Buffy and Angel come to life for Halloween

See also the version of this exclusive interview in Shivers #83, our Halloween edition 2000!

Will the Master be stopping you from surviving the Hellmouth?

For Halloween 2000, Universal Studios Hollywood are unveiling an extra-special, live, multi-media attraction: the world's first to be based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Judy Sloane ventured into the maze to talk to the Halloween Horror Nights' production manager, Cory Asrilant

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A VISIMAG.COM exclusive

This month, Universal Studios in California are bringing a little bit of Sunnydale back to Hollywood with Buffy & Angel: Hellmouth Haunt, a brand new Halloween attraction for visitors to walk through. But it's only accessible for eight nights in October, starting - when else? - on Friday 13th.

Cory Asrilant is Universal's Production Manager for their annual set of mazes. "Believe it or not I do this all year around", he says. "Halloween Horror Nights takes a whole year to plan, and I’m the Production Manager for all the mazes. There are five: (this year) we’ve got Buffy, we’ve got Rob Zombie’s (The House of 1000 Corpses), we’ve got Clive Barker’s Harvest", he explains, listing the highlights. But we wanted to know more...

HOW DID THE BUFFY/ANGEL ATTRACTION COME ABOUT?
We came up with the idea because of the popularity of the Buffy and Angel shows, so we went to Joss Whedon and pitched him the idea. He fell in love with it. We got two minutes into the meeting and he was loving every second of it. Then it suddenly became his idea! We let him roll with it, and he was saying, ‘How about this? Let’s do that.’ We came up with the original concept and he developed it.

SO WHAT DO THE GUESTS GO THROUGH?
Basically, the guests become part of an episode of Buffy, where they explore some of the sets from Buffy, including Buffy’s dorm and Sunnydale Park. They walk through those sets and experience them and then they go through a subway, and when they get off the subway they end up in Los Angeles in Angel’s world. They experience Angel’s apartment, and some of the other settings from that show.

CAN YOU GET LOST IN THE MAZE?
You can’t get lost. It’s more of a walk through, haunted house. You are in a set path, but we do disorientate you a lot with lighting, fog and different kinds of effects – sometimes you don’t quite know where you’re going, but we try to engulf you in the settings of the particular show.

SO PEOPLE WILL BE GOING IN TO VISIT THE SETS AND THEN TERRIBLE THINGS START TO HAPPEN?
Exactly. For example, they walk through Buffy’s dorm room and you see an image lying on the bed with blond hair. So you’re walking by it not quite knowing what to expect but, of course, it pops up and it’s not Buffy, it’s some evil creature with blond hair. Characters jump out at you from air vents, and floor hatches, they even come down at you on bungy cords.

One thing that Joss stressed to us is, being that his shows are on national television, he can’t take it as far as he would like in terms of scare factor, so this is his opportunity to really scare the crap out of people. So this takes it a step further than the regular show in terms of scare; there’s no romantic storyline in our maze, it’s purely in your face scare, scare, scare!

We don’t recommend this event for under the age of 12. There are no restrictions, we allow anybody in, but to tell you the truth we do gear towards 12 to 24 year olds. So we don’t hold back on the scares, we want this to be as scary and as ferocious as possible. So if you do bring your three or four year old, we have many emergency exits for you to escape from if necessary...

HOW INVOLVED HAS JOSS BEEN DURING THE MAKING OF IT?
Basically, in the initial design process he was involved in looking at all of our designs. He had good suggestions. His best suggestion was – he doesn’t care what we do, just make it as scary as hell. Then we went onto the (actual) sets and we took lots of pictures and got lots of designs from them, and we’re recreating a lot of the sets – they are allowing us to use some of the minor pieces from the show.

We’re definitely working in conjunction with their designers, their make-up crews and their special effects department. It really is phenomenal. We’re really having a good time with it. The detail is more than you can imagine on the television show.

HOW LONG DOES BUILDING AN ATTRACTION LIKE THIS TAKE, AND HOW BIG A CREW DO YOU NEED?
We start designing it in January, and we actually start construction in June. We have a construction crew of about 40 people, we have a make-up crew of 30 people, an effects crew of 10 people, not to mention hundreds of actors.

BUT IT’S ONLY ON FOR ...
Eight nights. My whole life is based around eight nights. Opening night is Friday the 13th, of course. We start designing and coming up with our concepts the last week of January, then once we close in November we’re tearing it all down, December we’re inventorying, I take a little vacation the beginning of January and then we start designing the last week of January again.

WILL YOU BE DOING BUFFY EVERY YEAR?
We are hoping we will have a continuing relationship with Fox, whether it be Buffy and Angel or one of their new properties, we don’t know. If we did do a Buffy maze again next year, it would be an entirely different maze. It would still be based on Buffy, but we change our mazes every year.

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