I’ve written before about how great I think the Halloween Horror Nights Behind the Screams tours are. So you can imagine that I was very excited when I found out that this year Universal is giving guests the opportunity to take two different Behind the Screams tours during the day, each featuring three different event houses. The Morning Menace tour takes you through The Walking Dead: No Safe Haven, Resident Evil: Escape from Raccoon City, and Evil Dead; the Afternoon Abominations tour takes you through Urban Legends: La Llorona, Cabin in the Woods, and An American Werewolf in London. The individual tours are $59.99 plus tax, but you can take both tours on the same day for $99.99 plus tax.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to do both.
Check-in time for the 10:30am tour started at 10:00 at the Universal Studios’ VIP Check-In Lobby. I was given a lanyard for this year’s event, which featured the tree of the “What Evil has Taken Root?” theme.
Prior to heading out on the tour, the guides provided a little background on this year’s event and gave everyone a quick primer on what you can and do shoot on the tours (you can take photos, but no video).
We then headed out with our tour guide, David, to our first house: The Walking Dead.
It was explained that the Walking Dead house takes place within the timeline of Season 3, so it includes scenes from both the town of Woodbury and the Prison.
We were also told that even though you see characters that look like similar to ones from the show in the house, such as (walker) Merle, Milton, and Penny, they are not actually known as those characters due contracts and copyrights. This also explains why you do not see any of the survivors we know from the show in the house or on the streets. But that’s not to say you won’t see characters that definitely look familiar, even in mannequin form (the second photo below is not Lori, wink-wink).
In addition, we learned that the guest-activated sequence is in this house this year. So if you hear the phone ringing, answer it. Though if no one does, the effect is also set to a timer to go off anyway. In the town of Woodbury, the design team paid tribute to a Universal employee who had passed away earlier this year by naming the town’s Florist Shop after her.
Finally, this house was also where we were told that there is a raven within each house and scare zone this year.
After the Walking Dead, we headed over to Resident Evil, a house based on the video game series.
In this house our guide pointed out some of its “easter egg” features. For example, fans of the Leave it to Cleaver house will recognize this photo of Sam Meetz of Meetz Meats, whose picture adorns the wall of the Italian restaurant in the house.
You’ll also find nods to features of the Resident Evil video game throughout the house, including this typewriter, which is used in-game to save your progress. They have illuminated items like this to make them stand out.
The tour gave us the opportunity to see detail in this house that we would have never have a chance to appreciate on a quick run through at night, like the assorted graffiti that adorns one pathway.
There are actually several graffiti pieces, but this was a favorite.
After our visit to Resident Evil, it was off to the final house on the Morning Menace tour: Evil Dead.
Our guide talked to us about the interesting facade for the house, in part done this way to distinguish it from the other “cabin” at this year’s event.
David also demonstrated to us how a diversionary tactic in a house might work. In the scene below, the attention of the guest is drawn to the scareactor in the floor, while another scareactor lurks out of sight, ready to go in for the scare.
And of course I couldn’t leave the house without getting shot of a certain book.
The first tour ended around 12:45, so there was time to grab some lunch. Then it was back to VIP Check-In for the 2:00pm Afternoon Abominations, which started at Urban Legends: La Llorona.
Our guide made a point about telling us that the name of this house is not just La Llorona; it is Urban Legends: La Llorona. He said that if the house was well received, we could expect to see future houses under the “Urban Legends” moniker.
He went on to inform us that, while the La Llorona house was previously done at Universal Studios Hollywood, the Universal Orlando’s house is not identical to that house. The first half shares similarities with the Hollywood version, but the second half of the house is completely different.
Once inside the tent that holds the house, we got a good look at the imagery of this somber themed house, like the funeral for the children of La Llorona.
Our guide used this scene to explain that, if you’re in a house and feel yourself going “up” as you walk, chances are there is something going on “down” from where you are standing, so look down.
In this house, if you look down over the bridge, you’ll see the children in the river. Note that they remove the water from the scene during the daytime hours.
After Urban Legends: La Llorona, we headed over to the Cabin in the Woods. Because everyone in our group had not yet seen the movie, our guide gave us a quick overview of the goings on in the house, and then we headed inside the cabin.
There was no making a Cabin in the Woods house without this guy:
We were told that Universal was aware that some guests will try to make out with the wolf when they go through the house. (Some guests on the tour may have actually done just that…)
Inside the cabin, one of the most elaborate rooms is the basement scene where the five friends choose their fate. The amount of detail that went in to recreating this room is incredible, right down to the diary that set in motion the events of the film.
Another memorable item from the film is found in one of the bedrooms.
As a fan of the movie, seeing the betting board close up was fun for me, though HHN took some liberties in its recreation: in the movie, the Story Department bets on the Deadites, not Kevin. Speaking of Kevin, though he is never seen nor explained in the movie, we were informed that the film strips were the totem that would have been used to summon him.
Finally, a visit to the Cabin in the Woods house wouldn’t be complete without a close look at the Merman. He is a stationary animatronic, but moves his tail and blows liquid from his blowhole.
Our final house of the day was An American Werewolf in London. One of the first things our guide told us was that this was third try to bring the film to Halloween Horror Nights. Because of that, the code name for the house this year was “Trinity.”
We were given a good look at the transformation scene and told how it is all set up. Our guide also explained that if there is a cast change going on, they shut the door leading up to this scene as it is such a pivotal moment in the house, they would hate for anyone to miss it.
Last year the house was replaced last minute by the Silent Hill house. Indeed, There is a nod to that house in An American Werewolf in Longdon, in the form of a sign for Quiet Hills Pub. (I wonder if they serve Pyramid beer…)
But the most popular reference to another property in this house has got to be to the TARDIS, which was placed here by the folks on the Halloween Horror Nights team as they are fans of the show.
The best thing about touring this house was being able to get up close and personal with the wolves.
These puppets are amazing, and they had someone come in and operate them so you could see how they work and take photos with them. To be able to see the wolves “come alive” was very cool.
The second leg of the tour finished around 4:15pm, and after the opportunity to ask our guide any additional questions we might have, we were sent on our way.
If you have the chance to take one or both of these Behind the Screams tours, I highly recommend it. And if you’re interested in seeing more pics from the tour (which include the location of the raven in each of the houses we visited), head to my Flickr page for individual albums on each of the houses. Needless to say, I highly recommend the HHN 2013 Behind the Scream tours — and remember, you don’t need to have daytime admission to the parks or to HHN to participate.
To learn more, visit the Insider’s guide to HHN 2013 in the OI Universal Center.
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