Horror park delivers a modern fright

Everyone knows what being terrified feels like.

The adrenaline rushes through your veins, your heart begins to pump violently and your sweat glands release every secretion possible — it’s an awful feeling, right?

Why then, when October rolls around, do the masses flock to theme parks and spend an evening getting truly terrified at every turn?

The insinuation that the characters in these theme park productions have the ability to kill you, but will only get close enough to make your blood curdle, is the ultimate appeal. Nothing masters that task quite like Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.

“It’s kind of like a sport,” said John Murdy, chief creative director of Halloween Horror Nights. “It’s … like the most dangerous game there is.”

Reopening three years ago after a long hiatus, Halloween Horror Nights have for the last couple of years included a variety of the public’s most feared characters — Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Leatherface. But this year, Universal has changed the game.

Inspired by a year’s worth of new horror movies, Murdy and his staff put together a brand-new crew of grotesque murderers. With four all-new mazes — “Chucky’s Funhouse,” “My Bloody Valentine: Be Mine 4 Ever,” “Halloween: The Life and Crimes of Michael Myers” and “Saw: Game Over” — fans of horror films will get a chance to walk through their favorite scenarios and become a part of the action.

“We decided that it was time for something new,” Murdy said. “We heard feedback from the fans that they were looking for a new look, and even though the fans and I love the classic horror films, it’s all about what the fans want, and since Saw is a very popular franchise right now, it’s been popular with the fans.”

The park’s first maze is Chucky’s Funhouse maze. What is used everyday at Universal Studios as a classic horror film maze has been changed into a rundown carnival house that Chucky and his gang of possessed dolls take over to torture carnival-goers.

My Bloody Valentine reenacts the life of Harry Warden, the only survivor of a coal mining tunnel collapse who wanted revenge, and awoke on Valentine’s Day to kill. He is found popping out of crevices trying to find the people walking through his town of Harmony.

Halloween, quite possibly the most well-known horror franchise in recent years, depicts the life of Michael Myers, a troubled child who later becomes a masked killer. Guests get to walk through the house where it all began, and with every twist and turn of Michael’s old home, he is lurking and ready to take their lives.

The dread continues down to the lower lot, where Jigsaw is waiting. In the scariest maze of the event, Jigsaw makes you play a game with him, as you wander through his lair and visit all of the others who were forced to play for their lives. It’s amazing that you can make it out alive with the absolutely true-to-life scenes in that maze. Universal Studios is the birthplace of horror and is the only park that has the ability to take you through the actual sets of the most famous horror films around, but it adds one more terrifying step to this every year.

Guests begin the infamous studio tour, where they are supposed to ride a tram through Universal’s back lot, but Jigsaw has something else in mind. He drops the guests off and forces them to walk through sets like the Bates’ Motel, the destruction of the War of the Worlds set, and others, all while being accosted by the terrifying people that guests had seen through the mazes.

“Nothing like this has ever been done before where we stop the tram and allow guests to get out and wander around the back lot,” Murdy told the Los Angeles Times. “We let you walk around the real Psycho house! Where else in the world can you do that?”

With all of the sheer terror involved in the night so far, guests might be dying for a something a little less heavy.

That’s where the park’s two stage shows come into play: the Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.

Bill and Ted’s has been a staple of Halloween Horror Nights since it’s resurgence, every year taking the humorous and news worthy happenings of the past year and making them come to life in a funny and provocative show filled with pyrotechnics and pizzazz. This year’s show involves a Star Trek and Cobra battle to the death, a Christian Bale freak out, a battle of the infomercial men and, of course, Lady Gaga and a bunch of dancers getting their groove on with a tribute to the late Michael Jackson.

New to this year’s event, Rocky Horror brings the cult classic to life in a larger scale, as performers depict the show on stage and provide a dancing and singing explosion that puts you right back into the film like it was the first time you’ve seen it.

If you are into the adrenaline rushing, heart pounding, sweat-pouring scare and the chance to see nearly naked dancers strutting their stuff, you’d better not miss the last few nights.