When it was originally announced that Netflix’s Stranger Things would be making its way to last year’s Halloween Horror Nights, we found the little nugget that only the absolutely-mammoth show’s first season would be realized in haunted-house fashion to be a little suspicious. And even though the event’s designers later told us that they had made that decision in order to realize those first eight episodes as fully as they possibly could, we still harbored the strong hunch that the move was also inspired by the plan to have the second season arrive for this year’s annual event.
Today, Universal proved that belief correct. Yes, that’s right – Stranger Things 2 is coming to Halloween Horror Nights 2019 as yet another flagship maze.
Stranger Things’s second season dropped just in time for Halloween 2017, 15 months after the inaugural season bowed, and moved the storyline nearly a year forward, following the consequences of Eleven’s supposed death and Will Byers’s supposed recovery from his time in the alternate reality known as the Upside Down. Its slightly-expanded roster of nine episodes allowed creators-showrunners the Duffer brothers more room to play – including the series’s most controversial installment to date, the exclusively-Eleven-focused “The Lost Sister,” which takes place in Chicago instead of the sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana – and it’s doubtless that this bigger narrative palate will allow Universal’s Art and Design Team a bigger sandbox to play in, as well.
Indeed, there are several noteworthy scenes or moments from Stranger Things 2 that could be realized to great effect in the new haunt: the rotting pumpkin patch, the seemingly-endless tunnels that crisscross underneath the entire town of Hawkins (which has already been teased in the announcement video), the junkyard attack by the pack of Demodogs, Sheriff Jim Hopper and Eleven’s final descent to close off the trans-dimensional portal for good, Hopper’s cabin in the woods (which has already been confirmed), and, throughout it all, the ever-watchful eye of the Mind Flayer as he stalks – and attempts to possess – Will. (And – hey – why not include a Snow Ball tag at the very end of the maze, with ‘80s music blaring, just for fun?) All this material just might be enough to elevate the haunted house from great-fidelity-but-general-creepiness to more of an unabashed level of scariness, thereby addressing the biggest critique that many had during last year’s Horror Nights (ourselves included).
But what is above and beyond the most exciting part of today’s announcement doesn’t come from what’s in the second season – it comes from what’s in the third. Yes, that’s right – this new Stranger Things maze will end on something of a bang, taking guests “on a terrifying excursion through portions of Stranger Things 3,” most specifically the Starcourt Mall, which will be, in many ways, the centerpiece of the new batch of episodes (which land in July and which take place some six months in the future, in the summer of 1985). This is a surprise move, to be sure, and it raises a number of questions: will these extra scenes act essentially as a teaser for the new material, which isn’t unheard of in Halloween Horror Nights’s history? Does it preclude the presence of a full Stranger Things 3 haunted house for next year’s event? Or is there just so much contained in season three that there’s no possible way that Art and Design would be able to squeeze it all in just one haunt?
Although an exhilarating development, we should note that the return of Stranger Things is hardly a surprising one – not only did the previous house consistently attain two-hour wait times (or more) during the whole run of Horror Nights 2018, but the event’s entire food-and-beverage lineup was anchored by the hit show and its preponderance for Eggo waffles, as well. And all that isn’t even mentioning the unbelievable, unprecedented fact that the property managed to extend HHN’s run for one day, with the maze remaining open on Tuesday, November 6 (that’s Stranger Things Day!) so that all regular, non-Halloween Horror Nights guests could have the opportunity to experience it for themselves and see what the buzz was all about.
Even though HHN 2019 starts earlier than ever – on Friday, September 6 – that’s still some five months away. You can while away the time and scratch that Demogorgon itch by perusing the just-started Stranger Things Expanded Universe of additional narratives: a four-issue comic-book miniseries, simply called Stranger Things, tells the story of the first season from the perspective of Will Byers as he’s trapped in the Upside Down; Worlds Turned upside Down is part making-of and part coffee-table book, charting the show’s genesis and providing hints for the upcoming third season; Suspicious Minds is a prequel novel, showing how Eleven’s mother got swept into the MKUltra Project and, thereby, bestowed special powers on her in utero daughter; and there are a few more upcoming releases, including books on Chief Hopper and Max Mayfield’s backstories and the Six comic miniseries, which introduces yet another one of those text subjects, Six, to the world. And, of course, the cherry on top is the long-awaited third season itself, which lands (finally!) on July 4, 2019 (the same day as Stranger Things 3: The Game, the first console and PC release for the franchise).
Stranger Things will arrive at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, which runs for a record-breaking 41 nights, from Friday, September 6 to Saturday, November 2.