The scare tradition and its accompanying elements have their roots traced back centuries, with horror films tapping on supernatural fear to build a pop culture genre that has evolved and grown in the last century. Along the way, the theme underwent a transformation and the macabre went from fearful to funny and in some ways, horror as fun and iconic without being horrific can be encapsulated in one particular season of the year: Halloween.
With that has also come the fascination with haunted houses — homes that embody a sense of evil, where it festers and influences its inhabitants, and what better way to make it fun, than by creating haunted houses to lure innocent visitors in. But that hasn’t always been the case as their origins have been more recent, dating back to 19th-century London, at a time where a series of illusions and attractions were introduced to the public as new forms of entertainment. In 1915, an English fairground debuted one of the first “ghost houses’, which set the stage for the rise of Halloween-themed haunted houses over time.
2011 marked the year that haunted houses found a home on local soil, with Universal Studios Singapore kicking off its first iteration of Halloween Horror Nights. 11 years on, Halloween Horror Nights 10 continues to celebrate all things spooky, as it pays homage to horror pop culture on the side.
Indeed, the event brings common elements from the genre, and turned a Western celebration that is now conducted with a strong Asian influence, such that the event has expanded to include various sub-genres and influences, such as slasher films, zombie flicks, or gothic horror. In Asia, the American tradition has also tapped on the cultural apparitions, and merged them and presented horror in a unique manner that marries the best of both.
Regardless, ghosts and ghouls are still the primary driving force for HHN10, with two of the haunted houses (Killustrator: The Final Chapter and Hospitality of Horror) and the Hunt for the Pontianak scare zone, featuring a vengeful spirit. The Silenced Auction live show and the narrative for Killustrator, the lead horror icon for this year, both incorporate gore and torture, while zombies are the star in the Operation: Dead Force haunted house.
While serial killers and deranged criminals take the spotlight in the Killustrator haunted house and Escape the Breakout, a special Laser-tag-like experience with tickets sold separately, both dig deep in the familiar tropes of horror brought to life. In Killustrator: The Final Chapter, the flagship attraction for Halloween Horror Nights 10 pays homage to the comic and manga scene, which has boomed in popularity over the years. It follows an artist’s desire to see his twisted creations torment those who step in his domain, and that bleeds into the set design.
With an intricately-decorated interior, the haunted house features a set design that takes after the manga-slash-comic aesthetic, such as inked panels, rough sketches, and line art. It’s a fitting theme, considering that there are illustrators who have carved out a niche in the genre and built up a dedicated following, such as Japanese horror manga artist Junji Ito. As the attraction references previous iterations of Halloween Horror Nights, there are other horror pop culture elements waiting to spring a surprise as well, such as killer clowns.
Adding thrills to the chills is Escape the Breakout, a laser-tag-and-puzzle-solving hybrid that challenges players to shoot their way through and survive the demented villains of Heinous Harbour. Since the undead cannot be ‘shot’, picture yourself as a survivor in the many video games and movies that inspired such a premise. In the context of horror pop culture, these criminals play into the role of a chaser, such as the murders and serial killers, while the inclusion of lab experiments and torture is a nod to the creation of inhuman entities, which are often present in horror-driven narratives.
With the Dark Zodiac scare zone and Monsters & Manifestations experience welcoming monsters and inhuman creatures. That’s just scratching the surface, however, as there’s more detail that went into the execution process.
Operation: Dead Force, meanwhile, brings visitors into the secret bunker and lab of the Special Forces Against the Dead (S.F.A.D.), a task force that specialises in eradicating the undead. It draws evident inspiration from the zombie film subgenre, but presents a more modern twist by assigning different traits and looks to the character designs, which is in line with the evolving appearance of zombies in pop culture over the years.
The underground bunker and lab setting further accentuates the apocalyptic backdrop that’s often associated with zombie movies and games – and it sure does feel like it, too. The claustrophobic and dilapidated space works to heighten tension, while the warmth offers a touch of realism. Oh, and watch your corners – just like in all the zombie titles that we love, there’s always something ready to jump out and claim you as one of the infected.
Taking on a different spin from the other attractions, the Dark Zodiac scare zone leverages on the shift of astrology from tradition to pop culture. Riding on the popularity in astrology apps in recent times, it reimagines the signs as horror-infused creatures, which introduces a gothic spin – one of the earliest influences of horror pop culture. Swing by at the right timing, and you just might be able to witness the rise of the Horrorcle, the force that controls and summons the creatures.
This gothic element is likewise carried over to the Hunt for Pontianak scare zone. Unique to the Southeast Asian identity, it has become, and still is, the star in a considerable number of horror movies in the region. What’s interesting, though, is that the Pontianak can also be described as the local variation of a vampire, a prominent icon from horror pop culture. As the name suggests, ghosts run the show here, just like in the Hospitality of Horror haunted house.
Halloween Horror Nights have always paid tribute and found inspiration in horror pop culture, and it’s good to see the tradition being revisited for this year’s iteration. The event serves as the perfect occasion to merge both worlds together, and celebrate the spooky season with a fa-boo-lous flair. The association to pop culture also means Halloween Horror Nights 10 remains accessible and relevant to scare-loving enthusiasts, all of whom will be able to find an attraction that appeals to their preferences.
As the actual date for Halloween nears, there’s no better time to get into the spirit and celebrate all things frightening. Be quick, though – tickets for Halloween Horror Nights 10 are selling fast on the official website, where full pricing details and more information on the event may be found.
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