"Meet The Director. The screams he captures on film are real. And whether you realize it or not, you have been just cast in his next picture."

"After the gates of Islands of Adventure close, a plague of darkness creeps over the islands. Super heroes disappear, and toxic sludge falls from the sky.  The friendly Sunday morning cartoons run in fear from the Ink Blots.  The dinosaurs are declared extinct as a tribe of primates move in, hunting and stalking their unsuspecting prey.  A mystical world is burned and then frozen with a battle between fire and ice.  A land of laughs and rhymes is suddenly discovered deserted, and a harbor of welcome is suddenly turned upside down by beckons and warnings not to enter the paths that lay ahead ... paths ruled by a demented filmmaker ..."

Halloween Horror Nights Orlando event
Halloween Horror Nights 13
Slogan The Director will see you now/ You want to be in pictures?/ 13 Years in the Making
Year 2003

The Director

Icon attraction

All Nite Die-In

Number of haunted houses 6
Number of scarezones 6
Preceded by Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear
Followed by Halloween Horror Nights XIV

Halloween Horror Nights 13 was the 13th Halloween Horror Nights event in Orlando. The event was located in Islands of Adventure for the second year in a row. The Director, also known as Paolo Ravinski (later changed to Paulo in Sweet 16), hosted the event, telling guests that "The Director Will See You Now". The event featured six haunted houses, six scarezones, and two special shows, and ran for 21 days from October 3 to November 1, 2003.

This was the first year to include songs from the band Midnight Syndicate.

"Script" Edit

The Director Edit

The EventEdit

For its 13th year, the event's theme was based on the evil mind of The Director, a film creator who often did short snuff films in which his victims died on camera. The houses were all "sets", and the Director himself hosted his own stage show, Infestation, where guests were invited up on stage to live out their fears of creatures. The event's commercials featured a cover of the song "You Oughta Be In Pictures" by the Boswell Sisters. As with Halloween Horror Nights: Islands of Fear, the scarezones were featured in each of the Islands of Adventure-themed lands. Only Boo-Ville and the Port of Evil returned for 2003's event. The Port of Evil served as a gathering point for guests to enter into The Director's world. Immortal Island, which took over the Lost Continent, was the battleground of the Ice and Fire Demons and their minions. Boo-Ville, which took over Seuss Landing once again, was a darkened world where all the creatures are locked indoors for the night. In Night Prey, located in Jurassic Park, intelligent creatures stalked guests through a tropical island. In Hide & Shrieeek!, located in Toon Lagoon, the cartoons came alive in a world of insanity. Finally, in Toxic City, located in Marvel Superhero Island, guests walked through a quarantined city where toxic waste spilled onto the streets and mutated creatures lived. The Director appeared in All Nite Die-In, where he welcomed guests through the drive-in theatre and into the house from Halloween, Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th, Hell's Furnace from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Leatherface's kitchen from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In Screamhouse: Revisited, guests returned to The Caretaker's Victorian manor, where his victims tried to make sure they never leave. In Psycho Scareapy, guests entered Shadybrook, where the inmates squash any hope of escape. In Jungle of Doom, bloodthirsty zombies chased guests after trespassing on the Burial Ground of Lost Souls. Funhouse of Fear was a house of optical illusions and maniacal clowns with no exit. Finally, Ship of Screams, whose name is a play on words with "Ship of Dreams", was an aging cruise liner whose decks were manned by a crew of ghosts.



  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Doctor Doom Fearfall
  • Popeye and Bluto Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Storm Force Acceleration
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • The Flying Unicorn
  • Dueling Dragons
  • Poseidon's Fury
  • Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls


Halloween Horror Nights 13 Merchandise and Collectables Edit


Universal's Snuff-film Commercial For Halloween Horror Nights Raises Questions: When The Goal Is To Shock, How Far Is Too Far? Edit

Is It . . . Horror Overkill? Edit

October 4, 2003|By Elizabeth Maupin, Sentinel Staff Writer

First you hear a woman's voice -- lighthearted, casual, singing a familiar tune, "You oughta be in pictures. . ."

Then you see the face. Dark eyes dart desperately back and forth. Sweat pours off his brow as a dark, unshaven man with a movie camera leans ever closer.

The victim is restrained in a bathtub full of water, his wrists strapped down with leather belts. A little rubber ducky floats near his toes.

"Have you met the Director?" a voice asks and, suddenly, you see the big piece of electrical equipment. There's the frizzling sound of an electrical surge and you hear a man howl -- but all you see is the Director and his poisonous grin.

This is the face of Halloween Horror Nights 2003, Universal Orlando's wildly popular shockfest, where upward of 10,000 people will turn up on any given night between now and Nov. 1 to be grossed out of their minds.

And for those who haven't made plans to attend -- or who don't choose to go there's this 26-second commercial, called "Meet the Director," airing on Orlando TV stations in the middle of Everybody Loves Raymond and other child-suitable fare.

This does not make everybody happy.

Steve Jones was watching Raymond with his wife when the ad first turned up on his TV.

"It was stomach-turning; it was sickening to me," says Jones, 44, a salesman who lives in Oviedo. "The focus on torture, the implication that there's supposed to be a vicarious entertainment value in watching this Director get a kick out of torturing and filming victims. . . I couldn't believe it."

Psychologists wonder what it will do to young minds. And while Universal Orlando is happy with the campaign, others question how far is too far.


Shock for shock's sake is everywhere in American society, and every week it seems to intensify.

In the national news you hear that a little-known rock band claims to be hosting a real suicide today as part of a St. Petersburg performance. The band also professes to have sodomized a skinned calf during a concert and to have run a dead rat through a blender. The claim may be just a publicity stunt, but in a way it doesn't matter: The shock value is all.

On TV, on shows such as Fear Factor, willing participants eat live African spiders, swim with gators and piranhas and retrieve pig kidneys from the water with their mouths.

Nowadays, it's not enough to have just Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street or just Jason from Friday the 13th. This year's movie one-ups both of them: Freddy vs. Jason, with the tagline "Winner kills all."

Now, old horror movies such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead are camp. Ozzy Osbourne and his bat seem like a joke from ancient history. And a lot of people are worried about what comes next.

"The pattern seems to be that the media will push the envelope," says Edward L. Palmer, a psychology professor at Davidson College in North Carolina. "If they don't get some sort of grass-roots negative response, they'll keep doing it. Pushing the envelope is the norm."

In fact, pushing the envelope has been the norm for a very long time. In 19th-century Paris, cabaret-goers enjoyed a craze called Grand Guignol, in which short plays were based on famous murders and rapes. Throughout history, artists and entertainers have stretched -- and pressed beyond -- the boundaries of good taste. Manet had his nude Olympia, Picasso his violent "Guernica." Elvis Presley's swiveling hips shocked the censors into obscuring them on The Ed Sullivan Show, and George Carlin made a comedy routine of his seven dirty words.

Is Universal's ad campaign any different?

Some say yes. The Universal campaign is on TV, in prime time, popping up where you least expect it, while you had to go to an art gallery to see "Guernica" or a theater to hear the seven dirty words. And Universal's "Meet the Director" is an ad campaign, while Manet and, yes, Elvis Presley, are artists.

Chris Larson, an Orlando computer technician and part-time Baptist pastor, says that Universal's Halloween Horror Nights themselves are clearly fantasy. He wishes the ad campaign had stayed within that realm.

"There's an element of reality here," says Larson, 46. "The typical line of advertising they've used in the past might have had a slightly scary setting. But this basically tells a short story of a human being being tortured. That's loathsome."

"That was the most debasing commercial I've ever seen," says Jones. "It turns us not only into voyeurs, but into sadistic voyeurs."


Not surprisingly, not everybody sees it that way.

At Universal, Gretchen Hofmann calls the ad campaign "theater of the mind." The California ad agency that created the campaign was trying to evoke a sense of fear but also to be entertaining. The viewer is supposed to have to figure out what is going on.

And there's nothing in it, she says, as gruesome as what everybody sees at the movies or on TV.

"If you put it up against Fear Factor or Survivor, our advertising is pretty tame. We take our lead from what's going on in popular culture. The Road to Perdition has far more blood and gore than this advertising does."

Palmer, the social psychologist at Davidson, points out that children may not be allowed to watch Survivor or Fear Factor, but they may well stumble onto the Universal ad.

"For children, the net effect of it is pretty negative," he says. He cites a study done at the University of Wisconsin proving that children are more violent, more hostile and more fearful after watching violence in the media, and another from the University of Michigan showing that those effects can last long after those children have grown up.

Tina Pieraccini, a professor of communication studies at the State University of New York at Oswego, talks about the desensitizing effect that violence in entertainment and the media has on kids.

She remembers that her own children were frightened years ago at Disney's Haunted Mansion.

"But Disney's haunted house wouldn't scare a 5-year-old anymore," she says. "You have to go one step further."

Pieraccini fears that children who see the ad won't always know the difference between fantasy and reality. She cites the case of a 13-year-old boy who was aping the World Wrestling Entertainment matches he had seen on TV when he accidentally killed a 5-year-old neighbor.

"They might begin to think that torture doesn't have any real-life consequences," she says. "Children sometimes copy the behavior, and they may in fact hurt someone."


Still, the notion that violence in entertainment leads to real-life violence is a controversial one, and some academics have little patience with it. Historian Timothy J. Burke says the proof is the events of Sept. 11, 2001: No one who saw the TV image of the World Trade Center, he says, mistook it for fiction.

"But all culture is raw material that shapes the way we look at the world," says Burke, an associate professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. "It gets into your head."

Burke makes a distinction between scary entertainment and entertainment that is designed to repel. Alfred Hitchcock's films were meant to be suggestive and scary, not horrible, he says: They imply much more than they show.

But entertainment that is trying to be repulsive has to operate differently.

"The point really is to cross a line, whatever that line might be," Burke says.

Universal's ad, which also can be seen on one of its Web sites, Halloweenhorrornights .com, falls into that latter category, Burke says. And he's bothered by the torture the ad suggests.

"There's something a little decadent about that," he says.

Sometimes repulsion can be done with style -- witness the writings of Clive Barker or of Stephen King. And even the gross-out humor of South Park is fun "in an adolescent-boy kind of way."

"There's nothing equally fun here," he says of the snuff-film ad.

The issue may come down to whether repulsion is presented artistically or not -- and to who gets to decide what's artistic. Or maybe it comes down to whether you show the ad on prime-time TV.

"These are messy and intractable discussions that recur constantly in American life," Burke says, "and they recur for good reason -- because they're messy and intractable."

Or maybe, if you're an entertainment company, it comes to forging ahead with the knowledge that not everybody will be a fan.

"We're not appealing to everybody who's out there, and we know that," says Universal's Hofmann.

After all, she says, the company must be doing something right.

"Ultimately it's how does it affect the business," she says. "It's better this year than last year -- and last year was an all-time record."

Halloween Horror Nights 13
Characters: The Director (Event Icon)  • Incubus  • Succubus  • The Sentinel  •  • Fire King  • Ice Queen  • The Caretaker
Haunted Houses: All Nite Die-In  • Funhouse of Fear  • Jungle of Doom  • Psycho Scareapy  • Screamhouse: Revisited  • Ship of Screams
Scarezones: Boo-Ville  • Hide & Shrieeek!  • Immortal Island  • Night Prey  • Port of Evil  • Toxic City
Shows: Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure  • Infestation
Halloween Horror Nights Orlando
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