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Horror Nights not Horrific

Despite the eight haunted houses, six scare zones and two live shows, Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights hardly lives up to its reputation.

Universal Studios is hosting the annual Halloween event with the theme “Ripped From The Silver Screen,” but not much has improved from last year.

One of the show directors, Lora Wallace, introduced the “amazing” scare zones, including a chemical explosion and a zombie war zone. However, there was no mention to how poorly made the props were.

At this year’s opening night, show director Mike Aiello hyped up the show using catchy phrases and describing it as bigger and scarier than last year.

Upon entering the park, guests walk into a “toxic spill,” where the cheap masks hardly make up for the poor acting.

“In complete realism, you name it – it’s there,” Aiello said.

That’s not quite accurate.

Not everything was there because not every horror movie came to life. In fact, one house was based on a movie that hasn’t been released.

Aiello seemed ecstatic when talking about how the movie “Wolfman,” to be released in early 2010, inspired one of Halloween Horror Night’s houses and said it was “the first time we’ve done something like this.”

“When you walk into the maze, you’ll see a forest. We built it in the soundstage,” he said. “We’ve never done a movie before it came out.”

Aiello also bragged about the other houses guests can find at the event.

“It’ll be astounding and you’ll be able to see the detail,” Aiello said.

Unfortunately, astounding is far from describing the park. Some decorations look like they could be replicated at home.

A lot has to do with mood and psychological standing, Aiello said, which should have been the drive behind making this year scarier than ever. Instead, they seemed to focus their energy on pumping guests up rather than creating a fulfilling event.

Despite being based on an unreleased film, “Wolfman” was the only house that was convincing. From the cold fog to actors hiding around every corner in dense forestry, the ending will definitely have guests wanting to return.

“Dracula,” a house inspired by the infamous vampire, should have been called “House of Brides,” since it had little association with the famous blood sucker. However, brides played their roles effectively, and long roped curtains added to the scare factor. Brides would jump out at visitors trying to navigate through the rooms.

“Frankenstein” was the scariest house and did a fine job at following its big screen inspiration. Not only was it cold, but there were more dark corners than any other house. Aside from “Wolfman,” the house’s actors and props looked the most realistic.

“Leave it to Cleaver” was too hot to enjoy. The house plays off of the ’50s sitcom “Leave it Beaver” but lacks any scary concept, save for an interesting intestine display that resembles a scene from the movie “Sweeney Todd.”

One of the more popular houses was “Saw,” which was a compilation of the five-part horror movie series.

“When you walk into this maze, you are literally walking into Jigsaw’s layers and you are seeing (his) traps up close,” Aiello said.

It featured a 75-minute wait for a house that takes 10 to 15 minutes to explore. With a shorter line, the house may have been one of the better features because of the realistic props, especially the use of fake blood to recreate scenes from the movies.

However “Spawning” couldn’t quite live up to the bill. It was by far the worst house with its cheap-looking decorations, non-frightening masks and uncomfortable temperatures. There was nothing scary or frightening about it.

Overall this year, Halloween Horror Nights seemed to neglect the quality in costumes, props and makeup that it usually shows. The event was overall uninspiring and not frightening.

The event continues until Oct. 30. For hours and information, visit