On October 26th, intrepid bloggers Pearlyn and Junch head down to Universal Studios Singapore to experience the freaky-deaky event that is Halloween Horror Nights 2012. We write in a lot of words below what we thought of it. Read on, IF YOU DARE! Here’s Perr‘s account.
I’m a whole bucket of chicken poo, so it may come as a surprise that I gathered all my metaphorical balls (read: not many) and gave in to my boyfriend’s nagging request to go to Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights 2.
I attended last year’s spectacle with a bunch of my friends, and it set the bar pretty high in terms of spooks. Nevermind that it was the size of a petting zoo, it was my first haunted-area outing so it must count for something.
USS HHN 2011 had one haunted house and three heavily decorated lanes – not bad, except for the fact that I actually spent more time waiting for my friends (see: 1.5 hours) queuing for the Battlestar Galactica ride than really doing any exploring – we managed to complete the circuit in 4 hours anyway. During the long waiting time I shared the best creepypastas I knew with my buddy Lisa until we had to tame the gooseflesh down with fevered forearm rubbing.
This time, there were three houses and three other major walkways to explore. Meaning three times the jump-shocks and twice the yelling. I don’t particularly like LOUD NOISES LIKE THIS in the first place even in theatres, so I knew I was going to be in trouble again.
When Ray and I got in the first thing we realized was that there were way too many people to make it conducive for being scared. Barely legal teenagers huddled in circles with half-painted faces (because fully made-up awesomeness would be refused entry) clogging up the streetways, sweaty university-aged people hauling their massive DSLRs around for that professionally taken piece of scrap blood-soaked toilet paper. Way too many inconsiderate tourists and partygoers ignoring the fact that people were trying to take simple photos and wouldn’t like their stoned mugs caught in the frame.
We started with a puppet lane, thrilled to see that they’ve been liberal with the doll/puppetry décor. I wanted to have a cheesy picture of myself taken with my armpit strategically positioned above a set of three large gnomes, but there were just too many people who refused to let me have an unglamorous moment with my Gnomie. Bitches.
Feeling wholly unsatisfied, we were pushed by the continually moving crowd into the first scare actor exhibit of a porcelain-faced seamstress who trembled and nervously twitched as people took their turns trying to capture their moment with her. This trio of fat women from China took their own sweet time, and I’d hoped that the actor would raise her scissors and stab someone in the throat. Wishful thinking.
Crowd flow is terrible. Yes. I looked to Ray and gave him a disapproving frown. “I don’t think I can be scared with all these idiots around,” I said to him, clearly annoyed that I had let my appreciation of the freaky and macabre be dampened by the very real, very upsetting presence of assholes.
So naturally, we especially enjoyed seeing annoying people be scared. The scare actors were not bad. They wandered the lanes, sometimes cleverly concealed among the throngs of people and they would suddenly, “RAGHH!” the pants off of someone. It would’ve been better if this happened more often, because as much as it’s unnerving to have realized that someone is stalking you, the adrenaline easily drains away when they don’t do much of anything else.
I had my picture taken with a giant clown with pogo stick legs. He tried to eat my hair, but didn’t actually follow through with something disturbing. Other than another photo opportunity with a Puppet Master and his dwarf, I found Puppet Lane to be lacking.
In the last event, I suppose the fact that it was inaugural made the actors behave more aggressively, and our surroundings were exceptionally gory. Plus, there were more actors and displays per square foot of theme park the last round, whereas now it was as if they had the same budget but a bigger space to conduct horrible mischief.
We passed the Dungeon of Damnation haunted house because the wait time was a miserable 65 minutes, so instead we walked a whole stretch of dimly lit road that was a no-actor no-anything area that purged all suspension of belief I had so far.
Then we reached the entrance of Chinatown Alley. Blaring a stripped down, crackling but melodious “等著你回來”, I felt the first eerie wisp of fear crawl up my neck. It was alluring. It oozed that sexy mystery. I imagined pretty made up succubus faces behind meticulously crafted paper fans, hiding their ugly razor teeth.
Linking arms with Ray and begging him not to separate from me, we began our walk through the dark and dank alleyways of haunted Chinatown. It’s a very convincing setup. Plenty of old crates tied with hemp rope, wooden stands and rattan baskets. If there was a “shop”, bloodied body parts would dangle from their tiny roofs or be left in the open as if they were for sale. The cast was varied and interesting enough to make me want to run away quickly.
First it was an old lady, who tried to look me in the eye. Apparently, there were two of them but I didn’t notice, so that makes it worse on hindsight. I was deathly afraid that she would screech in my face and bare her old person teeth and wave her cane around.
Next was a butcher and his cleaver. Some Australian guy trying to heckle me. Here water came down on us in a drizzle to emulate blood or coldness, so that forced me to put up my hood and cling to my boyfriend tight as I yelled “HURRY UP”. Most of the time I would be trying to laugh my fear away to quell the scariness but it’s difficult.
We followed the couple in front of us closely (it was our genius strategy) so that we’d actually see the people jump out screaming and they wouldn’t target us. “Why did you not want to experience the shock Perr?” you ask. Well, I happen to attack people who shock me in self-defense if they’re within reach. Another reason is because yelling disturbs me at a primal level, and I simply do not like someone yelling at me, or me yelling at anything in general. Therefore, letting the strolling couple in front of us be the first ones to die was the perfect way for us to enjoy being creeped out without having to run out of the place as fast as possible.
Of course, some very good characters could not keep me from shouting, like the zombie-like policeman in shorts with his baton. He had already appeared but I pointed my finger at him and chanted, “Oh no you don’t, you stay away,” until he decided to stop following me.
There would be partitions and screens that made me hyper alert and suspicious because those were just prime places for someone to suddenly appear from. And when nothing came out, it wasn’t relieving. It upped the paranoia.
There would be crouched running men (those are the WORST I tell you) racing toward and past you, cackling insanely. There would be a Chinese Opera Vampire with the white eyeballs curving her claws at you with a demon smile. Yeesh.
By the time Ray and I got out of there we were sweating in our hoodies feeling icky and violated by what we had seen. That was a good sign.
Next was the Total Lockdown lane, a reiteration of the zombie section we encountered last year. Soldiers shock-stomped and yelled, we’d see distressed people undergoing mutation, zombie-like crazies hobbling about. It was pretty weak this time because the actors didn’t do freaky enough things like crawl-hop out of nowhere, run/chase people down, snarl in our faces like they’d chomp at my nose. In the end, the most impressive thing about it was the flames blasting from a crashed chopper. So USS, hire more intense actors. Either that, or take your haunted house actors to the streets because they to more justice to the genre than any of these $8 per hour kids.
The final themed lane was the Bizarre Bazaar, featuring beefy slave-drivers whipping pained skinny guys tied to torture racks. More exotic than scary. We saw some sexy cat people, a really happy, shirtless bulky dude selling skulls, a photo opp Raven person, a supposedly seductive egyptian dancer (both on podiums), two very talented pyro-twirling performers. Other than the fire show, there wasn’t much else to ooh and ahh about, so we took a pee break and looked for signage to lead us out of here.
That left us with two more places to explore: The Insanitarium and Dungeon of Damnation haunted houses. Before heading into the Insanitarium, Ray and I chugged beers, hoping it would make the experience gentler. In my head I envisioned all creepy things that I saw and felt while watching American Horror Story; sobbing waifs in plain scrubs, twisted electro-treatments, other psycho fun. Outside of the house we had two loud and mentally unstable dudes wearing linked straightjackets disturbing the folk, which was great.
Then we had to queue for a whole hour.
This was absolutely terrible. I watched a whole episode of Supernatural (which wasn’t even good, mind you) and the waiting took me out of my element completely. We moved inches at a time, sweating in thick humidity, trying not to lose our cool as the family behind us kept talking about how they would be scared. The mum kept stabbing her handbag into the small of my back. I hoped she would get at least faked-stabbed inside. Most of all, any calming those beers might’ve done had already worn off, so I hoped that I’d be inside before my bladder felt like it should be relieved.
I don’t remember much about the Insanitarium – not because it was incredibly bad, but only because it moved in a very quick brisk walk of poor lighting. It was easy to see where people would pop out from. Curtains instead of walls? Definitely someone there. And yes, my aversion to the too-loud made me stick my fingers in my ears most of the way. There were a few very strange and slightly disturbing things I saw, like the tiny caged woman reaching for my legs, a room of self-slamming morgue drawers and thrashing cadavers, toothy doctors with mean-looking syringes. At times there would be really foul-smelling dripping and trickles of water (?) getting into my hair and jacket. That was truly awful; the stench would stay in your clothes and the humidity outside made your skin sticky-gross.
The room that really took the cake was one of cold metal and stained tiles, lights flashing bright wildly and quickly like it was a midnight rave in an underground vampire club. Very disorienting and dangerously hypnotizing. I probably walked in a straight line but felt like I was swaying and stumbling. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It would have been perfect if someone with Einstein hair and scraggly fingers came up to hiss at us but I knew this wasn’t filled with opportunist actors.
Interestingly, the last area was a circle of asylum doors. My line was a steady stream to the exit so I could just follow it out, but I imagined that if you had no idea where to go and had to pick a door and have a crazy person almost assault you, it would be successfully traumatizing. The crazy girl wailing in a pile on the floor was a nice touch, but there were altogether not enough people trying to get up in your face and bare teeth or harass you with spittle.
The first thing I said after was that it might have been better if they had contortionists walking up and down flights of stairs. Dangerous stuff, but fear would be pouring out of my nostrils. Definitely could use more psychos babbling and crying and wheezing, but I suppose I’d been ruined by repeat exposure to the vile and twisted world of American Horror Story to which I held my expectations up to. Still, this garnered some skipping and minor applause from me as soon as I got out, so it shouldn’t have been that terrible.
Finally, after meeting Jun and his gang, we made it to the Dungeon of Damnation. It didn’t feel like 50 minutes. I realized that this was the same zone as last year’s amazing Peranakan House, which still makes me not want to look into mirrors until today unless absolutely necessary.
And it was the best frakking scare of the whole night.
On that note, all the other houses should have been built like this. Claustrophobic with narrow lanes, unpredictable crew, wacky, out-of-this-world props, settings, arrangements. If anything, haunted houses should be both visual and sonorous, violating without doing much. As we wearily made our way into the (literal, it seems) belly of hell, we passed its iconic guardian, aptly named ‘The Undertaker’, and trod deeper into weirdness. I got caressed by glowy silicone hands protruding from the walls on either side of me. I was harassed by very aggressive actors with disfigured faces and hoods. We would enter a huge chamber with a lava pond; I vaguely recall one of the characters leaping out of a standing coffin, to which I hoarsely screamed, “I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT COMING OUT AGAIN. NO.” I could see the little slot that the person would see out of and pointed in. “LEAVE ME ALONE.”
We trampled on fake people, passed through dangling cadavers, pushed swaying torsos out of the way (this is something that they reused from the last round) and entered bizarre tunnels of spiraling colour and lights as if to put me directly in an LSD-consumer’s mind at the pinnacle of his high. I sweat in my armpits. We had stepped into a torture chamber, to which I naturally pressed my body further away from the left, not realizing that someone was behind the iron bars on my right. He stuck his hands in front of me as if to grab my face and I jumped, thus allowing Jun and his lady friend to progress while I was being left behind, and Ray and I literally ran out of the area, being crass and juvenile about our haunted house experience.
After that was simply a repetition of flailing arms, violent spasms and manly shouting; before we hit the exit, we encountered a minotaur perched above the door to the exit who seemed to want to descend on us and give everyone a good unwanted bonk.
Did I like Horror Night? Not in the way that I would like cookie dough ice cream, or an expertly handled deep tissue massage. It was a lot of fun, but much of it lacked the same intensity it gave the last round. So hire more enthusiastic actors. Push the horror envelope. Decorate your every nook and cranny, there was just too little and too patchy. Maybe I’ll go back the next round if the theme was right. Who knows.
[Not enough masochism for you? Read Junch’s account here.]