When guests check in at Halloween Horror Nights, they don't have their pillows fluffed, hear soothing music or have a massage.
Instead, Universal Studios wants visitors to feel ill at ease, not the usual method of operation in the hospitality and tourism industry.
"I don't want people to feel a comfort zone," says Jim Timon, senior vice president for entertainment at Universal Orlando.
The twist for the 22nd annual event is to abolish the boundaries of its "scare zones," specific outdoor areas stocked with live, horrifying characters. These "scare actors," as Universal calls its Horror Nights employees, now will roam freely throughout Universal Studios.
"There's literally no place safe for our guests," says show director Patrick Braillard. "You can be sitting and munching on a hamburger and you're going to get hit."
Watch for the "legions of horror," assorted beasts, goblins, vampires, dragon warriors and escaped prisoners — all females, all armed with chain saws — to hit the streets.
"You're going to see the five legions of horror shift and move around the park," says show director Lora Wallace. "You're going to see the shifting happen and you're going to see the inhabitation happen."
They'll be on the move throughout the entire theme park.
"If you park yourself in one end of the park, you're going to see all five of these legions come through," Wallace says. "They're never in one place for very long."
Changes at the theme park played a role in prompting the scare-zone switch. Two major construction projects are under way, one on the former site of the Jaws attraction and another in the middle of the park, where a soundstage was demolished near spots for scare zones. In addition, the route for Universal's Superstar Parade, which debuted this spring, runs through some locations used for the zones.
Timon says "creative stretching" was required — but in a good way.
"It encouraged us to do stuff with the scare actors that we haven't done in our program before," he says.
Faces of fear
The street program may be more unnerving than before, but at least there will be some familiar faces and characters. Four of the seven haunted houses are tied to known entertainment products.
The work of rocker Alice Cooper is featured in a housed called Welcome to My Nightmare, and famed magician team Penn and Teller helped create a 3-D maze known as Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas, which has a plotline involving a magic trick gone wrong — and radioactive.
Creatures from the "Silent Hill" series of video games and movies inhabit a house, and "The Walking Dead" TV series will be represented with "walkers" — the show's term for vicious zombies — inside and outside.
Every 45 minutes or so, during a scare-actor shift change, dozens of walkers will take over the San Francisco area of the park, home of the Walking Dead house.
"It's one thing for a scare actor to jump out at you from a dark hole in a house or attack you on a street, but it's something completely different to have a herd or to have a large group of walkers come after you," Braillard says.
Familiarity can raise expectations.
'No place safe' promised at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights
- Pictures: Halloween Horror Nights 22 at Universal Orlando
- In a word or 2, this year's haunted houses at Halloween Horror Nights
- Orlando theme park Halloween roundup: Where to find parks' tricks, treats
- Photos: Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights through the years
- Universal Studios now and through the years
- Universal Orlando Harry Potter expansion renderings
See more photos »
- Video: Harry Potter expansion in 2014 at Universal Orlando
- Jason Garcia on expansions at Universal Orlando
- Entertainment Events
- Amusement and Theme Parks
See more topics »
Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando, FL 32819, USA