The truly fun part of a horror movie is when, after the credits roll, you explain to your friends how you would have run from the baddie, and not walked down that dark hallway, and not entered the cabin that said "Do Not Enter."
Of course, Monday morning quarterbacking, horror movie-style, flies right out the cracked, dusty window when Halloween Horror Nights opens at Universal Studios Hollywood. Because you actually enter the horror flick when you enter one of the many mazes.
You're peeking around corners, unsure and hesitant. You're jumping when the monster pops out of a closet. You're right there, in breathing distance of the ghoul, and not nicely distanced by a screen from the thrills and eeks and stomach-churning moments.
And Halloween Horror Nights will again deliver on hundreds of those this year, thanks to mazes like "The Walking Dead" (now with twice the undead!) and "Halloween" (it's early on in the life of Michael Myers and the dread in the '60s-era air is thick) and "Insidious" (the veil between worlds shall not only be lifted in this maze but firmly yanked away).
"Crimson Peak," the new not-yet-released Guillermo del Toro film, has a place in the 2015 mazes, as does horror-comedy "This Is the End" and the interplanetary "Alien vs. Predator," a way-popular fan favorite making its return.
Jabbawockeez are dancing on the show front, the Terror Tram is whisking people into the peril-everywhere world of "The Purge," and the Scare Zones run the ghoulish gamut (yes, there's one that's Christmas-themed, though these roasted chestnuts have definitely gone bad).
What once ran for a few nights now reaches into three months: Opening night is Friday, Sept. 18, closing is Sunday, Nov. 1, and with the exception of a few shuttered days each week, this machine thrums at high velocity and deep dread.
It's a wonder of planning and creativity, but let us also high five the weird streak that runs through Creative Director John Murdy's heart, and the minds of the members on his team. Actually drawing fans into the world of a horror film is absolutely a mean feat, in the different sense of the word (and it is also no mean feat, in the common sense, as we suspect putting it all together is quite hard).
Hard but effective. If you dare enter a Halloween Horror Nights maze, will you later be Monday morning quarterbacking in the way that you do following a fright flick? Will the brave boasting at how you would have escaped the baddie be absent?
For once you're on the inside of the horror experience, the spooky dark hallway takes on quite the realistic, heart-thumping dimension.