How Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights Plays into Your Deepest Fears
It’s a dark, cold snowy night, you’re trapped inside a sinister hotel where murder and madness slowly come to life. You are at the mercy of a madman’s decent into darkness, and he’s following you… around every corner. Just this once scenario plays into a multitude of fears, nyctophobia (fear of the dark), claustrophobia, and well then there’s the angst of being chased by a killer. Couple these very real fears with spine- chilling effects, such as grotesque smells or blood- curdling screams and terror reaches a new height.
Universal Studios Florida knows how to play into your deepest fears. After all, they have had 27 years of practice. As Halloween Horror Nights enters into yet another season of terror, the creative team behind the event, spent months diligently collaborating with some of the biggest horror movie producers and digging deep into the psychological aspects of fear, in order to bring your worst nightmares to life.
So, if you’re looking for fear this Halloween season, you have 34 nights, through November 4, to experience heart pounding, riveting terror at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights 27. Nine disturbingly real haunted houses and five streets of terror come to life, making this year’s, The Festival of the Deadliest, one of the most frightening HHN’s yet. Here is an up-close look at just how the team uses what they know about your psyche to play into these very real fears.
The space around you is closing in, there is no escape. Claustrophobia is one of the most common fears, and the creative team behind HHN uses this in the houses. The mazes through the houses are a mere 42 inches wide, the minimum legal limit. As you squeeze through the tight corridors you get alarming close to highly trained, gruesomely made up “scare-actors” and jaw dropping props.
It’s especially evident in The Horrors of Blumhouse. The man behind some of today’s most notorious horror films, Jason Blum, teams with Universal Studios creative team for this eerie house. Experience The Purge, Sinister and Insidious under one unnerving roof. Attempt to escape the clutches of the demon Bughuul from the Sinister franchise, find yourself face to face with the terrifying home invaders of The Purge and come face to face with the Lipstick-Face Demon of Insidious. Guests are even treated to a sneak peek inside Insidious Chapter 4, due in theatres January 5, 2018, that is, if you escape.
The Smell of Fear
When anxiety levels are heightened, so is the sense of smell. In fact, there are theories suggesting humans release specific pheromone when in fear, acting as a sort of warning to others. Whether or not this is true, the team behind HHN does utilize actual smells. Scents, specific to each houses are pumped throughout, intensifying the experience.
Walk through American Horror Story, one of the most spine-tingling houses created after the Emmy and Golden Globe winning television series, and notice the scent of baby powder as you enter the sinister doll room, or the smell of rotting flesh in the attic, possibly from Dr. Arden’s grotesque human experiments. Head over to the Shining house where the subtle scent of pine from the snow-filled forest engulfs the senses as you are trapped in an evil hotel alongside caretaker Jack Torrance, who succumbs to the hotel’s malicious forces.
Paranormal activity, bloodthirsty serial killers, horrific nightmare, most of these pulse- pounding fears happen when the lights go off, or at least they do in horror movies. It’s not just kids who have a fear of the dark, nyctophobia is a real thing.
Strobe lights, different colored lights, and low-level lighting are all used to enhance the suspense created by dark corners and dimly lit rooms. From the moment you enter the Scarecrow: The Reaping house, one of my favorite houses, you feel overcome with panic. Set in an abandoned farmhouse in Nebraska, dark stretches hide demonic scarecrows ready to lunge at guests. You never know what lurks around each corner of the dark narrow walkways.
Gruesome scenes, drops of blood splattering onto your skin (even if it is only water), bursts of air all contribute to the startling effects meant to surprise and intensify the psychological effects of fear. And, while the scare actors can’t touch you, you can’t help but feel like SOMETHING has brushed against you, and no doubt it did. Although it is typically only string hanging from the ceilings, it unleashes hair raising uneasiness, and you can’t help but think it’s something more.
Well done Universal Studios Florida! There’s something about a good scare, that keeps us coming back for more. And it seems with each HHN, the creative minds behind the scenes know just what instills fear.