Geek Review: Halloween Horror Nights 11 (Universal Studios Singapore)

The celebration of All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, of remembering the dead, might have Christian origins, but there really is no better place to celebrate it than in Asia, and in Singapore with Halloween Horror Nights 11. It takes place a short while after the Hungry Ghost Festival, or Seventh Month, from August to September, depending on the Lunar calendar, extending the period in which the dead are remembered.

Since Chinese beliefs put a kibosh on anything remotely celebratory during the Hungry Ghost Festival, as its ghosts, spirits, and the deceased supposedly visit and roam amongst the living, it makes sense to only do so after the Seventh Month, but where’s the spirit in that? 

Halloween Horror Nights 11

In the last decade though, the introduction of Resort World Sentosa’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Singapore (USS) during this period in the lead-up to Oct 31, has put the extended spotlight on celebrating the dead. What started as an import of Western horror themes has given rise to an elevation of Asian horror, and with its wider partnership, this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 11 offers the right blend of horror that is equally entertaining, respectful of cultures and ghoulish at the same time.

Halloween Horror Nights 11

With five Haunted Houses, three Scare Zones and two live shows, there is just enough to keep you on your toes, even if you’re not a believer or fan of the supernatural. Based on the design of the experience, the first thing you’ll get to experience is the annual Scaremony that hits you when you enter USS. While there have been hits and misses for this, Judgement Day is worth the wait, as you see performance play within rods of fire, and as if his afterlife isn’t bad enough, see as the latest victim to hell getting ignited right on stage – it’s dinner and show, of flames, fury and a side of charred ghostly remains. You definitely want your camera out for this one.

So where to next? Turning right gets you to your first haunted house located right at Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase, but our recommendation is to head for what we think is going to be one of the more popular attractions at HHN 11, and the first haunted house we recommend you visit can make or break the experience for you, depending on how much you love The Weeknd.

Halloween Horror Nights 11

After last year’s debut of The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare haunted house at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, which is based on the albums of the Grammy winning singer/songwriter, the house makes its debut at USS. Rechristened The Weeknd: After Hours Til Dawn Nightmare, this new attraction features five all-new rooms inspired by The Weeknd’s fifth studio album, ‘Dawn FM’. And you can’t miss it as you head towards the Waterworld exhibit at USS, as the constant repeat of ‘Blinding Lights”, “Take My Breath” and other The Weeknd tracks might just drive you insane as you wait to get in. 

The house itself is terrifying, in that each room there’s a variant of a Weeknd, or shall we call it a scary variant that you definitely want to catch because he’s nowhere nearly like the real thing.

Halloween Horror Nights 11

Up next is Grimm Encounters, a familiar trope that takes all of Grimm’s fairytale characters, and puts a horror spin to it. The creatures within would be the most familiar one set,  with the likes of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and more calling forth your knowledge of these fan favourite characters, before making you question what happened. Look, this is nowhere near the Disney level we’re assuming that many of you are familiar with, but if you see long, blonde hair laid out across the track that you’re following, doesn’t it make you wonder if it’s still attached to someone’s head, and where that body is?

Halloween Horror Nights 11

For those of you who remember entering the original Halloween Horror Nights 11 years ago, you might find a tinge of familiarity, as the Rebirth of the Matriarch brings back the matriarch from the very show. What is it with all these resurrection spells, where if you don’t succeed, you try, and try again. Even if you don’t recall, the prayer altar, the offering of fruits and food, and the old black and white photos of the past are something that many Chinese would find familiar, making this one of the must-visit houses this year.

Halloween Horror Nights 11

And if you can’t get enough of Chinese hellscapes, DIYU: Descent into Hell brings you another aspect, through the eyes of Chinese superstition via a visit to Diyu (地狱) and its hellish 18 levels. Fair enough, there aren’t 18 rooms in this haunted house, but you get to see the icons of Chinese hell – think Chinese demon monsters, of gutted bodies and trying to find a way to the light, while being chased after by Ox-Head (牛头) and Horse-Face (马面). These two guardians of the Chinese underworld are the equivalent of Charon in Greek underworld mythology, and their costumes here are intricately designed. 

This house has the most elaborate costumes for all its scare actors and you really must take some photos, don’t annoy your fellow HHN guests by turning on the flash, but if you have a good mobile phone camera, like the iPhone 15 Pro series, this might be a good time to whip it out.

Halloween Horror Nights 11

The last house is also Asian, but it’s based on a Western genre – zombies. After turns with Stranger Things from streaming giant Netflix making its haunted house debut in previous HHN events, this year sees the focus switch to the streamer’s recent breakout hit, and haunted house of the same name, Netflix’s All of Us Are Dead.

For those who haven’t caught the coming-of-age, zombie apocalypse horror series about Korean high school students dealing with the outbreak of a virus, take our word when we say that knowing of the series will make you appreciate the haunted house a lot more. Recreating the fictional Hyosan High School, you’ll get to walk through faithfully recreated classrooms, walkways and other rooms of the school, and even get to be front and centre at key moments in the 12-episode series. 

Our experience is that the lines can be extraordinarily long during the peak and non-peak nights that end on 4 November, so always make a beeline for all the houses, before making your way to the scare zones. 

The scare zones are rarely a must-visit to be honest, and it also depends on the crowd you’re with. We’ve seen folks walking in front with the phones and torchlights out, so you can look in front and see just about everything that’s ahead of the trail. 

Halloween Horror Nights 11

Our favourite is The Cursed Kiramam, located at the park’s The Lost World zone. With it’s natural foliage and dark tree cover, it’s the perfect area for scare actors to burt out of nowhere in this Indian village cursed by the gods. Think screaming victims trapped in cages that you feel inclined to release, but who actually said they were trapped to begin with? 

The Hacker is actually a two-part attachment, with a rather generic scare zone, followed by The Hacker: Game Over live show at the park’s New York zone. It’s a tale of man versus AI, when AI could be a demon and due to the bright lights of the show, the scare zone itself is quite well lit, masking any dark corners or hidden actors looking to pounce on you. Since its located right next to the entrance and exit to Netflix’s All of Us Are Dead, use the opportunity to head to the washroom located there, and take a break, and catch the live show if the timing is suitable, .

Halloween Horror Nights 11

Lastly, there’s Dead Man’s Wharf, the home of Chinese pirate Madame Dragon and her crew, located behind Mel’s Mixtape. This spot was used last year’s for the laser tag sessions but alas, there are no extra events or shows that visitors can sign up for.

And if you want to take a break, another thing to look out for is the safe zone at Sci-Fi City which has been re-themed by Tiger Beer during the entirety of Halloween Horror Nights 11. 

Halloween Horror Nights 11 2023 runs across 18 event nights on select dates from now to 4 November, with tickets retailing for S$79 for non-peak nights, and S$89 for peak nights.