KNOTT’S SCARY FARM is the largest Halloween event in SoCal. With thirteen haunted attractions, two live stage shows, and four massive scare zones covering the park it’s quite a trick to see everything in one night. This year, I managed to view it all, except The Hanging and the interactive FEAR VR virtual reality horror experience. (Note: Since my review of the event, Knott’s sadly ended Fear VR because of complaints about the depiction of mental illness).
PARANORMAL INC. is fantastic. The actors are energetic and engaging, leading guests into a haunted hospital where a “reality show” is being taped. The maze features aerial stunts and elaborate sets which incorporate digital screens and projections. This one is not to be missed.
TRICK OR TREAT is a walk through the Green Witch’s house. Ring her doorbell and walk inside to find out what happened to all of the neighborhood children who went missing on Halloween night. I seem to remember more of a finale to this one in previous years. This time, the highlight was the Green Witch standing over her bubbling cauldron. If you’re not careful you might end up in the soup!
VOODOO, ORDER OF THE SERPENT is a unique attraction, described by Knott’s as “a maze with no walls”. Guests walk in and out of homes in a Louisiana town and through the swamp in search of a witch doctor. Two rooms which were previously part of the Skeleton Key experience are now open for all guests to walk through. In the second room, there is a platform which used to rotate to reveal a serpent witch. I wish they would have kept her. Without any actors in these rooms, they really don’t add much to the experience. This maze is still missing an ending and oddly finishes with several actors outside the maze which feels more like a photo op.
THE TOOTH FAIRY is another maze which now allows guests with regular Scary Farm tickets to walk through rooms previously designated for Skeleton Key holders. Like VooDoo, these rooms are also missing their scare actors. Previously, the room had a little boy looking for his brother who had been taken by the Tooth Fairy. Without this storyline in place the beginning of the maze is a little confusing. I realize that it is impossible to hold up the line by allowing everyone to experience the rooms the way they were designed in prior years, but I do think there’s a way to include some of the effects to help the storyline along. This one has more gore and blood added, so if you weren’t scared of the dentist’s drill before, you will be by the time you walk out of this one.
SPECIAL OPS: INFECTED is another winner. A zombie shooting experience with no upcharge, this attraction used to have timed ticket entry. Now, no tickets are required and it works more like a standard maze. This is a huge improvement. Get in line, grab a gun, and go! No long explanations, just aim for the head. Loved it.
GUNSLINGER’S GRAVE, A BLOOD MOON RISES takes guests through a western town that has been attacked by werewolves. It’s a classic Knott’s maze with the gunslinger’s battling evil to take back the town from the vicious animals.
THE DEAD OF WINTER, WENDIGO’S REVENGE is bloodier than before, and features more wandering monsters. Missing is the ice queen who has been replaced by her minion Wendigo. I love the quiet falling snow in this maze and the horrors trapped in the ice. Don’t skip this one.
New for 2016:
THE RED BARN is a hillbilly hell. It reminded me of an old Knott’s favorite, UNCLE WILLY’S SLAUGHTERHOUSE. The goriest one of the night, this maze is littered with animal carcasses and has sinister backwoods types lurking in the dark.
SHADOW LANDS, LIVE BY THE SWORD DIE BY THE SWORD is gorgeous. I absolutely loved this one and wished that I had time to view it again. From the impressive opening set set piece to the finale, this maze does everything right. This is a perfect example of how taking a few seconds at the beginning of the maze to set the tone works beautifully and establishes the mood for the rest of the maze. I don’t want to give too much away, but the effects are scary and stunning. Guests encounter creatures from Japanese folklore that are as captivating as they are creepy. Small details like the room dividers made from kimono fabric add to the magical otherworldly quality of this attraction. Go here first. Lines get long and it’s worth it.
Skeleton Key Rooms:
Purchase of a Fright Lane with Skeleton Key pass is an additional charge and provides guests with priority access to all mazes and one time access to four Skeleton Key rooms. These rooms are marked by the key symbol on the map. The rooms are short interactive experiences with guests entering the rooms in small groups. On opening night, these rooms had a significant wait time since some of them have only a few guests entering at a time. I would suggest watching the lines and try to hit them when lines are shortest, possibly at the beginning or end of the night. I waited 15 to 30 minutes for each one which really cut into our timeline for the night.
ZOZO is an encounter with a demon using a Ouija board. Situated underneath a roller coaster, the sounds of screaming and the ride overhead really provided an unsettling backdrop to this one.
VISIONS is a high tech ghost hunt in a museum. The ghost encounters and augmented reality equipment are really fun, but the final scare needs work.
PREY is a hay maze with guests using faulty lanterns to light the way out. This one was confusing because the maze path doubles back on itself. Some people in the group ahead of us found the way out by using a wrong turn and were scolded as the old farmer in charge yelled, “you’re cheating!”
SLASHER is a serial killer’s lair. The trick is to find your way out before the killer finds you… This one was gory fun and just the right length to keep the line moving fairly quickly.
ELVIRA’S DANSE MACABRE is a musical review starring the Mistress of the Dark at a Masquerade Ball. She’s gorgeous and bawdy, but this year the long lip sync battle with guests onstage was more snore than gore. I didn’t have time to see THE HANGING this year, but I caught a snippet of Bernie Sanders as a DJ while walking past the new Calico Mine stage. This show is a pop culture firing squad and western stunt show. No one is safe and political correctness is unheard of. Thank goodness.
GHOST TOWN STREETS, CARNEVIL, and FIESTA DE LOS MUERTOS are back and joining the monster madness is the all new scare zone THE HOLLOW featuring the Headless Horseman.
Scary Farm runs for 24 nights from September 22 through October 31.
Get your tickets at SCARY FARM online.