We were all very saddened when the news broke that Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights was not going to happen this year. 2020 has proven to be a year of uncertainty, loss and disappointment for many, not just on the entertainment level, but in our overall lives.
However, out of this craziness, some things stay the same, or at least, try to. Two of the most brilliant creators behind the beloved houses at Universal were laid off and although there are two ‘houses’ at Universal going forward, of which they helped bring to life, unfortunately, former creative development show director Patrick Braillard, wasn’t around to hear the praise being regarding his creations. Along with art director Kim Gromoll, a fellow longtime HHN veteran who also helped design Universal Beijing and Epic Universe, Braillard was among the many victims of recent pandemic-related layoffs that have decimated Universal Creative and the rest of the attractions industry.
However, rather than feel sorry for himself, Braillard swiftly jumped into a new project, recruiting Gromoll to help create a brand-new haunted experience in record time. The Orlando Forum on International Drive, previously home to a rock impersonator dinner show, has become the Orlando Forum of Fear, having opened, Thursday, Oct. 1, featuring a 480-foot-long haunted maze designed by Braillard and Gromoll, along with a “Dark Seance” dinner show and some family-friendly events.
Forum of Fear’s signature maze tells the story of “The Mass,” which Braillard describes as a “black impenetrable cloud that almost envelops the entire island of Manhattan.” In a super creative twist, the haunt will transform twice during the Halloween season, telling a trilogy through its three forms. It will open as Tunnel of the Damned, an eerie expedition into the Lincoln Tunnel. Later on, City Overtaken will showcase NYC’s murderous citizens, before Apocalypse sends everyone to hell. “I’m excited because it gives us the opportunity to not only change how the guests interact with the space, but it also gives us the opportunity to change the aesthetic,” says Braillard.
While other set Halloween attractions had to retrofit its mazes with transparent barriers and shower curtains, Braillard and Gromoll had the advantage of designing the Forum of Fear from the ground up with COVID in mind. Besides the mandatory masking and hand sanitization for all guests and performers, Gromoll says he’s created “areas where a scare actor will have a distance from you, but still be able to scare you without that sheet of Plexiglas between you.” And rather than rush guests through in a single file fashion, they’ve deliberately built in moments that Braillard promises will make people pause and hesitate to continue.
“A good story should be able to hit you on a bunch of different emotional levels, and if we have the opportunity to do that, even for just a second, then I think that it comes across as a success,” Braillard concludes. “It obviously doesn’t have the lead-up that that a typical Universal haunt would have, but there’s no less passion or love involved. It’s still a matter of us trying to tell as big and strong a story as we possibly can.”
I cannot wait to experience this amazing new maze and bring along you, the Mayne Mafia as well. Be sure to keep checking back here at spokesmayne.co for more updates and follow on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and now Twitch at Spokesmayne, so that you do not miss a single minute of the adventures to come.
Forum of Fear; Orlando Weekly; Spokesmayne