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All the cinematic details to check out at Halloween Horror Nights 2019

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Broadly speaking, haunted houses aren’t my cup of pumpkin juice. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a thoroughbred Halloween lover and a big fan of horror movies. There’s just something about getting the snot scared out of me up close and in person that rarely feels festive, let alone necessary. 

But this year, on behalf of Mashable and scaredy cats everywhere, I was determined to finally make it through one of the world’s most popular live haunts: Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights. With maze versions of Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, and Us (all among my favorite sci-fi and horror tales ever told), the year to suck it up and do this thing had arrived — and I was in for it.

Here are 13 cinematic details that made my terror worth it at Halloween Horror Nights 2019. If you’re scared of spoilers, turn back now.

13. Entering Ghostbusters HQ

Before you begin Horror Nights’ truly excellent Ghostbusters maze, be sure to catch the scene going on outside. The taxi driver ghost can be seen sitting inside his cab, and if you listen closely, you’ll catch him channel hopping across the Ghostbusters theme song as well as soundbites from the 1984 movie. 

Tip: For an extra treat, visit Halloween Horror Nights’ Twitter account and get the daily password. If you see Louis Tully (aka the Ghostbusters’ accountant) outside the maze, repeat the password to him and you might get a special surprise. Be sure to arrive early, as the maze only has so many treats to hand out per night.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

12. In the waiting room with Janine Melnitz

Once inside the maze, visitors are welcomed by a secretary — how fitting! 

The Ghostbuster’s honorary fifth member Janine Melnitz is the first character you’ll encounter inside the attraction. The scare-actor playing Ms. Melnitz (who was a dead ringer for Annie Potts when I went through) can trigger multiple greetings, including her classic “We got one!” decree. 

Definitely take time to enjoy the Melnitz performance, and keep an eye out for anything going on behind her. If you’re in the maze at the right time, an extra character could pop in.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

11. Getting slimed by Slimer

I can’t recall which of the many Slimers accosted me with his snot, but I assure you: it happened.

As you wander through the Ghostbusters maze, you will encounter the franchise’s second most iconic creature — the Stay Puft Marshmallow is coming up, I swear — repeatedly. Sometimes he’ll charm you with a goofy scene, other times he’ll scare the living daylights out of you, and at least once he will slime you. (It may have happened more than once, but honestly? I was so stressed that I might have missed it.)

Don’t worry, the slime doesn’t stain. It’s just water. Extremely, extremely gross-feeling water. 

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

10. A visit from the specters of Ghostbusters (2016)

Director Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot isn’t in a lot of the Horror Nights maze, but die-hard fans should keep their eyes peeled for the attraction’s two subtle nods to the project. 

Appearing in the same scene, Sparky (the subway ghost) and Gertrude Aldrige (the dead lady who scared the hell out of Tour Guide Garrett) can be spotted sharing a meal with a fewer other spooky figures. Although the scene appears still at first, keep looking: The two let their body parts, uh, “rearrange” themselves.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

9. The wafting scent of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

The Ghostbusters maze nails the finale, in sight, sound, and smell. 

As you marvel at the destruction of everyone’s favorite sentient, demonic, gelatin confection, take a deep whiff. We don’t know how the folks at Universal do it, but the entire room 100% reeks of burning marshmallow. A tactfully placed detail, a cruel jab at this beautiful boy’s demise, or subtle marketing for concessions? No one knows!

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

8. The Mind Flayer illusions in Stranger Things

Way less cute than anything in the Ghostbusters maze, but undoubtedly cooler than all the slugs you’re going to see coming out of Will’s mouth, Stranger Things’ Mind Flayer illusions are incredible. 

The first comes when you’re walking through the Byers’ house. You’ll see the Mind Flayer outside the window, in a display that can only be described as otherworldly. Shortly thereafter, you’ll come outside to see Will talking to the Mind Flayer directly. Will remains static, but if you watch the Mind Flayer, it’ll slowly bend and move in a way that’s… freaky. It’s just freaky.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

7. Hanging in Hopper and Eleven’s cabin

After you exit the Byers’ house, you’ll eventually find yourself in Hopper and Eleven’s cabin.

The area is packed tight with monsters and terrors, but take a moment to appreciate being in the heart of Hawkins. You’ll see details of everyone’s favorite father-daughter duo sprinkled throughout the house and, for just a moment, forget the awful, terrible thing that happened (read: did not happen) at the end of Stranger Things 3

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

6. The (second) death of sweet, sweet Bob

Watching Bob Newby, Superhero die once was hard enough, but a second time? And in person?!

If you ask me, the Stranger Things maze is a little low on memorable scenes. Luckily, watching Bob get devoured by demodogs more than makes up for that. The scene takes place amidst lots of other action, so stay alert or you could miss it. 

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

5. The owl scare at the start of Us

Considering Jordan Peele consulted on the creation of Halloween Horror Nights’ Us maze, it’s no wonder the thing is eerily accurate — right down to the film’s first jump scare.  

As you enter “Shaman’s Vision Quest,” stay alert for the arrival of that terrifying owl puppet. The sound of its presence will absolutely make you jump, but if you’re still adjusting to the maze atmosphere, it can be easy to miss actually seeing this scare. Hint: Look up.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

4. The impeccable detail in the Wilsons’ living room

As you venture deeper into the plot of Us, it can be tempting to rush through areas that make you nervous. Do not make this mistake with the Wilsons’ living room. 

Sure, a lurking Red and Umbrae are ready to scare the everliving hell out of you. But the details in this meticulously crafted set are worth a few screams over. Really, it’s uncanny. 

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

3. This freakin’ guy 

In life and in Tethered, Josh Tyler totally sucks — and Halloween Horror Nights gets that. 

When you enter the Tylers’ home (immediately after almost being crushed by a Jeep no less), you’ll see Dahlia and Tex doing their creepy things. Tex will come at you for the jump scare from a closet on your right, but if you can brave it, keep watching him. He’ll pull that fake-out handshake gesture from the movie and you will leave with chills.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

2. A wandering case of Jeremiah 11:11

OK. I got really, really, really lucky on this one. If you just so happen to be in the right place at the right time, you might catch a glimpse of the Jeremiah 11:11 guy joining a tour group. He stealthily slides in with visitors sans scares, and walks through the maze with the same aimless terror seen in the film. 

Once he has reached the underground world of the Tethered, he’ll swap places with the Tethered version of himself and the more threatening Jeremiah 11:11 guy will wander forwards. It’s subtle, but excellent. Pray to Jordan Peele you get a chance at this scene.

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

1. Tethered across the exit

Whether you loved or hated the ending of Us, you’ll have no choice but to admit: Halloween Horror Nights recreates it impeccably.

Of course, Universal couldn’t depict miles and miles of Tethered holding hands under hovering news helicopters. Instead, the maze’s finale is a small room, jam-packed with at least a dozen Tethered holding hands in a way that seemingly prevents you from exiting the attraction. Struggle to find your way out for even a moment and you’re sure to get swarmed. Happy haunting!

Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Us,' 'Stranger Things,' and 'Ghostbusters' to spine-chilling life

Image: HAMILTON PYTLUK/UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD

Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights runs select evenings Sept. 13 through Nov. 3. Tickets are on sale now. 

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