Saturday, May 28

Walking through ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ for real at Halloween Horror Nights

In 2018, Mike Flanagan’s acclaimed limited series The Curse of Hill House It quickly garnered a lot of attention when it debuted on Netflix as it told a new take on Shirley Jackson’s classic ghost story. He then spawned a follow-up series that tells a different story, The Curse of Bly Manor, but now Hill House is opening up again in a very tangible way through a maze in the Halloween Horror Nights event, which returns to both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort after a year-long hiatus.

During a recent press preview of the Haunting of Hill House labyrinth at Universal Hollywood, Creative Director and Executive Producer John Murdy walked us through the many rooms inside, as work was put on the final touches before the opening on September 9. Murdy emphasized that the authenticity of the series was a priority in his approach, and that having had access to a large number of photos and plans for the production, “pretty much everything you see we got from the show itself, like every background of screen you see. in this labyrinth is taken directly from production”.

The entrance to The Haunting of Hill House maze (suffice to say, the construction crew won’t be there on opening night!)

Sound is always key in a Horror Nights maze, and Murdy noted that as you progress, “you hear more and more telltale signs that this is a haunted house; you’re hearing the dogs barking in the distance, the freak thunderstorm with hail, and the storm pounding on the window. And then you start hearing banging on the walls.”

While famous “scary actors” are known for big moments that jump out at you, Murdy commented, “Sometimes things [they do] it’s very subtle,” pointing to a doorknob next to a wall and explaining, “We’re going to have an artist whose job, when the audio cue comes on, is to turn the doorknob. And you’re hearing the banging through the walls.”

It’s a friendly house!

The Curse of Hill House it was also distinguished by how it was set in two different eras and made some very clever transitions from one era to another, sometimes even within the same shot, something Murdy said they wanted to evoke in the maze. To achieve this, at one point, a mesh will make it look like you’re in an era, only a change in lighting will reveal another below on the wall behind the mesh, showing the older, more run-down house. Said Murdy, “You’re in the past, where the house is completely fixed up, and then this whole wall is gone. And you see Poppy, the flapper girl kind of ghost from the 1920s in the story, and she walks next to you saying, ‘They’re killing them… they’re killing them all.’”

Perhaps the most iconic figure in The Curse of Hill House she became the lady with the crooked neck, and Murdy laughed that figuring out how to portray her was a challenge, because asking an actor to hold their head in that crooked position for hours wouldn’t be possible.

Soon, the lady with the crooked neck will be floating over…

At one point, when the Lady with the Bare Neck appears in the maze, Murdy explained, “The actress is wearing an artificial head that is in the position with a broken neck. And then she’s wearing a black ninja hood that’s the same material as the background she’s standing against. So when we light him through a theatrical mesh, we can make his face disappear and you just see that extreme broken neck.” Then, in another scene, a full body figure of the Lady with a bare neck will be used to represent her floating above a sofa.

The Curse of Hill House, like most of Flanagan’s work, interspersed truly terrifying moments with genuine emotion and even outright sadness. Like a Horror Nights maze, Murdy noted that his first and highest priority is to deliver the fear, but also, “Everything with this maze was approached to try to pay homage to what he did with the series… It really elevated the horror genre in a lot of ways.”

A tea party gone horribly wrong for poor Abigail…

Murdy said he loved the show’s slow-paced approach and how you feel about the family at the center of the story, noting, “In a maze, you’re condensing all those hours of television into one walkthrough experience. So you have those moments of sadness, like Abigail lying dead on the floor, poisoned by rat poison, or Nell after she hanged herself, or got help, depending on your interpretation, but the focus is on being scary.”

We spoke to Murdy just a few days after Flanagan had made his own tour of the Hill House maze and when we stopped at the bedroom of the twins, Luke and Nell, Murdy recalled how Flanagan, “was tripping over the scene. He was like, ‘Oh my God, this is exactly how it is… I feel like I’m on set!’”

Regarding covid-19 protocols, attendees will be required to wear masks indoors, as is currently required in Los Angeles, and while Murdy couldn’t be specific about the scarers, he said, “We took our initiative from the county and the city and whatever. it is mandatory. So whatever happens, that’s what we’re doing.” Overall, though, Murdy said they weren’t worried about doing anything they needed to do to work, even if it meant artists had to wear masks.

We were also able to preview the awesome Bride of Frankenstein Live maze on the same visit, which tells a wild story about the bride (including her becoming a vampire slayer to take on the brides of Dracula!) that picks up right where The classic movie is over and it’s the bride’s second HHN Hollywood appearance in recent years, following 2018’s Universal Monsters maze, while other mazes this year include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and The Exorcist, which oddly enough are movies that have all been made for the event in previous years, which Murdy said was no coincidence, even as they were excited to have an IP they’ve never done before with The Haunting of Hill House. .

The entrance to the maze in The Bride of Frankenstein Lives is made to look like a follow-up book that we never received.

Thanks to Covid-19, Halloween Horror Nights have been canceled entirely in 2020 on both coasts; in fact, Universal Studios Hollywood park wasn’t due to reopen until spring 2021, and when it came time to return this year, Murdy declared, “I keep saying it’s like coming home. It’s like we’re comfort food for horror fans and that’s why they’re looking at some of the properties that we featured before… Michael Myers, Leatherface, The Exorcist. Our fans were so devastated when the event was canceled in 2020. I know because they are a loud and passionate bunch and it tore their hearts out.”

He went on to say that the only people who may be more excited about the return of Horror Nights than the fans are the artists, many of whom return year after year to work on HHN, noting, “Some, they’ve been doing it since they were kids. in their 20s and now they are in their 30s.”

Murdy added: “They are so passionate about it. I think more than anything, they’re just dying to scare people again.”

Halloween Horror Nights 2021 begins September 9 at Universal Studios Hollywood (Orlando edition begins September 3).

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