Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 Scarier Than Ever and a Lot of Fun Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 Scarier Than Ever and a Lot of Fun
Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 has now officially opened and the fog, the ghouls, and the Hell Boxes are all out, ready to scare, terrify,... Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 Scarier Than Ever and a Lot of Fun

Knott’s Scary Farm 2016 has now officially opened and the fog, the ghouls, and the Hell Boxes are all out, ready to scare, terrify, and bemuse. There are nine mazes total this year for the annual event, in addition to 4 Skeleton Key Rooms (nominal fee applies), and one more Virtual Reality attraction (separate up-charge experience), along with two live stage shows. That is not to mention the four separate scare zones including The Hollow, new for this year.  Certainly one of the more ambitious Haunts in a while, they are attempting new concepts, new ways to entertain, and new ways to scare. We are very happy to report that this is also one of the more consistent years in the way of overall quality and execution. For the most part, everything from the mazes and shows to the scare zones were on point, with a few exceptions.


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Returning Mazes

Customarily, Knott’s Scary Farm introduces three new mazes per year, while cycling some of the older mazes out, moving the better ones to other Cedar Fair Parks around the country. Yes, we get the good stuff here first. Sad to say that we lost Black Magic (one of our favorites), Pinocchio Unstrung (which was getting a little wood rot), and the Calico Mine Overlay, My Bloody Clementine. The upside is that we still have some of the very best mazes from last year again, including Paranormal Inc., the revised Trick or Treat, and an almost totally re-imagined Dead of Winter that almost makes up for it’s debut last year.

PARANORMAL, INC. 

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The Haunting of Hayden Hill: Last year’s groundbreaking Paranormal Inc. maze will return to Knott’s Scary Farm this year. Featuring high flying aerial stunts and scares, guests investigate a haunted hospital where the patients were tortured for decades by deranged doctors and nurses. Demonic spirits of the murdered victims have been detected throughout the mysterious halls, while evil medical staff prowl for new patients to torture.

Back again are those crazy kids from Paranormal Inc. Yes, the ragtag bunch of techno geeks that just can’t stay away from using their techno-savvy in order to see into the spirit world. This was one of the very best mazes of the year for 2015 and we are happy to report that it is still just as strong as it was last year. The opening scene is still effective and a true jaw dropper for those on their first time through.

When we entered the maze, every single actor was not only on point, but full of energy. They all had a fiendish glee to their attacks that was palpable. One particular actor on stilts scared the ish out of us right before the pentagram room. Again, phenomenal work all around by the entire cast.

What is also remarkable about this particular maze is the expert use of technology in order to enhance the story, not to compete with it. Digital mapping, projected scrims, all of it was perfect.  We can’t wait to do this one several times again this year. Just absolute Haunt bliss.

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The Dead of Winter: Revenge of the Wendigo

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Deep in the frozen tundra, the realm of a treacherous snow queen has been usurped by her evil minion, the horrific wendigo. She may be dead, but her evil spell hasn’t been lifted: The dead cannibals have risen from their snowy graves as hungry creatures feast on the surrounding villages. During the chaos, the queen’s prized possession, the horrific wendigo, has seized control of her throne, ready to prey upon any unsuspecting visitors who enter the borders of its icy domain.

Last year, Dead of Winter left us feeling cold. With its promises of starts contrast and frigid  scares, we ended up with a slushy mess.  What a difference a year makes. In what can easily be called a revamp, Dead of Winter begins with a blinding white fog tunnel that references the stark whites we were meant to see the year before, then suddenly thrusts us into a world of gritty, bloody, icy horror.

The opening scene is a destroyed village ravaged by the Wendigo creature. This cannibalistic, North American monster has taken over the tundra, ravaged the village, and killed the snow queen herself. This is the second time a mythical creature has been brought in to freshen up a maze, the first being Gunslinger’s Grave, and here, it really seems to work.

Right from the get go, we are introduced to the ravenous creature as it has bloodied the town, leaving victims in its wake. We retrace some of the familiar steps from last year, including the wonderful reveal of the ice palace and the frozen lake, complete with victims in the ice and falling snow. This time around though, things are more thawed, less ice encrusted, and far bloodier.

Again, the talent here were engaging and energetic. The revamp complete re-frames the threat and we know all bets are off after seeing the Snow Queen impaled on her thrown in one of the final scenes.

While not perfect, this is a much better experience overall, and a far scarier one too.

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Trick-or-Treat

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Take a brave step forward and ring the witch’s doorbell…trick or treat, which will it be? After surviving her grisly welcome, wander into the Green Witch’s never before seen potion room and bewitched attic. But don’t leave too soon; you’re the special guest at the Green Witch’s deadly dinner party where she and her menacing Tricksters await your arrival.

Absolutely no changes from the previous year. Yes, the journey into that creepy house at the end of the lane is now in its fourth year of service and is still a highly entertaining jaunt.  Immersive and surprisingly detailed, Trick or Treat is a macabre, spooky tour of a truly haunted house run by the Green Witch herself.  For the record, we LOVE the Green Witch, and never want her to leave, ever. However, it would be nice to have seen other parts of the house this year, after getting a trip into the attic last year.

This is the perfect starter maze experience for those first timers to Haunt that aren’t sure they can handle the scares. Still beautiful, still effective, Trick R Treat is a little old to be trotting out the same tricks, but it is still a fun journey. This is another maze in which the talent was playfully scary, the costumes were delightful, and the make up was perfectly executed.

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The Tooth Fairy

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This twisted tooth fairy steals more than just baby teeth as he drags his victims out their bedroom window and into a world of deranged dentistry. Unbelievable special effects include a blackout room through which guests must feel their way out, a disorienting x-ray strobe light room, and a final encounter with the massive tooth fairy, himself. Say aahhh.

Yes, the Tooth Fairy is back again to tear teeth out of children in order to feed her soul. Virtually unchanged from previous years, we have to say that what sets this experience apart from previous years is the 2016 cast. From the time we set foot into the vile netherworld of the Tooth Fairy, we were confronted by actors who were in the moment, scary, and in their element. There was not a single bad performance. A sicking pleasure gave the performers a disturbing energy that was highly effective. This may be the best ensemble in the park right now.

If choosing to do this one, be forewarned, it is 100% messed up.

 

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Voodoo – Order of the Serpent

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The haunting legend of Papa Legba continues as guests follow him on his foreboding journey to conjure the serpent demon goddess in the outskirts of New Orleans. Trudge cautiously through the cursed swamps of the Deep South, where creatures search the murky bogs for their next bloody sacrifice and demons curse the innocent with Voodoo hexes.

Voodoo marked a new era of immersive environments when it debuted a few years ago. Now, returning for a third year, this remarkable maze is again just as good as it ever was. Of course, the Skeleton Key room has been worked into the flow of the whole experience and it seems to work. Entering the attraction’s impressive facade, we wander through a voodoo store and into the backroom where the Serpent Demon is summoned. We then inexplicably wander through a plantation home and out the back door to the marshy swampland.

The expansive set house inside what acts as a storage facility for the rest of the year is a big wow moment. Thick with blue haze, we traverse the bayou, wandering in and out of hovels, witnessing everything from crocodile skinning to voodoo to exorcisms.  When we ventured into the swamps, everything was perfectly humid, atmospheric, and everything we loved about this maze from the get go. Still a spectacular crowd pleaser, Voodoo: Order of the Serpent is worth the trip.

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The Gunslinger’s Grave: A Blood Moon Rises

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Deadly howls and a full blood moon mark your impending doom as werewolves overrun the crime stricken old west town. Walk in the bloody footsteps of a betrayed and left for dead gunslinger on his path of retribution against the Skinwalkers.

We have been waxing poetic about Haunt thus far and with good reason. Things are freaking great this year. But there is always a few flies in the ointment and, well, Gunslinger’s Grave is it. Last year Knott’s infused this western tale of revenge with a supernatural twist by working in the story of a band of lycanthropes (werewolves) that have overran the town. While most successful in bringing a new element of danger and horror to this walkthrough, its finale left us scratching our heads. The experience culminated in a visit to the werewolf lair where we came face to face with the leader of the pack. At least that is what we were promised. Instead, we ended up wandering into a cave with a twitchy animated figure that kinda looked like a dog sitting on a throne.

This year HAD to be better right? No. Yes, the same overlay is here with the werewolves. Yes, it works just as well as it did before. Then we get to the ending and again we get what looks like the Rat King staring us down before making our effortless escape. The answer for the finale of this maze is most decidedly NOT an animated figure. It didn’t work last year and it doesn’t work again this year. What is so tragic about this is that the talent in the maze KILLS it. It is a wonderful mix of familiar faces and new ones as well. But that damned figure has to be cut and live actors need to be hiding in a seemingly endless cave at the end. Don’t make us walk past what looks like Mickey’s low-rent cousin to cap the maze off. Give us a real show. Scare us!

It is a shame to report that despite the longest walk time, with the inclusion of the space used by the Skeleton Key from previous years, this is just the same old trip to the dog eared west.

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ScareZones

Back again are the three amazing, classic scare zones: Ghost Town Streets, CarnEVIL, and Dia De Los Muertos. New for this year is The Hollow.  Set in the newly reclaimed Camp Snoopy area, The Hollow will feature a horrifying encounter with the Headless Horseman.

Ghost Town Streets

The original and largest, most terrifying scare zone that started it all.   Bands of half-human, half-animal monsters prowl the streets and inhabit the fog, while the notoriously startling sliders, lunge from every fog-filled corner of the land.

Of course this place is wonderful. Come ON! It’s Ghost Town Streets AND Fog Alley.  You really can’t miss here.

Fiesta De Los Muertos

This area fuses dance music, colorful costumes, and larger than life stilt walkers in a dance party scare zone. It’s the ultimate late night celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

We are giving this one a pass today and hoping to return. The press event was held in this area and we think that may have bothered the mojo of the spirits. We will be returning.

CarnEVIL

On the Boardwalk, clowns crave your undying attention.

Of course, the clowns. They were as terrifying as they were hilarious.

The Hollow (New for 2016):

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From within the fog, the legendary Headless Horseman and his army of the undead are ready to unleash a reign of terrorin the newest scare zone, The Hollow. Guests entering the frightful 6-acre area will be terrorized by the souls of fallen soldiers and local farmers that have escaped their shallow graves.

With the departure of Special OPS: Infected from the Camp Snoopy area of the park, we suddenly had a wonderful swathe of acreage for more scares.  The Hollow takes cues from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with a dash of The Witch, to offer a sprawling atmosphere of dread and pumpkin spice.

The talent we saw in this area were good, but it felt as if they had far too much space to work with or not enough fog.  It was certainly pretty, but we could also see the scares coming from a mile away. More fog please.  Also for the record, we never once saw the headless horseman there. We ended up seeing him at the train tracks near Fiesta Village.

The Deadly 7

A sadistic crew of terrifying monsters representing each of the seven deadly sins, return to the fog of Knott’s Scary Farm this year. Together they prowl the darkest corners of Scary Farm’s midways and scare zones serving their master, The Green Witch.

Sadly, we did NOT see the Green Witch outside of her home when we visited. We are pretty sure she’s out there somewhere.

Shows

Elvira’s Danse Macabre

featuring insane dance and comedy performances. The one of a kind performance from the Queen of Halloween will transport guests to a masquerade ball full of music, dance and humor. Knott’s Scary Farm will be the exclusive home of Elvira this Halloween season.

To be honest, we were not sure what to expect from Elvira Mistress of the Dark for her fourth consecutive outing at Knott’s Scary Farm since the 40th anniversary. Danse Macabre seemed like a broad theme and one that could go any where. We are thrilled to report that this is one of her better shows at Knott’s Scary Farm and certainly a far more balanced and entertaining one than any of the other years.

Elvira wastes no time getting on the stage, making her glorious entrance in a gargantuan hoop skirt before shedding that to reveal her gorgeous gams.  Elvira was on irreverent and the consulate hostess for the first performance of the show last night and surprisingly at home with the paces of the performance.

The dancers are a great mix of talented individuals that work that stage hard. We also get a chance to see a flame dancer, a pair of aerialists, and more costume changes than we think we have seen her ever do.

A damn good show this year and a hell of a lot of fun.

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The Hanging®: Finding Gory

A live stage show in Calico Square irreverently looks back at the year’s pop culture with killer comedy. Notorious for its special effects, pyrotechnics and high-flying stunts, The Hanging is a no-holds-barred assault on pop culture’s most infamous moments of the past year. A must see parody!

Oh, the Hanging.  During an interview, original writer for The Hanging, Ken Parks, said that every year fans complained about the show being the worst ever while talking about how other shows were in the past. This year may not be any different.

The plot is simple. Find the source of evil for 2016 and kill it by hanging. Yes, the jokes are wildly inappropriate, and the pop culture references are relentless. But somehow this one loses its steam in moments of heavy dialogue (yeah, talking) when we should just be seeing blood, guts, and blood again. Finding Gory, ironically very gore-less, has a knack for some snazzy music numbers, all of which are great. They seemed to have figured that one out. Yet there were no all-out, battle royales that pulled the level of crazy to spectacle status.

The snazzy new stage certainly allows for more tricks and state of the art surround sound. Yes, surround sound in an open air theater. It was also refreshing to see a diversified cast of men and women of all races doing The Hanging.

In the end, the show is good, not great.

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Standalone Skeleton Key Rooms

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For the first time, Knott’s Scary Farm is featuring standalone Skeleton Key Rooms that are independent from mazes. The four Skeleton Key Rooms that each feature a unique story and theme delivering unparalleled scares, interactive secrets and terrifying surprises. The price for the Skeleton Key ticket is $75 and that gets you one time entrance to each Skeleton Key Room along with unlimited front of the line access to all of the mazes.

We definitely think that Fright Lane passes are a good value on the weekends and with all of the time you will be saving, you will actually have time to experience these Skeleton Key rooms, all of which are actually pretty good.

Visions

Guests must investigate the Green Witch Museum in Ghost Town where it is not the building that is haunted, but the various items contained within. Using a Phantom Finder augmented reality device, guests will be able to identify and witness paranormal activity connected to items from the Sarah Marshall Witch Trial.

Using Augmented Reality technology, the boys from Paranormal Inc. are in Ghost Town to investigate the murder of the Green Witch by the citizens of Calico.  This was fun, but probably the least favorite of ours.

ZOZO

People from all over the world claim to have been visited by the demon ZOZO after a spirit board session. Is the demonic entity known as ZOZO real or are spirit boards just a myth?

Based on the disturbing urban legend, this Skeleton Key Room has a real jolt to it. Get to this one early, as the line will get pretty long for it.

Slasher

Guests are invited to step into an 80s’ slasher horror film. The masked Angel Maker Killer is on the loose. Every lead has run cold and that’s when you step into the picture. Will you become his next victim?

A dark horse favorite, this room makes an excellent use of space to offer a nasty scare efficiently. Nice work!

Prey

Navigate a hay maze full of dead ends with only a faulty lantern as your guide. You are not alone. Mutant beasts are lurking around every corner.

Prey was a maniacally good time. One of our favorite actors was on hand, portraying the deranged farmer that lets you loose in his yard. Suspenseful, disturbing, and wonderful.

 

FearVR: 5150

This year Knott’s Berry Farm, Great America San Jose, and Canada’s Wonderland all got this brand new VR experience, 5150.  We were able to preview the experience on Wednesday night and we have shared our review here.

New Mazes

Of the new mazes this year, we are over the moon with two, and less than happy with the third one.

Special Ops: Infected

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Armed with cutting edge laser guns, brave guests will face off against hordes of zombies in the groundbreaking all-new Black Ops: Infected interactive maze. Small units of guests will battle the zombie apocalypse through blood soaked city streets and an underground sewer system crawling with nearly one hundred ravenous zombies. The high tech innovative experience thrusts guests into the middle of a live-action video game complete with live actors, real time scoring system, kill streak rewards system and interactive targets, including a juggernaut boss zombie. The new attraction is one of the largest mazes ever created in Knott’s Scary Farm history so form your squad and put your zombie apocalypse survival skills to the test in this action packed, one-of-a-kind experience.

Special Ops: Infected has been moved from Camp Snoopy, where it had originally been staged for two years, and into a far more compact setting. The City is under siege, overrun by man eating zombies, and we are armed with guns to defend ourselves.

Much tighter quarters that the two previous incarnations, Special Ops is engaging and exhilarating. It takes us through the city, a men’s department store, a subway station, and a subway car. Of course, there is the toxic wast plant, and the police station too. Zombies lunge from every corner, and it really ups the tension.  We might even think that being in the much smaller groups and cycling through faster is a superior way to execute this plan. We really liked what they did here.

This is the year for Jon Cooke to really spread his wings in regards set design. The sprawling landscape of buildings in a city is awesome, believable, and convincing.  While not as deliberate and intense as the lighting for Shadow Lands, it is still appropriate for a destroyed inner city and the sets. Props also go to the high energy cast that keep the sense of urgency going.

 

PRO-TIP If you are going, you will need to head to this right away. Even with the Fright Lane the line was a solid 30 minutes.

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Shadow Lands 

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A fulfilling life ensures a soul safe passage into eternity, but what happens to the souls of soldiers slain in battle? Enter the hair-raising Shadow Lands maze and fight off demon samurais whose souls are cursed to rot within the depths of purgatory. Guests will embark on a quest through a sacred shrine, an ancient Japanese temple and into the midst of the shadow lands.

A nightmarish dreamscape of honor, the afterlife, and samurais, Shadow Lands is an exquisitely atmospheric walkthrough. Designed by Jon Cooke (Paranormal Inc.), this maze asks us to choose our path into the Shadow Lands at the beginning, and sends us off on a journey into the after life.

On par, or even above some of the very best set designs we have ever seen, Shadow Lands plays out as an episodic fever dream of Asian references and legends. We see demonic geisha, torture chambers of the afterlife, and every other creature that you can think of along the way to the stunning finale.

The lighting and set design in this one are the very best this year. Told in blues and reds, the lighting is high contrast, and remarkably precise. The set designs are the perfect complement to the almost monochromatic tones of hot and cold. Of course, the actors are all solid and on their game, but the real star is the sets that those actors inhabit.

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Red Barn (New for 2016):

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Take a trip to a blood-soaked barn filled with carnivorous animals seeking to prey on human flesh in the Red Barn gore maze. Legend has it the farmer who owns the barn was transformed into a heinous creature that sends his sadistic sons to ensure his legacy. None dare enter the barn, for those who enter never escape.

Ah man. What was sold as a grimy homage to the Grindhouse exploitation movies of the 70’s just turned out to be another Cannibal Hillbilly maze. Let’s get this straight though. The idea of running from deranged yokels actually had us psyched for what might be inside the Red Barn. What we ended up with was a sparsely decorated ramshackle set of pallets, plywood, and bales of hay. Grrrr!

We wanted this to work so, so bad. Maybe it was an off night? We were nuts about this concept, but unless you bring something totally new to the table, it will pretty much look like what it does now.

Come on guys. This is good stuff, just finish building it out, launch the smell cannons, and lower the lighting.

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With that we close out the review for Knott’s Scary Farm 2016.  The entire staff at the farm should be proud of their work as this is one of the stronger years they have had in a while.  You would do well just to grab the season pass and go have fun when you wanted and not worry about lines

However, if you were only going once, The Skeleton Key upgrade is the way to go.

 

We are at the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor for another night of decadent scares and VIP treatment.

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Event

  • VIP (RIP) Ticket to the event
  • VIP (RIP) Lounge Access (includes unlimited taco bar and two drink tickets)
  • Early entry to the event
  • EXCLUSIVE Behind the scenes tour
  • The swings
  • The Side Show
  • The Paintball
  • Panic 4D theater premiering this year
  • MORE Special surprises from our friends at MUSE

$125

darkharbor

If you have attended the event before or visited our booth at Midsummer Scream
or ScareLA, please email info@horrorbuzz.com  for a special limited time discount code

Check out what happened at last years event here.

 

 

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Norman Gidney

Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.

  • stan@aol.com'

    Jack Lantern

    September 23, 2016 #1 Author

    I think someone needs to look up the definition of “nominal”.

    Reply

  • lnavarro1@yahoo.com'

    Larry

    September 26, 2016 #2 Author

    Agree about the amount of dialogue in the Hanging. Trumps time should be halved, instead they bring him out again. They need to put back in more stunt fights, shootings, falls and blood packs!.

    Reply

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