To borrow from the immensely quotable Yankee great Yogi Berra: Halloween Horror Nights 2015 at Universal Studios Hollywood looks like deja vu all over again.
With four returning mazes from years past, you have to ask: Haven’t we seen this all before?
Horror Nights 2015 will feature six haunted mazes, four scare zones and a show on select nights from Sept. 18 to Nov. 1.
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For an unprecedented fourth straight year, “The Walking Dead” will once again be the face of Horror Nights. It’s becoming pretty clear that Universal will stick with the Emmy winner as long as the hit AMC zombie apocalypse program remains a ratings juggernaut.
Also returning are mazes based on “Halloween,” “Insidious” and “Alien vs. Predator,” which Universal promises will include new scenes or storylines.
The two new mazes feature a brand-name director with an untested property (“Crimson Peak” from filmmaker Guillermo del Toro) and a wild card horror-comedy that sounds intriguing (“This Is the End”).
Even the Terror Tram feels a bit like a rerun, turning “The Purge” scare zone from seasons past into a theme for the studio backlot tram.
It makes sense that Horror Nights would eventually start repeating itself after a decade of featuring some of the most popular horror franchises from the worlds of film, television, video games and music. And much like this year’s reemergence of the "Halloween" maze, it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually see rebooted mazes dedicated to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th."
Bringing back mazes for multi-year runs is actually a good idea as long as Universal adds additional mazes to address the continuing crowding issues. Letting "Alien vs. Predator" run in back-to-back years is a brilliant idea, provided the savings reaped are directed toward increasing the capacity of the annual event. Horror Nights probably needs twice as many mazes as it will have this year to accommodate the hordes that descend on the Hollywood park each September and October.
After growing the number of mazes last year to address the crowding issues in the relatively small park, Universal has decided to return to a smaller line-up this year, even as the annual Halloween event continues to explode in popularity.
The Horror Nights event at sister park Universal Orlando will grow to nine mazes this year. Their West Coast counterparts will tell you that the California park is far smaller than the Florida park and is currently undergoing a tremendous amount of construction, including the removal of the year-round House of Horrors maze. But the Hollywood event has successfully expanded into the studio backlot in recent years, freeing up more space for mazes.
With record-setting crowds and lines stretching for hours, it makes no sense for Universal Studios Hollywood to cut the number of Horror Nights mazes this year. Hopefully, Universal can continue expanding Horror Nights' footprint after the Wizarding World of Harry Potter finally opens in spring 2016.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap for Halloween Horror Nights 2015 at Universal Studios Hollywood:
Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far
Featuring twice as many zombie walkers as last year, the latest installment of the "Walking Dead" maze will be inspired by the fifth season of the television series in what’s being billed as the longest maze in Horror Nights history.
“You'll follow in the footsteps of the human survivors on the show as you try to escape the horrors of cannibalism in Terminus, a lonely backwoods church cursed by the sins of its pastor, a FEMA camp where the government has lost all control and a sprawling warehouse facility where a mysterious new threat that call themselves 'The Wolves' are ready to spring the ultimate trap," wrote Horror Nights creative director John Murdy on Twitter, where 67,000 fans follow his frequent updates.
Universal will dial back the “Walking Dead” presence considerably at this year’s Horror Nights after featuring the theme in a maze and scare zone as well as on the Terror Tram last season.
Halloween: Michael Myers Comes Home
Returning to Horror Nights for the first time since 2009, a new "Halloween" maze takes visitors through the tormented town of Haddonfield, where a 6-year-old Michael Myers inexplicably stabbed his sister to death with a kitchen knife in 1963.
Based on the original 1978 “Halloween” movie, the maze will feature scenes inside the psychiatric hospital from which Myers escaped to exact his bloody revenge on his unsuspecting victims.
Guided through the maze by the voice of Dr. Sam Loomis, visitors will witness classic kills from the movie as well as step foot inside Myers’ childhood bedroom, a location never portrayed in any of the “Halloween” films.
Insidious: Return to the Further
The new "Insidious" maze will flow through scenes from all three movies in chronological order using a recurring blood-red door as a bridge between films.
Visitors will follow psychic Elise Rainer and her team as they investigate unexplained phenomena in an eerie Victorian home. Along the way, the team will host a horrifying seance and battle demonic entities populating a supernatural realm known as the Further. Fans of the films can expect to encounter the Bride in Black and the Oxygen Mask Demon.
“Our 'Insidious' maze in 2013 remains to this day the highest guest-rated maze in the entire history of Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood,” Murdy wrote. “So the decision to return to the Further this year with the release of ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’ was a no-brainer for me. We had to do it.”
This is the End 3D
By far the biggest surprise of this year's Horror Nights has to be the new maze based on the 2013 horror-comedy “This is the End,” starring James Franco and Seth Rogan with a host of cameos by Hollywood A-listers.
“I like taking risks,” Murdy wrote. “To me, that’s Hollywood Horror Nights. Sometimes you have to push the envelope. Why does horror have to be so narrowly defined? It doesn’t.”
Wearing 3D glasses, visitors will enter through Franco’s Hollywood Hills home, where an A-list party is underway. With scenes culled from the Book of Revelations, the post-apocalyptic revelers face a life-or-death struggle against the demons of the underworld. Will they be damned for eternity or raptured to heaven?
Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness
The new "Crimson Peak" maze will be based on filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s dark fantasy debuting in theaters Oct. 16.
Visitors will follow the main character, Edith Cushing, as she journeys from her American home to haunted Allerdale Hall in the remote English countryside.
Murdy describes the Crimson Peak maze as quite possibly the most difficult he’s ever built.
“Guillermo del Toro’s style is so specific, it's hard to re-create for a maze,” he wrote. “The sets in this movie are insane. I've rarely seen anything like the scale they're doing without a ton of computer animation.”
Alien vs. Predator
Last year's most-ambitious maze returns with sci-fi scenes depicting rival alien species in a fight to the death.
The 2014 "Alien vs. Predator" maze brought to life the film’s complicated and challenging extraterrestrial creatures with scenes so startlingly scary, you’d think you’d stepped into the movie.
“Truth be told, this maze was always conceived to be a two-year play for us," Murdy wrote. "The Predator spaceship, all those creatures. Certainly the Alien Queen is by far the craziest effect we've ever produced for Halloween Horror Nights.”
Terror Tram & Scare Zones
This year's Terror Tram will adopt a Survive the Purge theme, drawing from "The Purge" films, in which crime is legal for 12 hours during a government-sanctioned killing rampage.
The Terror Tram will dump visitors into The Purge: Urban Nightmare scare zone on the studio backlot where masked vigilantes will sow chaos.
The Dark Christmas scare zone recounts the stories of mythical demonic creatures such as Krampus, who drags disobedient children to Hell.
The remaining scare zones include Exterminatorz, where half-human, half-pest creatures crawl out of the cracks, and Corpz, where decaying World War I soldiers rise from the grave.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, three of the four scare zones have appeared at Horror Nights before, with Exterminatorz the only new entry.
Horror Nights' lone show features the Jabbawockeez hip-hop dance crew in their familiar white masks. Taking a break between Las Vegas shows, Jabbawockeez replaces the long-running "Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure" which was canceled mid-run last season amid controversy.
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