key elements from past mazes. While the entrance was set in a house of horrors, the entrance set up what a trippy event it would be with a creepy carnival atmosphere.
There are a LOT of hosts from other Halloween Horror Nights that show up in the house, but we are still obsessed with the flying gargoyles that were used in Jack Presents — 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem. As Halloween Horror Nights 30 is already in the works, we honestly cannot WAIT to see how past events are incorporate into the milestone occasion.
If you’re a massive Stephen King fan, you were likely in high anticipation when Universal announced that they would be constructing a house based on The Shining.
And, the Halloween Horror Nights 27 attraction lived up to ALL the hype and ticked each of the boxes it needed to in order to really pay homage to both Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick. Guests really felt like they were entering the Overlook Hotel and winding down corridors (complete with bloody elevators and axe-wielding psycho husbands).
The ending, though, was the best part as the temperature dropped considerably when you went into the hedge maze outside. Jack Torrance popped out at the right moments, making you unaware of where he was lurking just inside the hedges. I’m really gunning for a house based off the It movies after the success of Universal adaptation’s of The Shining.
It’s not always easy to take such a beloved scary movie and do it justice. But, Universal Orlando created an INSANE Poltergeist house that stayed true to the heart of its source material. It’s one of those houses you can’t help but think about time and time again because the detail was just that good.
The entry facade alone is worth noting with this house as you literally rose up from the ancient burial ground, made your way past all the skeletons, and entered the house. But, unlike the movie, guests would actually act as Carol Anne in the Halloween Horror Nights 28 house and enter the portal to the other dimension. The huge masks, ghosts, and figurines used throughout the atmosphere brought your childhood fears to life in the best ways possible!
Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After
The Scary Tales series has been an ongoing set of twisted fairytales at Halloween Horror Nights (that even the Revenge of the Tooth Fairy has taken a few notes from this year). However, the version at Halloween Horror Nights 28 was outstanding with the Wicked Witch of the West flying above guests as they entered the “story book” of Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After.
The house really played up the fact that original fairytales written by Hans Christian Anderson and others are pretty dark (like cutting your tongue off in The Little Mermaid dark). The walk-through flipped stories like The Wizard of Oz, Hansel and Gretel, Humpty Dumpty and more on their head, giving the house one of the most creative narrative and sets at Halloween Horror Nights 28.
Since the hit Netflix show has become a fan-favorite for people of all ages, Universal Orlando snatched Stranger Things up right away for its Halloween Horror Nights events. The first year when the Season One house debuted in 2018 blew everyone away as the Upside Down’s particles floated through the air and the Demogorgon was ridiculously life-like.
Universal spared no details on the monster, individually 3D printing each of the teeth on the masks the scare actors would wear. Some of them even opened and closed, which made it all the more terrifying when the Demogorgon would pop out at guests.
The 2019 house for Season Two and Three was a bit of a let-down if we’re going to be honest with less special effects used than the previous year. However, the HUGE Mind Flayer animatronic was breath-taking (and made up for some of the other lacking elements in the Halloween Horror Nights 29 house).
Halloween Horror Nights 29 actually had some of the most incredible houses we’ve ever seen. And, although many houses are about the scares for some people, Universal Monsters used an incredibly detailed set that revealed something new to guests each time they walked through it.While each room shifted from imagery of Dracula to the Phantom of the Opera and even the iconic Frankenstein duo, most people probably didn’t notice some of the tiniest details (but it’s a cool fun fact for horror fans).
At the end of each room, there were decorations that keyed into the next scene’s theme. So, pieces of seaweed or other subtle underwater elements were incorporated into the previous The Hunchback of Notre Dame scene to allow a smoothless transition between sets. And, it just tied the entire the entire house together with seamless precision that Universal Orlando has mastered.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
An interactive house that allows you to spray your friends with water while they get scared by human-eating clowns? Yes, please. There were plenty of fear factors at Halloween Horror Nights 29, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space was a surprise slam-dunk of a house. The film has become a cult classic with the its strange story, but hilarious and semi-scary clowns.
However, the HHN 29 house was a hit due to its giant circus tent facade, MASSIVE clown costumes that towered over guests, and buttons that let you actually interact with the attraction. It really did give that “fun maze, but make it horror” vibe you’d find at an actual carnival or fair. But, the best part of the house was the insane Klownzilla puppet that hung from the ceiling, snapping at guests as they walked through.
It was only a matter of time before Halloween Horror Nights hopped on the Ghostbusters franchise, considering the fact that Beetlejuice and Bill and Ted have both been a central part of the Universal Orlando event. The Halloween Horror Nights 29 house was meant to be more fun than something scary as a “lighter” option for scaredy cats out there.
Yet, it was easily one of the best film to house adaptations that Universal has ever made. Honestly, it’s the fact that this house used its projection tools and special effects SO well that I actually thought I was passing a ghost in the Public Library or that Slimer was barreling towards me.
The proton energy streams the Ghostbusters used literally flickered and sparked, which made my heart more happy than I can describe. And, it just looked awesome. Oh, we also can’t forget the EPIC finale with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man burning and filling the room with the scent of toasted marshmallows (which is better than the rotted flesh and literal POOP that past houses have smelled like).
Honorary Mention: Beetlejuice
Universal Orlando can’t help but keep us on our toes since the parks are wrapping up their modified Halloween Horror Nights with one last surprise! A Beetlejuice house opened for guests to walk right into the movie on October 31st and November 1st as an extra treat.
And, we have to say that we are REALLY hoping this house returns for next year’s event because two days is not nearly enough time to experience how awesome it is! Guests were taken into the Land of the Living and the Neitherworld as they walked through the Maitland’s house and then the iconic Waiting Room.
Similar to Ghostbusters, the Beetlejuice house stayed true to the parts of the film that have made it such a classic, all while adding special effects and insanely accurate set designs. You even get to experiences the “Day-O” scene and a real life SANDWORM! (Do you think Universal would let us move in with the Maitlands and Lydia as another friendly ghost??)
As Halloween Horror Nights 30 is underway, we’ve gotten a sneak peek at the Puppet Theatre: Captive Audience house that will be debuting in 2021. However, the years-worth of amazing houses over the past 30 events have us expecting that there will be attractions that literally shake us to our core. While we’ll have to patiently wait for more details on the anniversary event coming soon, we’d LOVE to hear some of your favorite experiences you’ve had during the past “30 Years, 30 Fears” of Halloween Horror Nights in Universal Orlando!
What are some of your all-time favorite houses? Let us know in the comments below!
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