The Weeknd is joining the likes of Michael Myers and Dracula at Halloween Horror Nights, where “Blinding Lights”, “Heartless” and other chart-toppers drown out the screams from park guests in “The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare”.
To get all the behind-the-scenes details, ET spoke with John Murdy, executive producer of HHN at Universal Studios Hollywood, who worked closely with The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, to create a “surreal living nightmare filled with grotesque characters and themes” inspired by his music and short films.
“Abel had a very specific idea. He wanted to focus on what he would refer to as ‘the universe of After Hours,’” Murdy explains. “He wanted to take that album and turn it into a haunted house experience.”
Murdy’s team soon realized just how suited The Weeknd was to brush shoulders with HHN’s other scary mazes, like the “Horrors of Blumhouse” and “La Llorona”. “There’s something really dark going on [in Abel’s music videos.] In some ways, darker than a lot of other things we do,” Murdy notes.
Not only that, but the horror elements extended into The Weeknd’s album artwork and live performances. In his Super Bowl Halftime Show, the disorienting hall of mirrors sequence is retroactively a backdoor proof of concept for an HHN attraction.
Following its debut in September, “After Hours Nightmare” is one of the year’s most in demand Halloween activities (it’s also an HHN installation at Universal Orlando Resort). Chrissy Teigen is one of many sharing praise, tweeting, “between smile, barbarian and the weeknd’s universal studios halloween horror nights I am a very happy horror gal.”
between “smile” “barbarian” and the weeknd’s universal studios halloween horror nights I am a very happy horror gal. so much to do!! also … pic.twitter.com/CFlzfTM8IE
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) September 26, 2022
Murdy, who’s been with HHN since 2006, communicated to The Weeknd early on that they weren’t interested in basic recreations of his music videos. To this point, the team’s creative method is encapsulated in their approach to “Heartless”, where The Weeknd embarks on a hallucinogenic journey through Las Vegas after licking a toad. At “After Hours Nightmare”, the end result is a surprise reveal of an enormous toad-like monster shuffling toward guests on stilt legs.
“One of the things I quickly learned about Abel is that he thinks very cinematically,” Murdy says, citing a list of movies the renowned artist told him had helped inspire After Hours, including many entries from Stanley Kubrick’s filmography, “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. The latter example further solidifies the built-in connection between The Weeknd and HHN, as one of the source material’s most iconic quotes also describes the inherent warning with any haunted house admission: “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”