It may be uncharacteristically early for Universal to do so, but the company has gone ahead and revealed the first original (that is to say, not based on a pre-existent intellectual property) haunted house for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights: Dead Exposure: Patient Zero.
While it may be surprising to be getting an original announcement this early in the year – typically, Universal clusters all of its own creations at the very tail-end of the cycle, once all of the famous IPs have been unveiled and have jumpstarted the marketing machine – what’s less surprising is how Patient Zero ties back into a previous entry of HHN lore, a practice which the event’s designers love to keep alive year after year. The 2008 maze of Dead Exposure took a well-trodden subject – zombies – and put a unique spin on it, having guests essentially enter a series of living photographs, an effect which was realized by using strobe flashes and the sound effect of a camera shutter clicking. The idea was to trace photographer Charlie McPherson’s journey from his apartment and through his city in an attempt to survive the undead horde; the haunt was in near-total darkness except for these bursts of light, which, of course, revealed zombies at nearly every turn. In a rather clever move, the creatures would utilize the periods of darkness to slip in and out of place, blocking guests’ path and, even, attacking attendees as they did so.
Patient Zero takes this formula and seemingly adds a few interesting tweaks to it. First of all, the timeframe has been moved up to 1982, and the location has been switched to Paris – making this a geographically-displaced prequel (or, at least, we think it’s a prequel; the original house had a lack of specific chronological information). The zombie affliction from the original Dead Exposure is just starting to spread, with “hordes of vicious, flesh-eating undead” beginning to swarm the streets. As you are being forced into a quarantine zone by the military, you are already starting to suffer the side-effects of the mandatory vaccine: blindness. As Universal itself puts it:
You’ll be lost in the darkness as the undead hunt you. An attack can come from anywhere. You don’t have to remember the original house to understand this single truth: they will find you.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Patient Zero will employ the same framing device that its forbearer so effectively wielded – visitors would both start and end in Charlie McPherson’s apartment, which not only explained the photographic gimmick (guests had simply entered the photog’s portfolio, reliving the terror with him), it also provided for a nice climax in the form of an undead Charlie terrorizing everyone out of his domicile.
(In the interests of both completeness and our OCD, we should probably also mention that Dead Exposure got resurrected for just one quick scene in 2010’s 20th-anniversary mash-up haunt, Horror Nights: The Hallow’d Past, which speaks to its beloved status among the HHN faithful.)
Dead Exposure: Patient Zero will join Stranger Things at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, which runs for a record-breaking 34 select nights, from Friday, September 14 to Saturday, November 3.
Find out everything you ever wanted to know about HHN – plus more! – in our insider’s guide.