While Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights gets all the credit in the spooking game, a little-haunt-that-could has been scaring audiences since 1973, and this year’s edition did not disappoint. How does Knott’s Scary Farm stack up against Universal? Read on to find out!
This year’s event features a lot of returning mazes, and a few new ones. Since Mrs. Moaner and I have been attending since 2008, we decided to hit up Knott’s new maze “Paranormal, Inc.,” a topical take on the ghost-hunting shows flooding cable TV — we are admitted Ghost Adventures fans, so “respect” to Zack Baggins. This maze has quite an opening that involves summoning a ghost into a chamber. This goes completely wrong, of course, as lights dim and scare actors make their move with a loud bang and a surprise that would be criminal to give away. This maze was great, and one of the longest I’ve attended in awhile, comparable to Universal’s Alien vs Predator.
Next we headed to Knott’s other new maze, Dead of Winter, which gets immediate bonus points for being, well, wintery! On a hot southern California night, waiting inside a 60-degree icebox was welcome. As we moved through a chamber of mirrors made to be ice, we stumbled into a village with icy warriors, fake snowfall, and the chilling Snow Queen herself!
VIP key-holders are treated to an exclusive bonus at the beginning of the maze, tasked with warming a skull which inadvertently causes the wrath of the Snow Queen to be unleashed upon you, with great use of LCD and theater projections that believably surround you.
From there, we ended up at “Pinocchio Unstrung,” returning from last year but noticeably updated. This maze is a twisted American McGee-like take on the Disney classic. It has a great pace, and contains more jumps scares than any other zone we encountered during the night. They really knocked it out of the park with Universal Studio-worthy production values that make you believe you really are traveling through Pinocchio’s village, plus an extra creepy take on Jiminy Cricket if you’re lucky enough to spot him.
For VIPs, this maze has a one-on-one meeting with Pinocchio himself. It’s a great date maze due to Pinocchio chaining up your partner with My Pet Monster-worthy cuffs, then explaining what he did to poor old Geppetto and the Blue Fairy during his murderous frenzy.
After escaping Pinocchio’s killing spree, we took part in Knott’s longest running show, “The Hanging” — every year they choose the most annoying pop culture star and hang ’em! Previous winners include the Beebs (hung twice over the last couple years) and Rebecca Black.This year’s show was not bad, though it featured audience participation that allowed people to tweet in their own responses to some of the actors’ lines; at key parts of the show, they would have to recite what was tweeted. Maybe my audience just wasn’t good, but we’re talking Last Call with Carson Daly-caliber responses here. Yeah, that bad.
Like Universal’s now-cancelled Bill and Ted Show, The Hanging riffs on all the pop culture shenanigans that occurred throughout the year. References to Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, and Deflategate were made, but the show-stealer had to be the guy perfectly portraying Bill Cosby. This year’s hanging victim was a little underwhelming since I don’t think Ariana Grande is all that bad, but the crowd seemed pleased. Plus, they referenced Mad Max and Terminator: Genysis, so bonus points for going there and being more enjoyable than Universal’s Jabbawockeez.
Once the crowds cleared, we headed over to “Tooth Fairy.” Thankfully, no reference to Larry the Cable Guy was made! This maze has been significantly overhauled, and it shows, from its long pitch-black hallways to walls of chattering teeth.
The sound of dentist drills gave me chills as I walked through this horror opus of bloody teeth and disfigured children — all victims of the Tooth Fairy. This maze even has a Dr. Giggles-worthy scare actor who plays his part to perfection. It also uses projections to its benefit, and as a fan of modern horror mazes, I enjoyed Knott’s technological jump into the 21st century of haunts.
VIPs got treated to a one-on-one visit with a boy who lost his sibling to the Tooth Fairy. The actor was fantastic, and it set the tone for the rest of the maze.
More mazes and hauntings await on the next page!