This week marks the start of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios theme parks. Sinful Celluloid was once again invited to come to an early preview with maze mastermind John Murdy, and all we can say is, prepare yourself for the best HHN yet! Every classic slasher horror icon is represented along with a couple of properties that will blow you away in their conception. If there were an All Star celebration for haunts, this would be it!
Making its Halloween Horror Nights debut this year is AMERICAN HORROR STORY. The anthology series proved to be a challenge but very rewarding. Rather than mash up every season into super short vignettes, Murdy and his team chose to focus on three, Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel.
What can you look forward to? Hear (or read it rather) straight from the mouth of John Murdy:
“We’re incorporating video into the facade for the first time. Imagery from the opening title sequences helps put it back in peoples minds. I like those opening title sequences so much that in some scenes, we were inspired to have characters based purely on the opening titles.”
In keeping with interpretations from the show that aren’t as obvious, there is a HUGE Easter egg for fans, the introduction of Jessica Lange’s fourth child. Murphy explains…
“When I pitched the maze to Ryan Murphy back in February, and I told him I wanted to do some Easter eggs for the fans, he stopped me during my pitch and said, ‘I’ve got an idea.’ And if you go back and watch Murder House, you may remember how Jessica Lange mentions that she has four children, but you only meet three of them…”
Get ready, cause that mystery is solved…
“The fourth child was something that they had originally cast on AMERICAN HORROR STORY, and then eventually cut out the character because it didn’t feel necessary, so it ended up on the editing room floor. Ryan said, though, that whenever he does a Q&A or a panel, it’s always the first or second question he gets asked, ‘What about the fourth child?’ So Ryan thought it would be really cool to incorporate that into this maze. You will only get to see that character at Halloween Horror Nights.”
Not wanting to give away the secrets of course, you can count on certain things. The Murder House will go through several time periods, you can count on an appearance by Twisty the clown as well as several oddities from Freakshow, and the exquisite and twisted decadence of Hotel.
At the end of our AHS tour, we discussed some of the other mazes and immediately, THE EXORCIST became the popular topic.Murdy explained the challenges of bring the Exorcist to life.
“I chased the rights to The Exorcist ever since I began doing Horror Nights ten years ago…So I had a moment of panic going into The Exorcist, because even though I finally got to do it, it’s also the hardest movie I’ve ever had to adapt for a maze. Because what you have with The Exorcist, when you break it all down, is a movie that primarily takes place in a bedroom with a 12-year-old girl (which is not easy to cast), and she never gets out of bed. And when you look at that film and what made it such a landmark—the rotating head, the puke, the levitation over the bed—those are all practical effects that aren’t necessarily in-your-face scary. They’re more theatrical.”
I never imagined how hard that would be until he broke it down.
“What I ultimately landed on that gave me the idea on just how to make this thing truly scary, was a trailer that has often been referred to as the ‘banned trailer’ for The Exorcist, which starts off typically, but then amps up with all these bizarre cuts and negative images going back and forth quickly. It has this one piece of music called ‘The Night of the Electric Insects,’ and I remember seeing that when I was six-years old and it terrified me. But I knew that was ‘the maze.’ I didn’t know how it was going to translate into what we were planning initially, but I wanted this to feel like you were inside that trailer.”
That is exciting and I can’t wait to see this maze fully realized this Friday. Another maze we talked about was Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers. This is the first time we will see ChopTop and Leatherface together in a classic environment. This is the maze I’m most excited about. My first question was what was the reason for doing this?
“… I really wanted to get Chop-Top into this. He’s become a cult favorite over the years, and so I needed to come up with a storyline to explain why Chop-Top would even be there. So we set it five years into the future from the end of the first movie, and Chop-Top was away in Vietnam during the original, so he’s come home and sees how his family takes the next steps towards starting their BBQ business after converting their gas station into a restaurant.”
We ended our tour with KRAMPUS and we were left to explore the winter wonderland on our own. It is an amazing set that explores the house as well as other areas in the film and all its insane creatures. You can see some of the awesomness in the gallery below. By the way, adjacent to the Krampus house is an old burned warehouse that features an interesting name: CRAVEN INDUSTRIES. I’ll leave that to you to figure out.