Universal Studios Singapore presents a smorgasbord of scares.

“Shucks! What the…,” I blurt out while trying to stifle a scream when a pale female apparition in a school uniform jumps out from a dark corner.

The dingy corridor ahead looks ominous and is suspiciously quiet. Adding to the spookiness are the eerie music and a girl’s occasional scream in the background.

Um, I’m actually waiting for my photographer. Would you like to go first?” I ask the young woman and her friend behind me. Forget about chivalry. Being a horror movie buff, I know better than to take the lead into a dark and empty hallway that’s void of activity.

I’m inside Jing’s Revenge, one of the four haunted houses at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 4 at Universal Studios Singapore. It’s also probably the scariest one of the lot. The backstory of the venue revolves around Jing, an outcast student who, after being bullied incessantly by her peers, hanged herself 10 years ago in her school.

Jack’s 3-Dementia is a funhouse gone ghoulishly wrong that’s filled with demonic clowns with circus props intent on scaring you.

For those who attended public schools in the region, the setting is uncomfortably familiar. Wooden desks, chairs and cupboards as well as stern “teachers” with rattan canes occupy the place.

The pièce de résistance? Unflushed toilets in a nasty washroom complete with its own ghostly resident.

During a walkabout at Universal Studios Singapore the previous day, a representative from Resorts World Sentosa assured us that there are closed-circuit televisions installed around the attractions.

“If we see someone really petrified, our personnel will immediately escort that person out,” she said.

All hell has broken loose in Demoncracy, one of the scare zones at Halloween Horror Nights 4.

By the time I venture out of Demoncracy – an outdoor scare zone modelled after a post-apocalyptic New York city run by underworld beings – I’ve lost count of the number of times I swore every time I was startled.

When dusk beckons, the theme park – with its dimly lit red street lamps and spooky soundtrack – takes on an almost sinister facade. Even the green glow from Shrek’s Far Far Away Castle looks creepy.

In its fourth year now, Halloween Horror Nights is a signature event on Singapore’s tourism calendar, and it’s not hard to see why. Hailed as a comprehensive Halloween theme park experience, the attraction features movie-quality haunted houses and four immersive scare zones, on top of rides and shows.

“This year, we wanted to bring the horror factor closer to guests – even emotionally. So we have created fictional worlds for the haunted houses, based on the many stories we have heard while growing up,” says Resorts World Sentosa vice president (Entertainment) Andrea Teo.

“A year’s worth of preparation has gone into the production of the event. Construction took about three months to complete. This marks the biggest Halloween event we’ve ever had,” adds Teo, who’s also the executive producer of Halloween Horror Nights 4, during a special media preview of the attraction.

Physical examination is probably the last thing you want to get at Mati Camp.

Mati Camp – with its underlying theme of the horrors in military barracks – will surely appeal to the guys. That particular haunted house does kick things up a notch by incorporating cannibalism and mutilation. As for The L.A.B. (Laboratory of Alien Breeding), science fiction enthusiasts will appreciate the evil alien concept and the grisly experimentation that takes place within.

Not a huge fan of reptiles, I quickly dart through a room with reptilian extra-terrestrials hatching from slimy eggs. The costumes and over 5,000 prosthetics used are impressive, creating realistically grotesque sights that will surely make the faint-hearted queasy.

According to production director Scott D. Peterson, the prosthetics take at least three hours to put on. The man adds that there’s always a hectic bustle as the crew and 444 actors involved in the large-scale production get ready for the evening, which explains why the theme park closes earlier, at 6pm, on event nights.

This year’s event also includes Jack’s 3-Dementia, the republic’s first 3D haunted house. Entering this funhouse-gone-ghoulishly-wrong requires visitors to put on 3D glasses to enjoy the psychedelic images. However, its usage of distorted lighting can be quite dizzying and, after a while, the disorientating illusion feels lacklustre, at best.

That said, the other scare zones – Scary Tales, Canyon of the Cursed and Bogeyman – are all delightfully frightful and provide ample selfie opportunities with the creatures that roam the grounds.

Over at Scary Tales, fairy tales are given a loony twist – for instance, Rapunzel is balding and Red Riding Hood becomes a vicious huntress instead of a hunted prey. And the Wild West is given a dark interpretation at Canyon of the Cursed.

The creepiest scare zone, though, would have to be Bogeyman. Playing on our childhood fears, this particular outdoor experience is a shadowy playground that houses “lost children” who do the bidding of that dreadful creature hiding in the cold recesses of every child’s closet.

The highlight of the evening, though, is Jack’s Nightmare Circus. Hosted by a demented clown with bloodlust, the circus freak show is an entertaining showcase that incorporates aerial acrobats, contortionists and an extreme stunt specialist.

“Are you guys ready for some gore? If you’re not, get the hell out of here,” Jack the killer clown jokingly tells the crowd at the start of the show. Don’t let his morbid joke deter you as Nightmare Circus is equal parts rock concert and satirical comedy show rather than a ghastly affair.

Menacing reptilian aliens, like this one, haunt The L.A.B. (Laboratory of Alien Breeding).

Credit for the props go to Teo, Peterson and the rest of the crew who bring this terrifying annual event to life.

“We are thrilled that fans come back year after year to experience this immersive Halloween event. With the creative team constantly challenged to enhance the horror quotient, this year we bring you a smorgasbord of scares,” says Teo.

Perhaps the most spine-chilling moment at the preview was, when asked if there were any supernatural occurrences during the preparation of the event, Teo cryptically answered: “Well, there are always stories…”

Halloween Horror Nights 4 has already started but you can still catch it on Oct 17 & 18, 22-25, 31 & Nov 1, from 7.30pm to 1.30am. Tickets are priced at S$68 (RM173). Details at www.halloweenhorrornights.com.sg.

Related story:

More to explore at Resorts World