2020 was a hell of a year for everyone, including Universal and Halloween Horror Nights. We didn’t get an event in Fall 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, all the monsters, ghouls, ghosts, demented killers, Purge-goers, and badass zombie-killing Brides of Frankenstein are back in full force. There are some obvious nods to the ongoing pandemic that we’re still dealing with, but this year’s edition of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood was a fantastic way to kick off the Halloween season here in Southern California and around the world.

If you’re planning on going to the Hollywood event of the Halloween season, here’s the rundown on all the mazes and other frights.

  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • The Exorcist
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
  • The Curse of Pandora’s Box
  • The Walking Dead
  • Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge
  • Jabbawockeez Show
  • Scare Zones

In addition to all this, the rides of Universal plus The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are all open. So if you’re in need of a Butterbeer, they’re here. The dates for the event are: September 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30 and October 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-31. You can grab tickets at Hollywood.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.

It’s fantastic to have Halloween Horror Nights back for this season, but there is an important question about health and safety.

COVID-19 And Halloween Horror Nights *UPDATED*

As of September 29th, 2021, visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood – Halloween Horror Nights beginning October 7th, must show proof of full FDA or WHO approved COVID-19 vaccination (a full 14 days after final dose was administered), or a negative test taken within 72 hours of visit, prior to entry to the theme park.

As far as I’m concerned, this event was planned, executed, and thought of with COVID-19 in mind for almost everything. At Universal Studios Hollywood, a mask is required at any point while you’re inside. I’d also recommend wearing one outside for the safety of others and yourself. Universal and HHN did a great job of planning out the best routes for the mazes and having a majority of the mazes outside or in well ventilated areas. A good portion of the mazes have open ceilings. Not only does it add to the ambiance of the maze to see the cloudy night sky above you, but it helps keep everyone involved safe.

The paths around the park are all open air and they even have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter open this year. That helps alleviate the stress on other parts of the park, so it’s not so packed everywhere. This is twofold, and it also gives people the entirety of that land to visit and peruse.

Overall, I’d give them an A- for COVID safety and thought. If they’d have gone as far to require a vaccination or negative COVID-19 test, they’d have gotten an A. As it stands now though, if you’re comfortable with larger groups of people, you’ll be safe at Halloween Horror Nights.

The Mazes Ranked: Which Is The Best And Most Terrifying?

8. The Walking Dead

Halloween Horror Nights

There was only one real “stinker” this year. The Walking Dead has been part of Halloween Horror Nights for a long-while now. It was even a permanent fixture of the park year-round. This maze goes through all the famous sections of the show and is the same as the old attraction. I’m sure a lot of work went into this one, but it falls short for me. The Walking Dead is played out and we’ve seen it far too many times at Horror Nights. There are plenty of other deserving horror properties or original ideas that could go into this slot.

Zombies come at you from all angles, but this one falls a bit flat.

I wouldn’t recommend going through this one, unless you’re a big fan of The Walking Dead or it has a short wait time.

Grade: 50/100

7. Terror Tram: The Ultimate Purge

The Terror Tram is back! This was one of the more exciting parts of the event for me. Every time I’ve been to Universal, I’ve missed out on going on the tram. Whether that be during Horror Nights or just a regular day at the park. So my first journey was along with all the people of The Purge. Was it worth the wait? Yes and no. I’m not the hugest fan of The Purge films in general, so it wasn’t as impactful for me as it could be for someone else who is a fan. However, the decoration of the existing sets on the Tram ride are top notch. At certain points, you wouldn’t even notice that it’s from an already existing section of the park. The plane crash, neighborhood, and Psycho House are all in view, and they fit right in with the overall feeling of The Purge.

The scares here are harder to achieve because you’re in such a big mass of people. But walking through the Bates Motel set was pretty awesome to see all the scare actors popping out of rooms and around the building. Having the Terror Tram back this year is already a treat.

Grade: 75/100

6. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween Horror Nights
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood

This one pains me. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is one of my favorite horror flicks ever. The opening sequence of the movie is one for the ages, it headlined my list of Top 4 Part 4’s In Horror. But this maze was sequestered in the Waterworld section of the park. So it doesn’t have a façade, just the normal gas station that you get every year. It does have some Haddonfield posters for Halloween festivals and a nice shadow graphic of Michael Myers killing someone.

It doesn’t quite do enough to rise above the other mazes though. For fans of Halloween, this maze is awesome. You’ve got all the best set pieces from the movie, two different variants of Michael Myers, Dr. Loomis, and Jamie Lloyd. The section with Doctor Loomis firing at Michael is truly awesome. The ending even has the climax of the film with Jamie seemingly taken over by the murderous family destiny of Michael Myers.

What really sets this maze apart though, is the finale. I won’t spoil it, but just be ready to get scared out of your mind by a hallway of Michael Myers.

Grade: 87/100

5. The Exorcist

Universal Studios Hollywood: The Exorcist maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021

The Exorcist maze is in one of the studio buildings on the lower lot across from Transformers: The Ride. While this one might be ranked at #5 for the event, this is by no means a reflection of the quality of the maze. It’s top notch. At certain points, it was hard to tell who was a fake Father Merrin and who was real. The actors did that great of a job. Throughout the maze, they have projected images of possessed Regan and the demon that inhabits her, Pazuzu. They’re a nice touch that really add to the nightmarish feel of the maze.

The animatronics on this one stuck out a bit, but that’s the suspension of disbelief that you face going through some of these mazes. A section with the “Spider-walk” from the film starts you off, and it’s all terror all the way through. For a maze based on one of the most terrifying movies of all-time, this one was great.

Whoever the scare actors were on opening night, they did a fantastic job on this maze. In the span of 5 seconds, one scare actor got me TWICE. So it’s safe to say this one is pretty horrific.

Grade: 90/100

4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Halloween Horror Nights
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood

We went from the most terrifying movie of all-time to the most disturbing movie ever. This maze had the façade of the Texas Chainsaw house and matched the thrills and terror of that movie. Outside, you’re greeted by a member of the famous family from the film. Once inside, the most famous scene from the movie with Leatherface dragging someone through the door into the house is on full display. The detail on this maze stood out for me. Every area, nook, cranny, and inch of the house was decorated and detailed perfectly.

This maze had a couple highlights for me. One was the dinner table with all the body parts and family surrounding it. The scare actors here love to distract you by offering a place at the table. Then Leatherface pops out of the wall and scares your pants off. Another awesome section had Leatherface putting a chainsaw through Franklin from the movie. This scare was tricky, because you think it’s going to be a dummy, but a scare actor comes out at you with a chainsaw and then sticks it into the dummy.

I really enjoyed this maze and it had some of the best scares with misdirection and ambiance throughout.

Grade: 93/100

3. The Curse Of Pandora’s Box

The Curse of Pandora’s Box maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood

The only maze not based on an original property at the event in 2021, was very, very close to being the top spot. It’s located near the Curious George parking lot next to Haunting of Hill House. Don’t be mistaken by thinking that you should just head down to Hill House and get out of there. The Curse of Pandora’s Box has one of the most inventive openings to any of the mazes this year. A scare actor beckons you inside the opening façade of Pandora’s Curiosity Shop, but quickly tells you to stop in your tracks.

Then they open Pandora’s Box and you step inside the Greek mythological themed maze. Complete with neon EVERYWHERE and some of the best positioned scare actors in any maze, this one was a truly terrifying but visually beautiful experience. These mazes not based on movies or TV series are always an interesting proposition. You get to see the creativity of the people behind the whole experience. They have to think of an original story to tell you while you’re walking through the maze. This one did that and then some, scaring me plenty of times on the walk-through.

Grade: 95/100

2. The Haunting Of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood

Now for the two brand-new mazes for 2021 at Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood. This one routinely had the longest wait time, it’s treated like the main event attraction for the event. Oh man, this one was well worth it though. We got to take an RIP Scare Tour through this and the following maze. Here’s a quick aside about that, if you want to get an experience that you can’t get anywhere else, spend up for the RIP Tour package. You’re led through the park by a guide, you get one-of-a-kind photo opportunities and more. If you’re a horror hound, it might be worth thinking about. Plus, you get UNLIMITED front of the line passes.

As for The Haunting of Hill House, this one was very close to being the top spot. It follows the events of the Netflix series and also has some of the latest and best maze effects and technology out there. They have red strobe lights on the outside of the house that make it look like the lights are flickering. Inside, they have mesh mirrors that show off ghosts and monsters, but only when they want to be seen. Inside, there’s enough room for scare actors on stilts, monsters to pop out of high spaces, and ones from down below as well. They used all the space they could with this maze and I’m hoping it makes a return in future years, because it’s really a treat to walk through.

This one had some of the best scares and effects of the whole event, if not for the top spot, this would easily earn that slot. Make sure to go when it’s completely dark out though, we went through with the fading sun, and it did break the immersion just a bit.

Grade: 98/100

1. Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives

Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives maze at Halloween Horror Nights 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood

Now for the main event. The second of the two brand-new mazes saw the Bride of Frankenstein take over to kick some monster ass. Like I was talking about before, the mazes that aren’t based on an existing movie/series take some creativity from the team at work for Horror Nights. This is based on the characters from those classic Universal Monster movies, but it’s an original asskicking story about the Bride. It goes through different chapters of the story throughout the maze as the Bride works to get the original Frankenstein’s monster back to life. All throughout you’re blasted with original music by Slash of Guns N’ Roses.

The hunted becomes the hunter in this one, with the Bride battling monsters, zombies, and other scary creatures as she tries to get her lover back. This one had it all: scares, atmosphere, immersion, great effects and set pieces, finally, the music really tied the whole thing together. It made it feel like watching an action movie complete with horror. Now I want to see a Bride of Frankenstein Lives movie. So bravo to the team behind this one, they did a smashing job on it.

Grade: 100/100

Overall Thoughts On Halloween Horror Nights 2021

In a year like 2020, there was a severe lack of frights, horror, and all the things that make Halloween season special. Now in 2021, Halloween Horror Nights is one of the best ways you can get back to celebrating the horror season. All the mazes, scare zones, scare actors, and everything else combine together for an event that celebrates all things Halloween. If you’re in need of something to do with friends or family in Southern California, you can’t do better for Halloween season than Horror Nights.

The mazes are filled with great ideas, and there aren’t really any you should skip besides The Walking Dead. I didn’t get the chance to do the Jabbawockeez show, but if you’re into that kind of entertainment, you’ll probably enjoy that. Check out Halloween Horror Nights all the way up to October 31st, Halloween on select dates.

For more on horror, check out THS Fright-A-Thon, or stay tuned to That Hashtag Show.