It’s that time of year again, when the hugely popular Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood will have the most authentic scares on display, from some of the biggest horror properties in film and TV. On select nights from September 14th through November 3rd, guests will be able to check out mazes for Stranger Things, Trick ‘r Treat, The First Purge, “The Horrors of Blumhouse: Chapter Two,” Poltergeist, Halloween 4 and Universal Monsters, with music by Slash, along with access to the permanent walk-through attraction for The Walking Dead, five scare zones (Monster Masquerade, Trick ‘R Treat, Hell’s Harvest, Toxxic Tunnel and Holidayz in Hell), the Hollywood Harry’s themed Terror Tram, an all-new Jabbawockeez show, and access to Transformers: The Ride 3D, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride and The Simpsons Ride.
Collider, along with a handful of other press outlets, was recently invited to preview the Stranger Things maze (which will be at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Singapore) to find out what went into bringing all of the little details to life. After taking a tour with HHN creative director/executive producer John Murdy, we’ve compiled a list of 13 things to know about each the maze and have included some preview photos.
The Stranger Things maze is located in a shooting soundstage (in this instance, one where they shot Family Feud), marking the first time that they’ve built a maze in such a location. That gives them a lot of vertical height, which they’re able to use to their advantage in the Hawkins lab.
- The maze is based on Season 1 and follows Will’s journey, starting with the boys looking for Will in the woods, after he was abducted by the Demogorgon. They decided to just go with Season 1 for the maze because when they tried to incorporate Season 2, as well, it all got too jumbled. They instead decided to make sure to hit all of the important beats of Season 1.
- Along the way, the Demogorgon will be teased throughout the maze, with his first appearance being backlit, and then little hints, until you get the full reveal. The Demogorgon is a detailed and elaborate creature suit, with every little tiny tooth being added by hand, and because the creature is human scale, they are using a live performer in the suit. There are a total of 10 Demogorgons in the maze.
Universal Studios has a large inventory of props and items that they’ve accumulated over 13 years of doing HHN that they can pull from, but the props and dressing crew still has to track down certain items. Even the wallpaper matches the wallpaper that’s used in the show. Location photography is used as a reference, and in the case of Stranger Things, there were 40,000 pictures to go through.
- The maze includes the famous moment from the series when Joyce Byers was trying to make contact with her son, Will, through light. You’ll also see the shed where Will was abducted, the Castle Byers fort, and their classroom. And all of the audio, with sound effects and dialogue, are sourced directly from the show.
- Because the kids are 12 years old, they can’t just put wigs on adults, so they needed other ways to include their presence. One of the ways that they’re doing that is through audio, since they’re always on the walkie talkies on the show. Occasionally, you’ll see static figures of them, as well, but no live performers.
- Guests will enter the Upside Down through a portal in the trees, just like Nancy did in the show. Aside from the Demogorgon, the Upside Down was a big challenge because so much of it is done through effects on the show. After experimenting with mock-ups, where they tried snow particles in snow machines and projections, they eventually settled on a multiple plane approach, with foam and silicon and painting to age it.
The Void will include the Upside Down version of Castle Byers, the remains of Barb, and Will, who will be played by a live performer with a tendril attached to his face.
- The finale scene of the maze ends where Season 1 ends, with Eleven sending the Demogorgon away in the science classroom.
- The props and dressing crew for the mazes tend to work on movies and TV shows during the year, and then moonlight for HHN for Halloween. They’re given specific Easter eggs to put throughout the maze, even though most guests will run by and never even see them.
- The final piece of any maze is anything that’s exceedingly messy, which in this case, is the Upside Down. In addition to all of the foam work, they have to add vines made of silicon.
When it came to dealing with Netflix and the Duffer brothers, who created the show, they didn’t have any notes to contribute about the 100-page treatment for the maze. The Duffer brothers are huge fans of HHN and attend, every year, so they understand how it all works, and everyone was entirely supportive, as a result.
- If this Season 1 maze gets a great response from guests, there is a possibility that they can revisit the world of Stranger Things for Season 2 and Season 3, which will be out in 2019.
Halloween Horror Nights is at Universal Studios Hollywood on select nights from September 14th through November 3rd, and tickets and special offers are available at https://hollywood.halloweenhorrornights.com/.