Netflix's Haunting Of Hill House Is Coming To Life At Halloween Horror Nights, Here's How
After taking last year off, Halloween Horror Nights is back at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California and Orlando, Florida. This year features a slate of massive movies and TV shows getting adapted into haunted attractions, including The Exorcist, The Forever Purge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Walking Dead.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, though, there might be no maze more highly anticipated than Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House. Based on the first season of Mike Flanagan's 2018 anthology series, the Hill House haunted attraction is bringing the massive mansion to life and sending guests through it to encounter iconic spirits, terrifying scenes, and some of the most heart-wrenching horror in recent memory.
Before Halloween Horror Nights opens at Universal Studios Hollywood, we had the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the maze, while chatting with the park's creative director John Murdy about the work that went into it. For a taste of what to expect when Hill House opens for business, take a look below.
Halloween Horror Nights opens Thursday, September 9 and will run select nights until Sunday, October 31.
Mike Flanagan has already experienced the haunt
Before anyone going to Horror Nights steps foot in the Haunting of Hill House attraction, know that series creator Mike Flanagan has already toured it himself. "He's a fan of Horror Nights already," Murdy said. "He always wanted one of his properties [to become a haunt]."
After seeing the work the Horror Nights team has done, Flanagan had no notes or improvements to suggest. Instead, he was just happy to see the attraction come to life. "He's over the moon, enthusiastic about the fact that he has one of his creations at Horror Nights," Murdy said. "And that's very common." More often than not, those who see their films and shows get the Horror Nights treatment are amazed at how their creations come to life. In fact, some even get involved in the process.
"When we did Crimson Peak, some of the very things we did were directly out of [Guillermo del Toro's] brain," he remembered. "He just had an idea and sketched it up and kicked it to us."
Incredible Netflix access
While Flanagan wasn't involved in the creation of this attraction, the Horror Nights team had incredible access to Netflix's archives in recreating Hill House. "I got all of his materials so I got thousands and thousands of pictures to troll through, audio, etc," Murdy said. That much content to sift through, in addition to the episodes themselves, leads to a surprising amount of detail. And speaking of detail...
The devil is in the details
When it comes to the recreations of popular properties Horror Nights makes, the devil is in the details, whether it's recreating the Overlook Hotel for The Shining or designing monster costumes that resemble on-screen slasher villains like Jason Voorhees and Leatherface. For Hill House, the team had to recreate the mansion itself, making guests feel as though they're walking through the set of the show.
To do that, they used the copious amount of material they had access to in order to make everything as perfect as possible. Even the wallpaper patterns throughout the maze are an exact recreation of what was used in the series. What's more, if you stare at the wallpaper above long enough, you'll start to see some pretty horrifying faces incorporated into the design.
It's not just the visuals within the mansion that will immerse you in the world of Hill House. Murdy and his team have gone to painstaking lengths to create a soundscape that transports you from the Universal Studios front lot to the haunted mansion.
"As you keep going deeper into the house, you're hearing more and more kind of telltale signs of the fact that this is a house that's haunted," Murdy explained. "You're hearing the dogs barking in the distance, the freak thunderstorm with the hail and rain hitting the window. And then you start to hear pounding on the walls."
Where you'll go
So if they're recreating Hill House, where in the mansion will you be going? A number of rooms from the home have been recreated, including the twins' bedroom, the dining room, the basement, the super creepy room full of statues, and even the sitting room where a young Nell is sleeping on a couch when she comes face-to-face with the Bent Neck Lady. And yes, of course, you'll go through the red door.
The Bent Neck Lady
Speaking of the Bent Neck Lady, you're going to get very familiar with her in this attraction. Hands down one of the most heartbreaking characters on that series, she wasn't easy to bring to life, according to Murdy.
"When you think about that, if you ask an actor to do that for like seven hours, it's not going to be pretty," he said. "So we had to come up with some way of creating that effect"
So what was the solution? Prosthetic heads, of course. "The way we're doing the Bent Neck Lady is the actress is wearing an artificial head that's in the position with the severely broken neck," Murdy explained. "And then she's wearing a black ninja hood that's the same material as the background that she's standing against. So when we light it through a theatrical scrim, we can make her [real]face disappear and you just see that extreme broken neck."
What's more, you're not just going to encounter the Bent Neck Lady once. She appears throughout the maze, along with another familiar and terrifying face.
The Tall Man
Who can forget the towering ghost that haunted us throughout all of Hill House? In the attraction, he will be played by a live actor on stilts, standing over eight feet tall. Much like the Bent Neck Lady, the Tall Man will be featured throughout the maze
In addition to a number of recreations of settings from the series, there are also nods to events you'll encounter later in the maze. For instance, when in the basement make note of the rat poison that comes into play in a later scene--as it did on the show.
This was the biggest question going into the attraction. How would they properly feature the hidden ghosts, which are so central to Hill House? Thankfully, the team figured out a way to do it that is truly impressive. Using a theatrical scrim, a wall that becomes transparent if lit from the right angle, there is a moment in the haunt where guests will be surrounded by the many spirits that live in this dusty old mansion. It's one of the more impressive pieces of the entire attraction.