John Murdy was only 4 years old when his mother allowed him to see Universal Pictures “Frankenstein.” The experience left him in tears but not because the creature scared him.
“My mom started to talk to me about what scared me. I told her that I wasn’t scared but I empathized with the monster so much,” Murdy says. “I told my mother when I was a little boy that one day I would make a home for them so they can be protected and be safe.
“That’s what I have tried to do my whole career.”
It took him decades but Murdy made good on that vow. As the creative Director for Universal Studios, he has been responsible for the creative development of a wide variety of rides, shows, attractions and special events for Universal Studios theme parks worldwide.
Most recently, Murdy has served as creative director/executive producer of Universal Studios Hollywood’s “Halloween Horror Nights,” creating “living horror movies” based on popular genre franchises such as “Stranger Things” and “The Walking Dead.”
This year, he supervised the creation of a maze based on the 1935 film “The Bride of Frankenstein.” Although the creature bride is only brought to life – through a performance by Elsa Lanchester – for a few moments, that was enough to spark the “Horror Nights” attraction.
The first images for the attraction reflect the ending of the film where it appears that both Frankenstein and his bride are killed in a windmill fire. Murdy’s vision has the Bride surviving and pulling Frankenstein from the burned mill. This sends the Bride on a quest to find a way to revive her true love.
Murdy points out the twists and terrors that visitors will face as they make their way through the maze and learn the story that could have easily been a film sequel to the original film. The experience is a combination of detailed sets, clever use of lighting and real creatures who will go bump in the “Horror Nights.”
Working at Universal Studios has given Murdy direct access to some of the most classic monsters in movie history including Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Murdy and his team have been creating mazes for Universal Studios Hollywood since 2006. “The Bride of Frankenstein” is only the second “Horror Nights” maze inspired by that classic creature roster. He resisted for years using one of the Universal monsters as the source of an attraction.
“I waited a long time to do the first one in 2018. It was because I was afraid that the characters I loved so much and were so important to me might not translate to a modern horror audience,” Murdy says. “Times change. Horror changes.
“There something that happens with these characters over time where people feel like they need to totally change the look of the character. What we decided to do when we did it the first time was to avoid doing that.”
Murdy’s decision was to maintain all of the elements that made the Universal monsters so iconic and to pump up the elements that made each so scary. Tweaks had to be made because what scared an audience in 1931 when “Frankenstein” first lumbered on to the screen would not scare a modern horror fan audience.
The blend proved popular with the fans and has made Murdy comfortable using the monsters he has felt such fondness for since he was a young boy.
Murdy doesn’t have a masterplan for using the Universal monsters despite having to work so far in the future. The only thing he will say is that the classic creatures have had a rich history with the studio and that legacy will continue.
The annual “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios Hollywood have featured attractions based on popular horror TV shows and films. Along with “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Halloween Horror Nights 2021” will include a scary stop based on the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House.”
The “Halloween Horror Nights” events begin Sept. 9 and will run select nights through Oct. 31. Tickets for the event at Universal Studios Hollywood will be available soon. Due to popular demand, event nights are expected to sell out.
Don’t look for Murdy when this year’s “Horror Nights” have ended. He doesn’t like to be around when a project that he has been working on for more than a year – or two years in the case of “The Bride of Frankenstein” because of the COVID shutdown – is removed.
Plus, Murdy has plenty of work to keep him busy as he has already been working for several months on the maze he will create for Universal Studios “Halloween Horror Nights 2022.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com.