Haunt Review: Knott's Scary Farm

When it comes to haunts, you cannot miss out on Knott's Scary Farm during the Halloween season.  This is where theme park mazes originated and the experience immerses everyone into the Halloween spirit.  The whole park is dimmed down, decorated, and filled with their fantastic scare actors to make sure you get the most fright throughout the night.  This year there are two new mazes, the Red Barn and Shadow Lands; Dead of Winter was re-designed, and there is one new scare zone called The Hollow.  This year the skeleton rooms are separate and stand alone experiences instead of being tied into the mazes.  In order to experience these four rooms; Visions, ZoZo, Slasher, and Prey, guests will need to have purchased the skeleton key option.  There are a few things that are worth keeping in mind during your visit based on our experience.  If you are interested in doing Black Ops: Infected, it would be wise to head there first as it gets to be quite crowded.  Even with the skeleton key, which comes with the fright pass to the front of the line, the wait time is around 30-45 minutes.  Shadow Lands, one of the new mazes, had a fairly consistent lengthy line so also make sure to check this out earlier in the evening.  If you have the skeleton key upgrade, you should have no problem getting through all the regular mazes, but the skeleton key rooms have lengthy lines so we would recommend attending these earlier in the evening as the lines can exceed an hour wait. Having some strategy around these few things might be the difference between having time to finish everything or not.  Now onto the mazes! 

NEW MAZES FOR 2016:

RED BARN
Synopsis: Take a trip to a blood-soaked barn filled with carnivorous animals seeking to prey on human flesh in the Red Barn gore maze.  Legend has it the farmer who owns the barn was transformed into a heinous creature that sends his sadistic sons to ensure his legacy.  None dare enter the barn, for those who enter never escape. 

Thoughts: I was personally very excited for a gorefest in the Red Barn, but it was unfortunately a lacking maze.  I enjoyed going through, but there was not much for detail and actors were sparse. It was more or less a cannibal hillbilly adventure.  In one area you can notice some writing on the wall and after going through several times I noticed some writing on the wall in a later room, which led me to think maybe there was more to the maze in terms of storyline, but it was too dark to read.  I believe that this being a new maze the reception won't be as high in praise when compared to Shadow Lands (which will be discussed next) or last year's debut of Paranormal Inc. The standard is set high and Red Barn fell low for me. 

SHADOW LANDS
Synopsis: A fulfilling life ensures a soul safe passage into eternity, but what happens to the souls of soldiers slain in battle?  Enter the hair-raising Shadow Lands maze and fight off demon samurais whose souls are cursed to rot within the depths of purgatory.  Guests will embark on a quest through a sacred shrine, an ancient Japanese temple and into the midst of the shadow lands. 

Thoughts: Shadow Lands is an amazing new maze for Knotts.  The set design is gorgeous, the lighting is just right, and there are awesome animatronics mixed with stunts and live actors. I really loved this maze.  If time permits, definitely go through this one more than once. Seriously, they did a superb job with this maze. 

BLACK OPS: INFECTED
Synopsis: Armed with cutting edge laser guns, brave guests will face off against hordes of zombies in the groundbreaking all-new Special Ops: Infected interactive maze.  Small units of guests will battle the zombie apocalypse through blood soaked city streets and an underground sewer system crawling with nearly one hundred ravenous zombies.  The high tech innovative experience thrusts guests into the middle of a live-action video game complete with live actors, real time scoring system, kill streak rewards system and interactive targets, including a juggernaut boss zombie.  The new attraction is one of the largest mazes ever created in Knott's Scary Farm history so form your squad and put your zombie apocalypse survival skills to the est in this action packed, one-of-a-kind experience.  Groups must work together to fend off zombies and complete terrifying missions before time runs out.  If zombies drag their bodies too close, the un-infected's guns temporarily deactivate, compromising the safety of the entire team.  Soldiers with the deadliest aim will be celebrated with a tally of the number of zombies killed on display board for other survivors to see each night in base camp. 

Thoughts: Infected was a fun change up giving participants an active role while going through a maze.  The maze itself was great, I found myself wanting to spend time just walking through to look at the design.  There isn't much time to just look around though as your team is hustled from section to section to fight off the zombies.  The actors in this maze who guide you through were on point and transported you into the experience.  You are equipped with a laser gun to shoot the zombies; you're going for headshots.  It was a fun experience and worth checking out. 

RETURNING MAZES

PARANORMAL INC.
Synopsis: Paranormal Inc. features high flying aerial stunts and scares as guests help investigate a haunted hospital where the patients were tortured for decades by deranged doctors and nurses.  Demonic spirits of the murdered victims have been detected throughout the mysterious halls, where evil medical staff prowl for new patients to torture. 

Thoughts: This is still an excellent maze that packs a punch even if you went through it last year.  If it's your first year going through, then I'm sure the unexpected beginning will wow you just as it did for others and myself in 2015.  I believe this maze was the start of a new level of quality in Knotts' mazes, which can be seen in this year's Shadow Lands maze. 

THE GUNSLINGER'S GRAVE: A BLOOD MOOD RISES
Synopsis: "A Blood Moon Rises" continues the story of The Gunslinger.  The Red hand gang has disturbed a burial ground that contained a SkinWalker relic, that has transformed them into Werewolves under the Blood Moon Curse.  Return to the Old West and walk in the bloody footsteps of a betrayed and left for dead gunslinger on his path to retribution.  This journey back in time takes guests on a trail of terror through abandoned gold mines, a treacherous corral, a seedy saloon and a final showdown at town hall. 

Thoughts: This maze unfortunately does not work for me.  It needs updating, and I hoped this year we would see that.  The werewolves look more like grungy stuffed animal dogs than werewolves.  The animatronics feel dated and the massive horse they had in Gunslinger last year was moved into the Red Barn maze.  I do enjoy the way it navigates through some graveled trail with open skies and the actors did add flare to this attraction, they are the redeeming factor for this maze without a doubt.  I will continue to hope for some updated werewolves in this classic western maze.  

TOOTH FAIRY
Synopsis: This twisted tooth fairy steals more than just baby teeth as he drags his victims out of their bedroom window and into a world of deranged dentistry.  Unbelievable special effects include a blackout room through which guests must feel their way out, a disorienting x-ray strobe light room, and a final encounter with the massive tooth fairy, himself.  Say aahhh. 

Thoughts: This maze, now in its third year, is lots of fun purely because it makes so many people uncomfortable.  This maze caters to phobias of anything to do with teeth or the dentist. Then add in the component of children being the victim and it just gets darker.  Visually tooth fairy is a very solid and creepy maze and the actors are fantastic.  I have yet to tire going through this one. 

TRICK OR TREAT
Synopsis: Trick or treat, which will it be?  Step forward and ring the witch's doorbell.  Oh, she is home, but where?  You are not quite sure.  Don't be afraid, her minions will guide you.  You can come away with a treat, but is it worth it? 

Thoughts: This is the epitome of Halloween and I love this maze.  It's not too intense compared to some of the others and there isn't gore and blood everywhere; however, you get to journey through the green witch's house.  You'll be welcomed by a staircase of lit up pumpkins, wander down a hallway of masks, and have the opportunity to check out her cauldron.  This is a maze that has been around for awhile now, but still provides a great time and the actors throughout are great as well. 

THE DEAD OF WINTER: WENDIGO'S REVENGE
Synopsis: Deep in the frozen tundra, the realm of a treacherous snow queen has been usurped by her evil minion, the horrific wendigo.  She may be dead, but her evil spell hasn't been lifted: the dead cannibals have risen from their snowy graves as hungry creatures feast on the surrounding villages.  During the chaos, the queen's prized possession, the horrific wendigo, has seized control of her throne, ready to prey upon any unsuspecting visitors who enter the borders of its icy domain. 

Thoughts: This maze debuted last year and the general consensus was not positive. However this year it was redesigned and I loved it.  At the very start you enter a white hallway filled with fog so thick that you can't see a thing in front of you.  Once you emerge from this snow blindness, the maze becomes a much darker experience than last year.  The changes are a pleasant surprise as you see the bloody trail a wendigo left with ice impalements throughout. Don't forget to look down for the frozen bodies under your feet. 

VOODOO - ORDER OF THE SERPENT
Synopsis: Beware the cursed swamps of New Orleans, where mindless zombies trudge through the murky bogs in search of bloody sacrifices and demons use Voodoo curses to possess innocent souls.  Choose your path carefully children, for one wrong turn and you will be hexed forever. 

Thoughts: Voodoo is a classic maze starting off by routing guests into what was previously a skeleton key room.  Here guests will meet a serpent character that made for a great first scare. The mood of this maze is effective, as you will be immersed into a world of rituals, a swampland, and a cemetary.  Voodoo is always enjoyable for me, however in the past there had been fog, which really helped the atmosphere and this year there was none.  I missed that effect.  Besides this detail it's as good as ever.  Keep your eyes peeled for the Nightbreed homage towards the end of this maze as well. 

SKELETON KEY ROOMS:

VISIONS
Synopsis: Guests must bravely investigate the Green With Museum in Ghost Town where it is not the building that is eerily haunted, but the mystic items enclosed within. Using a Phantom Finder augmented reality device, guests will be able to identify and witness paranormal activity connected to artifacts from the Sarah Marshall Witch Trial. 

Thoughts: This particular skeleton key room always seemed to have a fairly long line, perhaps because it is directly across from Black Ops: Infected.  The wait did not feel worth the experience, however, I did enjoy what occurred inside.  Guests join some of the crew from Paranormal Inc. to investigate any activity.  I would suggest doing this room early in the night to avoid an hour plus wait. 

ZOZO
Synopsis: People from all over the world claim to have been visited by the Ouija demon ZOZO after a spirit board session.  Is the demonic entity known as ZOZO real or are spirit boards just a myth?

Thoughts:  This was my favorite of the skeleton key rooms.  I liked the aesthetics of the room and there's a fun surprise that awaits guests.  Makes sure to hit up this experience, it's a really fun one. 

SLASHER
Synopsis: Guests are invited to step into a blood filled 80s' slasher horror film.  The masked Angel Maker Killer is on the loose.  Every lead has run cold and that's when you step into the picture.  Will you become his next victim? 

Thoughts: I enjoyed this room, but it was short and somewhat lackluster for the amount of time one has to wait.  This was also difficult to find, as it was not marked clearly.  Look for a big box by Camp Snoopy. 

PREY
Synopsis: Navigate a wicked hay maze packed with dead ends while equipped with only a faulty lantern as your guide.  You are not alone.  Mutant beasts are released to prey upon wandering visitors, the only way out is by facing your worst nightmares.

Thoughts: I liked the concept behind Prey, but this was my least favorite skeleton key room. I realize that darkness is effective, but I literally could not see what any of the actors inside looked like as I wandered through.  This missed the mark for me, however I spoke with others who loved it. 

SHOWS

THE HANGING
A staple of Knott's Scary Farm since 1977, The Hanging has gone through many incarnations, and recently found a new home at this years haunt, but the show remains the same.  For the uninitiated, The Hanging is a lampoon of the past years most annoying media darlings, with the most (un?)worthy being symbolically hung at the shows finale.  This years show involves stunts, spurting blood, multiple jabs at the U.S.'s nightmarish crapfest of an election, and none of the candidates or former candidates is exempt, nor should they be, they created this circus, let them have their desserts.... Chewbacca mom, Charlie Sheen, Tarzan, Coachella hipsters, San Diego Comic Con (this place smells like Cheeto's & virginitiy!), and everyone attempting to Catch'em All!

Without a hint of irony, I sat there collecting Pokeballs from the nearby Pokestop the whole show, even as they hung my beloved Pikachu as the finale.  Love something?  The Hanging as either lambasted it, or will get to it shortly...

ELVIRA'S DANSE MACABRE
his year's Knott's Scary Farm involves the return of an old (Hey! Whaddaya mean'old'?!) Hush, Elvira!) favourite...Elvira, Mistress of the Dark!  We were super lucky to catch the Halloween Queen's second show and once again, the woman delivers her three trademarks...boobs and camp!  The opening video starts off showing Elvira on summer vacation, and her trials and tribulations of getting to the stage, including her 'manager', Old Nick, himself, in a fab shiny red suit, a cameo by none other than Retro King himself, Charles Phoenix (I knoooow)!  The show itself starts with a lively dress, a song by our Queen, and some talented dancers for "Elvira's Danse Macabre".  Three dance numbers, aerialists spinning on a giant chandelier, more aerialists on silks, a fire performer, Scary-Oke for a chance of sharing the stage with our Queen for a few moments and a shot at being a lucky victim of her snark...a killer show topped off with a poisonous cherry on top, aka The Hostess with the Mostest!

Elvira will be performing two shows a night for the run of Knott's Scary Farm, and will be doing a signing after her first show across the way where her merch is being sold.

Unpleasant screams...

SCAREZONES

CARNEVIL
Synopsis: Knott's Boardwalk is taken over by "CarnEvil", where the freak show and countless clowns crave your undying attention. 

Thoughts: Depending on whether you are afraid of clowns or not this area will either be terrifying, comedic, or both.  The actors clearly have a lot of fun with their role and it makes for a fantastic zone with many different personalities emerging. 

DEADLY 7
Synopsis:
 Prowling the darkest corners of Scary Farm's midways and scare zones, the Green Witch and her Deadly 7 are a sadistic crew guilty of more terror than meets the eye.  Each of the monsters represent one of the seven deadly sins and makes terrifying surprise appearances throughout the park each night.

Thoughts: I was looking forward to seeing these particular scare actors, but unfortunately I never saw any of the seven deadly sins or the Green Witch during either of the nights I attended. 

FIESTA DE LOS MUERTOS
Synopsis: Fiesta de los Muertos fuses dance music, colorful costumes, and larger than life stilt walkers in a dance party scare zone with even more characters than last year to create the ultimate late night celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

Thoughts: The Dia de los Muertos scare zone is festive and colorful with the skeleton faced actors roaming around. 

GHOST TOWN STREETS
Synopsis: Ghost Town Streets is the original - and still more terrifying scare zone - that started it all.  Bands of half-human, half-animal monsters prowl the streets and inhabit the fog. Beware the notoriously startling Sliders who lunge from every fog-filled corner of the land. 

Thoughts: This is always my favorite scare zone, where the fog is heavy laden.  This is a must when you visit Scary Farm. 

THE HOLLOW
Synopsis: From within the fog, the legendary Headless Horseman and his army of the undead are ready to unleash a reign of terror in the newest scare zone, The Hlalow.  Guests entering the frightful 6-acre area will be terrorized by the souls of fallen soldiers and local farmers that have escaped their shallow graves. 

Thoughts: This is a new scare zone for 2016.  I like that the location is much darker which allows for a scarier ambiance to it.  I think if there were some fog being pumped into the area it would be truly terrifying.  I definitely enjoyed the theming and the makeup in this zone. 

Overall, Knott's Scary Farm is an event you are going to want to make sure you get too.  It's encapsulate the Halloween spirit in a way that so few haunts do now-a-days. Our advice would be to get a Front of the Line pass so that you can get through all the mazes and experience the Skeleton Key Rooms, just make note that the Skeleton Key Rooms can have quite a line so your best bet is to try and get to those first (along with Black Ops: Infected) before hitting up the mazes.  All of us who attended Knott's Scary Farm had a fantastic time and we here at Nightmarish Conjurings definitely suggest you go during this Halloween season.  

For more information on Knott's Scary Farm, visit their website at www.knotts.com/scaryfarm and follow them on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

Tal & Nikki