Knott’s Scary Farm has been in the business of haunted themed event entertainment longer than any other theme park in the business. With 41 years of Halloween Haunts under their belt, the original has plenty of experience and a huge amount of expectation to live up to. The 2014 event kicked off on Thursday, the 25th of September, with as much pomp as pageantry as one could expect from a scary group of zombies, demons, and of course the Green Witch herself.
At 7:00pm the front gates opened and legions of fans swarmed into the park. Guests headed off into the thick fog searching for the first scare. There was plenty to see too, as Knott’s was offering three entirely brand new maze attractions (Voodoo, The Tooth Fairy, Trapped:Lock and Key), one entirely new concept experience (Special Ops: INFECTED), and and two new shows, (The Hanging® Everything is Gruesome, and Elvira’s Big Top.).
In this article we offer a point by point assessment of each of the haunt offerings and what to expect.
NEW MAZES and EXPERIENCES
Special Ops: Infected
One Sentence Review: An interesting, often fun experience that needs to find its footing.
Special Ops: Infected seamlessly integrates interactive gaming technology with an immersive mountainous landscape, delivering a breakthrough interactive haunted experience that is as terrifying as it is challenging. Missions will take guests through a variety of wilderness terrains, including unpredictable barrel bridges across a rushing river, through dark caverns, and mysterious backwoods. Six acres of the beloved theme park is now home to mutinous, scream-inducing zombies, and the time has come for a harrowing Special Ops survival mission.
Special Ops:Infected is a brand new concept to Knott’s Berry Farm and the big, theme park haunt world. It is an interactive shooting experience in which guests are led through a series of perilous adventures through a zombie infested area, armed with a gun for defense. Zombie hunting, essentially. While other independent haunts have had what are called “Kill houses” for years now, this is the first time a major park with far greater capacity has attempted to bring the concept to the mainstream. The result is a mixed bag of ingenious scares and technical hurdles that is hit and miss.
Located in Camp Snoopy, the experience begins at one of two locations; Alpha (near the front gate) or Bravo, (Near the entrance into Camp Snoopy from Fiesta Village.) Guests are separated into groups of 12 and handed laser tag guns. A commander leads the group into a briefing tent and gives the rules; Stick together, Never pass him, Never fall behind the Commander at the back of the group, shoot zombies in the head.
As the storyline on the Bravo side unfolds we realize that there is a doctor that has devised a cure for the zombie outbreak. The mission is to locate him and rescue him before it is too late. Zombies seem to pour from every dark corner of the forested terrain as you search for the physician in peril.
The idea is an interesting one that only works occasionally. The first weekend was riddled with technical issues from show effects to the guns not working properly and losing player scores. Wait times exceeded return times as the show was simply not finding its footing. Honestly, we have to give Knott’s a pass in that regard as this is an entirely new concept in haunt entertainment for them and they’ll get the kinks worked out.
The actors they have tapped to play the leaders through the terrifying landscape are, by all accounts, very very good. Keeping energy and urgency high for an entire 15 minute performance is difficult. Doing that for an entire evening is nearly impossible. But these actors give it their all and need to be commended. However, the zombie actors are not really given much to do aside from attack and die. The other actors that guests encounter are quite good as well. We will leave it at that so as not to spoil anything.
So to answer the burning question, it is an interesting fist step into a new type of Knott’s Haunt experience. When all effects are working properly the attraction is fairly exciting with a few good jolts here and there. This interactive shooter game benefits greatly from what each person brings to it and how much you can suspend your disbelief. If you can get into it, and if everything is on point, it can be a fun diversion.
While this is a free attraction, the capacity is extremely limited. Guests must visit one of the two outposts on either side of Special Ops: Infected to obtain a return time right at park opening if they want to try this out. Think “Fast Pass,” but for killing zombies. Be prepared to wait quite a while longer than your assigned return time as Knott’s continues to work out the bugs in this bit of haunt fun. The kernel for a great experience is here. It will be interesting to see where Knott’s takes this idea once they have perfected it.
One Sentence Review: Without question, the must see maze at Haunt this year.
Trudge cautiously through the cursed swamps of the Deep South, where creatures search the murky bogs for their next bloody sacrifice and demons curse the innocent with Voodoo hexes. Guests must choose their path from a number of foreboding choices, resulting in a different terrifying outcome with each journey into the swamp.
An inventive trip through the murky swamps of the Louisiana Bayou, Voodoo is without a doubt the one maze that you must not miss when visiting Knott’s Scary Farm this year. The adventure begins as we wander into the familiar ally ways of Bourbon street, only to be confronted by a witch doctor demanding you choose a path. From there the experience becomes variable as the paths merge and intertwine over a network of raised paths over a murky fog covered swamp.
We encounter everything from hillbillies with shotguns, to sacrifices and exorcisms, gators and zombies. What’s more, this maze requires at least two trips through to see everything as there are two points in the journey that you must choose a path to take.
Brooke Walters’ conceived a deliciously creepy, primal idea and guided it through delivering a consistently atmospheric, scary tone. This is one of her best mazes in years. However, she was not alone in her efforts. The money that was seemingly poured into this maze shows. Management is to be commended for investing in this concept wholeheartedly as it really pays off. Every penny is visible in the absolutely beautiful detail and expanse of this simulated swamp environment. Also to be recognized are the countless people behind the effort to bring this to life. We need to call out the lighting designers that lit the scenes, the craftsmen that literally built a living breathing swamp from scratch, the props team that stuffed each shack with its own particular collection of knick knacks and juju that conveys a very distinct personality in each hovel, the makeup artists that give each actor their gnarled, frightening faces. Last but not least, we must recognize the actors who were all spot on in each scene they were cast. The vibe must be consistent, the interactions similar in tone. They get it right here and it is a wonderful experience that demands repeat visits. The experience here is top notch and proves that Knott’s can achieve Universal quality mazes and sets. Simply a fantastic maze!
The Tooth Fairy
One Sentence Review: A supremely unnerving journey through your worst dental nightmares.
The joy of hiding a lost tooth under the pillow becomes a nightmare of pain and blood in this new maze that will leave teeth chattering. This twisted tooth fairy steals more than just baby teeth as he drags his victims out 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.
Daniel Miller is a sick and twisted man. He has a very keen sense of where fear begins in the human psyche. He delivered the disturbing journey into madness known as Delirium. He offered up the broken dreams of a puppet that was denied life in Pinocchio Unstrung. Now he jumps into another childhood fear with the wickedly gruesome The Tooth Fairy.
What begins as a journey into the twilight between awake and asleep soon leads to a journey into the realm of slumber and into the lair of the titular monster. The idea of this maze was floated around Knott’s Entertainment years ago as a more tongue in cheek, no pun intended, approach ala Feary Tails or Malice in Wonderland. The idea seemed boring and silly to maze designer Daniel Miller as that type of irreverent approach to childhood stories had been done. It wasn’t until Miller took a real life trip to the dentist that the creepy side of the idea began to germinate. The sounds of the drills, the vulnerability of tooth work, the invasive needles, picks and other tools, really got to him. And now it can get to you too!
Where does the Tooth Fairy live? Why does she want teeth? What happens to naughty children that try to stay up to see her visit? All of these questions are answered in this gritty, nasty, brutal maze. Along the journey we cross over from the lucid world of reality into the netherworld of sleep and into the industrial lair of the Tooth Fairy. Rusty metal walls and endless hallways of lazily rotating fans greet us upon arrival into her lair. Chains hang randomly from the rafters and we wonder where all of this is headed. We soon find out.
The Tooth Fairy’s minions are soon found extracting teeth from captured children in this factory of pain. This is certainly one of the bloodier, more painful mazes to experience, especially if a trip to the dentist office makes your pulse race.
Once again the production design for this Daniel Miller maze is gritty, grimy and utterly disturbing. While sharp-eyed visitors might spot structural similarities to Delirium, which was in the same spot last year, those minor details will be lost on the passive guest to Haunt. Of particular note here is the sound design. We are treated to the fluttering of butterfly wings, the clacking of dentures, the piercing buzz of a dental drill, all while being accosted by a host of dental demons and fallen fairies with an eye for your teeth. This is a very good attraction and one with a strong desire to warp your mind.
Trapped: Lock and Key
One Sentence Review: Much better than last year, maybe better than the first year.
This year Trapped returns with more rooms, more intricate puzzles and a shocking finale more extreme than any experience ever presented at Knott’s Scary Farm. You become part of the terror and are forced to face your darkest fears, confront your inner terrors and descend into the madness of a maze with no way out. Trapped is not for the squeamish as the challenges are darker and more terrifying than any that have come before.
(Additional fee and reservation required.)
YES! Trapped is good again! What’s more, it’s more than worth the price. To say too much would be to spoil the inherent charm of this maze which is the fear of the unknown. So we will be talking in abstracts and references.
A vast improvement over the sophomore slump known as Trapped: The New Experiment, Trapped: Lock and Key is an intricate, endlessly detailed series of puzzles, challenges and scenarios in which a single group (1-6 people) must find their way out. Individuals are no longer asked to sign a waiver, however there is still a safety word, “Boysenberry” should the experience become too much.
The set design here is top notch, as it always is for Trapped. The level of detail is superb for a theme park haunt. There are also some devilishly creative ways that Krueger and Tucker attempt to break their visitors down into a quivering mass of whimpering flesh. Of course Knott’s creative team only hires the absolute best actors from the audition pool to work in this attraction due to the intimate nature of some of the scenes and it shows. The actors here perform a very specific and important role as they are crucial to the story and your ability to solve the puzzles. Everyone was at their very best and full of spectacular energy and intensity.
Knott’s handed the keys over to Maze Designer, Gus Krueger and Co-Designer Jeff Tucker. Both brought their A-Game and twisted sense of humor to a franchise that had quite a bit to prove this year. Thankfully they nailed it.
Do yourself a favor and buy the up-charge ticket to get into Trapped: Lock and Key. It’s maniacal good fun.
The Gunslinger’s Grave
One Sentence Review: Aggressive tale of vengeance in the west is a fun walk through.
Return to the Old West and walk in the bloody footsteps of a betrayed and left for dead gunslinger on his path to retribution against a corrupt township.
In its second year, Gunslinger’s Grave returns to scare up the old west. The maze begins in a charred homestead as you follow the trail of destruction created by an angry gunslinger. Nearly identical to last year, this maze enjoyed a nearly unnoticeable re-wroking of its finally scene. The animatronic horse is still a centerpiece. However, a shoot out is now taking place. It does improve the flow if nothing else.
Gunslinger’s is also graced with a very talented cast. The Skeleton Key room actors are required to portray a vey intense scene at close range and they do it well. Another highlight is the creepy cowboy hiding in the caverns. He’s a tiny little guy that knows how to work the creep factor. Overall it is worth another visit through the blood soaked west.
One Sentence Review: Still a very strong maze, with a nice reworking.
The veil between the living and the dead is severed when Houdini’s ghost materializes during a séance and ushers a host of demonic illusions to play tricks on anyone who intrudes on his theater.
Daniel Miller’s Black Magic returns for a second magical year and we could not be happier. This was one of our favorites from last year and we were hoping that they would at least maintain the feel again. Thankfully, Houdini’s ghost is alive and well and this maze remains strong. The Skeleton Key has been improved and is still one of the best mazes at the event. Don’t miss this one.
Dominion of the Damned
One Sentence Review: The life is nearly drained from this vampire maze.
The Blood Queen’s reign has ended, but the seductive vampires continue to lure unsuspecting guests into this gothic lair of terror. Ancient vampire lore decrees there shall always be one to rule the damned… Long live the King!
Dominion of the Damned has had a very rocky past in which it has never seemed to find its footing. This vampire maze pays homage to the seductive, sultry side of the vampire with actors that have been trained to leer as opposed to startle. The musical score used in the maze is gothic and beautifully melancholy, the sets are solid. But somehow the vibe is off in this maze this year. The finale room in which they have installed an animatronic Queen Vampire character, fails to wow and just seems like another room. The Skeleton Key room here is good, but not up to the level of Voodoo or Black Magic. It is certainly worth one trip through, it’s part of your path to get to The Tooth Fairy.
One Sentence Review: So close!
The twisted mind of Edgar Allen Poe comes alive as the “Forevermore Killer” works his way through one haunting tale after another. All the victims unwittingly find themselves a part of “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” The Masque of Red Death” among other horrific stories.
Even when maze designer Brooke Walters misfires, it is still a thing of beauty. In this maze that we deemed “Too smart” last year, improvements were made by adding what Walters described as “live kills”. In a series of murder scenes left by a serial killer obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe, we wander his lair and see his dirty work. Last year the maze featured a trail of victims left behind by the murderer. This year they attempted to add a sense of urgency and immediate danger to the proceedings by having guests wander through as the crimes are being committed. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t create the tension it should. Regardless, those into Poe will have a field day with the poetic references while the folks anticipating jump scares will not be disappointed.
One Sentence Review: A warped wooden masterpiece.
Years have passed since the blue fairy denied him his final wish, and Pinocchio has returned with an army of murderous marionettes intent on killing his former masters. The purpose of his killing spree – human flesh to cover his twisted wooden body. Revenge comes with no strings attached.
Pinocchio Unstrung was originally a Daniel Miller creation, handed over to Gus Krueger this year with little noticeable difference. That’s a good thing. The story of the Blue Fairy not delivering on a promise to Pinocchio, triggering a murderous rampage, is a delightfully sickening premise for a maze. The talent here are all very good as usual, and very cagey. The one sour note is the unfortunate Skeleton Key Room. The problem is that the premise for the maze is already fairly clear. However, the new key room simply uses the extra time to reiterate the premise with no scare or enhancement to the overall experience. Other than that, this is yet another strong maze.
One Sentence Review: Spooky, beautiful fun.
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.
A painfully slow loader, Trick or Treat returns this year for a third go around. Unchanged from years past the talent here really bounce off the walls to give a good scare. The maze fights them at every step though as it was designed as a spacious visual feast. There are few hiding spaces or enclaves that would allow for good scares. Still, once inside, the spooky factor takes over and the scares matter little as the world around you is so entrancing.
One Sentence Review: The same classic ride through, new technology, wonderful experience.
Many years ago, The Green Witch uncovered a wicked source of power in the depths of the Calico Mine, and now she’s hell-bent on using this mysterious energy to capture and corrupt all who dare enter.
After Knott’s renovated the Calico Mine Ride many wondered if The Witch’s Keep would return to add a spooky retro flavor to the roster. Return it did and even more beautiful now. Utilizing the new flexible lighting package and sound system, they have created an experience with a little more polish that still retains the retro charm. Although there are no scare actors and no real scares, it’s a nice little diversion at the Haunt. Give it a try.
THEMED SCARE ZONES:
One Sentence Review: Classic scares that never, never let visitors down.
Ghost Town is the original and still the most terrifying scare zone that started it all. Bands of half-human, half-animal monsters prowl the streets and inhabit the fog, and beware the notoriously startling sliders, who lunge in from every fog-filled corner of the land. Just beyond the streets of Ghost Town lies the mysterious outcropping known as Gypsy Camp, where fortune tellers prognosticate future terrors, and ravenous werewolves howl in the light of the moon.
One Sentence Review: CarnEVIL is a stand out scare zone this year with talent that is killing it with energy.
Come one come all! The freak show is the main event and clowns crave your undying attention.
Fiesta De Los Muertos
One Sentence Review: What scare zone?
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. It’s the ultimate late night celebration of Dia de los Muertos
One Sentence Review: Seeing the Headless Horseman wandering the trails of the farm is such a treat.
Between the twisted clowns, demented dentists and wretched puppeteers patrolling our park, it’s obvious to see our monsters don’t have their heads screwed on tight. However, this year marks the unexpected return of a legendary creature that doesn’t have a head at all, the Headless Horsemen! This Scary Farm season, we need guests to photograph the Headless Horseman and share their images with us via Twitter(@Knotts) and Instagram (@KnottsBerryFarm), with the hashtags #ScaryFarm and #HeadlessHorseman. Those who are brave enough to help track the Horseman can win prizes, including park passes.
Elvira’s Big Top
One Sentence Review: Everyone’s favorite mistress is back and as wonderful as ever!
Back by overwhelming demand for 2014 is Elvira – the legendary Mistress of the Dark. Elvira will headline her all new show Elvira’s Big Top, in the 1,800 seat Charles M. Schultz Theatre twice nightly for the entire run of Knott’s Scary Farm. In her new show, Elvira becomes the “Ring Mistress of the Park” dazzling audiences with music, madness and mayhem in her Sinister Circus of the Macabre. The show features explosive dance performances by hip-hop based Academy of Villains, fresh from their appearance on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?”
There’s a big reason why Elvira is the reigning queen of Halloween. Well, two big reasons actually. The mistress of the dark returns to entertain Knott’s Haunt goers with a ghoulishly irreverent show of music, jokes, dancing and performing freaks. This time the theme is the circus and things get pretty crazy. the same formula is followed but that’s because it works.
Elvira, the consummate performer, immediately engages the crowd in the large theatre and brings the house down again. Her songs are a little more tricky this time around but she manages to deftly rattle off rapid fire rap lyrics all while prancing around the stage in heels and a bustier.
As far as her supporting cast goes, they range from good to spectacular. The dancers, The Academy of Villains, do not disappoint with a seemingly endless energy. We are also treated to a sword swallower and a contortionist, both of which are fun to watch in their cringe-inducing performances.
A Halloween Tradition, Elvira’s Big Top is a supremely entertaining show performed by one of Halloween’s most legendary performers. This is a must see.
The Hanging®: Everything is Gruesome:
One Sentence Review: Leave after JJ Abrams shows up.
A live stage show in Calico Square irreverently looks back at the year’s pop culture with killer comedy. Notorious for its special effects, pyrotechnics and high-flying stunts, The Hanging is a no-holds-barred assault on pop culture’s most infamous moments of the past year. A must see parody!
Oh The Hanging®. We love you. We really do. Your non-stop onslaught of pop culture references and off-color humor is a Halloween tradition at Knott’s Scary Farm. There are years where the show is horribly bad, there are years where the show knocks it out of the park. This year’s hanging suffers from a split personality. The first half is great, the second half struggles.
The hanging begins promisingly enough with a parody of Frozen, “Do you want to have a hanging”. Big, loud, and funny we see everything from LEGOs to the Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.
It’s a shame to see a show go so off the rails with such clear definition. The cast very gamely attempts to inject humor into the saggy bits with as much energy as possible.
Oh well, they can’t all be winners. There is quite a lot to laugh about in The Hanging® this year. Just not too much after the 15 minute mark.
And there you have it folks. That is our review of the offerings from Knott’s Scary Farm 2014. For the most part Scary farm is really strong this year. They have a nice mix of solid mazes including several that have raised the bar, again. Voodoo, Black Magic, The Tooth Fairy and Trapped are all things that you must do while at the event. Elvira brings it with another show filled with crazy, sultry silliness. The missteps are easily outweighed by the positive here and it is still one of the best Halloween events in the country. If you haven’t been, go now!
WAIT . . . . THAT’S NOT ALL!!!
MiceChat still has a string of not-to-be-missed haunt events for you to experience with us this year:
MiceChat’s Nights of Horror continues with an terrifying event at The Queen Mary Dark Harbor. Once again this classic ocean liner will rise from the depths of its own haunted history to frighten those who dare to wander into her murky corridors. Join us for an exclusive trip through of 6 horrifying mazes including the new Soulmate, B340, and Voodoo Village that will include front of the line access, a private reception with the Dark Harbor creators and characters, and all night access to the RIP lounge including 4 drinks and delicious delectables.
Your VIP ticket price includes:
- Early entry into the R.I.P. Lounge at The Queen Mary Dark Harbor (a private lounge where food and beverage are served)
- Private MiceChat Reception from 6:30pm-7:00pm with the creators of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor creators and the characters from the event, including the inimitable Ringmaster.
- Front of the line access to all mazes including the new Soulmate, B340, and Voodoo Village, all night using Fast Fright passes.
- All night access to the R.I.P. Lounge (includes four drinks and food)
- We will also offer a discount code to ticket holders of our event to purchase an add-on to the all-new “Encounters Experience”.
Jon Braver’s Delusion
If you are looking for a unique and wonderful Halloween event, look no further than Jon Braver’s amazing Haunted Play, Delusion. Set in an actual Los Angeles Mansion, Delusion pulls guests into a gothic world of intrigue, suspense, and horror in the most original way imaginable. You are part of the story as your small group is led through the house, uncovering the story, solving the mystery, and being pulled ever deeper into the story that blurs the line between reality and fiction. Part haunt, part theatre, you will never forget this impressive event.
MiceChat is holding a special private event on Friday October 10th. We will enjoy a special time frame at the end of the evening to truly experience the attraction. As the groups circulate through the massive 40 minute attraction, Writer/Director Jon Braver will hold a special meet and greet with those waiting their turn.
This ticket buys you…
- 10:30pm Special set time to enter Delusion: A Haunted Play
- Meet and Greet with Writer, Director Jon Braver
Delusion is a horror experience that must not be missed, horror fan or not. It is a scary event, but not in the way normally associated with typical Halloween Haunts. This is, first and foremost, a theatrical event. It is tells a strong story, has a cast and beautiful sets; however, the audience does not sit in seats but rather follows the action and actually plays a role in the advancement of the story.
The combination of the engrossing plot, the setting, the actors, and the overall production make this, without question, the most elegantly polished, satisfying haunt this year.
Our time for the event begins at 10:45pm. It is late, but allows Delusion to take their time with us at the end of the evening. We will be having dinner near the venue at a mexican restaurant that comes highly recommended by the Delusion staff prior to the show time.
We will share dinner information with event ticket holders prior to the event.
Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Night Haunt Meet
This event is truly one of the very best Halloween events in the entire world. With maniacally clever haunted houses and beautifully designed movie quality sets, it truly is in a class by itself.
We will offer day and night activities. Join us in the morning for Harry Potter and lunch in the park. Then, as Universal transitions from regular operation to Haunt, we’ll offer a crossover dinner as we prepare to enter the world of the dead. If you’d like to join us for Halloween Horror Nights, you’ll need the front of line tickets (HHN Express Pass). Contact Fairy Godmother Travel for discount tickets [email protected]
Sign up below to let us know if you plan to join us for the day, HHN or both. We’ll save a spot for you at our meal reservations. Please note that you will need a park hopper ticket for the day and a Universal Express pass for Halloween Horror Night to keep up with the group. http://hhn-orlando.eventzilla.net/
Halloween isn’t just about scares. At Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party you can become a kid again and spend the night trick or treating with all of your MiceChat pals! You’ll be treated with the special Halloween Fireworks at Cinderella’s Castle, the amazing Boo to You Parade, bags filled with candy, and endless character interactions. Not to mention the rides! When was the last time you got to yell “trick or treat” (and get candy)?!
Meet at on the train platform on Main Street at 6:30pm – Just in case of rain we’ll have cover while we wait for our Mice Pals to assemble. We will shut down the Magic Kingdom in true MiceChat style!
These parties sell out (Oct 31 is already sold out!) so we recommend getting your tickets HERE ASAP. The party tickets are running $71.36 per adult.
If you want have a great time this Halloween Season, MiceChat has you covered with the most amazing events. Join us for a season of screams, won’t you?