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My Top 15 Halloween Horror Nights Houses

by Danny Fantom 2 months ago in travel / pop culture / halloween
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It's nearly the most wonderful time of the year- Spooky Season!

The first iteration of the Marathon of Mayhem from HHN 29, all neon and misty

1. The Cabin In The Woods (23)

cabin but its a rubiks cube

Halloween Horror Nights 23- you know you never forget your first time. That first lung full of fog from the machines . . . the funnel cakes . . . the screams . . . ahh, there's nothing quite like your first experience is there? There were a lot of great houses that year, and it was one of the years where pretty much everything was dedicated to the Walking Dead (seriously every scare zone was just walkers), but this house holds a special place in my heart. I'd never seen the movie before, but after going through this house I became obsessed with the ideas inside, and so got to watch the movie a few months afterwards. I adored passing by the "broken" cages and seeing the nightmares that lay within, and watching a unicorn skewer a man on the CCTV screens, blood splattered as they were. To this day it's one of my top five favorite horror movies.

2. Urban Legends: La Llorona (23)

a side by side of a warmly lit mural, and a dark and broken scene

I mean this shouldn't be a surprise, that story is terrifying. But you know what struck me even more than the horror of it? The lump this house put in my throat. You hear the legend being told, repeating throughout the queue line, and then you go inside and it is bleak. I don't remember much of it now but I recall vivid, sumptuous pops of color and then hallow, stark swathes of monochrome. But you know what does stand out in my mind, clear as glass? This scene . . . maybe it was nearby a farm, or maybe it was just some random "pond" but I'll never forget the two soaked, bedraggled little bodies floating facedown in whatever trick pond Universal cleverly devised. Something about the story of La Llorona just hits me deep, and that house not only depicted the legend beautifully, but also added tasteful additional elements to up the scare factor.

3. Jack Presents: 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem (25)

Jack the Clown, hair bordered by large lightbulbs

Mainly I was just happy to see Jack in all his twisted glory. 25 was a special year for me- it was my first year working at Universal Studios, so sometimes if I was out early form work I'd just hang around the park in the "Stay and Scream" areas, and then explore a house or two for a little bit until I was too tired to carry on. For quite a large chunk of my childhood, my brother and I would just enviously watch the Coca-Cola ads for HHN, wishing we could go. We did, sure, but it was years after the last icon had been introduced and so it felt like we'd missed a bit of that original magic. Which was why I was so pleased to see that Jack would return and bring his Carnival of Carnage as well! Without fail, I'd go through this house and then I'd be there to watch the Carnival- watch Jack and Chance gyrate and murder- watch the "Dick Troll" get smashed over and over. Ugh, lovely . . .

4. RUN: Blood Sweat and Fears (25)

Run Hard, Die Strong poster

I'm a huge fan of the 80s- the aesthetic, the music, the movies . . . what's better than an 80's horror movie, right? RUN gave me a lot of that aesthetic with this really wild idea of a dystopian America that's lost any desire to feign moral superiority, even to itself, and just goes batshit? The music that would blast through the queue line was fantastic- can't tell you how many times I silently mouthed along to "The Final Countdown", swirling half a cup of the year's specialty drink in my hand. It was also super cool to watch the movie The Running Man and realize the house was based on that! The costumes were stellar, the music playlist was impeccable, and the whole atmosphere was a win for me. Though I do wonder whatever happened to that girl they said was still surviving in their maze . . .

5. American Horror Story: Volume 2 (27)

murderer wearing a hog's severed head

It's predecessor, Volume 1, had intrigued me so much that I ended up binge watching the first four seasons that were available on Amazon Prime. But Volume 2 is here on my list, rather than the first, because this house held my favorite seasons. Judge me for it all you want, but Asylum is my favorite season of American Horror Story, followed by Coven. And then?! Then they finished up the house with a roast pit in Roanoke?! UGH. It was so fun getting to walk through scenes I'd just watched again, or when I got little spoiler glimpses as was the case with Roanoke. And the constant loop of the creepily iconic theme song never ceased to fill me with tingles. Can I say that's one of my comfort songs? Shout out to the bleeding nun, you got me every single damn time.

6. Ash vs. Evil Dead (27)

Ash on top of his car, chainsaw ready

One thing about me, friend, I'm a huuuugggeee Evil Dead fan. They've not done a thing that wasn't 10s across the board in that franchise, far as I'm concerned. Now this isn't true for every single year of HHN's history, but as of the past, say, seven years or so they've had a "comic relief" house. Something a little fun, a little silly, to take the edge off and have you scream laughing. Ash vs. Evil Dead was that house for HHN 27. Getting to see Ash in all his bumbling, revving, roguish glory once more was a delight. Hearing his cocksure one-liners once more, outside of the many rewatches of the movies I'd partake in, was a balm to my soul. And that house had a surprisingly attractive Ash in, I think, B cast? I can't fully recall, but that was the general consensus among the HHN obsessed fans I knew. And that deadite that would burst out from some door in the cabin to sneer, "Hello, pussies!" Ugh, SLAY ME.

7. Dead Waters (27)

An abandoned boat, tilting on its side, full of horrors

An icon. A star, miraculous, gracious, refined, top of her class, without peer . . . and without a doubt the most beautiful house I'd seen thus far. The giant riverboat listing to one side and forcing you to bare a portion of your flank to whatever nightmare was going to pop out at you- and how gorgeous was that set design. After the first four run throughs of it, every time after I was just straight up too captivated by the crown molding and impeccable design to even notice when something jumped out at me. Oh, and the Voodoo Queen??? I wouldn't mind being the final ingredient to her cursed potion. I'm a sucker for some good bayou horror, and Dead Waters blessed me like the rains down in Africa. Take me away, Captain!

8. Scarecrow: The Reaping (27)

A field of corn and a tall, imposing windmill

I'll be honest with you . . . this was thee top choice of 27. I mean, yes, I enjoyed the houses above from this same year but. Man. Something about Scarecrow just got to me- some spindly, impossibly strong claws with a cutting grip that just hooks underneath my ribs and wraps a punishing fist around the bones. I just loved that concept- Dust Bowl horror, has anyone even done a horror movie in that setting? If not, a great idea was granted to you in this year. The use of those grotesque monsters that resembled a scarecrow if nightmares could be stuffed with hay was a fantastic choice. Every single time I entered that house, I inevitably jumped at the loud sound of the trick doors dropping to show off a skull or one of the creatures.

9. Trick 'r Treat (28)

My baby Sam with his lil murder lollipop!!

Possibly my favorite horror movie ever, definitely in my top five of that list- Trick 'r Treat! The anthology film was not only full of good scares, but beautiful sets and mesmerizing aesthetics. So, too, was the house! Seeing the werewolves, and the jack-o-lanterns were all great- but of course, the spook of the hour was baby Sam! I can't tell you how much I adore that little pumpkin. The line was a treat too, with the old fashioned PSA that would play through it and give kids a gentle yet firm reminder of the rules of Halloween. And you better be careful, kids, breaking the rules calls for some very stern consequences! I do want to admit something, here . . . yes I loved the house. But I have to admit that . . . the scare zone for this movie was even better. I dream about those jack-o-lantern filled trees.

10. Seeds of Extinction (28)

An abandoned bus, covered and broken with long boughs of green, glowing green light

There is some personal bias to this house considering I love Eco-horror (Shout out to Annihilation) and I got to be friends with a few of its cast, however! That does not detract from these objective facts: one- this was one of the most beautiful houses that year, if not the most beautiful. Two- The original idea, of an asteroid bringing forth an alien substance that transformed the plants into murderous beings was incredibly well thought out and applicated. Yeah, that's all my facts. But am I wrong?! The lush greenery throughout each scene was dazzling, but add to that the incredibly way the scare actors blended into the scenes made for some spectacular scares. My favorite bit of that house was with the attacking vines that were right above your head, the faux lightning and thunder that added to the scene created the most wonderful atmosphere. And the rain scene just beyond it?! I fawned over this house quite a bit. Lowkey, if I could build a dream home, one or two of those scenes would be replicated . . .

11. Yeti: Terror Of The Yukon (29)

The Yeti, fresh from a kill

This house was just damn fun, I don't know what else to say. The sheer luxury of being able to go from the sticky nights of Florida into this ultra-chilled house was almost mindboggling. And I just love a good Yeti story, sue me! The scenes with Yukon locals gearing up and trying to beat back the yetis were cool, and the Yeti design itself was great- though I wished they had more flannel. And maybe a moose.

12. The Wicked Growth: Realm Of The Pumpkin (30)

A most perturbed little pumpkin attached to a vine

We've made some great advancements in the world of horror within the past two decades. Horror has always used monsters as metaphors, but we're really seeing some incredible and thought provoking imagery in a lot of these new films. But, and there's no doubt about it, there's comfort in the classics. And I'm not talking, classic monsters- Dracula, Frankenstein, yadda yadda. Classic Halloween fare like . . . Pumpkins and graveyards and witches. The simple things we all start out with when learning about the nature of this ancient holiday, to put it simply we learn of its traditions first and foremost. And that's what this house is, an homage to traditions in Halloween. I hold a special love for this house in my heart- not only was it, in my opinion, the most beautiful house last year, it also showed how even old fashioned elements like that can still be used in remarkably effective ways to scare people. "I Am Halloween!" You sure are sweetie pie.

13. Puppet Theatre: Captive Audience (30)

The Grandeur Theatre, broken after a huge earthquake

Glory, it was gory! I love when HHN caters to the minor history nerd inside me with speculations on how much more horrific could history be. I loved how detailed this house was, and some of the amazing scares that could be found here. The fact that the house smelled like baby powder, more than likely in reference to all the powder that was used cosmetically for actors in the theatre? The crumbling edges of a once thriving, ornate theatre that is now home to inhumane acts of obscenity. The way that the house went from back stage to the front stage? The mirror scare?! I loved watching people near jump out of their skins with that one. I don't know, something about being around unhinged people is so comforting to me. Let's me know that I'm still not as bad off as I think I am, you know?

14. HHN Icons: Captured (30)

My favorite icon, the Caretaker, in his iconic funeral suit and top hat

As I stated earlier in this list, I always felt a little sad that I wasn't around to witness the "births" of the icons, though an argument could be made for Chance. With this house, however, I got not only their incarnations but their very essences! To have each icon get a room of their own, their own little world they invite you to try and escape from, was intoxicating. I mean, I knew from prior research that my favorite icon was the Caretaker (I loved his creepy funeral home world, it was so stereotypical and dark 90s grunge), but repeated romps through that house had me feeling some kind of way for the Director of all people?! Can't tell you how many people I disturbed by cheerfully admitting I'd let that crazy-eyed Lynch groupie wannabe electrocute me in his bathtub any day of the week. They chose unfairly attractive actors for that icon, I swear it. And seeing Jack and Chance's world just made me love that little freak of a harlequin even more! My only pet peeve is that they didn't include that chainsaw wielding hunk Eddie, or little Cindy Caine.

15. Case Files Unearthed: Legendary Truth (30)

Detective Boris Shuster cleaning up NYC one monster at a time

Boris Shuster is the best gumshoe New York's ever seen, because I don't think any other got so close to the truth of the underworld and not only lived to tell the tale, but decided to make beating it back his calling. So I never got to see any of the other Legendary Truth houses, at least I don't think so . . . I don't recall LT ever showing up from 2013 on until last year. However, getting to see what was essentially a prequel house that explained the lore from years prior was really cool. I liked how the house started in 199o, with some nosey super fan of Boris' cracking the code of his case files and novels, and then moving back into the past with Boris in his prime. Those legions he had to battle were awesome to see, and in particular those sewer monsters always managed to get me. I could only find like two of the cubes in there, did anyone manage to see all of them in the house? Oh, but that final reveal where it just clicks in your mind that some portal in New Jersey was the gateway to unleashing Halloween Horror Nights on the world?! Genius stuff there. And, it's kind of funny . . . not even hell wanted to stay in New Jersey.

By Jon Butterworth on Unsplash

Well! I hope you all enjoyed this list, and sound off in the comments with your favorite houses throughout the years. If it's from anything 2012 and prior, hopefully someone has some footage of that house up on Youtube. But before I end this article . . . I want to tip my hat to some houses that I dearly wished to gush about, but in the end, some final cuts had to be made. I hope the Director's proud of me.

Honorable Mentions

Afterlife: Death's Vengeance . . . Lightning Gulch . . . Body Collectors: Recollections . . . An American Werewolf in London . . . Killer Klowns from Outer Space . . . Dead Exposure: Patient Zero . . . Beetlejuice . . . Haunting of Hill House . . . Revenge of the Tooth Fairy . . .

Oof, it really killed me not to put Hill House on that list either . . . but what would the point have been in doing a top 20? Anyway, hope you're all ready for HHN 31 this year, and I'm tentatively hoping for a chance to go as well should things be safe- but if you liked this, share it, maybe be so kind as to offer a tip that I'll pass on to one of the bartenders when I add to my collection of blinky cups. If you're up for another ride on the Nostalgia Express, I've got another detailing my first time going to HHN here! See you all in the fog!

travelpop culturehalloween

About the author

Danny Fantom

I write about Halloween, music, movies, and more! Boba tea and cheesecake are my fuel. Let's talk about our favorite haunts and movies on Twitter @ThrillandFear

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