The 40th anniversary of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt brings high expectations for Halloween fans like myself. Knott’s Scary Farm, as it becomes known this time of year, has been transforming itself into a scary after-dark experience longer than any other theme park. To mark the grand anniversary, Knott’s is trying to push the envelope with its Haunt event, adding new experiences like The Skeleton Key, Elvira’s Sinema Séance, and a plethora of new mazes – but not all are a big success.
The newly added Skeleton Key feature allows guests to not only access the “Fright Lane” line, essentially skipping long haunted house queues, but gaining access to an extra room attached to select mazes. The thought of this is alluring at first, quite a clever way to encourage more people to indulge in the small additional cost in order to bypass lines and get a little extra bang for their buck. But I would only recommend the Skeleton Key feature to those who consider themselves “haunt fanatics.” While at first the added rooms seem interesting, they eventually just become 3-5 extra minutes tacked onto the maze in which the story of the maze is presented – and only five out of the eleven mazes carry the extra feature. It’s an entertaining addition, but not particularly useful.
Being a haunted house regular, I’m a pretty hard person to scare, but my girlfriend (who came with me to opening night last night) was scared simply walking up to the gates of the event. Once inside, she toughened up and neither of us found the event to be truly that scary. Chalk it up to first night jitters or low staffing, but with five scare zones throughout the park, you wouldn’t expect to be able to walk through like you were taking a stroll through a field of daisies, however at times that’s how it felt.
The park is quite large, so with only five scare zones scattered throughout, massive empty spaces are left in between. Each zone does cover quite a large portion of the park, but resulting in us constantly running into the same scarers using the same bag of tricks. Necropolis is easily the scariest of the bunch, a post-apocalyptic steam punk area with actors who know how to bring the scares.
Knott’s haunted houses are all beautifully done, each with their own unique artistry. But, once again, the scares seem to fall flat, causing most of the mazes to become forgetful. “Trick or Treat” is one of the best mazes Knott’s had to offer, with the chilling tale of a witch who kidnaps trick-or-treaters. The costumes and art design within the maze really push the maze into a territory that none of the other mazes seem to be able to reach. Not to mention the scarers within the maze seem to be enjoying what they are doing and never leave character.
With that being the highlight of the night, my list in descending order of enjoyment is: Black Magic, Forevermore, Pinocchio Unstrung, Gunslinger’s Grave, and then Dominion of the damned. The Calico Mine train ride gets a revamp for Halloween, but comes off a little silly.
This year Knott’s brought back a fan favorite show, Elvira’s Sinema Séance. The Mistress of Darkness – yes, Cassandra Peterson herself – takes the guests through a beautifully choreographed show each night of the event, complete with all the Elvira jokes we’ve grown to love, “I put the boob, in boob tube.” Elvira does a great job of giving a laugh filled show that really doesn’t teeter beyond the PG-13 rating of the event.
The most laughs come from the parody section of the show, where Elvira finds herself within several famous horror movies. As well as Elvira’s show, Knott’s age old show, The Hanging, was back in full swing, where Elvira went for much more subtle, just a little bit naughty, The Hanging cast does not let up. Cracking jokes ranging from Anthony Weiner’s texting blunders, to the Lone Ranger and Tonto’s “relationship.” The show is a full out raunch fest, and really pushes the envelope for an event that caters to teenagers.
There is no doubt that in the coming weekends Knott’s Scary Farm will get over its initial hiccups that come with an opening night event, and the event will fully blossom into the Haunt it has the potential to be. Ricky will be here to take a closer look at the haunted houses and other things that go bump in the night, so check back to Inside the Magic for more fun from the theme park that started the Halloween craze four decades ago.
More photos from Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt 2013: