HOLLYWOOD, CA (THE HORNET)—The Hornet checked out the sold-out opening night of Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights and we’re weighing in on how this years’ frights compare to HHN ghosts of the past.

Visitors will encounter pandemic-adjusted terror featuring this year’s theme, “Never Go Alone,” so unless you’re exceptionally brave, our recommendation is—don’t.

A bloody demon on stilts welcomes visitors to Demon City scare zone.

A bloody demon on stilts welcomes visitors to Demon City scare zone. Photo credit: NBCUniversal

Starting last Thursday, HHN are back, after being canceled last year due to COVID-19. Several celebrities including Travis Barker attended this year’s opening.

Musician Travis Barker attended HHN.

Musician Travis Barker attended HHN. Photo credit: Rick Polk/Getty Images for Universal Studios Hollywood

Desiree Rodriguez, 38, from Santa Paula was excited to return, “I feel like this year was really special because last year I really wanted to go…It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, I think because of what we went through…this [year] will be memorable.”

Entering the park, visitors are greeted by Chainsaw Rangers, in the first of three scare zones.

A florescent webbed hallway in The Curse of Pandora's Box maze.

A florescent webbed hallway in The Curse of Pandora’s Box maze. Photo credit: NBCUniversal

While describing the scare zones, Rodriguez finished with, “…they are great but I think with COVID they are not allowed to touch you or get in your face, as much as before, and that sucks.”

The other two scare zones are Silver Scream Queenz and Demon City.

Two visitors are met with a vengeful cast member at Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives.

Two visitors are met with a vengeful cast member at Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives. Photo credit: NBCUniversal

Although the mazes may have been pared down a bit they are still frightening with plenty of impact.

Perhaps the next victims of Leatherface walk past a horrific scene at the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Maze.

Perhaps the next victims of Leatherface walk past a horrific scene at the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Maze. Photo credit: NBCUniversal

Seven different mazes and the Terror Tram are scattered throughout the park, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes as there can be a fair amount of walking.

Max Bently,19, from Los Angeles talks about this year’s HHN, “It’s not as big, it feels a little bit different but overall, it’s just as fun to me…”

Bently even told us which maze scared him the most, The Exorcist, “I’ve never been scared on a maze like that before, that was impressive.”

Exterior of The Exorcist maze showing the priest from the film looking into the house.

Exterior of The Exorcist maze showing the priest from the film looking into the house. Photo credit: NBCUniversal

The Hornet noticed several pandemic-related adjustments where spooky cast members hide behind doors, screens, or transparent walls, utilizing more lights, audio, and visual aids keeping the scare factor high. Select rides are also open during the event.

A scare actor wearing a mask on the backlot is ready for a night of purging during Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge.

A cast member wearing a mask on the backlot is ready for a night of purging during Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge. Photo credit: Corinna Ortega

After attending for 20 years, except last year’s cancellation, Daisy Mañeulos, 37, of Southern California is one guest who can give a lot of input about how this year compares to previous years.

“They [Universal Studios] are very well organized this year…I thought it was going to be a little bit too much, but they seem to be following all the guidelines for CDC which is pretty neat,” said Mañeulos.

Several images showing various attractions at HHN.

Several images showing various attractions at HHN. Photo credit: Corinna Ortega & Dustin Malek

She also said she was pleased with seeing some of her cultural heritage featured at the Dia de los Muertos Plaza Bar and Little Cocina, located near Silver Scream Queenz scare zone.

Mañeulos finished with, “I know that I feel safe and it seems like it’s the new normal for now. Everyone came out to have fun and that’s what we’re doing.”

Tickets are now available for select nights September 9 through October 31.

 

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Dustin Malek (He/Him) is a Journalism major residing in Fullerton, Ca. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and riding his bike around town.

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