The Halloween season is upon us and that means Halloween Horror Nights has returned to Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando Resort. This year’s event features 10 haunted houses, and while it’s a very tough lineup to judge (with one clear top choice) I’m going to do my best to rank them all.
10. The Horrors of Blumhouse
Blumhouse films have been a bit of a staple at Halloween Horror Nights in recent years, with The Purge, Happy Death Day, Insidious, Sinister and more making appearances. This year’s house features Freaky and the recently released The Black Phone. This is my easy pick for the weakest house of this year as The Black Phone is not exactly a property that lends itself well to a house and the Freaky portion of the house could have been stronger. It’s still fun, and puts you into these two films, it’s just not as strong as the others on this list.
9. Hellblock Horror
If you know, you know. Hellblock Horror just doesn’t really live up to the creativity we’re accustomed to seeing from Universal's original houses. It’s a very straightforward story of guests trying to escape a prison filled with monsters and all sorts of creatures that have gotten loose. That all essentially adds up to passing open cell after open cell with a different creature in each. The fun part of it is finding some of the familiar faces from previous years as there are a lot of them featured in this house.
8. Spirits of the Coven
With this being the 31st year of HHN, the overall theme of this year’s event is classic Halloween. So… witches. Some of the sets in this house are very impressive and there are some great scares, but then there’s also a good portion of the house that is just kind of gross. If you’re into that kind of horror, you’ll love this house. That portion of it didn’t work for me, but there is still a lot to love about this house.
7. Fiesta de Chupacabras
One of the biggest elements of Halloween Horror Nights is simply timing. I have not yet had a great run through this house and I’m sure it will shoot up my list once I do. It’s a very impressive house visually speaking and there are some very creative scares. I just haven’t gotten to see them personally. What I can speak to is the really impressive costuming, great sets and fun use of some very frightening puppets.
6. Bugs: Eaten Alive
Here’s the one that has had everyone talking. The buzz (pun intended) about this house was that it would be off the charts in terms of horror. That may have been a bit overblown as it is certainly this year’s comedy house. It’s absolutely going to freak a lot of people out as it preys on their (very understandable) fear of bugs. However, it’s just as likely to make you laugh as you walk through. This is a fun house and definitely one you don’t want to miss.
5. Descendants of Destruction
This is just a great concept for a house. After an apocalyptic event, humans have been forced to retreat into the subway tunnels. Over time, they have devolved and mutated into fungus-like creatures. This house, while located in a tent, features some very impressive, large set pieces. It’s also my top choice for costuming as that post-apocalyptic armor look came out really well. With the right timing, this is also one of this year’s scariest houses.
4: The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare
Every year, there’s at least one big property that is meant to draw in fans who maybe haven’t experience the event before. This year, that’s The Weeknd. A lot of HHN fans were skeptical about how his music and videos would translate into a haunted house. Well, I’m here to tell you: it worked. This house is disorienting and overwhelming before it settles into just outright terrifying. There are a lot of great scares and his music videos are recreated perfectly to create some nightmarish visuals. It’s also just a lot of fun thanks to the soundtrack.
Not much needs to be said about Halloween. It’s hard to find a more iconic horror figure than Michael Myers (save for a few we’ll talk about shortly) and he is everywhere throughout this house. As you would expect, this is a recreation of the movie and you get to walk through some of your favorite scenes. However, while it could easily just rely on the cool factor of putting you in the movie, it also provides a bunch of very creative scares that you just won’t see coming. Good luck escaping the boogeyman.
2. Universal Monsters: Legends Collide
And speaking of horror icons, the Universal Monsters make their third straight appearance at HHN this year (fourth if you count 2020). The creative original story for this house sets the stage, with the Mummy, Wolfman and Dracula battling for the amulet of Amun-Ra. While the monsters provide plenty of great scares, it’s the sets in this house that really impress. It also gives us one of those endings that alternates, so you’re going to want to go through again and again to see which monster wins this time.
1. Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake
There was never any doubt. This is one of those houses where every time you turn a corner you can’t help but look around and say “wow.” What the HHN team at Universal has built here is truly unbelievable and will have you forgetting you’re walking through a haunted house. That is, until an undead fisherman jumps out from the shadows and scares you back into reality. Don’t underestimate the scares, but also try and take the time to look all over, take in the details and really enjoy this incredible world into which you get to venture.
Halloween Horror Nights 31 is going on right now, select nights through Halloween at Universal Studios Florida.