ORLANDO -- Let's face it: With a little over six hours to conquer eight haunted mazes, two shows, a handful of scare zones and the plethora of rides at Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights, there's not much time left to spare. Unless you invest in a pretty pricey Express Pass -- ranging from $59.99 to $109.99 on top of general admission -- you won't get to see all of the attractions at this year's Horror Nights.
If you can't swing the extra pass, here are five of this year's top attractions that you won't want to miss based on a sneak preview we attended last week.
'Alien vs. Predator' maze
Mike Aiello, creative director for Universal's entertainment team, really likes puppets.
No, not the shrimpy little sock ones we used as kids.
For last year's Horror Nights, Aiello & Co. engineered a tremendously intricate recreation of the razor-toothed beast from the '80s classic, "An American Werewolf in London." This year, Universal is busting out its best tricks to create alien puppets for the power-packed AVP: Alien vs. Predator maze.
"It scared us to death to try to recreate," Aiello said. "You're talking about two of the most iconic monsters in the modern age: predators and aliens."
Creating such a beautiful puppet for "American Werewolf" gave the creative team the inspiration to build six for the AVP maze, Aiello said.
The 'Walking Dead' maze
Universal is bringing back its wildly popular Walking Dead maze for a third year. This year's creation, based on the most iconic moments from Season 4 of the AMC show, will be the largest maze ever created at Halloween Horror Nights.
"We're upping the ante as far as Walking Dead is concerned," Aiello said.
Based on the 1978 John Carpenter film, the "Halloween" maze transforms guests back to Haddonfield, Ill., where a wee Michael Myers butchered his sister with a kitchen knife.
The maze takes place underneath one of Universal's high-tech tents, but don't let the big top fool you. The sound -- the original score plays throughout -- is unmatched and the setting so detailed it's easy to forget you're not in Haddonfield.
Guests walk through the front door of the Myers' house -- a stunning replica is built at the tent's entrance -- and are spooked by a knife-wielding Myers at every twist and turn.
One of the most gorgeously recreated scenes is set up near the middle of the maze where Annie Brackett is being strangled in a red sedan by a certain backseat driver.
Bayou of Blood Scare Zone
A voodoo queen, Mamba, will sacrifice one human every hour in this candle lit scare zone.
"She's not performing it for you," said Lora Wallace, Universal show director. "She's doing it for herself."
Jars hanging from trees will be illuminated above a bayou infested with spiders, snake and human blood. After death, the lights will go out and the voodoo queen will inhabit all the evil in the world inside of her.
Convoluted? Maybe. But we're interested to see how Universal pulls off that "human sacrifice" without looking too bogus.
'The Purge' Scare Zone
Universal is reallllly good at transforming movies into attractions, so a scare zone based off of the "The Purge: Anarchy," the second "Purge" film, should be promising. Guests will become civilians fighting to survive and outsmart the anarchy that has flooded the streets.
Details: Halloween Horror Nights is open select dates from Sept. 19 through Nov. 1 at Universal Studios, 1000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando. Event starts at 6:30 p.m.; closing times vary nightly. General admission is $95.99. Florida resident ticket prices range from $45.99 to $72.99. Visit halloweenhorrornights.com for dates and pricing options.