Halloween may not be a holiday (or maybe, horror-day?) celebrated by Singaporeans in general, but if there’s one group of people who sure as hell know how to party it up in true fright night style in October, it’s Universal Studios.
By now, most of you should be familiar with the ever increasing spectacle that descends upon everyone’s favourite Singapore theme park each October. Now in its 7th year, Universal Studios Singapore’s annual Halloween Horror Nights is appropriately themed the Seven Deadlier Sins. But if you think it’s just going to be a cut and dried version of the biblical seven deadly sins, that’s where you’re completely wrong and better grab yourself a ticket to see just what the fuss is all about.
At the press preview of HHN7 on Monday, Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) Project Director of Entertainment Michele Klyne: “Fans get smarter and smarter each year, and we really have to up the ante each time. To keep up with the latest in scares, we have to do research as well! What we do is head down to St. Louis each year to check out the largest Halloween convention in the world to see the latest animatronics and analyse the science of scary, later implementing it into our own haunted houses.”
And it shows too. Whatever their secret, we’re pretty sure the guys behind HHN7 have a bloody pool of creativity to scry into in order to conjure up FIVE haunted houses, TWO live shows and an all new, technologically advanced fully immersive scare experience! Each attraction corresponds to one of the all new seven ‘deadlier’ sins come up with by the creative team, namely Malice, Obsession, Manipulation, Narcissism, Perversion, Cruelty and Deception, each taking on a grisly, less-than-humanoid form as they roam the park and take control of their own haunted zones. To introduce them, each evening as the park opens for HHN, a ‘scare-mony’ takes place at the main stage at the end of the Hollywood Walk, where a film’s ‘red carpet gala’ is abruptly interrupted by the vengeful personifications of the sins. It’s amazing how the staff manages to completely transform the park’s bright cheery environment into a hellish nightmare so quickly, a 180 degree turn that makes us truly believe someone cast a spell over the entire place!
Planning for HHN is no easy feat though, and takes about an entire year to prepare for. Said RWS Creative Director of Entertainment Markham Gannon: “We practically eat, live and breathe Halloween for a whole year, but it’s a very rewarding process for us. There’s so many intricate, fascinating beliefs in the region with countless spooky legends about the afterlife we always want to include in our next edition.’
Led by our incredible tour guide Halik, all dressed up as a spooky nurse and who took the time to explain the concept behind each individual haunted house and scare zone to us, we got a sneak peek of what evils will be lurking in the park this year, and visitors who hope to scare themselves silly will be greatly rewarded. Check it out below:
We started off our journey at the Death Mall, the annual haunted house infused with local flavour. Playing on the regional obsession with shopping, Death Mall takes place in a disaster zone, where the floors of a mall have collapsed,(which reminds us of a series of incidents plaguing a certain mall that shan’t be named) leaving visitors trapped and forced to explore the remains. You’ll come across familiar sights that’ve taken a turn for the weird, from abandoned supermarkets to cinemas (no Sadako crawling out of the screen though) to even a Japanese restaurant (complete with overenthusiastic staff). Perhaps because it was the first house we visited, we got plenty of jump scares out of this one, and in particular, we can’t shake the image of a couple of creepy naked mannequins arranged in a row…some more alive than others.
Inside the Mind
Inside the Mind is a truly unique haunted house experience, taking place inside the mind of a serial killer. Based off real research on why serial killers feel no remorse and commit the murders they do, visitors take a journey from the killer’s infancy (haunted by a cloaked figure beckoning visitors closer) to Tron-like rooms where night terrors pop up from green, mist filled floors and visitors are forced to push past body bags to proceed to the next room.
For us, this was a really creative house, and had its fair share of scares to keep us constantly on our toes, and definitely demonstrated the ability for haunted houses to break with traditional themes yet remain sufficiently shocking.
Over at the area near the Jurassic Park rides, we entered the next haunted house. Inspired by witch doctors, voodoo queens and curses, Hex embodied the theme of ‘be careful what you wish for’. Besides a giant snake, human-sized voodoo dolls and eldritch horrors clawing their way out of pregnant women (true Alien-style), there’s also plenty of tiny, lonely altars piled high with fragments of wishes, from bloodied framed photographs of a lost love to paraphernalia of lost babies. Beyond the scares here, there is a sad, longing atmosphere to the whole house that really sets the mood for a piece that goes beyond a traditional scare-fest.
Make The Cut/Slice of Life Tour
K-pop fans look out for this attraction: they’re no 2NE1, but the Slit Face Girls hold their own with catchy original pop songs and infectious choreography. Over at the Hollywood Lagoon Stage, Narcissism representative Raven and her band of ‘G-pop’ (gore pop, a twist on K-pop) girls will perform a concert each night. Complete with a well made music video and killer dance moves, you’ll be torn between running in fright and falling in love with these pretty murderous pop stars.
Of course, this comes with its own haunted house in the form of Make The Cut, which takes visitors through a series of rooms where they will be treated to ‘hair die’ and more extreme makeovers as gory pretty boys and sassy girls jump from behind closed doors. Will you make the cut to become Korea’s next big G-pop star? (Yes, look out for some actors wielding giant scissors *gulp*)
The final haunted house of HHN7 is located near Waterworld, and is based off stories of cruel, murderous empresses. Punning on terracotta warriors, visitors are led into an Oriental palace of deadly delights, going through pungent rooms filled with Chinese paintings, a dungeon of crazed prisoners, and undead concubines rising from their tombs. The team did research on traditional torture methods in China in preparing for this house, and it shows in the quality of how well everything is put together, with much detail paid to even the furniture and accessories that litter the palace.
Zombie Laser Tag
Although not a haunted house, Zombie Laser Tag is no doubt one of the most fun new experiences USS has to offer this Halloween. Although entry comes only with an additional price of $38, Zombie Laser Tag is the perfect activity for anyone who wants to experience L4D in real life, or for anyone terrified of zombies to get over that fear – by blasting them to smithereens (with lasers, of course). Using the latest technology, visitors have to stay on their toes at all times, shooting undead critters (played by actors), reloading as necessary and keeping watch on their health bar, which depletes if they get too close to a zombie, and still make sure they take out as many as they can while making their way to the exit. Along the way, the leader of the group also has to use the latest in neuro-technology to open a locked door with their brainpower alone…just make sure the zombies don’t get any of his/her tasty tasty brains before you escape! At the end of the run, there’s even a leaderboard that’ll show you how much damage you took and how many kills you accumulated, giving the game a strong competitive aspect. It sounds fun, and it’s also surprisingly thrilling, and we found ourselves sweating it out with the adrenaline rush gained from the full immersive experience by the end of our game, and wished we had more time to head back into the fray for more zombie busting action.
While exploring the park, also be sure to check out the two scare zones this year. The first, Pilgrimage of Sin, is a hell-like area where sinners have gone to atone while terrifying creatures that feed upon their pain lurk amongst the creepy torture devices and whip them to only increase their suffering. The second scare zone is also one of our favourite parts of this year’s HHN. Titled Happy Horror Days, the zone takes all of your favourite holidays and turns them on their head by corrupting them into a much more unrecognizable form.
No holiday is spared here – you’ll find Nian haunting the Chinese New Year zone, a bloodthirsty clown roaming the April Fool’s area and even a twisted version of the Easter Bunny at the end of a hedge maze. Just when you think the coast is clear, there’s even a few actors hiding beneath eye level that managed to give us a fright as they leaped out and surprised us when we walked by!
At our preview, we ended off the entire night with a visit to the Laboratorium, a live show at the Pantages Hollywood Theater that deals with on the black plague that wiped out hundreds of millions of people around the world. Undoubtedly the least scary attraction of HHN7, Laboratorium acts more as a breather amongst the screaming you’ll have been doing for the rest of the night, and features plague doctors stripping down to leather outfits and breakdancing, undead patients coming to life to belt out Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Will Survive’ to performers with international, world class talents showing off their unique acts, from a contortionist to a couple who performs aerial acrobatic feats…by hanging from their teeth. We were pretty impressed by the performers, but you’ll have to see it to believe it, and if anything, Laboratorium is a fun, campy show that even the scarediest cat can appreciate, safely tucked away from the horrors outside the theatre.
If you’re worried about being scared to death here, there’s nothing to be afraid of in that department. Said RWS Senior Vice President of Attractions Jason Horkin: “Safety is of utmost concern here during Halloween Horror Nights. There are emergency exits located in all the houses, while all attractions are manned by people who will make sure people don’t go where they go, and assist people as necessary.” Visitors are also disallowed from coming to HHN in costume so as to avoid being confused with park staff and performers.
Said Horkin: “As each year goes by, Halloween Horror Nights only gets bigger and better, and we really up the ante each time.” There’s no doubt about that this year, as this truly is the biggest and one of the best Halloween Horror Nights that Universal Studios has put out in the last seven years, and you should definitely get your hands on a ticket early so as not to miss out…otherwise you’ll be cursing yourself all year long, or worse yet – resort to a bomoh to help you out. With scares aplenty, a complete commitment to providing a fully immersive visitor experience in their nightmare world, and photo opportunities galore for you to put on your best frightened face, Halloween Horror Nights 7 is without a doubt the one must visit Halloween event this October.
Halloween Horror Nights 7 takes place at Universal Studios Singapore from 29th September to 29th October on select nights. Tickets and more information available from their website here