Knott’s Scary Farm kicked off their 45th Halloween Haunt event on Thursday, September 21st, welcoming Halloween, horror, and theme park fans alike. Running blindly into the thick fog at the birthplace of the theme park haunt, expectations were high that this year would be a benchmark of quality for such a significant anniversary. Hopes were rewarded with a collection of tried and true scare zones along with next generation haunted house experiences, and the return of the themed Timber Mountain Log Ride that resulted in one of the strongest years at Knott’s Scary Farm ever.
Hyperbole? No. As one who has been visiting Knott’s Scary Farm since the single digits, I can personally say that I have never had this much fun at the event. Every single scare zone, including Dia De Los Muertos, and every single maze, including the oddly reworked Voodoo, are but mere shades of grey in an otherwise pristine white slate.
The two shows are also strong efforts for this year. Not only do we get one of the most hilariously ribald Hangings in years, we see the departure show of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Both are remarkably consistent. The Hanging plays as an acidic commentary on pop culture, while Elvira delivers the goods on all fronts.
Unlike Universal (which is wonderful by the way), Knott’s has the freedom to dive into the wellspring of creativity hidden within the recesses of their Entertainment Design department to offer original concepts, instead of familiar properties, with which to terrify horror fiends.
The scare zones have all been cast expertly with actors that are particularly engaging. Dia De Los Muertos actually has scares now. The cast in this scare zone on opening night worked tirelessly to deliver energetic scares and interaction to guests. The Hollow returned this year with a clearer sense of identity anchored by a delightfully gelatinous maze. Carnevil owned with the aggressive comic scares. Ghost Town Streets offered the classic western, epic scares. We will focus on each in a future article.
The themed Timber Mountain Log Ride returns to Knott’s Scary Farm with the delightful Halloween Hootenanny. Sticklers for the division of day show vs. night show, General Park Manager Jon Storbeck and Manager Raffi Kaprelyan insisted on a show that could easily be adapted to a scarier version once the fog machines fired up.
The solution was to develop a log ride with original music by Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies, a whimsical storyline of an oddball interstellar hootenanny and the addition of live actors in key spots after dark. Then there is the surprise animatronic on the lift hill. You will have to watch the video for full spoilers on that but suffice it to say that this was a welcome return.
The Hanging: Fake Noose!
For the first time in a long time, The Hanging is funny. Not a few jokes here and there…no, this is funny through and through. Not for the easily offended, The Hanging: Fake Noose! is a pretty rank send-up of pop culture summarizing the last year. Pretty much no one is safe. Please let this show remain a bastion of satire for years to come.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark
This year marks Elvira’s last show at Knott’s Scary Farm, so it’s obvious that you need to get out there and see it. While previous incarnations of her stage show have featured highs and lows, this final show was firing on all cylinders. From start to finish, Elvira and her gang of dancers delivered what is probably her most fun, and fast paced, show to ever grace the stage. As a final send-off, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark was a true delight, and a great way to bid adieu to everyone’s favorite ride at Knott’s. Also, tassels.
Special Ops: Infected
While nothing has changed on the surface level to this maze, Special Ops: Infected added a few more zombies to kill, and it shows. This maze is still frantic and tons of fun, without any hiccups. Moving away from the ticketed system a few years ago was the best decision they made for this maze, and it now runs pretty much without a hitch. This is the best, interactive experience they have to offer. Nothing beats shooting zombies in the head.
The Red Barn was just OK last year, there is no denying that. This year, however, things seemed to have worked out better in this cannibalistic farm. Creating a more frantic tone by “running” you through it, it creates a greater sense of urgency. The victims (all captured on their Senior Trip apparently, if you look closely) guide you through, helping to open doors to try to escape. It actually had some twinges of humor as well, which was welcome, and helped portray an 80s horror film vibe. Well done to the creative team on improving this one.
Now on its third year, not a single thing changed in this maze, and rightfully so. You don’t mess with perfection, and thankfully, they didn’t. Still a wonderful maze.
Coming back again is Voodoo: Order of the Serpent, but with a slight twist; you now go through it backward. Starting in the cemetery scene and working your way into the swamp, everything else remains the same. We can assume that, with funds going into the new mazes, this was the best way to change it up a bit. A bit baffling, sure, but an interesting way to make it feel a little bit fresh.
Journeying back into the Shadowlands, Knott’s wisely added a second pre-show room to help with crowd flow. Aside from that, the maze remains relatively the same, with an amped up finale by adding more samurais to add more scares. A fantastic maze all around.
The Tooth Fairy
Still as creepy as the day it debuted, Tooth Fairy is a disturbing foray into the world of the famed children’s tale. Minor updates include a new finale with a live actor now portraying the fictional creature, and it certainly ups the scares. Still scary, still great.
Trick Or Treat: Lights Out
One of our favorite mazes of all time, this new version literally turns off the lights for a scare-fest. Now, every guest is handed a flashlight as they walk in, and are left to explore the darkness on their own. Wandering the hallways of the Green Witch’s house, the monsters have free reign within the darkness, and the scares come fast and furious now. Also, Knott’s controls your flashlight, so be prepared for it to turn off, change colors, and much more. Also, there are two new scenes within, and let us explore other aspects of the house. This really feels like a “new” maze all around, and is quite wonderful.
There is no other way to say this: Dark Ride is a triumph. From top to bottom, the entire maze is a work of absolute brilliance. Words cannot describe how absolutely incredible it is. It is everything we wanted it to be and much, much more. This is going to be the winner of the haunt season overall, and quick frankly, for years to come.
This twisted fairy tale was another wonderful addition to the Knott’s line up. The queue set the town, wandering through the village in which Peter Pumpkin Eater lives, the maze lives up to the name and delivers fantastic scares. Set design was top notch. It really compliments its location within The Hollow scare zone.
We’re calling it now; Knott’s Scary Farm wins this Haunt season. They are absolutely firing on all cylinders here, and they knocked it out of the park. This year, there isn’t a bad seed in the bunch, everything is top notch. We are incredibly impressed by the hard work that went into this, and we have to commend the Knott’s team for really making their 45th year special.
This is the year you don’t want to miss Scary Farm. You NEED to go see it. It is absolutely wonderful and showcases all of the best things about the haunt season. Go. Trust us.