Universal Studios is not one of my favorite places. At best, it’s something you do when you have a day off from Disney World. At worst, it’s something you do when you want to remember why Disney World rules.

Universal tries so hard to differentiate itself from Disney World, but it’s like apple juice trying to differentiate itself from an apple. Almost everything they do they do in Disney’s shadow, to the point that even their name badges look the same:

See what I mean? So when Ashley wanted to make Universal Studios part of our honeymoon, I was all kinds of meh. She really wanted me to see the Harry Potter area, but I’m totally fine with the Hogwarts that exists in my head. I was moderately curious about how butter-beer tastes, but that certainly wasn’t worth the price of admission.

Then she mentioned Halloween Horror Nights.

If there’s one thing that Disney doesn’t do, it’s scare the bejesus out of people.(1) And if there’s one thing I love about October, it’s scaring the bejesus out of myself.

So she had my attention. She mentioned elaborately designed haunted houses. She mentioned creepy-crawlies in the streets. She mentioned that they took the gloves off and didn’t do what Disney would do.

I was in. Especially after I learned that there would be a Silent Hill haunted house.

Today we went to Universal Studios and it really kinda sucked. Not that I was surprised. Harry Potter was cool, but all it really accomplished was making me want to read the books again.(2) The updated Spider-Man ride was okay. But everything from the food to the crowd-management was awful.(3) The Beetlejuice show edged closer to lame than the last time I saw it two years ago, and it was awfully close then.

Then, around five o’clock, they corralled us into a little area for about 45 minutes and when they let us out again it was awesome. Even the custodians were dressed in bloodied clothes. During the next four hours in the park it was like Universal forgot they were trying to be Disney and just tried scare the crap out of everyone. And it was a really great time.

Everything about Halloween Horror Nights was cool as hell, yet it was also a bit disappointing. It showed me that when Universal tries to just do its own thing, they really can knock it out of the park. But they’ll probably just keep trying to beat Disney World from under its own shadow. And sucking all the while.

  1. Which is totally understandable, since scared children are often also screaming children and screaming children create stressed-out parents who are generally not willing to pay money to stress themselves out unless it’s for something that creates pleasure for their little brats.
  2. Yes, read the books. Not watch the shitastic movies.
  3. Though Ashley and I rode The Mummy ride like three times in a row and, yeah, it’s one of the best rides anywhere.

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