HHN Hollywood sticks to its formula of cinematic themed mazes with a lineup featuring some of the most popular horror movies and TV series.
For 2018 there’s the unexplained and ghostly phenomenon in the “Stranger Things”, “Poltergeist” and “The Horrors of Blumhouse” mazes. Killers, slashers, and creeps in the “The First Purge”, “Halloween 4”, and “Trick r’ Treat” mazes. You’ll also come face to face with some of horror’s top movie icons in the incredibly fantastic “Universal Monsters” maze. Plus, the tried and true HHN attractions like “The Walking Dead” walk-through attraction, “Terror Tram”, and a few miscellaneous scare zones try their best to also thrill guests.
HHN is still one of our top Theme Park haunts in SoCal and we continue to rank their mazes highest in overall design, theme, and scare factor. However, the redundancy and predictability are starting to become apparent to those of us who go every year. The pacing and design of all the mazes have become cookie cutter with very little variation in how they’re staged. While there are some great scares, the impact is minimized when the same tactics are used year after year, maze after maze. This year there also was the increased over reliance on the black curtain transition rooms where a scareactor pops out of the darkness in nearly every maze.
The question we keep asking ourselves as the years go by is how can HHN be further enhanced to raise the bar and stay ahead of the haunt curve, which they’ve set themselves? Should they remain locked into producing mazes solely tied to movie and TV franchises?
By all means, HHN is still a great time but as the years go on we fear that they may be painting themselves into a bloody corner with limited originality. We know the team is creative enough to come up with a least a few new tricks every year to keep the HHN experience fresh. Having experienced HHN at Universal Orlando where they have a few unique mazes every year, we think if Hollywood included more original themes into their mix then they would have the perfect collection of mazes in one park. Plus with the successful launch of Warner Bros.’ own studio Haunt right down the street, which owns and now features big horror IPs such as The Conjuring, Pennywise (IT), Freddy, and Jason, Universal will need to do some more updating and diversifying to remain the top ‘final girl’ of Theme Park Haunts.
The overall park experience at HNN is as good as ever. They’ve improved on the operations and the staff was generally helpful. The layout of the park is still unwieldy with the mile-long walk, each way, from the front gate to the mazes at the bottom of the studio lot but we guess there’s no real way they can change that. It would be great if they would open up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section to disperse more of the crowds on the upper lot.
The early entry option is a must for those who purchase general admission as it allows you time to get through all the mazes with significantly reduced wait times. We used it and were able to go through a couple of the mazes twice which was a great bonus. We wished they had an option where you could buy a one-time one maze front of the line pass. It may not be practical but after getting through all the lower lot mazes and then having to wait over an hour for the upper lot mazes it was something we wished we had at the end of the night.
Now, on to our maze reviews featuring videos from our friends at ThemeParkHD!
Many of the big theme-park haunts are creaking open their gates this weekend and we’ve carefully assembled some Terror Tips for getting the most screams and bang for your buck out of the night. As you begin your planning and preparation for the season of the witch, this list of tips will help you experience every maze, attraction, and maybe even the dumb shows at these mega-haunts. So pay attention, please. We don’t want you or your money to be left behind.
Trust us, we know how to Haunt Stalk.
1. GET THERE EARLY
This is the number one tip. Seriously, if you follow only one recommendation on this page, this should be the one. This will make or break your entire night. TRUST US. Get there before the haunt opens; we recommend at least a half-hour early. Remember you need to plan time for parking and to get through any security checks so you can queue up to get inside at opening. Some haunts will actually start letting people in before the posted official opening time. Universal has started opening some haunts as early as 5pm. If you get there early you might be able to go into a maze with almost no one else in it. Other haunts have “opening scare-amonies” that are worth watching and set the mood for the night (but skip them if you can get into the mazes ahead of the crowds). At Knott’s Scary Farm we’ve been able to get into three mazes within the half-hour before the haunt even opens, and we’ve never bought the early entry or “pre-scare dinner” option.
Related to this: Buy your tickets in advance if you can. Waiting in line for tickets wastes valuable time. Why add another queue to your night?
2. Go Early in the Season
Haunts get more crowded the closer it gets to Halloween. They hit their peak on the weekend before Halloween. We suggest attending as close to the opening weekend as possible. The actors are also fresh and ready to scare. We’ve witnessed “monster fatigue” when we’ve gone near the end of haunt season, when we’ve noticed monsters talking to each other inside the maze or drinking a soda as they lean against a wall. The only downside with attending early in the season is that some scares might not be completely worked out, and actors might just be finding their groove. The second or third weekend of a haunt is usually the best time to visit.
3. Haunt Stalk on “Off Peak” Nights
From our experiences, you’ll find much shorter lines by going to haunts that are open on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Thursdays can be lighter earlier in the season. However, do pay attention to the local school holidays as those can have a significant impact on the crowds’ sizes during these “off nights” as the haunt will be filled with pre-teen brats who were dropped off by their parents so that the ghost and ghouls can babysit them for the night. The Sunday before Columbus day is especially risky.
4. Consider a Front-of-the-Line Pass on Friday and Saturday Nights
…if you insist on ignoring the previous tip. Perhaps this tip should have been titled “Avoid Friday and Saturday Nights,” but we know that’s not realistic for most people. Work and school get in the way of attending haunts during the week. Sunday night could be a good compromise—lines will be much shorter, and you’ll still be able to arrive early (see tip #1) to avoid more of the crowds (your co-workers are used to seeing you looking hungover on Mondays anyway). But if you absolutely must go on a Friday or Saturday night, we recommend upgrading your ticket to a “Front-of-the-Line” pass (don’t forget to buy in advance!). Time is money, however, we realize that these passes can be pricey, so if you follow the other tips, you might be able to bypass the upgraded ticket and still see everything. After all, there are a lot of great haunts to attend, and you don’t want to blow your budget on a single ticket.
5. Bone Up on the Rules
With the terrors of the real world growing rampant, the security measures at many of these haunts has increased significantly. With this increased security comes annoying policies and rules that can make it even more time consuming, difficult, or even preventative for you getting inside; even if you have no intentions of being a haunt evildoer. Therefore, bone up on the rules at the respective haunts before you arrive. You don’t want to be the one who has to go all the way back to your car to return your forbidden camera, spiked jewelry, or switchblade. We also suggest that you travel light as there’s usually express lines for Haunt Stalkers who aren’t trying to enter with purses, bags, clothes (j/k), etc. Anyway, you’re just going for a night and not moving in… unless the haunts choose you to fill their residency quota.
6. Eat Before You Get There—Or Wait Until You Leave
Do you really want to wait in line for a crappy hot dog that costs $8? No, you don’t. As part of the “GO EARLY” plan, you should have an early dinner near the park. If you get hungry, grab a snack and eat in line. Don’t waste valuable time queuing up for theme park food. On the other hand, you could also wait and eat afterward. For example, Knott’s usually has a “midnight breakfast buffet” (12 am to 3 am) at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant next to the park that might be a good option.
7. Keep Your Group Small
“The More the Merrier” does not apply to haunts. Hitting all the mazes, scare zones, shows, and rides in a single, crowded night requires coordination, and the more people you have in your group, the less likely it is that consensus will be reached about where to go and what to do. Some people will want to go on the rides first, some will want to hit the mazes, some might be hungry and want food (see #3 above). We recommend keeping your group to no more than 6 people unless you’re willing to accept that you won’t get to do everything.
8. Tackle the Haunts Front to Back
Note: this works only if you’ve arrived early. You might think going straight to the mazes in the back of the park is a good idea, but you’re wrong. Sure, there will be no one in the back when you get there, but when you circle back to the mazes in the front of the park, they’ll be packed. Almost everyone else will be working from front to back, so as long as you’re ahead of the pack (by getting in early, see #1 above), this approach works best. If you’ve arrived late, forget it. You’re screwed, no matter what approach you take.
As a side, with Universal Hollywood’s unconventional layout they tend to allow early entry for the mazes in the lower lot, at the back of the park, so follow this plan doing the first mazes you encounter on the lower lot and then keep working your way to very back. You’ll likely get through all those mazes, which is a majority of them, with a significantly reduced wait time. Just be prepared to wait a little longer for the few on the upper lot. However, your overall wait time for the night should be reduced with this plan.
9. Don’t Loiter in the Scare Zones
… well only if you’re talking about our website. You will most likely pass through the scare zones as you make your way to the mazes. This absolutely adds to the overall experience but don’t get caught up hanging in the scare zones until you’ve already been through all the mazes/houses. As while you’re busy running away from and taking #selfies with a ghoul, the crowds will be surging past you and filling up the #longlines. You can always go back later in the night and leisurely scream through the scare zones.
10. Go On Rides and See Shows Only After You’ve Been in All the Mazes
It’s Halloween season, and mazes/houses are the main attraction. These are open only 5 or 6 weeks at most during the year. You can go back and to get on all the coasters and E-Ticket rides some other time. And let’s face it, most shows at haunts are pretty terrible. Save all of these “dis-ttractions” for last, or at least until after you’ve hit all the mazes you really wanted to go through.
Two New Haunted Mazes and One New Scare Zone Bring Fresh Frights in 2018
Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America, the Bay Area’s premier Halloween event, will begin terrifying guests on Sept. 21. Scares take place on select Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Oct. 28. Tickets are on sale now at www.cagreatamerica.com/haunt.
Halloween Haunt offers eight haunted mazes, each with its own frightening theme in a standalone experience, plus three scare zones, where guests encounter midways that have been completely transformed with ghoulish monsters and rampant scares.
New for 2018, the Tooth Fairy maze will lead guests on a terrifying journey through the twisted world of a dental fiend in search of loose teeth who drags people from their bedrooms and into a nightmarish dentist’s office. Madame Marie’s Massacre Manor, a perennial guest favorite maze, will be reimagined in 2018 as Madame Marie’s Blackout. The lights have been turned off in Madame Marie’s mansion, and guests are given only a dim flashlight to lead their way through her cursed halls. Also new in 2018 is Ripper’s Revenge scare zone, where guests will encounter a mob of villains who are dead set on taking over old-town London—and running off any guests who stand in their way.
Halloween Haunt’s returning mazes include Backwoods, Chaos House, CornStalkers, Roadkill Roadhouse, Wax Museum Chamber of Horrors and Zombie High. Popular scare zones Jester Town and Feary Tales will also return in 2018.
Magician Ed Alonzo (of Saved By The Bell fame) will bring cutting-edge humor with his new show Ed Alonzo, the Second Greatest Showman, and a tantalizing opening ceremony will begin the nightly horrors at Great America’s front gate. The 2018 season will also delight guests with the return of fan favorite live entertainment shows Blood Drums, Nytewalkers and Sideshow.
“This year, Halloween Haunt remains the Bay Area’s leading Halloween experience,” said Sean Lee, entertainment manager at California’s Great America. “With a new maze and scare zone, as well as a new twist on a returning maze, Halloween Haunt will continue to offer intense scares for Great America guests.”
Halloween Haunt is open Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m.–midnight through Oct. 6 and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 12–27. On Sundays, Halloween Haunt is open 7 p.m.–midnight, except Sunday, Oct. 21, when Halloween Haunt will be closed for an event at Levi’s Stadium.
For younger kids who want to enjoy Halloween fun without the scares, The Great Pumpkin Fest takes over Great America during daytime hours on weekends Sept. 29–Oct. 28 (closed Oct. 7, 20 and 21). Featuring trick-or-treating with Snoopy and the PEANUTS gang, pumpkin decorating, a hay maze and coloring, this event brings Halloween activities to life for the entire family. Great America will also entertain with “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” movie showings and book readings throughout the day.
Tickets for Halloween Haunt and The Great Pumpkin Fest are available now and can be purchased online at www.cagreatamerica.com. Gold Passholders get unlimited visits. Guests looking to enhance their Halloween Haunt experience can purchase a Fright Lane pass to scream past the regular lines and gain one-time front of the line access for each haunted maze. All students can receive discounted Halloween Haunt admission by showing their valid student ID.
Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) at Universal Studios Hollywood continues to put out the scares and pack in the crowds.
This year’s buzz about HHN has reached an all new high with a lineup of mazes featuring some of the most popular movie and TV franchises in horror history. It’s slashers gone wild in mazes featuring Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason, and Freddy. Demonic destruction in “The Exorcist” and “Krampus” mazes. You will also experience terror vision in mazes based on TV’s top rated horror series “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead”. Plus murderous clowns roam the backlot and Purgers have taken over the rest of the park. With all of this horror greatness we have to agree that Universal Studios Hollywood’s HHN is a blockbuster Theme Park Halloween event.
Freddy, Jason, Michael, and Walkers are probably some of the biggest draws that keeps people coming back year after year (along with all their friends and family). People truly love being able to see their favorite horror icons and experience their terrifying worlds. On the other hand, for us, there is also the desire to have new experiences. While Universal has created new story lines for some of the repeat horror franchises they’re presenting we have to wonder where can HHN go from here and how can they continue to raise the bar if they remain locked into producing mazes solely tied to movie and TV franchises?
Listen, to their credit, unlike Knott’s and other parks that usually run the exact same mazes for three to six years straight, Universal seems to operate under a plan where they rotate the themes in and out over the years; freshening them up with new layouts, sets and effects when they come back. This makes every year somewhat different (expect for Terror Tram) and also allows for horror fans to have ongoing experiences with their favorite horror movies. It’s not a coincidence that sequels and remakes are popular in the horror genre as the fans can never get enough. Nonetheless, as frequent haunt stalkers who have experienced HHN at Universal Orlando where they also have a few unique mazes every year, we think if Hollywood included more original concepts into their mix then they would have the perfect collection of mazes in one park.
Overall, HHN continues to reign as the scariest Theme Park haunt in Southern California. In comparison to Scary Farm and Dark Harbor, we still rank the mazes at HHN highest in overall design, theming, and scare factor. The other parks may just have an edge when it comes to the park wide experiences and value.
We think that park operations have also improved slightly this year with early maze openings and easier security and entrance procedures but it still gets uncomfortably crowded as the park has small walkways and its over a mile to walk from the front gate down to the back lot where most of the mazes are. We also believe that it will be nearly impossible to experience everything without paying the absorbent cost for a front of the line (FOL) pass. The sad reality is you are more likely to NOT have a have a good time if you don’t have a FOL but we also know that paying over $200 bucks for a haunt isn’t the reality for most people either. We think if they opened up the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter and maybe even incorporated the Death Eater attack, like in Japan, then that would help further disperse the crowds. Of course we also would prefer if they would add at least two to three more mazes.
With a FOL we were able to see all the mazes and get on a few rides in just under 4 hours. We didn’t bother seeing the JabbaWockeez show as we still don’t get their connection to Halloween aside from wearing white masks and aren’t fans of watching shows when we can be going through mazes instead.
Now as Dr. Loomis said “It’s time, Michael” so let’s get to business and review all the mazes, Terror Tram, and Purge scare zone at HHN 2016 featuring videos from our friends at ThemeParkHD.
Based on the “scariest film of all time” this maze takes guests inside the MacNeil house, where we get to witness firsthand the violent battle of a demon trying to take the soul of a little girl. There are some cool animatronic and special effects used in this maze. The settings are redundant as the path just goes back and forth between dark corridors filled with demonic creatures to various recreations of the movie’s bedroom scene where we see lil Regan evolve into a demonic monster.
There are some pretty intense and startling scares in the maze but they pretty much stick to one scare tactic that gets used over and over again, though ever so effectively. We easily caught on to the rhythm of the maze a few rooms in. There was a noticeable similarities between this maze and last year’s “This is the End” maze that was in the same location and featured a demonic invasion using similar scare tactics.
The recreation of this movie is no easy feat and what they managed to do with The Exorcist was pretty impressive. We think that this is a not to be missed maze and is a good one to start with to get your heart pumping for the rest of the night at HHN.
As a movie Krampus may not be one of the scariest. It’s fun but not scary. However, as a maze, Krampus offers a real treat of elaborate set designs and unique scares. It’s an early Christmas present to haunt fans. This maze has the best looking facade at HHN and as soon as you step into this holiday house of horrors the sweet scents of spice, pine, and gingerbread cookies fills the air.
As guest make their way further into the home it doesn’t take too long for Krampus and his nasty little helpers to get into action attacking from every corner and angle imaginable. There are non-stop scares with the creatures coming out of the most unexpected places, above and below. This maze does a great job recreating the best scenes from the movie and it truly stands out as one of the best designed mazes in recent HHN history.
This year marks our 24th year of attending Knott’s Scary Farm, which adds up to a lot of monsters, mazes, and Elvira shows we’ve experienced along with miles upon miles of walking (running) in the fog.
When we first went to Knott’s Scary Farm we were young, naive, and easily scared teenagers. Everything about Scary Farm was terrifying, fresh, exciting and new to us. Now as “adults” we sometimes ask ourselves “is there really anything more that they can do that will really wow and scare us after all these years?”. I mean, we’ve pretty much perfected our haunt POV to the point we can easily detect where all the monsters are hiding in the mazes or predict what they’ll try to do to scare us in the scare zones. Plus we’ve toured the country and have expereinced all the different types of haunt scenarios you could imagine.
There even was a period when Knott’s had become the dated “granddaddy” haunt that held a nostalgic value but very little else; especially when compared to the new renaissance of high production, ultra suspenseful, and personalized haunt experiences that have emerged within the past ten years. Add in Universal who got very serious about its Horror Nights events in the mid-2000’s and we saw the bar for theme park and local haunts get raised so high it seemed that Knott’s should just do like they do in Calico Square and hang it up.
However, when you’re an originator that created the game you can redefine the rules. So not being unaware of the competitive changes, a few years ago the creative team at Knott’s Scary Farm embarked on a pleasantly dark path where they wouldn’t necessarily try to compete with what everyone is doing but instead move to further perfect what they’ve started. With this came the emergence of some incredible new maze themes and concepts that are designed the capture the imaginations and fears of today’s teenagers (and adults). In recent years we’ve watched as each season they’ve created unique maze themes and haunt concepts that showcase just about every frighting and fun aspect of Halloween. What Knott’s uniquely possess in comparison to other haunts is the soul of the Halloween Season.
To us they may no longer be the scariest haunt in town but for others, especially the new generation of haunt goers, they could easily hold the terror crown. We believe that it’s the wide variety of themes and enhanced story-telling that brings Knott’s Halloween Haunt to life. Where else can can you go Trick Or Treating in a witch’s house, investigate Paranormal activity inside a haunted hospital, battle zombies with laser guns in a post apocolyptic city, and try to escape from demonic Samurais or gun sling with cowboys and werewolves? It’s all pure Halloween season fun.
This year we continued our tradition of visiting the Scary Farm and like Elvira it still hasn’t gotten old. This was the first year we’ve attended on their opening night. Usually we like to wait for a week or two to give the monsters and performers a chance to perfect their scares. While it was noticeable in some areas that they could improve over time, overall we are impressed by how well managed and produced this year’s Halloween Haunt is. The tagline for this year is “Whatever, you’re imagining is here” and trust us, there was a lot of imagination put into this year’s show.
Get ready Haunt Stalkers! Halloween season begins this weekend at Midsummer Scream: Halloween Festival in Long Beach.
From the creative minds of CreepyLA and Theme Park Adventure, comes an all-new chapter in terror: Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival. This weekend-long celebration of everything Halloween, haunts and horror makes its debut this weekend (July 30-31) at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California.
Midsummer Scream features more than 100,000 square feet of event space that will showcase vendors, makeup demonstrations, stage presentations, live entertainment, a screening room, haunted attraction experiences and more.
Already confirmed for Midsummer Scream include Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm, Six Flags Fright Fest, Dread Central, Sinister Pointe, Scott Ramp/The Scream Team, SoCal Valley Haunters, Drunken Devil, Decayed Brigade slider team, Motel 6 Feet Under, Season Pass Podcast, Spooky Hollows, Rotten Apple 907, Fear Station, Figment Foundry, magic of Jimmy H./Mudd the Magnificent, Screenshot Productions, The Empty Grave, Cross Roads Escape Games, Higgins Manor, Dark House Entertainment (The Basement), Girls and Corpses, Evil Twin Studios, and Garner Holt Productions. The full list of partners is updated on the Midsummer Scream website.
A highlight of Midsummer Scream will be its main stage auditorium, which will accommodate more than 1,000 horror fans gathering to witness a world-class lineup of panels and presentations, which will include exciting reveals looking forward to the 2016 Halloween season in Southern California.
Guests looking for additional thrills and chills may venture into the Hall of Shadows, a large “scare zone”, with monsters lurking in the dark, and a 9 haunted attraction previews/experiences that will soothe your Halloween cravings. Bone Yard Effects, Inc. led by Larry Bones will bring terrifying creatures to life throughout the day via makeup demonstrations on the show floor, and release them into the Hall of Shadows to wreak havoc on terrified fans.
“We are beyond thrilled to bring the Halloween and horror community together here in Southern California,” said Rick West, Creative Director of Midsummer Scream. “The entire team is fueled by the same fundamental passion for the holiday and the macabre; we met and became friends while covering various haunt events and have enjoyed strong personal and business relationships for the past several years as a direct result. Midsummer Scream is the festival this community deserves, and we cannot wait to unveil everything we’ve got planned.”
Terror Tip: Check out GOLDSTAR for additional last minute deals from Midsummer Scream!
About Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival
Midsummer Scream is a large-scale summer festival celebrating the spirit of Halloween and horror, drawing thousands of guests to Southern California for a weekend of thrills and chills. Featuring a massive show floor of vendors and exhibitors, haunted attractions and experiences, live entertainment and world-class panel presentations, Midsummer Scream is the West Coast’s premier Halloween/horror event, offering something for fans of all ages. More information can be found at MidsummerScream.org.
Fans can follow Theme Park Adventure via social media on Facebook, Instagram (search our posts with #ThemeParkAdventure), Twitter, and Periscope for live streams of our travels and special events! Our most popular and unique Periscope broadcasts are archived and may be viewed on our Katch channel.
With an eclectic mix of themes ranging from popular TV series, classic movie properties, and sadistic original themes, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) 2014 fired on all cylinders. Not since 2009, had we experienced such a full line up of terrifying mazes at HHN. The HHN team of John Murdy and Chris Williams managed to create some of the most intricate horror maze designs and effects we’ve seen… anywhere! While other Theme Park haunts such as Knott’s Scary Farm celebrate the spirit of the Halloween season with creepy and spooky styled themes, HHN differentiates itself as being a true Horror Show. Here we take on the leading roles encountering monsters, zombies, and psychos inside a the vast landscape of Hollywood’s top horror settings.
The park operations, which has been a nightmare in the past, were running smoothly in the night of our visit; with great line control, calm crowds, and helpful employees. Everything that has exasperated us in our past visits to HHN were non-issues this year. Even without a front of the line pass, we made it through 6 of the 7 mazes and experienced The Terror Tram with our longest wait being only 35 minutes. The only minor complaint we have is the amount of walking guests had to do with the walk from the front gate down to the backlot mazes being 1.2 miles (we checked on Google Maps) each way. By the end of the night we felt like the Walking Dead ourselves. On the positive side, the spread did help to keep the crowds fairly dispersed throughout the park, especially earlier in the evening. Universal did a good job at making the walk to backlot an entertaining and scary experience with an army of zombies from the “The Walking Dead” populating the walkways themed as the journey to ‘Terminus”.
We’ll now take you through our maze and scare zone reviews with highlights and opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.
** Videos are from our friends at ThemeParkHD see more of their awesome theme park and haunt videos here. **
The Walking Dead: End of the Line
This is where we follow in the footsteps of the human survivors on the show as we flee the overrun prison and enter a nightmarish landscape searching for a promised new safe haven (Terminus) that may not be all that it seems. After escaping the dark and murky prison sets that were featured in last year’s Walking Dead maze, we find ourselves fighting through even larger hordes of walkers in new scenes inspired from the show’s 4th season.
This year was the best reincarnation of the Walking Dead with the Walkers getting uncomfortably close to us. The makeup on the Walkers was on par with what you’d actually see in the show. Seeing the Walkers in their various stages of decay was very unnerving as the zombie makeup was a little more than realistic. Being in the scenes from the show also created an odd sensation mixed of fear and nostalgia. The infamous scene from the series where the store ceiling is collapsed by the zombies was just as awe inspiring as it was scary. We liked that the walkers were actually running at us and there were quite a few surprise scares that took us off guard, providing some pretty terrifying moments. Towards the middle of the maze we were starting to hope that Rick and Michonne would show up to protect us and guide us to safety. Yet no luck, and we had to bravely make our own way through the zombie infested scenes in a failed attempt to get to the safety of Terminus.
With a maze of this caliber we won’t necessarily balk at HHN for continuing to bring out the dead, but we also feel that all good things should come to and end and perhaps after 3 years it’s time for HHN let the dead rest in peace.
Haunt Design: 4 skulls
Theming: 5 skulls
Scare Factor: 4 skulls
Overall Rating: 4.5 skulls
AVP: Alien Vs. Predator
Two rival alien species fight to the death with Earth as their battleground. In this menacing maze guest uncover a dangerous alien spaceship carrying a race of hunter aliens known as Predators and a threatening new alien life form that uses human hosts to propagate its species. After crash landing in a remote section of America and escaping to the countryside, the alien and predator become hunter and prey with guests caught in the crossfire.
This maze (and an American Werewolf in London) had the most detailed sets and high-end effects we’ve ever seen at HHN. We have to loudly applaud the HHN creative team for bringing the AVP settings and monsters fully to life, to scare us to death. On top of the detailed sets, this maze was just downright terrifying. The Alien and Predator attacks were relentless. Coupled with HHN’s signature lighting and sound scares, every time the extraterrestrial monsters made an appearance, widely swiping and thrashing at us, even the bravest of haunt stalkers were screaming and ducking for cover.
This maze cleverly used it’s spaceship, forest, and suburban house settings to create unique hiding places for the scares. This maze had diversion and new scare tactics having the Aliens, Predators, and victims appear from some of the most unexpected places. In addition, many of the live and animatronic scareactors were larger than life making every encounter with them even more foreboding. There was a lot to see in this maze and we wish we had time (and nerves) to go through it more than once. If anything, this is one maze we definitly would not mind seeing come back for a second year.
Haunt Design: 5 skulls
Theming: 5 skulls
Scare Factor: 5 skulls
Overall Rating: 5 skulls
From Dusk Till Dawn
We can’t believe that original movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn” came out 18 years ago (in 1996) and now it has been transformed into a TV series on the the El Rey Network that has become a maze. HHN fans have expressed interest in a maze based on this movie for many years so it seems that the timing is now perfect for this theme as it not only utilizes a very popular horror movie that has a unique spin on the vampire lore; but it also has themes of hispanic folklore (Mesoamerican) that Universal has been exploiting… err exploring, over the past few years (La Llorona and El Cucuy) and it helps to promote the new series. A win-win all around.
This maze was fun and worth seeing but it wasn’t one of the best for 2014. The scareactor makeup was top-notch with the vampire demons looking relastic from head to toe. The sets were also well detailed to look like the forbbidden lair of the blood sucking demons but since the maze tried follow the linear story of the movie/TV show there were a few scenes that were repeated so it started to feel redundant was we went further through. There were a few good scares but the layout with wide open rooms allowed too much time for us to scan and scope out the potential scareactor hiding places.
It was good and fun to finally have a From Dusk Till Dawn maze but it didn’t fully meet our expectations.
Haunt Design: 3 skulls
Theming: 2.5 skulls
Scare Factor: 2 skull
Overall Rating: 2.5 skulls
An American Werewolf in London
After year’s and year’s of begging, this maze was finally unleashed upon HHN guests in Hollywood. This maze recreated all the legendary scenes from movie using gruesomely convincing props, chillingly authentic music and mind-blowing special effects. Throughout this maze it was hard to tell who was howling louder, us or the wolves.
In this maze the horrifying journey begins in “The Slaughtered Lamb,” the English countryside pub introduced in the beginning of the movie. After venturing through the overgrown wasteland known as the “Moors,” maze-goers are forced to traverse through dense fog amidst sounds of savage growls and unknown peril ahead. Before long we find ourselves face to jaws of the larger than life werewolves who are fully built animatronic beasts that bite and claw at us from unexpected darkness and corners. In addition to the werewolves, we are further terrorized by the nightmarish zombie nazi soldiers who ambushed us in a forcibly convincing machine gun attack.
Just like AVP, this maze featured the best sets and effects we’ve ever seen at a haunt. With the diversity of sets ranging from the wooded countryside to the underground tube station it’s obvious that no expense was spared in designing this maze. The makeup was also phenomenal as they even included a transformation scene that stopped people in their tracks as they watched David’s painful transformation from a man to lycan. For fans of the movie this maze accurately depicted everything they love about it, scene by scene, making it really feel as if we were being stalked by the wolves all the way from the English country side to London’s red light district. This maze fully reflects everything HHN Hollywood is about in bringing the movies to life.
Haunt Design: 5 skulls
Theming: 5 skulls
Scare Factor: 5 skulls
Overall Rating: 5 skulls
Clowns 3D Music by SLASH
This maze was no laughing matter as it seemed to unmask the psychological disorder known as Coulrophobia, a disturbing condition affecting those with an extreme and irrational fear of clowns. The psychedelic 3D maze featured sadistic clowns taunting and tempting victims with terror and treats as they parade through “Sweet Licks Frozen Clown Pops Family Amusement Center” (that’s a real mouthful).
As we all know the killer clown theme is not a unique find at a haunt. Even HHN has featured different variations of killer clowns throughout the years. The uniqueness of this maze was the soundtrack written Slash from Guns & Roses fame. Along with his screaming guitar riffs, his likeness was also featured throughout this dilapidated ice cream factory run by the deranged clown Sweet Licks. The story is Sweet Licks has lured us to his factory only with the intentions to use us as the key ingredients in his ice cream concoction.
The clown makeup was very sinister and widely creative. Perhaps the clowns looked a little too monstrous thus detaching them from the actual fears people have of the traditional looking clowns of days past. These monster clowns were very high strung delivering some of the most energetic performances we saw the whole night. The thing with this maze though, is the fact that it reused a lot of sets and scare tactics we had seen in previous HHN mazes such as House of 1,000 Corpses and Black Sabbath. All in all it was a fun maze but it was pretty typcial as far as clown themed mazes go. We do give thumbs up to Universal for not reducing itself to charge guests $1 for the glasses, which is the practice at other parks (looking at Knott’s).
Haunt Design: 3 skulls
Theming: 4 skulls
Scare Factor: 2 skulls
Overall Rating: 3 skulls
Face Off: In the Flesh
This is the last maze that will ever be featured inside the former House of Horrors attraction. This venue has never featured the scariest or best HHN mazes as it has a prefixed set-up that doesn’t allow for much change year over year aside from having new characters running around. However, the Face Off creations were a real nice addition to this maze that usually features Universal’s classic horror monsters.
Some of the Face Off creatures we encountered included insect-human hybrids and creatures from Alice in Zombieland. While we’ve usually been big critics of this maze and its disjointed layovers, we could tell that HHN really went all out to give this maze a final layover that sends off the attraction in gruesome style. Not only were the costumes and makeup incredible, the maze was packed with Face-Off monsters who were very talented at utilizing the tight spaces of the maze to surprise us with new scares we didn’t expect, after going through this maze over and over during the past decade. We were genuinely scared and after the first few scenes it was clear that they were determined to scare the shit out of us and were not going to hold back. The intensity seemed to build as we made our way through the familiar pathways and when it was all over we couldn’t believe that they “got us” so many times. As hard as it may be for for us to admit, we may now actually miss The House of Horrors.
Oh, for you dubstep fans, have no fear as house music DJ Figure was back again to provide the soundtrack for this maze.
Haunt Design: 3 skulls
Theming: 2 skulls
Scare Factor: 5 skulls
Overall Rating: 3 skulls
Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead
Like last year, the 2013 Terror Tram features The Walking Dead and covers the same ground as all years before. As you exit the tram, a line of chainsaws greets you, ushering you up the path toward the Bates Motel. Walkers stumble around, attempting to scare but moving just too slowly to really cause anyone alarm. The trail takes you past the Bates house, through some zombie sets, through the War of the Worlds sets, and back onto the Tram. There is nothing really new this year, and we suggest that if you’re running out of time in your evening, this is the attraction to skip.
Haunt Design: 2.5 skull
Theming: 2 skull
Scare Factor: 2 skull
Overall Rating: 2 skull
Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood
Unfortunately we ran out of time to experience this maze. Perhaps we should have skipped the Terror Tram but it was hard to pass the opportunity to sit for 15 minutes while riding the tram up and down the hill. The line for this maze was listed as the longest of the night, which probably had to due with it’s location near the entrance plaza. Early reviews we heard said that this maze was not a hit. The movie wasn’t very good and so we didn’t feel too bad about not being able to experience it.
Here’s how Universal described it: Guests will witness the harrowing transformation of Vlad the Impaler to the monstrous Dracula. We know how the story ends, but what terrifying blood drenched journey brought Vlad into the darkness that is Dracula? This is it — every visceral and feral scare will grab guests by the jugular.
The Purge: Survive the Night This year, the main entrance into HHN is taken over by The Purge scare zone. This was a fantastic use of a movie as a scare zone, as its placement is perfect at the beginning of the park, where most of the mayhem and disorder take place. This area is always the most chaotic, so The Purge is a great setting for that. The opening “Scare-amonies” feature a line of sinister-looking folks (“purgers”?) with chainsaws, wearing those creepy expression-less masks from the movie. There’s also an actor portraying the “Polite Leader” at the head of the scare zone, and one of these actors looked so much like the guy in the movie, we had to watch him for several minutes to decide whether or not the real actor had joined the ranks of HHN this year. 4 skulls
The Walking Dead: Welcome to Terminus With no end in sight for the zombie apocalypse, the only hope for survival lies in taking the road to Terminus, a rumored sanctuary for the living. There may be hope, but it’s a journey fraught with unimaginable horrors as you make your way through a gauntlet of flesh-hungry walkers. This scare zone was a creative way to distract us from the fact that we’re walking over a quarter mile across the backlot. The path is loaded with walkers, show set pieces, lighting and fog effects. It even includes a tunnel where walkers blend in with the crowd and get very close with guests. 4 Skulls
Mask-a-Raid featured hordes of blood thirsty cannibals masquerading as French aristocrats. This was a fun scare zone with some great looking set pieces and costuming. The masquerading monsters were very in your face aggressive as well. Worth a stroll through this area, just watch your back. 4 skulls
Dark Christmas a Pagan-themed area where demonic creatures hunt disobedient children and drag them to hell. We loved this scare zone! Forget The Nightmare Before Christmas, this is truly the place where holidays collide. Going through this scare zone made us wish for a real Krampus movie or other X-Mas themed horror flick, that is NOT Silent Night Deadly Night. 5 Skulls
Skullz based on the Native American legend of Wendigo, a malevolent supernatural half-beast monster with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. It’s hard quantify this as a scare zone as all we saw were 2-3 scareactors on stilts walking around in the area between The Mummy ride and Jurassic Park. There was no supporting set pieces or anything to further distingiush this as a real scare zone. The stilt walkers did their best an interact with the crowd but there was nothing overtly scary about them. 1.5 Skull
In our 22 years of going to Knott”s Scary Farm we have never seen as many highly crafted mazes as we did this year. The quality of the theming and the technical design of all the mazes finally (re)solidifies Knott’s as a player in the modern world of theme park haunts. Knott’s team of scare designers, Brooke Walters and Daniel Miller, have sliced up some wickedly interesting and unsettling themes this year as the new additions of Voodoo and The Tooth Fairy feature some of the best thematic environments and storytelling in Scary Farm’s 42 year history.
On the flip side, the quality of the performances of the monsters inside the mazes still doesn’t match the quality of the construction. Yes, there were a few mazes that had some great talent who delivered some big scares and performed cohesively with the environments such as The Tooth Fairy, Pinocchio and Trick-Or-Treat. Disappointingly, in some of the other mazes, we encountered lackadaisical ghouls with bad timing or the mazes were simply understaffed. It’s likely that the scares are hit or miss depending on when one goes into a maze but now that they have the design process locked in it’s time for them to invest in the talent to keep the scares more consistent. This has been a criticism we’ve shared in recent years.
Another element of disappointment is the conservative nature of the current park management who has decided it’s best to hide the haunt as much as possible, which has resulted in some very sparsely decorated scare zones and a diminished feeling of Halloween around the park. Hiding haunt is like Elvira hiding her boobs – people want to see them! Even Disneyland seems to have more spooky decor. If anything they should recognize that after 42 years the general public expects the park to go all out with haunt decorating and those who may be too sensitive during their daytime visits should just be advised not to visit during these months and wait for “Merry Farm”. We know that this “sensitive” population is very insignificant in size especially in comparison to the crowds and revenues brought in by the Haunt goers. Nonetheless, Ghost Town still dominates as one of the hands down best scare zones anywhere with it’s foggy coated streets, skeletons, and other halloween props.
Okay, enough of our pontificating. Here’s what you really want to read, our maze ratings. This year we decided it’s best save some money so we didn’t buy the Skeleton Key room option and skipped Trapped (we hear it improved after last year’s disastrous presentation).
We do our best not to spoil the mazes for those who’ve yet to experience them, so we won’t provide scare-by-scare reviews, but we will share highlights and our overall opinions from our own experiences in the mazes. Haunts are rated on a 1-5 “skull” system.
This year Knott’s said it was doing something new but the Voodoo theme isn’t new or unique, in fact Knott’s had the voodoo themed Blood Bayou maze running for many years in the not so distant past. A few of the other local haunts also have had their own voodoo mazes. However, what makes Knott’s Voodoo stand out is the level of detail they’ve put into the design of this maze. This is a maze that even the folks at Universal could be envious of. The awe begins with the outside facade that replicates a mansion from New Orleans’ French Quarter. The craftsmanship placed into building this set piece is impressive as it looks like they transplanted one of the buildings over from New Orleans Square in Disneyland.
Once, you step into the ‘side alley’ you are then faced with another new element of choosing a path. We were disappointed that we couldn’t pick our way as the maze blackouts were insistent on directing people, which took away from the fun. The path we did take lead us through some interesting and spooky scenes starting inside a voodoo shop, then leading out to some cabins on the edge of the bayou, before ending deep inside the swamp. These environments were accented with music that transitioned from jazzy to banjo music as we went deeper into the swamp. Everything in here looked great from the lighting to the prop pieces but the for some reason the scares were sparse, which is something we felt about most of the mazes. They did employ one of Universal’s favorite scare tactics of using stunning sounds and lights to accent some of the scares but that wasn’t enough to sustain our auras of foreboding. Given how great this maze looked we hope that they can improve the level of fright imposed by the possessed voodoo priestess and swamp zombies.
This maze was imaginative, unique, grotesque, and scary. This was the first dental themed maze we’ve seen and it reminded us a little bit of the movie Darkness Falls (but scarier). The Tooth Fairy takes over the former residence of Delirium with the beginning of the maze borrowing a lot of scenes and props from the former. 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 journey to the tooth fairy’s lair is accomplished with an unnerving walk through a dark passageway lined with furry walls.
With some similarity to cannibal and chainsaw mazes; the Tooth Fairy’s lair depicts scenes of depraved root canals, blood soaked coins, monstrous dental apparatus, and deranged nurses. Sounds of drills unnervingly play throughout the maze accompanied by the non-stop screams of patients. What we liked most was how the maze felt as if it was taking us farther and farther away from safety with no chances of getting back. The talent here was aggressive with good timing popping out of some unexpected places. It’s also easy to get distracted by the interesting scenes allowing the the Tooth Fairy and its minions plenty of opportunities to catch you by surprise. This is a maze we can’t wait to experience again. The only downside is that you have to go through Dominion of the Dammed first as these two mazes are connect to each other… talk about dead weight.
Knott’s joins the trend of zombie hunting experiences with Special Ops. This attraction covers the Camp Snoopy section of the park making it rather expansive but we’re just not certain if it’s a good use of space. We applaud their effort to create new and innovative experiences but the overall execution falls short of being anything exceptional and it was actually somewhat corny. The group experience also prevented it from having many scares. The story is simple as we’re recruits of a special military troop who are armed with (laser tag) guns and have to navigate to safety through a zombie infested area. There’s some fun effects and scenes but not a lot of opportunity for everyone to fully engage, especially if you get stuck in the back of the group. In addition, there aren’t enough zombies for people to shoot. After all the hassle there’ also no kind of prize or reward at the end making it very anti-climatic. This maze requires an appointment and it’s best to get your time pass as soon as you arrive in order to get a time you desire. There’s a standby line but we’re not sure how that process is. We think that Special Ops was a nice try but the space can be better used as a scare zone and a couple of mazes.
Haunt Design: 2.5 Skulls
Theming: 3.5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1 Skull
Overall Rating: 2 Skulls
Last year we were amazed by the detailed themeing and settings they created around this story. Using magic as backdrop for a maze provides for continuous surprises throughout as there’s more than rabbits popping out of hats inside of here. Unlike last year, sadly this year’s talent was not very magical nor scary as it seemed that most of them had disappeared when we went through. There were a few scary magician’s assistants, victims of tricks gone bad, and an actual magician who did a quick card or handkerchief trick as you passed by. Design wise, this maze had some very interesting set ups such as the water chamber and burning stage (which was sans the flying Houdini when we went through). They also have fantastic lighting effects inside of this maze that create the perfect transitions from light and dark scenes allowing for some good opportuntites for scares (if they were there) as your eyes adjusted. The digital projection on outside of the maze definitely took the facade to the next level and was entertaining to watch as we waited to go inside. If we had time, we would of gone through this maze twice to make sure we were able to capture back some of Black Magic inside of this maze, but no such luck this year. With such a beautiful maze we hope that next year they increase the scares to match.
Haunt Design: 4.5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1.5 Skulls
Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls
Knott’s Edgar Allen Poe maze diverts from strictly recreating eerie scenes of Poe’s stories and creates the story line of a serial killers on a murder spree utilizing murder tactics from Poe’s fables akin to The Following. What we liked about it were some of the clever modernization of Poe’s stories into death scenes. The Pit and the Pendulum scene is still incredible. This is probably the most improved maze as they tightened up the story some and it was more clear as to what was going on. The monsters in this maze were also more menacing as they perfected their timing and were quick in resetting and double scaring victims. We found ourselves getting attacked and scared frequently throughout this maze. Still not the best of what Knott’s has to offer but Forevermore did exceed our expectations this year.
Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
Theming: 4 Skulls
Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
Overall Rating: 3.5 Skulls
The Gunslinger’s Grave
In Gunslinger’s we’re taken through the haunted labyrinths of mine shafts, corrals, and salons. The layout of this maze is mostly outdoors with trails winding in and out of the Ghost Town buildings accented by frenetic guitar music making it really feel as if we are out in the old wild west. It was obvious that the “residents” of this town are less than happy to see us and it wasn’t fully clear but we assume we’re looking for refuge from alive or dead outlaws and towns folks. This maze had a few good startle scares thanks mainly to some of the animatronic set pieces. This was the first maze we went through and it seemed that the talent wasn’t fully in place yet. The ghost town residents were convincing in their roles fully costumed in western attire but for scares they just did a lot of yelling “get outta here” and kept cattle prodding us through the scenes. This was one of our favorites from last year but this year it seems like it’s already headed out to pasture. Since this maze is the epitome of Knott’s legacy we hope they get back in the saddle for next year.
Haunt Design: 4 Skulls
Theming: 4 Skulls
Scare Factor: 1 Skull
Overall Rating: 3 Skulls
Dominion of the Damned
Dominion is a visually interesting showcase the different reiterations of vampires from the Nosferatu to the Anne Rice versions but it was hard to track the story line, in this maze, which seems like a tour of The Natural Museum of Vampire History. This is another maze with a rather cool soundtrack and superb set design. We have to give credit as the talent was slightly more energetic than year’s past. While we’re still not overly impressed with the overall theme we have to admit that this year we received a few more good scares than expected. Nonetheless, we still hope that they’ll finally take out he garlic and open the curtains to let the sunlight in to vaporize these vampires for good.
Haunt Design: 3 Skulls
Theming: 2 Skulls
Scare Factor: 2 Skull
Overall Rating: 2 Skulls
We credit this maze for setting the bar for all preceding mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm. While it’s the same as year’s past, this maze is still one of our favorites. The entire setting feels like walking through a bloody, after hours, version of Disneyland’s Pinocchio ride. Pinocchio successfully twists the popular children’s story in a way that makes its feel as if we were trapped inside a dark storybook nightmare. What’s unsettling about the maze is how the once innocent characters are now placed into scenes of distress, gore, and horror. It’s rather tragic to see Gepetto, Stromboli, and the Blue Fairy meet their fates at the hands of a torturous wooden puppet who instead of becoming a real boy now wants to be a real killer. The monsters in this maze weren’t was high energy as we’ve seen before but they still delivered some surprising scares . This maze is a haunt classic and while they may not string up Pinocchio anytime soon we hope they’ll soon start to think of other fairy tales they can twist and ruin for our childhoods.
Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 5 Skulls
Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4.5 Skulls
This maze recreates a night of Trick O Treating gone bad. Once we enter the front door of the Green Witch’s house the journey cascades through a haunted mansion packed with sinister Halloween decorations and ghostly effects. The infamous Tricksters are also back creating mayhem in the various rooms along the way. This maze is shorter than the others, but it’s also has some of the strongest atmospheric environments and an interestingly theatrical finale. This was the last maze of the night but the scares were amped up with the Tricksters behaving worse than ever before and we mean that in a good way. Trick or Treat isn’t overly terrifying but this maze truly reflects the spirit of the season with more emphasis on the fun of Halloween versus the scares.
Haunt Design: 5 Skulls
Theming: 4 Skulls
Scare Factor: 3 Skulls
Overall Rating: 4 Skulls
This is a spooky prop layover on the Calico Mine Train. This used to be a very scary attraction but ever since they haven’t been allowed to have live actors inside it’s become a place where you just sit there and see spooky stuff. There are just a couple of interesting animatronic and visual effects but unfortunately there’s nothing much to see here compared to the regular ride. It really is just as they say, a haunt experience. It’s also good place to sit and rest your legs for 10 minutes but not worth a waiting in a long line for especially if you’re looking for a good scare.
Haunt Design: 2 Skulls
Theming: 2 Skulls
Scare Factor: 0 Skull
Overall Rating: 1.5 Skulls
Elvira’s Big Top
This show is two big pumpkins of fun. Of course everyone’s favorite ride at Knott’s Scary Farm is still Elvira. Her big top keeps the crowd alive with musical numbers, tongue in cleavge jokes, and some high level Vegas quality stage production. This time around the Mistress of the Dark brings out some real freakiness with sword swallowing and body contorting which disappointingly isn’t done by Elvira herself… on stage. Elvira does rap and remix some Iggy Azalea songs and frolics on stage with the very talented Academy of Villains dance troop. This is as good as it gets for Halloween shows and seeing Elvira at Knott’s like having the real Santa at your Christmas party with just a little more ho ho ho.
Overall Rating: 5 ‘DD
Knott’s Scary Farm Overall Fright Value: 5 Skulls
Overall Rating of Knott’s Scary Farm 2013: 4 Skulls
It’s time to venture into another season of haunts and for all of our Haunt Stalkers to get out there and conquer their worse (and best) fears. After many years of being chased by clowns with chainsaws, stalked by famous horror movie killers, seduced by vampires in billowy gowns, and of course running from countless hordes of zombies, we’ve come to expect some of the same haunt archetypes. The fact that these themes reappear year after year seems to indicate that they’re the most popular and probably considered the scariest by a majority of the public. So, we’ve decided to further break down these themes to explore how they’ve evolved and why they continue to scare us. And we ask you: What scares you the most?
Vampires have been a popular haunt theme for many years. Vampire mazes usually have elaborate sets, lush soundtracks, and scareactors who love to play up the drama. In our opinion, most haunts focus too much on the sets and drama and don’t provide enough menace to their vampires (and we pray never to see a Twilight-based maze). One exception is Freakling Bros. Castle Vampyre, which lured us into a frightening world of sinister bloodsuckers. This year Knott’s Scary once again resurrects some narcissistic nocturnal blood suckers with their revampedDominion of the Dead. Universal is also taking a big bite out of the genre with mazes based on From Dusk Till Dawn and Dracula Untold. Early reviews seem to indicate that the former offers some new blood to the theme while the latter needs to stay inside a closed coffin.
Slashers and Madmen
Mazes based on horror movie slashers and madmen can be very popular because the attackers are instantly recognizable by the guests, which gives any scareactor in a killer’s mask a built-in terror factor. Halloween Horror Nights has built their Halloween empire around movie based themes featuring many iconic killers. However, HHN might be running out of slashers they can choose from as in recent years killers have started to become replaced with ghostly apparitions and demonic creatures. Nonetheless, this year HHN Orlando is celebrating the grandfather of slashers, Michael Myers, with a maze based on the original ’78 film. In addition, you can usually find Michael, Jason, Freddy, and other popular psychos making cameos at haunts across the country.
What can be scarier than the end of the world? Mazes featuring apocalyptic worlds have been commonplace at haunts for a few decades. This theme can combine zombies, aliens, robots, or just plain crazy people who are ready to enact raging forms of torture on weary post-apocalyptic survivors. The mazes or scare zones usually are enhanced with heavy metal music, strobe lights, cages, tanks, and metal barrels (where do all the barrels come from in the future). The apocalyptic theme has evolved to now also include paintball and laser tag activities making haunt goers really feel as if they have to fight for their lives to get out. Another variation that has become prominent in past year is purging, where acts of random violence are allowed in order to preserve our future existence. Not matter the tactics, haunts always showcase the worse case scenarios for our futures.
It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between a post-apocalyptic maze and a zombie maze. The two themes go hand in hand. All things zombie have been very popular for the past several years. This is often a low-budget maze theme because all you need is some makeup and tattered clothes—and voila—you have a zombie! As with vampires, we usually don’t find the zombie mazes to be too scary. Zombies are usually portrayed as slow-moving, drooling creatures. Zombie scareactors usually try to create fear by lunging at you and getting uncomfortably close up into your personal space. For the past 3 years Universal has heavily relied on the zombies from the Walking Dead to dominate their haunt offerings. We think that haunts should work to put a new spin on their zombie mazes if they want to keep it at all interesting and scary.
Invaders from other worlds can make any Roswell believers uneasy inside of a haunt. Alien mazes often rely on claustrophobic and dark passageways where the nasty beasts can hide and attack unexpectedly. There’s usually elaborate puppetry and costuming involved to bring to life some of the most out of the this world and grotesque creatures you’ll see inside a maze. This year HHN in Orlando and Hollywood have decided that one alien isn’t enough and both feature AVP (Alien Vs. Predator) mazes where you must place your bets on which of the two creatures is the most terrifying in the universe. This begs the other question, who would you rather get killed by, Alien or Predator (we had to ask)?
Slaughterhouse (often paired with hillbillies and cannibalism)
People must really be afraid of being cannibalized, because this is a theme that is found in some variation every year at nearly every haunt. Slaughterhouse and cannibal mazes are usually designed whereas you’ll be forced to touch and push your way through the bloody sets while the monsters taunt you with sharp and blunt objects. These mazes top the list in being gory and disgusting, often including scents of rotting meat and sprays of blood as you walk past gruesome scenes of dismemberment. They’re usually set in some kind of backwoods area or an abandoned meat factory/butcher’s shop. Of course, 100% of these mazes ends with the obligatory chainsaw chase out. We found that chainsaws and cannibals are popular themes at Vegas’s Fright Dome, which is featuring the king of slaughterhouse cannibalistic hillbillies, Leatherface.
Clowns and Circus
The technical term for fear of clowns is coulrophobia, and haunts love to exploit this common terror. These mazes can be fun or terrifying, depending on your personal fears. Clown mazes often have a lot of black light and warped and demented soundtracks. This theme usually provides an opportunity to show off 3D effects but the impact is hit or miss depending on the design and performance of the scareactors. In recent years, clowns and their circuses have become increasingly sadistic with the other themes of cannibalism and zombies being mixed in. Universal has such variations of Clowns present in this year’s maze lineup. Now, we’re still waiting for someone to add in the alien quotient and tackle Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
Ghosts and Apparitions
This is a hard theme to pull off in a maze. Effective ghost scares rely on a very precise build up of suspense. Ghosts are usually ethereal and elusive, and how do you turn that into a scare? For this reason, we don’t see many of these haunts, and the most effective have been at Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor and Universal’s HHN. During Halloween season there’s also a good number of ghost hunting experiences available, and while they may not immediately startle or terrorize you, they can continously haunt you for days after with the lingering notion that you may not be alone.
We love a good haunted mansion, and yet this theme can fall flat if not done right. Haunted mansions sometimes fall victim to becoming houses for every theme where one room will feature aliens, another slashers, and yet another zombies. Proper haunted mansions let the house tell the story and build up the mystery of how the haunted inhabitants met their demise and then came back. Secret passages, trap doors, and ghostly occurrences are some of the key ingredients of an effectively scary house of horrors. The best haunted mansions we’ve experienced are usually put on by smaller local haunts with a crew dedicated to extreme detail (for example, Reign of Terror and Sinister Pointe).
Similar in design to haunted mansions, asylum mazes terrorize us with the disturbing combination of slashers, cannibals, and other living and dead crazies trying to escape, and maniacal doctors trying to exploit our darkest phobias. Maybe they are insensitive to those with mental illness, but insane asylums are always creepy and scary. The frenetic and unpredictable nature of the scareactors and the dank sets combine to create that uncomfortable feeling that puts you on edge. The real fear may come from wondering if you may actually belong there yourself.
This is one of the newest themes to set sail in recent years. It seems that the number of pirate mazes has jumped considerably since the Pirates of the Caribbean movies hit theaters in the last decade. These ghostly swashbucklers also bring to life our fears of drowning and being eaten alive by sea creatures. Of course, Pirates of Emerson in California is the original pirate maze and Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor continues to get more creative with some new and interesting takes on haunted nautical themes.
In just a few more nights the fog will come rolling in at Knott’s Scary Farm. Last year solidified Scary Farm’s reinvention with the most highly themed and exceptionally crafted mazes in it’s 41 year history. In comparison to other big SoCal Theme Park Haunts, Knott’s still wins big in creating the perfect feeling of celebrating Halloween. Knott’s also benefits from having unique mazes themes that are not constrained by the pre-scripted story lines of movies and TV shows, thus allowing for more surprises throughout.
The total number of mazes has slightly decreased in recent years but it wasn’t noticeable given the increased quality of the mazes overall. We still miss was the haunt layover of the Timber Mountain Log Ride. Even though the ride’s scare factor had declined over the years it still was one of the most unique haunt attractions anywhere (and a nice way to get scared without having to walk).The caliber of the shows was also increased with production upgrades made to The Hanging and the voluptuous return of Elvira.
Now, to get you fully prepared for this year’s 42nd annual haunt, we’ve compiled some sneak peek images of what you can expect to find lurking in the fog for the 42nd year. We also have a peek under Elvira’s Big Top (as if you don’t already know)!
Maze Sneak Peeks
A glimpse into the ghoulish gallery known as Dominion of the Damned…
A sneak peek inside a fan favorite, Trick-Or-Treat…
Did somebody mention they wanted to see VOODOO? Here’s your first glimpse….
How about a taste of The Tooth Fairy? You’ll soon know the drill….
Pinocchio Unstrung where revenge comes with no strings attached…
With a little Black Magic, this Rabbit will reach out and grab ya’ out of a hat…
Forvermore offers head splitting terror…
With Special Ops: Infected you’ll be the only thing standing in the way of oblivion…
Under her the Big Top, Elvira becomes the “Ring Mistress of the Park” dazzling audiences with music, madness and mayhem in her Sinister Circus of the Macabre.
Knott’s Terror Tips
Arrive at least 30 minutes before the posted opening time (we recommend doing one of the Knott’s pre-scare dinners or walking to one of the restaurants across the street)
If you can, attend on a Thursday of Sunday night for lighter crowds (but avoid the Sunday before Columbus Day holiday)
Visit the mazes counter clockwise, this year it’s best to do Special Ops first due to the time involvement of attraction – lines will predictably get longer through the night.
Following a counter-clockwise flow should bring you to Elvira’s Big Top in time to see the first show at 9Pm. If you miss it, there’s another at 11:30
If you choose do Trapped, schedule an appointment for later in the evening after 10, so you’ll have a chance to get through all the other mazes first.
Check HEREfor our coverage of all of Knott’s 2014 mazes and attractions along with the complete announcement video.
Knott’s Scary Farm takes place on select (24) nights from September 25 – November 1. More info available at Knotts.com