It’s hot as hell in Southern California, but this Summer-like weather won’t stop Halloween Horror Nights from opening at Universal Studios Hollywood. We were invited to take part in a behind-the-scenes tour of some of this year’s new mazes.
John Murdy, creative director for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, personally took us inside the “Ghostbusters” maze to share some of the surprises in store.
This maze is located on the backlot of Universal Studios amongst appropriate New York-style building facades. The character of Louis Tully (portrayed by the always brilliant Rick Moranis in the films) will be the first character you encounter just outside the entrance of the maze.
A tradition began years back where a secret password is shared on the official Halloween Horror Nights Twitter account each night of the event. This year, Louis Tully will be the character you’ll want to share this password with for a special treat. But get the password wrong and who knows how he’ll respond!
Murdy has mentioned several times at public events that he has a list of franchises that he would love to bring to Halloween Horror Nights. When asked whether or not “Ghostbusters” was on that list, he said that it was not. The properties on his list tend to be traditional horror films, so the idea of a film that is primarily a comedy isn’t the norm for the event (with the occasional exception).
One of Murdy’s favorite things to do once the event opens is stand at the maze exits and watch guest reactions. He mentioned noticing that almost every time people come out screaming, but within seconds they’re laughing. Creating a maze like “Ghostbusters” will amp up the laughter during your Horror Nights experience.
“Ghostbusters” secretary Janine Melnitz will be among the first characters you meet inside the maze. Murdy noted that the performers (known as ‘scareactors’) repeat their movements and dialogue during the event thousands of times. For this reason, any dialogue for their scareactors is pre-recorded in order to protect the performer’s voice. With the character of Janine, the performer will have the rare ability to choose which dialogue her character will say at any given moment.
Although the maze is primarily themed around the original 1984 film, that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter ghosts from “Ghostbusters II” (1989) and the 2016 reboot. But those aren’t the only things to inspire this maze. Murdy discussed how the “Ghostbusters” video game introduced the idea of allowing Horror Nights guests to go back and forth between the real world and spirit realm.
Murdy was even inspired by a scene from the original screenplay that never made it into the final film. There was a scene written where we got a peek inside the Ghost Containment Unit and could see the ghosts hanging out. At Halloween Horror Nights this year, this deleted scene will be part of the story once again.
Another fun detail tying back to the film is the way that Slimer is being performed in the maze. In the original film, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) put a performer in a Slimer costume that ended at approximately the waist. The performer then wore black to cover the rest of their body and it was removed in post-production. Slimer will also work this way in certain portions of the maze, but now the bottom half will disappear using traditional blacklight effects. And you might want to watch out – he may just hit you with some slime!
This entire maze was impressive, but without a doubt, the final room literally made me turn the corner and say “Oh wow!” out loud – and that was with the effects turned off. We weren’t allowed to take photos of this epic monster, but let’s just say that no “Ghostbusters” maze would be complete without a battle between the Ghostbusters and an epic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I can’t wait to see him when his effects are turned on.
With the opening of Halloween Horror Nights just around the corner, Murdy is obviously very busy and had to leave our group at this point. But before he did, he mentioned that he was excited to have the chance to work with electronic music producer Figure for the original “Holidayz in Hell” maze, and that he even wrote a bit of music for the new maze himself. In addition to that, Murdy loves to lend his voice to characters throughout the event. This year, you can hear him as Farmer Gene in the “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” maze.
Speaking of “Killer Klowns from Outer Space,” I had the chance to walk through that maze as well.
If you’re a fan of the campy cult classic, you’ll be sure to enjoy the bright colors and mayhem in this maze being brought to Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time.
The final maze we got to check out was “Creepshow.” This maze features three scenes from the original 1982 film as well as two scenes from the upcoming Shudder series.
This maze was in great shape with high levels of detail throughout already. And that’s a good thing, because opening night is just around the corner on Friday, Sept. 13 with a Fan Preview Night the prior evening.
For tickets and more information visit HalloweenHorrorNights.com.
Jeff DePaoli is a voiceover artist and producer living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of Dizney Coast to Coast, the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. In addition, he works as a segment producer for the Halloween and horror convention, Midsummer Scream. @JeffDePaoli