As the spooky season draws to a close, so wanes my interest. This is the problem with living in Florida--when you start Halloween in mid-August, you're bound to hit your burnout weeks before the actual Halloween holiday even arrives. Don't worry, guys; just one more week, and the theme parks will be stripping the pumpkins and tossing up garlands (literally) overnight, like the entire city is being collectively herded through that door in Nightmare Before Christmas.
But since we do have one week left, I thought it would be fun to write an (extremely niche that really only applies to Central Floridian people who have the strength and stamina to commit to a Halloween Horror Nights Frequent Fear Pass) article featuring the ten haunted houses brought to life in this the year of our lord HHN28. And since we've got to stay on brand, you know, each feature will also come with an associated book recommendation! Read on to find out what your favorite Halloween Horror Nights House says about you (and what book you should read to keep the spooky magic going after the season has ended).
Dead Exposure: Patient Zero
You don’t have epilepsy or an aversion to UV lights, and you don’t fear the paralyzing unknown of a repetitive cycle of 3-5 seconds of pitch darkness. You welcome the darkness. You are the darkness. You recognize that this house has recycled all of the costumes and props from the chain of Walking Dead-themed houses of HHNs past into glow-in-the-dark neon monstrosities, and you don't care. It’s different! It is! This one’s in France! The original Dead Exposure house was also your favorite in its respective year, and you enjoy using that fact as a way to brag about how much longer you've been going to HHN than any of your friends. Check out Patient Zero; let me know how many similarities there are to this house's storyline.
Trick R Treat
This is your favorite Halloween movie and you will slash anyone who says it’s dumb and convoluted with a lollipop. You know Sam’s rules like the gospel: don’t take your decorations down before midnight, check your candy, respect the dead…if only you could remember the HHN rules as fervently (don’t touch the scareactors, don’t act like you’re a scareactor, just because you can drink until you pass out doesn’t mean you should…).
You yell YASS QUEEN at the wolf girls and hold up the line to admire the puppet. You tramp through this house with your plush Sam doll held in front of you like a shield or an offering, hoping it will make the scareactors think you’re one of them. It does not.
I suggest you just commit to your fandom completely and check out Samhain: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for Halloween.
Seeds of Extinction
Your favorite musical is Little Shop of Horrors. You sang the Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack while walking through this house. You pretended to laugh along with the jump-scares and raved to your friends about how much you loved the scenic design and costumes, but secretly eyed your succulents with trepidation when you got home. You never really believed Universal when they claimed that this house was an original concept, which is why it should come as no surprise to you that The Day of the Triffids, which is about a meteor that strikes the Earth and causes plants to wipe out humanity, matches the website's description of this house almost word-for-word.
You've never even been to HHN before, but damn it, you're not going to miss out on your only opportunity to scream "I love you, you're doing great!" at a slew of child actor-lookalikes. You were Eleven for Halloween two years ago and have a "Friends Don't Lie" enamel pin on your backpack. You refer to Steve Harrington as "Mom." You have a backpack full of uncooked waffles to munch on during the four-hour wait for this house, and you're not worried about devoting your entire night to this line because it's the only reason you came, anyway. If you love plucky kids so much, try devoting some of that wait time to the world's most excessively long horror book, It. Sure, it's basic, but so, my friend, are you.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
“Why are they doing Halloween again?” you hear someone snidely ask. “Didn’t we, like, just have this house?” The perceived challenge is like a summons to you, and like a zombie rising from the grave you emerge, fake knife at the ready. “Actually,” you bellow, “Halloween 4 is a completely original and nuanced episode in a perfect franchise—”
We get it, you’re a Michael Myers stan. But really, wouldn’t it have made more sense marketing-wise to make the house based on the reboot coming out this year? Oh my god I’m sorry I didn’t mean it put down the knife.
Halloween may not have invented the final girl trope, but it certainly commits to it. For a fresh perspective on the trope, try Final Girls—about a (you guessed it) girl who survives a horror-movie style massacre and learns of a “club” of other final girls with the same experience, only to relive the horror all over again when someone starts killing off those girls.
Congratulations! You have won the honor of Best Taste in Houses. You’re correct: campy, immersive set designs, hilariously on-the-nose parodies of every horror genre out there, and a perfectly equal laughs-to-screams ratio DO make up the best HHN house of the year. At first you thought these B-movie knockoffs were a sure cop-out in a year when the entire IP budget was clearly spent on Stranger Things, but the minute you heard the words “It’s baby’s first words…kill!” you knew you’d stumbled upon something miraculous. Since you clearly like your thrills with a dash of comedy, My Best Friend's Exorcism is the book for you.
Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After
You work at Disney World, and you were excited to see how Universal managed to subvert your employers without the assistance of Bill and Ted's this year. A mangled Rapunzel murdering people with her hair? Now, that’s a mood you can relate to.
You like to scream in joy instead of fear when you see Papa Bear at the exit, and had to be restrained by an operations attendant before you could hug him. This isn’t a meet-and-greet, buddy.
You’ve been scouring HomeGoods stores for weeks, but you can’t find a candle that matches that sweet sweet apple-cinnamon smell of burning children in the witch’s cottage yet. Don’t worry, you’ll get there. In the meantime, you should read The Book of Lost Things, in which a boy gets trapped in a terrifying fairytale world where every evil is a representation of his own insecurities.
The Horrors of Blumhouse
Really? This one’s your absolute favorite? Out of like, all of them? Are you sure? Okay.
You're willing to relive a tired showcase of predictable horror that has been repeating itself for several years in the hope of experiencing something different. By subjecting yourself to yet another Purge experience in order to get the Happy Death Day part of the house, you have unwittingly entered into your very own Happy Death Day-esque time loop. Fear it, run from it, but you will never escape the HHN Purge. You're clearly in the right mindset to appreciate another Groundhog Day-esque story without losing your damn mind, so try Before I Fall. It's basically the same plot anyway, just less stabbing.
By the way, if you love this house so much, here's one more present before you go:
IIIIIIIIT'S MY BIRTHDAY, AND I DON'T GOTTA PICK UP THE PHONE
Now it's in your head forever. HA.
Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces
Oh good, you’re here—I’ve got some questions. Main question: what’s the deal here? The aesthetic is super cool, but what’s the story? What made the carnival fall apart? Who’s attacking us, the former employees or weird scavengers who moved into the carnival after it died? If it’s former employees trying to chase us out of their house—yeah, can relate. And what’s going on with those two people wearing two other people’s faces and making out? I only ask because you, as a guest who has claimed this as your favorite house, must have written some fan fiction or something. We need answers. Give ‘em. Whatever the case, you have a clear affinity for the steampunk aesthetic, and I can’t really fault you for that. If you need some tips for writing said fan fiction, check out Full Tilt, which is about this guy who goes to a haunted carnival (sound familiar?) and has to survive seven deadly rides, each representing a personal fear, in order to escape.
You’ve got nerves of steel, don’t you? Are you telling me that you let yourself get sucked into what is generally considered one of the scariest movies of all time, complete with creepy echo-y child voices, claustrophobia, insane special effects, and those f*CKING CLOWNS and then left going “ah yes, this is that sh*t I do like”? Jesus, does anything scare you? You’re like one of those genuine horror movie fans, I bet, like the kind who watches horror movies year-round, not just from mid-August to October, and subscribes to analytical YouTube videos that dissect the production process. You’re right; this house is awesome—but you already knew that. You’ve been very busy staring with intense determination at every inch of the set, ignoring every scareactor in the house as they leapt out in futile desperation for your attention. “Get away from my son!” one yells. “Wow, look how film-accurate this wallpaper is,” you point out to the person behind you in response.
If you’re so tough, read The Haunting of Hill House—yeah, that one the new Netflix show everyone’s obsessed with is based off of. It’s considered one of the scariest books of all time, so it’s probably right up your alley. Oh, you’ve already read that too? What are you even doing here? You clearly don't need my help.
Happy Halloween, happy reading, and don't forget to add Collateral Damage on Goodreads! It might not be as scary as some of these other options, but there is murder. Fun stuff.