KNOTT’S BERRY FARM
Buena Park, California
Cedar Fair Entertainment
Knott’s Scary Farm 43 (2015)
Posted 9/28/15 - by Haunt Reviewer Steve Rowin
With Halloween quickly approaching, Knott’s infamous Scary Farm has been unleashed on every mortal foolish enough to set foot through the hallowed gates. Back for its forty second installment, the Scary Farm is scarier than ever this year.
To my surprise it appears the creative team at Knott’s has simplified and gone back to the basics this year, Fear. It’s what the people really want and this year even though the names are the same the faces are different. Personally, I felt like last year Knott’s was sort of trapped in a box, a sort of hell of their own creation. The quality of the production had dramatically gotten better from a decade ago but many of the mazes felt like theatrical story telling and really lacked the OMG factor. If you read my review from last year I did some arm chair quarterbacking with a list of subtle suggestions. I’m happy to report that this year I was impressed.
While the production quality has reached “hollywood production” quality, two things changed in 2015 that made it EPIC, the first being detail on the monsters costumes and the second was the actor quality. It was immediately apparent that the very basic masks used for four decades have finally been laid to rest. With every other haunt in the area bringing some of the scariest looking things to ever walk the earth, it was exciting to see the Scary Farm take it to the next level! This change may have taken a while do to the fact that Knott’s probably has the most monsters per square foot of any haunt. The costume application and cleaning each night may have played a part in implementing top notch makeup. To introduce these new and improved faces of death Scary Farm released The Deadly Seven. With a set of collectible cards provided at the preview we had a sneak peek at what was to come and boy did they deliver in real life! Even in the dark mazes I captured full on makeup/mask quality. In the past darkness and fog made it hard to work out the details and was good enough. These days super creepy characters end up on social media faster than you can chop your hand off with a sharp blade! It’s a great marketing opportunity for Knott’s and I expect to see all Deadly Seven on Instagram!
About the fear factor: Let’s face it, seeing someone approach you and then scream at you isn’t very scary. As always the Scary Farm monsters are simply the best in the biz! They implement a methodical, disciplined approach to scaring even the most harden, fearless people. You can tell these monsters love what they do, they are in that zone where nothing is going to hold them back. I even saw one monster get someone good and do a big “touchdown” dance off into the fog!
This level of dedication found it’s way into the mazes this year and really answers to what is scary? An unexpected scream? Maybe. Better than a surprise, strong “character” is the holy grail of a haunted attraction; when you are lead to believe that this person is the real deal the FEAR can be overwhelming! We saw lots of creepy people in the mazes that freaked us out. I think it’s all in the eyes.
Paranormal Inc. -
This maze centers around a Paranormal investigation in an asylum. Without giving away any of the good stuff, a group of 30 people or so are invited into the courtyard, we are then greeted and walked inside a room where we see a video explaining given the deal on investigating this hospital filled with tortured spirits. Shortly after the group splits up down one of two paths. The visuals and sound are good and the surprises from above, to the sides and below are plentiful. Really creepy experience that hit the fear factor on all levels from production, actor quality, surprises, classic haunted house tricks, lighting and sound. This is the don’t miss haunt for 2015.
Dead of Winter -
The snow queen and viking warriors resurrected from the dead! How do you do that? Either really well or really bad! Knott’s pulled it off with amazing icey sets and strong air conditioning. I didn’t find this one extreme on the fear factor but it really was visually amazing. With such a far out of the box concept it added to the scary farm in a good way. I think with some continued OMG effects development and more ice cave mirrors and loud stormy wind fear level will get there.
My Bloody Clementine -
The mine train ride always has a little something extra in it for Scary Farm. This year they’ve added more video and some live actors inside. I would say this one is 5 year old friendly. There is some story going on with Clementine and the train stops in certain places so you can absorb the details. If you like train rides and want to get off your feet check it out. I’d say this is 70% mine ride and 30% haunted extras.
In it’s second year, Voodoo has upped the fear factor big time! Voodoo is unique in that it looks and feels as if you are on a swamp with rope style bridges connecting between cottages. Each little house has ritualistic decor with evidence of magic spells going on. What really brought this one to life is the characters in each room. How could something a simple as an old, big women sitting on a couch watching tv be scary? She was scary looking and looked like she was about to do some Voodoo on us for real! In other rooms full on rituals were taking place. This kind of thing only works if the people doing the rituals believe they are the real deal and it worked!
Black Magic -
In it’s third year, Black Magic felt very dark emotionally compared to the past. Gone are the scene by scene “Houdini Tricks” and now it’s as if we are in the basement of a theater. Lots of good effects and surprises in Black Magic this year. One of the most memorable elements is the seance room changing from a Skeleton Key extra to part of the main maze. It’s a great intense scene again with an actor that puts life into the character she plays! Black magic felt stripped down in a good way.
Pinocchio Unstrung -
Returning is the story of Pinocchio not getting his wish and unleashing rage! Firing on all cylinders it was dark and scary as Pinocchio hunts and tortures anyone around him. Less story more gory! We thought the skeleton key room was going to be new but it was 95% the same as last year.
Tooth Fairy -
This maze is great for people who love the sound of a dentist drill! It’s frequent! This is the sick and twisted maze based on the tooth fairy that comes and takes teeth in the night using a pair of pliers. It’s disgusting and you get to see the tooth fairy in action ripping teeth out of people's mouths. The maze is full of victims running around screaming for help trying to get away from the madness. I actually need a tooth pulled but where’s the tooth fairy when you need them!!?
Trick or Treat -
I’m a big fan of straight up Halloween imagery and such. Trick or Treat is just that and visually stunning. A trip through the green witch's home with evil little trick or treaters was fun and inviting until she decides to get you! Glad to see this one return as it’s a classic.
I didn’t have time for Forevermore; Gunslinger's Grave or Elvira. Special Ops was over an hour wait from our pass time which was disappointing because I was looking forward to the upgrades. I guess they still need to work on the timing to get the return passes accurate. So we decided to see the other mazes and a little of The Hanging which is always packed with great adult humor.
This year we really felt like there was more to do than you have time for. Might be a good year to get the annual pass and spread out your frightful fun!