In the year 2000, I attended Knotts Scary Farm's Halloween Haunt for the very first time. That night, it was myself, my cousin, my uncle, my brother and my grandma, who was awesome enough to take us. She actually has started to take my little sister, who is about the same age I was back than. For the 40th, I wanted to recreate that a bit, but the only person I could get to go was my cousin. Along with us this year is my girlfriend and one of my friends who also happened to be celebrating his birthday.
Since 2000, I've attended Halloween Haunt every year except 2007, which makes this my 12th year, and considering I went twice in 2001 and 2009, this is my 14th time attending. Like most of you, Haunt has become a tradition. In some ways, it was my obsession. But like some of you... that changed in 2007... when I first attended Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. It was like Knotts didn't even matter anymore, but it was hard for me to believe that. So for the next 2 years, I tried desperately to cling on to whatever love I had for Knotts' funky event... but HHN eventually won my heart and now that's my new tradition and obsession.
Fast forward to now, and at the point prior to attending Knotts 40th, I was fed up with the event and not even willing to give it a try this year. "Next year," I said, "so then most of the mazes will feel fresh instead of the same junk every year." I was truly going to stick to that, despite all the new stuff they were coming out with this year. It didn't matter what it was, I wasn't going, and financially for myself it made sense... but Knotts had a secret weapon: The Evil Dead... my all time favorite horror film. EVER. When that was announced, I was in. Almost like they just KNEW that'd be the one thing to get me to come after practically promising I wouldn't. So I bit the bullet and bought a ticket.
After dwindling down to mediocrity, can KSF redeem itself with it's 40th Haunt? Or will it just be another disappointment?
Knowing Knotts is beyond empty on weekdays, we didn't even bother to leave early. In fact, we left home at around 6:40 and didn't get there until 7:40. No traffic, no parking issues; all seemed to be going very well. We headed to the park and got wand checked with zero wait. We entered and already, something felt.... off. Since we were next to it and it had no wait, we did Silver Bullet at 8 PM on the dot. Right after, we cut through Calico Square and headed to the log ride. Then the bomb dropped... the one SINGLE reason me, my cousin and my girlfriend went (my friend for his bday was just going for a good time either way)..... the Evil Dead Log Ride.... was CLOSED. We were told later in the evening it should be open. I'll spare you the torture of how many times we went back to check on it only to find it was still closed and that it remained closed for the rest of the evening. I can't even begin to express how major of a bummer that was. It wasn't until 11 PM that they just basically said, "it's not gonna open tonight, probably won't even be open tomorrow." I asked what was wrong with it, out of pure curiousity, and the guy gave me the dumb *** smug answer, "broken." Anywho, we went on with our night despite this major disappointment. In fact, the entire event was so underwhelming, I won't even bother with a paragraph review and will just stick strictly to the grading rubric answers. There's not much to say about these mazes anyway.
Uncle Bobo's Bigtop of the Bizarre
At 8:17 PM with no wait.
Talent: 2. Maybe 2 or 3 clowns trying in this entire maze. It was staffed completely.
Set Design: 3. This maze looks so cheap, it's embarassing.
Sound Design: 8. I like the music and the music cues when applicable, I'll give it that.
Monster Design: 8. They're clowns. Some were funny, some were demonic. It fit for the theme.
Scares: 2. As I said, hardly anybody was trying. One really good one just as I was exiting to the new (?) outside segment. Walked out stone faced though.
Special Prop/Set: 4. Some special set pieces, but it all looks so cheap, it's like, who cares?
Improvement: 5. I like the new outside scene (I think it's new...).
Fun: 4. With no effort from the talent, I was bored for 3/4 of the way.
Story: 5. I'm not sure WHAT the story is here other than traveling through a big top, but I suppose that's fine.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 0. I've always disliked this maze and don't care to even give it sympathy points.
41 out of 100 'F'-
Dia De Los Muertos
At 8:27 with no wait.
Talent: 1. One or two people trying.
Set Design: 3 Another horrid 3D maze where everything looks beyond fake and cartoony.
Sound Design: 5. It's okay.
Monster Design: 5. Decent looking monsters in here.
Scares: 1. One scare that worked the entire maze. I think it was the swinging body room.
Special Prop/Set: 3. Lots of stuff in here but it's fakeness ruins everything.
Improvement: 4. Shortening maze really works. Before it was too long, but I'm glad it's much quicker.
Fun: 2. I was pissed to be going through this travesty of a maze AGAIN.
Story: 3. I don't know, who cares.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 0. WHY did this even live passed it's premiere year? END IT ALREADY.
27 out of 100 'F'---
Terror of London
At 8:43 with a 5 minute wait. The line stretched out and zig zagged through the entire queue area but was very quick.
Talent: 8. Lots of attempts and interactions, just hardly any good scares.
Set Design: 8. Very good quality for a Knotts maze but I'm starting to notice there's LOTS of blank walls.
Sound Design: 8. I've always loved the sound in this maze, from the music to the background voices.
Monster Design: 6. They fit the theme but it's not much special.
Scares: 7. Got a few good ones in here. At the entrance, the bar, the graveyard and the whorehouse and just before the lab. They were all rockin' it.
Special Prop/Set: 7. The screaming grave worked today! Yaaaay!
Improvement: 6. I actually like the shortened version of this maze. I always felt it was too long. However, I don't like the layout of the new lab.
Fun: 8. Things finally felt like they were picking up at the Scary Farm.
Story: 8. Decent enough.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 8
74 out of 100 'C'
Got in at 9:05 after a 13 minute wait. It zig zagged quite a bit off to the side of the building but it was fine.
Talent: 9. Amazing talent in here. Major kudos to the marrionette girl.
Set Design: 8. Unfortunately, it looked too much like a Knotts maze for me but there are some incredible set pieces.
Sound Design: 8. Very creepy atmosphere brought on by the music.
Monster Design: 10. All very nice in here and fit the theme perfectly. Never saw anything oddly out of place.
Scares: 7. Not many scares but I did get a good few. Random guy behind a picture and a few out of nowhere ones.
Special Prop/Set: 8. Loved the little puppet in the beginning until his transformation at the end of the maze.
Improvement: 6. For a Knotts maze, this is a semi-improvement. Not as good as I think it needs to be though for it to be REALLY good.
Fun: 9. I was having a good time in this one, enjoying all the little things. Only downer was it wasn't as scary as I thought it should be.
Story: 10. LOVED THE STORY HERE. Also, there's a little narration thing while you're waiting in line.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. It felt worth a go through and I love the idea of it but I think they could've gone a little harder with the scares and with set design overall.
85 out of 100 'B'
This was oddly the most fun I had the entire night. Something about telling a subtle story about the Green Witch and cleverly tying it into everything just worked for me. There were more props and mannequins with masks and lighting than people lead me to believe. Also loved the glory hole with the witch's shadow. I don't know, I just thought this was a really great use of the mine ride and it was honestly better than last year's Invasion Beneath. Ofcourse, don't expect anything. There's no scares to be had in here (the "spiderwebs" coming down got a lot of people though). So for going through, thinking it was just going to be a regular mine ride, I was pleasantly surprised. I might add, as we were boarding, we saw Elvira going through the crowd toward the Calico stage but it was only 9:15. When we got off, she wasn't on stage or around anywhere.
The Hanging Games
Still, no Elvira as promised. The Facebook page specifically said she'd be out for the 9:30 show but she did not make an appearance at all. And appearing 15 minutes before the show, well what's up with that? Very disappointed in that aspect. As for the show this year? It's SO BAD. Probably the worst Hanging I can remember. The behind the curtain thing only has ONE good gag and that's Snooki's baby. Everything about the show this year just falls flat. I was seriously missing Bill and Ted at this point...
Got in at 10:10 with no wait. The new path to the maze confused me... but oh well.
Talent: 4. Some tried, most didn't.
Set Design: 7. I always thought this was a decent looking maze.
Sound Design: 5. I honestly can't remember but if I don't remember it being good or bad, I guess it's in the middle.
Monster Design: 7. A lot of freaks in here!
Scares: 3. Bleh. C'MON.
Special Prop/Set: 7. A lot of animatronics but they all look beyond fake but at least there's alot of them.
Improvement: 2. Did this even change this year?
Fun: 4. I didn't care going through.
Story: 9. I think the progression of the maze is actually pretty genius.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. I really liked this maze it's first year and I think it had a decent run but it's time is over. I'll enjoy the little memories I've had with it.
58 out of 100. 'F'
First encounter with the Tricksters while eating. One JUMPED onto this couple's table while they were eating and stole their straws. The couple looked pretty annoyed afterward. Saw the Tricksters later in the night. They had a bunch of maps balled up (I'm assuming from stealing them) and lobbed it to us like it was a present. Honestly, I think the Tricksters are annoying, from what I saw, and do some really juvenile crap even if it is all in the spirit of good fun. I don't necessarily enjoy them and all the people we saw them encounter didn't seem to be having fun when they interacted with them. We saw them maybe 3 or 4 times throughout the night in various areas. And what's with putting their masks on the SIDE of their heads?
Went through at 11:10 with no wait.
Talent: 5. Mostly everyone lazied about. Gotta hand it to a few monsters trying to scare though. Seriously, I'll just say this right now, EVERY maze there were lazy monsters. I can honestly say there wasn't a single maze where the whole crew was on fire. Very disappointing and sluggish night as far as the talent was concerned. It was at this point that I officially gave up on expecting anything from the monsters.
Set Design: 8. Very dark and grim maze! I dig a lot of the sets, but like Pinocchio, they still had that cheapish Knotts feel to 'em.
Sound Design: 8. Actually felt SCARY to go through the maze, just not many people scaring...
Monster Design: 7. Caught a lot of recognizable masks in here. I gotta frown upon that just a little...
Scares: 6. Ehhhhh... waah waah waaaaaaaah. Too bad, LOTS of opportunities.
Special Prop/Set: 9. In dark lighting, some of the stuff didn't look too bad.
Improvement: 9. It was like 90 - 95% different from its previous years without losing it's tone or lessening the maze. Taking away a point for bored talent though.
Fun: 10. I really enjoyed catching all the new details and such, plus some of the monsters that did try, I really appreciated it.
Story: 10. I think this idea works very well but it's time to retire it.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. I'm really happy they decided to give us something practically new for this location. I miss the old entrance but ya know, at least it was DIFFERENT.
82 out of 100. 'B'-
Went in at 11:25 after about a 10 minute wait.
Talent: 8. A large amount of talent TRYING. Only the zombies hardly ever acted like... zombies. Oh well, at least they tried. There was actually two people tag teaming in the bus, so I was excited about that.
Set Design: 8. Always thought this was a good looking maze.
Sound Design: 9. I was trying to listen to a lot of what was being said on radios and such. Really adds to the maze.
Monster Design: 6. Some cheap lookin' zombies but it could be worse.
Scares: 7. I think I got some in here and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Special Prop/Set: 5. I... don't... remember much of anything special prop or set wise but this isn't really a maze that calls for it.
Improvement: 5. The talent has stayed consistent, although declining, over the years. The new ending takes away some of the allure of the maze though.
Fun: 10. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.
Story: 10. It's simple and it works. As for the Carrie thing, don't think of it as something intruding into the maze. Think of it as a double feature. You get Virus Z and a Carrie scene at the end. The entire thing shifts tone anyway, so it didn't effect the maze one bit. And I really dug the Carrie room for what it was. Interesting way to promote a movie; just next time it shouldn't be so shoehorned.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. I still love this maze, just not as much as I used to, but I give it props for being one of the few mazes I don't mind seeing return year after year.
71 out of 10. 'C'-
Trick or Treat
Went in at 11:52 after a 7 minute wait.
Talent: 9. Practically everyone was trying in here except for a few rotten eggs. Would've been damn near perfect aside from that. MAJOR props to the skeleton guy in the last room giving SO much energy as people entered. He even kicked toward someone's head -- that made me laugh because I've never seen someone try that for a scare lol.
Set Design: 10. Top notch. This is how mazes at Knotts need to start looking like. Pinocchio and Dominion both have their moments, but this actually looked pretty near Universal quality aside from a few minor hokey things. But I really loved the sets in here, definitely the best of the new batch.
Sound Design: 9. Very nice.
Monster Design: 8. Tricksters are boring to look at but it fits the maze... but you also got the Green Witch, so she's actually pretty cool looking, I think.
Scares: 8. Some good scares in here but nothing hardcore.
Special Prop/Set: 10. The frickin' witch was FLOATING at the end.
Improvement: 10. This is where the future of Knotts needs to head towards.
Fun: 10. Loved this maze so much and was so happy to finally get some damn quality.
Story: 10. Really great story that ties everything so well together. The final room with the little scene was so AWESOME as well. I was very impressed with Knotts and how this was all done. This maze made the night semi worth it.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 10. Major improvement, major innovation, major quality, and major fun. Kudos.
94 out of 100 'A'
Went in at 11:57 with no wait.
Talent: 1. Oh my God. So dead in here which is CRAZY because it looked fully staffed.
Set Design: 5. Bare but it at least looked better than last year.
Sound Design: 3. Random loud music. Yeah.... doesn't count.
Monster Design: 5. It was okay.
Scares: 1. I got one somewhere near the giant rock monster.
Special Prop/Set: 9. Mister Giant Rock Monster plus a few others.
Improvement: 7. I enjoyed this more than last year, despite it being pretty bad this year. That shows how much I HATED it last year.
Fun: 7. Despite nobody trying and no scares, still had fun walking through. And the picture at the beginning... I guess added to it. Waste of time though.
Story: 8. Decent story.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 8. There was improvement, I had fun and I wanted to boost the points up to at least give it a D but it's just not possible.
54 out of 100 'F'
Dominion of the Dead
Went in at 12:02 AM with no wait.
Talent: 8. Um... well, this is hard to judge. They all were doing what they're supposed to be doing... it's just not scary...
Set Design: 4. I feel bad doing this... but there became a point toward the later haf where it was JUST pictures on blank walls. Everything seemed fine until I was walking through LARGE areas of black walls with a random picture slapped on.
Sound Design: 10. Oh, loved the music in here.
Monster Design: 8. The vamps weren't the most creative but they fit the theme.
Scares: 1. Some still looking violinst came to life and made me jump. That was IT.
Special Prop/Set: 10. Just for the artistry alone with the pictures, plus there's a few things here and there.
Improvement: 3. This is very far off from what Knotts should be doing. It was an interesting idea just executed VERY poorly. And more set design, SERIOUSLY.
Fun: 10. Despite not being scared, I enjoyed walking through it. Like actually being in a painting at points and/or observing live art.
Story: 7. Solid story, needs to have scares amplified.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 7. Very mixed feelings on this. It deserves another shot though.
68 out of 10. 'D'+
Went in right after Dominon. Walked through the middle to avoid the picture taking.
Talent: 8. MUCH better than last year when it was unpopulated.
Set Design: 8. Some very good sets, just bogged down by a lot of things that look too beyond fake.
Sound Design: 5. Can't remember it being good or bad.
Monster Design: 7. Some were creepy, some were basic. All fit with the theme though.
Scares: 5. Got some scares in here this year, but some attempts just fell flat.
Special Prop/Set: 6. Some cool looking stuff, some too fake for it's own good.
Improvement: 8. Feels pretty much the same as last year, just with more alive talent.
Fun: 10. I remember enjoying this one.
Story: 10. Very odd and creepy nightmareish maze.
Personal Bias Bonus Points: 8. Improvements, for me and some actual scares with fun to actually be had in there. Just not as intense as it needs to be.
75 out of 10. 'C'+
After, we just walked around for 45 minutes looking for stuff to do. We could've saw Unearthed, but at this point I didn't even care anymore. Did Supreme Scream with no wait. Earlier in the night we did Jaguar, which was fun, as well as Sierra Sidewinder, which is just freakin' crazy sitting in the front. At 12:50, we decided to do Trick or Treat one more time. We made it all the way across the park and got there at 12:57. CLOSED. C'mon, really? An entire group of people waiting to be let in just ringing the doorbell, and nothing. None of the staff nearby said a thing either, just kept going on with their business.
Knotts disappointed me on so many levels this year, it's just beyond sad. Evil Dead is obviously the number 1 thing but being that it's the log ride, these things happen. But Elvira coming at a earlier time than announced, the FULLY staffed mazes lacking real talent, closing ToT early, to a whole number of things that I'd rather just stop now. Knotts hasn't changed much. There are hints of improvement sprinkled throughout but it's CLEAR that it won't get to the level it NEEDS to be at for quite awhile. Despite the improvement, this is probably one of, if not, my least favorite year I've ever been. Just a dud in nearly every single maze, it's just depressing. I dig the icon attempts though and hopefully we get more of that. SO GLAD I opted out of Trapped because whatever disappointments in there would've just made it all the worse. Even if it was good, I would've been sad because everything else wouldn't be of the same caliber. Now here's something I thought I'd never say... even Ghost Town Streets was lacking this year. We went through entire stretches of fog without a single person attempting to scare us. The only scarezone with active talent was CarnEvil, who kept it up even when people weren't around. So Knotts... this is it. Goodbye. So long. I won't be returning for at the very least 2 years and if I have it my way, 3 or 4 years (......... obviously there's a few things that'd probably get me to come back...). It didn't even feel worth the measly 36 bucks this year and that's a bad sign. I can't wait for Knotts to actually get GOOD again, but I know that won't be for a very long while.