The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Is Halloween Horror Nights worth the cost?

Teagan Davidge
Universal Studios’ Lower Lot overlooking the “Jurassic Park” Ride during Halloween Horror Nights on Sept. 14, 2023.

Universal Studios Hollywood Horror Nights is an event that draws in upwards of 30,000 attendees each night during the fall season. I had to stop to wonder, is it really worth it?

Before answering the big question, it is necessary to understand the two types of people who go to this kind of event: those who decide to get tickets on a whim and those who have been scouring Reddit for months to find out exactly what mazes and shows will be there.

The experience of these two types of people will be astronomically different and will determine if the event is worth the cost or not. As the second type of person, it completely is!

Before arriving at the gates, it will look extremely overwhelming because of the variety of ticket options offered. The tickets labeled “After 2 p.m. Day/Night” let attendees in during normal park hours as well as for Halloween Horror Nights. These passes also guarantee admission to the park’s new Super Nintendo World from 7-10 p.m.

“Early Access Tickets,” which can be purchased in addition to general admission, allow people to enter Horror Nights at 5:30 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. They are an additional $10, depending on the day of the week and how busy it is expected to be. Attendees with this ticket will have the most success heading to the Lower Lot immediately upon entrance, since the mazes there open sooner than those in the Upper Lot.

There are also express tickets, which are more expensive than general admission since they ensure shorter lines throughout the park.

“Fear Passes” are another option; they give guests access to the park up to 30 times during the season that lasts from Sept. 7 to Oct. 31. I opted for this since I am a big fan of horror, and having attended in previous years, I knew that I would want to go more than once.

All of these ticket options make for mass confusion at the gates. While standing in crowded lines, I have watched multitudes of people realize they had been waiting in the wrong line for upwards of an hour.

There are positives to waiting, though. There is a shared feeling of excitement and anticipation. Everyone there is interested in the same things: horror films, entertainment and amusement parks. People from different groups talk to each other in line and often will even play games together, like charades.

Everyone wears their Halloween-themed clothing or makeup, and it is a blast to see the creativity of some outfits. Bracelet trading, often seen at raves or concerts, has become popular this year as well.

Once the overhead countdown to 7 p.m. begins, the crowd joins in with hoots and hollers, preparing to rush forward to start the night. Running is discouraged, but that doesn’t stop a mini stampede once the gates open.

Strategy quickly becomes crucial. Slow walkers are practically doomed to lines with over an hour’s wait, but if you rush to an Upper Lot maze that has just opened, it’s likely you’ll get to go through within the first 10 minutes.

Each maze lasts about seven minutes of walkthrough time. This number varies, depending on how close each group is to each other inside. In two of the mazes I went through, people came to a complete stop. I had to wait for the backup to clear before I could move forward.

Just as there are two types of people who attend the event, there are also two types of mazes: the ones meant to be scary and the ones meant to tell a story. Surprisingly, both of the most popular haunted houses this year, “Stranger Things 4” and “The Last of Us,” fall in the story-telling category.

The maze I found the scariest was by far “The Exorcist: Believer.” There were so many back-to-back scares and no time to collect yourself, along with an awful smell of blood that overpowers the senses. It was disorienting for a reason, and I was so terrified by the halfway point that I had to shut my eyes for the rest of the walkthrough.

My favorite maze, however, was “The Last of Us.” While I have never watched the show, I love the video game it is based on, and was so pleased at how seamlessly the story was told inside. I thought the set and audio were perfect and that each actor did a fantastic job in their realism. It was so immersive.

It was not very scary to me, though. And for those with no background on what the game or show is about, I could see how they would leave confused.

After initial short wait times for mazes when the gates open, each house’s general admission line will rack up a good hour’s wait. The most popular ones will not dip below two hours until it’s almost closing time.

A thrill enthusiast like me would also go to Horror Nights just for the short wait times on the rides. Regular park rides that are also open during the day, such as “Jurassic Park,” “The Mummy” or “Transformers,” will often have zero wait time. Even “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” is a walk-on ride at some points of the night.

Although the posted wait time for rides is high, there’s a 50-50 shot you can run all the way to the front of the line and hop on.

Overall, the experience of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights is worth it if you are truly interested in horror and meeting like-minded people. The lines will be long, yes. The food will be overpriced, of course. But as long as you don’t mind walking with a little pep in your step to beat the crowds, it will be super fun and memorable.

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