Excellent news for horror fans this Halloween: A haunted house based on Jordan Peele’s Us will take on Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights in 2019. Visitors to both the Orlando Horror Nights dates and the Hollywood ones will be able to experience the Us maze, as well, meaning that the scares are literally coast to coast — not unlike the real-life Hands Across America event in 1986 that factors prominently into the horrors of Us. Well played, Horror Nights. Well played, indeed.
Halloween Horror Nights has been terrifying Orlando since 1991, when it was known as Universal Studio Fright Nights, and Southern California since 1986. (The first few events at Universal Studios Hollywood, however, only occurred sporadically; the Terror Tram was the only haunted attraction in 1986, for example, after which the next event, which included both the Terror Tram and two mazes, as Horror Nights calls its haunted houses, didn’t occur until 1992.) Whereas originally, these nighttime Halloween spectaculars only occurred on a handful of dates surrounding the holiday itself, in the decades since their inception, they’ve grown exponentially in scope and popularity; these days, they usually occupy plum spots in the schedule throughout the months of September and October. In 2019, Horror Nights in Orlando will run on select dates from Sept. 6 through Nov. 2, while in Hollywood, the event will occur on select dates from Sept. 13 through Nov. 3.
Both the Orlando and Hollywood parks’ Horror Nights events will have 10 haunted mazes ready to scare the pants off visitors — but the Us maze that was just announced is undoubtedly the most hotly anticipated of them all. When Us premiered back in March, it garnered universal acclaim, with its horrifying tale of government-created doubles of literally every person in the United States — “Tethered,” as they’re known — first becoming abandoned by their creators and then rising up against the humans they were meant to replicate and control striking a phenomenal cord with viewers everywhere. Not unlike “the Sunken Place” in Get Out, the term “Tethered” from Us has since become a fixture of our cultural lexicon — and given that the film was such a terrifying hit, it’s only natural that a maze inspired by it would make its debut at Halloween Horror Nights this year.
According to the press release, the Us maze will allow us to explore both the Wilson family’s vacation house in Santa Cruz, Calif. and the Santa Cruz Pier, including the fun house in which Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) first encounters her double as a child. We’ll also “come face-to-face with the Tethered,” watching them “rise up from their underground labyrinth, ready to take on their privileged upperworld counterparts”; wander through “the unnerving tunnels that stretch for miles deep below America” where the Tethered were created and imprisoned; and witness Adelaide and her Tethered, Red, “face off … in a deadly dance with a fatal ending.”
Although BuzzFeed reports that the maze will “start in 1986” — the year Adelaide and Red meet for the first time — it’s actually not totally clear from the press release whether that’s the case. However, Horror Nights mazes based on existing intellectual properties — usually movies — typically follow the plots of their source material pretty closely, so it’s a reasonable assumption to make. If the Us maze does in fact take us through the film’s chronology, then it’s likely that the early scenes will see us walking through the pier and the fun house in 1986 before bringing us to the present; then, we’ll likely witness the Tethered’s attack on the Wilson family home, see a few scenes from the larger uprising, and finally find our way back into the fun house and the labyrinth beneath it for a recreation of the climactic fight between Adelaide and Red (or is Red and Adelaide?.)
I’ll be curious to see, though, whether our perspective as viewers is meant to be not our own, but that of Adelaide — that is, it’s possible that, rather than watching Adelaide go through all of this, we’ll actually experience the maze as if we ourselves are Adelaide. The press release, after all, does state that we’ll “Follow in the footsteps of Adelaide Wilson as she experiences a horrifying and traumatic encounter with her Tethered double, Red.” It’s an interesting word choice, although right now, it’s anyone’s guess whether I’m reading too much into it or not.
In any event, the Us maze will open up its terrifying doors alongside a number of other mazes when Horror Nights kicks up this fall. Other mazes which, like the Us maze, will be available at both the Florida and California events include the return of the ever-popular Stranger Things maze, this time with some updates to incorporate Season 3; the Universal Monsters maze, also returning (although in Hollywood, the theme will be updated to focus specifically on Frankenstein vs. The Wolf Man); a new Ghostbusters maze; and a new Killer Klowns From Outer Space maze, giving the cult favorite an upgrade from last year (in 2018, it was just a scare zone; now it’s got a full maze).
Hollywood-only attractions include a maze based on the 1982 horror anthology film Creepshow and the Walking Dead attraction that’s open at the park year-round; additionally, an original maze not based on an existing IP titled Holidayz In Hell will be available. In Orlando, original mazes that both aren’t based on existing IPs or available at Hollywood include Nightingales: Blood Pit, Depths of Fear, and Yeti: Terror of the Yukon. Both Horror Nights in Orlando and Horror Nights in Hollywood also still have two mazes apiece yet to be announced, so keep your ear to the ground about those ones.
Happy spooky season, everyone!