At times it really felt like Universal was phoning it in this year. Midway through the night, it was looking a bit bleak. We had done the terror tram and Ash vs Evil Dead and we were thoroughly unimpressed, with a lot left to cover with our few remaining hours.
The Shining Maze wins at Halloween, wins at all mazes this year, and maybe wins all mazes ever.
If you are a fan of the film, it is absolutely worth the trip to Universal’s horror nights for the sole purpose of experiencing this masterpiece first hand. Think about everything you crave when you hear the words, “Universal has a Shining maze this year”, and they basically deliver it, terrifyingly packaged. They transport you right into the movie, scene by scene, like the most wonderful celluloid nightmare imaginable. No spoilers, just go.
Saw is the only one we missed. Last year we were able to hit every single maze, this year we had a bit of a late start and also if I’m being honest… a beer is probably what set us back. Universal is enforcing a two drink minimum (for the night), and unlike previous years, and normal operating hours, you cannot carry your drink out of the designated areas. We did not know this when we ordered. We found out on our way to the backlot, and our pit stop for provisions turned into a scarf and chug. Had we not done that, I’m pretty confident we could have scratched all 8 off our list.
I hate to say, but the Terror Tram is pretty skippable. If you’ve done it in past years, I’d say skip or save until as late as you can. The main draw here is of course the Bates Motel and Psycho house. You get to walk about the motel set a little bit, and have a photo opp with Norman Bates on the steps of the iconic house. So if you’re either a Psycho fan, or if it’s your first time, it’s probably worth it. But if you’re going on the tram specifically for the terrors… it’s basically a massive moving corral with scare actors mixed into the crowd trying their best to work with what they’ve got.
If you’re short on time, I’d also say save Ash vs Evil Dead for later in the night, time permitting. It’s fun, especially if you’re an Evil Dead fan, but as a whole it ranks pretty low on the list.
The Shining maze hands down kicks the asses and the faces and the mothers and the grandmothers asses of all the other mazes this year. But if you do it first, you may be disappointed by the lackluster remainder of the night. Ideally save it for maybe third or so.
Titans of Terror was our collective second favorite. Kind of a nostalgia-gasm for fanboys and fangirls, but still a lot of fun for the casual audience as well. A lot of mazes have these elaborate back stories that just do not translate during the walk through. This is not in that category. Begin in a fanboy’s bedroom and descend into Freddy territory, a Jason Voorhees inhabited Camp Crystal Lake, and finally arrive in Leatherface’s domain. Effective transitions through each section, scares would have worked much better if the crowds were slightly spaced out a tad more.
The Blumhouse maze is probably next on the list. At first glance it looked like the Purge walk through from last year’s setup, but they’ve added on to include an actual inside area dedicated to the deja vu of Happy Death Day and spooky Sinister section.
American Horror Story was a pretty impressive setup. Their build out last year was as well, but last year focused on multiple seasons of the show, while this time it’s dedicated to the latest season, Roanoke. That means The Butcher and a whole lotta’ pig heads. Great attention to details, complete with earthy smells placed right where they should be.
Insidious was creepy and fun, nothing exceptionally standout, but not bad at all.
We missed the Saw maze, but I suspect we may have been totally happy swapping that out for the Terror Tram or maybe even for Ash vs Evil Dead.
As a whole it really does feel like Universal progressively asks more and delivers less. The walkaround scares are limited, you nearly forget why you’re there by the time you get to enter the next maze. And this was on a night with mild lines. I can’t imagine going on a Saturday night with a two-hour wait. The Shining Maze really saved this one for me, I was pretty unimpressed until we hit that one, and it essentially made the whole thing worthwhile. Hoping they deliver bigger and better next year. Even two or three on par with the care they put into The Shining maze would easily turn this back into the best haunt in the region.