By Charly SHELTON
Every Halloween, theme parks around LA go all out for the season with haunted attractions, walkthroughs and shows. Universal Studios Hollywood is a major player, Six Flags Magic Mountain holds its own, even the Queen Mary gets into the act with its festival area transforming into a nautical haunt. But the granddaddy of them all, the one that started it off, is Knott’s Berry Farm – or, as it’s known during the season, Knott’s Scary Farm.
Whereas other houses in the area push the boundaries with new tech and the hottest intellectual properties, Knott’s is just a good, classic haunt. That’s not to say it isn’t high tech, just that it relies on classic haunt design and clever jump scares as the bedrock that each haunted house is built on. Then some of the new high-tech scares are there to amp up the fright. In past years, mazes like Gunslinger’s Grave and The Red Barn take classic themes – Old West and crazy hilbillies, respectively – and make pretty decent houses. Then there are the ones with wholly unique maze concepts like Nevermore, exploring the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and Shadowlands, the realm of the dishonored dead in feudal Japan, which show that new ideas with classic gags can be even more fun.
And then there are the mazes like Paranormal Inc, a ghost hunting maze, and Trick or Treat: Lights Out, a classic Halloween-themed spook house that is lit only by faulty flashlights given to guests as they enter taking individual high-tech elements and combining them with classic fundamentals to make the best combination of old and new. Knott’s is a master of walking that line between high-tech and classic, and the new mazes this year are a prime example of this.
New this year are Dark Entities and The Depths. Dark Entities is a clever spin on the classic alien encounter house where guests are transported from an Earth-based spaceport up to a space station where they encounter an extraterrestrial mutation taking over the crew. From animatronic robots to laser beam fences, the new tech that is included is great and not something seen at many other houses in the park. The location of this maze is well hidden, way in the back of the extension area of the event, so the wait time was never long all night when I went.
The Depths is an interesting beast. It’s an ocean-themed maze but also somehow a mine shaft? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it is a really fun maze. The official park map invites guests to “find your way around ominous caverns to discover if the superstitions are true or not.” But that doesn’t give much more to go on. Basically it’s a mining operation taking place within sea caves, so the first quarter of the maze is all mine-themed with gas mask wearing miners and heavy equipment, and the rest of the maze is ocean-themed, with sea animals and sea animal/miner hybrids jumping out to scare guests. The use of lasers and fog in this maze is spectacular, creating a unique environment unlike anything I’ve seen to date. So, weird theme aside, this may be the best maze in the park.
With all this and much more, Knott’s Scary Farm is a must-do at Halloween time. The event runs select nights through Halloween night. For tickets and more info, visit Knotts.com.