Halloween Horror Nights 2022: A Cowardly Review

””Despite being an Orlando native, this year was the first time I attended Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights. Many are familiar with the elaborate haunted houses and scare zones that run throughout the nights of October annually. This year, there were ten haunted houses with a variety of scary yet exciting themes. My most anticipated house was The Weeknd’s After Hours Nightmare, based on the storyline of his red suit character from his eponymous album. Unfortunately, not even my love for The Weeknd could prevent the trauma I experienced. From long lines to werewolves jumping out of the darkness, my time at Halloween Horror Nights showed me that I am easy to frighten and am not, in fact, “good with scary stuff.”

Before you even get to a haunted house, you must walk through a scare zone. Here, smoke machines mask the movements of cast members, clad in horrific costumes and impressively gruesome make-up. They follow park goers, appear out of thin air, and do a terrible job hiding how much they enjoy terrorizing other people. By the end of the first scare zone, I was ready to turn around and get back in the car. But alas, I already paid $80 to see The Weeknd’s haunted house, so we continued forward.

The line into the After Hours Nightmare is one of the longest in the park, ranging from 60 to 160 minutes of wait time. However, they do play music by The Weeknd while you wait, giving me a brief glimmer of positivity before voluntarily subjecting myself to torture.

I knew I was going to hate being scared before even entering the house. As the comforting light of day was swallowed by the darkness of the house, I heard the screams of people in line before me. We moved in a single file line, hunched over as if looking for coins on the ground. Flashing lights and a cacophony of screams surrounded us, deepening the feeling of dread that sat in the pit of my stomach. As we moved through the haunted house, I pushed forward, desperately rushing past the cast of characters about to make a jump scare. A series of turns led us into a poorly lit room where several statues stood still. I already knew what was coming. Before I could cover my eyes, a bandaged character who had been standing still began moving towards me. “DON’T DO THAT,” I yelled at him and bolted for the exit.

The rest of the night followed a similar script. At times, I hoped that I would pass out so I wouldn’t have to keep moving forward. My obvious petrification made me a target for all the characters, who followed me everywhere I went. By the end of the night, my throat was shredded from all the shouting and my feet felt sore and flattened. Still, I found myself thrilled by the whole experience. While the idea of welcoming fear still doesn’t totally make sense to me, I have never had a better time doing so.

Writer: Peyton Burton
Artist: Alyssa Giaccone