After five years of producing its Halloween Horror Nights event, Universal Studios is turning to the same gimmick the rest of Hollywood has relied on this year to boost ticket sales: 3D.
Starting Friday, the studio’s theme park in Los Angeles will reopen as a haunted attraction that runs for 17 nights, mostly on weekends, through Halloween. In addition to letting guests take a tram directly to Peter Jackson’s 3D revamp of the park’s longrunning “King Kong” attraction, a “House of 1,000 Corpses” maze, designed around Rob Zombie’s horror pic, will have guests slip on 3D glasses as they walk through scenes recreated from the film.
For the maze, guests wear the same ChromaDepth cardboard glasses that come with the current crop of 3D films released on homevideo.
When looking through the glasses, LED-illuminated paint pops out at visitors walking through Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen. The color spectrum is altered with warmer colors appearing closer and cooler shades seeming to recede, giving a 3D effect.
The effect is used on actors and on the walls, transforming the environments. “It’s like the walls are coming alive,” said John Murdy, creative director at Universal Studios Hollywood. The maze, officially titled “Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses: In 3D Zombievision,” is nearly twice the size of those Universal has built for “Horror Nights” to date.
A more advanced pair of glasses is used for “King Kong.”
Given that ticket prices to “Horror Nights” cost from $60 to $90, not including discounts, Universal strives for a new twist to attract guests each year.
In the past, that’s included locking down licensing deals to build mazes and other attractions around “Saw,” “Friday the 13th,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” from Lionsgate and New Line. The boogeymen of the latter two are back again this year, featured as part of the park’s five mazes, but the focus will be on the recent remakes from earlier this year and in 2009 that introduced a new look for Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. The maze for “Saw” will promote the first 3D installment of the franchise, which Lionsgate unspools Oct. 29.
“We’re doing the top three horror franchises of all time from a box office standpoint,” Murdy said. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of “Psycho” and 30th of “Friday the 13th,” something Murdy has made sure to reference.
Incorporating 3D didn’t seem like much of a stretch this year, because “our attractions already are 3D,” Murdy said. “You’re already walking through the movie scene, the characters are coming at you.
Murdy was encouraged to add 3D to this year’s attraction because it’s one thing fans had requested on websites and Twitter feeds.
“Horror movie fans are really vocal,” Murdy said. “They’re rabid fans. They tell you what they want. And just as movies have evolved we have to evolve as well.”
Murdy had wanted to work with the 3D effect, but it only worked with brighter colors. Films like “Friday the 13th” relish the darker shadows.
“It would have ruined it,” Murdy said. “You need to have a crazy carnival style. The canvas of (‘1,000 Corpses’) is very bizarre and we wanted to bring that to life.”
This year, the theme park also added an additional tram to take guests directly to “King Kong 360 3D,” a permanent part of its backlot tram tour and one that’s proved a major draw since opening in July 1, years after the original was destroyed in a fire. New attraction has significantly boosted attendance to the park, Universal said.
The regular studio tram that tours Universal’s backlot during the day has again been renamed Terror Tram and will still take parkgoers to the “Pyscho” house and set of “War of the Worlds” on the backlot. This year, Chucky, the serial killer doll from the “Chucky” franchise, has hijacked the tour.
Murdy’s team has also tapped into the growing appeal of comicbooks by self-publishing the 32-page graphic novel “Vampyre: Castle of the Undead,” whose blood-sucking characters and plot, created by artist Patrick Ian Moore, will be featured in the property’s own maze. The book about vampires of Wallachia, Romania, the home of Vlad the Impaler, will be sold in the parks’ gift shops and serialized online.
Given that “Horror Nights” has also proved a popular draw among the Hispanic community over the years, Universal has also designed one of its six scare zones around the Mexican urban legend, “La Llorona,” about a woman who drowned her children to gain the hand of a wealthy man.
“Halloween Horror Nights” officially opens this weekend, after tonight’s Eyegore Awards ceremony that will honor horror filmmakers Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, thesps Christopher Lloyd, Betsy Russell and Gina Holden and Sid Haig, as well as short film contest winner Elizabeth Schieffer, whose “Jasper” won the “Rob Zombie Film Competition.” Short will be screened on NBC Universal-owned cabler Chiller TV and posted on Syfy.com.