Halloween Horror Nights is the undisputed king of the major theme park Halloween attractions. They have the best production, the best movies, the biggest budget, everything. Horror Nights sets the standard for which all others follow. So, in 2023, at least for Hollywood, they’re bringing eight haunted houses (don’t call them mazes here), a new attraction in the Waterworld area, a Blumhouse showcase, and tons of food/beverage options. I love going through the houses with an eye for the story, the effects, how scary they are, and other environmental/sensory experiences.

For 2023, they’ve upped the House count to eight and added other experiences. Is this enough to keep the overall wait times down across the park? We’ll have to see as the season goes on. The eight houses this year are: Terror Tram: The Exterminatorz, Stranger Things 4, The Exorcist: Believer, The Last of Us, Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count, Universal Monsters: Unmasked, Evil Dead Rise, Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America, and Holidayz In Hell. There’s also the Blumhouse showcase, The Purge: Dangerous Waters, and three scare zones across the park.

Halloween Horror Nights runs on select nights from September 7th to October 31st at Universal Studios Hollywood!

We’ll start with the Scare Zones and the two new attractions before we get to the houses.

Three Scare Zones Is Kind Of Pitiful, But The Purge: Dangerous Waters Is Awesome

The three scare zones are Ghostz, Toyz, and El Terror De Las Momias. This is kind of cheating because Ghostz and Toyz are back-to-back with one another right when you walk into the park. They both sort of blend in, but having someone dressed in a Teddy Bear costume lunging to scare people and then going “boop” is hilarious. The Ghostz all have chainsaws, which is great, but there are simply too many people walking through the park for them to scare. The ratio is like 40 to 1. El Terror De Las Momias is the highlight scare zone when you walk out of Monstruos. It’s a beautiful display of more Latin American culture and monsters. That’s the one worth checking out.

There’s technically a bonus scare zone with the Death Eaters in The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. For any Potter fan, this is one of the coolest sections with Death Eaters roaming about. They do a great job of pumping fog and green lighting into this area to make it look as grim as possible.

The Blumhouse: Behind The Screams Area Is A Glorified Trailer

The Blumhouse area is basically a trailer for Blumhouse, including their upcoming production, Five Nights At Freddy’s. You get a look at some of the costumes and props from Blumhouse films and then a look at the animatronics from FNAF. Then, you’re treated to a dance with a group of M3GANs. If you have to wait longer than 10 minutes, this is not worth it at all, but if you’re looking for a quick distraction, check it out.

Go Out Of Your Way To See The Purge: Dangerous Waters

I know what I thought when I heard they’re putting a show in the Waterworld area, “Ugh.” Well, I was wrong. The Purge: Dangerous Waters is a thrilling show filled with awesome stunts, explosions, fights, and an actual coherent story. It’s not just people flying on cables, either. There’s a jet ski chase, an exorbitant amount of blood, and some actually not-annoying EDM music. The show lasts about 20 minutes, and they have shows going through the night until about an hour before closing.

It’s not just some cheapo thing to fill out the Waterworld area. They have some pretty death-defying stunts on display, with people getting lit on fire, falling off incredibly high platforms, and other stunts that’ll make you want to cover your eyes. Overall, this was an excellent addition to the park and one that you really don’t want to miss out on.

The Houses – A Mixed Bag Of Greatness And Not

For the houses, we’ll go through them one by one and rank them from the worst to best. This year didn’t have any outright stinkers, and there also wasn’t The Walking Dead house, so you can take some solace in that. Time to dig in.

9. The Exorcist: Believer – C

The Exorcist: Believer is based on the movie that’s coming out on October 6th. The problem with having this house open right now, is that we don’t really know the full story of the movie. It’s hard to get immersed in the house because we don’t know a lot of what’s going on. It’s really a story of the trailer for The Exorcist: Believer more than anything. The effects are amazing, and the makeup job for the scare actors is top-notch. However, the house itself is quite bare, especially for the first half. This one needed some more frights to overcome the story being slightly non-existent.

8. Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count – B-

As a massive fan of Chucky and the new series, this one was a bit of a disappointment. From the environmental and story standpoint, it’s absolutely fantastic. From a scares and scare actor standpoint, this one is a fail. It was cool to go through the story of the show’s first two seasons and get some gruesome effects from Chucky animatronics. However, I saw one scare actor through the entire house. And they were right at the beginning. That’s a poor effort in any house, but it makes a bit more sense for this one. The slasher villain is a doll, after all. So I’ll give Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count a pass in that way. The actual look of the house is beautiful and detailed with plenty of family portraits of Chucky and his family around. For fans of the show, this is almost a must-go.

7. Universal Monsters: Unmasked – B-

I look forward to the Universal Monsters houses every year. They celebrate the legacy and beginnings of the horror genre so well. They’re always some of the best-looking and intricate houses in the park. Universal Monsters: Unmasked continues that slightly, this time celebrating some lesser-known Universal Monsters. This year we get a house themed around Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Invisible Man. It turns out, that might’ve been too many characters to focus on at once. It ends up making the pace of the house a bit uneven with certain monsters getting way more focus than others. The Invisible Man’s section is much smaller than the other monsters. He does have the best effect in the park to make a scare actor look invisible, but it’s one section.

The scares in this one were also hit or miss with certain sections not having any scare actors. It’s a pacing issue that could have been fixed with better route planning. Outside of that, this one is worth going through for the ambiance, but it’s not one of the better houses this year.

6. Stranger Things 4 – B+

This one pains me because I was looking forward to seeing the sights and sounds of season four of Stranger Things. What we get is a pretty damn good haunted house, but it doesn’t include some of the best moments of the season. I know, expecting Halloween Horror Nights to pay for the rights to “Master of Puppets” and “Running Up That Hill” would be a lot, but there’s really only one section where we get to see Eddie, and he’s dying. We get to see Steve and Robin once. We don’t see Max, besides a dummy. There’s no Hopper, Murray, Joyce, Jonathan, Will, Argyle, or Erica. For such a huge property, this one feels like something is missing.

What we do get, though, is stunning from an effects and makeup standpoint. The various Vecna scare actors look exactly like the show. The actors that they did cast for Eleven, Steve, Nancy, Dustin, and Eddie look very much like their on-screen counterparts. It looks like the show down to the small details, like the vines on the wall in the Creel house and other If it was longer, this would have been a much better house, but it’s still damn good.

5. Holidayz In Hell – A

This is the only repeat house from previous years. This time it takes up residence in the lower lot next to The Exorcist: Believer. Holidayz In Hell takes you through an entire year of holidays with creepy undertones. Start off with a New Years Bash outside and right when you walk in, and head through the calendar, to Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. For a repeat, this one is a welcome return because it’s so damn inventive. The house is densely populated with scare actors and other environmental effects. For those that missed out on Holidayz In Hell from 2019, this is even more worth going through.

4. Terror Tram: The Exterminatorz – A

The Terror Tram takes a creepy crawly direction this year, focusing on Larry Larva and the Exterminatorz. However, Larry and his bug friends are out to exterminate humans and not bugs. The character feels a lot like a riff on Beetlejuice, but with a bit more malice. With this, you can tell the scare actors are having the times of their lives. They even added a new section where you go through the Schwooge Storage facility and head out to the Nope set. The Terror Tram felt a bit barren in past years, but it’s a really enjoyable experience this time. The blacklight and neon colors really pop out on the backlot.

3. Evil Dead Rise – A+

There isn’t a more perfect area to put Evil Dead Rise than the old Walking Dead queue. It’s astounding how well it fits, considering there’s an old elevator and a bathtub, and the whole section just looks exactly like the old Los Angeles apartment building from the film. This house follows the film’s plot and hits all the best beats. You get all the characters from the film with some absolutely gruesome effects. The scares are also spread out really nicely, so even if it’s busy, you’ll get hit by some of them. To top it all off, they have plenty of chainsaws and gore. This would be the top spot if it weren’t for two absolutely perfect houses.

2. The Last Of Us – A+

The Last Of Us had the longest line, the most people talking about it at the event, and is easily one of the best houses they’ve put on in recent memory. For fans of the games, this goes right through a section of the story, without spoiling anything huge. It doesn’t follow the show, so there are no Pedro Pascal lookalikes, but the scare actors (besides one time where there was a Joel without a beard) look exactly like their video game counterparts.

The real price of admission here is the clickers. They all look fantastic. They’re gooey, gross, and absolutely terrifying. It’s one of the best effect and makeup jobs Horror Nights has ever done. This is worth the wait (maybe not 180 minutes).

1. Monstruos: The Monsters Of Latin America A++

Like La Llorona last year, Horror Nights has sculpted an absolutely immense house out of Latin American culture and legends. This time, they focus on the blood-sucking Tlahuelpuchi, owl-faced witch La Lechuza and bone-ripping El Silbón. It takes you through each monster’s backstory with stunning detail. It’s not every year that Horror Nights actually scares you with one of the gigantic puppet scares, but here, I was screaming like a child walking through this house. It’s beautiful and frightening all wrapped up into one package. It has some nice environmental effects where meat smells are pumped through while you’re walking in a butcher shop. It’s the little things like that, that separate a good house from a great one.

Monstruos joins hallowed ground with The Bride of Frankenstein Returns and others that have been some of the best houses they’ve ever made.

Halloween Horror Nights At Universal Studios Hollywood Overall Grade: A-

This year’s Horror Nights isn’t quite as good of a house lineup as previous years, but it makes up for some missteps in certain houses with a trifecta of perfection at the top. There’s more to do, more to eat, drink, and get scared by than ever before. Certain houses had exorbitantly long waits like The Last Of Us, but if you plan well, you can hit most, if not all, houses in a night. For fans of horror and Halloween, there still isn’t a bigger or better event you can attend.

So, are you planning on heading to Halloween Horror Nights 2023? You can grab tickets for the event here!

For more on Halloween, check out THS Fright-A-Thon.

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