The grand-daddy of Halloween events is back and is ready to turn your worst fears into reality once more for its 43rd year in a row. From demented dolls, to twisted tooth fairies, maniac magicians and some titillating talent acts, Knott’s Scary Farm is back and bigger than ever before. Please let it be known that this “review” is based on our experience during opening night. It’s common that many effects are still being tinkered with, talent is getting into the grove of things, and it’s hard to base final judgement on something that has only been running for a few hours vs. the rest of the 6 week run and that goes for any Halloween event, really. This “review” will focus primarily on what is new, without trying to spoil too much. There are many secrets deep inside the farm that you just need to see for yourself.
Over the past few years the creative team behind Scary Farm have really been trying to redirect the event in a new more terrifying more serious direction. What was once a very campy event, with mazes that felt more satirical than theatrical, has evolved into a venue for top-notch movie quality sets, lighting, sound and innovation. This year the bar gets raised once again in those aspects.
Entering the Farm we’re met by The Green Which, Knott’s Icon, and her brand new troop of mischievous minions called The Deadly Seven. Characters appropriately based on the seven deadly sins. The Tricksters had a good run during their time roaming the streets, but the Deadly Seven bring new life into many of the scare zones. Since Knott’s Berry Farm takes pride in being a family friendly destination, no signs of Scary Farm can be seen during regular park hours. While that is a feat upon itself it also means that any Halloween specific props, set pieces, maze facades or general theme in non-existence with the exception of the traditional skeleton and cobweb overlays that the adorn the scare zones. This puts more pressure on the talent to really bring each scare zone to live. As usual the street talent rocked it and remain some of the highest energy and best in the business. The Deadly Seven are a wonderful breath of fresh air. Be sure to keep your eye out for them as each member has their own trading card that they hand out to you. How cool is that?
Apart from The Deadly Seven, each scare zone is relatively the same as it was the previous year.
Where Knott’s has improved the most in recent years is the overall quality of each maze and quality control of the talent in the maze. We’ll get more in-depth a little later in the review. Taking a look at everything that was brand new for this year we will start with one of the most anticipated mazes of the year, Paranormal Inc.
The story of PI focuses on a team of Paranormal investigation crew who have their own cable network television show “Paranormal Inc”. This is set up in the queue with video monitors show various clips from episodes of the fictitious show. Without spoiling too much, it’s safe to say that Paranormal Inc is the most innovative and impressive maze that I’ve been through at any of the Southern California haunts (can’t speak for any other haunts). From set quality to visual effects, this maze sets a standard far above anything the park has done in the past, courtesy of the mazes designer Jon Cooke who told us on a behind the scenes tour that he basically lived in that maze for many months. His hard work really showed off. The maze not only fills the largest warehouse in Knott’s array but additional scenes were constructed outside the footprint of the warehouse area making this one of the largest mazes in recent years.
Once you’ve entered the facade of the Hayden Hills Sanitarium, you’re placed in a very large room. Your location in this room will depend on your maze experience after that. The maze does split into two different experiences after the first show, that meet together around the 2/3 point of the maze for the grand finale. This means you will not see the entire maze unless you do the walk-through twice.
Enter the world of Paranormal Inc.
Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter comes from the mind of Gus Krueger as his 2015 entry to Knott’s army of mazes. The maze itself is does not come off as Scary, but one of the more visually stunning/gruesome mazes in the vein of Dominion of the Damned. It tells a story of an evil snow queen (similar to Elsa) who commands an icy army of zombies (similar to White Walkers) who are constantly after you, and you meet a few familiar snowy characters on the way. The maze is very detailed as you would expect from Knott’s Scary Farm and also very bright, something not so common. Featuring an icy mirror maze, snow caverns, and one mega-AC, this is the one of the most environmentally encompassing mazes to come to Scary Farm in recent years. A great break from the current Southern California heat wave as well! The maze seems to be hit or miss for many people. Disappointing in the category of scares but very well done from a thematic perspective.
Enter the world of the Snow Queen!
My Bloody Clementine
While this isn’t exactly a maze as much as it is an overlay to the Calico Mine Ride it is ticketed as one and very much so worth noting. Overlays to the Mine Ride are uniquely Knott’s and very fun to see what they can do with the iconic sets each year. This year marks the return of live-actors in the ride, something we’ve not seen since the multi-million dollar makeover that was given to the Mine Ride in recent years, and it was very apparent that a lot of care was put into the location of each monster and the effects preventing any damage to the updated ride. As a former monster who used to work in the Mine Ride, it was easy to see the sets receiving a lot of damage from monsters who got into scaring their roles a little bit too much. That will no longer be the case as projection effects now fill the majority of the attraction with a hand full of live actors placed throughout. It’s nice to see the mine-ride have talent again, and even nicer to see that it was done with care. It’s worth hitting this ride early as lines can get pretty lengthy.
Tour the caverns of My Bloody Clemetine
Gunslinger’s Grave: A Blood Moon Rises
The Gunslinger is back for his 3rd year in a row but now that all the members of the Red Hang Gang have been killed, he faces a new foe, deadly Werewolves! The maze itself is 95% the same but with Werewolf masks. It does feature a small new finale as well as the former skeleton key room being added to the footprint of the maze. Gunslinger is a solid and unique entry to Scary Farm as an all outdoor maze, and is worth touring (especially if it’s still light outside). But if you’ve done it before, you’re not missing too much.
Voodoo: Order of the Serpent
Voodoo on the other hand has seen many new changes, the front of the maze saw some new scenes including a brand new skeleton key room, and what was once an interactive experience where you would choose your own path has been turned into one long flow-through. This not only adds several minutes to the maze experience but allows guests to see all of the incredible details of the swampland at one time. The back end of the maze also saw a brand new finale. What was once an abrupt ending has now been given a creepy crypt themed exit path which was absolutely needed last year. This is still a must do as one of the most visually stunning and creative mazes Knott’s has ever done.
Trick or Treat
Trick or Treat also saw some major changes this year with 2 brand new scenes at the end of the maze. The witches potion room and her attic are huge new additions to the maze. Just as detailed as ever before these rooms compliment the maze perfectly. It’s absolutely worth checking out for the new rooms themselves in this classic maze. Must do!
Black Magic saw a few changes including the addition of the skeleton room to the rest of the maze as well as a few minor changes inside the maze. The maze for the most part is mostly the same. The facade is just as awesome as ever and it’s always worth checking out!
The only changes that this maze saw was the addition of a great new skeleton key room as well as a brand new finaly where you face off with the tooth fairy herself. Very creepy maze, especially if the idea of a maniac ripping teeth out of your face haunts your thoughts. One great new addition is that this maze finally had it’s own queue. In past mazes were daisy chained so if you lined up for one, you were automatically going to see the 2nd. This helps the park a lot allowing people to queue up for The Tooth Fairy, considering how long the lines for Paranormal Inc currently are.
This maze sadly feels like its days are numbered entering its 4th year in 2015. The maze itself is as strong and twisted as its ever been with no real changes for 2015. The talent (especially the actor playing Pinocchio in the Skeleton Key room) is especially strong this year. If you love twisted fairy tales then this is a must do since it takes advantage of many of the creepy scenes seen in the Disney cartoons.
This year Forevermore saw a few minor layout changes. I noticed that many of the larger rooms have been re-arranged to offer a more dynamic footpath, and that is always a welcome change. Currently the longest maze at Knott’s Scary Farm this maze too does feel like it’s days are numbered. It tells the story of a crazed killed who’s been inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe and calls himself the “Forevermore Killer”.
Special Ops Infected: Patient Zero
Like most other outlets, we did not have the opportunity to experience this on opening night. We were given a return time of 9:30. Once we arrived around that time we were told it would be around another 2 hours after that rendering the whole return time concept useless. Capacity is a major issues for this as lots of guests were unhappy with the wait especially after arriving early to get their return ticket. Hopefully this is something Knott’s can working in the days to come.
Elvira has once again returned to the farm with a pack of escaped crazies from the local asylum. The show is similar to past year’s shows in format. Lots of dance numbers and talent acts followed by Elvira cracking crude jokes at pop culture, not to mention a large array of boob jokes. The show ends with a musical number from Elvira!
The Hanging: Straight Outta Calico
We had hopes of catching the 11PM showing of The Hanging but sadly due to technical difficulties the show was cancelled. We’ll be sure to update this article in the near future when we get the chance to see The Hanging in person and film it for you guys.
That does it for this overview of Knott’s Scary Farm 2015. The improvements Knott’s has been making have been very welcomed. The overall quality of the talent has improved in the mazes, gone are time times of the clicky gloves in your face (thank god) and wandering monsters, making this year’s one of the strongest ever. The talent was energetic and the combination of last year’s and this years top notch offerings make Knott’s Scary Farm one of the best haunts in the country and a must do for horror fans.