Review: Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Unearthed

October means the theme parks bring on there annual events. Six Flags has fright nights, universal studios has Halloween horror nights, and then there is Busch Gardens who does Howl-O-Scream. Look it’s no secret by now E-Mod 116 Online is based out of Orlando, Florida (hell our history even says we opened shop originally in Jacksonville) so what does it take to draw us out of the theme park capital of the world and drive the 80 miles west to Tampa? Simple one word originality. Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream feels like Halloween Horror Nights of 2010, before it became saturated with horror tie ins (like as of this writing four fucking years with the walking fucking dead!) We’ve actually attended Howl-O-Scream before, first time in 2012, and again last year in 2014. Yes each time we been some of the houses are exactly the same like Zombie Mortuary (which actually felt a little refreshed this year) and greatest hits if 2014 such as The Basement (which excels in its over the top gallows humor and gore.) This year the event has an icon and theme, which tied in and made a good use of the now closed Gwazi roller coaster. The scareactors are also more intense and louder that heightens then overall creepy feeling (the fact a constant cool breeze blew in from Tampa Bay the whole evening made it a perfect setting.) Homestly we wish Halloween Horror Nights would go back to its roots as Howl-O-Scream with its smaller budget, less days, and same houses, is in our opinion in the most original scary theme park event money can buy.

On a scale of 1.0 to 5.9 it got a 5.9 out of 5.9

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Review : Halloween Horror Nights 24

Because Easter is basically a story about a zombie it makes total sense to review Halloween, as it has more in common with easter. So on a Wednesday in mid October since 2009 we’ve gone to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida. To us Halloween Horror Nights or HHN is the Porsche of the halloween events, so let’s review HHN 24, the year the Porsche turned into a moderately loaded Chevy. 

First off lets get this out of the way, We hate most horror films, thanks to one note, no talent hacks like Eli Roth and James Wan, the horror genre has turned into torture porn. There is nothing wrong with blood and gore if it’s done right, look at the ultra violent Starship Troopers or the gory original Evil Dead, and super snarky Cabin In The Woods. If the blood and gore is there to advance the plot it’s fine, but movies today don’t do that, it’s all for shock value, and to show how broken the MPAA rating system is. One of the best horror movies of all time is 1982 film Poltergeist and that has minimal gore and is rated PG. Ok now that we have full disclosure in our point of view we can move on.

Let’s start where HHN 24 failed so badly, The Walking Dead house. The Walking Dead has been there every year since HHN 22 back in 2012, and that’s the problem. All HHN seems to care about now is that one house, and there are 7 other houses that seem like they are suddenly just slapped together in August. Yes we’ve only seen 1 episode of the Walking Dead, and hated it, the pacing was terrible. So yes we don’t watch the show and we don’t read the comics. That means we don’t give a damn the house is there, it’s been 3 years give us something original! 

While we’re on originality lets talk about lack of a park icon since HHN 21 back in 2011. The icon is what made the whole event feel like an event. The park was transformed into this world where you felt like you were immersed in their story. The scare zone were well themed, and the icon had a their own dedicated house. This year is was just “See The Walking Dead” “We’re whoring AMC’s The Walking Dead” “Don’t forget watch The Walking Dead sundays at 9pm on AMC check your local listings.” Now this was perfectly fine for HHN 23 when The Walking Dead was main theme and the scare zones were themed to it, however for HHN 24 it was basically a stage hog and a spotlight stealer.

In past years the originality also spilled over into the other 7 houses in addition to having an original icon. One of the best houses ever was the 2011 H.R. Blood N Guts horrified holidays.  This was the comedy house, which featured dark gory humor. In 2010 there was a house called Zombiegedon, while not the comedy house in the line playing on the side of the building it had a tounge and cheek video that was a reality TV show, on how to prepare for and hunt for zombies, yes this was totally original and fantastic setup to a creative house.

So what can be done to make HHN the Porsche again here’s a simple list:

1) Have an icon. Jack hasn’t been seen since HHN 20, and hasn’t been a main icon since HHN 17.

2) The entire park needs to be a scare zone like HHN 22 and HHN 23. The sense of fear and uneasiness brings the whole event alive.

3) No more The Walking Dead. Three years is enough, HHN was around years before the show and comic book, and now it’s being used as an easy lack of creativity crutch.

4) Bring back the chainsaw squad. Seeing them run around with 20 chain saws at full blast and every guest screaming is as entertaining as any of the houses.

5) All original houses, no IPs, the anticipation of something new every year is what make the wait and payoff worth it.

6) Bring back 20 Penny Circus. Seen at HHN 22 this was a funny and gory magic show and definite highlight that deserves an encore performance again.

In closing, 75 miles down I-4 is Busch Gardens Howl O Scream. This event has a smaller budget and recycles houses year after year, but at half the price and half the crowds it knows it’s a Chevy and not a Porsche vs the bait and switch HHN 24 pulled. Basically if HHN 25 is like HHN 24 we won’t even bother with HHN 26 and will put our money and support behind Howl O Scream.

On a scale of 1.0 to 5.9 it got a 2.1 out of 5.9

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