Creative Forces Behind Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights

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John Murdy with Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights’ monsters.

Like the dead on All Hallows Eve, the creative forces behind Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights rise to the occasion to offer something incredible every year.

Last week a lively, albeit gruesome, horror make-up demonstration was held for news crews and other media to show all the artistry that goes into the preparation for becoming a Universal monster. It was a sneak peek at the creatures that will inhabit the annual Halloween Horror Nights at Universal on select nights from Sept. 21 to Oct. 31.

Morbidly disturbing monsters were presented thanks to extremeHollywoodhorror make-up artist Larry Bones and his team, who joined forces with Universal’s creative director John Murdy this year.

“Horror as a genre has evolved from when I started doing this event. Back then we just focused on bringing horror movies to life,” says Murdy, who has always been a great guy to talk to over his many years orchestrating Universal’s annual fright festival. “We’ve done a lot of horror movies over the years, and I noticed that horror was evolving. It was moving into television with shows like The Walking Dead. And this year we’re doing the Silent Hill video game based attraction. Of course, always a fan favorite is the attraction that’s the marriage of rock’n’roll and horror with Alice Cooper’s new 3D maze.”

Murdy says those attractions will join “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Saw in The Law” maze based on Tobe Hooper’s film. Legendary monsters of yesteryear will be featured in the walk-through attraction “Universal Monsters Remix.” And “La Llorona: Cazadora de Ninos” is an experience based on the terrifying Latin American legend that has terrified children for centuries.

“For me, it’s really cool to try to stay ahead of the curve. As horror evolves, we’re evolving with it and dedicated to taking it to the next level,” says Murdy, who reports he has something extra special this year. “We built a tank. A full size Abrams tank for The Walking Dead attraction. That was pretty crazy. It’s hard to buy an Abrams tank so we had to make it ourselves, because we wanted to recreate this great scene from The Walking Dead when the area was completely overrun by zombies, and the only place to take refuse from all the walkers was this tank. It’s a huge scene.”

Enormous in scope, Murdy wondered how they were going to fit that in a maze. But now there’s an Abrams tank inside “The Walking Dead: Dead Inside” terrifying maze. That’s just one detail out of thousands of unbelievable things that make up the experience.

More than anything else, Murdy is thrilled that the Halloween Horror Nights experience is building on the history at Universal. He says that “horror is in our blood at this studio. It is so cool to be working on this lot, and guests will get a feel for that particularly when they take the ‘Terror Tram.’” Guests get to go out to the famous back lot at night and become part of the studio’s horror legacy with the Psycho house and Bates Motel, plus hordes of flesh-eating and blood-drooling Walking Dead zombies added to the attraction.

“The horror movie was born right here on the lot. It started in the ’20s in the silent film era with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We still have the original Paris Opera set from the Phantom of the Opera inside stage 23. Locations from Frankenstein are also still out there. There are bits and pieces of our horror history all over this lot. Talk about inspiration,” Murdy enthuses. “There’s no better place to get inspiration than looking around our own movie studio.”

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