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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Meet the man behind Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights

The Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood is an annual event that serves as a playground for horror movie fanatics and newcomers to witness a world of trepidation, fear and horrific beauty right in CSUN’s backyards.

Opening Friday, the event will take place every night until Oct. 31, giving fans an opportunity to check out a number of terrifying attractions, including five all-new mazes, live entertainment, a terror tram and six official “scare zones.”

Organizing an event like the Halloween Horror Nights requires an amalgamation of different teams of people specializing in all the various elements that make an event of this great stature possible.

John Murdy, the head architect, mastermind and director of this year’s Halloween Horror Nights project, began working with Universal Studios in 2006 to bring the Horror Nights attraction back after the event was shut down from 2001 to 2005.

“When I came back to Hollywood in 2006, my goal was to bring back the Halloween Horror Nights and eventually it began to take off,” Murdy said.

The pursuance of embarking on a project that would bring popular Universal horror films to life has been an idea and desire of Murdy since back when he used to work at Universal Studios as a tour guide.

While working as a tour guide at Universal Studios in 1999, Murdy realized how people had the on-going desire of wanting to walk around and explore the various sets that were offered during his time as a guide.

“There was a hunger in the fan base for something like this to be done,” Murdy said. ”We (Universal) were the ones who made these original horror movies. All these classic films were filmed here and we just had to do this.”

Murdy’s love for early horror movies came to him at a very young age. After watching Frankenstein for the first time, Murdy went on and created a highly popular haunted house as a child.

“Hundreds of kids would show up to my haunted house,” Murdy said. “It became so popular that my dad eventually made me stop it.”

The process of creating Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is a year-long event that requires the collaboration of a large team of highly knowledgeable people. The event incorporates hundreds of actors, designers, sets, and many other elements.

courtesy of Universal Studios

“We apply all the disciplines we used in theater school to help us picture what’s going to be great about or bad about an attraction,” Murdy said.

Creating such a unique event requires a great deal of imagination, time and resources on behalf of those who make the event possible year after year.

The back lot of Universal Studios was the place where Murdy received his inspiration to further pursue in a career that would bring horror films and characters to life. Envisioning various attractions in his head from scratch, Murdy, with the help of Chris Williams, designer of attractions, tries to always remain progressive and tasteful with any idea he brings to life.

“We (Williams and I) walked through the attraction when it’s just plywood. We visualize what we expect to see,” Murdy said. “Chris really deserves a huge amount of appreciation for what he does as a designer of attractions. He nails every detail down. I’m more of the writer.”

People who visit Halloween Horror Nights this year are in for a new and exciting treat. Murdy is particularly excited to see how people react to the five new mazes at this year’s event. With 15 to 17 rooms per attraction, these mazes will allow attendees to visit the worlds of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Friday the 13th,” “Saw,” “Vampyres” and the “House of 1000 Corpses.”

With the growing popularity of 3D animation in films, Murdy also sought to apply various lighting spectrums toward the “House of 1000 Corpses” maze to give the attraction a unique and thrilling feel, different than anything seen before at Halloween Horror Nights.

“This is our first time doing 3D and it kind of feels like a science project,” Murdy said. “You wear glasses which help break out the different color spectrums. We try to distract you with all the visuals until we scare you.”

Other than the highly anticipated mazes, the event will also include a number of rides and shows such as King Kong 360 3D: The Skull Island Express, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park in the Dark, The Simpsons ride and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.

Helping Halloween Horror Nights rise from the ashes back in 2006, Murdy’s dedication has led the event to gain a great amount of popularity around the country. However, according to Murdy, his future as mastermind of the event is a bit uncertain.

“I’m not going to do this forever. I have a date in my head when I’m going to stop. I think at some point I have to hand it off to somebody else, like Willy Wonka,” Murdy said. “Until then, I want to expand the event and get it to the point that Horror Nights will live on after that.”

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