GRAPHIC and X-rated – that’s how I would describe my language in the haunted houses at Universal Orlando.
I’d held it together in the Stranger Things house, narrowly avoiding dropping the F-bomb when a child playing Eleven leapt from the shadows to destroy a monster with her mind-powers. But I would like to apologise to the Amazon Cannibals from Planet Hell in the maze next door, who had, I’d wager, never heard cursing like it.
The Florida theme park’s annual Halloween Horror Nights is a celebration of all things gory, gruesome and cuss-inducing. With ten mazes, five scare zones, a live-action show and more roaming chainsaw hordes than ever, it is Universal’s biggest scare-fest yet.
This year’s Horrors of the Eighties theme includes a maze based on Netflix hit Stranger Things — complete with lookalikes and a set which matches the show, inset above, down to the last box of Eggos.
Haunted houses inspired by classic slasher films Halloween 4, Poltergeist, Trick ’r Treat, Happy Death Day and The First Purge, join five original concepts dreamed up by the twisted minds of Universal Orlando’s in-house creatives.
Carnival Graveyard: Rust In Pieces is a sinister rotting fairground filled with aggressive carnies who are not happy you have come to visit.
Dead Exposure: Patient Zero sees you enter something like The Day After Tomorrow set in Paris, with strobe lighting to help creatures creep up on you before you see them.
My favourite frights came in Seeds Of Extinction, set in a post-apocalyptic city overgrown with sentient plants. Trapped in the wasteland, it was impossible to tell the foliage from the man-eating vegetation until it was too late.
Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After is a twisted take on childhood fairytales, while Slaughter Sinema is Universal’s ode to Eighties B-movies.
Every room is dedicated to an original cheesy film such as Satanic Sorority Girls, The Cult Of the Beast Baby, Werewolf Bikers and of course, Amazon Cannibals From Planet Hell. Populated by creepily committed actors, the evenings are a full sensory experience — from the sweet smell of sugar in cannibal Hansel and Gretel’s candy cottage, to the pouring rain and mud outside the Poltergeist house as a disembodied voice screams the movie’s classic line: “You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies!” And don’t think you will get any rest between mazes.
The streets are made up of five scare zones: Vamp 85, Revenge Of Chucky, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Harvest and Twisted Tradition. Plus, there are roaming chainsaw hordes who specialise in catching you when your guard, or underwear, is down.
This year they were banned from scaring anyone in the loos, giving you at least one safe space to rest in peace. The culmination of 14 months’ hard graft by the warped minds at Universal, the spine-tingling sets and attention to detail are on a scale you will only find in Florida.
This is Halloween done fright.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ room-only at Universal’s Aventura Hotel is from £1,165pp based on two sharing. Includes flights from Gatwick, car hire, three Park Bonus Tickets for access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay and the Halloween Horror Nights Frequent Fear Plus Pass Ticket – offering multiple nights of admission. See virginholidays.com or call 0344 557 3859.
Losing our heads at Spanish horrors
I SPENT a long weekend being screamed at, chased by a man with a chainsaw and thrown around. I was publicly guillotined in a restaurant AND had dinner surrounded by spiders. And it was one of the best breaks I’ve had with my family in ages.
I flew to PortAventura World on the Costa Dorada in Spain with my two daughters Isabella, ten, Gwendoline, eight, and my partner Jonathan. Staying at the Wild West-themed Hotel Gold River in the heart of PortAventura World, we started every day with breakfast and a swim in the pool, which was where the tranquil times ended.
From Furius Baco to Ferrari Land’s Red Force, there were plenty of rollercoasters to scare ourselves silly – with some so overwhelming I could barely even watch from the sidelines. But it wasn’t just the high-speed coaster thrills we were there for. Plunged into darkness I had to walk a series of enclosed passages from the REC horror films.
The girls weren’t old enough to go, so I had to experience this alone. It was 15 minutes of such terror my feet never left the ground. Zombies with gory make-up jumped out and chased me from all angles. With laser effects and large cinema screens, it was like something from a nightmare and made me scream with fright. It was claustrophobic, panic inducing – and I loved it. Having worked up an appetite running from zombies we had lunch at Emma’s House Restaurant owned by “La familia Halloween”.
All the food served by them was Halloween-themed in a creepy, dark, spider-filled heavily decorated eerie restaurant. There was singing, dancing and magic tricks – and then I was guillotined. An unnerving experience for me as they practised on a carrot first and to my horror, succeeded. My daughters enjoyed it a little too much, with Gwendoline shouting: “Go on, cut off Mummy’s head.”
Halloween celebrations are running until November 18 with everything in the park decorated to get you in the spooky spirit. There’s plenty of large, macabre street decorations at every turn and my kids loved walking past vampires, ghouls and monsters.
Covered in eerily effective make-up, they would sneak up on us when we least expected it. On our last evening we ate outside at the lovely Raco de Mar Restaurant overlooking the lake in the Mediterrania area before watching the Halloween Parade Show.
An atmospheric procession of music, lights and spooky floats meandering through the park, it features Sesame Street characters, dancers and performers. The carnival atmosphere had us all dancing by the end.
The finale was Horror At The Lake, a must-see show on water with fireworks, video projections on water screens, fire, acrobatics and fountains.
Large monsters floated across the lake while jet-skiers performed jaw- dropping high-speed routines. We had all been scared and pushed to our limits over the weekend but that’s what made it such fun. A fright-filled Halloween holiday in the sun.
GETTING THERE: Flights to Reus from Luton are from £31.24pp one way. See easyjet.com.
STAYING THERE: One night, room-only, in a Deluxe Callaghan room is from £55.52pp based on a family of four sharing, with PortAventura entry for two days and Ferrari Land Tickets for one day. See portaventuraworld.com/en.
Wicker world of monsters
FROM terrifyingly graphic horror mazes to spooky CBeebies fun for little ones, Alton Towers has scares for all ages this Halloween.
And the UK’s biggest theme park’s latest attraction is perfect for the season, the £16million Wicker Man wooden rollercoaster’s flames light up the night sky – but be prepared for lengthy queues.
New for this year’s Scarefest is Project 42 – a scare maze for over 15s in the Forbidden Valley which challenges you to find a vaccination for terrifying human test subjects who have been infected by a mutant virus. Three other scare mazes for over 15s, Sub Species – The End Games; Altonville Mine Tours and The Welcoming: Be Chosen are joined by the House of Monsters, above, a live action maze perfect for the over eights.
Little ones haven’t been forgotten – the CBeebies Land Monster Ball sees their favourite characters entertaining them with games, dancing and trick or treats.
Make a break out of your visit with a stay at one of the on-site hotels and there’s more Halloween fun and entertainment – you can book stays from £41per person, based on two adults and two children sharing. Scarefest runs October 19 to November 2. Tickets for the mazes cost £5 and should definitely be bought in advance.
Park’s a sight for saw eyes
’TIS the season to be jolly scared. Thorpe Park Resort has reopened its zombie-ridden, post-apocalyptic doors for the 17th annual Fright Nights this month.
It boasts the return of fan favourites SAW: Alive, Platform 15, Containment and the full-on The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare. But this year also sees a line-up of terrifying new attractions featuring psychotic clowns and zombies.
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The Walking Dead: Do Or Die, for example, begins with you hiding on a crashed school bus before running for your life through a camp. Then there is the bizarre Vulcan Peak which has you don a hessian bag over your head as you walk in chain-gang fashion through a jungle full of evil.
The Blair Witch experience makes a re-imagined return in a new part of the creepy forest but surprise favourite is the post-apocalyptic Deep Creek Woods, which ends with you chased by a maniac wielding a chainsaw. New zones include Terror At Amity High, above, a school over-ridden with vampire American footballers, wrestlers and prom queens.
If all the touchy-feely live action scares get too much you can sit down with some warm popcorn in the Screamplexx 4D cinema showing short indie horror films. Tickets are from £31 at thorpeparkresort.com.
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