As I was binge-watching “Stranger Things Season 4”, all I could think about was: “How cool would it be to see all of this at Halloween Horror Nights!” Well, it seems like the brilliant creatives behind HHN 2023 read my mind.
IT’S TIME (much cooler if you read this in Vecna’s voice, btw): Netflix’s “Stranger Things 4” is in Halloween Horror Nights 2023.
I had so many questions for the Universal Entertainment team, like “How many scenes will we see?” (nine!), “Do we go into the Creel House?” (yes!), “Do we see Eddie and the Demobats?” (hell, yeah!), “What about the soundtrack?!” (come on, has HHN ever disappointed?!)
So, here’s everything you need to know about the “Stranger Things 4” haunted house — but don’t try to be a hero, OK? There’s no shame in running.
This house is focused exclusively on “Stranger Things” Season 4.
While the show is no stranger to Halloween Horror Nights — we’ve seen haunted houses inspired by the first three seasons of “Stranger Things” in previous years — if you’ve watched Season 4, you know there are plenty of fresh horrors in store.
“The imagery we see in the show’s latest season is much different from previous ones,” says Matt Flood, senior show director at Universal Orlando Resort. “It’s not a ‘this is kind of scary’ type of season — it’s horror at its best. And that’s what we do at Halloween Horror Nights, right? We make things scary — or in this case, scarier.”
To bring this even more horrifying haunted house to life, Universal partnered once again with Netflix to make sure they delivered the most authentic experience. “We wanted this house to feel like you’re walking through the story, that you’re actually experiencing the curse of Vecna,” says Matt.
So, we’re getting a lot of that middle-of-the-season type of vibe (episode 4, my friends, episode 4) and then building up toward that finale, when all of the elements are coming together for one final attack against Vecna. Chills, anyone?
Does the haunted house follow a specific character or timeline?
Season 4 has so many plots going on — there’s Russia, California, Hawkins, the lab, the Upside Down… Phew. And being able to go back and forth between those locations is one of the perks of (binge-) watching the show.
But we can all agree that the real estate in a haunted house is a tad more… limited. So, the team’s greatest challenge was ‘how do we make people feel like they are living the show?’ Enter Vecna. Matt Flood shares that the first half of the house will feel like we’re walking into the mind of Vecna, hopping from vision to vision — we get to see One’s first kill, we’re introduced to the idea of Max being cursed, and we even get to watch Eleven blast a gate through One’s chest.
We eventually end up in Vecna’s Mind Lair, the blood-red psychic terrain where we see a fragmented version of the Creel House, with elements such as the clock flying around and the stained glass red rose door in the center. “We also get a glimpse into Eleven’s memories and Nancy’s vision, which sets us up for the battle royale that we saw on episode nine, the season finale,” reveals Matt. Essentially, we’re mind-hopping. “Most of the horror in the fourth season happens inside people’s minds. And horror is just that, isn’t it? It all happens up here,” says Matt, pointing to his head.
“Stranger Things season 4” is already terrifying. How much scarier can it get?
Well, it’s Halloween Horror Nights, so… a lot. “A guest may have watched the show, but when they turn a corner inside the haunted house, they don’t know what to expect,” Matt says. “How we edit the story to fit the house, how we connect a scene to the other, how we play with audio… It’s all part of the surprise.” And although the haunted house is telling the same story and making you experience the same beats, nothing will feel like ‘oh, this is exactly what I expected.’ It will feel very uniquely designed for Halloween Horror Nights.
How authentic is it, really?
If I told you that the characters and creatures in the house are indistinguishable from the ones in the show, would you believe me? Well, you should, cause I’ve seen some of them firsthand. “Whenever we’re working with an intellectual property such as ‘Stranger Things’, we try to be as true to the brand as possible, from head to toe,” says Emily Blumenauer, costume character designer at Universal Orlando. “You have to feel like you’re looking at that character.” For Emily, the most challenging part was working on Vecna, just because of how horrifying that character is. “On the show, there’s a really cool overlay of CGI, for example, which really makes the character come to life,” she says. “But that’s the fun part, figuring out how we will be able to make it as interesting to look at as on screen.” Lucky for us, some of the makeup designers working on the haunted house worked on the original Vecna from the actual show. “It’s nice to be able to get insights from them,” Emily shares. “We had access to several photos of them putting the prosthetics on the character, so we could match it exactly. And our sculptors back in the lab, I’ve never worked with more creative people in my life. They’re some of the best in the world.” So, to answer the question above, this is the real deal.
“We play with people’s senses,” Matt says. “I mean, that’s what immersive entertainment is. That’s why I fell in love with it. Way back in college I realized that while I loved movies, there was something about an interactive, fully immersive type of storytelling that was just, in my opinion, supremely better.”
OK, so we know we’ll see Vecna/One in the house. Do we get to see Eddie? What about Eleven and Max? Chrissy, the cheerleader?!
The first thing I said to Matt Flood and Lora Sauls, assistant director of Creative Development and Show Direction at Universal Orlando, when we sat down to talk about this haunted house was, “Please tell me we’ll get to see Eddie rockin’ on top of a trailer.” And all I will say about this is… prepare yourself for the Most Metal Concert Ever. With lots and lots and lots of bats.
And although I love a good spoiler, I won’t ruin ALL the fun for you. What I can tell you is that not only will you see your favorite characters from the show, you’ll run into them in terrifying ways. “We’re seeing some characters that we’ve never seen in any of our other ‘Stranger Things’ houses. And that’s exciting!” says Lora.
Psst! Make sure you look up from the Upside Down to see if you can spot a familiar face 🙃
“Stranger Things” Season 4 house is on the HHN lineup for both coasts.
You’ll be able to experience the curse of Vecna in Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood. “Both coasts focus on Vecna’s storyline for this haunted house,” Matt says. “And while we are not specifically designing the exact same house, we are moving forward with the same ideas, so there’s a lot of crossover.” With some of the bicoastal scenes, such as Eddie’s trailer and Hawkins Rainbow Room, some are bigger or smaller depending on which coast you’re on. “In Hollywood, for example, you get to see the Creel House exterior and first floor interior, but in Orlando we focused on the attic space,” reveals Matt. Not sure which one to visit? The right answer is: both.
You can expect a grand finale.
If you’re wondering if we’ll get to see, let’s say, Demogorgans, well… “As you reach the end of the haunted house, everything connects,” reveals Lora. “We pull it all together for a great ending, similar to the show’s finale. So you can anticipate references to Hopper’s boss-sword-battle and the Molotov cocktails, all set to an epic score.
Watch the show before you go. Or rewatch it.
If you’re anything like me and have an eye for fun easter eggs, then having Season 4 fresh in your mind will elevate your experience. “We want people to have watched it because they’ll get to see how accurately we’re portraying it,” Emily says. “We’re going to make guests feel like they’re on set, so immersed in something they had just watched on a screen. And we don’t miss a beat.”
I ask the team what they expect fan’s reactions to be as they come out of the house, particularly one that was inspired by such a beloved TV show. Lora starts clapping: “What I absolutely love about intellectual property houses is that most people applaud when they come out. They’re smiling, laughing, just saying how much they love it. It’s all joy, because we gave them exactly what they wanted to see.” You might even be able to spot the trio standing by the exit of the house on opening night. “Oh, that’s a thing,” Lora says. “We always sit by the exit to watch people’s reactions on the first night of the event. We can’t help it!”
When is Halloween Horror Nights 2023?
There’s no shame in running… But if you don’t, what are you most excited to see in the “Stranger Things 4” haunted house? Share with us on social media or in the comments below!