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Universal Studios Florida – Hollywood: Horror Make-Up Show

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Theater show
Time: 25 minutes
Our Take: Hilarious! Universal’s best-kept secret

How to take something gory, gruesome, and downright disgusting and turn it into wholesome, funny family fare? Universal has solved the problem with this enjoyable (not to mention educational) foray into the ghastly art of make-up and special effects for the horror genre. The key is a horror make-up “expert” with a bizarre and goofy sense of humor who is interviewed in a studio make-up lab by an on-stage host and straight-man. During a laugh-filled 25 minutes, our expert leads us through a grisly show-and-tell of basic horror movie tricks and gimmicks. It’s a roaring success that many call “Universal Studios’ best-kept secret.”

Tip: The subject matter is undeniably gross and the performers are given fairly wide latitude to ad-lib. Some people may find either the subject matter or the humor (or both) beyond the bounds of good taste. The easily offended, then, should give this show a miss. Universal rates it PG-13.

Using the inevitable volunteer from the audience (to very amusing effect), we learn how harmlessly dull knifes can be made to leave bloody trails on bare human flesh and, thanks to video projected onto two screens, we get a brief history of extreme makeup from Lon Chaney to modern masters Tom Savini and Rick Baker. Also on hand are mechanical werewolf heads like those used for the still stunning transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London. The show ends with a preview of a new, remotely controlled monster and yet another dirty trick played on a “volunteer.”

This show actually instructs while it entertains. Everyone will have a keener understanding of basic horror effects, and young children will be sternly warned about the importance of safety at all times. (“Don’t do this at home . . . Do it at a friend’s house!”)

The waiting area for this show is the lobby of the Pantages Theater, where you can peruse memorabilia displays from Universal’s horror-movie history while waiting for the show to begin.

This is the best show at Universal and it just seems to get better and better every year. The performers, all skilled improvisers, play off the audience, making every show slightly different and rewarding repeat visits.

The best seats in the house. If all you want to do is enjoy the show, the oft-repeated Universal refrain is absolutely true — every seat’s a good seat. Exhibitionists hoping to be selected as a volunteer should be aware that the performers have a predilection for young women seated in the middle, close to the stage.

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Universal Orlando 2011


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