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Behind the scenes of Halloween Horror Nights’ new “The Shining” maze

The horror event’s creative director shares details about the attraction’s production.

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Behind the scenes of Halloween Horror Nights’ new “The Shining” maze

Illustration by Joel Vaughn

Illustration by Joel Vaughn

Illustration by Joel Vaughn

Carlos Villicana, Assistant Arts and Life Editor

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One man’s descent into madness plays host to in-your-face fear in a new maze at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. The maze is based on Stanley Kubrick’s filmThe Shining,” where ghouls and axes will be brought too close for comfort to daring guests.

Sandwiched between two recreations of the hedge maze seen in the film are sections of the Overlook Hotel, where the horror of “The Shining” is born.

Prior to the maze’s opening, Halloween Horror Nights’ creative director and producer John Murdy gave a tour of the new attraction during which he shared behind-the-scenes stories on the process he and his team took to create this unique experiment in terror.

“A maze is always a balance of those visual things and the visceral scares that we do, ” Murdy said.

Longtime fans of “The Shining,” Murdy and art director Chris Williams made a list of things that they would expect to see in a maze adaptation of the film. The challenge of replicating iconic scenes from a picture about its characters’ internal conflicts meant that Murdy and his team had to change many of the film’s iconic moments into formats that would fit into the “get in and get out” nature of the maze.

“So we just take a scene from a movie and kind of condense the action down to a 10 second repeatable thing that we can do over and over again,” Murdy said.

The scene where Jack Torrance uses an axe to aggressively carve a way into the bathroom and yells “here’s Johnny” at his terrified wife Wendy is one of the spectacles that will be repeated in these roughly 10 second intervals.

“It’s very physical… It’s very exhausting work. Any performer at Horror Nights… they’re probably doing [their part] about 60,000 times,” Murdy said.

Because props from the films featured at Halloween Horror Nights are not always available, Murdy and his team must recreate sets and objects from findings at places such as antique stores, estate sales and flea markets.

“It just depends on what we’re specifically looking for,” Murdy said. “There’s a lot of [prop recreation] going on in ‘The Shining’ because of the time period.”

However, details such as the movie’s famous orange and red hexagon-filled carpet and Jack Torrance’s manuscript were created from scratch, using the film as their only reference point.

In the film, Wendy Torrance discovers that her husband’s manuscript repeats the phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” on every line of every page. This only adds to the confusion-fueled terror that Jack’s already increasingly aggressive behavior has instilled in her.

“That’s a hard scene to reproduce in a maze because it would just be a typewriter,” Murdy said. “You’d walk right past it.”

To give this section of the maze a cinematic feeling, the pages cover the walls of a hallway.

“All of these are screen accurate, down to the typos. If you look really closely at them, you’ll see mistakes,” Murdy said. “But we know that it’s accurate to the film.”

Any mistakes on the manually typed pages were added on purpose, because of their inclusion in the film. Luckily for the writer, only the versions of the pages seen in the maze were required.

“At least I didn’t do as bad to him as Stanley did to his assistant, because ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is an English saying,” Murdy said. “But if you were in Spain, it doesn’t mean anything. So [Kubrick’s assistant] had to type different versions of it, depending on what market the film was playing in. So there was an Italian version, a French version… I think it was four or five months she spent just doing that.”

Film projections, audio recordings and scene-setting odors are only some of the other tools used in a maze that concludes where it begins — with a sprint through the hotel’s now frozen labyrinth. Multiple performers will portray a progressively freezing Jack Torrance in this section, all after frightened guests seeking escape.

“The last thing you’ll see is Jack frozen in the burm, and you’ll hear the caretaker’s voice say ‘you are the caretaker, you’ve always been the caretaker.’ And now he’s a permanent fixture of the hotel,” Murdy said.

Cal State Long Beach students, faculty and staff can experience “The Shining” and more at Halloween Horror Nights with the College Thursday’s Terror Pass. Purchase of the pass grants entry to every Thursday of the attractions’ run, beginning Sept. 28. To get the pass, head to ushtix.com/collegediscounts.

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