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Scary movies come to life at Universal Studios Hollywood's 'Halloween Horror Nights'

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Even on a hot sunny afternoon, the "Saw: Game Over" maze for this year's "Halloween Horror Nights" at Universal Studios Hollywood can send a chill up your spine. That reaction makes John Murdy, the Southern California theme park's creative director, happy. He and his team have spent months working on the new attraction to make sure no detail is overlooked.

"Saw" is just one of four horror films that will be brought to life as part of "Horror Nights." Park visitors will also be able to go face-to-face with mazes based on "Halloween," "Chucky" and "My Bloody Valentine." There also are six new "Scare Zones," a stage production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute," a new "Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure" and the "Terror Tram" tour of the backlot.

The scares start at 7 p.m. on selected nights through Oct. 31.

Murdy says it's the details that have made "Horror Nights" increasingly popular each year.

"We work with the filmmakers hand in hand. We get access to what the music and sound effects editors use to compose the films, so that means I can isolate any sound effect, bit of dialogue or music string from the original files and sound elements that went into making the movie," Murdy says as he wanders through the maze located near the park's Revenge of the Mummy ride.

Murdy wanted to give "Saw" fans scares from all five films in the franchise. He used Twitter to create a list of the top 10 bloodiest traps from the movies, which include the Reverse Bear Trap from "Saw," the Gundoor/Magnum Eyehole Trap from "Saw II" and the Needle Pit Trap from "SAW II."

Even the smell of the attraction will add to making visitors feel like they have stepped into the movie, including a manufactured urine smell for the Bathroom Trap from "Saw."

Although Universal Studios has a long history with classic horror films such as "Dracula" and "Frankenstein," the "Horror Nights" mazes are based on contemporary films. That's because the newer films are more familiar to the generally young demographic that shows up to get spooked by the mazes.

Murdy says a horror film must have a strong fan following to be part of the attraction. It also must have iconic characters and specific environments that can be replicated in a live show.

"If 'Saw' ended at No. 1 it probably would not be great for what we do because 90 percent of that movie takes place inside the bathroom. Now that there have been five 'Saws,' that gives us all these different environments," Murdy says.

HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS Where: Universal Studios Hollywood When: 7 p.m. Oct. 9-11, 15-18, 23-25, 28-31. Information and tickets: www.universalstudioshollywood.com/hhn

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