Halloween Horror Nights – Interview with John Murdy and Maze Preview

John Murdy and Chris Williams of Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights were on hand at both of this year’s Halloween and horror conventions to give fans a sneak peek and some behind-the-scenes info on their mazes and the process that goes into creating them.

First up, we’ve got a video of John Murdy, Creative Director of Halloween Horror Nights, discussing how they try to immerse their fans in the horror movie scenarios each year. Then, we provide a more in depth look at some of the mazes from this year’s experience.

The Path to Halloween Horror Nights

Prior to talking about the Ash vs. Evil Dead and The Shining mazes, Murdy and Williams gave some background to how they ended up running Halloween Horror Nights. This discussion came from a fan on Twitter who asked if they could have seen themselves doing this as children. Williams, the art director for Halloween Horror Nights, explained that a job like his didn’t even exist when he was a kid. He began a career in makeup effects after idolizing Dick Smith, but eventually ended up falling in love with Halloween event design, which led him to Horror Nights. Murdy noted the he hadn’t planned on working in this capacity when he was younger, but the Universal monsters and haunts have been part of his life since he was a kid. He designed a home haunt based around Star Wars in 1977, and meeting the Universal monsters at a theme park was a dream come true. While Murdy may not have been able to dream of this profession when he was younger, it was a role he’d been preparing for his whole life. And with that, they were on to the sneak peaks.

 

 

Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios, John Murdy, haunts, Los Angeles

 

 

Ash vs. Evil Dead

Before discussing details for the new maze, the pair highlighted some of their favorite scenes from the 2013 maze based on the Evil Dead remake. Both excitedly pointed to the scene where Mia cuts her tongue in half, in which the actress had a prosthetic tongue fitted to a type of mouth guard. The second was the final scene of the maze where it rained blood on the guests, an effect that was achieved with sprinklers and a very specific type of lighting.

 

For this year’s maze, they plan to include major locations from the first two seasons of Ash vs. Evil Dead. Murdy indicated that the maze would start in the Mossy Haven trailer park, where Ash is living when the show begins. From there people would move through Elk Grove, Michigan and Ash’s childhood home where they’ll meet his sister. Of course, a maze based on Evil Dead wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the cabin. Attendees will enter the cabin, descend into the fruit cellar, and encounter Henrietta, a deadite fan favorite. Whether you’ve seen the show or not, the Ash vs. Evil Dead maze should be a blast for followers of the Evil Dead franchise.

 

The Shining 

With a property as beloved as The Shining, Murdy and Williams said they were excited, but terrified to create this maze. Their first challenge was trying to determine what they wanted fans to feel. They recognized that it needed to be “a sense of dread, a sense of suspense, but the movie is a slow burn.” They realized their second challenge was figuring out how to “instill that sense of dread when it’s a live experience.” While they didn’t reveal just how they planned to do this, they did discuss some of the major scenes and elements that would be present in the maze.

 

Halloween Horror Nights, HHN, Universal Studios, The Shining

Photo credit: Theme Park Duo

 

Murdy and Williams assured audiences that everything from the hedge maze to the Grady twins to the elevator full of blood would available to those willing to enter the Overlook Hotel. Murdy further indicated that there was one very important part of the hotel that is often overlooked: the iconic carpet. The Halloween Horror Nights team designed and ordered custom carpet so they could use it in the maze. While they realize that most people don’t look down while going through their haunts, they felt that the Overlook’s carpet was vital to the overall feel of their The Shining maze. Williams pointed out that this attention to detail extended to the whole of what they were building because Kubrick’s set design for the movie was so specific. When fans enter this maze, they should expect to feel like they’ve stepped directly into the Overlook Hotel.

 

Tickets for Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights are on sale. For more information on the event, visit the Horror Nights website and Facebook page.

 

Header photo and video courtesy of Cara Mandel.

About The Author

Kevin Gossett
Kevin was introduced to immersive theater through Then She Fell and Sleep No More before falling hard for The Tension Experience. He has worked as an editor and sometimes writer in a few different fields. He has an M.S. in Communications from Pepperdine University and a B.A. in English Literature from CSUN.

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