Universal Orlando has brought its Halloween Horror Nights back, back, back again for a 31st year of terror, gore and relentless scares. Featuring 10 haunted houses, five scare zones and two shows, the chilling lineup has something for everyone to enjoy. Its signature event is the crème de la crème of the Halloween season and this year’s festivities range from a lagoon light show to a horrifying immersive experience inspired by The Weeknd’s music.
Those visiting Universal Orlando can enjoy the bars and restaurants along CityWalk prior to entering the park, with staying at an on-site hotel offering the added benefit of Early Park Admission – something you won’t regret when you’re dodging waiting for some of the most popular rides later in the day/night. The free water taxi service, shuttle buses and ability to walk everywhere are also highlights of staying at one of these hotels, as you don’t have to worry about the journey home after being scared the house down boots. GAY TIMES highly recommends Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando for the bed alone – who knew pillows could be the best part of a trip?
Now, it’s time to get into what you came for. C’mon Halloween Horror Nights fans, let’s get ranking!
10. Bugs: Eaten Alive
Make no mistake, this house placing last doesn’t mean you should underestimate its ability to scare. There’s an ominous feeling from the moment you step foot into Bugs: Eaten Alive that never quite goes away, with each room continuing its haunting storyline which – you guessed it – revolves around creepy crawlies. The scariest part about this house isn’t the jump scares or the dimly lit corridors, but instead the immersive experience you find yourself in from start to finish. Universal Orlando’s attention to detail is second to none, with everything from the set design to the smell of each room being curated to make you feel as though you really are in a world where bugs have taken over and you could be next on the menu. There are even moments where you feel as though something is touching you and, more than a week after visiting Bugs: Eaten Alive, I’m still not sure if there actually was or if the house was so effective that my own mind was playing tricks on me.
9. Universal Monsters: Legends Collide
Now, before you jump through your screen to come at me for ranking this house ninth, some context is needed. I was only able to do a preview of Universal Monsters: Legends Collide without it being fully ready due to being preoccupied with something that had happened moments before I was meant to have the full experience (more on that below). That said, it’s a must-see for anyone visiting Universal Studios in Orlando and/or Hollywood, as this house is a two-part experience between both locations. As is the case with every house, the concept is excellent and perfectly executed. It sees Dracula, Wolf Man and The Mummy battling for one amulet to end their curse, with a different winner shown to attendees each night – meaning you can go multiple times and still be shocked. The house’s design incorporates elements from each character and the spooky music, special effects and eerily realistic costumes create an ambience that makes Universal Monsters: Legends Collide an experience you don’t want to do alone.
8. Spirits of the Coven
Spirits of the Coven dials down the scares a little more than the other houses, instead thriving off making anyone inside it feel deeply unsettled at all times. Some rooms blare 1920s music, while others are filled with screams and cult-like chants. The house avoids the traditional witch tropes of black cats and eccentric outfits, instead taking you to a sinister version of a New York City speakeasy (the ‘spirits’ pun in the title says it all). The jump scares in this one will likely catch you off guard, as the actors look a lot more human than in other houses and, in some parts, even seem happy before they unexpectedly lunge towards you. There are also a number of highly effective decoys that distract you just seconds before the real scares make themselves known, giving you no time to prepare for them. Spirits of the Coven becomes more daunting the more you walk through it, with the last few rooms making it easy to forget that what you’re experiencing isn’t real.
7. Fiesta de Chupacabras
Based around the chupacabra – a legendary creature which is said to drink the blood of livestock – the atmosphere of this house is eery, to say the least. There’s a lot of variation from room to room, as you sometimes appear to be in a home and at others in some sort of meat locker being used to store dead bodies. Of all the houses at Halloween Horror Nights, Fiesta de Chupacabras feels like the most conventional “haunted house”. It relies mostly on jump scares and creepy masks to frighten those navigating their way through it, but what’s wrong with that? For those planning a visit, beware – the last few rooms are by far the most disturbing and it’s more than likely that you will encounter the chupacabra on several occasions. Good luck.
6. The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare
This was by far the hardest house to rank. On the one hand, it scared me so much that I jumped so hard into the person in front of me that my nose bled. Talk about getting the full After Hours experience, right? On the other, the best parts are the ones tailored to The Weeknd’s most dedicated fans. You get to walk through sets mimicking his most well-known music videos and hear some of his hits remixed in a way you’ve never heard them before – all as you live in fear of something jumping out at you. The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare offers up a more rounded experience than some of the other houses, as it doesn’t feel as though its main purpose is to scare you. It is, however, an unmissable part of Halloween Horror Nights 2022 and is one of the most unique parts of this year’s festivities.
5. Descendants of Destruction
Oh lawd. Where to begin? From before you even enter Descendants of Destruction, it’s unnerving. The outside is designed to look like an abandoned subway station, destroyed by some kind of toxic waste or outbreak. Universal Studios has done such a good job with making it look, feel and smell like you’re really in some sort of post-apocalyptic world that reality quickly fades from memory once you step inside. Although every house is an immersive experience, Descendents of Destruction has a room that takes that to a creepy new level. As you enter, the smell of meat on a grill instantly hits you, as does the heat. Soon after that, you realise the person in front of you is cooking human flesh. What could more could you ask for from a haunted house?
4. The Horrors of Blumhouse
Disturbing, truly disturbing. Even just thinking about this makes me quiver. The Horrors of Blumhouse is a unique experience as it gives you two houses in one – meaning that as soon as you’re finished being scared to death, you have no time to recover before entering another house. Starting with The Black Phone, you are instantly thrown into the set of the movie with missing person posters plastered all over the walls around you. You swiftly move into a room with nothing but a mattress, empty plate and black phone in it, which signifies what separates this house from the others – the constant feeling of unease you can never quite shake. It does of course come with the jump scares you’d expect, complete with some truly horrifying masks that will surely leave you shook. Upon entering Freaky, you find yourself in a high school which seems abandoned, but sadly isn’t. From people jumping out of doors you didn’t even know were there to seeing bodies carved up in front of you, this house combines the best of Blumhouse and horror more generally: gore, thrills and a sprinkle of camp.
3. Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake
Ma’am, who gave Universal Orlando the permission to create something so scary? Firstly, we have to talk about the incredible set design on this. To call it a house feels inadequate, Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake feels more like its own world. Every detail has been carefully thought out to make you feel as though you’re walking among undead fisherman, from the frosty air to the misty fog that surrounds you. Now, I’m not sure if this was just me, but this house felt a lot longer than the others. There are so many layers to it that I wasn’t sure if I was lost at one point. Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake is home to some of the most shocking scares of all 10 houses, including a poster which fades to reveal a terrifying fisherman ominously waiting for you. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this experience so unnerving, but I think it could be how real Universal Orlando has managed to make it feel. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s not one to miss when you visit the park.
2. Hellblock Horror
Not a fan of jump scares? Good luck in Hellblock Horror. This house keeps you on edge at all times and the only certainty once you’re inside is that something is waiting for you at every turn. Filled with monsters of all kinds that are hell bent on taking over and destroying the world after escaping their prison, the creatures inside are truly horrifying and like nothing I’d ever seen before (which really is saying something). Navigating your way through this genuinely feels like a mission – almost every room/corridor is dark, some are foggy and there’s always an empty doorway that someone could pop out from in sight. Your senses become so heightened in Hellblock Horror that even the most basic of things become daunting, including the darkened room filled with bunk beds (which may or may not involve a scare at some point). If you manage to make it out of this house without screaming, you truly deserve a medal for bravery because it is no joke.
You can throw ghouls, goblins and all sorts of other things my way, but there’s something about a guy like Michael Myers with a knife that’s just so terrifying to me. Make that dozens of them on a set that looks almost identical to the original Halloween movie? Horrifying. Even typing the word “Halloween” is giving me flashbacks to this house, which is any horror movie fan’s dream and will have you feeling your Jamie Lee Curtis fantasy. The concept is simple – you’re essentially made to feel as though you are the film’s latest ‘final girl’ as you navigate your way through rooms filled with potential threats (usually related to a certain masked man). Full transparency: I was so scared at one point that I literally threw myself to the floor in fear. I guess that’s what happens when you unexpectedly find Michael mere centimetres away from your face as the Halloween theme song surrounds blares from everywhere around you. The laser focus of Universal Studios cannot be overlooked in this house, which truly saves the best for last – a room full of Michaels, some of which are real and some which aren’t – it’s up to you to tell the difference.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando runs on selected nights from 2 September to 31 October and tickets start from £63 per person. More information on how to book your trip can be found below:
Seven nights in Orlando with a 3 Park Explorer Ticket from £1,525 per person
Seven nights in Orlando, with Virgin Atlantic Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic Economy Classic flights from London Heathrow direct to Orlando, a 3 Park Explorer Ticket and accommodation at Loews Sapphire Falls. Price is per person based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard 2 Queen room and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on 25/10/2022. Virgin Atlantic Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.