Universal has a strong heritage when it comes to horror films. Stretching all the way back to the 1920s, they were pioneers in the genre and amassed a collection of iconic monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the Mummy. The Horror Makeup Show is one of Universal Studio’s ways of celebrating their incredible legacy. It also gives a behind-the-scenes look into some of the special effects used when making monster movies.
Gathering in a small theater, guests are introduced to two hosts who are familiar with the tricks of the trade. These two lead the group through a presentation that features movie clips, audience participation, practical jokes, and special effect demonstrations. It is a mix of comedy and gore, delivered in a style that claims to be family friendly.
I recently experienced this show with all three of my children. It was a half-hour well-spent even if our opinions differed slightly on the show. This is our family’s take on one of Universal’s classic attractions – Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show.
Elle is 11-years-old and a bit of a daredevil. There isn’t much that scares her, so she was curious about this show even before walking in the doors. Her curiosity, though, turned to genuine enthusiasm shortly after the show began.
Elle was fully engaged the entire time. Interestingly, it wasn’t the horror makeup demonstration that held her attention. It was the comedic aspect of the show. She insisted that there was no single moment she could pinpoint as her favorite because the entire script was hilarious. In fact, when asked about the things she liked, she giggled as she recounted several of the gags and humorous lines that the hosts ran through.
In spite of her love for the show, Elle didn’t feel it was appropriate for very young children. She thought that preschoolers would find the spectacle disturbing and upsetting. Likewise, she felt that anyone who had severe difficulty with gore might struggle a bit due to the use of fake blood and artificial, severed limbs. She, however, gave it her stamp of approval due to the consistent stream of jokes. When asked if she would return for an encore, there was no hesitation as she laughed and said, “Definitely! It’s hilarious.”
Miller is 13 years old and takes most things in stride. He can appreciate a leisurely attraction just as much as a thrilling one and is generally content with anything that amuses everyone else. Miller does have a thirst for knowledge, though, and he seemed interested in learning something new as we strolled into the Horror Makeup Show.
After watching it, Miller had a slightly despondent view of the attraction. Like Elle, he felt that the show’s primary value lie in its humor as opposed to its movie makeup tutelage. “You barely get a behind-the-scenes view of horror makeup stuff. It was more of a comedy show than a horror makeup show,” he warned. With that being said, he did take interest in the few special effect tricks that they did present.
Miller was equally conflicted about the humor in the show. While he felt that the scripted jokes were amusing, some suggestive innuendos made him uncomfortable. A “size matters” punch line, a joke made about mothers drinking beer, and a reference to male genitalia made him squirm a bit. Being old enough to understand the humor and its inappropriateness, he wasn’t sure if he should laugh or blush with his mom in the seat next to him.
In the end, Miller enjoyed the show. He thought that he would like to return at some point. He just didn’t feel he needed to rush back. Realizing that the show would simply repeat what he’d already seen, he thought he wouldn’t appreciate it as much in future sittings. However, for his first experience with this attraction, he admitted that he was entertained.
Margeaux is 15 years old and is timid about frightening experiences. In general, she despises attractions that put you in physically precarious situations. You would think this would carry over for something like the Horror Makeup Show, but the surprising truth is that Margeaux enjoys horror films. She doesn’t find scary stories or imagery threatening since they don’t physically put her in danger, and she was really interested in finding out what Universal’s Horror Makeup Show offered.
To her disappointment, the show didn’t offer as much academia as she thought it would. “I expected more demonstrations on the kind of work that they do,” she explained, “but they did show a few things that were interesting to learn.” She mentioned the limited collection of creatures, the setting of the workshop, and the movie clips as some of the show’s highlights for her.
In spite of it’s lagging educational value, Margeaux really enjoyed the show. She found the audience participation particularly entertaining as well as the hosts’ comedic timing. The humor in it had her laughing heartily throughout the half-hour. Her opinion was that some of the jokes were a bit adult in nature, and they had her blushing. However, this didn’t seem to deter her from the idea of returning for a showing on a different day. When asked if she would like to see the show again, she was certain that she would.
I am the mom of this brood and a thrill seeker at heart. Scary things, fast things, and “bragging rights” have always appealed to me. That being said, I am prone to nausea and graphic sights do make me squeamish. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Horror Makeup Show the first time I walked in the door, but I was eager to find out if it was worthwhile.
Much to my relief, I didn’t find the gore in the show to be especially intimidating. While the props and gags did lend themselves to disturbing imagery, everything looked fake enough that it didn’t feel real. There wasn’t a need to avert my eyes. I didn’t flinch at the thought of pain. I’m certain the light tone and continual stream of jokes are what helped keep the “horror” from being scary, and I appreciated the way that the content was handled.
As I watched the show, though, I had to admit that I didn’t find it exceptionally entertaining. Like my kids, I was a little surprised by how few “secrets” of the film industry were shared. And while the props and gags didn’t make me flinch, the more mature jokes did because of my kids. Nevertheless, when I looked over at their faces and saw them laughing throughout the production, I couldn’t help but laugh myself. When they smiled, I smiled. It put a different spin on the whole affair for me. Couple this with the fact that the show provided a cushioned seat and air-conditioning for 30 minutes on a hot and sweaty day, and I walked out giving the Horror Makeup Show my endorsement. I am sure we will occupy those seats again in the future, and it won’t be too far down on the list of priorities.