Halloween itself isn’t until October 31st. But Americans are so passionate about the date that, in the country, celebrations start much earlier. In Orlando, the macabre atmosphere began earlier this month, with the opening of Halloween Horror Nights, the “nights of terror” at Universal Studios, one of the Universal resort parks in Florida. The place takes advantage of its cinematic footprint to bring big screen hits to real life.
The main novelty of this year, the 32nd of the event, is the home of “The Last Of Us”, the PlayStation game that recently got a series on HBO and tells of a world taken over by a plague that came from fungi.
The Folha report took a tour of the attraction before the official opening, in the company of Neil Druckmann, creator of the game, and Mike Aiello, creative director of the event. Both started working on the project about two years ago, when the first visited the park and thought it would be nice to have a house based on the game. He threw the idea out on Twitter and, soon after, received a message from Aiello: “let’s do it!”
The plan, according to them, was not to create an exactly scary experience, but to involve visitors in a journey with Joel and Ellie, the protagonists of the story. This adventure begins with an important action scene for the duo: an ambush that leads them to crash their car into a convenience store.
Crossing the rubble of the accident, with the game’s music in the background and Joel indicating the way, already puts visitors in a suspenseful mood.
In the next room, a body infected by the zombie fungus that drives the plot is struggling on a stretcher. Sounds of crackers (as people in contagion are called) are heard and, soon, they begin to advance on the visitors, increasing tension and speeding up the crowd’s pace.
Among hideous characters, jets of compressed air that come from nowhere and droplets that simulate infectious spores, visitors are forced to delve into mazes that simulate the dirt of those that appear in the game — passing through abandoned houses, street corners and besieged suburbs of Pittsburgh .
“When making the game, we always said that half the experience would come from hearing, because the tension of the scenes comes from the anticipation of fear. And the best way to create that anticipation is to have the sound of the threat before it even appears,” says Druckmann , adding that all the audio in the house was taken directly from the game, as well as Joel and Ellie’s lines, recorded by the characters’ original voice actors.
“Perhaps more important than the visual authenticity was the authenticity of the sounds, because they guarantee a true immersion in the environment, in the same way as music, which creates an emotional response in the audience”, says the creator of the franchise.
Maintaining loyalty to the game’s dark and sad atmosphere, one of the highlights of the house in “The Last of Us” is not scary, but exciting: it is when visitors come face to face with Ellie, who, concerned about protecting the group, indicates a path safe heading towards the exit. It’s the first time that fans of the series have seen the character in the flesh — and it’s almost impossible not to stop and pay attention to the teenager’s frightened eyes.
“We tried to recreate the experience of the game, with a narrative full of ups and downs, like any good film or TV series”, says Aiello, who also mentions the sets of mirrors scattered around the house, which create optical illusions while at the same time they hide characters, such as the feared stumblers who appear towards the end of the route.
“At one point you are running away from the infected and fall into a dark room. You think ‘am I safe now?’, and then you get scared again, and then you see Joel and Ellie interacting with each other. And in the end, this whole set of emotions makes you feel like you survived that journey, rather than just having ten really cool scares.”
But not all of the ten haunted houses at Halloween Horror Nights are worth the queue, which can be almost a two-hour wait, while the routes don’t last more than a few minutes.
Therefore, it is important to plan to visit the best attractions — which, in general, are those that reproduce scenes that are part of our imagination. This is the case of the portal to the inverted world of the house from “Stranger Things”, which takes visitors through a scene in which the character Eleven levitates the human form of the villain Vecna, and the house from “The Exorcist”, which has a route as long as it is disturbing.
Among the houses that we could call original — that is, developed from scratch by the Universal team — there are options that surprise with their visual quality. This is the case of Universal Monsters: Unmasked, which reproduces catacombs with monsters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Invisible Man. Or from Yeti: Campground Kills, in which abominable snowmen chase visitors through the forest. Or even the freak circus of Dr. Oddfellow, the event’s master of ceremonies.
Universal’s Halloween requires a specific ticket in addition to the park’s daytime ticket (which costs from R$536 per day). It is possible to buy just one night (US$80 or R$393) or combos of 18 nights or more (from US$180 or R$885). There is also a pass that allows you to skip the lines for an additional US$120 (around R$590).
Those who are fans of Halloween can invest in the RIP Tour, in which a guide takes a group to each of the houses, also without queuing (around R$ 1,622, purchased separately), and in Unmasking the Horror, a daytime tour that shows behind the scenes of the houses (around R$590, in addition to the entrance fee).