A not-so-scary night of horrors

By Rob Brannon


Save your money; it isn’t worth it.

That’s all you need to know about the latest installment of Halloween Horror Nights, held for the first time at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.

Why such a harsh assessment? Well, despite the twisted clowns and half-man, half-dinosaur monsters, the scariest part of the evening was seeing the line to get into the event, which was hundreds of feet wide and stretched hundreds of yards into the distance for an hour after the park’s opening.

Once inside, the people are so thick in the walkways that half the time is spent dodging and tripping. Even the actors, told to jump out at people, cannot have any kind of effect among the massive hordes. In fact, most stood to the side to avoid being swept away.

Before the event Saturday, Horror Nights designers Michael Roddy and Adrian LePeltier told a group of student journalists that everything in the park, including all rides and all haunted houses, could be seen even with a large crowd in three to four hours.Right.

After six long, feet-pounding hours, our weary three from The Oracle had ridden some rides and walked away from each haunted house, disgusted at the two-hour waits.

Dueling Dragons and the Incredible Hulk, Islands of Adventure’s two most popular roller coasters, each closed at 11:15 p.m. and each saw waits of up to two hours. Therefore, the average park visitor has to pick one roller coaster and one haunted house, and that’s all there is time to do.

What’s so aggravating about the enormous crowd is that Universal sells the $40 tickets for the event through Ticketmaster, complete with a $5 service charge, with the guise of keeping the crowds reasonable.

I think I can safely say the crowd is no longer reasonable when the line to get a beer stretches for 100 feet. And considering you could buy a six-pack for the price Universal charged for a single drink, well, that’s saying something.

As for the aesthetics of the park, the darkness, which has provided good atmosphere in past years, was an annoyance with the large crowds. There were way too many smoke machines. I felt as though I smoked a pack of cigarettes by the end of the evening, and walking through the thick clouds reduced visibility to almost nothing.

And as for the what seemed like thousands of chainsaws, with their grating, obnoxious hum, by the end of the evening I found myself cursing whoever invented that infernal machine.

In fact, the best time of the evening was the half a minute on the Incredible Hulk, which was a brief but refreshing break from the noise and the smoke. Other than that, the best moment was when I got back in the car.

My advice: Spend five bucks on a local haunted house, and if you want to go to Islands of Adventure, go during the daytime. Your feet will thank you.

By Grace Agostin

The nightmares of Halloween Horror Nights have begun, and let’s hope there is a master plan to develop better fear factors for next year.

The Web site promises this year will be “totally different and totally unpredictable.” Not only does this redundant statement irk me, but the word “unpredictable” is not even the case. I’ll tell you now that the characters were as predictable as the cast in a Freddie Prinze Jr. movie.

The chainsaw guys are celebrating their 13th anniversary along with the event. It stopped being frightening long ago. The sound only reminds me of a weed wacker outside my window at 7 a.m. on a Friday.

But for the teenagers and middle-aged folk at Halloween Horror Nights, the chainsaw act was something new. It sent the little ones screaming with glow sticks in their hands and stopped the middle-aged patrons in their tracks, struggling to keep from spilling their margaritas.

These two groups dominated the crowd at Halloween Horror Nights. However, the teens were not with their parents. So you could only imagine waiting in lines with kids and parents who, separated from each other, are both uncontrollable. Even former Saturday Night Live member Cheri Oteri wouldn’t have been able to tell them to “simmer down.”

And remember this event is at Islands of Adventure for the first time, so wear comfortable shoes because the lines are longer. Waiting time for the Hulk: 120 minutes; spiraling through the air: 30 seconds; the feeling in your feet: painful.

One tradition that was missing was the street parade. The Mardi Gras-style parade filled with impressive outfits and clothes was always the highlight of the night.

However, they tried to make up for this loss with new characters such as human dinosaurs and fluorescent versions of Disney’s Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Evil super-villains were supposed to appear at Marvel Super Hero Island, but I didn’t see any of those guys. They must be with the same “evildoers” President George W. Bush refers to when he has a brilliant plan.

A majority of the rides closed at 11 p.m., four hours after the park opened, so it turned into a chore to get on the rides. By 12:30 a.m., we went on six rides, and to stand in line for a haunted house didn’t seem worth the wait.

At this time, we had hunger pains, but we couldn’t afford the $2.50 sodas from the vending machines. Since any nightmare isn’t complete without a visit to McDonald’s, we thought we could buy a meal there for the price of most beverages at the park.

It seems there was little effort put into producing this event, but at least the teens and baby boomers couldn’t tell the difference.

By Sebastian Meyer

When I returned from Halloween Horror Nights at Islands of Adventure, and when my wife asked me how it was, I was not sure what to say.

Islands of Adventure is a really well- designed park, and overall it has the best rides. The variety of rides is the best of any park I have visited. A lifelong theme-park freak, that is probably the best compliment I can give them. The park looks especially good at night because the only things the visitor is supposed to see are illuminated. This creates an eerie atmosphere, which in itself can be quite scary, but combined with the sound effects, like the trademark “thump-thump” of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, it is quite intriguing.

However, after an hour or two this gets really old. We stumbled through Jurassic Park about four or five times, each time already knowing where the costumed scareforce was hiding. There are also only about three or four different types of characters that roam the park, sometimes with small modifications, to fit the theme of the area. The most prevalent one was the “chainsaw” swinging character that leaps at people and scares them. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out where they were hiding, and frankly, they did not scare me to begin with. After about half an hour, I only found them annoying. Some other visitors seemed to enjoy jumping out of the dark and scaring other visitors, which proves the point that there are really not many skills needed. Granted, it helps if you look like a mixture of velociraptor and mad scientist, but in essence, all it takes is hiding and yelling “boo!” at the right moment. The character designs were quite good, but because most of them were hiding, you hardly saw them anyway.

The scare houses we visited already had huge lines even though the park had just opened. We were lucky enough to enter through the exit because we were members of the press (can anyone spell unethical?). Mere mortals had to wait 90 minutes or more to get into a scare house that consisted of a maze in the dark with characters yelling variations of “boo!” at you. Is this worth the wait of 90 minutes or more? I guess you have to decide for yourself, but I got a better adrenaline rush reading some of the questions on my geomorphology midterm I took last week.

All in all, I guess I can say I had fun, but then again I did not pay the $30 to $50 admission and did not wait 90 minutes to walk through a maze of plywood to have people yelling at me. The rides alone are worth the visit, but if Saturday night was any indication, hour-long lines are to be expected.

Or if you really want to be scared, just don’t study for the upcoming midterm.