There is just something about vengeful spirits and Sentosa. They go together like bread and jam, or eggs and sausages. After years of dueling Halloween themed events across Singapore, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Singapore has slashed the competition to return as the de-facto horror themed event in the nation. This iconic Halloween-themed attraction rears its blood-stained head for the length of October, starting this Fri, Oct 2, and organisers Resorts World Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore hosted a preview of its 5th Halloween Horror Nights event for the masses in September.
For those not in the know, just think of this as the equivalent of the Knott’s Scary Farm attraction, but in a Universal Studios theme park. Horror houses filled with scare actors are the focus in American Halloween celebrations but what we add to the mix is the unforgiving equator heat. You go in with friends and explore the park, get scared in the many scare zones and themed haunted houses, and get soaked in the nightly atmosphere.
The crowd at the event can get really, REALLY crowded, so do go early for the best experience. If you’re on the frugal end of things, this guide here will be handy in helping you survive the night.
Disclosure: This is actually my first Halloween Horror Nights experience. Blame it on procrastination or on crappy timing, but this piece is through the eyes of a HHN virgin.
Luckily, I was accompanied by a friend who was more than willing to show me the ropes. She’s been to the first 4 HHN shows, and is my frame of reference for this write up.
We were given a lovely tour all across the theme park to check out the Scare Zones (outdoor exhibitions) and Haunted Houses (indoor claustrophobic-inducing attractions) and we judged them based on creativity and atmosphere.
Another Disclosure: Your personal HHN experience from October 2nd to 31st may vary, as this tour was meant for the media and thus there was not much of a crowd to contend with.
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The Gist: No, this isn’t the horror equivalent of memoirs of New York’s homeless. It’s a Haunted House where a group called the Tunnel People have built a cult-like home in the sewers. As you can predict, the decor features glow-in-the-dark rooms lifted from Ultima, filled with hanging rats, fake watery moss, and dudes in robes and scary masks.
What It’ll Remind You Of: Where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live, if they had more dead rats and moss, as well as less pizza.
Is It Fab? Sad to say, not really, no. There’s really nothing unique about this claustrophobic-inducing attraction. The jump scares were fine and all, but this attraction felt really uninspired. Imagine your little brother’s idea of a Halloween house, but with a million dollar budget. Clearly more effort went to the creation of the other houses. It does reek heavily though, so this attraction gets points for recreating the atmosphere of a broken-down toilet in Geylang. Not that I know what that is really like.
The Gist: An outdoor Scare Zone tapping onto sci-fi horror elements, Invaders features a suspended spaceship, alien soldiers, and the cousins of the stilt-walking geriatrics from Mad Max: Fury Road. Prep your cameras because these grotesque aliens are worth taking a selfie with.
What It’ll Remind You Of: A B-grade version of B-grade sci-fi alien films like Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles.
Is It Fab? Not really. It’s cool-looking, sure, and the scare actors dressed up as aliens on walking stilts deserve a medal for not only doing this during the media preview, but also for the whole of October. But it won’t scare you as much because the elaborate use of neon lights hide nothing. Still, it’s a nice smoky, neon light-filled appetizer for the horrors that follow.
Siloso Gateway Block 50
The Gist: As one of the ways to pay tribute to the country’s SG50 marketing campaign, the producers of HHN decided to create a Horror House that will resonate with the locals. Picture a typical Singaporean HDB flat with a void deck and the usual Malay, Chinese, and Indian neighbours. Now imagine the denizens all becoming the undead and terrorizing the place.
What It’ll Remind You Of: The Singaporean equivalent of REC and 28 Days Later. Or a Halloween-themed episode of Under One Roof (to paraphrase the HHN producers who ALSO happened to be the creators of that show).
Is It Fab? Nine Hells yes! This house showcases the reasons why people visit these festivals annually, for the combination of physical creative outputs and the chance to be terrified by said creations.
Catch a Malay woman bound and gagged on a bed, screaming and begging for her life. There’s an Indian auntie watching Tamil dramas and giving the occasional jump-scare, as watch out for that special appearance by her abusive husband. Watch for the mahjong gamer feeding on the entrails of her rivals and the scariest part of it all is the general sense of ineptitude from the local enforcement trying to contain the zombie situation.
All these coupled with the authentic recreation of the HDB interiors and exteriors, as well as the use of familiar archetypes in Singaporean life, adds up to form the event’s star attraction, at least in our humble opinion. And a special mention must be made to the folks who added the smells in each HDB room. Even before you stepped into a home, you got the impression that this would be a Chinese home, or an Indian one. Kudos to the person who came up with this idea to bring flowers and food into the horror houses. Let’s just hope someone remembers to change the fresh props.
True Singapore Ghost Stories: The MRT
The Gist: A Haunted House based on the Russell Lee’s writings, this attraction pieces together some highlights of his “MRT gone wrong” descriptions, and brings the experience to life. Visitors will not only get to see a breakdown/accident most foul, they also get to go back in time and see how such a wreckage would turn out back in the early days of the MRT. This was the HHN producer’s second nod to Singapore’s birthday, by poking a bit of fun at past MRT breakdowns.
What It’ll Remind You Of: The aftermath of Snowpiercer, only with the MRT and with a lot more darkness and zombie schoolchildren.
Is It Fab? Yeah, definitely. After being greeted with flailing zombies in a wrecked MRT train cabin, we went through a vertigo-inducing spinning room which was supposed to “take us back in time to the early days of MRT technology”. That just meant that we got to see a black-and-white version of an MRT wreckage, but hey, it works. Plus if we really wanted to see a train wreck of the MRT, we can easily wait for the next real life breakdown.
Having wailing schoolchildren and a huge gust of air blow in our faces in one of the cabins was a lovely touch, as it added to the atmosphere of death and dread. Together with SG Blk 50, this is going into people’s “must-see” books because it takes the familiar and exaggerates the possible calamities to the nth level.
The Gist: The title says it all. Visitors enter a house that represents the Chinese version of Hell. Remember the 10 stages Court of Hell in Haw Par Villa? This is the jazzed-up version, complete with disorienting bright lights in a cramped-up Chinese house, with maze-like setups and creepy near-featureless Asian spirits.
What It’ll Remind You Of: The Chinese mythological lovechild of Hellraiser, Prince of Darkness, and Un Chien Andalou.
Is It Fab? Yes, because it was surreal as heck. Don’t let the flamboyant disco neon sign throw you off-guard: the faces of the paper doll spirits and creepy-yet-dimly-lit spots inside the house will mess you up. A lot of yellow and red lighting accentuate the feeling of dread and bizarreness within the Hell House.
The end of the horror house was capped with disembodied hands and the stark appearance of a Western-looking satanic figure. Imagine the Chinese equivalent of the Lord of Lies with his gouged eyes and green complexion, and an elongated tongue that would put X-Men’s Toad to shame. Great stuff all around!
The Gist: An outdoor Scare Zone featuring the ghosts and settings of a “true” Hungry Ghosts festival, you’ll see Chinese vampires, zombies, and haunting opera singers popping up, along with fake food offerings, praying pillars, and caskets as pathway decors.
What It’ll Remind You Of: The quieter moments of Chinese films like Mr.Vampire and Spooky Encounters.
Is It Fab? Sure, if you like a stroll in a barely-lit park with incense and the occasional Chinese ghosts faffing about.
In some twisted way, this Scare Zone can be a romantic stroll for two avid horror fans. The lighting and mood is just right, the jump scares are few, and couples can get cool shots like these ones.
The Gist: If you’re sick and tired of being jump-scared, or don’t want to deal with the sweaty crowd for a few minutes, the USS guys got you covered with this spot. Head down to this section of the park where 6 ominous bronze statues are holding up bowls of (presumably) blood offerings for an undisclosed animal god ,and you’ll see a DJ cosplaying as Eddie The Head, spinning industrial tunes while dudes and ladies in animal getup dance.
What It’ll Remind You Of: A rave Morrigan Aensland would be proud of.
Is It Fab? If you like to see a four-breasted lady and a shaggy minotaur gettin’ jiggy with it, while pulling away a random female stranger or two to the center of the dance floor for a “sacred ritual”, by all means, stay a while and listen.
The Gist: Another outdoor Scare Zone, this one is focused on a mutant colony trying to tough it out in a quarantined area. Witness the appearance of a “jack-in-a-box” type fella, a big mutant chef, a guest appearance by Baron Harkonnen (on a budget), a guy with a chainsaw, and yeah, lots and lots of smoke.
What It’ll Remind You Of: The place where the Morlocks hang out before Gambit & co. found them.
Is It Fab? Nope. Conterminated is another “been there, done that” concept, though one that’s dolled-up pretty well. You’re not going to get much scares out of this place.
These plate of guts below? Scrumptious.
And So, We Reach The End Of The Ride…
So, is Halloween Horror Nights 5 worth a visit this year? Yes.
From a new blood’s point of view, it’s great. The setup and payoff from the highlighted horror stations are spot-on and lovingly-crafted. The use of familiar local icons such as HDB flats and MRT cabins glammed up for Halloween was done with care and skill, and even the ones we declared as less than “fab” were done up professionally.
While the veterans might feel that the reused props from the previous HHN are a turn off for “scaraficionados”, there is enough originality here that do resonate and hit close to home.
Whether you’re new or old to the HHN scene, you’ll be filled with flights and delights.
Ratings-wise, we’d give it 8 severed hands and limbs out of the void of Nyarlathotep’s prison. But seriously, knock yourself out this October with this. And do enjoy the rest of the pictures we’ve taken, because that’s what these HHN articles are mostly about anyway.
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