Come Hell or High Water | Behind-the-Screams of “The Purge: Dangerous Waters” at Universal Studios Hollywood

October 23, 2023
Wide shot of the full set of The Purge: Dangerous Waters lit up in purple, red and yellow lights.

At Halloween Horror Nights (HHN), we are always on the lookout for innovative ways to fully immerse our guests at Southern California’s premier Halloween event. This year, we unveiled an exhilarating addition, “The Purge: Dangerous Waters,” in collaboration with Blumhouse. It’s a one-of-a-kind, fire-fueled stunt spectacular set within the haunting universe of “The Purge” that runs every HHN event night at our iconic WaterWorld venue.

Crafting an entirely new show within this historic venue was no easy feat. The show required all new stunts, special effects and costumes, all while ensuring our daytime WaterWorld spectacular would still run flawlessly during the daytime.

As is the case for most of our projects at Universal Studios Hollywood, this show was a labor of love, meticulously created by exceptionally talented Team Members who worked cross-functionally across the business. From Entertainment to Wardrobe, Special Effects to Operations, these teams partnered together over many late nights to create this electrifying spectacle!

I sat down with a few of these remarkable Team Members during a rehearsal to gain insight into how the show was conceived and the incredible effort that went into bringing it to life. Check out that interview below — or watch it in video form right here!

Five headshots of team members who worked on The Purge - Dangerous Waters.

Alix Collaro:  Tell us about “The Purge: Dangerous Waters.”

Stacey Quinality, Creative Director:  The story revolves around what happens when citizens are angry about losing their friends and family members to The Purge, and the consequences once restrictions on politicians are lifted. The show focuses on a senator who leaves the mainland to hide out on an island in the middle of the ocean. From there, chaos begins.

Flames erupt on each side of a performer at The Purge: Dangerous Waters

AC:  When is the last time we’ve had an HHN Show at WaterWorld?

SQ:  It’s been over 10 years since the last HHN-themed show took place in this venue. More recently, we’ve housed our shows at another stage. Now that we’re creating something new in that area, we decided it was time to come back to the WaterWorld venue and give it a go.

AC:  How do you run both the daytime “WaterWorld” show and the evening “The Purge: Dangerous Waters” show on the same day?

Natalie Patrnchak:  We had to come up with a quick way to change from a daytime operation to a different look and feel for the nighttime spectacular. It is the simple overlays that really transform you from the traditional WaterWorld show. We created a pull-over sign at the entrance of the venue, added tons of light effects and drop-down signage. The sounds of the venue change and increase, and the lights are vibrant and backlit to create the scene. It really feels as though you stepped into an eerie scene of “The Purge.”

Sign reading "Who Dies Tonight?" at The Purge: Dangerous Waters.

AC:  What is your favorite part of “The Purge: Dangerous Waters?”

Melody Garcia, Wardrobe:  My favorite part of the show is all the fire effects. We are so fortunate to be able to not only work on this project, but also grow our skills of what it takes to ensure the safety of our stunt performers through wardrobe. The costumes are fire retardant, and we ensure we have the proper materials to help execute those fire burns.

Gabby Cuevas, Wardrobe:  I love the after-party scene when the cast gets to party with the audience — it’s really exciting to see the pyro and the flames and the LED costumes. It really makes people leave the show feeling energized.

Pink fireworks at The Purge: Dangerous Waters

AC:  How much does it mean to you to work on this show? How does it feel to see your creations come to life? 

Troy LoVerdi, Pyrotechnics:  I grew up going to Universal Studios Hollywood and have always been infatuated with the WaterWorld show. I started here as a Scareactor but knew I wanted to be a part of Show Crew and support the backstage pyrotechnics.

MG:  I’m excited to see the show come to life. What the team was able to produce in such a short amount of time is incredible. It’s super rewarding to see how the audience reacts. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What’s your favorite part of “The Purge: Dangerous Waters” at HHN? Let us know in the comments below.

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