Halloween Horror Nights 23 starts on September 20 at Universal Studios Florida. This nighttime event runs on select nights after the park closes and attracts a hard core base of fans, as well as curious first-timers. This year, it will draw in a host of new guests with haunted houses based on familiar names like Evil Dead, The Cabin in the Woods, An American Werewolf in London, and Resident Evil. AMC’s popular Walking Dead series is also making a return visit and taking over all the scare zones, as well as one of the haunted houses.

Mike Aiello, Assistant Director of Creative Development for Universal Orlando’s Art and Design, talked to the media on September 10, revealing details of what to expect and what it took to put Halloween Horror Nights 23 together.

David Aiello of Halloween Horror Nights

Mike Aiello is the Assistant Director of Creative Development for Universal Orlando’s Art and Design

According to Aiello, creating a haunted house based on something as iconic as An American Werewolf in London was a painstaking task. “It’s something we’ve wanted to do for many years,” he explained. John Landis had the final say and would only give approval if the werewolf puppetry matched his standards, which meant being as impressive as the movie itself.

Aiello revealed that when the team was shooting video to send to Landis for approval, the werewolf actually made him jump in fear. “That never, ever happens,” he said. That was the footage that got sent to Landis, who have it the green light.

Werewolf of Halloween Horror Nights

Werewolf is really scarey

The team had fun with the intellectual properties, taking a creative approach. For example, Aiello revealed that because Resident Evil is based on the popular video games, they created a “pause” room that’s literally what it sounds like: you’ll feel like you’re in a paused game.

Not all of the 2013 haunted houses are based on familiar franchises. Guests will also find originals like La Llorona, based on the urban legend of a murderous mom, and After Life, a prison-themed haunted house.

Perhaps the most interesting original house is Havoc Derailed, a sequel to the Havoc Dogs of War house from a previous year. It was well known among fans because the scareactors working inside all shaved their heads, and Aiello revealed that they’re doing it again this year. In fact, many of the original scareactors have returned to the house.

Display of what to expect at this year's event

Display of what to expect at this year’s event

Havoc is located in the Disaster queue area rather than a sprung tent or soundstage, but Aiello gave his assurance that it will set a new quality standard for queue houses. You’ll actually go through a train and a derailment scene as you discover how the Dogs of War have been released to wreak terror.

Halloween Horror Nights is an extra cost event, and some nights sell out, so you’ll want to buy your tickets in advance at www.halloweenhorrornights.com. If you also buy a day ticket to Universal Studios Florida, you can stay in the park after closing time and get a head start on this year’s exciting houses.