Bringing together the sickest minds in horror to immerse guests in a living, breathing, three-dimensional world of terror, Halloween Horror Nights, held at Universal Studios Hollywood on select nights from September 19th through November 2nd, has become one of the most popular ways to celebrate Halloween and all things scary. Featuring an all-new slate of seven film production quality mazes (The Walking Dead, Alien vs. Predator, From Dusk Till Dawn, An American Werewolf in London, Syfy’s Face Off, Dracula Untold and Clowns 3D with music by Slash), five frightful scare zones (The Purge: Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Mask-A-Raid, Dark Christmas and Skullz) and the fully re-imagined Terror Tram: Invaded by The Walking Dead experience, it will be more chilling, more terrorizing and more extreme than ever.
Collider was recently given the opportunity to tour the From Dusk Till Dawn maze, which brings many of the shows key visual moments to life. Walking through each scene, accompanied by actor Wilmer Valderrama, who plays the show’s big bad villain, and HHN Creative Director John Murdy, it was clear how much time and thought was put into every little detail. Check out what they had to say, and what you can expect from the maze itself, after the jump.
To set the scene, guests will enter through The Twister, the vampire nightclub made famous in both the original film and on the TV show. Here are eight things that you should know about how to make it through the maze to the end.
- The Gecko brothers will greet you in front of The Twister, as you make your way in to the stage area of the club, where Santánico will be performing her famous dance.
- In the room with Santánico’s bath, where she takes her bath in blood, the props team had to find a claw foot tub, which are not easy to come by.
- In the dining room with the consiglieres, who are like the mafia for vampires, you’ll see the aftermath of when Carlos and Santánico decided to start a revolution and murder them all. They were having a lavish cannibal feast and drinking blood, until everything went horribly wrong.
- The scares work best when you drive everybody’s focus to all of the detail of the sets and props, and then can unexpectedly scare them out of their periphery blind spots.
- The scare-actors are given a lot of different tricks to help amplify their scare, that are under their control. Some will have things that look like guitar pedal foot switches, but that will activate their own audio, directly from the source material of the show, and they can activate their own lighting cues.
- All of the little details are important. When HHN Creative Director John Murdy writes the treatment for the mazes, he puts in all of the little details, and then the prop guys have to either go find or create the stuff.
- There are not only the vampire characters on From Dusk Till Dawn, but there are also mythological characters from Mesoamerican mythology, called the Chanan and the Baki, which will also be featured.
- At the end of the maze, you’ll revisit The Twister nightclub, but when all hell is breaking loose and the vampires are attacking all of the patrons, and it’s just a scene of straight-up carnage.
Collider: Wilmer, how awesome is it to see this come to life?
WILMER VALDERRAMA: It’s so insane! The branding of this has never been brought to life. To see Quentin Tarantino’s characters and a Robert Rodriguez production, and to actually be able to submerge yourself in that universe, is a really unique experience. You get The Walking Dead and you get Aliens vs. Predators, which are such iconic and exciting mazes to go through, and then you have this cool genre that’s just kick-ass, with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez in one maze. To be able to submerge yourself in that universe is really unique.
Of course, you want vampires at Halloween Horror Nights, but it’s really cool that these vampires are so different.
JOHN MURDY: Yeah, they are. They’re very unique.
VALDERRAMA: We’re snakes.
MURDY: It’s not Twilight! I love the Tarantino touches. The Gecko brothers are very Tarantino characters. When you design something like this, you wouldn’t necessarily think of them, on the top of your mind, because you’re thinking of all these horrible-looking vampires and creatures. But, we wanted to have the Gecko brothers because they’re such an important part of the series. So, when you’re out in front of The Twister, you’ll encounter the Gecko brothers, before you even walk in the door. We’re trying to hit on all of those really Tarantino moments, and all of the iconic things that Robert did, in the series and in the film.
Wilmer, when the idea of the show was brought to you, were you hesitant about taking on a TV version of a movie that was so loved by people?
VALDERRAMA: Yeah. It’s a little risky because you’re going to take the iconic movie From Dusk Till Dawn, from ‘94, and actually make it into a series. And then, you realize that it’s Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez saying, “Hey, we’ve never done television before. What would be a cool thing to do in television? Why don’t we bring back what started the vampire craze?” When you go back to that era, they were one of the first ones to do the real vampire genre, and it started a craze. So, to have the grandfathers of that genre and what they did so iconically in this cult classic, and to have them bring that to television, you have to trust them. And Robert is directing episodes. Robert is writing, editing and composing, and it’s his network. I was like, “I’m just going to go blindly into this.” I didn’t even know what I was playing until I got to Austin.
They didn’t even give you a hint?
VALDERRAMA: No! The script was so secret, and the characters were a secret. I had met with him for something else on the show, and then they were a week and a half into production and I figured that it didn’t work out. And then, I got a text from Robert that said, “Listen, I hand-crafted this character for you, and I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it. It’s a brand new network, so just bear with us.” I said, “Okay, I’m all in!” I flew to Austin and had no idea what I was playing. I went to the wardrobe department, and I was trying on big trench coats and suits. So, I asked Nina [Proctor], who’s the master of all the wardrobe for Robert’s properties and movies, “Hey, what am I playing?” She was like, “You don’t know what you’re playing?” I was like, “I have no idea, and I work at 6 am tomorrow!” She said, “All right, don’t tell Robert I told you, but you are our main bad guy. You’re a villain.” And I was like, “Wow!” All of my dreams came true. I wanted to work with Robert, I wanted to work with Quentin, and I wanted to play a cool-ass character. I got to hand-craft it myself and create it with him. Robert and I worked hand-in-hand in creating the perfect villain who was the liaison between the real world and the underworld. And it worked out pretty good. We had a lot of fun.
MURDY: As a pure fan who isn’t in the TV series, when you hear that they’re going to make a TV series out of something that you know so well and that you’ve seen for years, one of the highest compliments I can pay the show is that, as soon as I started watching it, I bought in. That’s really hard to do. They took something that existed and that’s been around and that people know and that’s been a cult classic for years. Wilmer is awesome in the show. He scares the hell out of me. When I finally got a chance to see the episodes, I was like, “Wow, this guy’s got chops!”
VALDERRAMA: It was scary for me. The thing that made me think the most was that I wanted Robert to be so proud of his choice. He just offered me the main villain. You’ve never seen me play a villain before, but there was something in the meeting that I had with him that made him go, “I think you’d play a good villain that’s something different.” So, I said, “What kind of villain have you not seen before?” Because Carlos has been alive for 500 years, everyone is in a hurry except him. He just sits back. When everyone is losing their shit, and shit is hitting the fan, he’s just like, “Okay.” I also wanted him to have this sense of humor, but then, when it was time to be bad, he was terrifying. Thanks to Greg Nicotero and the visual effects house, you want to see Carlos go bad. It’s just so twisted and terrifying and weird and creepy. It’s just dark. But, it’s fun. For me, it was almost therapeutic, I’ll be honest.
What’s it like to already have been picked up for Season 2, and have a maze where you can see it all brought to life?
VALDERRAMA: Things are happening on levels that I couldn’t have predicted. Now, we’re on Netflix worldwide. For the genre, it’s huge that Netflix did that. And then, the El Rey Network is curating content that is just kick-ass. It’s cool to be a part of that world. And now, we’re immortalized as part of the mazes at Universal. It’s a magical moment for any show, but also a big tribute to what Robert and Quentin started.
MURDY: On social media, I see a lot of our fans, some of whom hadn’t gotten to see the show, have seen it now that it’s on Netflix and they’re like, “I sat down and watched every episode, and I can’t wait for the maze.” So, we’re turning people on to From Dusk Till Dawn, too. And we work really closely with Greg Nicotero. He sees and approves every single sculpt we do for make-up, and he gives us all of his pointers. Every single thing we do, goes through Greg.
VALDERRAMA: You never forget anything that Greg creates, and you never forget anything that John creates either. The way he envisions these worlds is insane. I’ve always wanted to work with this guy, for a long time. I’ve been a fan of his for so long. We tried to find an excuse, and then this show just worked out.
MURDY: Which is awesome. We’re thrilled. The timing seemed perfect. If we can turn people on to From Dusk Till Dawn, then I feel like we’ve done our job.
VALDERRAMA: For us, it’s a real gift. It’s such a treat. We work so hard on the show, you have no idea. So, it’s very cool to see this.
Wilmer, will it be weird for you to see other people pretending to be Carlos, scaring the guests?
VALDERRAMA: So weird! I’ve been debating whether I should do it for one night. I want to just play the actual character for one night. I definitely want to do it.
MURDY: It’s happened before. Eli [Roth] did it in Hostel, years ago. He called me up one night and was like, “I’m going in!” I was like, “You’re what?!” He came down and did the whole maze. He went scene by scene by scene, for like an hour. And occasionally, I’ll go in. It’s such a unique thing that our scare-actors do. It’s unlike any other kind of acting, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to scare people. If you haven’t done it before, it’s a new scene every 10 seconds. That’s what it takes for a person to walk through a scene, so we have to get them mentally into that cycle. We did the math last year, and that means 60,000 scares per performer. It’s gotta be in the millions, if you add up the whole event. And I train every single one of them. We start training the mazes on [September 9th]. We take our passion and spend a lot of time with the actors, so they bring this to life. Once we get to opening night, I’m just spectator, at that point. It’s their show. Luckily, we have great actors.
Halloween Horror Nights @ Universal Studios Hollywood runs on select nights from September 19th through November 2nd, and you can get all of the details at Halloween Horror Nights.