The movie Ghostbusters is a pop culture classic that spawned a sequel, one reboot with plans for another, an animated series, a video game and... too many things to list. Still, it’s never been part of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood until now.
This year, the 1984 crowd-pleaser is front and center at the park’s popular, seasonal event, filled with scary mazes and other Halloween fun, underway now through Nov. 3. It’s one of several pieces of pop culture, including Stranger Things, Killer Klowns From Outer Space and Beetlejuice, showcased on its Throwback Thursday nights, special events with ‘80s music, themed eats and more.
John Murdy, the creative director for Universal Studios Hollywood, says it just felt like the right time to include Ghostbusters.
“I’m a big fan of the film,” Murdy tells Yahoo Entertainment, “but I think what made it particular to this year was both the fact that there was the 35th anniversary this year, and Sony had a huge celebration of that, and also the fact that there’s a new film that is going to be coming out next summer.”
In the past, he had never considered Ghostbusters for Halloween Horror Nights. After all, the Ivan Reitman-directed film isn’t a straight-forward scary movie.
“When I brought Horror Nights back in 2006, our earliest mazes that we did, [all] based on movies, were almost exclusively slashers,” Murdy says. “They were Freddy and Jason and Leatherface and Michael Myers, and in the very beginning of the event, I narrowly defined our events in those terms: This is what we do.”
Murdy and his crew — which now includes up to 1,000 people working on the mazes year-round — began rethinking their approach to what qualifies as horror when they did Walking Dead-themed mazes in the last decade. The zombie show was the first TV series featured. Then came Netflix series Stranger Things and other, more complex horror projects, such as Us, which the maze designers wanted to include, too. Ghostbusters finally made the cut.
“The maze is absolutely in the spirit of that movie,” Murdy explains. “Literally, the first thing you see when you walk in the maze is Janine answering the phone, ‘Ghostbusters, what do you want?’ She’s not scaring anybody intentionally. It takes on a different level of theatricality and how you design and block the scene and the performance that’s required of the actors.”
Ghostbusters fans will notice Easter eggs aplenty, from the commercial playing on the TV inside a re-creation of Dana’s apartment to the Scoleri Brothers, the scary siblings who were electrocuted in a courtroom scene in Ghostbusters 2. Spooks from the 2016 version of the film float onto the scene, too.
While there are challenges to creating the mazes in any year, Murdy says this one, which has 10 mazes, was a doozy, “very, very heavy” on special effects. He used Stranger Things as an example.
“Season 2 has the Demodog, which is a four-legged creature that is all done with computer animation. The Mind Flayer, which is again all done with computer animation,” Murdy says. “We also touch on Season 3 ... that’s all done with computer animation. So we have to translate all of these things that are done with CGI into physical, what we would call practical effects, which would have been how special effects were done when I was growing up. What we do is live. Computer animation doesn’t work in our world.”
Ghostbusters was no different, thanks to Terror Dog, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and other baddies.
At least Murdy and his team can and often do turn to the people behind the properties they’re working with, if they have questions about source material or how they’re doing at capturing a story.
“I just spent the last weekend working with the choreographer from [Us], who designed all of the movement for the Tethered, Red and all the other characters from the film,” Murdy reveals. “It was so important to [director] Jordan Peele and to us to get that right, that we brought the choreographer in to work directly with our cast, and it really shows.”
Other mazes are baed on the 1982 George Romero movie Creepshow; the 1943 horror classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man; the Rob Zombie-directed movie House of 1000 Corpses, from 2003; The Walking Dead TV show and the 1988 cult classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Two of the 10 mazes are original stories, “Holidayz in Hell” and “The Curse of Pandora’s Box.”
How well do you know Ghostbusters? Take our quiz and find out:
Halloween Horror Nights run on select nights now through Nov. 3. Tickets are available online.
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