universal’s halloween horror nights 30 (2021)

this year’s halloween horror nights will be my third! it’s turned into a pretty awesome tradition for me and one of my partners. we went to halloween horror nights 29 in 2019 on our first date. 2020’s was, of course, canceled due to the early stages of the covid-19 pandemic when the powers that be were pretending to actually try to prevent its spread. but when halloween horror nights returned to universal the following year, so did we!

our second year we were joined by her husband and my fiancx. our apparently obligatory non-horror nights activity was men in black alien attack, which i freaking loved and (plug, i guess?) you can read about in my men in black megareview! my fiancx wasn’t feeling up for many of the haunted houses, and is a bit of a rollercoaster fiend (whereas i’m a huge rollercoaster wuss), so ve rode hollywood rip ride rockit whilst we were having our spooky times.


no movies to watch with these this time, because since halloween horror nights was celebrating the big 3-0, they largely used the scarezones to pay tribute to past years’ horror nights. i didn’t have context for any of these, obviously, but i thought the overall concept was pretty rad!

there were only two scarezones that i really spent any time in that year or that left a lasting impression. one was seek and destroy, which was located right outside of the tribute store and was this really cool dystopian robot alien invasion thing where there are just these robotic voices demanding that you submit and like yeah wow i wonder if i liked that or not. the other one i remember pretty clearly was gorewood forest, where tree people capture and sacrifice humans. the costumes and sets here were just totally lit, and the queen of the tree people was just super dommy so yeah obviously i was so totally into that?

the texas chain saw massacre (movie 1974)

yeah so i’m not rewatching this sorry. i’ve seen it twice i think and i just really kind of don’t like it? which makes me a little sad because a good friend of mine wrote an incredible review on letterboxd about what makes this such an amazing movie and frankly you should probably just read that instead because it’s easily one of the best movie reviews on letterboxd like it made me genuinely regret not liking this movie.

but yeah no it’s just kinda gross and it has great bondage in it but there’s just so much grizzly stuff around it it’s almost a house of 1000 corpses sort of situation but even as someone who really doesn’t like this movie i can admit that it’s way better than house of 1000 corpses don’t get me wrong.

i don’t know guys, i just really don’t like gross-out horror? it’s just super not my jam. if you do like gross-out horror i have to imagine this movie is super up your alley, i’m not trying to knock it, it just really isn’t the kind of thing that appeals to me. c-rank

the bride of frankenstein (movie 1935)

i fully intended to rewatch this one because i love it, but i just ran out of time before my trip! i still fully agree with this earlier review i wrote, though.

frankenstein’s monster crying, “friend!” as he’s forced to flee the monk’s burning home is one of the most heart-wrenching moments you’ll ever see in a film. and it does a better job of accomplishing everything the film’s ending is supposed to accomplish but without distracting amounts of sexism.

though it’s arguably subverted by her reaction, the entire idea of creating a woman to be a companion for the monsters parallels the story of eve being created from adam’s rib because that fucker was lonely, and it bothers me kind of a lot. and even taking the ending into account, it feels like what the audience is “supposed” to get out of it is a sense of tragedy that this woman that was created “for” the monster rejects him, all of the pathos is all centered on him. (also, like, she literally gets blown to smithereens when the monster gets mad that she doesn’t want to go to prom with him and decides to blow up everyone but daddy frankenstein and his wife. side note: why was there even a switch for that???)

this is still one of my favorite universal monsters movies because it’s very distinct and a little goofy and definitely has a very strong identity compared to the repetitive slogs many of the later sequels turn into. it still comes complete with a fairly abrupt (some would say anticlimactic) ending, though i’m actually reminded less of later universal monsters outings and more of beneath the planet of the apes.

the titular bride (really wish we had something better to call her) is important to the narrative only insofar as her rejection of the monster, and it’s really a shame because she has an iconic look and elsa lanchester knocks her brief performance out of the ballpark. (definitely better than her rather uneven performance in the framing narrative.) if i had to headcanon a continuing story for her, let’s say she goes off and finds fellow confirmed lesbian countess zaleska from dracula’s daughter and they live happily ever after conquering the world and all of us fear and love them as they reign over us in gothic splendor. a-rank

haunted houses

the haunting of hill house was a pretty easy skip because none of us have seen the netflix show it was based on and it was going to have long lines all night. also an easy skip was hhn icons: captured because it was based on the like literally 30 years worth of halloween horror night lore and again this was our second halloween horror nights so obviously i probably wasn’t gonna get much out of that. i think we also skipped revenge of the tooth fairy because it just didn’t sound that interesting to me. i think we also missed case files unearthed: legendary truth, which in retrospect i’m actually a bit sad about! but i’ve also gotten way more into detective/mystery type stuff in the year since, so it makes sense that i wasn’t nearly as interested in that one at the time.

puppet theatre: captive audience was one of the original concept haunted houses i was super looking forward to, but honestly it was kinda because i was expecting a whole lot more bondage imagery considering the title and the concept being people being turned into puppets? i mean, don’t get me wrong, it was still a pretty great haunted house–all the original concept ones usually are–i’m just whining.

we also checked out welcome to scarey: horror in the heartland, which felt kinda obligatory given that both me and my partner grew up in the midwest. in this one a small town in ohio is just absolutely overrun with all kinds of monsters. there’s a bunch of really cool settings like a house, a school, a local news station, and a butcher’s shop. they did a fantastic job of combining quaint small town settings with a bunch of different kinds of horror.

but pretty easily my favorite of the original concept haunted houses that second year was the wicked growth: realm of the pumpkin. i just really, really like pumpkins and i wish pumpkin monsters were more of a common thing around halloween because that would just kinda make sense right? and anyway as soon as i saw the entrance that was just fucking covered in pumpkins including like a literal arch of pumpkins, i knew i was probably gonna like this one. it did a really great job taking more traditionally “spooky” halloween imagery and making it genuinely scary. just fantastic stuff.

the licensed houses seriously kicked ass that year, though. i mean, okay, texas chain saw massacre is for sure not one of my favorite horror movies and i mostly did it because i was hoping there’d be a ton of bondage imagery since there is in the movies (look i have a bit of a one-track mind, i’m not sorry), but even though it didn’t really have any of that i could still at least appreciate what a good job they did recreating the creepy atmosphere of the movies even if it wasn’t super my cup of tea.

the other two, though… i wasn’t actually super excited for the beetlejuice house? like, i love the movie, it’s definitely one of my favorite tim burton movies, but i just didn’t know how well it would translate into a haunted house? but just… wow, guys, they knocked this one out of the park. like, i wouldn’t say it was scary, exactly, but i was just so damn impressed by how well they brought the movie to life that it kind of didn’t matter? it ended up leaving such an impression on me that i literally ended up suggesting we watch the movie when we got back in for the evening, and we ended up doing just that.

but by far my favorite haunted house from either of the two haunted horror nights i’ve been to so far was universal monsters: the bride of frankenstein lives. i liked it so much i bought a dorky souvenir t-shirt of it to show my loyalty. it was by far the least scary of any of the haunted houses we went to either year, but that just simply didn’t matter.

first of all, this haunted house was actually a direct sequel to the movie bride of frankenstein??? and just… i kind of super want someone to make that movie now???

the story is that after the destruction of the castle the anguished bride realized she actually loved frankenstein’s monster after all. i rather prefer my headcanon that she went off and found countess zaleska from dracula’s daughter and they lived gayly ever after, but in this version we see her recreating dr. frankenstein’s work while wearing his goggles and lab coat and uh yeah, that’ll also work! and she ends up having to capture the brides of dracula as part of her plan to save her monster, and it’s strongly implied that she’s giving them human victims so she can harvest their blood after they feed (at one point someone trapped inside a box yells for help), and just this is metal as fuck, y’all.

and it ends in triumph for the bride and her monster, as she dramatically throws the switch while fighting off dracula’s brides. and it’s just. so. fucking. good.

seriously, make this into a movie right now. and have it be exactly as throwback and amazing as this haunted house was. i was totally blown away. and yeah it was 0% scary, but it was still easily the best haunted house i’ve seen so far. i genuinely hope something tops it in the future, but right now it’s kind of hard to imagine!

beetlejuice (movie 1988)

i think everyone but me was the most excited for the beetlejuice (oh crap that’s three! aaaaaa) house that year, and it was also kind of pretty clearly the biggest headliner aside from that netflix show i’m not watching, so that was neat i guess?

but yeah i realized part of why i wasn’t super excited for it was i hadn’t seen the movie in FOREVER, so as a sort of combination of celebrating our trip to horror nights and “hey i wanna refresh my memory of this one” we ended up watching it, and yeah! it totally holds up. not something i’m gonna be clamoring to rewatch on the regular, but still just as solid as i remember.

michael keaton’s performance in this RULES, and i’m also a big geena davis fan both in general and here specifically. and the entire conceit of the afterlife having an inefficient bureaucracy to deal with, while certainly not how i think things work, is still an inspired choice to form a movie around.
lastly on a personal note i cannot believe my childhood gifted me both lydia deetz and wednesday addams and i was too much of a fucking coward to follow their example and be the goth i was meant to be I’M SORRY i’m trying to make up for it now! b-rank

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