If the ghostly howling in one of the haunted houses in Universal Studios Singapore (USS) does not freak you out, the bloody props and gory setting probably would.
As I carefully walk past a sign that says, “Welcome to Hawkins”, with a group of other adrenaline seekers, the eerie silence projects fear in my heart as we wander around in the darkness.
We cautiously enter another room. The weak light from a lamp starts to flicker. Suddenly, a creature jumps out from one of the windows – it was the nasty Demogorgon!
The creature proves to be quite a scary sight as we scream in fear and quickly walk towards another door in a bid to escape.
This pretty much sums up my maiden experience in a haunted house at USS Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).
USS’ Halloween Horror Nights 8, now in its eighth edition, is creeping visitors out this year with an “Infinite Fear” theme. One of the main features of the event is the theme park’s first ever tie-up with Netflix, bringing its popular TV series Stranger Things to life.
Set in 1980s in fictional Hawkins, Indiana, the series follows the story of how a young boy named Will Byers gets sucked into another portal called The Upside Down. His mother, brother and rag-tag group of friends desperately try to find him but to no avail, until a mysterious young girl named Eleven shows up in their sleepy town.
The big monster from Stranger Things is called the Demogorgon, a humanoid-like living thing with the head of a giant flower that is covered in sharp teeth. Or something like that.
Apart from the Demogorgon, a few other characters are also featured at USS, while replicas of iconic scenes and rooms – such as the Byers’ living room decked out in Christmas lights, and the eerie woods that are part of the Upside Down – are nicely set up.
Fans or even folks who have not seen the series will enjoy the artfully-recreated scenes.
Halloween Horror Nights 8 creative director Markham Gannon says that although the Stranger Things haunted house is also featured in Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando in the United States, each one works independently and the technical aspects of the haunted houses are all different.
“Obviously there are some similarities of iconic scenes as we are based on the same series but we are doing totally different stunts as we have different spaces, constraints and advantages.
“The most challenging part is to meet visitors’ expectations of the haunted house,” he says during a preview of Halloween Horror Nights 8.
Apart from Stranger Things, USS is showcasing four other haunted houses featuring popular Asian horror tales such as Killuminati, The Haunting Of Oiwa, Pontianak and Pagoda Of Peril. There are also two Western-themed scare zones called Apocalypse: Earth and Cannibal, three live shows and a Zombie Laser Tag session.
The scare tactics used in the Pontianak haunted house are by far the most horrifying as “scare actors” (the actors who spook visitors in the haunted houses) all dressed in white with dishevelled long hair will come flying over your head and jump out of nowhere! To make things more authentic, it is set in a wooden house with lots of banana trees growing around it.
Meanwhile, the Killuminati haunted house features a centuries-old secret society of vampires. Prepare to be separated from your friends in this house as it has several entrances, with each door leading to entirely new experiences!
If you’re up for it, you can challenge yourself to interact with the characters inside each of these rooms. I was told that if I were to interact with a vampirish-looking dancer on stage, I would be brought to a secret door ... too bad I did not have time to try it.
In the The Haunting Of Oiwa house, visitors are transported back to Japan’s Edo era and come face to face with the wrath and vengeance of Lady Oiwa who returns from the dead to seek revenge after being poisoned by her unfaithful husband. The disfigured part of her face gives me the creeps and the scare actors yelling in Japanese makes the whole experience even more realistic.
The Pagoda Of Peril house promises a frightening journey for visitors as the house traps all sorts of malevolent demons and spirits. So if you dare to go into that house, you will get the chance to meet them.
Sunny side of things
Although Halloween Horror Nights 8 is the main feature this month (since Oct 31 is Halloween) at RWS, there are other fun new things to do there, if you’re not into any of those scary stuff.
At the S.E.A Aquarium, visitors can catch a glimpse of quirky real-live creatures such as the bumphead parrotfish, elephant fish, vampire fish and paddlefish. These fishes actually fit the Halloween theme thanks to their bizarre anatomical features. The aquarium is one of the few in Asia to feature such species and to educate guests on marine life.
The bumphead parrotfish, for example, has a bulbous forehead and powerful beak. It can grow up to 1.3m in length and 46kg in weight, making it one of the largest reef fishes.
The elephant fish is found in the deep ocean and is so named because of its flexible, trunk-like projection at the tip of its long snout which it uses to probe the sea floor for shellfish, small fishes and invertebrates.
Families can also have a fun enriching time with their children at the Ocean Dreams sleep-over programme where they can get the rare opportunity of exploring the aquarium after hours.
At the Dolphin Island we get the chance to be up close and personal with the highly intelligent mammal. After a short safety briefing, we suit up to get into the water with the trainer. We meet a female dolphin named Tian Tang (Heaven), gently touch its body and even give it a little kiss.
As the trainer is about to motion the dolphin to perform some water stunts, it quickly swims away, leaving us clueless. The trainer explains that the dolphin’s pup is in another water lagoon and that she is just checking up on it.
“It happens sometimes and it is an animal’s instinct to look after their kids, so we cannot force Tian Tang to stay. We have to be patient and wait for it to return after ensuring its pup is safe,” the trainer tells us.
Sure enough, after about five minutes, Tian Tang reappears and the trainer continues to enlighten us about a dolphin’s habitat and behaviours, as well as sharing her experiences training them.
For visitors who prefer to stay indoors, you can head on over to the Maritime Experiential Museum, which is finally re-opened after nine months of extensive overhaul and reconceptualisation.
It now includes new interactive exhibits such as Learning to Navigate, Pirate Encounter, Maritime Coin History, Ports of Call and the Singapore Maritime Legacy.
Housing a total of 15 unique galleries including five brand new zones featuring never-before-seen content and installations, the revamped attraction will engage the senses of guests through a combination of state-of-the-art visual projections, multimedia shows, interactive hands-on exhibits, olfactory experiences and plenty of stunning displays.
I particularly enjoyed the immersive Typhoon Theater, a must-see anchor attraction that simulates a sinking ship in a treacherous storm as I thought that the experience felt quite real.
The group of Malaysian media invited to the preview was treated to a two-night stay at Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, where we had an exceptional culinary experience with lots of restaurants and eateries scattered across RWS.
I enjoyed my dinner at Teppan by Chef Masayasu Yonemura, chef-owner of the acclaimed one Michelin-starred Yonemura restaurant in Kyoto, Japan.
At the restaurant, diners not only get to eat quality wagyu beef and seafood, but they are also treated to a display of expert culinary skills in live teppanyaki cooking.
The USS Halloween Horror Nights 8: Infinite Fear will run until Oct 31. To get your tickets, go to halloweenhorrornights.com.sg or you can just get them at the venue itself.
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