KNOTT'S SCARY FARM'S HALLOWEEN HAUNT 2011
As much as I enjoy Knotts on a fun level, I keep wishing afterward that it would strive to be something a bit more. That almost sounds insulting but I don't want to offend the creative team, the employees who make the event possible and especially not the monsters who make this a joy but dammit, the lack of inconsistancy is what breaks this event more than it makes it. Universal may be the same looped experience on replay but at least I know I'm getting the intended purpose of what's going on and at least what's intended is freakin' awesome. At Knotts, the person directly in front or behind you is going to have a vastly different experience and the opinion simply based on location will be vastly different. It's hard to say what I want from Knotts as I want them to continue doing what they created but on that same token, boy do they need to play some catch up. Let's get started though...
Heading out from the Inland Empire, the 91 was jam packed so we opted for the 60 to the 57 to the 91. No traffic and very smooth ride, just felt extra long but it sure beats the hell out of being in traffic.
We get to the park and the lot under the bridge is closed. Just as we're about to go to the lot just passed Ghost Rider, that closes too so we have to go all the way around the hotel and park way off in "10 minute walk" land. This may sound weird but this is my least favorite parking lot for Knotts. Anywho, I was ready to shrug that fact off until the attendant said "twenty dollars." Whoa... WHAT? What happened to $15? Can't I get some discount for parking way off in "not even considered the 9th planet anymore" territory? Apparently not. Paying "preferred" prices for a crappy lot. As kids say these days, "whateves."
We enter at 7 on the dot through Ghost Town. Ah, how I love this place! Knotts has unbeatable scare zones, in my opinion. The talent out there is just extraordinary. Since it was early in the night, we decided to hit Ghost Rider first. As soon as we enter the tunnel, two monsters were hiding away in there. Good one, I always thought that area should be utilized (aside from that maze way back) but I've never seen it done until now. This made me happy! Anywho, we all know Ghost Rider is an insane bumpy ride so I won't get into that. We skip Lockdown and Delirium for now, I'd rather return later.
SLEEPY HOLLOW MOUNTAIN
Next order of business is Sleepy Hollow Mountain. This was highly anticipated for me last year but it fell short because there was zero talent in there but it DID look beautiful and so for that alone, it scored higher than average marks. Well let me say that this year, that is far beyond the case! This place was FLOODING with talent in every freakin' corner possible (well... except for the final lift but I can forgive them for that). This is EXACTLY what I wanted last year and I'm so glad to see it shine now. There were some spots where there were even two or three monsters in the same spot for a scare. Sliding the metal gloves across the log, putting stuff in front of our faces or an old fashion pop out of darkness - - this is what the log ride during Haunt is supposed to be! For the first time in a long time, I didn't miss Red Moon Massacre. The soundtrack was moody, the lighting was eerie and a story was told from beginning to end and the monsters delivered in every section. I gotta stay true to how I feel and say this was probably the best maze of the night and it delivered a PERFECT experience. Literally PERFECT on the scare per every few second ratio and on the setting as to what I expect from a Haunt maze. This may surprise you, but - -
10 out of 10. A+
Right after, walked on over to Invasion Beneath. I won't lie, this was my most anticipated this year. The idea of it sounded brilliant and was something vastly different for the Mine Ride. Well, the way they pulled it off made it seem similar, but it's nowhere near as bad as people were leading me for it to be. Now, I maybe got one or two scares in this but the sets were pretty cool to me. I dug the lasers, the look of the aliens, some of the set pieces and etc.. I can imagine if they had scarier monsters and MORE of them, this would be a GREAT maze but alas, it is what it is and it doesn't get the job done on being AWESOME like the log ride sometimes can be. However, I think next year this can improve greatly once it figures out it's strengths and weaknesses on a story telling level. I think it deserves another shot and I think the idea is strong, it's just the execution wasn't solid but hopefully in time they'll figure it out. It could've been worse.
7.8 out of 10. C+
The Hanging was about to come on but decided to skip it until later. It was barely 7:30 so we were taking our sweet time. Walked on over to Dia De Los Muertos. Let me take the time now to talk about Carnevil really quick. As soon as we entered the scarezone, about a dozen or so clowns interacted with us. From the mine ride to the bumper cars, which is a pretty small piece of space. GREAT JOB in Carnevil this year, major kudos. The environment still isn't working in it's favor but hey, maybe they'll work on that some other year... or not. This is Knotts afterall... anywho...
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
The last two years, I've LOATHED this maze. Everything about it was just beyond stupid to me. I was almost gonna skip it this year but I figured heck, I have all the time in the world and I might as well. And I'm SO GLAD I didn't skip it this year. Something about this year worked better than previous years. Maybe I had just become more accepting of it, I don't know but talent interaction was great. As soon as we entered, a girl in the front wanted to take my girlfriend's stuffed animal wolf bag. It creeped my girlfriend out how adament the monster was about it in such a calm manner and then finished it off with a screeching, "give me the puppy!"
Just to note now, pretty much EVERY maze had at least 5 people in it that would interact with her puppy in many various ways - - I wish I could remember them all but they were all great! I think bringing the "Wolfy" bag, as we call it, will become a new Haunt tradition as it lends itself to many hilarious moments. So yes, if you were a monster working and you saw a girl with the wolf strapped in front of her chest, that was me behind her and I extend a major thank you for the awesome interaction. Some classic moments were monsters pointing at the wolf and making a slit throat motion in the dining room scene in Delirium. The Jacks in Terror of London stabbing it. The Lockdown inmates taunting my girlfriend, saying I told them they could have the puppy.
Anywho, back to Dia. Hilarious and creepy at the same time, it was fitting because I suppose that's what's the maze is supposed to be. Now it never succeeds in being creepy but the talent in here were really selling it this year. Usually they would lazy around but they got me good on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, La Llorona had wandered off from her graveyard and somehow ended up near the jungle. Hats off to the crew in there this year; you made me dig this maze for once. However, I still think it should be eliminated next year for a better theme.
8.5 out of 10. B
TERROR OF LONDON
On to Terror of London, a favorite of mine and I was anticipating it greatly because of the new changes. Let's just say this maze is BETTER THAN EVER. Year one and two, talent was scarce but this year, talent EVERYWHERE and ALL scaring. They all seemed to really be enjoying it too and boogying with their roles. The sets and vibe are all still amazing and to me is the perfect Haunt setting. There was a monster in the bar scene shouting out, "watch out for the rocks" while pointing down. I don't understand... as I looked down and clearly there was no rocks and we weren't set up for a scare either. I just... don't get it but it was funny in the moment. Sadly the skeleton doesn't pop from the grave anymore. The light still comes on and the ground still shakes but my favorite scene isn't in functioning order. The monsters were on their game in the graveyard though to keep it still one of my favorite parts. We then made it into the streets of London and per usual, year after year, it seems understaffed. It is such a long stretch of maze and the walls are blank to set the theme but there's no monsters there to pick up the slack. Oh well. Things picked up again and the scares were heavy. It then came to a screeching halt once the new ending began. There was NOBODY in Jack's lair and I was so sad because the new sets were amazing and I wish there were some monsters to accomodate them. However, the beginning and middle portions of the maze make up for it and still made it one of the absolute best houses of the night. From year one, I thought it was an instant classic and it has yet to truly let me down and I think this year is it's best year.
9.7 out of 10. A
THE DOLL FACTORY
I love the Doll Factory but I'm just so tired of it now and it felt like a lot of the talent in there was too. The pace in everyone was sluggish and a lot of the classic scaring spots were void of monsters. Wasn't much going on once we hit the second half of the maze and that's where I actually got bored. And then ofcourse, this maze feels like a really long experience already so I was damn near ready just gonna jump out an emergency exit so I can finally leave it. However, some monsters were trying in the first half and I visually saw some monsters scare other people in the second half but then go back and hide (for a bit too long though) so the experience wasn't completely dreadful. I don't know why they've kept this maze for so long but I'm so glad it'll be changed next year. Hopefully something dark and with just as awesome of a soundtrack will replace it.
7.9 out of 10. C+
Made our way all the way back across the Boardwalk and decided to eat at the place across from the Boardwalk theatre. Now, I don't know what this place was called but I can't un-recommend this place enough. I got the St. Louis Ribs and they were HORRIBLE. The meat was so hard, I could barely chew through it. The barbeque sauce was good though so I kept eating even though I felt very tempted to ask for my money back or to get something else. Such a waste of $14.25. I wasn't even fulfilled and was literally still hungry the moment I finished. Plus there was some annoying radio station DJ across the way trying to get people to dance to Thriller. Total side note, I know but the dude was killing the vibe for me. However, it was fun to watch the clowns scare people trying to go into an out of order photo booth.
Right after that, made our way to Uncle Bobo's. This maze improves every year for me and gets more and more fun. I also like the new vibe going on in this maze as it's a bit more darker themed and I felt it got down the perfect Haunt level instead of the "too silly" level it might've been in years prior. But there's not much to say other than it's the other clown mazes we've seen for years. But the talent was rocking it so that's the plus. The usher guy at the end got me, I thought he was a dummy! Also got a great scare from a clown as I was trying to get some footage of Xcelerator pass by outside way down the path of the exit. I was standing there filming, turn my head and WHAM. Didn't even hear him coming.
8.8 out of 10 B+
Walked on over to Virus Z and it was my second favorite last year (Cornstalkers "revisioned" was my favorite last year). The maze is still an exciting idea to me and I still think it works as a great Haunt maze on every level. It feels fresh and the energy is still alive. It really fills that "Resident Evil should be a maze" void in my heart. There's so much to love in this maze, from the beginning gas station, to the diner, to the tattoo shop, movie theater, the school, etc.. Nobody was just sitting down or being lazy about what they were doing, which is ironic for a maze about slumbering zombies. Still a great maze, I hope to see it keep up the energy next year. Only section that was lacking was the gym scene at the end but that's only because there were two zombies in there, who were doing a good job, it's just the scene works better with more of them.
9.6 out of 10 A
Cornstalkers was next on the list and this maze still creeps me the hell out. The scarecrows blend in so well and the masks are so freaky and the hiding place - - damn, I can't pinpoint them. Every turn is a surprising element. However, I had a negative experience in here and I hate to even mention it but I feel like I must. As I was about to enter the second facade, a female scarecrow YELLED at me (in close proximity, she was literally right next to me) to turn off my camera (since I was recording which I didn't think was a problem since my camera had no light beaming from it's front nor it's screen, which I had covered with my hand just in case). I went ahead and tried to stop recording at the moment, fumbling with the camera in my hand as it was less than a simple task in the dark. I went ahead and told her (very calmly and nicely, I might add) that I wasn't using flash and once again she YELLED at me "it doesn't matter, TURN IT OFF." I said "okay" and nodded, (despite being yelled at, I was still being nice) stopped recording and put the camera down and continued on. She then followed me, still yelling at me that she wanted to SEE ME put the camera away in a pocket. Once done, she stopped hassling me and I continued on with the maze in enjoyment.
I have a few things to say about this experience. Firstly, I respect with every ounce of my being everything the monsters do and would NEVER use flash on any of them in the dark without them knowing whether it's a maze or even a scarezone and it wasn't my intention in the first place anyway since I was filming and was planning on turning up the gammas in edit to make it visible. Second, I don't care who you are or what's happening, YOU DON'T BREAK CHARACTER. There are blackouts at every corner of the maze to tell me not to have my camera out (none of them did, by the way, they just nicely said "no flash please" in which I responded "no problem" every time). I understand neither she nor her colleagues would appreciate a blinding light but it is NOT her job to tell me about it and especially, my third point, in the way that she did. Now, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that maybe she was hyped up in character and the yelling naturally just came out but for her to come at me the way she did was completely wrong and in my opinion, disrespectful and rude. Sure, I COULD have been another douchebag walking through taking flash pictures but nothing I was doing indicated that PLUS the fact I told her I wasn't using flash anyway and seeing how regular photography is NOT prohibited, everything about the altercation seems very wrong to me. It's not as if I was being told left and right to turn off my camera and I was being defiant and it's not like I was shoving the camera in any of the monster's faces either since I had it sitting on my girlfriend's shoulder the entire time. There's no way she could have known that I've been doing this for a decade and plus, but seriously, what the hell? I've had monsters VERY NICELY ask me to put my camera away before (at other Haunts where they just simply don't allow photography of any kind) but that was only because they don't have blackouts in every corner and/or because they couldn't get a sign out front that said so. Ofcourse I'd abide, they'd give a very humble "thank you" and would continue scaring. After this "incident," I stopped filming all the mazes. You know as they say, it only takes one bad cast member to ruin the show and lady, if you're reading this, you ruined a lot of the fun in it for me as I was really looking forward to filming the rest of the mazes for my own personal collection. And if any of the monsters were to put on a show for the camera (which a few did), highlight their performances on the internet but none of the talent from any of the mazes hereafter will get that chance to show the unique action/scare of my walkthrough; which is a shame because out of all the times I've been to Haunt, this was the one time where I felt about 90% of the monsters were on their top game (aside from one maze but I'll get to that later). That brief 10 seconds took me out of the maze and that's never supposed to happen.
BUT since I'm a positive guy and I don't hold things like that too personally, I continued on and enjoyed the hell out of the rest of the maze. It's really interesting to see the progression of this maze from it's glorious and very different than what it is now debut in 08, it's horrible downfall in 09, to it's beautiful rejuvination last year and to now, holding it's own as one of the best mazes for monsters to hide in the dark and make super loud and startling noises. I also dug the strobe light effect when a scarecrow popped out of an outhouse. I missed the giant animatronic popping out of the doors though as I think he's really cool but the other BIGGER one is probably cooler so not all was spoiled. A funny moment happened as we exited, my girlfriend needed to tie her shoe and a guy with a chainsaw just sat there watching her, revving up. Once she was done, he sliced down at her foot as if he was cutting her laces. Funny AND scary. Well done! Overall, a very strong maze for it's senior year that holds up nicely.
9.5 out of 10 A
On the way, hit Jaguar as I hadn't been on that ride in AGES. But that's not the important part here... man, I remember seeing Marty YEARS ago on TPA in an update and knew that I had to see him live. The next year, I was there immediately and laughed my *** off. It's good to know some things don't change, even in a comedy bit because I think he has it down to perfection. Even though I've seen it at least 4 times, I still can NOT stop laughing at this guy. The audience interaction is genius and the gags, for whatever reason, just don't get old. At my showing, a 10 PM one, it was VERY empty and I felt bad. I think he should limit his shows to two a night on weeknights because the show is more fun with a crowd. As I was walking by later in the night, the entire place was crowded and that's great to know that his popularity at Haunt wasn't dying as I was worried for a second as there couldn't have been more than 30 or so people at my showing. He joked about it a few times but being a performer myself, especially on the stage, not having an audience is a horrible feeling. Live comedy shows THRIVE off of crowds but I'm sure Marty could make a group of 5 have a great time. Chubby Bunny will never stop being a classic. Sure, he could work on some new material and return next year but I think the bit he has going is timeless and that everyone should be able to see it at least once.
Hit Sierra Sidewinder for some quick fun and on the way out, hit Fallout Shelter. Last year, this was a very strong maze but it wasn't necessarily a memorable one for me. This time, I made sure to take in all the environments and I'm glad I did - - this maze has some great stuff in it. The monsters were kinda chatting with each other as we made our way through but that didn't stop them from scaring the crap out of us still, which is a helluva lot better than continuing their conversation and watching us pass by like I've seen been done in the past. I also realized this maze has a great length to it, but not an unbearable one like Doll Factory. The story moves along and I'm genuinely interested all the way through. It also has a lot of great animatronics that keep things very interesting. I AM sad the radio active bubbles are no longer around but then again, the maze seemed more dark oriented this year. It seems they did a lot of that with their 3D mazes this year which I am truly proud of and my guess is probably because of how House of 1000 Corpses was done last year at Uni. It's still blacklight stuff but I don't mind it and I hope they don't change the blacklight route as I think the LED stuff simply just doesn't work and is more blurry vision instead of 3D vision.
9.3 out of 10 A-
Walked through Necropolis and I gotta say, this zone had monsters EVERYWHERE. I remember last year I saw barely anyone in there and it disappointed me. This year was very great though but I'm not too sure what the old fashioned hunter guy has to do with the theme... also, sad to say but stilts guy was just walking around and not scaring anyone, which is a shame because he's a very daunting guy. I couldn't tell for sure but he looked kinda sad or maybe he was in character trying to look menacing but I found it strange that he didn't approach anyone for a scare for the entire ten minutes I was in the area. Oh well.
As we were exiting Fallout, we made way over to Slaughterhouse where literally nobody was. We walked through the maze entirely alone and that's a first for me. It was a very unique experience but it was kinda funny to watch the monsters just roaming around, looking for something to do and then spotting us and then jumping into a hiding spot. Despite that minor downside, this maze improves every year for me as well. I love darkly themed and gory mazes with scares in many corners and this one delivered. We finally found another person, who was also doing the maze alone at a very slow pace, when we got to the meat grinding scene which is at the very end so it didn't ruin the "alone" like atmosphere. I also think the experience is more nerve racking as I could never tell if someone is following me or waiting ahead if they were already hidden. However, I think this maze has had it's time and should be replaced next year. Doubt it'll happen though.
9.4 out of 10 A
At this point, pretty much ALL of the mazes were on fire tonight and very well staffed. Usually I have horrible luck with monsters getting burnt out on me or none being around so I was happy about that at this point. And then Endgame happened. I was looking forward to this maze, I really was but alot feels wrong with it. I kinda wanna say that "I don't get it." The plot seemed thin and the sets were WAY too dark at times. It didn't help that a lot of the monsters were kinda just mozying around. I think I got two good scares in the beginning and that was it. And then towards the end of the maze, there was barely anyone around. And once I stop getting scared, I start being more critical on the other elements of the maze. The inclusion of the TVs seems pointless since no scaring occurs on them. And on a few monitors, I just saw monsters walking down the hall looking bored. And then being able to look down into other sections of the maze seems pointless because there's no major activity in them. The random people being tortured - - did they lose a battle or were they just victims of the apocalypse? I didn't understand much, it was beyond dark so where I couldn't see the design half the time and then it ended and I felt very empty... sad to say, this was my least favorite of the night.
7.6 out of 10 C
Time to go catch the Hanging. I actually think this year is one of the best year's they've done. Lots of fire effects, lots of fighting and pop culture references that seemed relevent. The ONLY part I didn't like was the maids fight sequence. It seemed very pointless and could've been cut out. Also, another thing to note, a lot of the performance seemed to be clunky. The actors were kinda just fumbling around on stage, especially in the fight scenes. It didn't seem fine tuned, even though it's been two weeks and it was the final show of the night. However, the superheroes fight sequence was VERY well choreographed and that part seemed very smooth. The jokes were very raunchy and irreverent, making Bill and Ted this year seem pretty PG-13. I also dug the ending but I just wish the hangee was in the show more prior to their moment. Also would like to say that the set looked GREAT this year.
There were only two mazes left at this point and my girlfriend wasn't interested in the Haunt FX show (which I really wanted to see but I didn't wanna drag her through it). We made our way back through Ghost Town and through the Gypsy Camp. I love this area of the park and there were plenty of monsters in there when I went through at around 11:45. Hit Lockdown (didn't have to take a picture as I've been hearing) and we went through. Sadly, this experience is a blur but I do remember having fun through it and I do remember being scared, I just can't remember any specifics. That starts to be the problem when there's too many mazes -- I just can't remember all of them, or all of the sets, or all of the moments and monsters or all the good parts -- things just start to seem to mesh together in my mind. I don't know if this is a problem for anyone else. OH, we were semi alone for this maze as well. A lot of the monsters kinda just sat around on this one, which was disappointing because they had some great opportunities to scare that I wouldn't have been suspecting. Anywho, the maze is slowly windling down from it's great debut year in 09 and I hope it gets replaced soon so it doesn't fade out into nothingness. Still a lot of fun though and still some intense moments.
8.6 out of 10 B
The facade for Delirium is gorgeous. I had some time to look at it since everyone was slowly making their way through. Let me say that this is probably the most beautiful maze Haunt has ever done. The set design is amazing and I was in awe the entire time, looking at every detail. Floor scares are nothing new but I'm glad to see them back. And the claustrophobic hallway is such an awesome touch. Now, too bad that ALL of the talent (except for ONE guy towards the end) was doing absolutely NOTHING. I couldn't believe it... they were all just STANDING THERE. Not even wandering around... standing there and watching people just pass by. They weren't scaring people in front or behind us. It was unbelievable, especially since it was well staffed at the moment too. I know the night is coming to an end but COME ON. We got ZILCH from this maze and it's the biggest shame because the maze itself is grand to look at. Some were in hiding places, others weren't. They'd just stand in the corner, looking on like they were beyond bored or something. The guys in the hiding spaces just stayed there, looking as if they were looking for their moment that never came. Although we got zero scares, the design alone bumps the grade up greatly for this, otherwise, it would've got an F. Sorry, but it's true but the only thing that made this maze even slightly worth walking through was it's design.
7.7 out of 10 C
It was 12 and we hit every maze. We were tired so we just headed home and I had a feeling the monsters were tiring out at this point or were too busy looking off into la-la land so I felt no need to repeat anything. Took that 10 minute walk all the way back to the car. Ridiculous at the end of the night when your feet are tired.
Knotts is such a fun way to spend the night and in the moment, I'm having the time of my life. But it's the ride home where I start to rethink everything and go, "you know what, something wasn't right here" or "that could've been done better." And the more I think about pieces of it, the more I dislike the event more and more. The more I wish it would just REALLY bring it somehow. I wish there were more scare tactics and inventions. This is where Universal comes to mind because they are constantly thinking of new formulas to the scaring equation, other than "stand there, stare people down, slam hand against wall." That's startling in it's own right but it's never FRIGHTENING. I never feel in danger or that I'm in the middle of a horrifying moment. The talent really brought the heat tonight but I feel like the creative team should give them more to work with: more places to randomly pop out of, more props to use instead of clickers and cans, just a bit more of everything. And then I start to go, "was it worth it to go?" The answer is always yes and my thought of "next year, they'll find a way to improve" has been the same for 5+ years now and they never do. My thought process always ends on, "damn, now I need to go to another haunt" as if the Knotts experience wasn't fulfilling enough. It makes me want something more instead of filling me up - - weird analogy, but just like those ribs I had earlier in the night...
I felt this was a really strong year where 10 out of 13 mazes were on fire for the most part. However, this is the first time that I've ever attended where the new mazes were literally the three worst ones of the night. So in some essence, it's as if I came back for nothing if not even the new mazes can't fulfill something within me. Knotts will always be tradition for me but... I dunno. Its just not what it used to be for me and it's sad to say that because it's what I started with and I can see myself sometime in the near future not caring anymore. I just hope that somehow and someway, they'll figure it out but the thing is, I don't even know what it is exactly they need to do as ofcourse I don't want them to be a copycat but I don't want them to exactly slum along behind either. I guess the best way to sum up my feelings on the event is "indifference." Next year, as they say in the Black Swan, "attack it, attack it, attack it!"
From best to worst:
Sleepy Hollow Mountain
Terror of London
Dia De Los Muertos