Published June 27, 2013
We're not even into the dog days of summer yet, but plans for Halloween at one of Orlando's biggest theme park is already brewing.
On Thursday --at the stroke of midnight --Universal Orlando announced this first of the year's highly-anticipated lineup of haunted houses for Halloween Horror Nights 23.
Starting in September, visitors to Universal Studios Florida will step into the frightening world of "The Cabin in the Woods," the cult 2012 film co-written and produced by Joss Whedon and directed and co-written by Drew Goddard.
Living just a few minutes from Universal Studios in Hollywood, Calif., Goddard told FoxNews.com that he's a long-time fan of Horror Nights events. While writing the film, he and Whedon did think one day their creation could come to life as a haunted house. "It was certainly always the dream. I don't know how far we thought the reality would go. But we always wanted 'Cabin' to take on a life beyond us. It just felt like such a rich universe where people can drop in and have their own fun."
The one-of-a-kind haunted house will bring Universal Studios Florida guests inside the movie's secluded cabin - but this is no vacation.
Halloween Horror Nights creative director Mike Aiello describes the flow of the experience as a "chronological retelling of the film from beginning to relative end - minus the gods destroying the Earth." But rather than approaching the movie from the perspective of the unsuspecting college kids who get roped into unspeakable terrors, the story will give Universal guests the role of new hires to the film's "facility," watching monstrous events unfold around them.
Aiello describes the first scene of the experience as "calm and serene," but after 10-20 seconds, he says, "things start going to hell pretty fast."
Aiello says guests will encounter a familiar family of zombies, then ultimately escape into the secret surveillance facility where an outbreak of crazed creatures occurs causing all-out chaos that will come one step short of complete global annihilation.
Universal Studios is working with Lionsgate -- distributor of "Cabin in the Woods" -- on Halloween Horror Nights, the second time in recent years after first partnering with them for the popular "Saw" franchise.
When "The Cabin in the Woods" was released last year, Aiello says his creative gears were turning. "The minute I saw the movie in theaters, I knew it was perfect for Halloween Horror Nights," he said. "It has every ingredient we want in a maze."
Goddard and Whedon penned "The Cabin in the Woods" as an opportunity to do something new with the horror genre, combining a bit of satire and dark humor with over-the-top bloodshed and a passion for creating unusual characters, many of which will come to life in the maze. Memorable characters from the film will include Hell Lord, the Dollfaces, the Sugarplum Fairy, the Doctors, Merman - and yes, even the film's infamous unicorn will make an appearance. Among the film's roughly 60 types of creatures, Aiello made sure to choose "the ones that are seen the most in the movie, the ones that stuck out most to the fans."
Universal guests may even be surprised to come face-to-face with Goddard himself, who will dress up in costume and scare some of his fans in person.
"I wouldn't miss it," exclaimed Goddard. "I'm too excited by it. I can't believe this is happening. I'm just so happy that the film has continued to live on." He said that Whedon is equally pleased after seeing Universal's concepts for the maze. "He couldn't be more excited," said Goddard.
Though Halloween Horror Nights 23 doesn't begin at Universal Orlando until September 20, hints and announcements will continue all summer long, with several more all-new haunted houses to be revealed in the coming weeks. Tickets, vacation packages, and more information are available now at HalloweenHorrorNights.com/Orlando. The event will run on select nights through November 2.