Another year of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort is coming to a close.
I was lucky enough to visit a few nights in September and October for this year’s event and am not ready for the Halloween season to be over. Well, this topic is straightforward enough—HHN 31 had 10 houses, and I wanted to talk about my favorites and what made them all so special.
About My Rankings
First off, please remember that these are my rankings based on my experiences and preferences. Your rankings will most likely be different than mine. That’s the fun part about theme parks—we all have different opinions.
Also, keep in mind that all the houses at this event were exceptional. Just because a house ranked dead last doesn’t mean it was a bad house or the team members working inside did a bad job. Actually, I had a tough time ranking these houses because they were all so close in my opinion. As a random example, the difference between my No. 8 house and my No. 3 house isn’t as big as you might think. So, all that said, it’s not that serious.
Ranking the houses is just for fun and is by no means a way to put down the work of anyone. I want to extend a major thank you to everyone who made this event possible. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
The 10 Houses Ranked
10. Spirits of the Coven
Out of all the houses, this is the one I connected with the least. That doesn’t mean it was a bad house, but it just wasn’t for me.
In my opinion, Spirits of the Coven was lacking the tension you’d normally experience in an HHN house. The first half of the house had a jovial saloon-style piano song—albeit slightly detuned—playing throughout. The scares themselves were relatively tame; I rarely felt like I was in immediate danger. This house, for me, didn’t really do its job as a haunted attraction.
The sets, however, were absolutely beautiful in this house. The elaborate, old-timey speakeasy setting was outstanding, and the house’s dark twists and turns made this worth repeating. “You look ripe!” has been permanently stamped in my mind, so the house was definitely a memorable one—just not my favorite.
9. The Horrors of Blumhouse
Finally, a good Blumhouse maze at HHN. The Blumhouse mazes in years past were disappointing at best, but, having really enjoyed both movies that were featured in this house (Freaky and The Black Phone), I was looking forward to this one. Honestly, even though this is sitting in the No. 9 spot, I loved this house. It was basically two HHN houses in one, so what’s not to love?
The Freaky half of the house, while a blast, was missing the best thing about the movie: Vince Vaughn (sans mask) playing the role of a gawky teenage girl in a lumbering serial killer’s body. Of course, Vince Vaughn himself didn’t perform at HHN, but this section still felt enough like the movie. It was nicely done with great scares—including a brilliant mirror effect—and even managed a few laughs along the way.
The Horrors of Blumhouse was a satisfyingly long house, with The Black Phone section being seemingly longer than Freaky. The “missing child” posters that covered the walls as you walked in really set the unnerving mood for The Black Phone—especially in contrast to Freaky’s somewhat vibrant and upbeat set. With a dank basement setting and dark hallways, it was disorienting and uncomfortable to walk through in the best way possible.
8. Descendants of Destruction
Since HHN as of late has featured a whopping 10 houses every year, some are bound to fly under the radar. For me, Descendants of Destruction was one of those houses that blended in. The post-apocalyptic setting wasn’t one that I was personally drawn to, but this house still had two moments that were wonderfully done in my opinion.
After entering the spectacular New York subway station facade, guests walked through a battle-worn set that has been slowly reclaimed by nature after a meteor struck Earth. Eventually, the station led guests through (what seemed like) a full-sized subway train. The entirety of this haunted house fit inside a tent, so it was astonishing to me how they managed to get such an impressively large set piece inside. Plus, there wasn’t just one—just around the corner, guests walked by the high-reaching aftermath of a destroyed subway train that crashed into the ground.
Toward the end of the house, underground mutants lit only by bioluminescent mushrooms came at you from every which direction. This was the moment that made me want to get right back in line and do it all over again. Wonderfully done.
7. Hellblock Horror
Here it is; you’ve found it: my unpopular opinion. Many fans are touting Hellblock Horror as the worst house for this year’s event and among the worst ever. That’s understandable because this house has been rumored to have been hastily created and installed out of necessity within weeks due to a last-minute change in the event. Even still, Hellblock Horror was a blast to walk through every time. I would have this higher on my list if the houses ahead of it weren’t so strong.
Hellblock Horror was a genuinely terrifying house because the scare-actors were absolutely relentless. I visited this house probably more than any other on this list, but I was surprised every time because the monsters almost made up their own rules. No corner was safe in here as scare-actors went all out to make the experience as jarring as possible.
Beyond the characters, the house as a whole put me on edge. With sirens, banging, and gunshots heard throughout, Hellblock Horror was borderline anxiety-inducing. Not to mention, the house was almost comedic if you had a sense of humor. Where else can you see Nosferatu, the Swamp Yeti, a tooth fairy, a martian, and so many more all locked up in the same prison? Amazing.
Hellblock Horror—as gruesome and goofy as it is—deserves a little more love.
6. The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare
Objectively, this house deserves to be higher on this list. In my opinion, it sits right in the middle. No, I don’t hate The Weeknd. Actually, I was actually ecstatic that a pop artist made it into the lineup after the rumored Billie Eilish house was scrapped. Anyway, The Weeknd being at No. 6 is just a testament to how great the other houses were.
This entire house was a party from start to finish with incredibly uneasy moments in between. It was a constant sequence of contrasting moments—going from shimmering sets to gory scenes around every turn. As the bass thumped and Abel’s glossy vocals filled each room, the hellish nightmares became even more twisted the deeper you got into the house.
I bobbed my head with a grin on my face one moment and winced in fear while letting out a scream the next. This house was a spectacle, simply put. And that wallpaper scare? Bravo. That caught me off guard more than once.
5. Bugs: Eaten Alive
Who out there doesn’t have some sort of fear of bugs? Everyone squirms at the idea of an insect invasion to some degree. This was an obvious idea for a house that was done perfectly in my opinion.
The vintage monster-movie-type theremin music playing outside lured guests into the mid-century home of the future facade. Admittedly, I sometimes struggle to grasp the plot of an original HHN house, but Bugs: Eaten Alive set up the premise wonderfully as a ridiculous 1950s bug extermination demonstration went wrong.
Tens of thousands of bugs escaped from their enclosures, vastly outnumbering guests and relentlessly burrowing into the skin of the cast. One actor was even brimming with spiders as their stomach was pulsing. “They’re hatching…inside of me,” they cried. Horrifying.
As much as I adored every moment of this house—especially the gargantuanly hilarious housefly and the brain-cell-less bouncing jumbo grub—I was unfortunately plagued by a few bad runs. I did this probably close to 10 times, and I’m not sure whether I ever saw a full cast in any of my experiences. I saw the fly only a couple of times, and the jumbo grub about half.
The house also had a brilliant idea on paper that didn’t work too well in execution. In the middle of the house, guests walked through a long, pitch-black hallway with puffs of air and strings hung from the ceiling that brushed on you. The hallway, though it made me squirm, was so difficult to navigate that most guests essentially came to a stop, causing a traffic jam that made everyone rush through the second half of the house as a result. Everyone was playing catch-up after that hallway, and it was hard to appreciate the house when being asked to walk faster. No other house had this issue every time.
I wish this house were a bit more consistent, but I understand not every walkthrough will be perfect. This house, though, was close to it.
4. Universal Monsters: Legends Collide
Are you surprised to see this only at No. 4? So am I. The classic Universal Monsters are a staple this time of year, going together like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve loved the Monster houses in previous years, and I am a sucker for anything having to do with ancient Egypt—if you don’t believe me, you should see my Disney+ watch history with all the National Geographic specials. Anyway, Universal Monsters: Legends Collide had the perfect recipe to be an incredible house.
This house didn’t exceed my high expectations, but it also did not disappoint by any means. This was a tremendous journey through ancient ruins while The Mummy, Wolfman, and Dracula battled for The Amulet of Ra. Being in the middle of a battle and seeing the trio (mainly The Mummy—a win for me) scrap their way to victory was a definitive spooky season experience. Sadly, the reveal of the sole winner at the end was cramped and almost anti-climatic, especially when compared to 2021’s HHN Icons: Captured.
I can’t say enough good things about the set, the music, the lighting, and the house as a whole. It was grand, it was confining, it was glorious, and it was terrifying all at once. I’m already desperate for another ancient Egypt house at an HHN in the future, please.
My first run-through of Halloween was probably the best experience I’ve ever had in a haunted house. One towering Michael Myers after another came within what felt like millimeters of me, slashing oversized kitchen knives in all directions. It was tense, legitimately frightening, and…ah, let me start from the beginning.
This house was themed to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween. It took you through the movie’s major moments—starting from the iconic opening title sequence and through disturbing scene after disturbing scene. Being in a massive soundstage, the scale of this maze was grand, fitting a two-story facade of the legendary Myers home in one of the first few scenes. Seeing the set was surreal, and walking through it with live scare-actors was even more unbelievable.
The house was clever too, including a certain mirror trick that made it look like Michael Myers was racing toward you from ahead, but the jumpscare happens directly to your left to much surprise.
Beyond the incredible quality of this house, it was an entire vibe that was perfect for the spooky season.
Halloween’s legendary soundtrack?
The whooshing sound with each swipe of a knife?
Michael Myers’ heavy breathing behind his mask?
The house ended with several Michael Myers surrounding you—as the music played out one final time with fog swarming your feet and jack-o-lanterns hanging above. Halloween perfection.
As I mentioned, I had an incredible time in this house, but that was hit-and-miss, unfortunately. Had every run-through been like my first, this would be far and away my No. 1. However, a few decent but not great experiences, unfortunately, made this house slide in my rankings. Still, I’ll miss this one next year.
2. Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake
This house gave me goosebumps—actual full-body goosebumps. Maybe the relentless air conditioning and snow-dusted sets contributed, but Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake was truly a chilling house. It was awesome in the most literal sense possible.
The house had a droning environment like no other as a somber violin resounded, lightning flashed no matter where you were, a swirling beacon from a lighthouse pierced the night sky, icy winds whistled, aged wood heavily creaked, and a misty rain sprayed over the frozen fishing village. Gloomy greens and blues soaked every corner, and I couldn’t help but absorb every mesmerizing detail.
As barnacles and seaweed reclaimed the town, the desolate pier was teeming with the wandering souls of craggy fishermen, deeply groaning at you through overly impressive yet bleak sets of docks, a boat house, a weathered ship, and so much more. No words could possibly recreate the feeling of wandering through this house.
Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake had probably the best reveal I’ve ever experienced in a haunted house. After seeing the glimpse of a ghoulish violinist above, guests turned a corner as canvas sheets flapped in the crisp, vacant wind, and the lighthouse shined through the fog. Passing through another turn, the house led to a massive opening with the supernatural violinist atop a massive ship. The whole atmosphere came together in this one jaw-dropping moment.
It feels wrong that the house will be dismantled after Halloween. It was such a work of art on many levels.
Why isn’t this my No. 1? Well, it wasn’t all that scary to me, but there was one more house that was.
1. Fiesta de Chupacabras
Many fans have Dead Man’s Pier: Winter’s Wake as their clear No. 1, but I personally enjoyed Fiesta de Chupacabras just a little bit more. This house had the scares that Dead Man’s Pier didn’t, plus a similar level of spectacular design.
Fiesta de Chupacabras took you through a small yet intricate village where tourists were sacrificed to El Chupacabra in a bloodbath tradition. The locals, disguised with colorful and ornate masks, showed no mercy as droves of bloodthirsty, vicious Chupacabras lunged out from the unexpected corners of the village. But, you won’t see the ravaging cryptid canine right at the beginning of the house. Brutal visuals, nearby shadows, and displaced growls build up anticipation for what you would soon be faced with. It all nearly made me regret walking any further, but it was that type of fear and impact that made this house so effective for me.
This house had everything, from a festive yet eerie percussive soundtrack to stunning sets that made you feel as if you were wandering into a lived-in town with no way out. The unpredictable qualities of this house made it among my favorites to repeat night after night. Nothing I write here will do this house justice; you just had to be there.