One of this year’s scares at Universal Studios’ ever-terrifying Halloween Horror Nights is a brand new experience inspired by The Weeknd, known for its creepy, even creepy videos.
Universal Studios Hollywood creative director and executive producer John Murdy said the musician, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, has contacted them. Murdy immediately knew about the Weeknd’s radio hits like “Save Your Tears” and “Blinding Lights,” but he didn’t quite understand his entire brand—the darkness and the glamor with a seedy underbelly—until he watched his cinematic music videos. Then he understood immediately. They brainstormed together and Murdy’s team worked out some ideas to present to the artist, who was very “hands-on” in the creation.
“I think,” Murdy tells Yahoo Entertainment, “the first line of my pitch to Abel is, ‘If we, the audience, could be in your head, when you thought and created [2020 album] After hours and all the darkness that that represents — because to me, as someone who grew up in Los Angeles, you know, a lot of the album speaks very much to LA culture: our obsession with looks and preserving looks, the cosmetic surgery, the excessive focus on looks, even nightclub life, that’s all in After hours – but, I said, ‘If we could be in your head, what would it be like? What would that look like? How would that feel? And would we survive that experience?'”
The Weeknd told Universal that he is beyond excited.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own Halloween Horror Nights haunted house, as Halloween has always been important to my music, so this is a total dream come true,” he said. “I feel like my music videos have served as a launch pad for a collaboration like this, and I can’t wait for people to experience this madness!”
The result is The Weeknd: Nightmare After Hourswith experiences such as After Hours Club, based on the “In Your Eyes” video, which features a woman being stalked, and a section called the After Hours Hotel.
“That’s really inspired by music videos like ‘Heartless’ and ‘Blinding Lights’ where you’re in this Vegas environment,” Murdy says. “That was particularly exciting because I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve never done Vegas as horror,’ but there are so many things about Vegas that can be horror, you know? And especially the carpet. When you go into a casino or hotel /casino, I’m always amazed by the carpet design. I think, ‘Why would you choose this carpet? It’s so ugly… and crowded.'”
Such carpets were key to one section in particular.
“We have this scene where you go down a hallway, and it starts out very much like a typical Vegas hotel, you know, hallway, with the awful carpet and the awful wallpaper, and it gets more and more surreal the further you go. this hallway goes where the shape changes,” Murdy says. “Like, it all starts to get shaky and curves and the carpet pattern starts to affect the rest of the environment, so it starts, like, up the walls, until, by the time you get to the end of this sequence, it is nothing but carpet.”
Murdy’s team, of which there are hundreds at peak times but about 10 years on, used a process called dye sublimation to achieve one of the effects he is most proud of this year.
“It’s being able to take a print of, say, the carpet and then use a printing process to translate that into a costume. And basically,” Murdy says, “imagine someone in a head-to-toe ninja costume. in a bodysuit but it’s all carpet But so is the environment around you so they can just disappear into the set So out of nowhere the carpet attacks you And the curtains attack you too, how nice is.’
It’s not really something horror fans would have seen in the early days of Halloween Horror Nights, which started in the 90s. (Murdy has overlooked the Hollywood specter since 2006.) But it’s more than just Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees that audiences now find terrifying.
“My first vision of what I wanted to do with the event was to bring horror movies to life with movie quality so that people feel like they are experiencing their favorite horror movie,” says Murdy. “And it was a very specific, you know, vision, which we would do” Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th and Nightmare in Elm Street and Halloween, and we’d make our way through pretty much the entire canon of horror. So after doing that for several years, we started to say, ‘Wow. Horror is starting to shift to, as if television is a big deal for horror. And that was around the time when The living Dead was hitting. So of course we worked with The living Dead for several years. But then we started to do American horror story and that eventually led to Weird stuff. And that was a… turning point, as far as our brand is concerned.”
This year, horror fans can also walk — or, more likely, run — through areas dedicated to… Ghostbusters; Blumhouse Movies the black telephone and freaky; Killing Clowns From Space; dance crew Jabbawockeez; classic universal monsters Dracula, the Wolfman and the Mummy; Halloween; and more.
The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare is currently open at both Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood. Tickets are now available.