Smallscreen Features

Walking Dead, Penn & Teller’s Haunts inspire Universal Orlando for more

By April MacIntyre Sep 24, 2012, 2:40 GMT

Walking Dead, Penn & Teller’s Haunts inspire Universal Orlando for more

Halloween Horror Nights 22 is currently underway, official dates are September 21, 2012 through October 31, 2012.

Hands down, Universal Orlando’s ongoing visual orgy masterpiece and tradition of Halloween Horror Nights gets better and better, with outstanding houses from years past - like the eerie WWI trenches fright called 'Nightingales' - and the Edgar Allan Poe house still resonating with critics and fans. 

But this year the creative geniuses, including show director Patrick Braillard and Jim Timon, Senior Vice President of Entertainment at Universal Orlando, outdid themselves for the 22nd rendition of the venerated professionally turned-out event that draws on the talents of over 1000 craftspeople, as they head back to the drawing boards conceptualizing next year’s fall fright fest just weeks after the launch.

Mr. Timon, without confirming verbally, did give us a wee spoiler that a few juicy TV properties might be explored - given the huge reception that AMC’s The Walking Dead is receiving. 

I asked him if he would be contacting Ryan Murphy and FX for a possible ‘American Horror Story’ themed house.

“We cannot comment on that. We talk to a lot of great people and American Horror Story is an awesome property,” said a tight-lipped smiling Mr. Timon. Hmmm...

Halloween Horror Nights 22 is currently underway, official dates are September 21, 2012 through October 31, 2012.

"It all began with a three hour ‘wouldn’t it be cool if...’ lunch, with Penn & Teller, the most influential illusionists in the world," said Mr. Timon. "We’ve been working really closely with them. The house is Vegas reimagined after a nuclear Armageddon, as Penn’s voice directs you through this green irradiated vomit covered toxic wasteland before coming face-to-face with both Penn & Teller in this jarring 3D experience."

World-renowned magicians Penn & Teller have accidentally nuked Las Vegas, creating New Vegas, where fatal levels of radioactivity make all the attractions pop in strange and garish ways.

Not to be outdone, AMC's 'Walking Dead' franchise was selected by Universal Orlando to star in the lineup of new houses and assorted street actors who scare the throngs with the exceptional makeup effects.


M&C asked Mr. Timon how it was working with KNB and award-winning makeup design creator/producer Greg Nicotero of 'The Walking Dead.'


“Greg Nicotero has been the greatest guy to work with, and his enthusiasm for this project was just so intense,” said Mr. Timon. “He created the Walkers and his molds for the heroes, the well guy and the deer eater. We worked hand in hand with him to replicate these masks and makeup designs with our team of prosthetic artists here in Orlando, we stayed directly involved with him during this process.”

Penn & Teller joined our group inside their Haunted House, with Penn Jillette leading the way with the ever silent Teller leading up the rear, always with a bemused smile on his face.  

The first room up was the radiation protection gear room, which is essentially too late for the passers through – who are treated to radiated vomit covered walls, three breasted croupiers and 3-D effects that pop in all of the garish colors of Las Vegas, making this the most technicolored of all the Haunted houses that Universal Orlando has turned out ever. 

Jillette said, “The 3D goggles are the only protection you have as you pass through, the clichés of Vegas are all on display for you to navigate, and Just as in real life, the honeymoon suite comes before the wedding chapel –there’s even a magic fingers bed that works with a mirror above so radiated mutants can watch themselves in action.”

At this point Teller pulls a rope to activate the bed and pops up on it, silent as ever but totally digging the whole tour though their namesake Haunt.  We enter as what can only be described as a buffet from hell, with neon noshes so unappealing even the rats think twice.

“This room is one of our favorites, like the magic room, where the degusting buffet also serves up all sorts of air and water blasts, and it’s controlled by people before you who may get a blast in the face, and as always... we get the last laugh” says Jillette, who demonstrated the buttons and knobs on the other side of the two way mirror.

“The parallels between magic and creating show or house like this are there, he adds, “It’s all about the visceral colliding with the intellect, I’m going to scare you but your brain tells you that you are safe.” 

“The difference between a stage show and something like this is that here you have people immersed in sensory disorientation... and that makes the experience all the more real and quicker to ‘believe’ than a stage show where there’s more of a narrative build to suspend disbelief,” said Jillette.


Sin City Las Vegas was the best muse for the duo, as they perform there more times than anywhere else during the year.  Jillette noted, “What we love about Las Vegas is the emphasis on chance, it’s a constant.  Vegas is a big prom for adults who are bad at math.”


Bring on the scare actors, as Monsters and Critics toured HHN22 this weekend with Penn & Teller, and we fell in love with the Gothic House, Penn & Teller’s Vegas vision, the AMC 'Walking Dead' house and totally flipped for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride on Islands of Adventure, a G-force in the dark whipsaw which makes you feel like you are right on the broomstick with the gang. 

Here’s the official overview:
AMC’s “The Walking Dead”

There is strength in numbers, and you must band together to make it through many of the iconic settings made famous by the critically-acclaimed AMC television series, “The Walking Dead.” As the city is crawling with hordes of walkers, the issue of your becoming one of them is not a question of if, but when.

Silent Hill

In the eerie and desolate town of Silent Hill, ash falls from the sky and the physical laws of nature no longer apply. If you dare to venture into this alternate dimension, there is only one law of nature with which you must concern yourself: survival.

Penn & Teller New(kd) Las Vegas
World-renowned magicians Penn & Teller have accidentally nuked Las Vegas, but don’t worry, it’s nothing a fresh coat of paint and a truckload of BS can’t fix. Come on down to New Vegas, where all that glitters isn’t gold, and in fact probably has fatal levels of radioactivity.

Alice Cooper – Welcome To My Nightmare

Journey into the legendary rocker Alice Cooper’s twisted mind and witness the natural melding of horror and Cooper’s four decades-long career. Here you will follow Steven, the iconic character from many of Cooper’s works, as you come face-to-face with a myriad of tormentors who threaten an already-decaying sense of sanity. Folks enter through the house via Alice’s mouth.  Great subtle nods to Alice’s real name Vincent Furnier inside the house.

House of Horrors
This is no remake. No sequel. No re-imagining. These are Universal’s classic monsters of fear, which have terrified audiences from the Silver Screen. They have been waiting within silver celluloid to be resurrected. The flash of a lightning strike cuts the darkness that surrounds, and terror’s true faces take back what is theirs…

Dead End
If enough people believe in something, perception can become reality. In Carey, Ohio, the perception was that countless horrific acts had occurred in the old Hartford Mansion. The reality was that the curse which befell the house was far worse than any story ever told.


The Catedral de Caementum Animus is, by day, undergoing a building-wide architectural refurbishment. By night, the many stone gargoyles that keep watchful eye over the sanctuary come to life with the mission of protecting this sacred place against intrusion.

Legions of Horror

With a ripping, clawing and tearing through the concrete beneath Universal Studios come ancient cemetery structures, spilling blood-raged, vampiric hordes that span the eras of time, barbaric warriors with a need
to carve flesh from bone and an all-female, chainsaw-wielding prison gang. These and more nightmarish hellions inhabit every dark corner, foggy recess and shadowed path within the park. Unlike in years past, there are no boundaries. No safezones. No one escapes.

The force of horror starts with The Iniquitus. Rooted in evil, these are the patrons of death and are the ones who rose from the cemetery. The Iniquitus are those who summoned the Dark Legions to come and
feast here.

The dark legions of horror that await are: Vampires – the blood-thirsty from all eras of time, Beasts – the legendary animal-like figures who prey on the unsuspecting, Warriors – a gang killed in a deadly war that has returned to seek revenge, Prisoners – these deceased chainsaw-wielding female inmates killed in a womens' prison fire are back… and angry, and Traditionals – the ghosts and goblins of Halloween past
come together to feast.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure

Great show! Party on as those two most excellent dudes return to skewer the biggest names in entertainment and pop culture. Note to conservative Republicans, the show loves Obama and skewering the Tea Party and other conservative bastions. The rap-off between Obama and Romney was a clever highlight.  Mad Men’s Don Draper has lots of funny vignettes too.  The scourge of TC, little Honey Boo Boo makes an appearance, and if she and her troll-like family were not so sadly appalling, I might have laughed harder, but the trash train that reality TV dredges up keeps a ‘rolling. I just can't with her anymore.

20 Penny Circus
Not for the squeamish or delicate types. There’s tons of sexual innuendo by the comely Ms. Penny, mistress of mayhem. The nail hammered in the face will wake you up too. Special props to the Naked Mentalist, as this high energy Jim Rose circus style jaw dropper of feats and physical contortions need to be seen. Not for little kids.

Please note that The Walking Dead house is an intense zombie / “walker” experience true to the series, with the undeads feasting in a hospital corridor and loads of series Easter eggs to unwrap. Great, scary fun.


The best houses for us were Silent Hill and Gothic – the latter loaded with huge gargoyle scare actors, with great variety in their diversionary scare techniques that catch you off guard. It’s an art department masterpiece too.

It's notable that all the houses have unique smells, like the essence of rot, dirt and even the iron laden smell of blood, which heighten the sensory overload for the participants, including "SIF" (stuff in faces), the invisble filaments and things that brush your cheeks.

The traditional, well-defined HHN areas were replete with wandering groups of scare actors, including the Beasts, the Warriors, the Traditionals and the Vampires.  Superb makeup by people who have taken Halloween and turned it into a live art installation form and performance theater experience, thanks to the entire Universal Orlando crew.

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights runs select evenings – The hours and admission prices vary by day, go to the web site (


Further Reading on M&C

Penn Jillette Biography - - Penn Jillette Movies -


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