Universal's Halloween Horror Nights



Halloween 1998 saw the first Barker contribution at Universal's Halloween evenings in a back-lot sound stage at the Los Angeles Studios. And it was truly a Barker production, with him scripting and storyboading the whole show. Freakz used a caretaker character, General Santiago, to guide the audience through 12 rooms - home to the 'Chicken-Eater' and the 'Double-Headed Freak' as well as the bride strangely pregnant with an alien being. Turning his hand even to the make-up, Barker hoped that he was directing a production that would somehow be an art show with a 'Boo!' factor... Running on 16, 17, 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31 October from 7pm to 1am, Universal anticipated crowds totalling 100,000 - that's a whole heap of 'Boo!'s...

"On Friday [16th October 1998], we open a thing called Clive Barker's Freakz. It's my version of a haunted house, and it's a part of Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights. They asked me to design a maze filled with my creatures. It's going to be fun. We have 35 actors and a soundstage. It's not intellectual at all...just fun."

We Pinned Clive Barker Down and He Made Short Work of Your Questions

By Jim Hosney, E-Online Filmschool, October 1998

"People want to go into the dark and be confronted by the strange. It's a universal appetite,"

Sympathy For The Monster

By Andrew Asch, Orange County Register, 30 October 1998

"Audiences have become accustomed to experiencing images of extreme intensity and violence, so we've had to go in a more dramatic and unique direction to create this environment at Universal Studios. I intend to take away the audience's sense of control, take away their zone of comfort. In 'Freakz', every corner is loaded with something that will make their adrenaline rush, make their palms sweat, truly put them in a state of fear.
"My work in [theatre] has left me with an appreciation of things that can be done in a 'live' medium that simply cannot be done in movies. In 'Freakz', there will be the dread of physical contact, the chance that this thing is going to touch you. There will be the sense that these creatures will be coming at you from all angles. Although the audience will have the choice of where to look, they won't be able to simply avert their eyes from the screen as they do in the movies. An important element of their safety net will be removed. It promises to be a far more physical experience than the cinema affords. "

Clive Barker's 'Freakz'

By [ ], Press Release, Universal Studios, October 1998

"[Universal] haven't made me water anything down, if we gave [the audience] watered-down scare they'd be angry... There's something deeply perverse about this. If something like this happened to us in real life - a completely negative thing - we'd reject it wholesale. But if it's a safe environment, like a movie or a ride or a book that we can put down, there's a very strong public appetite for it.
"What it is, is a confrontation with death in a very safe environment. If we walk away from the play environment having confronted death... then maybe we are stronger when we confront it in the real world. We all need to do this. We're all going to die.
"The years tick on and you get closer to the end, and that's part of the dynamic of being alive. Knowing we're on that journey."

'Freakz' Alive, Clive!

By Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News, 14 October 1998

"You won't see any cobwebs anywhere near this attraction, there won't be any gravestones or fake spiders. It's going to be about something fresh. It will be a specific psychodrama; I think it's much scarier if it has a sense of story.
"Something freakish is on a table giving birth, it will definitely draw people in. This is a different experience for me because it's very client-specific. I intend to take away the audience's sense of control, to take away their zone of comfort, BE THERE!"

The Horror!

By Irene Garcia, L.A.Times, 15 October 1998

"Universal said to me, 'Will you do this?' and I said, 'Yes, but just let me go as far as I can...' I'm really delighted at the relationship. I am amazed by what they let us get away with. We've taken the conventional and the unconventional and mingled the two in an imaginative way...
"'Stroll' is probably not a word to be used: they definitely won't feel that at ease. They go from room to room, and each provides something different... It's about giving people a glimpse of something they don't want to see, but out of the corner of their eye, they sort of do... Here's the key: when they're done they should have a big shit-eating grin on their face."

King Of The Freakz

By Brent Simon, Entertainment Today - Vol XXXI No 6, 23-29 October 1998

"The theory is that at the end of four or five minutes, you'll be so thoroughly frazzled that all you can do is get a drink. It has sort of a crazy circus energy to it. It stands completely at the other end of the spectrum from the subtle 'don't open that door.' This is about flinging open that door and, oh God, letting the bad guys in."

Boo Bash

By Evan Henerson, Cheers!, Pasadena Star News, 23 October 1998

"Universal in LA every year turns over its part to this little Halloween event and this year they kindly asked me to come in and design. It was going to be a haunted maze but I've made it kind of a freakshow. It's called Freakz. Clive Barker's Freakz. I guess it will run through portions of October and I think its going to be pretty intense.
"One of the things about that [Hellraiser] stuff is it is slightly hard to make those characters, those sort of sadomasochistic elegant rather priest-like characters work in the very aggressive and rather frenzied atmosphere of a live maze. One of the things that work really well with the characters of Hellraiser is their detachment. It is how coolly and elegantly they present themselves and being artists amongst consummate monsters. Whether they are or not is subject to opinion. It is the way they present themselves and the feeling of a maze is much more chaotic than people jumping out at you. I don't think Pinhead ever jumped out at anybody in his life."


By Michelle Russo, www.gothicchicago.com, 12 August 1998

"Universal came to me and asked me to create a Halloween attraction for them. I guess every year they turn the studio over for a month or less to Halloween stuff. They turn the lights out on the Jurassic Park ride, though you can still go on the ride, only in the darkness. They get guys with chainsaws running around the park screaming. It's great fun. They wanted an attraction that was a little wilder or perhaps a little bit more intense than previous things that they had done. I suggested that we do a sort of freak show that resembled a piece of theater essentially. That's what it is.
"There were thirty five actors, they turned over a studio space, a sound stage, and they built thirteen or fourteen different rooms, each of which had a different sort of theme to it. And there was nothing startlingly original here. What was fresh was the gusto with which it was done. We had 'geeks' and we had a 'a surgery scene' and 'cannibal clowns'. It was a lot of scenes which are already part of the Halloween scene already but taken to a more intense level than perhaps you would be able to see if you were walking down Santa Monica Blvd. watching the parade.
"How immensely claustrophobic it must have been as well. They were putting 1,200 people through an hour. So, you've got all these people, you've got a lot of noise, thirty five actors coming at you and the walls are moving. Everything that could have been done to scare you was being done at this attraction, and it was great fun to do it. It was very satisfying as well. It was the most popular attraction at the park during that period, which was tremendous. There were lines waiting for an hour or more every night. You could step away from the sound stage and all you could hear was screaming. It was quite funny.
"I've often talked about the appetite that everybody has for being scared, and here it was, a line of several thousand people waiting to get in just to have the 'bejesus' scared out of them."


By Stephen Dressler, Lost Souls, No 12, January 1999

Norm Kahn, Universal vice president of entertainment : "We brought in the greatest mind in horror to create what will truly be the most interesting haunted experience ever."

The Horror!

By Irene Garcia, L.A.Times, 15 October 1998

Norm Kahn, Universal vice president of entertainment : "About 15 minutes into the meeting with Clive I knew we had the right person, he understands how to build horror and tension.
"Freakz [is] an assortment of horrific oddities that Clive has gathered from around the world."

'Freakz' Alive, Clive!

By Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News, 14 October 1998


Horror Nights poster

The following year, 1999, saw Clive Barker's Hell unleashed within the Park on 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30 and 31 October. As word-of-mouth had spread rumours of the delights of the previous year's maze, crowds were seen in 3-hour queues, weaving around the attractions. The scale of this success led Universal to allocate yet more space to the following year's spectacle...

"I had lots to do with [the Halloween mazes]. My husband, David, has really introduced me to this. In England, we don't have a lot of this. When Universal asked me if I'd be interested in doing one, I said, 'Sure, I'll give it a crack.' I saw it as a four-minute piece of theater that loops. David and I went through it and talked to the actors, and gave them their motivations. So I took it very seriously. You know, the Halloween maze is a very American form...
"To me, they're like sculptures in a way. In fact, the people I know who are most interested in them are visual artists and writers. We go around in gangs every year seeing as many as we can, and we study them. When I started doing mine, people would say, 'Why are you doing that?' They thought it was silly. But there are a lot of things you can do with them. To me, they're like what you thought horror movies would be like before you saw a horror movie. You know, 'They're coming after you - they're coming after you, and you won't be able to stop them.' Their interactivity is interesting, too, and their density."

Fuck the Canon

By Dennis Cooper, LA Weekly, Literary Supplement, 31 August - 6 September 2001

"Last year I did one called Clive Barker's Hell and this year I've done one called Clive Barker's Harvest, each year trying to do something slightly different. I say slightly because the rules are fairly tight. You've got to get your clients, your audience, your guests - your victims - through the maze at a fair rate, because there's thousands of people coming, and the waiting time for the maze last year got up to two, two and a half hours, so it's got to be a very efficient piece of scaring...
"There was this room in Hell last year where we had this S&M thing going on that was very popular. We had a bit of a traffic jam in there every evening. There's always something that the audience either lingers around for a second look, or moves out of the way of very fast because it scares the bejeezus out of them. That the job - that's my job. That's the spirit of Halloween."

Dreaming Of A Nightmare

By James Bohling, Frontiers, 27 October 2000

Universal Studios : "Clive Barker, best-selling horror author and creator of the "Hellraiser" and "Candyman" films, spawns his twisted terror upon an unsuspecting crowd. He douses guests in the heat of Hades, engulfing them in the fiery flames of ... his HELL!"

Halloween Horror Nights III

Universal Studios Press Release, October 1999


Clive Barker's Harvest

Halloween 2000 was the time for Clive Barker's Harvest, an all-new horror/science fiction attraction for "Halloween Horror Nights" at Universal Studios Hollywood. Barker designed and produced the attraction which opened with the premiere of "Halloween Horror Nights" on Friday the 13th of October and continued for seven additional nights on October 14, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29 and 31...
Allegedly born of a real nightmare, Harvest was a trek through a zombie-infested cemetery, littered with the remains of the dead, and the not so dead. Guests found themselves feeling their way past groping alien tentacles and evil zombie guards whose outfits would not have disgraced the best Hollywood S&M parties - no wonder, then, that this maze attracted so much interest...!
Barker's prodigious imagination (and experience?) lent him the insight to create the attraction in his usual hands-on fashion, bringing together stuntpeople, special effects, actors and puppeteers to realise this surreal underworld scene...

"[Harvest will] really push the disgust button, with things oozing down the walls and running around your feet. [It is my duty as a maze designer to] commit to the most troubling, disturbing experience you can give.
"I watch all these people going in, smiling and laughing, then you hear them screaming their heads off. Then they come out again laughing."

Theme Parks Are a Scream

By Laurie K. Schenden, Los Angeles Times, 5 October 2000

"We're trying in five minutes to give the public a plausible scare. We want them to go in with a smile on their faces and come out with bigger smiles. It's not your same old haunted house. We'll have things creeping up on you and crawling up the walls. We'll have actors responding strongly to the way the visitors react. They will go after the screamers in the group. It's kitschy and theatrical. It's certainly not static."

Oh, The Horror, The Horror!

By Dan Bennett, The Orange County Register, 6 October 2000

"This year it's 'Harvest', last year it was 'Hell', the year before that is was 'Freakz'. It goes back to an appetite I have for circus and freak shows. The great thing is that Universal mounts these attractions almost like little pieces of theater, with a cast of 35 and a set in which this cast moves through constantly. They've all got their own rules and lines and characters. We move about 7,000 people through that space every night. So it's a large endeavor, but it's very tactile, very... nonintellectual. Very nonintellectual. It's all about getting goosed in the dark! It's all about going in there and having someone scare the bejesus out of you! It's tremendous fun.
"My husband David and I designed these things together. David loves this as much as I do. He really helps me make them, polish them, and is really good at adding the little details which turns a good scene into a great scene. And then we have the great thrill of standing back from the studio - they actually put these movies in the studio. And you just hear people screaming. It's great! They come out with shit-eating grins on their faces, because there is something completely primal about going into a dark space. You've been in line for an hour or two (last year the line got as long as three hours), and the expectation grows, because all you can hear from ahead is people yelling, laughing, screeching. You're getting closer and closer, and, now, the screaming is getting really loud and you're thinking, 'What the fuck are they doing to people in there?' You see the people come out giggling and joining the line again. And then, you get in! And it smells of smoke and special effects and paint and a little sweat, because people are a little clammy.
"It's just a fun time and then you're really on your own. I mean it's not one of those experiences where you are lead by the hand. You move through the space at your own pace. Things are going to hang down on top of you and grab you and whisper obscenities in your ear. You know it will be a fun time had by all."

Clive Barker : A Renaissance Man Of Gothic Proportions

By Gil Kaan, Genre, Issue No 86, October 2000

"I wouldn't want a bunch of six-year-olds going around the maze at Universal. We're putting some strong images in there. I want it to be strong, visceral entertainment. It's not meant for kids... We're attempting to goose people. You always want to make it a little more intense than what people think they're going to get. That's part of the fun of it. There's only so many times you can turn the lights out. What we try to do is provide images that make people recoil.... There's a point where you start to fling ketchup around and the audience just turns off. We're emphasising the creepiness, the stuff you don't expect to find when you turn the corner, and the imaginative over the bloody. You want to make sure that there's never a moment in the experience when the guest really has time to rest... David [Armstrong]'s been enormously good at advising me on that. He's been good at being an extra eye. He loves scaring people as much as I do... People pay money to come in and be scared, and I want to scare them."

A Hard Night's Haunt

By Philip Zonkel, Press-Telegram Weekend, Los Angeles, 13 October 2000

"This October we have the 3rd annual Clive Barker Hell Haunted attraction at the Universal Park. And this year it's a science fiction horror maze called Harvest, which is pretty damn weird and they've given us a great space - they've given us the best of the spaces, this huge theatre - in which to do the maze. We always have a great time with this, but this has been particularly gratifying because they really have realised how successful these things are. We had 7,000 people per night last year, putting 2,000 people per hour through the maze. There was a two and a half hour wait to go through. It was a very successful thing and they want to build on it.
"There is a narrative. It's about the harvesting of our bodies by inter-dimensional monsters. It's a good old-fashioned monster maze. And it's pretty gross. Very good fun!"


By [Craig Fohr], Lost Souls, September - December 2000

"Every year for Universal I do a Halloween maze. Our brief from Universal, which is a very big family oriented organization, is come Halloween Barker should do his worst. Last year we had 168% of the people going through the park one night went to my maze. All of them went through, and then 68% went. It was a disgust-fest, and extreme. My point is that there is a part of the human heart that wants 'Romeo and Juliet', and there is another part of that heart that wants 'Macbeth', or 'Titus'. I completely accept everything Todd says about these models [Tortured Souls] being for a mature audience, and you can argue just where mature begins and ends. I will say this, my mazes are for mature audiences. The mature audience went in and every single one came out smiling. I terrified the fuck out of them, and they came out smiling.
"Halloween is this specialized time, but that part that responds to Halloween is in us all the time. It doesn't just appear for a month then vanish. There is a part of us that wants the taboo that wants the forbidden, and that wants to be pushed a little further beyond where we normally tread. I am told, proudly by three or four people that are not a thousand miles from me right now, that somebody almost passed out when they saw these models a few days ago. These people had big grins on their faces when they were telling me this. I think there is a certain element of fun to be had in pushing those buttons. When people come out of the Clive Barker Halloween Maze they've had blood, screaming, madness and monsters. They've survived. There is a sense of, "I came out the other end of this and I survived."
"I would sit at the end of my maze, with this big 'shit-eating-grin' on my face, and these giggling people come out having just had that popcorn moment. We take a sound stage every year, and all you can hear are screams coming out of this place. It's like a slaughterhouse. These folks come out the other end with these grins. There is something cathartic, something incredibly healthy, but it's not for 6-year-olds. It's for us."

Tortured Souls Presentation

By Clive Barker & Todd McFarlane, Q&A moderated by Joe B. Mauceri at the International Toy Fair, February 2001 (Note - Variously reported as 'Toys For Torture' by Girlcreeture at www.creature-corner.com and as 'Dark of the Eye' by Joe Mauceri at www.fearsmag.com.)

Cory Asrilant (Creative Director, Halloween Horror Nights) : "We brought in Rob Zombie and Clive Barker early. We've worked with Clive Barker for the past few years. He came up with his Halloween idea last year [in 1999]. He told us about a nightmare he'd had and how he wanted to turn it into a haunted house for next year. He drew up the idea, wrote a one-page treatment and brought it to the team in January. We developed it with him. We sat in a room with him for hours and came up with lots of cool ideas based on his dream."

Horror Incorporated

By Jennifer Pendleton, LA Times, Metro Section, 24 October 2000

Inspired by Harvest

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