Wow. Universal had a target on their back and Knott’s just came out of the shadows and blew them away. This year, Knott’s Scary Farm is simply the best they’ve ever been.
As the oldest theme park haunt in LA, Knott’s is known for a fun Halloween carnival feel. For 2017 Scary Farm, the Knott’s team cranked up the fear factor and opened with a perfectly polished pupil-dilating night. Knott’s took aim at Universal’s monsters like a true Gunslinger. All of the returning mazes and scare zones have been reworked and revamped. Even the maze lines seemed to run like a finely oiled automaton. The flow was so easy from one maze to the next, that I kept thinking to myself… damn, this just works.
My night began at 7 pm, at the media reception in the FIESTA DE LOS MUERTOS scare zone. Walking from this zone to the first maze of my night, PUMPKIN EATER, was a spooky start because I passed through THE HOLLOW scare zone. Immediately, I could sense a difference, a tension in the air. Is it possible that they’ve hired even more scare actors? They seemed to be everywhere! Knott’s monsters are usually what I would call pranksters. There’s a sense of fun in everything they do. This year, that fun had an edge. No longer willing to pose for photo ops, the monsters stayed in character and lurked in the shadows, sometimes working in teams to scare guests. One walked up and leered at me to my left as another one came sliding out of the darkness to my right with sparks flying from his fingertips. It was electrifying. Distraction. Attack. Scream!
PUMPKIN EATER is a new maze that takes you into the den of a creature with a killer pumpkin spice obsession. I don’t want to give too much away, but the textures of this maze are gooey and gory. At one point, a woman in my group turned to me and said, “This is a never-ending maze. I don’t think we will ever get out of here!” It’s a long one and full of fascinating layers as mutilated bodies made way for huge munching insects crawling from the rotting pumpkin flesh.
The next five mazes (numbered 1-5 on the park map) have lines which wind effortlessly from one to the next. This is a huge improvement over previous years where the lines required a lot of backtracking even though the mazes are clumped together on the left side of the park map.
TRICK OR TREAT – LIGHTS OUT is a reimagining of Halloween night at the home of the iconic Green Witch. If you’ve been to Scary Farm before, you’ve walked through the witch’s house, but never like this! The first thing you’ll notice is that the facade is scarier. Gone are the brightly colored paper decorations. The house is now grey, sinister, and menacing. Right before I stepped onto the porch I was handed a flashlight. Knott’s isn’t the only haunt using the “faulty flashlight” gadget, but they took better advantage of this fun prop. In different parts of the house, I could use the flashlight to search the rooms. At times it lit up the dark corners with a normal flashlight beam helping me to find hidden creatures. In other rooms, a blacklight beam exposed hidden writing on the walls. At one point, the flashlight stopped working and we were plunged into the dark. Exploring the house was a wicked blast.
VOODOO – ORDER OF THE SERPENT. In the past, this immersive black magic maze has struggled with the ending. The Knott’s team solved that problem by flipping it on its head. Guests enter the maze backward through the previous exit. Starting out in the swamp, guests walk through the bayou to an old New Orleans mansion where the new ending added the cajun spice this one had been missing.
PARANORMAL INC. was the only maze this year that seemed a little off. In an attempt to make it darker and more evil, some of the best props and rooms have such little lighting that the weirdest creatures are obscured by shadows. One of my favorite creatures in this maze, I call him the bubble gum monster because he looks like a giant wad of chewing gum that somehow gained consciousness, was almost completely hidden. He’s not that scary to look at, but he’s damn weird and I wanted to see him!
THE TOOTH FAIRY is just as creepy and disturbing as ever. The sound of that dentist’s drill always makes me want to run for the exits. Shudder.
SPECIAL OPS INFECTED is still one of the most thrilling mazes. It seems like this one gets a tune-up every year. This time, I appreciated the military squad leaders stopping us at intervals to change the person in front of our platoon. With unlimited ammo, the zombies are easy prey for the person at the front of the group, leaving the guests at the back with fewer head-shot opportunities. The monsters recover quickly, but it’s nice to rotate the group so that everyone who wants to lead has a chance to be at the tip of the spear.
THE RED BARN is a vegan’s worst nightmare. Imagine a butcher who would never pass a health inspection. Horror!
SHADOWLANDS premiered last year and was my favorite maze. Mesmerizing touches like the Asian-inspired soundtrack and delicate Japanese lanterns make this one a standout. Instead of pushing through plastic flaps as you enter each room, the rooms are separated by hanging kimonos and beautifully printed fabrics. Even some of the more bloody parts of this maze are hauntingly beautiful.
DARK RIDE was the last maze of my night and the one that stayed with me after I left the park. It’s fantastic. If you don’t have time to do all the mazes, please make sure you go through this one. Maybe it’s because I was raised in SoCal, but the term “dark ride” always makes me think of Disney rides like Alice in Wonderland. I remember going from the bright Anaheim sunshine into the dark and then staring in amazement at the glowing blacklight fantasy creatures. This maze starts off with a walk through a similar type of theme park ride. First, you see the murdered ride operator, then you walk onto the ride track and see cars stopped and abandoned. I loved how they combined the almost cute cartoonlike scares in the ride section with over the top flashing animatronics. Then the serpentine path takes guests into a backstage area where threatening fiends wander and wait to thrill. Huge machines hiss as scare actors engage each guest menacingly. One ogre tried to put a burlap sack on my head, but I managed to escape… just barely.
ELVIRA is back for her final Knott’s curtain call with her MISTRESS OF THE DARK show. She’s bawdy, brash, and busty as ever! This is her last season with Knott’s, so make sure you catch one of her two nightly shows. It’s an overview of her creepy career as the reigning Queen of Halloween.
THE HANGING – FAKE NOOSE is a political send-up of the current administration and the pop culture pinheads that had their fifteen minutes of infamy this year. No one is spared. I won’t post any spoilers, but the comedy and stunts are HUGE.
TIMBER MOUNTAIN LOG RIDE – HALLOWEEN HOOTENANNY is a themed overlay for the log ride. Don’t miss it! Scary surprises are waiting for you…
2017 FRIGHT & FAST LANE is a worthwhile upgrade because it includes express access to all mazes and your favorite rides. With more scare actors, more intense frights, and more creativity… 2017 Scary Farm knocked it out of the park!
Get your tickets now through Halloween night at Knotts.com