Walking Dead Experience at Universal Hollywood

On the March 13’s episode of Talking Dead it was announced that Universal Studios Hollywood would be creating an all new live experience of the Walking Dead. This article’s aim is to discuss the attractions concept as well as history of similar events at Universal Hollywood.

Universal Hollywood first started an event called Halloween Horror Nights in 1997 aimed at giving guest the experience of living out licensed Universal properties through attractions and scarezones located on sound stages and various venues around the park and studios. While Universal Studios Hollywood had done previous Halloween related events the park had no consistency in regards to having the events yearly due to disagreements with its designs teams. After success with its seasonal events Universal Studios would go on to open Universal’s House of Horrors in 2007. This location previously hosted temporary attractions high lighting films such a Van Helsing and the Mummy. House of Horror’s became a permanent attraction open year round hosting a variety of characters in the style of a true haunted house. Live performers included the Mummy, the Wolfman, Norman Bates, Frankenstein, Nosferatu, and other characters. As guest walked through film sets performs would jump out and scare guest making them a part of the live performance. This soon became a testing ground for new concepts which would make their way into the seasonal Halloween Horror Nights event. The House of Horror’s was a popular attraction until it’s closing in 2014 when Universal promised a new and exciting attraction to replace it.

With the success of the Walking Dead, Universal brought the franchise to Halloween Horror Nights where for 4 years it became an iconic part of the seasonal event. Throughout the four years the franchise was featured as a Maze, Scare-zone. Terror Tram, and even the theme for the entire event.  These various attractions highlighted elements from each season of the show including Grady Memorial Hospital and even Terminus. Each year as the series raised its own bar, Universal attempted to raise theirs through various themed environments sometimes even utilizing real sets such as the War of the Worlds plane crash set located on the studios backlot. The continued success of the seasonal attractions has now lead to a new permeant attraction opening this summer.

As with their past seasonal attractions Universal is working directly with various teams from the show to make their attraction as realistic as possible. This can be seen and demonstrated in the videos below where Gregory Nicotero describes his collaborative efforts with Universal’s Halloween Horror Night’s attractions. The new walk through experience will include make up/effects, animatronics, costuming, and props replicated from the series. This permanent feature will be located in a custom built structure near the main entrance to the park. With such a limited time window to create a large scale attraction it is believed by many within the haunted house industry that the attraction may just be a compilation of the past 4 Walking Dead mazes used at Halloween Horror Nights with some added effects and scenes from the current season.

Past Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood Walking Dead Attractions:

Halloween Horror Nights Year One of Walking Dead

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GRBr7BhyOA

 

 

Halloween Horror Nights Year two of Walking Dead

 

 

Halloween Horror Nights Year three of Walking Dead

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Dead Zone

Walking Dead Knots Unite

walkingdeadheader.jpgAs predicted last week, with the introduction of Jesus it’s time for a road trip to Hill Top this week.

Good> Hilltop was everything I could have pictured from the comic, like traveling back to the 1800’s right down to the music being played as Rick and the group rolled up to the gate. In the comics the town is even drawn a little more vacant and bleak looking compared to Alexandria and it was so well captured in this episode. The mansion on the hill fit perfectly and even Gregory pulled from the comics was just as shifty, but in the show I have to admit he was a much bigger dick then I could have imagined. It was like this episode was scripted directly out of the comic as Rick’s world becomes so much bigger by the end of the whole situation. I almost feel bad, thinking that this is the major turning point for the group that they never can come back from. Even with Maggie’s hunting words at the end that this is going to cost them something. Rick taking everyone down a dark path and someone so much more than they could handle; Negan!

Throughout the episode we see just how effective Rick and the group are working as a team and taking on the unknown. Saving the handful of people from Hilltop that rolled their car and were being chased down by walkers. They vetted that place quickly and with the efficiency of a swat team but the only one that seemed to have a problem was Abraham. I’m not sure what they are doing to his character to be honest, I know in the comic Abraham did end up falling for someone else and left Rosita but he never had these moments of surrealism and doubts that we have witnessed over the last couple of episodes. It’s almost like what they did to Tyreese before they let him go. At least the girl in the comic was interested in Abraham where here Sasha doesn’t seem to care the slightest and even changes shifts to put some distance between the two of them. Even in his moments of self-doubt and questioning it all he still has a way with the vernacular as he starts to question Glenn on his choice to have a baby, “When you were pouring the Bisquick were you trying to make pancakes?” classic. But this is also playing into the lost and directionless world that he is in now trying to figure out what is it that he wants.

Jesus taking the group to Hilltop is great but is also the turning point in all of the stories that are going to follow. I do wonder if we will see the Wolves again or if that story has been played out and now with the Saviors coming in there won’t be room for it. I almost think that Jesus is taking advantage of Rick while I was watching this and having the foresight of the comics. Jesus comes right out and tells not just Rick but everyone they don’t have a whole lot of fighters. He already knows who Negan is and what the bargain is with him and the Saviors and is manipulating Rick to try and change the balance of power. It wasn’t the fact that they were good people or to set up some form of trade, it was to fight their battles for them. Jesus being the only fighter I really saw and of course the one Rick took out when he attacked Gregory, great first impression.5-things-you-might-have-missed-in-the-walking-dead-episode-knots-untie-866884.jpg

Bad> As much as I loved the focus on Abraham this week and his flair for the vernacular but I did have certain issues with his strange detachment. There is no way that guy in Hilltop should have gotten the drop on him and then he just lays there like he’s ready to give up and go into the light.

Smurfs Take> We finally get the lowdown on Negan and now comes the first contact which looks way more exciting than this episode was. I enjoyed he cat and mouse between Gregory and Maggie and she starts to take up her new role and the fact that Rick knew he wouldn’t have the patience to deal with him. I am sure it would have been an entirely different conversation had Rick been in there, almost sad he wasn’t.

Walking Dead No Way Out

 

TWD_609_GP_0817_0099-RT-1200x686.jpgBefore the mid-season break things looked bleak for the Ricks group as the entire town of Alexandria was over ran with walkers. The plan to get by them has proven itself in the past as everyone walked out in the ponchos of death. The draw back to this plan are the ones in the group that have never pulled off this maneuver; it’s one thing for Rick and crew but the people of Alexandria have been more cannon fodder than anything useful. In the Comic Jessie and her kids are lost to the wave of walkers ripping through the town, and will this be there fate tonight. You have Abraham, Darryl and Sasha coming back to the town but will they make it in time to be of any help. My guess for this half of the season Abraham will suffer the fate Glenn did in the comics. It’s one of the most visually disturbing moments in the comic and I don’t see them skipping it. I don’t believe that it will be Glenn that is introduced to Lucile but Abraham as Negan makes his entrance. Tonight? Well this is how it all went down, the good, the bad, and Smurfs take.

Good> I love Daryl!!!!!!!! The opening has to be one of the best so far as Negan’s group tries to detain Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha as they make their way home. I for a moment got pulled in thinking this could be it, wreck everyone right at the start but like always Daryl comes to the rescue with one of the most explosive saves to date. To be honest they steal some of the best moments in the show tonight which I will get to in a moment. The set up for the big disaster tonight was Sam.

This was one of the best moments of the night for me as the comic came to life on the screen and I can’t believe how quickly things fell apart for Rick’s group trying to get out of Alexandria and get to the quarry where all of the vehicles are. It’s at this point where Carol’s words to Sam come back and haunt him, a very Brothers Grimm picture of what happens to little fat boys in the dangerous world. They get eaten! Sam starts to hear her words in his mind while he walks hand in hand with his mom and Rick al loses what little hold he had on his composure and that’s all it took. Sam’s meltdown is the beginning of the end and the next few moments are the comic panels reenacted as we witness first Sam get munched then Jessie a she watches her little boy get eaten. Rick starts to shut down while watching Jessie get munched, a rather sad series of flashbacks of the short time spent together then Rick does what he has to; take his hatchet to Jessie’s wrist because she is still holding Carl’s hand as she get devoured. The next part there had been some much heated debate over in the group, would they or wouldn’t they take the big step with Carl’s character? The events in the episode were modified a little but the end result was the same, the loss of Carl’s eye and Rick’s mad dash with him to get medical attention. In the comic it was the final page of the issue that Carl was standing there with a whole in his head in shock saying “Dad?” Ron being the one to do it was no surprise but Machonne to deliver the death blow to the back of Ron was.

The payoff for tonight’s episode all come in the final moments to be honest, the buildup of the first half of the season and the everyone spread out all over the place. It almost serves as a reunion as everyone comes together in the final push to save the town and whomever might still be alive. Rick causing the call to arms as he loses what little hold on his sanity he had going all Conan on the walkers just outside the door while Carl’s fate hangs in the balance.endof83.png

Bad> Why anyone thought Sam would make it is beyond me, the kid couldn’t even go down stairs because of what happened a few days ago when the wolves attacked. I know it had to be done and not losing any sleep over the loss of Ron or Sam but I did like Jessie and if there was one thing they would deviate from the comic it was my hope it would have been her.

Smurf’s Take> It’s about Damn time that Gabriel and Eugen nutted up and I wanted to jump in and lend a hand. The visuals of the lake of fire was mesmerizing as the walkers floated in and the town fighting for their right to live. The cut scene of everyone swinging a weapon was brilliant putting the viewer in the heat of the action and the final view of walker bodies in the road after the night long carnage was right out of the comic. I do wonder after all of this how long Morgan will stay with the group. I have a feeling he will just leave or end up a victim of his own generosity. Best line of the night “This is a story people are going to tell” –Eugen

Dead Zone Creepy Colorado

Creepy Colorado: Alfred Packerstate line.jpg

A well-known nickname for our state is, “Colorful Colorado”. It can be seen on signs when crossing the border into our state welcoming visitors. This nickname is derived from the state’s magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers, and plains. While the state may be colorful in its scenery, it has also had a very colorful history. Mining operations, Plutonium warhead plants, and other unique spikes on our states timeline set us aside from any other state. This unique history is not the sort of history you would find in your high school text book. My goal for this series of articles is to touch on the bizarre and obscure history that our state has to offer so look for it monthly titled Creepy Colorado.

8397879_f260.jpg In this article we will dissect the little known crimes that occurred in the mountains just outside of Breckenridge in 1873. Seeking wealth in the Colorado Mountains a group of miners pursued their manifest destiny hoping to gain fortune only to encounter a similar fate as the infamous Donner Party. In November of 1873 an expedition of 21 men left Provo, Utah journeying into the mountains of Colorado. Upon entering Montrose, Colorado the team encountered Chief Ouray, a Ute Leader who warned the men of the dangerous winter conditions and weather which lay ahead of them. Chief Ouray even generously offered the men to stay with his tribe until winter had passed. Craving fortune and with visions of gold etched in their minds several men in the party decided to ignore Ouray’s warning and ventured into the snowy mountains. A week after their departure six other men became wrestles and decided to trek onwards into the mountains in route of the previous team. The team of six consisted of Shannon Wilson Bell, James Humphrey, Frank “Reddy” Miller, George “California” Noon, and Israel Swan, Alfred Packer, and was led by Bob McGrue. As the terrain got more treacherous and the snow deepened Bob McGrue decided to heed Ouray’s warning and blazed a route back to the Ute camp.

The grizzly details of what happened next are still to this day unknown. Two months after their departure a single man wondered out of the mountains into the Los Pinos Indian Agencies’ camp. When Alfred Packer was asked where his team of men had gone he replied he was unsure of their whereabouts due to them abandoning him in the mountains because of his health. Surprisingly Packer appeared to be well nourished. After a brief stay at the agencies’ camp Packer claimed he wanted to return home to Pennsylvania. Members of the original team which departed Ouray’s camp a week before Packer began to become suspicious after recognizing a knife from Frank “Reddy” Miller, one of Packer’s companions on Packers hip. Suspicion soon grew as Packer began to purchase supplies to return home with large sums of money. Packer was soon accused of murdering the men and a lynch mob started to form demanding the truth of what happened in the mountains.

Alfred-G-Packer.jpg General Adam’s of the Agency soon coerced Packer into writing a confession. Packer stated that within the first ten days Israel Swan died from the elements, five days later James Humphrey encountered the same fate. Facing starvation the final men resorted to cannibalism eating Swan and Humphrey. Deranged and starving the final members of the team fell apart Shannon Bell shot George Noon. In self-defense Packer killed Shannon Bell after Bell attempted to attack him. Packer then took any previsions he could including remains of several of the bodies to travel through the wilderness to the agencies’ camp.

Hoping for definitive proof of the incident General Adams forced Packer to lead a team of men to the original campsite to investigate the occurrences. After attempting to lead the team of men astray and attacking the constable with a knife Packer was jailed. With being located in such a desolate environment the jail only consisted of a cabin which Packer easily escaped and fled into the night. Packer escaped justice for 9 years till he was discovered in Cheyenne, Wyoming living under the alias John Swartze. After being apprehended Packer made a second confession retracting his previous story and stated that Shannon Bell had killed everyone while Packer was out scouting the trail. Packer was found guilty at his trial of premeditated murder and was sentenced to hang.

319full-cannibal!-the-musical-poster.jpg A retrial occurred in 1885 by the Colorado Supreme Court and Alfred Packer was resentenced to 40 years after being convicted on five counts of manslaughter. After good behavior Packer received parole in 1901, and became a guard for the Denver Post. Well-liked by his neighbors and co-workers Packer worked for the Denver post for the next six years till he died at the age of 65. His tombstone can be visited in Littleton, Colorado at the Littleton Cemetery. Packer has since become an obscure part of Colorado’s state history with the cafeteria at University of Colorado being named after him in the 60’s as well as Trey Parker and Matt Stone the famed creators of South Park making a low budget film, Cannibal the Musical in 1993. Packer’s case was the first case of cannibalism to be tried in the U.S. Court system and while grotesque shows the inhospitable and harsh conditions which the Rocky Mountains to this day possess. The Rocky’s consist of around 3,000 miles of uninhabited land much of which lies in Colorado. This stretch of wilderness holds many unanswered questions and mysteries which will lay unanswered for years to come.

Dead Zone The Shining

stanley.jpgShining; Movie vs. Mini Series

As someone who lives in the state of Colorado, whenever friends or family visit from out of state I often play tour guide. Being part of the Horror industry through building haunted attractions, I often have requests of friends and family when visiting for me to take them to the Stanley Hotel, inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. While the Stanley Hotel has had a recent boom and steady increase in the tourism industry due to the ghost hunting fad, the hotel has begun to manipulate itself to cater to fans of its more recent media based history. The hotel runs ghost tours out of its basement and even rents out E.M.F. detectors to guests staying in hotel rooms upon request.

The first question I often encounter when showing off this beautiful and historic hotel is, “why does it not look like the one in the movie?” While the Stanley Kubrick film depicts an actual hotel few recognize the hotel from the silver screen. This is because Stanley Kubrick chose to film the Colorado based movie out of state and mostly on sound stages in the U.K. While the book was inspired by the hotel itself and Stephen King’s experiences there, the classic film has nothing to do with the hotel. Even the Stanley Hotel shows the Stanley Kubrick film on loop in its rooms although the film does not depict the Stanley. After the film’s release Stephen King was frustrated with the changes to his story which Kubrick made and eventually created a mini-series which more accurately depicts his book as well as is filmed at the Stanley Hotel. This mini-series was created for TV similar to Rose Red and is available to hotel guest only through purchase from the hotels gift shop.

The-Shining maze.jpgWhile I am a fan of both the movie and mini-series this review’s aim is to assess the differences between the two. Stephen King first released The Shining in 1977, three years later the book was adapted by Stanley Kubrick into a film. Seventeen years later Stephen King created his television adaption of his book. While the Film is almost 2 and a half hours long the mini-series stretches over 4 and a half hours delving deeper into the original story line. While the Shining Mini-series does restore many of the books elements that Stephen King felt was missing from Kubrick’s rendition, the length is somewhat distracting from the storyline.

Examples of how the mini-series tends to over explain things and are very prominent throughout most of the story but the largest one in my mind involves our protagonist’s Danny’s imaginary friend. King over explains Danny’s imaginary friend, Tony, by showing us Danny’s visions where a physical form of a being materializes and forewarns Danny of impending dangers. This physical form is eventually shown to be a teenage version of Danny in the conclusion of the mini-series demonstrating that Tony is a piece of the future adult which Danny will become. This leave’s the viewer with a bizarre time-traveling telepathic vision of Danny’s teenage self. Kubrick avoids this through making Tony completely imaginary. Danny speaks to his own crooked finger in a croaky voice creating a creepy mysterious element for the viewer. This causes the viewer to question whether Danny is speaking to his own subconscious or even an otherworldly being. Through never answering this Kubrick creates a deep fear which resonates with anyone, the unknown.

the_shining_2.png theshining1997.jpg While the underlying story is the same, we encounter vast differences between these two versions. In Kubrick’s film Jack Torrence chases Danny with an ax while in the mini-series Danny is chased with an oversized croquet mallet. The mini-series falls true to the book providing large topiaries chasing after Danny in the snow, while Kubrick created a large now infamous hedge maze sequence to replace this scene. Kubrick’s hedge maze is so popular of a concept that currently the Stanley Hotel is in an effort to grow their own maze to pay tribute to the film. Another large plot difference is in the fate of Richard Hallorann, “Danny’s Psychic friend”. In Kubrick’s film we see Hallorann instantly die as he arrives to rescue the Torrance family, while in both the film and book Hallorann’s rescue attempt is a success. Kubrick also created one of Hollywood’s most famous scenes through having Jack Torrance utter the line, “Here’s Johnny” while breaking through the door where his wife is currently attempting to seek shelter from Jack’s deranged rampage. This iconic moment is a bit of a letdown in the mini-series due to Jack’s simple single word line of “Boo!” This being said the original line King wrote in the book, “No Where to run, you little cunt” would have never aired on television due to its content.

 

These adaptations are vastly different and both paint their own picture of a very unique and terrifying story. Like in most cases if you want the full experience I recommend referring to the original material, Stephen King’s book written in 1977, The Shining. Overall I must admit I am a fan of both the film and the mini-series. Although they both tell the same story, they truly feel very different when watching them. The Shining will always be a classic in the horror genre for both literature as well as in film. It’s mysterious, dark, and unique storyline has even caused Stephen King most recently to write a sequel, Dr. Sleep which came out in September 24, 2013. With Hollywood now in the era of reboots and sequels within the horror genre it will be interesting to see if Dr. Sleep ever debuts on the silver screen.

Dead Zone The Visit Review

 

The_Visit_(2015_film)_poster.jpg

The Visit Review by Jeff Doan

Movie rating (3 out of 5)

Blair Witch in 1999 first set the bar for the 1st person hand held camera within the horror genre. Since then the trend has been growing within the industry giving us more POV movies like the recent Paranormal Activity series. With a horror movie premise as simple as going to visit one’s grandparents I was unsure how well filming a movie in this style could play out on screen. While I had my doubts I was consoled with the fact that this was no ordinary “found footage”, or a “1st person” style film due to its writer and director. M Nigh Shyamalan has given us hits such as The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village, and The Happening. With a hit list like that I knew I had something to look forward to, and that if it followed the same formula as his other movies there would be a deep rooted twist.

Our premise is that Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxnbould) have set out to meet and stay with their grandparents for their first time while their mother is away on a cruise. Becca and Tyler have never met their grandparents before due to their grandparent’s history of conflict with their mother. Becca and Tyler’s father convinced their mother to elope with him at a young age causing their grandparents to loose contact with their mother. Years later Becca and Tyler’s father walks out on the family relieving the tension between the disapproving grandparents and their mother. This off screen resolution between the mother and grandparents creates a want to finally meet their grandchildren. The Children decide to film their experience with their grandparent’s in a documentary style format in an attempt to convince their mother to rekindle the relationship with her parents. Becca and Tyler are sent to a remote country town by train to visit their grandparents, upon arriving at the train station they are greeted by Nana (Deanna Dungan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) a charming couple. Over the course of the next week while filming the children begin to notice strange and shocking behaviors from their grandparents.

This movie deeply plays upon Xenophobia or “fear of strangers”. Certain social phobias such as fear of strangers are innately programed within us to help protect us when we are most vulnerable. At a young age we are taught that even family members who we don’t know are there to protect us because we are related by blood. This film challenges this perspective while playing on something we can all relate to, “Going to Grandma’s”. While at the box office the movie made 25.6 million its opening weekend the film overall did not do very well in theaters and most critics gave it rather low ratings.

What they did well:

The film played very well on tension, in comparison to a lot of more recent films which are in your face, the director plays upon what is going on inside your head. A notable scene, which is displayed prominently within the trailer involves Becca climbing in Nana’s oven to clean it. A scene which most of us have heard of previously in the tale of Hansel and Gretel. While in Hansel in Gretel we know the outcome involves the witch being pushed inside the oven, with the oven being bolted shut with the witch’s demise as she is incinerated. In this film the role is reversed with Becca in the oven, although we are on the edge of our seat waiting for Nana to shut her in the oven the anticipation builds but we are never given the outcome we expect. This scene occurs twice within the movie and even when Becca is shut inside the oven, Nana wipes the front of the oven clean only to let her out moments later. Scenes like this are scattered throughout the movie causing the viewer to relinquish control to the director. Anytime the viewer feels that they know what is going to happen next, the viewer is always confronted with an alternate route within the film.

What they did not do well:

There are 2 large plot holes that are never filled within the film. The first is how do the grandchildren not know what their grandparents look like? Although we are given the precursor to the film of why the kids have never met their grandparents, it is never explained how they wouldn’t know what their grandparents look like. With Becca being a highly inquisitive protagonist attempting to make a documentary about meeting her grandparents it seems highly unlikely that she has never come across a picture of her grandparents or researched anything about them online prior to meeting them.

Our next big hole in the plot is the kids utilizing Skype to speak with their mother over a lap top. This is utilized throughout the movie as the kids described the strange occurrences with their grandparents to their mother. Not only is it hard to believe that an old farm house would have internet, specifically a readily available Ethernet cable, but also that Nana and Pop Pop would have a use for the internet especially with the lack of technology within the house. As Nana and Pop Pop put it in the beginning of the movie, “they’re old” so they go to bed early, specifically 9:30 and don’t have a want or need for electronics.

These two large details aside the movie is overall very good. I enjoyed the tension displayed on the screen and felt every turn as I tried to solve the films strange occurrences. While I don’t feel that the “first person” film style was necessary I do feel it added to the film allowing for several pop up scares. Although the film is not at the same level as some of . M Nigh Shyamalan’s predecessor’s I still feel it is a film worth viewing. Overall I give the movie a 3 out of 5 because it was entertaining and suspenseful, even with some of the large plot holes I personally had trouble with.