Michael Roddy is a show director for this year's Universal Halloween Horror Nights, a special Halloween event being put on by Universal Studios in Orlando. It's of special interest to horror fans this year because of the inclusion of three of Horror's biggest icons (thanks to a vaunted deal with New Line Cinema). After checking out the event recently I decided to find out a little more. Here's what I dug up.
I love seeing performers stalking around the mazes in full Freddy, Jason and Leatherface costumes.
What are some of your favorite horror films?
I am a Horror Film fan. I love a great scary movie. I have to say I learned horror from the Classic Universal films such as "Dracula", "Frankenstein", "The Wolfman", "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" and the "Creature from the Black Lagoon". My favorite modern horror films include John Carpenter's "Halloween", "The Shining", "A Nightmare on Elm Street", and "The Descent". My all-time favorite film is "JAWS".
Did you have a childhood experience with horror that caused you to be interested in the genre?
I used to watch a show called "Creature Features" that was hosted by Dr. Paul Bearer. I would watch them with my uncle who has an encyclopedic knowledge of films. He would tell me what actor was playing the roles. He had this huge bushy beard and I nicknamed him "The Wolfman". And then My Mom would buy the original Aurora model kits of the classic monsters and paint them with me. I actually still have the original model of Frankenstein that she painted 30 + years ago.
How did you get involved with Haunted Horror Nights in Orlando?
I started at Universal as an actor and was hired to Play Norman Bates for some press events. I would stand in front of the Psycho House and welcome guests and reporters. I got to know the design team and they recognized my abilities as well as my passion for Horror and allowed me many amazing opportunities throughout the early years of Haunted Horror Nights.
What was your first thought when you found out about the deal with New Line allowing Jason, Freddy and Leatherface to be a part of the event?
Not to mix holidays, but I was like a kid on Christmas. I grew up with those characters. I still remember when I saw all three of those films and the effect they had on me. In my opinion, they are our modern day Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman.
It's taken a long time to get that deal off the ground, right?
Not as long as some would think. The deal fell into place pretty quickly, because New Line knew that Universal would bring those characters to life unlike any other, in immersive surroundings that would place the guest in the woods of Crystal Lake, The Texas residence of the Hewitt family and the dream world of Freddy.
What is your favorite part of the event this year?
I love seeing performers stalking around the mazes in full Freddy, Jason and Leatherface costumes. It's awesome!
Can you describe some of the shows you guys have?
This year we have more show content than ever before. We have the return of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure" which is a cult favorite and one of the funniest shows you will see anywhere. We also have "Freakshow" featuring nationally recognized acts such as Brian Brushwood. We have "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" tribute that takes the audience participation to the next level with amazingly talented singers and actors performing everyone's favorite Transylvanians, and we have "Jack's Carnival of Carnage," which allows Jack to do what he does best with malicious intent in a three-ring circus of horror.
How much work goes into one of those Haunted Houses?
It is a year-round design process. From initial conceptual design and story intent to actual production is always a race. We are always looking for new ways to scare you, thrill you and freak you out.
At one point in the night I saw one of the stilt-walkers chasing after someone. It got me thinking, are there special liability issues at an event like this?
We pride ourselves on our training. It is our job to make sure you get the best scare and thrill, but it is all illusion.
From what I've read online the Hollywood version of HHH seems to be a bit more elaborate, is that true, and is there a reason for that?
Our sister park is a different footprint than ours at the Orlando park. I don't know if I would term their event as more elaborate, but they have a different set of design challenges.
Was there anything you wanted to do that you weren't able to realize?
Sleep? Actually, this year has truly been a dream (nightmare) year for us. We are so proud of our work and can't wait to hear and see the guests screaming.
Do you think HHH team up with New Line Cinema again next year?
You never know what next year will bring. That is what keeps our event fresh. I will say that we have some stuff up our sleeves that will help continue this event to grow. It is Halloween, everyone is entitled to one good scare…
For someone who might not be able to make it, describe the atmosphere at the event.
The biggest, best, scariest Halloween party you have ever attended.