Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights somehow seems to top its scares and spooks every year, and this year one house in particular left me scared speechless. Ten haunted houses, five scare zones and too many jump scares to mention made this an unforgettable experience. This review is based on my experience at HHN Orlando in 2023.
In full disclosure, we didn’t visit all ten haunted houses, mainly because we were running out of time and had to make an executive decision. That being said, there is one thing we WON’T be doing next year when HHN rolls around.
What Happens at Halloween Horror Nights Universal?
Halloween Horror Nights is an annual event at Universal Studios parks in Orlando, Hollywood, Japan and Singapore, featuring immersive experiences that bring your nightmares to life. Some haunted houses and scare zones are based on blockbuster movies, and others imagine Universal’s famous monsters in a new way.
Halloween Horror Nights also feature scare zones where scare actors embody the character and theme of the dedicated areas. You may find a scare actor sneaking up on you from behind, or jumping out from behind a prop, but don’t worry, they will never get too close – actors are forbidden from touching you.
How Intense is Halloween Horror Nights?
How scary is Halloween Horror Nights? Well, it really depends on what scares you. If you find clowns terrifying, any house or scare zone featuring their smiling faces may be a little too much to handle. Same goes for creepy crawly insects, bugs, spiders, or zombies.
While there are no guides on how scary each individual house is, there is a general disclaimer on Universal’s ticket sale sites and at the entrance to the park during Halloween Horror Nights, noting that the experience may be too intense for some guests and younger attendees.
Keep reading for my breakdown of the haunted houses featured in Halloween Horror Nights 2023.
Is Universal Halloween Horror Worth It?
Universal Halloween Horror Nights is worth it if you are a fan of the horror genre and enjoy a good scare. But be warned, the lines are long, especially in the early hours of the event, but wait times tend to taper off as the night goes on.
Also, more popular haunted houses, especially those themed around new or well-known films or television shows tend to attract longer wait times. All wait times are available for viewing in the Universal app (choose your app depending on which park you are in).
Base tickets will get you access to the park and as many haunted houses you care to wait for, as well as scare zones and select attractions that are open during the event.
If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can start your experience a few hours earlier with a Scream Early ticket in Orlando, which allows you to enter the park while still open for daytime general admission, and stay and wait for the park to transition to HHN, getting you among the first in line for one of a handful of haunted houses before the Halloween-themed event officially begins.
Then, there’s the Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass.
Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass
The Express Pass is your number one way to experience all of the haunted attractions without paying for a VIP – or RIP – tour. Halloween Horror Nights Express Passes are an add-on to a base ticket, allowing you to wait in a much shorter line for haunted houses and rides during the HHN event.
These tickets go fast, but there is a workaround.
This year, B and I decided we wanted to go to HHN at the last minute, meaning we didn’t make the necessary arrangements to secure an Express Pass when they first went on sale. We didn’t anticipate the demand for the tickets – big mistake!
We found ourselves with a base ticket, and unwilling to wait the sometimes 60+ minutes to walk through one haunted house. That’s the one thing I won’t be doing again for HHN – waiting until the last minute to purchase express passes.
A thorough search on Reddit, and a call to Universal’s customer service later, I found a solution. On nights when the Express Pass is sold out, you still have the option to purchase an express pass that is only valid from 11pm – 2am.
It was our saving grace!
But be warned, these can also sell out, so my best advice is to arrive at the park as close to the start of the event as possible to purchase at the gate, or inside the park.
You won’t be able to access the express lanes until 11pm, but it allows you a lot more time to immerse yourself in the scare zones, spooky atmosphere of the park, and even try some of the unique treats, snacks and cocktails specifically designed for Halloween Horror Nights.
What Should I Wear to Universal Horror Nights?
The weather should be your first guide to determining what you should wear to Halloween Horror Nights. Although the event runs from September 1 – November 4, 2023, when we visited on the last weekend in September, the temperature (and humidity) was still pretty high in Orlando.
I opted for a crop top, leggings and sneakers, paired with a crossbody bag to keep my hands free and at a minimum in case I wanted to enjoy any rides.
If you’re planning on experiencing all haunted houses, expect to make it a 10,000 step night, and pack what you need to ensure you are comfortable.
I have a list of my theme park essentials in my Amazon storefront.
What is the Best House at Halloween Horror Nights 2023?
The best house at Halloween Horror Nights 2023 will all depend on whether you are judging by scare factor or theming and theatrics.
In my opinion, the scariest house this year is The Exorcist: Believer, mainly because the movie franchise both terrifies and intrigues me. If you ask my husband, he will tell you I kept my eyes tightly closed throughout most of the house because it had me shook! The parts I did see are still burned into my mind. While there weren’t a lot of jump scares in our walkthrough, the theming earned this house a 10/10 in my book.
If I rank the houses by the number of times I screamed, Bloodmoon Dark Offerings takes the cake. There’s just something about the cult theme, and those rooms where props and people are all draped in the same costume, so you don’t know what’s really going on.
Ranking all 10 of Universal Orlando’s Haunted Houses
1. The Exorcist: Believer
The movie is coming out in theaters soon, but the Exorcist franchise speaks for itself. Based on what I already know about the story, the previews of the movie and the possessed little girls I saw running around in nighties, that was enough for me.
2. Bloodmoon Dark Offerings
Bloodmoon Dark Offerings didn’t offer a whole lot in its description, but once I was inside I instantly knew I wanted this one to be over because of how creeped out I felt.
3. Dueling Dragons Choose Any Fate
Dueling Dragons was an interesting concept for a haunted house and my first time experiencing a choose-your-own-adventure style house. It was also reminiscent of the Dueling Dragons coaster that used to be in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. B and I planned to choose Ice when at the fork roads, but that seemed to the be most popular side during our walkthrough, so we ended up choosing Fire.
I imagine both sides give you a different perspective and if time permits, run through this one twice.
4. Yeti Campground Kills
Yeti Campground Kills had a lot of jump scares and it kept me on my toes. It also smelled pretty good – scent is a part of the experience that ties the whole story together. I thoroughly enjoyed this house, although you wouldn’t be able to tell if you heard the screams that went along with the walkthrough.
5. Universal Monsters Unmasked
Universal Monsters Unmasked was one of the most beautiful houses at Halloween Horror Nights 2023 from the moment you walked in. It was raining inside the house! That helped to set the scene for me, and the storyline and props made it a fully immersive experience. This house reminded me of the beauty of Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake at Halloween Horror Nights 2022, which used different levels to deliver scares up close and from a distance.
6. Stranger Things 4
I loved the Stranger Things 4 at Halloween Horror Nights 2023 in Orlando. The music, the scents, the actors – they really brought the intensity of season 4 of the show to life. I experienced Stranger Things at Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood in 2019 and that was absolutely amazing – I wasn’t sure this one would top it, but it did.
7. The Last of Us
The Last of Us was one of the most popular houses at HHN 2023, due to the popularity of the video game it is based on. We saw wait times around 80 minutes when at the park, so if this is a must-do for you, either try to head straight there when gates open, use an express pass or wait until crowds die down later in the night.
I haven’t played the video game, but the television show is pretty good so far, so I went into the house with some idea of what to expect. This house got some pretty good screams out of me.
8. Chucky Ultimate Kill Count
I haven’t watched the Chucky television show, but I grew up in the Chucky generation where he ruled as the scariest toy on the planet. The opening scenes in this house were quite entertaining, even a little comical, but later on the big surprise really got me.
9. Dr. Oddfellow Twisted Origins
I had low expectations walking through Dr.Oddfellow Twisted Origins because I didn’t know much about this character, but it still managed to deliver the scares. If time is limited for you, consider waiting until later in the night to catch this house, when wait times should be much lower.
10. The Darkest Deal
Due to time constraints and a limited express pass from 11pm – 2am, we opted not to walk through this house, and instead we rode the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster at night – it’s a whole different experience.
Have you survived Halloween Horror Nights 2023? Which house was your most or least favorite?