[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2

This year’s spooky season has taken on more significance with the arrival of Knott’s Scary Farm ’s 50th anniversary. The big 5-0! Exciting, right? And with such a giant milestone for the oldest operating theme park haunt, the team has much in store for attendees this year to get the Halloween season rolling.

From new mazes that pay homage to both Scary Farm and horror across the board to new shows and the return of scare zones past, everywhere people turn, they are hit smack in the face with Scary Farm’s long-lasting history. With time and some tweaking, this year’s Knott’s Scary Farm is set to be another success.

The following is a recap from Nightmarish Conjurings’ Craig Thayer focusing on the shows and scare zones at this year’s Knott’s Scary Farm.


DR. CLEAVER RETURNS – Returning Show

[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
Taking over the Bird Cage Theater for another year is another magic-based show.

The character of Dr. Cleaver has been retired for quite some time, but for the 50th he was dusted off, given a new script, and sent back out into the world.

The question becomes: how is the show itself?

Honestly, it is a brisk 15-minute show with some melodrama-level acting, lots of innuendo, and a magic trick. One of the strengths of the show happens to be the cast. It is a three-person team who all play well off of one another, as well as off of the audience. The cast even makes some of the cornier jokes land thanks to good comedic timing.

One critique would be that the show just sort of ends. There is a last joke of sorts, but then the performer is left to walk off the stage with no real conclusion. It is by no means a deal breaker, especially for such a short show, but the audience did seem sort of taken aback by the lack of any firm conclusion.

All in all, the wheel is certainly not reinvented here, but the show stands as an amusing diversion that nicely fills out the evening.


[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
The Walter Knott Theater is newly inhabited by Music, Monsters, and Mayhem.

This is honestly the toughest of the bunch to review as somewhere between one-third or one-half of the show is improvisationally based. As with all improv, sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. For me, on the show I saw, the interstitial ad-lib moments did not work. They involved lots of crowd work, went on for far too long, and brought the show to a grinding halt every time they occurred.

Which is sad because the show has some truly stunning musical moments. The numbers are well choreographed, sung, and costumed, and feature some great set design. Each performance is a tip of the hat to a previous Scary Farm maze or scare zone which had the audience amped up with each recognizable reference. There was a more adult edge to each number as they often involved murder or just sexy outfits (usually both) in addition to the songs.

All in all, there is a great twenty to thirty-minute show in here, but it is bogged down by a strange decision to have an unknown horror host do crowd work. The musical numbers are the true highlight and if they were to rework the proceedings to make them the focus, this could be a banger of a show.


[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
The Hanging is back and now taking up residence in The Wagon Camp Theater. Much has been made about how offensive this show is/has been in the past. I am sure much more will be made of it in the future.

Honestly, though, this felt like a relatively standard outing for The Hanging; some of the humor worked while other bits fell flat. Some of the most entertaining moments were when the show mocked Knott’s or Disneyland as a few of those felt right on the nose. I doubt that the humor will win over any new followers, but the fanbase for this show definitely seemed energized.

One minor critique would be that in the past The Hanging has not only been synonymous with humor, but also stunt work. While we still got a few action sequences, the show felt much more humor-focused than stunt-focused compared to past iterations. What we got was good, but I definitely felt myself waiting for the next punch to be thrown or more epic battles.

All in all, The Hanging remains a love-it-or-leave-it type of show, but honestly, it felt good to have a stunt show back in Wagon Camp.


[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
Making a return to the Calico Stage is the Carnaval du Grotesque.

The carnival returns to town with a bit of a retooling to not only strengthen the narrative but also to adjust the flow of the original show. This involves playing up the clown character (Cuchillo), having the dance troupe act as the entertainment between acts, going from four carnival acts to three, and swapping a hair hang act for a pole aerialist.

The changes work very nicely and definitely make the show feel more complete. The flow of the proceedings has been sped up a lot thanks to these adjustments as there is less stop-and-start. The dance troupe was a particular favorite last year so seeing them get more than one moment to show off their stuff was especially great.

If I had to level one critique, it would be similar to how I feel about Dr. Cleaver; when the ending hits, the audience is left waiting to see if that was all. This is actually not a critique of the ending itself, because it is a good finale, but more the fact that the execution did not seem to telegraph to the audience that it was over.

All in all, thanks to some reworking, the show feels stronger than last year, and thanks to an added story, a more complete experience.


GHOST TOWN STREETS – Returning Scare Zone

Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

The fog rolls down the streets of Calico thick and dark, hiding the danger of what lurks within. Those who brave the main street of this western settlement soon come face to face with the angry victims of the witch’s curse. The transformed townsfolk lurk, run, scream, and (famously) slide at all who dare step foot into their no longer peaceful town.

As always, the Ghost Town Streets are pretty much the gold standard for monsters, fog, and darkness. This year feels much like previous years with a few new faces added to the mix. Thus far the newly designed creatures are already memorable and provide great scares while running alongside the returning mob of monsters. And let us be honest, a trip down fog alley is a must-do for any visit to Knott’s Scary Farm.

CARN-EVIL – Returning Scare Zone

[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
This brightly lit zone somehow still manages to provide a lot of good scares and memorable moments thanks to a dedicated cast. While the clown concept is certainly not new when it comes to haunts, here the jolly jesters turn from amusing to imposing on a dime. Honestly, using humor to scare is one of the greatest assets this zone has as the brightly colored props the horrifying harlequins use can be amusing from a distance, but terrifying when one finds it thrust in their face.

This year the zone has received a fair amount of additional setpieces to flesh it out. Sideshow posters scatter the streets, ticket booths (with video screens showing them being occupied) line the sides of the walkways, and monkeys hang from the colorful pop lights. Thus far, I have yet to see these additional setpieces utilized by the cast to achieve scares, but I am sure as they find their groove, these items will help them get even more guests running away from the circus.

THE GAUNTLET – Returning Scare Zone

[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2
Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm
This year marks the return of a classic zone from Scary Farm’s past; The Gauntlet. The enormous Camp Snoopy area has been overrun with nasty knights, fiendish fools, wicked wizards, and ruthless royalty.

As of this writing, the only set pieces in The Gauntlet are a stage with a throne, an entrance sign, and an exit sign. Even the fog coverage in this area seems thinner than in the past, making it more work for the cast to startle those walking through. In addition, the zone is lit in blue, which visually makes it look very similar to the nearby Forsaken Lake.

The costuming and masks in this area are really quite nice and the cast has been turning in good work thus far. There is a decent amount of interactivity here, a fun royal processional (if one is lucky enough to catch it), and loads of dark comedy to fill out the experience. I will admit, seeing the king walking around eating a real roasted chicken (held on a plate by one of his attendants) added a level of authenticity to the zone that helped bring things firmly to life.

While the cast seems to already have a decent handle on how to play their roles, the zone suffers from a lack of identity thanks to a lack of sets and its color palette having a striking similarity to the nearby Forsaken Lake.

FORSAKEN LAKE – Returning Scare Zone

Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

The fog clings to the lake again this year, and again the waterlogged residents of Forsaken Lake have risen from their graves. In the past, this Victorian-styled zone put an emphasis on melding music and scares to create a seemingly voodoo-styled experience. This idea was punctuated by nightly processionals in which a casket is somberly marched down the street to a funereal rendition of The Hearse Song.

On my walks through Forsaken Lake this year, it seemed as if the cast was thinner than usual. The actors populating the zone are still doing a good job of leaving people running and utilizing the props to get a good startle out of guests. Speaking of the props, the sets for the zone have been extended out this year and seem even more detailed in years past. If Forsaken Lake was a bit more populated, it would be right up there with the Ghost Town Streets as the zone to beat.


Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm

The bright lights and smooth tunes permeate the air around Memory Lane. Those looking for a hotsy-totsy time will quickly run afoul of no-good newsboys, menacing mobsters, fatal flappers, alarming apostles, and psychotic socialites all intent upon drawing us to their side. As the characters vie for our support, it becomes clear that the party we have stumbled upon is the last soiree any of these people ever attended, and now they are doomed to recreate the scene every evening.

This is Knott’s Scary Farm ’s second brightly lit zone and, much like Carn-Evil, the focus is definitely on interactivity. Sure there are scares here, but thanks to a stellar cast there are just as many laughs for those willing to hang around a while. Add to that the amazing swing band that performs a few times every night and you have a fun zone that is sure to leave passersby dancing and screaming in the streets.

Know Before You Go to Knott’s Scary Farm

Here are some tips and information to help you prepare for your trip to Knott’s Scary Farm. Trust me. You’re going to want to know these things (and they are also listed in further detail on the Knott’s Scary Farm website here.)

  • The bag policy is still in place. Clear plastic bags smaller than 12” x 12” x 6” as well as non-clear wristlets or clutches no larger than 5”x 8”x 2” are allowed at Knott’s Scary Farm. All bags are subject to search prior to entry. If you have big pockets, def recommend you use them.
  • Try to get there early for parking purposes. Standard parking for cars and motorcycles is $30. Beach Boulevard is a traffic hellscape approaching opening so getting there early or parking nearby may help you in the long run.
  • Under the chaperone policy, all general park guests ages 17 years old or younger must be accompanied by a chaperone who is at least 21 years old to be admitted to the park. The chaperone must present a valid photo ID with date of birth. One chaperone may accompany no more than 10 guests ages 17 or younger per day.

If you’re prepared ahead of time, it can create fewer headaches in the short and long term. Don’t want to go into the haunt already frustrated.

Knott’s Scary Farm Final Thoughts

There is lots of entertainment on offer for Knott’s Scary Farm’s 50th which will nicely fill out a guest’s evening.  One critique is that many of the show times are so close to (or even overlap) one another that it is nearly impossible to see all 4 major shows in addition to the special scare zone shows in one evening.  That criticism aside, I enjoyed the vast majority of the entertainment on offer and even the weaker offerings could turn into real crowd-pleasers with some adjustments.  Even still, the event is just bursting at the seams with entertainment and seems to be providing something for everyone.

Nightmares become reality for its 50th year as Knott’s Scary Farm is overrun by 5 unnerving scare zones, 10 macabre mazes, and 4 shocking shows. From September 21st to October 31st, goblins, ghouls, and everything in between rule the park. To purchase tickets, go here.

Want to know more about the mazes? Check out Part 1 of our Knott’s Scary Farm write-up here.



2 thoughts on “[Haunt Review] KNOTT’S SCARY FARM (2023) Part 2

  1. Hi! I’m the scare Actor in the photo – I was scrolling on Google looking for a logo for something and saw my face – I wanted to let you know that I was gonna save the photo and post it on my Instagram! I’ll link back to this article when I do of course!

    Thank you for the amazing photo 💚

    1. Oh! Thanks. Do you want the full photo? We cropped ours for the article (wordpress and dimensions and what not.) Let me know!

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