Photos: Inside This Year's Deranged Knott's Scary Farm
Fully embracing Halloween, which seems to be a two month-long event in Los Angeles, we decided to check out the opening night of Knott's Scary Farm. Having just popped by Universal's Haunted Horror Nights the week before, we were ready to take on a whole new set of mazes.
Knott's has more mazes—11 to Universal's 7—but it's hard to compare the two. While Universal can use blockbuster hits like Halloween and The Walking Dead, Knott's comes up with narratives all their own or based on historical figures or lore. This often makes for some interesting and grisly spins on infamous tales. This year, we were excited to explore three new mazes—Paranormal, Inc., Dead of Winter and My Bloody Clementine—plus see changes to several of last year's scares. Knott's also has three scare zones full of themed monsters, and a zombie-hunting laser tag experience called Special Ops Infected.
If you're going to visit, we think the front of the line pass is definitely worth it if you plan on checking out a lot of mazes. And if you purchase the Skeleton Key—an actual plastic key you wear around your neck—you'll have the option of checking out a short bonus scene that sets up the maze. Not every maze has a Skeleton Key Room, but about half do. Also, this is the second year in a row that we've been unable to check Infected at our appointed time slot due to scheduling issues. So, if that's something you're excited about, be prepared to wait in line. It seems like later time slots are easier to get into than earlier ones.
Now, on to the mazes:
PARANORMAL, INC.: Case #1, The Haunting of Hayden Hill
This is a new maze and it's great! You should definitely do this one. When it opens, you find yourself as a guest during a live taping of Paranormal, Inc., a clear parody of those cheesy ghost hunting shows. For this episode gone awry, you're in an old sanitarium. The ghost hunters hope that by releasing a big ball of electricity, we'll be able to access the ghost world. Well, that's a big mistake.
There are apparently two ways you can go through the maze, but you'll ultimately hit some amazing animatronics—or are they?—and some really beautiful and deranged scenes. The strange and winding halls create a sense of claustrophobia while unexplained happenings surround you.
Best Moments: Weird corridors, mesmerizing beasts, a well that isn't what it seems.
Dead Of Winter
This maze is like if Disney's Frozen merged with what's beyond the wall in Game of Thrones. You're in the snowy lair of a vengeful ice queen, who has a bunch of minions ready to enslave you. They kind of look like White Walkers with giant axes, and they have giant spiders for friends. This mirrored maze is brighter than the rest, and has a much different feel from the rest. It's also actually chilly inside which, depending on the night you go, could be a great relief!
Best Moments: Those hidden webs, mirrored illusions, A/C.
My Bloody Clementime
Some people we encountered loved it, others hated it. This isn't a maze, because you just get on the Calico Mine Ride and let the story unfold around you. The story is basically that Clementine—from the old tune "My Darlin' Clementine"—and her father were murdered and now they want revenge on this terrible mining town. The live monsters are mostly zombiefied Clementines that emerge from the dark recesses of the mine, but you also get the already creepy animatronic miners. It's also much darker in there than you may remember from a non-Halloween trip—dark enough that you might find yourself genuinely spooked or startled.
Best Moments: A contemptuous Clementine invoking wrath, a pair of vultures, getting to sit down.
This maze plays with the legend of Houdini. In this version of events, a more sinister escape artist has taken over the theatre. Those with the Skeleton Key will get to wander through a seance to wake his spirit that unlike last year, has been incorporated into the rest of the maze. This pretty much eliminates the long wait times Skeleton Key holders faced last year as you can simply walk round the table and enter the maze. Be careful, though—going the wrong way shoots you right back outside. This is a creepy, fun maze with some decent scares, plus a final thrilling performance from Houdini at the end. Totally worth visiting, plus you get to walk through the Carnevil scare zone full of deranged clowns. What's not to love?
Best Moments: An underwater scare, a bunny that isn't so cute, casual utensil throwing, an Iron Maiden.
Forevermore is basically FOX's The Following, but without Kevin Bacon's character perpetually never calling for backup. There's a notorious serial killer that's obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe, framing his victims in a number of literary tableaus, and news clips inform you that his secret lair has been discovered. That's where you come in. You move through a number of blood-spattered vignettes taken from Poe's most notable works, while ghouls in plague doctor costumes terrorize you. (You may remember that Poe himself lost many loved ones to the plague of tuberculosis, or as he perhaps called it, 'the Red Death.') Those who hold the Skeleton Key may find themselves in a long line here for the special room, though the scene here is interesting and features a startling moment after an unorthodox surgery. So if you find the line short and have a key, check it out.
If you've read a lot of Poe's stories, you'll find that you recognize many of them played out via effects and sounds. If not, you're in a pretty creepy place that looks like maybe some really weird folks who are super into birds found an abandoned house and turned it into their drug-murder-sex dungeon or something.
Once you find your way into what seems to be a strange nightclub, make sure you stick around to see the final special effect. Duck out too quickly and you'll miss it entirely.
Best Moments: The TV news broadcast sets up the story, looking down for the tell-tale heart, entering the pit that contains the you-know-what, the sounds of the Raven.
Gunslinger's Grave: A Blood Moon Rises
An energizing metal riff blasts through this Old West town plagued by werewolves. It's a pretty campy maze that takes you through a lot of standard Wild West tropes—some saloon girls that tickle you with feathers, for instance—with the added bonus of a classic monster. It's not the scariest maze, but it's a quick one and probably a good starter maze.
If you went through this one last year and thought to yourself, 'Wait, I don't remember werewolves!' that's because there weren't any. Last year's town was terrorized by by a bunch of bad blokes who were pillaging, robbing and lighting stuff on fire. If you ask me, the werewolves are an improvement over the leering, lecherous bandits.
Best Moments: I mostly just like the soundtrack here, though the wolves are fun to see.
The story here is that the Blue Fairy and Geppetto really screwed the little marionette that just wanted to be a real boy, so he decided to skin them and wear their faces as masks. He and a whole bunch of creepy toys are out to get you in this menacing maze that's full of surprises and clunky, but skin-crawling puppets. If you have a Skeleton Key, you'll get a little puppet show from the vengeful Pinocchio himself.
Best Moments: Puppets popping out everywhere, and a big skeletal nemesis.
The Tooth Fairy
I love this maze. It's gross, it's gory, it's modern and it plays off a very real fear of dental procedures going really, really wrong. The premise is simple: the tooth fairy is actually a horrendous monster that tortures children and, with the help of the wicked denizens you'll find within, collects a whole lot more than just their teeth.
The attention to detail here is great, so don't miss the piles of bloody teeth and forgotten coins presumably left under pillows. Skeleton Key holders will take the hallway to the right where a scene will play out involving a boy looking for his missing brother. The end of the scene is artfully done for a truly spectacular moment where you wonder how Knott's even did that.
Best Moments: Waiting in a hall full of bloody molars, a corridor of chattering jaws, is the Tooth Fairy Cthulhu?, giant—and we mean giant—drills.
Trick Or Treat
This narrative is fun. When children went to trick or treat at the sinister home of The Green Witch, they were unable to leave. They became the tricksters, which are the creeps that you find within, dressed in cheesy Halloween costumes, but with some bad intentions. There are two new areas of this maze, the 'bewitched attic' and the 'potion room.' Though creepy, of course, this maze is actually really pretty.
Best Moments: The witch herself, bubbling cauldrons, a hall of masks that reveals a dreary truth, worst dinner party ever.
Voodoo: Order of the Serpent
Skeleton Key holders begin with a strange ritual before entering a beautiful home. Here, you'll be walking through the streets of New Orleans and the gator-filled bayous of Louisiana before finding yourself among practitioners of voodoo—notably, different voodoo priests and priestesses than the year prior. These ones are all about snakes. This maze was new last year, and is still one of the most visually appealing on the lot. It's right across from Paranormal, which takes over last year's vampire-themed Dominion of the Damned, so you might as well hit them both up.
Best Moments: Walking through the bayou homes in the swamp, the French Quarter facade, a sinister spell.
Guests who are looking for a show can check out the normally very politically incorrect The Hanging (we skipped it this year as we prefer the mazes to this off-color, hokey show) and a brand new show from the mistress of the dark herself, Elvira. You can also go on a number of rides that aren't part of Scary Farm. We checked out the relatively new Iron Reef ride, which is a 3D nautical adventure where you shoot monsters from the deep sea as you whisk around in a coaster car. It's good for those who need a light-hearted break.