Can the Monsters at Universal touch you?
When most of us think about going on holiday to the self-proclaimed Sunshine State, we think white sandy beaches, ice cold OJ and frolicking around with dolphins.
What we probably don’t expect is to be chased through dark, narrow corridors by a chainsaw-wielding maniac.
But thousands of people not only volunteer for this sort of torment every year, they pay for the privilege. And having tried it, I can see the appeal.
So, ladies and gentleman, roll up for the 25th anniversary Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and prepare to be scared out of your wits.
This “immersive experience”, which runs until November 1 is designed to disorientate and terrify you with the use of special effects, realistic sets and live actors. There are nine haunted houses, five scare zones and two live shows, plus you can visit many of the park’s scariest rides and attractions.
It all adds up to an evening of thrills, blood spills and a hell of a lot of screeching, mainly from us Brits. Our American friends seem to be made of sterner stuff..
Lora Wallace, the brains behind the Orlando theme park’s ‘scare zones’ explains just what goes into finding something that is Universally, (sorry) terrifying. “Different cultures and people have different fears so it’s important to incorporate something that will panic everyone, ” she explains.
“The night Halloween Horror Nights closes, we are at our desks at 9am the next morning planning next year. We test the vilest smells, the most horrific sounds, and audition over 3, 000 people to find the perfect candidates for the job.”
And what is the official job title? Scareactors. Obviously. Open auditions start from July and roughly 1, 200 fiends in human form are employed to work over the season, so you can run, but you really won’t be able to hide from that many. Trust me, I tried.
Gore galore: Emma with a pair of ‘scareactors’
The bright, joyous, cheerful place that is Universal Studios in daytime is quickly transformed for the evening spooktacular.
Strobe lights, smoke machines, eerie music and the horrid smell of petrol from chainsaws hits you as soon as you walk in.
Luckily, the park offers a selection of ghostly cocktails to take the edge off your fear and after you’ve been scared out of your skin once, the adrenaline starts pumping and it becomes SO much fun.
Popular TV and movie franchises are used to create horror film “sets”. The one based on the three-part Insidious film series about malevolent spirits is so terrifyingly real I feel as though I’ve been plonked in the middle of the movie.
And no wonder. Michael Aiello, Universal’s Head of Creative Development, admitted they spent a fortune having the exact wallpaper made to match the house in the film. (He also admitted that one night a year he gets dressed up and joins the cast, playing his own game.)
Next up was the Walking Dead, where you’re taken through key moments of Season 5 of the TV zombie show, while gangs of “walkers” try to eat you for dinner.
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