Horror fans celebrate the spooky season in style at Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights

As spooky season officially begins – no, it really has – we visit America’s number one Halloween attraction: Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.

Horror and queers just seem to go together – don’t ask us why, it’s another of those million-dollar questions that if we had the answer to we’d either be rich or in fewer therapy sessions. Maybe it’s the Final Girl, normally victorious. Maybe it’s the backstory of those who are ‘othered’. Or maybe it’s all just good fun and we have very good taste.

For fun and good taste, every horror fan really has to experience Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights at least once in their lifetime. No really, it’s genuinely that good. 

An annual celebration that sees the theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood transformed to celebrate the spooky season (aka ‘Gay Christmas’) for two months from September, it’s no wonder it’s regarded as the premier Halloween attraction. If you’re not from America, take anything you’ve ever seen for Halloween and park it because you’ve never experienced anything on this level.

Placed throughout the theme park there are 10 haunted houses – or mazes – in various soundstages and tents. But this is no small operation, these are gigantic, sprawling pieces of immersive art that attract fans from around the globe each year. Some of these houses will be based on films or TV shows you know, while others are brand new stories from the twisted minds of the HHN teams at Universal. 

Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights. (NBCUniversal)

Each house will take you through a specific tale, as you walk through sets that rival the most expensive and exquisite film productions you’ve ever seen. Of course, these houses aren’t empty… There’s jump scares at almost every corner, killer soundtracks and clever movie tricks to catch you out.

Think you’re going to avoid the houses and just soak up the nighttime atmosphere? Think again – to get to the houses, or indeed anywhere around the park, you have to pass through themed Scare Zones, filled with Scareactors who’ll jump out when you least expect it. You can definitely expect to hear a chainsaw or two before you make it home. That is, if you make it home…

PinkNews took a trip to the launch of Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando to check out the 31st event – themed around 31 October, of course – and find out if they’ve got what it takes to put the willies up us (sorry!)

House arrest

There are 10 houses situated around the park – you can get information on wait times at each location or via the app. This might determine in which order you visit them. Our advice? Do them all, of course!

Universal Monsters: Legends Collide

Three classic Universal characters come to blows in a brand-new story. The action is set in Egypt, where Kharis, the Mummy from the 1940s sequels, wears the amulet of Amun-Ra. This will give Dracula the power to walk in daylight and cure the moon-curse of the Wolf Man – and basically, you’re stuck in the middle as war rages between the monsters as you try to escape the tombs. It’s on an epic scale, with sets stretching up high, and every night there’s a different victor – you’ll see them holding the decapitated head of the loser as you exit. The costumes are incredible, and seeing Kharis lunging at you, amulet glowing in the dark, is extremely sinister.

The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare

Yes, a house based on music – it happens! In this case, specifically the After Hours album by The Weeknd, and some of the imagery from those videos is expanded to escape the mind of Abel Tesfaye. Yes, it’s set to his music (of course) but the imagery is dark; plastic surgery is a recurring theme, on an extreme level, with bandaged maniacs and the singer himself apparently being killed. This is one of the most popular houses – fans of The Weeknd expected it, fans of HHN were pleasantly surprised.


Based on the original 1978 classic, this is a returning house for HHN – although this time it’s been given a slight remix with new scenes. Expect to encounter Michael Myers – aka The Shape – no less than 22 times as you witness his first murder, come face-to-face with a lifesize recreation (!) of his rundown family home, navigate your way through the hanging laundry he famously stood in and then find yourself in the closet battling your demons (again) as Laurie Strode attacks Michael with a coat hanger. Everything about this house is iconic – the sets, the musical stings, the score. It’s a horror movie fan’s dream, or nightmare, come true.

The Horrors of Blumhouse

This is actually two separate houses under one roof, the first focusing on recent bodyswap queer horror Freaky, and the second with the sinister The Black Phone. They’re both great but Black Phone has the edge, likely because its storyline of child abduction is so bleak. Both have incredible set recreations, some ingenious special effects and tons of gore. 

Spirits of the Coven

You’re lured into a 1920s speakeasy by some beautiful flappers – but they’re witches and once their beauty fades you’re on the menu and will become part of their witches’ brew. Another beautiful build, including a full-blown ’20s bar, called The Black Cat Lounge and meat processing facilities – plus hags all over the place screaming at you. Sounds like a regular night out!

Bugs: Eaten Alive

You visit a ’50s show home fitted with a new machine that promises to kill all bugs. Only it causes them to mutate and replicate, infesting the installation…

Unintentionally this has become the comedy house of the season, though if insects aren’t your thing then be warned – there’s a lot of SIF (Stuff In Faces) throughout! There’s also some really clever use of air, water and puppets – honestly, they’re going to get you from every angle. One of the most hideous moments? A man impregnated by spiders – and you can see them moving inside his stomach.

Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights. (NBCUniversal)

Fiesta de Chupacabras

They only went and built an entire Latin American village on a soundstage! The locals entice tourists to a festival to celebrate the Chupacabras – a wolf-like creature that lives on blood – but once you’re in they’re going to sacrifice you to save themselves from the beasts.

Another one where you’re left stunned by the beauty of the build, lighting and design – and every time you’re fully immersed in the world around you is exactly when the scares get you. There’s some really great puppetry utilised in this house too.

Hellblock Horror

Long-term fans of HHN will recognise some of the players in this house, with a selection of monsters and creatures escaping from a high-security prison. It’s filled with gore and jump scares, but in a year that’s so strong this house isn’t quite in the same league as most of the others.

Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake

The standout house from HHN 31 is an original concept, a sequel to a Scare Zone from a previous year. Fishermen return from sea, answering a siren’s call played out on a violin. But the fishermen are dead and soon you will be too.. 

The recreation of a New England fishing village is absolutely stunning – the drop in temperature as you walk through snowy sets with storms from overhead is an incredible experience. There’s even a lighthouse high above, casting light over dark corners. As the violin plays, and no one escapes alive, there’s also sadness in the story. Of course, there are still scares aplenty to be had, with undead fishermen covered in barnacles swiping at you throughout, until the final scenes culminate in a submerged ship. Simply wonderful.

Descendants of Destruction

Another one ranking very highly in our list this year was also a new concept. In this one, the world has been polluted by a virus and humans have been forced underground. You enter this house via a rundown New York subway station – turnstiles and all – and as you progress deeper into the Earth, you’ll see how humans evolve, what they do to survive and what they end up becoming. Spoiler – it’s not pretty. 

The scale of this house is incredible, with crashed subway trains fading into the distance as well as hanging high above. There’s some incredible use of black light providing both beauty and beasts in the final scenes.

Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights. (NBCUniversal)

In the zone

There’s also five different Scare Zones to navigate – and these are great places to lose yourself in the moment, spot various Easter eggs and enjoy the ambience of fans freaking out or just enjoying all manner of Halloween-themed food and drinks.

Horrors of Halloween is the traditional greeting for those arriving at Universal Studios, combining various elements from other zones in the park – all overseen by The Pumpkin Lord, a returning HHN Icon from 2021 – sat in his giant pumpkin throne and daring guests to experience the horrors ahead.

Scarecrow: Cursed Soil features more returning characters, from 2017’s house Scarecrow: The Reaping. Located in the Central Park area of the park, they’ve cleverly created a mini-house, meaning that guests have to experience scarecrows that have risen from the depths. Some great scares and great characters.

Sweet Revenge is the biggest zone, and ties into The Tribute Store, in the New York area. Children have taken over Halloween – turned crazed by candy created by Major Sweets – and are murdering adults. It’s quite funny that you get used to scares at your eye level, but here it’s smaller actors in traditional trick-or-treat costumes catching you out. Special mention to the giant parade floats and general street design – it really is like being in a ‘50s movie and quite breathtaking.

Graveyard: Deadly Unrest – located in the Hollywood area – is probably our favourite, as the restless spirits in Nettlewood Cemetery come back to claim the living. Some really great costumes, and equally great scares, tie into a wonderfully traditional Halloween setting.

Conjure The Dark takes guests back to the very first All Hallow’s Eve, as various spirits are summoned – this zone includes a mini-show and is definitely one of the favourites this year.

Yes, it’s a lot to take in and we’d certainly recommend repeat visits if possible. If you can, we’d suggest booking yourself an RIP Tour – you’ll get to skip to the front of the line for every house, as well as enjoy other benefits. An Express Access ticket also greatly reduces waiting times if you’re planning on taking everything in on one unholy night.

For the full experience, there’s also two different shows: Ghoulish, a musical performance staged on the Universal Lagoon at different points throughout the night and Halloween Nightmare Fuel Wildfire, featuring pyro and aerial performers in a large arena space. In addition, The Tribute Store – a large space housing lots of must-have merchandise – is almost itself a house experience, themed after an old-fashioned Halloween theme park ‘dark ride’, complete with tracks on the floor.

You’ll also be able to do tours of the houses during the day, with the lights on and no scareactors inside – Unmasking The Horror is a fascinating opportunity to see the true craftsmanship that goes into creating these sets, as well as spot more Easter eggs and get lots of photos. On top of this, there’s a Halloween-themed bar on Universal Citywalk, and a special photo setup at Cabana Bay hotel for guests staying at Universal properties. Called Universal Monsters: Gallery Of Legends it’s a perfect Instagram opportunity. Don’t forget to check out the pumpkins at the bar downstairs!

With this year’s 31st celebration extending opening hours until 2am and running for a record-breaking 43 nights, Halloween Horror Nights thankfully shows no signs of slowing down but instead gives you even more opportunities to scream in the dark. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have being scared – get that nightmare trip booked and experience the best Halloween ever.

Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights. (NBCUniversal)

What you need to know…

Seven nights in Orlando with a 3 Park Explorer Ticket from £1,525 per person. Seven nights in Orlando, with Virgin Atlantic Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic Economy Classic flights from London Heathrow direct to Orlando, a three-Park Explorer Ticket, and accommodation at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard two queen room and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change.

Price is based on a 25 October, 2022 departure. Virgin Atlantic Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: Virgin Atlantic Holidays or call 0344 557 3859. The Halloween Horror Nights Single-Night Ticket starts from £63 per person.