After The Last of Us fans had the opportunity to relive Naughty Dog’s epic survival game earlier this year with the first season of the critically-acclaimed HBO series, Universal Studios Orlando is ready to open its doors to the most immersive experience from the franchise yet. As the theme park announced over the summer, The Last of Us has its very own Halloween Horror Nights attraction this year, and I had the opportunity to step inside it ahead of its opening night.
On Friday morning, I, along with a small group of other journalists, ventured inside The Last Of Us house at Universal Studios Orlando with Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann and the theme park’s Senior Director of Entertainment Creative Development, Mike Aiello. The pair introduced us to their ambitious two-year passion project to bring The Last Of Us to Horror Nights just hours before the runners, clickers and bloaters make their debut at the attraction’s opening night. Not only are the details absolutely incredible, but the fear factor is absolutely there – especially when it comes to the sensory experience they teased. Discussing the attraction, Druckmann told us,
The high level goal was how do we put you in the game? And I know some people will argue, it's like, ‘Well, you know, when you're playing the game, you're already in the game. You're like, you're Joel, you're moving around, you're looking everywhere.’ I was like, 'Yeah, but what if we take that 2D frame that you have on the wall and we break its borders and we surround you in it and engulf you in it?' And it's the sounds, it's the texture. You could touch the wall, you could touch the fungus growing on the walls. You could see Joel, you could smell like burning corpses in the thing. So, as far as how to make sure people don't actually have a heart attack, that's up to this team and how they pace it.
Excuse me… burning corpses? As Druckmann shared as we walked through the house’s set, seeing the attraction is only about 50 percent of the actual experience. The team at Universal Studios Orlando (and Hollywood) thought of everything, from carefully weaving in Gustavo Santaolalla’s emotional score, to having runners, clickers and bloaters in scares throughout the house.
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CinemaBlend went backstage to The Last Of Us haunted house at Universal Studios Orlando on Friday, September 1, just ahead of opening night.
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Terrifying images are riddled with familiar imagery from the 2013 game.
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We spoke with Mike Aiello, Senior Director of Entertainment Creative Development at Universal Studios Orlando and and Neil Druckmann, Naughty Dog co-president (left to right) in the haunted house after getting a preview of the attraction.
The Last Of Us attraction not only sees the original voice actors reprising their voice roles, but Ellie and Joel will guide and protect guests as they experience the whole thing. Druckmann continued,
This thing is paced extremely well, like surprising you, keeping you engaged, but also sometimes it's a moment. It's not about the scare. It's seeing Joel and Ellie interacting with each other and it's like the whole thing comes together to make you feel like you survived the journey instead of just like, ‘Oh my God, I got ten really cool jump scares’.
The attraction takes place in a Quarantine Zone in Pittsburgh and includes tons of nods to the 2013 game that just celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. It’s not only the house itself; The Last Of Us is taking over a whole section of Universal Studios Orlando. Mike Aiello spoke further about what to expect about the exciting Universal Halloween Horror Nights attraction, saying
It is sensory, like in full sensory because there are certain attacks that we employ, even water effects so that as that clicker is attacking you, as if that infection is spreading to you, we employ all of those things to be able to affect the guest – not only sight, sound, but also touch in some instances.
Druckmann and Aiello have clearly really thought through how to make The Last Of Us game feel like a real place one can step into, right down to some gross details like the smell of burning corpses. You can experience it yourself from September 1 to November 4 at Universal Studios Orlando and September 7 and October 31 at Universal Studios Hollywood. We’ll continue to share more coverage from our experience at the theme park here on CinemaBlend along with sharing updates as they come for The Last of Us Season 2.