With some chaos Knott’s Scary Farm‘s 45th Halloween Haunt brings back many popular mazes, revamps others, introduces a couple new ones, and gives a final send off to the first Mistress of Haunt.
Well, we decided to forego the early season visit (and our own advice) and went to Knott’s Scary Farm on a mid-October Saturday night. You know, a night when everyone else in Southern California typically visits. Actually we just couldn’t find another time to go this season as we’ve been prioritizing haunts that are offering newer experiences. We also wanted to mix it up a little and report on what it’s like for real-everyday guests (with Fright Lane) and not a press media outlet that has the red carpet rolled out for them, to which there’s a significant difference in the experiences.
So after 45 years one would think that Knott’s would have it’s haunt operations running smoothly but sadly chaos ensued from the moment we arrived at the front gates. We lucked out a little on parking but even that was a mess (so was our car after paying $20 to park in a dusty lot). The process to get through the turnstile, using their mobile tickets, and getting a Fright Lane wristband was frustratingly slow. It makes no sense as to why they don’t just hand out the fright lane wrist bands to guest who’ve purchased them as they enter the park as the system for the getting the passes at designated stations within the park is aggravatingly slow and disorganized. It completely diminishes the value of the Fright Lane’s triple admission price and causes a big crowd of confused and angry people form right inside the park’s front gates.
In addition, many employees we encountered seemed clueless as to what they were doing, where things were, and what was going on in general. Line control and crowd flow was confusing and chaotic all over the park. These things matter just as much as having good mazes. The fun spirit of the evening can be quickly killed for guests if they have to endure what seems to be unnecessary frustrations. It nearly killed it for us. Being “sold out” is not an excuse for guests to have a shitty experience.
Perhaps they need to reduce the cap on the number of nightly admissions. Or maybe they need to hire more operations employees and if they’re hiring a lot of seasonal help during haunt they should take the time to properly train ALL of them. This would really make a difference on how efficient everything is ran inside the park. Compared to Universal, Magic Mountain, and Queen Mary, Knott’s lands in last place for its operations this year… a solid buried skull. Just go onto social media to see the never ending guest rants about this year’s operations.
Now on to the good stuff. While most of it is the same things we’ve all seen and loved before at Knott’s Scary Farm, part of the charm is the Halloween tradition that carries on year-after-year at the park. The new maze themes and the traditional Halloween ambiance that’s showcased across the foggy landscape is actually even more captivating this year with top notch park decorations along with high caliber and some truly scary maze designs. What distinguishes Knott’s in the Southern California theme park market is the originality of their mazes that are not confined to structured movie themes like Universal’s.
In particular, the new Dark Ride maze is probably one of the best themed and designed mazes we’ve ever experienced at Scary Farm in our past 25 years of visiting! Paranormal Inc. also continues its reign as the most terrifying maze at KSF with Shadowlands, Pumpkin Eater, and Trick or Treat: Lights Out rounding out the slate of our top mazes this year. We’re very happy that they brought back an overlay to the Timber Mountain Log Ride, even if it’s just “family friendly”. Now we hope they can get the Calico Mine Train back on board. Finally, rounding out the festivities, the anything but family friendly Elvira goes out with a (double) bang for her final season at Knott’s… sad so sad.
Now here’s our full Knott’s Scary Farm maze reviews featuring some incredible full maze videos from our friends at Theme Park HD.
New Mazes and Attractions
Journey through an abandoned carnival ride where cruel characters still linger in the shadows in the NEW maze, Dark Ride. The carnival attraction has become a refuge for sideshow freaks and now those shunned performers have created an ominous world where they plan to unleash terror on those who enter.
This is the Scary Farm maze everyone has been screaming for! Dark Ride looked spectacular and is probably one of the most imaginative and well designed mazes we’ve ever seen at Knott’s. Paying tribute to the old school carnival haunted – fun houses, Dark Ride takes guests on a twisted pathway through and behind the scenes of one of the most elaborate mazes in the history of Scary Farm. There are some fun scares but this maze is more about the story and design. It’s almost ironic how a maze based on a simplistic carnival haunted house ride features the most incredible special effects we’ve seen featured in a KSF maze. The scale of the sets, use of animatronics, music, and craftsmanship is definitely Knott’s warning shot back at HHN and others who have tried to run off with the haunt maze blueprint that they originated. A few more scares might have made this maze beyond perfect but we’re almost glad it wasn’t any scarier as we may have then missed seeing the full glory of this awesome maze by trying to cover our eyes (lol). All in all this maze definitely earns the trophy for haunt theme of the year and for the first time in our Knott’s Scary Farm history, it earns our top 666 skull rating for Haunt Design.
Daring guests will attempt to survive the wrath of the murderous 7-foot tall creature that haunts the old woods surrounding The Hollow in this year’s NEW MAZE, Pumpkin Eater. The notorious creature is on the prowl, hidden within the dark confines of the haunted town he once terrorized. To escape the sinister Pumpkin Eater’s wrath all who enter must go on a quest through the silent town of victims, face a cave of crawling insects and solve the labyrinth of thorns that blocks the only way out.
The nursery rhyme of Peter Peter Pumpkin eater is brought to life (and death) in this very imaginative maze concept. It reminded us of a mix of 1992’s Mother Noose and the more recent Cornstalkers mazes. Just like Dark Ride, Pumpkin Eater demonstrates that Knott’s has really graduated up into a new level of immersive maze theming, storytelling, and design. This maze also had quite a few good scares throughout with a high energy cast that really knows how to work within the maze’s long layout. The makeup and costuming were also well done with monstrous pumpkins and people with carved faces lurking about. There’s also some grotesque scenes but nothing that’s over the top like in the the Red Barn maze. The spiraling journey through the rotted pumpkins that requires guests to push through dripping wet passageways was a highlight of the maze. Due to many of the outdoor sections this maze is much scarier at night but all in all it really is a fun and fright inducing Halloween maze adventure.
TRICK OR TREAT: LIGHTS OUT
Are you afraid of the dark? You will be. Armed with only a faulty flashlight, explore the creepy house at the end of the street, in the upgraded Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out maze. Face the terrors of the house in complete darkness as your interactive flashlight reveals the horrors hiding in the shadows. Featuring new state-of-the-art effects, unexpected scares and other eerie surprises, Trick-or-Treat: Lights Out will terrorize you like never before.
When we first heard about this maze we thought that it was going to just be the same old Trick or Treat maze where all they’ve done now is shut off the lights so that they could promote it as something new. While this is somewhat true, it works really well with the result being more than just a gimmick. ‘Trick or Treat’ actually has never really been a scary maze to us but the “lights out” element adds a new layer of suspense and scariness to the maze this year. Each guest has their own flashlight so the rooms and settings are somewhat illuminated as the groups walk through but now the ghouls and monsters have the full advantage of seeing you before you get to see them. They also added some fantastic looking new characters and set redresses. Trick or Treat has established itself as one of the most popular Scary Farm mazes that doesn’t seem to get old. With the new lights out Trick we expect it continue to be treating guests for more years to come.
This season the Timber Mountain Log Ride becomes the Halloween Hootenanny. This is a family friendly Halloween overlay to our classic Timber Mountain Log Ride. This attraction will be open every day during the Halloween season and features a brand new original song sung by Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies.
After a hiatus that lasted for a few years, it’s so good to finally have the haunted log ride back at Scary Farm. For us this was always one of the quintessential and unique haunt experiences. This new version isn’t designed to be an overly scary experience but the upgraded props, effects and soundtrack make it one of the funnest things to do at Scary Farm and a nice break from walking around. We also appreciate that in spite of the stricter OSHA regulations they still managed to get a handful of live monsters to lurk about in the dark corners around the flume.
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.
This was last year’s standout newcomer and is still one of the most uniquely themed and beautifully designed mazes at Scary Farm. This maze is like a mix of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘The Grudge’. With the Japanese setting they were able to utilize some creative and surprising scare tactics with moving walls, sliding screens, and plenty of animated props. The monsters in this maze were high energy and athletic performers who perfectly synced their moves to the sound and lighting effects making it appear as if they could actually strike us at any second. They were able to scare us numerous times in this maze. The maze was also very colorful but still had a sinister atmosphere with drastic transitions back and forth between brightly lit and dark rooms . The highlights of this maze includes the geisha house scene, a temple with crushing stone walls, and the outdoor samurai battle where flying warriors attack from all angles decapitating prisoners in their path. This is a must see and if you don’t have Fright Lane then we highly recommend that you make this one of the first mazes you go to as it had one of the longest lines.
Paranormal Inc. features high flying aerial stunts and scares as guests help 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.
This maze is Knott’s Scary Farm’s special effects spectacular with a solid 5 skull rating across all categories. It all begins with a pre-show where ghost hunters are showing their recent contact with a spirit from another dimension but things “surprisingly” go wrong quickly and soon the group is split up into two and everyone must find their own way to escape the raging demons that have come to take us back to the “other side”. They spared no expense in this maze where they cleverly mix digital projections, animatronics, practical effects, and rigged sets. This is the maze where they were able to scare us the most and the group we were with was even more terrified. People were actually hesitating to go from one room to the next. There a disorienting lighting effects and some impressive stunts such as a guy suddenly getting sucked up into the ceiling by a force of evil. Every detail in this maze is well crafted and the actors do a great job trying to keep you scared and emerged in the story. This is one of scariest mazes at Knott’s that we won’t soon forget.
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.
This had been one of our top ranking mazes at KSF for the past few years but sadly it has become (forgive the pun) long in the tooth. For anyone who has a fear of going to the dentist or the sound of drills then you probably will find this maze to be terrifying. The story begins with scenes of children loosing their teeth and once the Tooth Fairy arrives to collect their denture gems, we end up following it deep down inside the nightmarish abyss of a dental torture chamber. The claustrophobic hallway with dark hairy walls was closed off when we went and that significantly diminished the effect of entering the Tooth Fairy’s world. Tooth Fairy’s lair depicts scenes of depraved root canals, blood soaked coins, monstrous dental apparatus, and deranged hygienists. It’s all every gross and unnerving, just like a root canal. What we still like about this maze is the feeling of being taken farther away from the real world with no chance of getting back. The talent here was okay but sparse when we went through. There were a couple startling moments but nothing terrifying this time around. It’s easy to get distracted by the sets and projected scenes allowing the Tooth Fairy and its minions plenty of opportunities to catch you by surprise with a cheap scare, but sadly it just didn’t happen to us. We expect that this would be the maze’s last year and sadly it’s not going out with a silver crown but who knows maybe Knott’s will just turn out the lights or put a new veneer on some of the sets and say it’s an all-new maze in 2018.
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.
Red Barn returns with the tired and true haunt concept of being attacked by cannibalistic hillbillies. This maze definitely has more gore than scares. We had hope that this maze would have improved from last year but we were still disappointed. Many of the monsters in this maze were lazy and wandering about just taunting us as we passed by. We also felt that the “normal” hillbilly look made the actors seem too attached to their human identity and there would of been more impact if they had more mutated hillbillies and creatures running around. This maze has potential to be a more intense experience but for now it should just be locked away in the back of the barn. We don’t suggest waiting in a long line for this maze if you’re pressed for time.
SPECIAL OPS: INFECTED
Armed with cutting edge laser guns, brave guests will face off against hordes of zombies in the groundbreaking Special Ops: Infected interactive maze.
In Special Ops you are armed with a laser gun and get to fire away at zombies and animated props wearing collars that light up when you accurately (or accidentally)”shoot” them. This maze is somewhat fun, especially of you like shooting at things, but the there’s hardly any ounce of terror in it. Throughout the maze there are zombies and military ops running chaotically all over the place. The sets are interesting and well constructed but you really don’t have enough time to take it all in as the “Ops” keep yelling at guests to hurry up as you make your may through the maze. This rapid pace kills any kind of suspense and the zombies are always in plain sight so there’s not a single scare in this maze. The fun solely comes from blasting the zombies and watching the collars light up. Perhaps it would be scarier if you had to catch a zombie but we know that probably wouldn’t work so well either. Nonetheless, the interactive elements make this maze unique but we’re not sure it’s really worth the extra long (and slow) lines for what the experience provides.
Beware the cursed swamps of New Orleans, where mindless zombies trudge through the murky bogs in search of bloody sacrifices and demons use Voodoo curses to possess innocent souls. Choose your path carefully children, for one wrong turn and you will be hexed forever. This year’s maze is even longer featuring a new finale.
This year the maze flows in reverse which for some reason makes it a little better than last year. We still miss the choose your own path section they had the first year, which was a big part of the fun. Now everyone follows the same path starting inside deep inside the swamp, leading into some cabins on the edge of the bayou, before ending in a New Orleans voodoo shop where everything wicked has come. As we’ve said before, this maze looks great from the lighting to the prop pieces. There are some decent scares where they employ the sound and light effects that are overly popular at Universal’s HHN. The section through the bayou swampland has an authentically spooky atmosphere where it’s dimly lit and filled with plenty of fog. With a few more monsters it would push up the scare factor of this maze significantly. We still feel that the Voodoo maze doesn’t have the scary intensity that the setting is begging for but it’s still worth checking out and a strong compliment to Knott’s repertoire of mazes.
GHOST TOWN STREETS: Ghost Town Streets is the original – and still most terrifying scare zone – that started it all. Bands of half-human, half-animal monsters prowl the streets and inhabit the fog. Beware the notoriously startling Sliders who lunge from every fog-filled corner of the land. New for this year, Ghost Town Streets has been expanded to the backstage maze area to create the largest scare zone in Scary Farm history, full of new surprises.
FIESTA de los MUERTOS: Fiesta de los Muertos fuses dance music, colorful costumes, and larger than life stilt walkers in a dance party scare zone with even more characters than last year to create the ultimate late night celebration of Dia de los Muertos.
CarnEVIL: Knott’s Boardwalk is taken over by “CarnEVIL,” where the freak show is the main event and countless clowns crave your undying attention.
The Hollow: From within the fog, the legendary Headless Horseman and his army of the undead are ready to unleash a reign of terror in 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.
ELVIRA’S LAST SHOW
Elvira, the legendary Mistress of the Dark, graces the Knott’s Scary Farm stage for the final time this year! Elvira goes out with a bang in a spectacular all-new show! The one of a kind performance will transport guests to a spooky world full of music, dance and humor. Don’t miss your last chance to pay your respects to the Queen of Halloween at Knott’s Scary Farm! It was also sad to see the end of an era as Elvira makes her final appearance at haunt but all good things must come to an end, or in her case, to a front.
All we can say is that the Mistress goes out in style with a (short) show that pays tribute to her classic self-titled movie. It would have been nice to have seen a little more (of showtime) but in essence this was a farewell show so maybe a shorter goodbye is sweeter. We’ll truly miss her fun and shenanigans but it’s probably best for her to retire while she’s still on top… of the ground.
The Hanging: Fake Noose looks back at the year’s pop culture with killer comedy performing nightly on the Calico Mine Stage
Knott’s Scary Farm Overall Fright Value:
Overall Rating of Knott’s Scary Farm 2017:
Tickets and Dates
Knott’s Scary Farm is open through October 31. Tickets are now on sale.
Knott’s Scary Farm is the largest and most haunting Halloween experience in Southern California, with unimaginable scares and innovative thrills that can’t be found anywhere else. The fully transformed theme park encompasses 13 uniquely haunted mazes and attractions, sinister shows and more than 1,000 horrifying creatures lurking in the fog and hiding in every corner of the park. This year’s halloween event has all the ingredients of a truly terrifying nightmare. But unlike most dreams, Knott’s Scary Farm is a nightmare you can’t wake up from — which makes it the thing to do for Halloween this year.