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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: Inside This Year's Chilling Halloween Horror Nights At Universal

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Universal Studios Hollywood is in terror-mode from now through November 1, and we were lucky enough to swing by opening night to check out the new mazes and scare zones.

Universal is always a blockbuster of a haunt, featuring a number of mazes and scare zones. And because they're also a studio, they have the option to lean heavily on pop culture versus stringing together their own creepy narratives. Plus, it's a theme park, so after we checked out all the mazes, we went on the Simpsons ride, just for fun as a breather from the scary stuff.

Here's a rundown of the new haunts, without giving away any surprise startles. If you're going to go, we highly recommend getting the "Front of the Line" pass, or be prepared to stand in line for a while. We noticed wait times of about 25 minutes for some mazes, but 75 for others. The wait times will be posted at the entrance to the lines.

Halloween: Michael Comes Home

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This maze revisits the John Carpenter horror classic as you, too, try to escape the William Shatner-mask wearing serial killer who stabbed his sister to death when he was only 6. This maze a lot of fun. You walk into Myers' house—from outside, you can see a projection of him stabbing his sister—and from the moment you enter, you must evade a seemingly unending number of Michaels. Iconic scenes are revisited and there's an ultra-creepy ending we won't spoil for you. Another thing that happens within this maze, as well as in a couple others, is that it smells really, really bad. It only lasts for one scene, but it's a very visceral tribute to what it would actually smell like if the corpses you see everywhere were real.

Best Moments: The hazards of late-night phone conversations, that famous soundtrack, and the final moments that feel like the worst fun house ever.

Insidious: Return to the Further

As Insidious: Return to the Further begins, you enter into an ordinary house, but it's really, really haunted. You can hear the warning of Elise Rainier, the medium who tries to help the families plagued by spirits in the Insidious franchise, that when you call out to one of the dead, they can all hear you. As you progress, you'll find a number of sinister tableaus in each room of the house. You'll recognize Allison's bedroom and other details from the films if you've seen them—assuming you're not too afraid of the masked figures and the Brides in Black that haunt all angles of the haunt to notice. If you haven't seen any of the films, you'll find yourself in a spooky haunted house full of paranormal strangeness.

Best Moments: Pushing through a closet that contains more than just clothes, a dark hall of tortured souls, footprints where they don't belong, and "He's got your baby."

The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far

This is a fun maze that takes fans of the AMC horror hit through season five, during which our gang of survivors finds signs of a mysterious and hostile gang known as the 'wolves.' Fans of the show will enjoy the outside of the maze: you enter through Terminus, through a fenced-in field with a few roving walkers. You'll recognize many moments from the show, including the infamous truck scene where you star as Daryl and Aaron. If you don't watch the show, you're just schlepping through the Apocalypse, dodging zombies and some really weird dudes. Still pretty scary.

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Best Moments: The meal prep at Terminus, half-zombies fruitlessly reaching for you, and do these zombies seem faster to you?

Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro has a labyrinth inspired by his upcoming film Crimson Peak, which follows Edith Cushing as she explores the crumbling Allerdale Hall in England. Is it haunted? Of course it is, it's a mansion in the English countryside far enough from civilization that you can scream your head off and no one will care. Though the film isn't out yet, the attention to detail in this gorgeous maze makes you really feel like you're somewhere very old and you're not alone.

Best Moments: A chilling bathroom scene, rattling doorknobs, beautiful decor where nothing is what it seems.

This Is The End 3D

One of the more interesting new mazes is This is the End 3D. They took the comedy starring James Franco, Johah Hill, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride as survivors of a Book of Revelations-style Apocalypse, and turned it into a haunt. You'll be given 3D glasses as you enter Franco's possessed house. There are a lot of inside jokes here, from the pop culture artwork on the walls to the video screens that feature Franco's self-made recordings that act as his diary through these trying times. There are certainly a host of demons, and the 3D effects are legitimately cool, but it's not particularly scary. It's got a few decent gags, especially if you've seen the flick, and not so much if you haven't. It's a good maze to do last as a way to wind down, or first, if you're feeling anxious about the rest to come.

Best Moments: The Exorcism homage and walking towards the light.

Terror Tram: Survive the Purge

This attraction puts you on a tram headed towards a Purge party. For those of you unfamiliar with the film franchise, The Purge takes place in a dystopian future where one night each year, Americans can commit crime without any repercussions for a period of 12 hours. There are rules about what type of weaponry you can have in your arsenal and not attacking government officials ranking 10 or higher. But aside from that, the streets are a melee of 'purgers,' who happily attack and destroy everyone and everything they can. Lucky us, we're going to a very safe area on Universal's backlot where we can watch the madness unfold on CCTVs while singing patriotic tunes and munching on cheese plates. Sounds great, right? What could ever go wrong?

As a fair warning, you will have to get off the tram at some point and do a little uphill walking, so consider that when deciding your shoes.

Best Moments: The big reveal, the repurposing of another famous horror set, and walking through the end of the world.

Alien Vs. Predator

This is a returning maze, and it's probably the most visually spectacular of them all. There are some great jump scares, and lots of chest-bursting gore. There is an amazing moment where you're in a very dark room and when the light flashes, something very terrible and much bigger than you can be seen. This maze and Crimson Peak are located in the same area, accessible via a short tram ride. Of the two, this is probably the must-see if you didn't go last time, but both are fun.

Best Moment: When you realize you're not alone in the dark, and every time anything bursts out of anything else.

Scare Zones

There are four scare zones this year. One is the continuation of the ongoing purge. The other three are a little more fantastical. Our favorite, by far, was Dark Christmas. Maybe we're just excited about the upcoming Krampus film starring Adam Scott, but there's something about the lore of Krampus that gets us every time. He's basically a demonic entity of Austrian lore who comes at the same time as St. Nicholas. But instead of rewarding the good children, he tosses bad babies into his basket and transports them to the pits of Hell. 'Exterminatorz' is also a silly, but entertaining scare zone. You can find it by following the blasting dubstep. Once you've arrived, you'll realize you're in a world where humans are the pests, and you must try to escape giant rat and insect mutants who are out to get you. There's also 'Corpz,' where the ghosts of WWII soldiers are none too pleased to see you.

On top of all that, there are also numerous nightly performances from hip-hop dance troupe Jabbawockeez if you need a break from the scares, and you can also go on several of the park's year-round attractions and rides.

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights is located at 100 Universal City Plaza in Universal City. It opened on September 18 and runs though November 1. Tickets are $50 to $85, with optional add-ons like the Front of the Line pass.

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