First I want to start off this blog post by saying that I am in no way an “insider,” or know really anything about anything. I’m a die hard fan of Jurassic Park (big shocker there,) and Universal theme parks in general. I can only speak on behalf of the experiences I’ve had, what I’ve read in articles as well as other postings online, and also from what I’ve heard from interviews. I’m just a nerd, with big thoughts and big questions.  Also, for a majority of this post I’ll be talking mainly about Universal Orlando although it does not totally negate the dynamic of Jurassic Park at Universal Hollywood.

Secondly, I’ll start with this:

 

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I received this letter… oh, back in 2004 when I was 12 years old. A little bit of context to the letter: in 2003 my family surprised me with a trip to Universal Orlando for my birthday. This was a BIG deal. Literally ever since I knew that Universal Hollywood had a Jurassic Park ride I had wanted to go. When Orlando announced Islands of Adventure and their Jurassic Park island (called Isla Adventura for those who are wondering) I was dead set on going at some point in my life. The problem was a trip like that is that it’s obviously expensive and I was never sure I was going to be able to go. Then came my 12th birthday and my parents absolutely shocked me when I was handed the plane tickets for our Florida getaway.

That trip in and of itself is an entire grand memory and filled with stories I may sometime divulge. But for now all you need to know is a few things:

  • From that moment on Universal was set in stone as my theme park destination of choice
  • Jurassic Park awed me
  • Not all of the Jurassic Park area was open.

You see, unbeknown to us at the time Universal had closed down both the bottom half of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, as well as their Triceratops Encounter. At this time Universa was working on that years Halloween Horror Nights, and they were using the Jurassic Park area for a zone and these specific areas for two houses- Jungle of Doom, and Psycho Scareapy.

Once I got home my first instinct was the write to Universal and tell them how amazing of a time I had (mind, this was the days before Twitter and other forms of social media like that.) In that letter I told them how much fun I had, as well as how much I hope to attend again in the future so that I could hopefully get the full experience (since two of the attractions were closed) as well as attend Halloween Horror Nights- which I very quickly became enamored with as well.

Months went by and I had all but forgotten about the letter, until the gem I posted above arrived at my house. I was so excited when I got this. Like, beyond excited. Not only was I getting a letter back from Universal directly, they were telling me special information about their Jurassic Park area. A new attraction was going to replace Triceratops Encounter? No way! While I always wanted to experience Trike Encounter, I couldn’t not be excited for the idea of the Jurassic area getting some new love! It had been two years since Jurassic Park 3 and this was right on the cusp of Jurassic 4 going in to perpetual limbo for a LONG time. I was excited.

But then years went by and… nothing happened. Nothing came of this “new” attraction, and Trike Encounter remained closed. So now not only were we not getting any new movies as the years passed,  but the Jurassic Park rides/areas at the Universal parks were seemingly getting little to no attention as well.

 

Then came 2009 and this is when I made my second trip to Universal. It was kind of an early high school graduation and birthday gift to myself. Not only would I be returning to the park, but I would be going to HHN for the first time that year as well.

Much like the first time I ever went I had an amazing time. Construction was just beginning on Hogsmeade and while I felt a little territorial about Harry Potter encroaching on the Jurassic area’s space- it looked awesome. This time I also got to experience the Discover Center in all its glory. But two things really were itching at me in my mind: one being that I just couldn’t understand why Trike Encounter was still closed if they planned on doing nothing with it. The second being, despite all my love for it and how technically amazing it still was… once I removed my rose colored glasses it was hard to deny that Jurassic Park River Adventure was aging. It had been around for over a decade now, and some aspects were just really not up to par with where you could tell they originally were. Slow mechanics, and several effects and dinosaurs not working at all. This caused me distress because I realized that the license I loved most just really was getting no attention or care for at all. Period. All around. Nobody seemed to care about Jurassic Park. I’ll hit more on this point later but just know that at the time, while I don’t mean for it to sound as overly dramatic as this does- it stung.

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Image from Behind the Gates

There was a final note though to this trip. Anybody who’s ever been on the River Adventure may recall a giant mockup of the island at the beginning of the ride. Each area is pointed out with a red tag. If you go to the back side of this island though you will see a red tag that reads “Jeep Safari.” Literally every other tag on this model corresponds to an area physically in the park… except this one. My first thought was that this had to have been the ride that was originally planned to replace Trike Encounter. But what happened to it? We’ll get to that later.

 

Hop forward to 2013. I am going to Universal in September of that year again for research concerning my senior thesis covering horror in theatre. To say that was all I was doing down there would be a downright lie because obviously I spent the days at the park, but at night I was doing “research” by attending HHN. By this point Hogsmeade had been opened, and literally a week after Jurassic Park 4 (before it was given the title Jurassic World) had been announced and had a release date. I was PUMPED. When I got to Universal it hadn’t seemed like a lot had changed in terms of their Jurassic area. And it wasn’t like I expected a complete overhaul overnight because of the new film. But I was excited for the future. I though “hey, this could really get things started” and JP could finally be getting some much needed love. The ride still was aging, and there seemed to be even more mechanical problems now than there was when I last went in 2009. The only thing that the JP area was getting that was new (at this time) was street games where you could win prizes, and they weren’t even operational yet.

Earlier in 2013 there was an official notice that went online for the JP ride going through refurbishments. While  it’s well known that many/all the rides go through yearly maintenance word of this spread like wildfire in the JP fan community, as everyone was expecting something big to happen with the newly announced Jurassic World AS WELL AS the fact that Jurassic Park was reaching 20 years old and Universal was re-releasing it on 3D. When the ride reopened though… nothing had changed. The animals got a few color tweaks on their skins, but that was it. Nothing majorly new had been done.

Then came 2015. Jurassic World was literally around the corner and… it seemed like Universal had nothing planned. While I still tend to think that Jurassic World had some fairly decent marketing, I do concede that it wasn’t as strong as it could have been and many fans though it was even less than that. Many felt that Universal was not pushing it as hard as they should have. Now I know everyone thinks their fandom or interest is special, and obviously I’m no different. Jurassic Park really helped shaped my life; my interests, creativity, goals- everything. So I wanted it to get the attention I thought it deserved. What I couldn’t (and still don’t) understand is why Universal seemingly couldn’t see it. Jurassic Park was, for the longest time, Universal’s highest grossing franchise and was only recently passed by the Fast and the Furious franchise (which I would like to point out only surpasses Jurassic by $300 mill, but has seven (soon to be eight) films. In other words Jurassic has done WAY more for Universal with less. ) And Universal is treating it like it’s this outsider property. The fourth film took more than a decade to develop, the rides at both parks have been slowly wearing down with only minor upkeep, and even with a new film finally underway it seemed like Universal wasn’t pushing it or doing anything exciting at their parks for it.

As the release of the new film crept closer everybody was surprised at the kind of presales Jurassic World was doing. A few weeks before the release of the film Universal Orlando surprises everyone with the opening of their Raptor Encounter (quickly followed by Universal Hollywood- both inspired by the “encounter” at Universal Singapore.) While it may not have been a new ride or anything many fans were excited to see Universal parks finally back in on Jurassic and hoped that it led to more soon.

Jurassic World released and smashed box office records just like the original film back in 1993. Nobody expected it to do that well, and many fans hoped that this would grab Universal’s attention. Yet there was seemingly nothing on the horizon. I made my fourth trip to Universal in September of 2015, and while the Raptor Encounter was everything I had hoped it would be, and I had an amazing time I couldn’t help but feel that there could be more. Why wasn’t Jurassic utilized at HHN (they don’t have to use the area at IoA, they could have just made a house)? Why wasn’t there any real updates to the ride, or elsewhere? Obviously there was tons of Jurassic World merch and signs, but… that was it. And there were no substantial news or new rumors anywhere that Universal had anything planned. Even with Universal Japan announcing that October they were going to build a new Jurassic themed roller coaster,  Universal stateside was mum on everything about the prehistoric franchise.

 

Now that I’ve recapped a lot of my personal park going timeline and experiences I’ll tack on some other info and rumors that have been long standing. Ever since 2010 (perhaps even before) there have been rumors of Isla Adventura/Jurassic Park being shut down and removed. I don’t know if there is any true substance to this, or if is just forum talk- but I’ve conversed with many who have suspected it. Jurassic Park was an expensive ride to build to begin with, and it has a lot to upkeep. There is a reason why not very many rides nowadays utilize animatronics and practical effects the way JP rides do and are now leaning more to “dark rides/screen rides”… their cheaper. Take Jurassic Park: The Ride’s $100 million price tag (and JUST for the ride mind you, that doesn’t even cover the rest of area) and compare that to the $256 million it cost to create the entirety of Hogsmeade. (that’s the Hogwarts ride, the area- everything.)  The thought was that Universal felt they were losing money in the JP area. By not having a new film or any new interest there was no point in the island. They could easily dismantle it and fit several cheaper rides in that area which would a.) bring in more guests, and b.) save them money in the long run.

A lot of fans have wondered why not just “fix” the problems with the River Adventure? Well, it kind of goes back to the price tag. The cost to completely rip out the existing mechanics of the current ride and replace them, or to add anything new is theorized by some to be “too much” for Universal. So while it’d be amazing for them to not only update their animatronics but perhaps update some of the dinos with more film accurate molds (I.E- like the stegos we see at Universal Singapore) overall it’d be easier  and more cost efficient to rip it all out and replace it with a newer, cheaper ride.

So why not replace it with a new Jurassic Park ride? Two theorized reasons:  One being contract stipulations with Spielberg possibly.  And two being that before 2015 Universal felt that there was no real interest in Jurassic Park as a brand anymore. No film, and not a lot of new merch meant that Jurassic Park was going extinct.

Now that there IS a new record breaking film (and let us not skim over the fact that the very limited 3D re-release of the original film tacked on an EXTRA $45 million)why don’t they build something new? And THAT dear readers is the ultimate question.  Luckily because I have nothing else to do with my free time, I have some thoughts on the matter.

 

 

The original ride, which first opened at Universal Hollywood took five years to develop and cost $100 million. That’s more than the actual movie itself. But the ride was a mega hit, and Universal quickly gravitated to copying and theming one of their islands at IoA around Jurassic Park. When IoA opened, once again Universal had a mega hit. Not only was there the ride but there was the Trike Encounter, the Discover Center, and Camp Jurassic with Pteronodon Flyers. Now, remember that little “Jeep Safari” tag on the model I mentioned earlier? Apparently it’s always been there.  Rumor has it that there was a “phase 2” prepared for the Jurassic Park area. In Jurassic World Claire Dearing says “The park needs a new attraction every few years in order to reinvigorate the public’s interest.” That was the idea here. Universal had plans on future rides happening because JP was so popular. The Lost World had just been released and there were already rumbles of Jurassic 3 in the near future. JP was a hot franchise. While spacing and land had always been an issue for Universal, they had specifically spaced out several parts to build on eventually.

Then11892202_1454710778189750_1240067115970479703_n came and went Jurassic Park 3, as well as all the plans Universal had for their Jeep Ride at the time. From what I’ve gathered it’s officially unknown as to exactly why it was fully scrapped but some theorize it was due to a number of reasons, the main one being that Universal feared that the Jeep Safari would have been too similar to Disney’s Countdown to Extinction/Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom.

Apart from the concept sketches of the ride not a lot is known about it other than the fact that it basically would have been a vehicle tour (like in the first film) that followed a similar plot to the River Adventure- everything is nice and calm until the final moments and you have to escape. A secondary theory I have about this ride pertains to another hidden Easter egg in the JP

Discovery Center. On the bottom floor there is a mural that crosses over the entire wall. On that mural (as well as the corresponding mural upstairs) every single species of dinosaur/prehistoric animal that is on there is represented… except for two.

One being these guys:

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Yeah. That’s right, Carnotaurus. Keep in mind that this area was being developed around the time that The Lost World was in production, and Michael Crichton’s book was being written. It’s long been thought that carnos were originally supposed to be in the film adaptation of TLW (like they were in the book) but were scrapped. My theory is Universal liked the animals, and wanted to use them in the Jeep ride eventually. But because a.) they weren’t in the films and b.) because of Disney’s use of those specific dinosaurs they didn’t use them.

 

The second animal not represented is this guy:

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Elasmosaurus. Not this is interesting because I’m not sure where it may have fit- but it’s a fun little find no matter what and makes me wonder if Universal had originally intended on having an animatronic Elasmo neck and head in their lagoon near JP.

All that being said, I want to give a shout out to current Universal character actors in the JP Discovery Center- I always ask them about these creatures and where they are in the park whenever I visit, and I always get really unique and interesting answers from each of them.

 

In-between the Jeep Safari being scrapped and 2013 there was rumors of another new ride being developed. It was supposed to take place in the mines on the island and while you were going about, raptors had also escaped and start attacking. Basically along the lines of The Mummy ride, but  Jurassic themed. Your cart would start in the open, then go through dark tunnels. During that transition though scratches and dents would appear on your6 cart after it had been in the dark or exposed to special kinds of light.

 

 

It’s also important to note that for a short span in the late ’00’s Universal reopened the Trike Encounter, but only seasonally- during the winter months.  They only did this for about two years though and then announced its closure forever.

Once Universal obtained the rights to create their Harry Potter world though is when a lot of fans of JP started becoming a little nervous. The new island would mean creeping in to some of the land that was specifically set aside for an addition to Jurassic Park and for many that signaled that perhaps Universal really didn’t care about Jurassic anymore. Slap on top the removal of one of JP’s main gates and the construction of Kong: Skull Island (which, oddly enough, is incredibly reminiscent of the scrapped Jeep Safari ride) fans were really starting to feel their paradise get smaller. No matter the fact that Kong too has dinosaurs… it’s just not Jurassic Park.

 

As it stands there are now two areas in the Jurassic Park area that currently have nothing in them. One by the Discovery Center, and the other is the entire rest of what used to be the Trike Encounter.

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While the area by the Discovery Center is seemingly small, it is feasible that something could indeed fit down there.  And where the Trike Encounter was is indeed large enough to fit something new.

I admit though that it becomes disheartening when seemingly everything else gets the attention you wish your favorite properties did. Universal Orlando is opening their Jimmy Fallon ride, Volcano Bay this summer, and their currently constructing their Fast and Furious ride. They’re also set to build and open their Nintendo Land  by 2020, and there are rumors of even more in store for Harry Potter, not to mention they also  purchased 450 acres of land to build on recently. That is all well and good, but what about Jurassic Park? When, if ever, will we see anything new?  That’s the question. I honestly think it would be unwise of Universal not to have something planned or be currently planning something. While I praise the work that Universal Creative does all around, and am thankful for the experience we already have- when compared to what Universal Japan has been doing, I don’t understand why we don’t have that here in the states.

Take a look at what is at Jurassic Park Japan:

 

 

 

The Raptor Encounter is hella cool, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad we have that! But why stop there?  I am sure the reason we don’t have these things boils down to costs, but the question I reiterate is- obviously Jurassic Park has pull, so why doesn’t Universal exploit that more? The movies make ridiculous amounts of money, and the current Jurassic World traveling exhibit is doing real well! So why such an absence of anything new at the parks? Even if it’s little things like trying to fit a mold of a trike from the closed encounter on the

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Art by Joshua Malone, inspired by new research on psittacosaur and their appearance in the Jurassic Park River Adventure 

Ride as an easter egg, or updating the look of the Psittacosaurus , or having a special screening event, or… well, anything?

 

 

In 2018 we have “Jurassic World 2” on the way, and Universal just recently announced they are re-releasing Jurassic Park once again next year in honor of it’s 25th anniversary. I’ll be really curious if Universal will announce something this year or next to coincide with that films release.  And Jurassic World gave Universal a TON to play with. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t enjoy a gyrosphere ride through a jungle filled with dinosaurs! I’ve also heard a rumor that Universal has considered closing their current Jurassic Park area and opening a new one/Jurassic World area on a part of their new 450 acres.

I’m also really interested in the future of the River Adventure. It needs some major work, and these yearly referbs I feel like just aren’t getting the job fully done. It’s still an amazing ride, don’t get me wrong. I will love it until the day I die; not to be too cheesy but it’s special to me (as is Universal in general.) But something obviously needs to be done with it to fix it. Universal has spent so much time and effort in to creating this immersive world for you to experience at their parks, and when you’re on a ride where the animatronics flake out halfway through their routine… it ruins the illusion. At the Hollywood ride the car doesn’t even fall anymore.  I would love to see these rides restored to their full glory, but also acknowledge that for something like that to happen they would a.) have to be closed for a while and b.) Universal would have to feel like they’re getting out what they’re putting in.

 

The love for dinosaurs is… ahem, universal. I think the recent success of Jurassic World (despite if people think it is a good movie or not) proves that the franchise still has life in it yet, and that the general public craves more. Universal has a great opportunity here to take this franchise and run with it again- the ball is in their court. When I look at classic promotional videos like this:

It makes me incredibly nostalgic and giddy. They put so much care and pride into these rides/parks originally and I would love to see that come back.

 

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Jurassic World

Excerpt from:

Jurassic Court: Inside the Proceedings of the Jurassic World Incident

By Michael Winston

A little over two decades ago John Hammond sat in the very same courtroom in San Diego that Claire Dearing, the now former Jurassic World Senior Assets and Operations Manager, sits- under very similar circumstances.  As the proceedings began the room was painfully still and quiet. Everyone was tense, especially Ms. Dearing.

A year and a half ago on the island of Isla Nublar an animal we now know to be the Indominus rex (a new carnivorous dinosaur which was set to be an upcoming new attraction to the park at the time) had broken out of its enclosure. In doing so several employees of the park were killed as it began its rampage across the island towards the main resort. The creature also broke through and subsequently caused the release of several other species of animals on the island, including the park’s aviary which released Jurassic World’s dangerous pterosaurs upon visitors. The parks guests and most of the staff had little to no warning and no means of escape, and subsequently many were injured or worse. It wasn’t until darkness had begun to fall on the island before the first ferry arrived on the island to take people away from the nightmare to a medical center on the mainland.

While there are many more factors and individuals involved, Ms. Dearing has come under intense fire of her handling of the situation. “It was a very unforeseeable accident,” she had said last month before a preliminary hearing. “Nobody could have guessed what was going to happen, and it was very unfortunate.” She then went on to say that while certain strategies could have been followed through better to ensure guest safety, she claimed that she had done all she possibly could.

Many are saying that it was not enough, especially after word got out that after the initial breakout of the Indominus she had ordered all of the rides and attractions north of the resort closed, but then quickly disappeared from her post leaving it to her subordinates to take control of the situation.

“She just left her staff high and dry, and ran off,” said head prosecution lawyer Bob Morris. There have been claims that Dearing was actually off with park staff member Owen Grady, attempting to rescue her two nephews that were also present on the island the day of the incident. “Look,” continued Morris, “she had a job to do and she failed to do it. Her incompetence led to the death and injuries of thousands. The creature should have never broken out of its paddock, people should have been evacuated earlier- it’s just as simple as that. She dragged her feet and then left the situation for others to handle. It’s inexcusable.”

A long year and a half of stipulation, scrutiny, and investigations over Ms. Dearing’s performance on the island resort of Jurassic World are finally coming to a head, and while this may not answer all of the burning questions about what happened, in the coming weeks there are bound to be at least a few answers.

“Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “Jurassic Park ///”, “Jurassic World” are Trademarks of Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures, and Amblin Entertainment.

 

3Once again we are finding ourselves in the approaching shadow of the haunt season, folks. The great thing about Illinois is that no matter where you are there never seems to be a shortage of haunted attractions (professional or non.)

I wrote up a list last year, and figured I’d do the same again this year. While there are tons of haunts that I am looking forward to this year and am hoping to hit in Illinois (including my own past haunt home of  Skellington Manor) I’m going to keep this list narrowed to the greater Chicago area. So without further adieu…

 

 

4.) Realm of Terror

(Round Lake Beach, IL)

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This is one of those haunts that, every year, gets consistently great reviews by the general public and critics alike. Stellar sets, and actors who are really on point… it is no doubt  a staple of haunts one in/around the Chicago-land area must visit.  Do note though, this isn’t for the faint of heart (well, really none of these haunts on this list are.) The actors are high energy and really invade your space. A general sense of unease creeps over you as soon as you line up in the que.

 

3.) Basement of the Dead

(Aurora, IL)

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Yep, this was on my list last year folks. Why again? BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS FREAKING AMAZING, that’s why! These guys continually build and put on one of the best haunts I have ever had to pleasure of experiencing. High energy acting, amazing sets, and full throttle scares from every direction. This place, no matter the night, usually has an insane line qued up at the entrance, and for good reason. They’re one of the best in the state.

 

2.) HellsGate

(Lockport, IL)

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Kicking up a lot of speculation this year is the infamous Zombie Army Productions latest haunt- HellsGate. Inspired by the urban legends of a haunted house found only in the forest that is multi leveled and so scary that if you make it all the way through… your ticket is free! This attraction is found the woods, is multi-storied, but you can only get your money back if you find a special key. Challenge accepted! While my opinions of Statesville range, there can be no doubt that I am excited about this haunt. Woods? Several floors of scares? Amazing sets and makeup?  SOLD.

 

1.)Fable’s Fright Nights

(East Dundee, IL)

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Topping our list again is Fable’s Studios. Last year their amazing experience Project Chaos was cut criminally short. If it’s any indication of what this group can do with an entire theme park, I’m stoked. For the past several months they’ve been doing a Zombie experience at Santa’s Village that has garnered a lot of praise. This haunt season they are turning the entire park into a nightmare with three haunts, and street experiences, and a chance to meet the legendary Krampus himself (all in all, this is very ala Halloween Horror Nights/Howl-Scream/Knott’s.) Super psyched to see what the talented and passionate creators at Fable’s have in store for us.

 

 

That’s it for my list this year! What haunted attractions are you dying to attend?

Catching Up to Do

Posted: September 12, 2016 in Blog

1I’d like to sincerely apologize in this moment for the huge gaps in my posts. The past few months… well, the past year actually has been incredibly crazy. Lots of downs and ups. It has been especially the past month though as many of those close to me know.

I feel like a lot of writers/artists/creative people always have stints of absence in their work. I’ve been focusing a lot of time and effort into my current webseries Dare to Chance, which is a kind of sequel to last year’s Jack’s Maniac’s series. That’s really been my only creative outlet for the past month though. I’m hoping that soon I’ll get back to making posts regularly again here- at least in some capacity. I want to thank those of you who still read and look through my old posts, and those who are checking back regularly for updates. Sorry that there hasn’t been more.

I will say, I think the past few months have given me a lot to write about. And with Halloween coming up, obviously there’s even more. I also have a lot of Jurassic stories still left to tell (and always will,) and some general acting muses. So stay tuned, and once again thanks for the support and understanding.

 

-Joshua

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Jurassic World: One Year Later

By Michael Winston

 

 

A year ago Jurassic World, a five star tourist destination that saw nearly 8 million people annually, fell in to chaos. Survivor Sally Benton remembers the event clearly, as if watching a movie.

“They just came down on us. A huge… flock of them, straight at us.”

It’s been a year since the devastating events that took place on Isla Nublar, and thousands of families are still feeling the effects.

“Every day,” says Sally, tears in her eyes. “We’re reminded every day, because he’s no longer with us.” As she referred to her husband and father of two Robert Benton, whose life ended protecting his young daughter from one of Jurassic World’s escaped animals.

Specific details are still sparse, but from press releases and insider information from various individuals a picture has begun to emerge.  At some point in the late morning of the day of the incident a large carnivorous dinosaur of some kind had escaped its paddock, causing the death of several Jurassic World employees. Many have speculated that this animal was the previously announced Indominus rex, a new attraction that was set to open in June of 2015, although no official confirmation has been made by Masrani Global or International Genetic Technologies (InGen) representatives.  The animal then proceeded to cross the island, unbeknown to many of the park guests. At some point in the afternoon the creature broke in to the park aviary where subsequently hundreds of animals known as pterosaurs escaped and owner of Jurassic World Simon Masrani died. The pterosaurs then flew towards the main resort area causing havoc, injuring and killing hundreds of visitors. All the while the unknown carnivore continued its rampage across the island breaking through several enclosures allowing for other types of dinosaurs to be released.  Park visitors sought refuge as the Animal Control Unit and InGen Security Division attempted to subdue the escaped animals and get a handle on the situation. It wouldn’t be until late that night before the ships would come to take the gathered survivors back to the mainland.

There were approximately 22,216 visitors on the island of Isla Nublar that day, as well as the parks several thousand regular staff members.  Hours after the primary evacuation a secondary rescue team was sent to Isla Nublar to retrieve any remaining survivors they could find. About a hundred people are, to this day, still unaccounted for and presumed dead.

“It’s not giving up hope, it’s just being realistic,” Michelle Cruz said whose father, Danilo Cruz, was an employee of Jurassic World. Danilo has been missing since the evacuation. “If they haven’t found him by now it’s unlikely that they ever will.”

Since the incident InGen and military taskforces have been present on the island. The UN held an emergency meeting shortly after the event last year, deciding the immediate control of the island. Newly appointed CEO of Masrani Global Edward Regis pleaded to let the InGen Security Division help with the recapture of escaped animals and search for missing people on Isla Nublar.

“We have an obligation to make sure that this incident remained contained to that island,” Mr. Regis said when asked for a comment after the UN meeting. “It is our responsibility, and we must do our share.  Our first priority obviously is to continue searching for remaining survivors. But we also need to makes sure that we do not have a repeat of what happened in 1997 or 2001.” Mr. Regis obviously is referring to the ’97 incident in which InGen, at the time with now late Peter Ludlow as CEO, brought a Tyrannosaurus rex to the mainland in hopes of opening a Jurassic Park destination in San Diego, as well as the 2001 incident following the rescue of Dr. Allan Grant, his assistant William Brennan, and the Kirby family when a trio of Pteranodons escaped the island of Isla Sorna.

On top of the extra security around Isla Nublar, security has increased around the island chain known as Las Cinco Muertes (“The Five Deaths”,) most notably around Isla Sorna which was the main manufacturing center for the original Jurassic Park as well as Jurassic World.

Outside of the rescue and maintenance teams though the UN has ordered to cease all other activity on the islands. The future of InGen and Masrani Global has also been called in to question. Masrani Global, while continuing their other operations in telecom and oil is no doubt feeling the heat, as stocks have drastically dropped. InGen’s security division has been the target some major scrutiny because of their poor management of the incident on Isla Nublar. Certain individuals, as well, are being closely investigated. Among those are Jurassic World’s Senior Assets Manager and Park Operations Director Claire Dearing.

“Why wasn’t the park shut down, and an evacuation ordered sooner?” asks a Jurassic World survivor who wished to remain anonymous. “If there was a breakout the evacuation should have happened immediately.”

“I’m sure Ms. Dearing did everything she could.” Mr. Edward Regis says in defense of the Operation Director’s actions. “In the coming months I’m sure the evidence will state as much. This was very unfortunate accident and our prayers and thoughts are still with the victims and their families.”

Claire Dearing was unavailable for comment.

The future of the “assets” themselves raises some questions as well. Today we find ourselves, essentially, in the same place we were before Simon Masrani obtained InGen and the islands from the late John P. Hammond. We have two islands with genetically recreated prehistoric animals, amongst other things. A trusted source from inside InGen gave details that Dr. Henry Wu, the lead geneticist of InGen (who too has been missing since the incident last year, and is presumed dead) was having his teams work on many more side projects other than just assets, and InGen is also known for creating new technology. All of these projects and undocumented/unreleased technology are sitting in a proverbial limbo at the moment, and what happens to them is unknown.

“And let’s not forget,” says University of California, Berkley professor Dr. Richard Levine, “the hundreds of fossil specimens they’ve collected. InGen had their own private paleontology teams and house the specimens they find somewhere. How many rare specimens do they have or even holotypes? Species and specimens that they have simply not published on. They also had twenty different living prehistoric species on Nublar alone, and we know from past instances that they have many others. What’s going to happen to them, and these fossils?”

Dr. Levine has been one of a few scientists who are petitioning to have the fossils as well as all data on the recreated animals to be made public, something that Dr. Wu and InGen never allowed.

More details about what specifically happened on Isla Nublar are bound to come into the light during the coming months, as official trials are set to begin in October. These trials will help determine the future of Masrani Global, InGen, and the individuals involved, as well as how the assets and islands are dealt with, along with the lawsuits from thousands of victims.

Regardless of the outcome of the trials it is unlikely that the gates of Jurassic World will ever be open to the public again. An incident that eerily echoed events that took place on the same island twenty two years before hand may finally be the end of a once great empire.

 

 

 

“Jurassic Park”, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, “Jurassic Park ///”, “Jurassic World” are Trademarks of Universal Studios, Legendary Pictures, and Amblin Entertainment.

Based off Characters Created by Michael Crichton and Scott Ciencin.

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There are lots of people and things that can affect your life but very few will ever change is. The Paleontology Program at the Burpee Museum of Natural History has changed my life, in the most amazing ways possible.

 

I remember being thirteen in 2005 and being so excited to visit the museum to see Jane, their juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. I’ve been a dinosaur/paleo enthusiast since I was two years old and was really amped to see this important specimen. When we walked up to the main desk I saw a brochure for volunteering on summer expedition with the Burpee to the Hell Creek. I snatched one up, and knew right then that I had to go on this dig.

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Myself (in the orange) on my first dig in 2007

The next two summers I saved up money from various jobs and in 2007 at fifteen years old I went on my first dig with the Burpee, and it was the best choice I ever made. I was so excited when I reached Camp Needmore, ready to tackle the coming week and looking forward to this new experience. After years of reading books and watching documentaries I’d finally be in the action.

 

It is now nine years later, and I have just returned from Utah where I was on my sixth expedition with the Burpee. Over the years I have worked my way up from volunteer, to intern, and now these past four weeks I was actually an officially employed field assistant. I remember during my first few digs how I’d watch Scott Williams, Josh Matthews, Katie Tremaine, and the other leaders teaching the volunteers, telling personal stories, and generally being a unit. I am now a part of that unit. I’m helping with the teaching and prep during the digs. Their stories are now my stories. I am a part of their family.

 

Beyond my growth within the Burpee itself, without the Paleo Program I would not be where I am today. It’s because of the Burpee that I ended up going to Augustana College (IL)- where I met many of my closest friends, and had other important life experiences. It’s because of the program and people involved that I’ve had the jobs I’ve had, and my life is on its current trajectory. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for people like Scott, Katie, and Josh.

Also, because of the Burpee Paleo Program and related events (like PaleoFest) that I’ve made incredible connections. I’ve met and talked with some of the top scientists like Jack Horner, John Foster, Phil Currie, Kristina Curry Rogers, and many more; I’ve had dinner, joked, and shared drinks with Mark Goodwin, Brian Switek, Eugenia Gold, and Mike D’Emic; I’ve sat and dug literally next to Jim Kirkland, and Thomas Holtz! Many of these people are paleo giants that I idolized growing up. I never thought I’d ever meet them let alone dig alongside them.  Yet here I am, doing exactly that all because of Burpee’s Paleo

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Thomas Holtz at the Burpee Ninja Turtle site in Montana. I’m behind the camera, trying not to scream.

Program.

 

I have learned so much about the science, personal work ethic, and (as corny as it sounds) myself because of this program. It has been invaluable to me as an individual.

It’s incredible to see how the Burpee has helped advance the science. Some of the most important papers and research in the last decade have ties to Burpee either by using their specimens, presenting it at PaleoFest, or from help/collaboration with the staff.

Since my first time going to the Burpee in 2005 I have been able to see the museum grow into a completely different entity mainly because of the Paleo Program. I’ve seen great new additions, including Homer’s Odyssey and many great traveling exhibits like African Giants, Megalodon, and Savage Ancient Seas. I’ve witnessed some of the best paleo symposiums ever including this past year’s Women in Paleontology PaleoFest. I’ve seen the Paleo Program strive to have new forms of outreach and education like attending Comic Cons, giving guided tours at dig sites, and hosting different family oriented events.  I’ve been able to see new people grace the museum’s halls and I’ve seen kids come back each year to events or digs and grow as individuals, exactly like me.

 

My life has forever been changed and I can’t imagine it without the Paleo Program or the individuals involved like Scott, Katie, and Josh. I owe a lot to them, their hard work, and their dedication. They are great mentors, scientists, and friends.

 

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From right to left: Scott Williams, Steven Landi, Josh Mathews, Eugenia Gold, Katie Tremaine, and myself.

 

 

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WB films/ DC Comics

 

As always, MAJOR spoilers.

You were warned.

 

When the first trailer hit for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice I was just as game as anyone. As a lifelong Batman and comic book fan this was a film I have been dreaming of for years. But as the subsequent trailers and TV spots were released, and more details of the film were spread I started lowering my expectations. I’m glad I did, because I think it actually allowed me to enjoy BvS.

Personally I think BvS was okay. Not great, and not bad- just okay. Which, to some, it might as well be bad- and I understand that ‘lukewarm- spew you out’ mentality. The flaws of BvS are obvious: rushed story and some weird character choices. When some of the things get to being cringe-worthy in the film it makes you wonder how a film can simultaneously have some of the best comic film moments ever. For all its flaws, this film has some amazing moments in it that the audience as well as fans will enjoy. But those moments make the bad sting just that much more, because you know that really… this could have been a really good film

 

The basic synopsis can be found everywhere now, so I won’t waste a lot of time on it. Basically we pick up nearly two years after where Man of Steel leaves off. The world is still

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WB films/ DC Comics

recovering from Zod and Superman’s battle (although… they seemed to have rebuilt Metropolis pretty damn fast) and people are torn on if Superman is friend or foe. Even Superman for the entire length of the film, until the end, is torn on if he feels like saving the world anymore. Batman/Bruce Wayne sees him as a threat though, a threat that must be dealt with before more innocents are killed. Ensues is their fight, but there is another force (Lex Luthor) that wants to see the world be rid of both of them.

 

 

Overall, as I said before, the film feels rushed. It literally follows the same pacing as Man of Steel, which is unfortunate. The first half, in my opinion, is actually great. Well-paced, and sets up a lot and had me invested. Besides one character (which I will get to soon enough) I was really in to this film for the first half and was actually wondering why it was getting all of the hate. Then the “Knightmare” sequence  happened and you’ll know right then that there is a sudden shift, you can feel it.  Something happens that is both cool and confusing and you know right away that that is how the rest of the film is going to play out then. And that’s how it starts. The confusion… the cramped story, that turns a good movie… cruel.

The rest of the film you really have to fight at times to keep straight. I mean, sure, you still understand what is happening: Batman wants to actually kill Superman, Luthor is [kind of] the overall puppet master and doing evil stuff, and there are other metahumans out there. Got it. But the why’s just seem to either get glossed over or left out completely sometimes. Which makes the resolutions to the problems happen seem less cathartic. You’re left thinking “this really could’ve been easily avoided if-”, or “wait, when did they find that out?” or “wait, why was this a thing again/how did that happen?” instead of focusing wholly on what is actually going on screen.  Great example: as much as I loved the actual battle between Bats and Supes, all we were really given before it was a brief training montage of Bruce in the cave- which I didn’t mind. But him creating the kryptonite gas he’ll use on Superman or any other type of planning he does for the battle is never really explained. It’s showed, somewhat, but unless you’ve read The Dark Knight Returns and KNEW that’s what he was probably making, you’d have no real clue what he was doing and then later when he uses it against Supes you’d be left thinking “wait, when did he make that?” More importantly, how? We’re never given any explanation to is this Batman is

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WB films/DC Comics

good at chemistry, or manufacturing, or… really anything other than fighting, being awesome, and some detective skills. I guess we’re supposed to already “know” that Batman can do anything, but it just doesn’t play out that way. When does Clark figure out Batman is Bruce, or Luthor figure Supes is Clark? Or how exactly is Doomsday created? I know it deals with using some of Zod’s body and Luthor’s blood and the genesis chamber… but, seriously, how? It just comes across as lazy story telling when certain things are glossed over. There are tons of other examples, sadly, that I could go on about but I don’t want to meander on the point.

 

The characters really suffer for the rushed second half. Relationships develop, plot points are revealed, and problems are resolved too quickly and in the end while hitting every major beat it just doesn’t feel… complete. What baffles me is the choice of what was included and what wasn’t. There are just some sequences that, while fun, didn’t need to be in the film and I feel like there are probably some that were cut (for crying out loud, there is another 30+ min being added for the BluRay release)  that would have served more of a purpose. Case and point, the Knightmare sequence. While cool I could tell that everyone in the audience who wasn’t comic book savvy didn’t have a clue what it meant. Yes, it serves as a key moment for Batman to decide that he needs to deal with Supes. But it was just all too much. In one scene it introduces us to Darkseid (without actually introducing

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WB films/ DC Comics

him,) and Flash and his powers, AND (kind of) the story of Injustice. It just didn’t serve any other purpose than to look… ahem, flashy and really bulk up a really non-existent side plot. Really it was a post credits scene in the middle of a movie. Actually, come to think of it, I feel like most of the second half of the film was just cut together post credit scenes. That’s the way it plays out. Cool, exciting eye candy that are just really cliffhangers that set up a bigger picture with no real explanation. All these cameos and winks are cool to see, but you’re left confused most of the time and wanting some actual substance.

 

 

 

Now, the characters.

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Yes. This is the one, single character that I didn’t find myself liking through most of the film… and not for the right reasons. The sad thing is, is that like the movie itself, there actually are moments that he nails it. They’re subtle, and very few, but when he does get it you know, and it’s wonderful. But then it’s all very fleeting and waving goodbye as it moves on. I don’t quite know what was the though process with this depiction. He plays out like a mad scientist half the time, which… in the very early days of Luthor in the comics, that’s actually exactly what he is. But it just doesn’t fit the tone of the film at all, and seems weird. Eisenberg is a great actor, and like I said- when he gets it, he gets it. My hope is that if he’s in future films he finds that center more than doing the twitchy mess we got. I will say, despite everything, this Luthor as some very evil moments.

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WB films/DC Comics

Next, Ben Affleck’s Batman. Holy. CRAP. This was, hands down, the best part of the film. Every scene he was in he just ate up. It’s sad that there wasn’t more. I can’t quite decide if I like this Batman more than the TDK/Bale Bat but… man it’s a close call. This Batman in every way was epic. Brutal, fierce, cunning, and just an overall bad ass. Now, here is the thing that I will bet a lot of people will be divided on: Batman and his “one rule.” Do we see Batman kill in this film? Yes. And… no. Defiantly in the Knightmare sequence we see Batman killing.  But the rest of the film I would argue that Batman doesn’t kill any more in this film than the Nolan Bat-films (with two exception.) The BvS Batman really follows that “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you logic.” In some instances he causes things to happen in which it’s possible bad guys would die but a.) that happens in the comics, especially the Frank Miller-verse (which this film is inspired HEAVILY by) and b.) once again, happens in the TDK films (watch ANY of the Batmobile chase scenes.) There are two exceptions. One possible exception is at the very end, where Batman causes a flamethrower tank to explode, but even then one could argue that maybe the guy is just badly burned, but if you argue that I feel like you’re grasping at straws. But as much as I love my non killing Batman… I have to admit, whether he killed the Lex flamethrower goon or not, that moment was amazing. And anybody who’s read The Dark Knight Returns knows exactly how it’s going to play out. “I believe you.” The other obvious (and probably most problematic) one is that he’s trying to straight up murder Superman. In the comics Batman has made contingency’s to kill Superman, so it’s not really like this hasn’t happened or could never happen in the comics. But it’s still kind of shocking to see, and a part of me wonders if he’s doing this to save people why hasn’t he killed to Joker yet… but you obviously shouldn’t be wondering too much about these things, right?

 

Another awesome surprise is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I know when she was cast a lot of people were skeptical, but man is she amazing when she’s on screen. The problem is  her inclusion is seemingly secondary and an afterthought that, while enjoyed and does tie in to the grand scheme of things, was obviously just thrown in there so that the film can

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WB films/ DC Comics

have that broader scope. While she might be ultimately unneeded she certainly isn’t unwelcome by any means. Her and Batman make this movie.

 

Now, for Superman. This is probably the character I’m most torn on. I think Henry Cavill does a fine job, really. The problem is that in a movie where they are trying to fit so much Superman’s story just gets lost and he’s left seeming really whiny and wishy washy. It’s just… not very Superman-like. Which was also an issue in Man of Steel. That nihilistic, brooding tone is great for Batman and something director Zack Snyder does well… but it’s not Superman. And his evolution goes way too fast. He goes from helping people, to kind of being pissed at people not being thankful, to not sure if he wants to help people anymore, to all of a sudden willing sacrifice himself for humanity. And while that seems like a typical hero arch, it all happens in, like, the second half of the film; a very short amount of time. And it’s this quick turnaround (along with some other aspects) that leave the ending, which I will discuss in a minute, feeling rather hollow.

Other mentions:

Amy Adams is great again as Lois Lane, but I think they used her in distress one too many times. It just got old.

Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred.

Diane Lane is great as Martha Kent again. AND we get a surprise return of Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) that I actually think is one of the best Superman scenes in the film. Felt the same way about his scenes in Man of Steel…

 

Now… on an overall note about geek/fan service of the film.  It’s there and it’s not, just like the rest of the film. There are aspects that comic fans will love, appreciate and are on point. Then there are others that just come out of nowhere and tamper with the lore. I could go on and on about my opinions on what they tampered with, but at the end of the day… I just think that comic fans have been a tad spoiled with what Marvel has done. I’m not saying we should expect less, I’m saying that… well, look at the Burton Bat-films. They don’t follow any comics, yet we love them (well, most do.) Try and be a little open minded. I’m not forgiving all aspects where this film diverges from the lore (I actually really hate how Doomsday was handled in this film)  but some you can see they were inspired by something in the comics or another movie and decided to try and do something new. If you want to discuss this note further I’m always happy to talk comic books and movies!

 

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WB films/ DC Comics

Now… the ending. The ending is actually something I called happening back in August when the first Suicide Squad trailer hit and have discussed with several people. Superman dies. I’m both happy that they stuck to the source material and a bit perturbed. Like I said before, Superman’s arch in this film was just really rushed and because of that I don’t think the impact of his death- his self-sacrifice is fully felt. Furthermore he and Batman’s sudden friendship and Bruce’s mourning and wanting to honor him feels rushed and weird as well. I get it but it doesn’t make it feel any less weird. In the comics Batman is so devastated by he doesn’t even appear at his funeral. While he attended the funeral here, they tried to give him the same level of grief I feel and I just… don’t get it. Literally, like 48 hours before you were trying to kill each other.  It, just like most of the rest of the film, feels a tad forced and rushed. If they just wanted to tell Superman coming to terms with being a hero then they just should have told that story ending with his sacrifice, instead of doing all this other side stuff with Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.

 

 

 

In the end while messy, I actually think Batman v. Superman  is enjoyable. I’m actually going to say the most recent comparison in terms of comic book films would be Amazing Spider-Man 2. So if you liked that film you’ll probably like Bvs. If you didn’t you probably wont, and if you thought it was okay (as I did) you’ll… well, you get the picture. A lot is shoehorned into this film making it feel busy and cramped. It’s not the second coming of hero films like I think a lot of people were expecting, but I also think a lot of people (especially critics) wanted to go in hating this film or certain aspects of this film. If you do that, really with any movie, you’re going to hate it. It defiantly is a film to go in to with few expectations and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are some really, really good moments in this film that shine through. It’s not comparably bad to films like Catwoman, Batman & Robin, Green Lantern, or last summer’s Fantastic Four. But it’s obviously no The Dark Knight or Avengers either. It’s obvious that, despite what they’ve said, WB/DC feels the pressure from Marvel/Disney and wants to catch up. The problem is they tried to fit what Marvel’s done in seven years, across countless movies and show in two movies over the past three years.  I think that the feedback from this movie will result in a few changes in how the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is handled, and hopefully for the best. If  BvS ends up being kind of the bottom film out of it all… I actually think I’ll be comfortable with that.

 

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have a different DC film I’m actually really anxious for to come out in a few months…

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WB films/ DC Comics

Hey everyone! Sorry for the major lag in posts. Life has been hella crazy the past few months since Dracula (the latest production I was in) has ended. But I wanted to take a moment and just kind of reflect on this past year as a whole.
It’s really cliche to look back on the previous year and say something akin to “man, it’s been a rollercoaster!” It’s also never been a very appropriate analogy in my eyes either. Rollercoasters are fun. This past year was more like standing in line for said rollercoaster.
You see the rollercoaster, and you get really excited and run towards it only to see there is a really long line. So you get in the line and begin your wait. And you wait… and wait. Then you hear the person in front of you start to talk about the last episode of your favorite TV show and you nervously pipe in and then get a genuinely good conversation started and you’re happy. But then the conversation peeters off and you’re left standing there feeling a tad awkward and go back to just waiting in line. Then a voice comes over an intercom saying that there is a delay of some kind and the wait is even longer. You have the option of getting out of line and going to that “other” coaster, which is probably almost as fun but you REALLY want to ride THIS coaster. So you wait, and wait, and wait some more. And it starts getting hot, and a couple behind you is starting to make out and you’re just standing there rubbing your head because you’re starting to get hungry also because you missed breakfast before you came to the theme park and just b-lined it to this ride because you wanted to ride it so badly! Sigh. But then… after such a long wait… it moves. The line moves, and you look around unsure if you’re dreaming or if it’s for real. You step forward, scared that you’ll be reprimanded somehow by seizing this opportunity of advancing yourself. Nothing happens though and you take a few more steps forward until you’ve caught up to the line again. Your heart is beating fast because you are close to the stairs that lead up to the loading platform of the coaster! You’re almost there; the wait is almost over and you’ll be latched in and on your way to 60 seconds of 50mph bliss! But now that couple behind you has caught up again and are up to their old smooch-anigans again and you’re standing near the garbage can. You feel that angst building up again inside but soon enough the line moves again and you can take your first step up that flight of stairs towards the platform! DEAR GOD, it’s (almost) so close! You can even hear the operator now saying “all clear” before the ride takes off. You can’t shake the grin on your face even though you know that it’s still a ways away before you’re seated AND you still have choices to make ahead- like will you go for the front row, and wait a little longer or risk getting a back seat ride? You don’t know, and you don’t care because you’re just that much closer and you want to be on this ride!
So, yeah. That’s how I feel. This year has had a lot of truly amazing moments and experiences but also a lot of… stagnant moments as well, for lack of better word at the moment. I know, I know- that’s life. I get it, that’s the way it’s always been. But my point isn’t to complain and whine but to be thankful for the adventure 2015 has been. I have met and made some amazing new friends this year and have also had an opportunity to strengthen relationships with people. I’ve worked on some incredible projects and productions, and know that it’s only the start. There has also been turmoil, heartbreak, and low points. But, as I’ve stated before, that’s going to happen. I’ve been able to get through it though, with the help of my family and friends (both new and old.)
As I look forward to 2016 I’m sure there are a lot more obstacles to overcome for everyone. I’m trying not to stress it though. I’m moving to the city and starting a whole new chapter in my life and stepping one step closer to that platform. I thank all of my friends and family for their love and support this past year.

HHN 25 is only my third time attending the event. The other two years were 2009, and 2013.But I’ve followed the event for many years and consider myself a “fan from afar.” When it was decided that I’d be attending this year I was excited. I’ve never been present during an anniversary year nor a year that Jack was present and he, as clichéd and typical as it is, is my favorite icon. I got really in to this year even before the event started, taking advantage of the whole “Jack’s Maniacs” craze to inspire a short webseries. So, truthfully, I was more than excited for this year. I was excited for the shows, the number of houses as well as the type of houses we were getting this year (save for one,) and I was excited because my girlfriend would be attending with me and she’s never experienced anything like HHN before. Sure, we go to plenty of haunts in our area (suburbs of Chicago) but she had no idea what an event like HHN entailed.  So when we got there on the 24th and waited in line and watched those actors walk up to the gate, I could barely contain myself.

When we first entered we made a B-line for FvJ, which I knew, based on people’s experiences the weekend before, would be a very busy house. So I wanted to get my first walkthrough out of the way as I felt like I’d defiantly want to do it at least twice during our trip.

Freddy vs. Jason

We did end up doing this house twice during our trip. The first time we went through it was still fairly early, and we had only waited in line for ten minutes. The second time was on or second to last night I believe, the 26th, and we did it fairly early as well due to the fact that on Friday it had gotten up to about a 100 min wait time at one point! I was hearing nothing but good things about this house so I had some really high hopes, and boy was I not let down. Doing this house first was a great way to kick off the event for us.

Upon entering and feeling that cold Crystal Lake air hit my face I couldn’t help but smile. My girlfriend latched on to my backpack and tagged behind me, not wanting to go first. Right off the bat, the first Jason got me. As we continued on several more of the hockey masked killers got me. Entering into Freddy’s world was awesome and there were some really cool “kill” scenes (including one of my favorites- “prime time.”) It seems like, in general, the house starts off wanting to scare you with Jason and then turns in to eye candy and less focused on scares during Freddy’s part then ends with a mixture- which makes perfect sense.  The dream/woods area was such a trip, and by far my most favorite section of the house. Defiantly harkens back to La Lloroa but still just as effective. In fact it’s in this area that I got my biggest scare. The last Jason in this area got me really good both times I went through. The final battle scenes were fun, especially with Freddy’s dialogue going on in the background. Both times we went through Jason was the victor, and that final Jason got us good as well.

The sets were amazing, especially once we got to 1428. The woodsy smell pumped in in Crystal Lake and the dream sequence was a nice touch, and (once again) the call backs to some of the best kills in both franchises as well as some great moments from the FvJ film itself really make this a slasher fans dream come true.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

Right after FvJ we hopped in line for Body Collectors, since it was right next door. We ended up doing this house twice during our trip as well

Body Collectors: Recollections

I have never experienced a Collectors house and was highly anticipating this one. It ended up being my second favorite house of the event!

Upon entering I just stood in awe of the façade. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen, and the snow effect just really was the icing on the cake. But… damn it, why haven’t they done a 30 Days of Night house yet!?… I digress. Anyway, the mood was set before you even enter and once you enter your skin is crawling from start to finish. The atmosphere in this house was nonstop amazing and really made this a complete world for me.

There were startles aplenty to be found here, but the scare that really got me the best was the assistant in the room with the spine. So to your right when you turn you will see one of the Gentlemen ripping out the spine of a poor victim. While you pass by gawking at the act there is one of the assistants who comes out snapping at you. Jesus, those actors got me good both times we walked through. I will say in general I experienced fewer scares the second time I went through, but I feel like timing had a lot to do with it. It’s fine though because the second time going through I got to experience a lot more of the scenery and set which was equally as chilling as the actors.

Another note is the theatrical techniques used in this house are absolutely splendid. This is actually across the board true at HHN but there were some real stand out moments in the event this year and BC has some of those moments. The shadow and scrim work in various points of the house along with the audio tracks on top of all of the splendid acting just sold this house for me. There was no weak link in this house. Also- that opening music at the façade, the edited version of Voca Me sends chills down my spine, I love it. I wish I could find it some place.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

After leaving Body Collectors we decided to take a walk through some of the street zones since it was getting later and the sun was finally starting to go down.

PsychoScareapy: Unleashed

This was probably the zone we spent the most time in during our four days, as was my second favorite scarezone. While actors are obviously the key element to all of HHN, the actors really sold this zone for me. Especially on the stages where they would ask people from the crowd to come closer and tell them very intimate, deranged stories. It was freaking fantastic and if you have an opportunity, listen.

Also the actors in the street were just plain fun. They were scary, but they were fun at the same time. They actually acted along with you a lot of times, building a really nice sense of security that they weren’t going to “do anything” but then when you least expect it is when they’d absolutely turn or come at you with a weapon. It was great. And the set pieces, especially the flaming gazebo were also really nice and helped set a mood for the area.

Scares: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

Scary Tales: ScreamPunk

This is the first scarezone you encounter once you enter the park.  While the centerpiece and the gobos (once it’s actually dark outside) offer some great sources of atmosphere this zone offered very little for me. It really depended on the actors for me as far as my level of enjoyment of the zone. My favorite one by far was the Wicked Witch whenever she was out. The costumes and makeup is gorgeous, it’s just that the actors seemed to do nothing but roam around, and only really ever tried to scare you if a.) you had a camera, or b.) already looked scared.

Scares: 1/5 (I will give kudos to a Wicked Witch at around 9 on the 25th though because as I came through the fog she leapt out at me and startled me)

Atmosphere: 2/5

Overall 2.5/5

RUN: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

This was the third house we did, and we only ended up doing it once. We could’ve easily had done it two or three times during our visit and a little part of me wishes we had been able to but at the same time it’s not that big of a deal for me.

I was excited for this house just because, once again, I had never experienced a RUN house. Judging by what others had said RUN was either a love or hate house in the past. Houses that have been in this location (Disaster) before in years that I’ve attended (which would be Havoc: Derailed and Leave it to Cleaver) were never houses that I enjoyed so I tried to remain neutral overall, and I’m glad I did. By not really expecting much I think I had a better time but this still proved to be the first house of the event to fall a little flat for me.

The sets were amazing, and the actors looked intimidating and great… there just weren’t a lot of scares going on. It was a lot of noise in this house and it just got to the point of a sensory overload for me so I kind of shut down during my walk through of it. While I loved the premise of it being in Hellgate and the general idea of the house I couldn’t help but feel like sections were simply just recycled scares from when the prison was used for TWD in HHN 23. Not a big gripe though as, once again, the sets are stellar to look at and the same thing was kind of done in FvJ as I’ve mentioned before. The actors though, for me, really lacked the energy that I was expecting- which is exactly what happened in Derailed a few years ago. In a house like this the actor energy is going to be everything and most of the time they just seemed to stand there. The only ones that seemed active to me were the ones you experienced once you got “outside” in the fenced area.

Scares: 2-2.5/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 2.5-3/5

All Night Die-In: Double Feature

Once you leave RUN you enter the Double Feature. This is probably my third favorite scarezone and while it does offer up many a chance for pictures, the actors do a brilliant job of scaring as well. Never once did I see one break character.

I keep going back and forth about which “feature” I like more, the old or the new but I think ultimately I have to go with the new. While I LOVE the costumes and makeup of the classic monsters and seeing so many of them in one place, the new slashers and monsters are obviously more vivacious and active.

There are some really good moments here like Jason trying to kill a young girl who then runs away in terror, and others. I always seem to get scared the worse in street zones when I try and take pictures. That’d probably because I’m so preoccupied trying to snap the shot that for a few seconds I don’t mind my surroundings. In the middle of trying to snap
a shot of one of the Strangers one of the female vampires snuck up behind me and hissed. I nearly toppled over. The same thing happened to me at a zone in HHN 23! My girlfriend had a good laugh!

Scares: 2.5-3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

After this point the rest of the event and the order we did things kind of becomes a big jumble to me, so the rest happened in no particular order.

American Werewolf in London

This was my favorite house in HHN 23 and while obviously I’d love for newer things I was still excited to experience this house again. My girlfriend and I had watched the film a few days before hand (her first time seeing it.)

Not a whole lot to say about this house other than it’s still great for all the same reasons it was before, and the few added scares were a welcomed change. Another welcomed change was the size of the wolves… just… wow. I loved the puppets from HHN 23 but these new puppets made those old ones look like puppies.

While I did coax her in to doing it twice, this was my girlfriend’s most “hated” house just because it freaked her out so much. Seriously. After the second time through she B-lined it out of the exit to the nearest bench and said “we’re sitting until I’m ready.” She refused to do it a third time, although wait times would have easily permitted a third walkthrough.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

Asylum in Wonderland 3D

I’m not a fan of 3D houses. Never have been and don’t think I ever will be. I don’t know but I just feel like the sensory overload that I experience when walking through these houses just makes it impossible for scares to really be effective in any way.

I will say though that AiW3D had some really awesome costumes and characters so even if 3D houses aren’t your thing there is plenty to at least look at in this house. It’s better than Afterlife, for me at least, which was probably the house I like the least in HHN 23. But still I only hit AiW once and that’s okay with me, although my girlfriend actually loved this house.

Scares: 0/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 2/5

The Purge

I was torn when what happened, well… happened to this house. I was looking forward to a house based off the Scream films but not the show. But a Purge house was something I always thought could work well and I was very interested to see what A&D did to the house post-debacle to turn it in to the Purge and to see if I could make out any of Scream influence anywhere.

You defiantly can, if you know the films and that’s all I’ll really say on the matter.

As far as it being a Purge house I thought that the creative team did a good job of changing things up. While I really disliked the constant gratified on the walls (some would have been okay but to me it was just absolute overload) other changes such as “purge security systems,” anti-NFA members, and other things here and there were welcomed additions. Something that people who have seen the Purge films would recognize and obviously something that really had to be worked on and added to the house.

Also the actor energy seemed to always be really good in this house, although the scares really depended on timing (although that’s really true of any house at HHN.)

While this house wasn’t my favorite house I will say that it probably incorporated one of my most favorite elements of ANY haunted house I have ever visited (or been a part of for that matter, since I’ve worked haunts for ten years.) That actually threw in “victims” into the crowd of guests who would then be taken by the purgers and killed. While this sort of thing has happened plenty of times before at HHN (see All Night Die-In: Double Feature review, as well as throwing in civilians into other street zones this year and past years) this was the first time that I ever really experienced it very intimately in a house setting. The first time it happened was the first time we went through the house and this young woman came out of a corner and cut us (my girlfriend actually went in before me our first time through.) This young woman said “sorry and she had gotten cut off from her group” and was wearing a Universal Orlando hoodie so we said it was no problem and that she could go in front of us. As soon as we rounded a corner a purger grabbed hold of this girl with a knife and dragged her screaming into a closet and slammed the door. My girlfriend screamed and had reached out for a second and I was just dumbfounded at what had just happened. We looked at each other and it had taken a full moment to realize that it was a part of the show. It happened again when were outside waiting in line to do the house a second time, only this time to the people in front of us. Another lady with a Universal hoodie, without asking, just cut them and they were all like “hey, what the hell” and the male purger with the mic outside noticed and said “Oh, you think it’s okay to cut in line?” and that started a back and forth between them which eventually ended with him saying “I think it’s time to purge. What do you people think?” I looked around and the crowed was all kind of looking at one another or awkwardly smiling so… I yelled out “PURGE!” This actress spun around and looked at me in shock (whether she was simply acting or just not used to people saying anything I don’t know) but that’s all the purger needed to start his advance towards her and then they ended “off stage” and we heard a big bang. This kind of visceral interaction is exactly what I want to see more of from HHN and the haunt industry in general. We’re starting to see it more and more with houses but I was glad that Universal’s creative team added that in because it was such a huge thing to me and just made the experience that much better for me.

Scares:3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead

This was the worst house for me, as it was for many other people. It also consistently, during or visit, had the lowest wait time of any of the houses at the event at any one time. I think the longest I saw it get was around 35 minutes on Saturday, but in general I don’t remember seeing it going about 25 most of the time we were at the event.

While the sets looked great and some of the gags were cool in the house (the slit throat at the beginning was probably the most wet I ever got in a blood gag in a house, and that poor horse (although awesome looking) was a low blow) in general there was just nothing. No energy from the actors and most of the other effects that were there just didn’t work… it just felt like it was thrown together because it “had to be there” (which depending on who you ask, that may be the case.)

Scares: 0/5

Atmosphere: 2/5

Overall: 1/5

Evil’s Roots

This was by far my favorite scarezone. Full of creepy atmosphere and amazing imagery it’s really what I wished HHN 23: Evil Takes Root was instead of full on Walking Dead fest (while I love the show it was just too much that year.)

The actors in this zone were really spot on for the most part really playing into the darkness and fog. During the day it’s not as powerful or intense as it is as night progresses. It’s really a zone made by Halloween lovers for Halloween lovers.

Scares: 3.5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

INSIDIOUS

This house… I only got to do this house once during our visit, and it was on the last day, and it frustrates me to no end. It was a great house, and I mean absolutely great in every way. The problem was everyone else seemed to think so too as the wait times typically ranged between 45 min to an hour or more while we were there. On our last day we B-lined it to this house wanted were some of the first people to go through it that Sunday.

The sets were amazing and intricate and there were a lot of really great memorable moments from the films present in this house. Now typically when there are “scenes” from the films being staged the scares (for me) generally lack in those moments in the past, but that was not the case here. Even though you were watching the scene played out the scares were perfectly positioned to get you at exactly the right moments. The timing is EVERYTHING in this house and every single actor was spot on from start to finish. Some hard work from the creative team and the actors was put into this house, and it pays off.

Scares: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

ICONS- HHN

This scarezone may not have been the scariest one but it had some really great atmosphere and some amazing vignettes by the main icons from Horror Nights past. My biggest gripe… where the hell is Bloody Mary!?

Defiantly spend some time here if you can, just to watch the stage shows. I wasn’t able to catch them all but I’m sure eventually they’ll all pop up on YouTube.  Also it’s great to see a bunch of lesser known characters and icons traveling around in the streets as well.

Scares: 2.5-3/5

Atmosphere: 3-4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Jack Presents 25 Years of Monsters and Mayhem

My absolutely favorite house at HHN25. It’s funny to me because really this is the kind of haunted house I’m used to- the kind where it’s mainly a bunch of random rooms thrown together that cover a wide range of fears and characters.

From start to finish this house oozes atmosphere and character. Some really great moments and characters that I have never experienced before were all present in this house and it made me so happy as a Horror Nights fan. I loved how it not only covered the history of HHN but also, in part, the horror history of Universal- including monsters such as The Wolfman, Hunchback, and Frankenstein. This house reminded me a lot of Silver Screams which is one of my favorite houses from 2009.

A lot of actors got me good in this house, but the one that consistently got be both times I went through was the first Ringmaster Jack, so kudos.

This house, on top of some spot on acting and breathtaking sets had some really neat effects as well- my favorite one being the scrim used in the picture hallway. As you walk towards the picture of Jack, if you look to your right there will be a ghost which appears through the wall and seemingly floats by you. As you’re distracted of course there is a scare (which admittedly got me as well.) But that effect is just brilliant and absolutely amazing. That was one of those moments that will be engrained into my memory forever.

Scares: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Overall: 4.5-5/5

The shows this year are amazing. Bill and Ted I don’t have much to say about other than it was funny as per usual, and The Carnage Returns was just plain fun. Defiantly hope that Universal decides to keep doing shows like Carnage because it’s incredibly obvious that the creative team loves putting them on. The number of inside jokes was well appreciated and the kills were brilliant. Wish that there was more of a “big finish” like there was in the original Carnival of Carnage show, but beggars can’t be choosers and overall the show was really entertaining.

I loved this event overall. I felt like there was a real return to some great creativity as well as a ton of callbacks to various things that has made this event so great for the past 25 years. Universal’s creative team really went all in with this year and it shows. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to another 25 years of this horrific event.

The haunt season is upon us faster than a drunk jock in a horror film. With many haunted houses opening their doors next week I’ve been trying to prepare myself (as well as my wallet,) planning which haunts I will for sure be wanting to attend this year. I live in the greater Chicago area so there are plenty to choose from!  I’ve managed to narrow down my five top choices which is what I’ll be sharing with you all. So without further adieu, let’s get started…

4.) 13th Floor Chicago

1940 George St., Melrose Park, Illinois 60160

I unfortunately missed his house last year, their first year in the area. While I heard a lot of mixed reviews as far as the scares go there was nothing overly negative, like some other first time haunts in the area. The sets and makeup are said to be spectacular, and with several other locations across the U.S they have to be doing something right!

They have two different houses  this year. One of them, Feral Moon, probably excites me the most! It sound very classic and deals with werewolves. This excites me as The Wolfman is one of my favorite classic monsters.  Dead End District: Wrong Turn seems like a pseudo Evil Dead/28 Days Later mashup of some kind in plot- which will be interesting. I’m not sure based on the description if these things are evil or if they are more zombie like. Either way, bring it on!

3.) Evil Intentions

900 Grace Street Elgin, IL 60120

Their story this year, The Awakening, sounds intriguing- basically centering around the idea that some ghost hunters have awakened a great evil in a local mortuary. I love houses with a story , so that just makes it all the better.  And this house just looks intense, and intense is what I like. Really expecting some great acting, on top of the stellar looking makeup and location they have going on.

2.) Basement of the Dead

42 West New York Street, Aurora, IL

This house launched itself into one of my top top five scariest haunt experiences ever last year. This house is utterly fantastic with some spot on acting and energy from beginning to end in the house, great twists and turns, great line entertainment. The website is advertising itself as bigger better and scarier this year and that the audience will ‘not recognize it from last year’ which really has me pumped. I am anxiously awaiting it again this year in all of it’s gory.

1.) Project Chaos

Right next to Evil Intentions

The latest from Fables Studios, advertising itself as a interactive haunted house- which just makes my life. Anybody who knows me know how much I love experiences like this. To actually be a part of the story make it all the more horrifying. They have a really planned out story for this year, and a great vision driving the haunt forward this year. I’m expecting an experience unlike anything else in the area with this haunt. Plus the fact that it’s right next door to Evil Intentions (in fact they have a partnership deal going on for tickets to both for just $40) is just an added bonus.

While these are just my top four, there are plenty others that I am looking forward too as well in the area. That’s the great thing about living near a populated area- never running short of haunts. Like last year, you can expect some reviews of haunts I’ll be visiting to pop up.

If you have any haunts in the greater Chicago-land area that you think are worth checking out, let me know in the comments!