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Event Report: Opening Night of Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights!

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For the last ten years Halloween Horror Nights creative director, John Murdy has been charged with the immense task of transforming Universal Studios into a series of horror themed mazes. Fans of the event have increasing expectations for thrills more exciting and grandiose than the previous year, and 2015’s offering is by no means an exception. Each year the opening night celebrations un-officially kick off the season of spook with the Eyegore Awards, which this year was surprisingly absent. Nevertheless, Friday night saw the ambitious extravaganza open in style, as horror related celebrities took to the red carpet to start the festivities with a bang.

Among the special guests to attend were ROCKY HORROR’s Barry Bostwick, SCREAM franchise stars David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy, James Wan (THE CONJURING), Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS), Leigh Whannell (SAW), and soon-to-be-released TALES OF HALLOWEEN directors Mike Mendez and Axelle Carolyn. 2015’s contribution features some new additions to the night, including Guillermo del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK: MAZE OF MADNESS, as well as the addition of horror-comedy maze THIS IS THE END 3D, and what year would be complete without an homage to a classic such as this year’s HALLOWEEN: MICHAEL MYERS COMES HOME. The success of last years AVP: ALIEN VS PREDATOR was enough to see its return, as well as the ever-popular WALKING DEAD maze. The success of the new installment in the INSIDIOUS franchise was the catalyst for reappearance with INSIDIOUS: RETURN TO THE FURTHER.

Murdy spoke to Fangoria on the evening and shared his enthusiasm for the arrival of a maze based on the work of Guillermo Del Toro. “CRIMSON PEAK comes out in about a month, and so we are, in essence, the trailer for his movie. I met Guillermo 3 years ago here at HHN and we’ve been talking about doing this since. His style is so specific, his sets are so gorgeous, and his creature design is different from anybody else, so it’s a huge responsibility for us to bring that to life.”

“I’m really proud of what we did in that maze,” added Murdy. “Guillermo was so awesome as a collaborator; he threw the doors open to every department in this film, whether it was the art department, visual effects, audio, make-up department, he gave us full access. I think we nailed it and I think fans of his work are going to be blown away”.

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On branching out into Universal’s first partial comedy maze, Murdy stated, “After doing this for ten years, we’ve worked with just about every franchise in the world of horror that you can work with, and at this point, I’m very interested in finding horror where it’s not readily apparent. When I saw THIS IS THE END a couple of years ago, I immediately saw the film for how it could be a maze, and if you look at it, it’s about the Apocalypse, demons, demonic possession and cannibalism; it had all the elements. I was really intrigued about trying to step out of the box of what we normally do.”

“We’re using the comedy as a distraction to our scare,” Murdy continued. “[We used] what we like to call the ‘Bait and switch’ technique. You want to get into the visual cues of the comedy and get that across, but at the end of the day it has to function like every other maze at Halloween Horror Nights and it’s got to scare you as well”.

But it was perhaps the arrival of the legendary HALLOWEEN that had Murdy the most nostalgically enthused: “Halloween is one of my favorite films of all time; I grew up with that film. Michael Myers is the standard bearer of all slasher movie killers, and to me, he is the scariest. I love the film as a piece of filmmaking, so it’s a great honor to get to work with HALLOWEEN and bring it into life as a maze.”

“We brought our own creativity to it as well,” Murdy said. “Of course we are hitting all the iconic scenes from HALLOWEEN, as in John Carpenter’s film, but there are a couple of things you might see in there from one of the sequels. Michael Myers is the boogeyman and you can’t kill the boogeyman. The boogeyman is everywhere. He’s going to get you, and that’s how the maze ends; it’s derivative from the film and lets us bringing our creativity to it, but it’s very much in the spirit of the film.”

Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood, CA, runs from September 18th through to November 1st. For tickets, visit their official site HERE, and you can check out pictures from the opening night event below!

About the author
Camilla Jackson
Camilla is an actress, writer, film-maker, musician, and horror junkie. She is new to FANGORIA and has a healthy knowledge of all things horror, particularly 70's - 90's films where she interviews writers, directors and actors for Australian cinephile group CINEMANIACS. In her spare time, Camilla writes screenplays, walks dogs, and scours the internet for bargains. She also had a small part in the remake of Australian telekinetic chiller, PATRICK. Currently she is training at The Groundlings and moonlights playing ethereal guitar in a cape.
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