Travel Story Houses of horror a fright night of note

Photo of Ebony Swetman

“This one is too scary for me, so I’ll see you on the other side.” 

It’s 8pm and I’m standing in the middle of Universal Studios Singapore staring at the entrance to a haunted house about a terrifying ghost called Pontianak.

Every few seconds I can hear a scream coming from within the house and the occasional terrified laugh. Sweat is running down my face. Is it the humidity or am I really that scared? The last  and only time I entered a haunted house, I didn’t even make it to the end. It was filled with wax figures from the 1980s and high school kids in terrible make-up, and I only lasted five minutes.

So naturally, I’m the perfect candidate to test  this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 8, an 18-night scarefest where, by night,  the theme park is transformed into the region’s premier Halloween event.

This year there are two scare zones — Apocalypse: Earth and Cannibals — two live shows, zombie laser tag and five haunted houses.

That’s right, I need to get over my fear five times tonight. 

Our guide, dressed as a nurse with her face painted like a red demon with blood running out of her hair, waves us towards the entrance.

“I’m not going inside this one with you,” she announces. 

“This one is too scary for me, so I’ll see you on the other side.” 

What a great start. 

There’s a good reason our guide leaves us on our own for this house. This year the creators of Horror Nights have taken  inspiration from both Western and Asian horror, drawing on ghost stories and legends from Japan, Malaysia and China. 

A Pontianak is the female spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth and preys on the helpless. I’m told it’s a common legend told to children and adults  throughout Asia.

In Asia, superstitions run deep and the Pontianak is one of their most terrifying ghost stories.

 So to see her brought to life is a stroke of genius. 

The house is filled with dozens of versions of the Pontianak, hiding, screaming, following us around and jumping out of windows. Despite my fear, I make it through the house and I’m shocked to discover I actually had a great time.

The special effects, props and the maze of rooms and outside settings have the kind of attention to detail that make you feel like you’re on a movie set. 

It makes the  experience both scary and fun.  This is no wax museum with shonky robotics and high school actors. 

Horror Nights has  transformed the theme park. Hollywood has been overtaken by Mother Nature and her creatures from below, while a man-eating tribe have made a home in Sci-Fi City and Ancient Egypt.

On the way to the next houses, we walk through a campsite full of cannibals and their  victims. 

There are fire pits, mounds of skulls and people trapped inside wooden cages begging to be freed.

As we navigate our way through, tribe members jump out, thrusting spears in our faces and threatening to eat us.  It’s gruesome and terrific.

 I’m nervous, darting out of the way of a lady who shakes a rope of skulls and blood in my face, but I can’t help laughing away the fear as I run towards our next three houses.

The Killuminati, Pagoda of Peril and The Haunting of Oiwa use a mixture of acrobatic stunts, interactive secret rooms and tense but well-crafted jump scares to instil this year’s theme of “infinite fear”.

Our last house is a huge drawcard to Horror Nights and the first-ever collaboration with streaming giant Netflix. Our final  house is Stranger Things.

Why wait until next year for season three of the hit show when you can visit Hawkins yourself? 

As a fan of the show, I’m giddy with excitement as we enter through Hawkins Laboratory and watch a scientist being pulled, screaming, back inside an elevator shaft. 

Key scenes from the first season have been recreated with stunning detail. 

Along the way, from inside the Byers’ house, to the forest and high school, the dreaded Demogorgon is following us.

 The walls move and twist, you can hear Jonathan screaming for Nancy as they’re separated among the trees, watch as Joyce tries to communicate with her son Will through Christmas lights and enter the “upside Down” from within the laboratory. 

This house alone is worth the entry fee.

We end our night with a game of zombie laser tag.

 It’s just like the classic game, except your opponents are hungry for your brains and will keep coming for you until you shoot them. 

Halloween Horror Nights is the perfect destination for fans of horror and thrill-seekers.

Just don’t let the Demogorgon get you. 

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