Greetings internet dwellers!
Well, as we know, HHN XXVI has been extended until November 4th & 5th. While the event is not over, I am not counting those days as official. There will be some elements on those days, that may not be 100%. Scareactor's won't be at full capacity, and since it wasn't officially on the calendar, I am basing my final thoughts on the event through Halloween.
So without stalling, here are my thoughts, and final rankings on the houses and Scare Zones.
AN UNEVEN YEAR
The first thing that comes to mind about this year, is just how unbalanced it was. I will get into to the Scare Zones in detail later, but the event as a whole had some issues. I am not just talking about content wise either.
Decisions made by the higher ups, especially when it comes to operationas, was a nightmare. Especially during the first two weeks. It felt like Universal had never put on a Horror Nights event before. The AAT controversy dominated the first few weeks of the event as well. While I heard they backed off a bit on that front, it still made me scratch my head.
The changes made during the first two weeks, were weird and unnecessary. Guests were left in confusion while asking simple questions too, as staff members were giving different answers to those questions. Nobody seemed to be trained well enough this year. Or staff members were being told different information than others.
The event, also seemed to be not ready. Houses weren't finished, Scare Zones weren't finished, at the start, and there was an overall sense of incompleteness to the whole thing. While it is normal for the first weekend to be a little off, usually the event gets its bearings after the first week or two. This never happened.
Things were in a constant flux the entire event. A good example of this, are the Scare Zones, as well as Krampus. I suppose the constant changing of things in the Scare Zones, was due to the overwhelming response to how lackluster they were. It wasn't until about 4 weeks in, that the Scare Zones seemed to get solid footing. Even then, things were still being added. See the motorcycle in Vamp '55 for evidence.
The park-wide music, also was changed quite a bit. And back and forth a few times, before finally settling on what we have now.
I like to go to the event as often as possible every week, to see how things evolve. However, I have never seen the event fluctuate as much as it did this year. This is my 17th year in a row. It was a little weird to see, and a lot of it made me question things.
We also noticed a trend of constantly inflating wait times at the houses. I don't have express, so I wait in the regular lines. The times about 99% of the time, were off. And I mean WAY off. Usually about half of what the wait times actually said.
THEY TOOK A CHANCE AND LOST
I know she has her die-hard fans. However, I hated Chance as an Icon. As a whole, she was extremely underwhelming. And not to mention annoying. Her voice constantly being played around the park, was a giant turn-off for me. Her laugh, her quips, and constant interruptions, were just annoying. It added nothing, but to repeatedly beat people over the head and remind them that Chance was the Icon.
She was poorly written, forced, and didn't make a whole lot of sense being there in the first place. They tried desperately to tie her into the event, and they fell hard. People are going to hate this, but Chance is a side character; a sidekick if you will, and should never have been placed front an center. She is hands down, one of, if not the worst, Icons HHN has ever done.
There's just nothing interesting about her, to justify making her an Icon. The "backstory", if you even want to even call it that, was extremely lame. I found myself more interested, in Jack being re-trapped in his box, than I was about her. And I'm not a big fan of Jack either.
Jack and Chance, compliment each other. Just like Batman and Robin compliment each other. They work better as a duo. It is clear they had no material to give her either, as a solo Icon. And that is because she is a side character. I guarantee you nobody at A & D even knows her real name. Even the poorest of Icons, have real names.
Jack, is Jack Schmidt. The Caretaker is Albert Caine. The Director is Paulo Ravinski, The Usher is Julian Browning. Chance is... who? If you are going to take the side character and make them the star, at the very least, give them a freaking name.
And that's the problem with Chance. She was a quick grab from last year, because she was popular in the Carnage Returns. Hell, most people probably had no idea she had even been around since 2007. My nitpick about her annoying voice aside, Chance was a poorly developed, underwritten, luring tool, and nothing more.
I am not one for Icons either. I don't think they are necessary. Sure, they add a little extra flavor to the event. However, they aren't needed. If you are going to do them though, at least try to put something together to flesh them out a little bit. Or hey, here's a novel idea- MAKE NEW ONES.
FINAL HOUSE RANKINGS
The houses. The majority of the houses this year, were strong. While the line-up wasn't anything near perfect, I thought they were solid for the most part. You could tell some houses were always in a constant state of flux. Krampus, was always adding, or subtracting things. Even The Exorcist was changing things mid-way through the event.
As a whole, I really dug the houses. The heavy-hitting IP's, showed up to play too, which is a good thing. The wait time issue, was indeed weird. I've heard some conspiracy theories as to why the times were usually inflated. However, I won't get into that.
We never really waited longer than an hour, for any house. Which was a welcome change of pace compared to the last few years.
9. LUNATIC'S PLAYGROUND 3D: YOU WON'T STAND A CHANCE
7. AMERICAN HORROR STORY
6. TOMB OF THE ANCIENTS
5. THE EXORCIST
4. THE WALKING DEAD
3. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE
2. GHOST TOWN: THE CURSE OF LIGHTNING GULTCH
1. HALLOWEEN: HELL COMES TO HADDONFIELD
FINAL SCARE ZONE RANKINGS
Do I have to talk about the Scare Zones? I guess I must. I hated the Scare Zones this year. They were just, not good. So many changes, so many missed opportunities, and so ineffective. The biggest sin in the Scare Zones, was the lack of scaring going on. The vast majority of the time, nobody did much. They just lumbered around, and stopped to take pictures.
Vamp '55, tried to rectify this, after the first weekend. They really seized on their theme, and ran with it.
I enjoyed the roaming hordes. The hillbilly chainsaw guys, were a riot to watch as they tried to scare people. The hordes, really tried to actually scare people. Unlike the Zones. Survive or Die, tried to turn it up a notch towards the end. However, it was a little too late I think.
5. A CHANCE IN HELL
4. DEAD MAN'S WARF
3. LAIR OF THE BANSHEE
2. SURVIVE OR DIE
1. VAMP '55
I've already talked about the shows this year. Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, was terrible (1/5). None of the jokes landed, the music choices were uninspired, and worst of all, it was boring.
The real show, was Academy of Villains: House of Fear (5/5). So much energy, so fresh, and a lot of fun. While I am glad these guys and gals are getting some recognition for their show, I have a slight fear for the future. Hopefully, if they bring Academy back, they do something drastically different than this year.
I could see multiple visits by the troupe, getting complaints about it being the same thing. Nevertheless, the show this year was superb. It really interjected a sense of energy to the event, that was sorely missing.
Despite the event not being the best this year, I had a lot of fun. I normally find myself wandering around the Scare Zones with friends. This year, we found ourselves seeking out houses, because of the lackluster Scare Zones.
In the end, that is a good thing. HHN XXVI, will go down for me, as a mixed year. The majority of the houses were strong, but the rocky Scare Zones, idiotic corporate decisions, Chance, and Bill & Ted, brought the event down.
FINAL RATING: 3/5
So with that, we look to HHN XXVII. I am ready. Are you?
HHN LEGACY OWNER