From tonight, malevolent forces have taken over Universal Studios Singapore. The army of fear has bathed the park with terror and mayhem, transforming four iconic themed zones into immense domains of horror.
What a crazy night it has been. Here is my detailed review and trip report for the first Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Singapore.
NEW! Review and trip report on Halloween Horror Nights 2 (HHN2) 2012 now available!
Moments before darkness
Towards 6pm, the covered area of Sci-Fi City and New York zones are sealed off (they have to move a lot of heavy props), giving us a day-time look at The Pestilence.
So here it is, the photos / trip report / review!
I will be rating each scare zone similar to how Steve Rowin did for his review of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. Essentially, three scores: Story (however I will not talk about the story), Presentation (or the “Atmos-Fear”, including production values and level of detail for props, special effects and scare actors) and Scare Factor – simply, how scary it was.
For Universal Studios Singapore, “Scare House”/”Haunted House” and Scare Zone are used interchangeably. The park advertises 6 scare zones, although one of them is a large-scale haunted house and another is an elaborate outdoor haunt.
All scare zones are dimly lit (or makes use of dramatic lighting) so I would advise purchase of those glow-sticks if you feel uncomfortable walking around in dark environments. For the Carn-Evil and Post-Apocalyptic Rage zones, the park has added tons of hay/straw on the ground to make it difficult to walk on.
❮ Carn-Evil ❯
〜 An evil traveling circus has consumed Hollywood 〜
Step right up into this bizarre Carnival. There are plenty of sideshows in the Carn-Evil and the scare actors play their roles very well – expect to be entertained just by conversing with them. There are plenty of photo opportunities here, just that the amount of fog is too crazy for good photos.
The fog can be disorienting – make sure you know where you’re going!
Make sure you meet all the characters in this zone: Circus Ringmaster, Fortune Teller, Snake Charmer, Fire Eater, Tattoo Lady, Bearded Lady, Ballerinas and Twin Sisters. There are also killer clowns, larger-than-life ragdolls and of course – the carnies.
Once you are done with the main street in Hollywood, meet the Director, this year’s main star, who has been waiting on his set – right in front of the fountain, for your final cut.
Scare-wise, the only creepy characters here are the mad looking clowns. The “freaks”/sideshows actually all look rather normal, but they put up a good act to tie in with the macabre circus ambiance.
Scare Factor: ★★★☆☆
❮ Vengeance of the Matriarch ❯
〜 Take a step into the dark twisted world at the Peranakan Mansion 〜
This is the only “Haunted House” attraction and it is massive, taking up most of the space in the Stage 28 building. The queue starts from Hollywood and goes backstage!
As victims step into the soundstage, they will be transported to the front yard of a dilapidated 19th-century Peranakan Mansion. The Mansion façade looks amazing – with a lot of texture and detail (not forgetting corpses scattered about) and sadly most people would just walk right in and not notice the props outside. But the rooms inside the mansion are just as detailed – down to things like tiled flooring commonly seen in actual Peranakan houses and the traditional family portraits. There is an astounding abundance of props and certainly a great amount of thought went into the scene design.
The first rooms are relatively “normal”, from a foyer/waiting room (with an altar) to a portrait room, a music room and then a library. Things seem normal until you reach the dining room…
Be alert because there are no “static” (aka fake) actors at all. And the larger rooms have as many as 6 scare actors. As you travel deep into the mansion, you would discover the more grotesque rooms – a balcony with hanging corpses (and one of which is actually a very talented scare actor – who would JUMP OFF the walls and right onto the ledge. It was unbelievable – I almost lost my balance here) and of course, the park did not leave out the chamber where you have to push through dangling bodies to escape…
There are also very strange rooms with occult artifacts and well, a “walk-in wardrobe” that puts you right in the most vulnerable position for scares – this Peranakan family definitely has skeletons (and several angry spirits) in their closet. There are several scenes that do not quite fit with the Peranakan theme, but they are staple rooms in typical Halloween Horror Nights scare houses in the US.
Also in the mix are rooms with unstable and squishy flooring, as well as several spots with very well-positioned motion-trigger props and sound effects. When I say very, my group activated the sound effect at the same spot (a falling grandfather clock) and we all just jumped and shouted at the SAME place. It just works. You can’t get anything better than that.
While it is not particularly dark, the scenes are lit with black lighting (purple UV lamps), casting a subtle, but eerie green glow, and it’s barely bright enough to navigate the cramped scenes. There are also a lot of overhead strobe lighting going on, as well as blinding lights to disorient you, and conceal scare actors! You definitely don’t want to step into the Mansion alone.
This scare house can get packed especially in the second half, which can ruin surprise scares – BUT this also means that you can be trapped in some scenes for some time and get repeatedly spooked by the actors. I would recommend hitting this scare zone as early as possible so that you can visit it again later. It can take from 7 to 15 minutes (if there are too many people inside) to walk through this scare house.
List of Rooms (Highlight to read):
Courtyard, Waiting Room, Portrait Room, Black Hallway (L shaped layout), Piano Room, Dining Hall, Library + Slug-like Human, Occult Artifacts room, Balcony with hanging bodies, Hallway with Red Light, Black Hallway #2, Mirror/Pepper’s Ghost Corner, Matriarch’s Bedroom, Dressing Room, Wardrobe, Unstable floors (squishy and plank floors, crank shaped layout), Hanging Bodies + Butcher’s Room, Plank floors + Strobe lights, Spiral-turn + Booming/low frequency noise, Kitchen/Boiler room (Final encounter with Butcher), Exit
Scare Factor: ★★★★☆
❮ Post-Apocalyptic Rage ❯
〜 The glamorous New York is no more 〜
For those who play zombie games like Left 4 Dead, congratulations – you can now experience a zombie apocalypse scenario. There are countless scare actors in this zone and they behave just like “zombies”, crawling, stumbling and following victims around. They also sometimes pull off sudden movements, like lunging towards or trying to swipe victims – very effective for those surprise scares. I even saw some guests being too shocked and had to cover their eyes in this zone!
The entire New York zone feels out of control, with lights and blaring alarms going crazy. The difference is literally “day and night”: In the day, New York just looks messy, but after 8pm, it’s madness. The dense theatrical fog greatly enhances the graphic visuals in this zone – you know the scene where you see silhouettes of zombies charging from a distance – yep, that.
Scare Factor: ★★★☆☆
❮ The Pestilence ❯
〜 The harbour and back-alleys of New York, where the infected are waiting 〜
As an attraction, The Pestilence is more like a haunted house than a “scare zone”. It takes place outdoors, at the New York Harbour area (leading back to New York). While the Pestilence is quite short and can be completed in 4-7 minutes, there are a lot of scare actors and the abundance of fog and crates does not help at all with navigating in this horrid space!
The initial portion (Harbour area) has a lot of surprise scares because there are many places for scare actors to hide. Once the path leads into Water Street, it becomes a bit more predictable – although a few talented scare actors, masked by the thick fog, made me jump.
Scare Factor: ★★★★☆
❮ The Void ❯
〜 Calling for test subjects: Your sacrifice will be appreciated. For Science. 〜
The Void takes place mainly in the covered area of Sci-Fi City and the main attraction is a mad scientist’s horrible experiment. It is a little show that drew persistent crowds because well, it just didn’t seem like acting – the scare actors are convincingly insane.
This zone also has other characters with very elaborate (and bizarre) costumes. You should definitely spend some time here and try to take photos with them!
Scare Factor: ★★★☆☆
❮ The Edge of Darkness ❯
〜 The cursed souls, once damned by ancient spells, have been unleashed 〜
To me, this zone was most disappointing because there were very few unique characters and they didn’t seem very interesting. Even the Egyptian warriors/guardians (from day-time meet and greet) were scare actors in this zone. Ancient Egypt did not receive any sort of dramatic overlay, but just columns with fire. To be fair, the layout of Ancient Egypt does not really allow installations, but I think the park should look into developing a scare house at the (unused) exterior queue area for Revenge of the Mummy.
Scare Factor: ★☆☆☆☆
❮ 44 Sins ❯
〜 Lose your head in the party beyond the realm of the living 〜
The last zone is not a scare zone, but you can say it’s a dance floor. Most of the guests weren’t really into it though (actually, almost everyone were busy taking videos and photos of the performers) but this zone had good music playing (the typical clubbing sort) – all well-synced with pyrotechnics and theatrical lighting!
Other Attractions and about Wait-times
For Battlestar Galactica, both sides were noticeably faster during Halloween Horror Nights. Not sure if the speed was adjusted or it was just because the trains were running non-stop for at least 12 hours.
Although it was the first night, the park was crowded and there were long lines for all attractions (except Accelerator). Expect to wait in line for at least 40-60 minutes for the park’s rollercoaster attractions and Vengeance of the Matriarch. It might not seem very long, but bear in mind that the park is only open for 4 hours.
Passes: Admission? Express? VIP??
A lot of people have asked me about the 3 types of tickets available, so let me clarify here. Tickets can be purchased on-site or at Resort World Sentosa’s website.
Halloween Horror Nights Admission Pass: $60 ($48~52 with discount)
You need to purchase this ticket to enter the park for Halloween Horror Nights. There are no extra charges for the attractions in the park and neither is there a limit to the number of times you can experience them – you just need to queue.
HHN Universal Express Pass: $20
This pass is an add-on to admission. It allows you to use the Universal Express line for 6 attractions (Battlestar Galactica: Human, Battlestar Galactica: Cylon, Revenge of the Mummy, Accelerator, The Pestilence, Vengeance of the Matriarch). Each pass is good for access to the Express line, once per attraction only. The express line is usually very short or empty, so more than often you have an instant (or very quick) access to the attractions.
My advice: if you wish to visit any attractions more than once, get the Express pass.
VIP Tours (HHN RIP Tour): $118
This tour option includes admission, a $10 meal voucher, HHN souvenir mug, RWS VIP Tours lanyard, HHN VIP lanyard card and a glow-stick. Some refreshments will be served before the tour begins.
The elusive RWS VIP Tours Lanyard, Halloween Horror Nights RIP Tours edition!
For three hours, RIP Tour guests will be brought around the park with a Guide dressed in scrubs, with dramatic make-up. The whole bunch looked like some deranged group of medical students to me. VIP Tours offer guests with direct admission to attractions (bypasses normal lines and Universal Express lines, with the use of lifts backstage). The guide would also help with taking photos (including bypassing queues for photos) and arranging the special meet-and-greet session with scare actors.
I have experienced the RIP Tour this year and in terms of efficiency, what I can say is: In three hours, my group has been on all attractions (except Accelerator) once and Vengeance of the Matriarch twice. It really depends on your Guide because my VIP guide planned to hit all Scare zones first, then rides, which meant a fair bit of backtracking. RIP Tour is not exactly the most efficient if you want to hit the attractions as often as possible (the better way would be to buy multiple Express passes) but it is definitely very pleasant to be able to cut the lines, have someone to answer all your burning questions and also, a great help with photos. My group stalled a long queue for the Director’s Meet-and-Greet set for a good 15 minutes, to the disgust of regular guests waiting in line. Oh well.
For more information about ticketing and discounts, as well as making reservations, please refer to Resort World Sentosa’s website.
The free-roam scare zones are fun to walk around and meet scare actors. Unlike during the day, there are no park staff to accompanying any of the characters (security staff are around, but they stand from a distance), which allows guests to be fully immersed in the themed zones (which also means, if you have to ask other guests if you want to take photos with scare actors). The park’s cleaning and entrance operations crew are also received makeovers, down to ripped and bloodstained uniforms!
So is it worth spending S$60 for Halloween Horror Nights? I would say so. Like the famous Halloween Horror Nights in the US, it is an entirely different theme park experience that Universal Creative excels at. There has never been another event in Singapore that is produced at such scale, and definitely not with this kind of budget.
I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s Halloween Horror Nights. As RWS has invested very heavily this year building the scare zones (it’s the first year after all), we can expect most of them to return in future years. I hope to see the park utilize the The Lost World zone next year: There’s definitely space for at least one large scare house there, either at the Waterworld queue area or the space beside Revenge of the Mummy ride building. The Jurassic Park zone could possibly be perfect for a jungle-themed scare zone!
If you’ve attended Halloween Horror Nights, please drop me a message or leave a comment! I would like to hear about your personal experiences, as well as what you think about the scare zones and overall concept this year!
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