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We're spooked: Busch Gardens, Universal reveal Halloween plans

Zombies vs. Morphing Aliens.

Sounds like a great name for a movie or video game, but they're actually some of the heart-stopping, scream-inducing frights planned for the annual Halloween extravaganzas at Busch Gardens (zombies) and Universal Studios in Orlando (aliens) this year.

Full details about ticket prices and other scare zones have yet to be released, but teaser material is now being released as the two theme parks begin their marketing pushes for the well-attended events that kick off in late September.

Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights 21 is actually using gambling as its main theme, as in "Can you beat the house?" (complete with blood-spattered cards on the website). But it has an extra bonus this year as it ties a new haunted house maze to its upcoming movie remake, The Thing, scheduled for release on Oct. 14.

Fans of the 1982 John Carpenter movie starring Kurt Russell know that the plot revolves around an abandoned scientific research facility in the middle of Antarctica. An icy discovery sets off a terrifying epidemic of paranoia among a group of researchers as they're infected, one by one, by a mystery from another planet. (Old-school film buffs will recall that the late James Arness played the Thing in makeup and a costume in the original 1951 movie, The Thing from Another World.)

The Thing haunted house will "recreate the suspense from the film, confronting guests with the paranoia and fear that comes from being trapped inside the film's Antarctic Thule station," a news release said in announcing the theme "The shape-shifting alien could be anywhere or anything. Will they survive?"

Universal Orlando has partnered with the film's producers, Strike Entertainment's Marc Abraham and Eric Newman (Dawn of the Dead) to create elaborately designed and disturbingly real alien creatures and sets. The sets, audio, musical score, creature and character references are all based on the film, which stars a mostly unknown cast (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Eric Olsen).

Meanwhile, not quite as many details have emerged from Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream, other than a teaser photo that features a tombstone and the words, "The Dark Side of the Gardens. Zombies live here."

Both events begin Sept. 23. Busch will end Howl-O-Scream on Oct. 29, and Universal's will run select nights through Oct. 31.

Be very afraid

It's still sweltering out, but we feel a chill as we contemplate the scare zones that await visitors to central Florida's theme parks. Find out more information about tickets, prices and special packages by visiting these websites:

• Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens:

Halloween Horror Nights 21:

We're spooked: Busch Gardens, Universal reveal Halloween plans 07/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:46am]
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