By Charly SHELTON
It’s that time of year again – the time when pumpkin spice everything becomes inescapable, when people carry a jacket because they think it will get cold any day now (wishful thinking), when candy corn becomes the foundation layer of the food pyramid, and when theme parks in the L.A. area go all out to bring the best haunted attractions they can muster to an undying legion of fans. This is the time for Halloween at the Parks.
This week, Knott’s Scary Farm is our destination. With new mazes, returning favorites and all new attractions added into the mix, this is a new Halloween experience for everyone.
Knott’s Scary Farm is the granddaddy of all haunts. For 43 years running, Knott’s has held a haunted attraction for Halloween and it gets bigger and better every year. This year, returning favorite mazes Black Magic, Forevermore, Voodoo, Trick or Treat and The Tooth Fairy join new mazes My Bloody Clementine, The Dead of Winter and Paranormal Inc. These create a blow-out haunt that is set in the midst of the theme park with all the rides that make Knott’s great.
The originality of ideas is incredible with these mazes. The Voodoo maze last year was free-form, allowing guests to choose a path through the maze that begs repeat viewings because you want to see it all. Great idea, but with waits in the hour range, it makes this maze a daunting task to see it all. This year, it is linear so guests can see the whole maze at once. Not as original in design, but still a well-done maze and easier to check off the list.
Forevermore is always one of my favorite mazes, being based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. How much more Halloween can you get? Well-designed and so clever to get all the little references in for the literature nerds. Trick or Treat is always fun, being the quintessential spook house. No real gimmicks or interpretations, just the best possible classic Halloween house it can be. And last but certainly not least is Paranormal Inc.
The new maze follows a paranormal investigation reality TV show group as they investigate a creepy old asylum. I didn’t know it was an asylum until I was about to enter. I don’t do asylums. They’re the only things I can’t handle. I went through and, although it had great effects –really great special effects – it gave me such awful nightmares. But if that’s what you’re in the mood for, this is the maze for you. Really well done maze incorporating sets, projection screens, air effects and scaractors into the experience so you never know what to look for and are more likely to get a good scare.
Those were the good aspects. As far as the bad, Black Magic hasn’t really changed much in three years, and is not good enough to warrant repeat viewings like Trick or Treat. It’s back again this year and it’s okay, but the real estate could be used for a new, good maze. The Hanging was a rare miss this year as well. The annual pop culture send-up stage show is almost always a comedy hit, but this year it seemed to fall a little short. No specific reason; it just never really hit that mark like they usually do. I would say don’t bother waiting too long for a spot as there are too many other cool things to see.
And finally The Dead of Winter, the other new maze, is a let down. Set in a theatre and making use of the air conditioner, this maze really didn’t offer much other than a blatant take-off on “Frozen.” There were repurposed sets from previous mazes and some scaractors to reflect some characters from “Frozen,” which I imagine was what they were going for, but the maze was kind of bland. There were spiders in the frozen wasteland for some reason, giving it a sense of using whatever was at hand to fill the walls so it’s not just a white painted flat. It felt like the idea never really made it past, “Hey, people like ‘Frozen.’”
Knott’s overall is a good time, definitely worth the $40 ticket price. Because not only are there some really great mazes for this year’s event – they always have pie. My suggestion is to get a boysenberry pie and eat it in line. Then whether you like the maze or not, you still had pie – so it’s a win.
Next week, we will take a look at some more Halloween haunts, with Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights and Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor still to come.
See you next week!