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Halloween Horror Nights 2023: Inside the Making of Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count
The story behind the most ambitious Halloween Horror Nights haunted house yet: Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count.
If you're a fan of all things Chucky, Halloween Horror Nights 2023 at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando will be Ground Zero for the greatest themed experience the annual event has ever offered featuring the possessed doll. In the 31-year history of HHN, Chucky has been long been a fixture within the general celebration of the Halloween season. The diminutive terror has also been featured in signage, as a featured character in a live-show, and even the host of Hollywood's Terror Tram. But according to John Murdy, lead creative of Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights, who walked SYFY WIRE around the still unfinished grounds of HHN Hollywood, Chucky has been conspicuously absent in one specific kind of attraction.
"The one thing he hasn't done is had a haunted house based exclusively on him. And that p-ssed him off because this is a very meta concept," Murdy joked.
But that has been remedied in 2023 with the official Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count haunted house. The bespoke walkthrough experience pulls from all eras of Chucky's existence in the Child's Play films, through to the SYFY and USA original series.
Murdy said the concept itself came from the mind of Chucky creator, Don Mancini. "[He] had a specific idea that he wanted to bring, which was Chucky: Ultimately Kill Count. He wanted us to be inspired by not only the SYFY series, but the entire franchise that Universal has produced. So, as we started developing this with Don and his team, we decided to take it a step further."
Using Chucky's short fuse as the basis for the house, Murdy said the tiny killer's ire is up because of being overlooked year after year at HHN as a blow-out haunted house. "There's been countless haunted houses for Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees, but Chucky got overlooked," Murdy explained. "In fact, he's so p-ssed that he's raised an army of Good Guy dolls, which is very much what he does in the series and in the latter films when his soul was split into all of those Good Guy dolls. He's raised an army of Good Guy dolls in order to create the ultimate kill count by killing all of you, quite literally. And it's great because he doesn't really have to do much. People just line up!"
One of the biggest deterrents in making a Chucky themed haunted house has been his puppet and animatronic states of being, which aren't easily reproducible in a live house. The character is too small to be played by most adult actors. Plus, he's a possessed doll, which doesn't translate to human movement anyway. But that was solved this year by Universal's in-house Technical Services team, who just happen to be big fans and mechanical engineers.
"These are the gentlemen and ladies that typically work on things like Jurassic World or Mario Land," Murdy said. "They came to us a couple of years ago because they were all Horror Nights fans. And they're like, 'We really want to do stuff for Horror Nights!" So, we started working on the idea for this well over a year ago, R&Ding it. Originally, when I wrote it, I was hoping we could do [Chucky's] head and an arm. And they were like, 'No, we can do all of it.'
"So, this is the most ambitious house we've ever tried in the history of Horror Nights in terms of its animation," Murdy continued. "Normally, we don't get into animatronics. It's not what we do... until now. For this, we have 17 animated Chucky figures in his house."
A Look Inside Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count at Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights
Murdy explained that at the entrance of the Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count haunted house, visitors will first see a wall of Good Guy dolls. "Any of those boxes you see that don't have a Chucky, or a Good Guy doll in them, those are video [monitors]. We worked with the SYFY team and Brad Dourif — who has voiced Chucky since the very beginning and continues to voice Chucky — to create a pre-show where you see Chucky Prime, which is how we refer to him both on the series and in this house as the main Chucky."
Pointing to the center position, Murdy said the middle figure is Chucky Prime and will lead you inside his house. "He basically lays out the story for you, which is he's gonna kill every single person that sets foot in this house," he added. "So that means every performer that's in this house is a guest. They're either wearing Horror Nights licensed merch, or they're wearing Chucky licensed merchandise."
After passing through the first hurdle known as the Good Guy doll factory, visitors will be treated to themed signs throughout the house that riff off how the titles for Chucky are always spelled with different objects. The first section is called Home Invasion. "We're gonna have Chucky on video screens, which is all stuff that we partnered to do with SYFY," Murdy explained. "Chucky has his kill counter, and he's keeping track of the kills as we're going through the house in real time."
Inside the Home Invasion section, there are several reproduced scenes from the films and the series. First up is a house party portrayed in Season 1 of the series. "Chucky crashes the party and brutally stabs a poor kid to death and then sets the house on fire," Murdy said.
Throughout the space, there's also a live performer that gets her throat slit by Chucky. A guy has his head smashed in with a Ming vase. Another gets beheaded by a chandelier. "There will be a fully animated Chucky that's just stabbing, stabbing, stabbing," Murdy said. "And a live performer will come out with what we call a Backpack Chucky. We had to come up with all these different ways of how you do Chucky with performers? This Chucky is up on the performer's shoulders, strangling them with a yo-yo which is evocative of Child's Play 3. And all of that is going on at once. Basically, all hell is breaking loose at once."
Visitors will then transition into the kitchen where they'll be greeted by more victims. "This is kind of crazy," Murdy said, pointing to a mannequin with a cereal box on his head. "To get it to look like the actual cereal, we actually had our props team make it 3D printable."
Next is a reproduction of the film scene where a housekeeper gets impaled on the knives in the dishwasher. There's also a Chucky wielding an electric carving knife. "He's basically like the T2," Murdy said. "If you take him apart, he's got an endoskeleton of daisy-chained servo motors going everywhere. He runs out because he's got a big rod in the back. When the performer actuates it from behind, Chucky comes running out with his meat carver. Next to it is another live performer that comes crashing out and that's one that Chucky couldn't decide how to kill. She's got multiple knives impaled in her and her jaw has been ripped off, her eyes are gouged out, etc, etc..."
Visitors will also enter a bathroom which is set up as an homage to Bride of Chucky and the classic bathtub kill, with a twist. "This is a big bubble bath and there's a bubble machine with bubbles so it smells like Bath and Bodyworks when you walk in the room," Murdy joked. "A monitor with Bride of Frankenstein is in there causing it to short out and electrocute someone. And then Chucky pops up from from the suds and blasts you with compressed air."
From there, look for a gnarly basement scene plucked right from the TV series. "This is where Devon Sawa gets electrocuted, which is a running gag that they play with Devon on the show in the behind the scenes stuff," Murdy teased.
The next major section is the Hospital Hijinx, where Chucky gives an update on the Kill Count. "There's a bunch of different stuff going on in the hospital," Murdy said. "There's a woman being burned to a crisp, getting hit by Chucky and the defibrillator paddles. There's another Chucky on the other side of this window that's knocking on the glass trying to join the fun, waving at us. There's a Chucky down here that's double-fisting syringes and stabbing this guy to death. There's another performer that comes through that door with a Chucky on her back with scalpels."
The path then leads to a series of Christmas themed rooms also from the series, with some cameos by Tiffany and GiGi.
The Final Kill
Plenty of horror movies end in the woods, and so too does the Chucky haunted house. Murdy said visitors will enter and see parts of Good Guy dolls with doll heads on spikes to set the gruesome final stage. "As you're coming in, you're hearing Chucky do the classic voodoo curse: 'Give me the power, I beg of you!' And then you get attacked by all the different ways Chucky — and the cameo from Tiffany — died in the films. There is melted Chucky from Child's Play 2; Chucky shot with the face split and sliced off from Child's Play 3; there's burnt Tiffany from Bride of Chucky, etcetera, etcetera... They are marching with their weapons and then you get hit by Mega Chucky!" A giant Chucky comes from the woods and inside a person operates the limbs. "Everything's on a traveler track up above so that they can actually raise their giant knife," Murdy said with glee.
At the very end, visitors will walk past the tombstone for Charles Lee Ray, with one more surprise as Chucky pops up from behind the tombstone. "He's got a bomb, like he does in the TV series, and he detonates it and blows us all to hell," Murdy said as he closed out the tour.
Halloween Horror Nights 2023 kicks off at Universal Orlando Resort Friday, September 1 and runs through Saturday, November 4. Universal Studios Hollywood lets in the ghouls Thursday, September 7 through Tuesday, October 31. You can peruse all ticketing packages right here.