Knott’s Scary Farm Returning Mazes and Attractions 2015 Review

Knott's Scary Farm 2015 ReviewIn October, we brought you a detailed look and review of everything new at Knott’s Scary Farm, including Paranormal, Inc. and Dead of Winter. This past Halloween season was monstrous in scope for us, to say the least; with 46 stops along the way between mid-September and the beginning of November, the amount of images, video and content in general that we collected is completely nuts! Now that we’ve moved out of the Halloween season, we’ve been sorting everything out and presenting it to you bit by bit here on the site; most folks who have been Theme Park Adventure fans for any duration of time will tell you – around here, Halloween is the gift that keeps on giving! That said, it’s finally time to circle back to the granddaddy of them all, and finish our review of Knott’s Scary Farm 2015 with a look at the mazes and attractions that returned this year to Buena Park.

At the center of Knott’s Scary Farm’s legacy are its monsters. The birthplace of roaming “street monsters”, Knott’s had three large scare zones for the 2015 season: Carnevil, Fiesta de los Muertos, and of course, Ghost Town. All in all, each zone had some truly outstanding talent – something we’ve come to expect from the park that started it all. There were sliders, sinister clowns and new this year, the Deadly 7 – a group of demons called forth by the event’s mascot of late, the Green Witch. There were also very rigid guidelines put in place this year that pretty much put an abrupt end to guests being able to take photos or even really interact much with any of the monsters encountered in the various scare zones. Knott’s has adopted a policy of “no posing for photos with guests”. The idea is simple – monsters don’t hang out and socialize; you’re there to scare, and move on. This means no more photos with your favorite Haunt monsters, and certainly no fun discussion/back-and-forth with them for more than a moment or two. Even on media night, long-time friends of ours were afraid to stop and pose for us. This became worse as the Scary Farm run continued; it was not at all uncommon for me to say hello to someone we’ve known for years and ask them for a picture, only to have them say under their breath in passing, “I’m so sorry you guys – if I stop to take a picture, they can fire me. I’ve got to keep moving.” Insult to injury in this case – Knott’s biggest competitor in the market, Universal Studios Hollywood – is know for this policy, and all indications point to Scary Farm following in the footsteps of Halloween Horror Nights in this regard.

Knott's Scary Farm 2015 reviewThis is a very sensitive discussion and obviously, an internal decision that comes from Knott’s management – most of whom we know and have a long, very positive relationship with. That said, as someone who has been a Haunt fan since the very early ’80s, and as someone who’s covered Knott’s Scary Farm since 1994 more in-depth and detailed than anyone else – I feel that an extremely short-sighted and poor decision has been made here. And believe me – I get it. I get it more than most people. There have been a lot of street monsters at Knott’s over the years that have taken advantage of being able to wander where they want, scare how they want, and have spent most nights chatting with guests rather than lurking and terrifying people. Knott’s sees how Universal handles its talent on streets and says, “That’s how it should be. And that’s how it will be at the Farm.” Rather than slowly change the mentality and encourage street monsters (some have been there for decades season after season) to adopt a “scare and move on” state of mind, everyone was basically told, if you don’t do it this way all the time every night, you’re out of here. I have to say – that – is not the way to motivate your team or get a positive response from men and women busting their asses off for you every night while many of them take time away from their real careers to further the legacy of Knott’s Scary Farm. You don’t rule by fear or intimidation – that is a road we really hate seeing Knott’s go down with its dedicated, wonderful haunters. The guests certainly don’t get it, either. Here’s the reality – Knott’s has created the culture of “friendly but scary” street monsters for more than 40 years. You can’t simply change that overnight and expect your fans to understand or get it. Instead, what they were met with this year, were seemingly unfriendly, unwelcoming street talent with perceived shitty attitudes that would ignore photo requests, etc. No one is going to stop and think, “Gee – it’s a shame that upper management must have put the fear of God in these poor folks.” All that the public goes away with is the thought that the Knott’s street monsters are simply a bunch of rude jerks that couldn’t even stop to take a picture with them like they’ve done every year. That, is a critical misstep and a damned shame. I wish management would step back and realize that after giving birth to this industry over 40 years ago, they don’t need to emulate anyone else or adopt other haunts’ attitudes and guidelines. Knott’s Scary Farm is “The Great I Am” of theme park Halloween events; they wrote the damned book. You can’t suddenly take 40 years of tradition and turn aspects of it 180 degrees and expect it to work out well or be embraced by your seasonal employees or long-time fans very well; it doesn’t work that way, regardless of how sexy you think it is in theory, you know?

I digress, and casual readers will be wondering what the hell kind of rant they have clicked into. However, I know I am not alone when it comes to unhappy fans and unhappy employees that feel the “heart” of being a Scary Farm street monster has been ripped out this year. It bugs me so much that I had to say it – if we use this medium to merely kiss up and blow smoke, what’s the point and where’s the integrity. TPA’s strength is that we’ve always stood up for what we believe, regardless of how popular or not the sentiment is. I feel strongly about this, because I saw too many really great people get turned off and their enthusiasm for this event crushed this year by a harsh shift in management technique that really damages the infrastructure of Scary Farm. The only thing Knott’s has that’s different than any other large-scale event out there is its core of dedicated, veteran employees. Money can’t buy that. It can’t be emulated. The secret of Knott’s Scary Farm’s legacy is its people. Without them, and without their loyalty and decades-old dedication, Knott’s has just another Halloween event, and nothing more. I sincerely hate seeing that amazing foundation eroded and sincerely hope that Knott’s approaches guest interaction a lot differently next season.

The Ghost Town boundaries now extend to include the back of house space where most of the Haunt mazes are located these days, behind GhostRider. This remains the oldest and most storied of the Knott’s scare zones, although with a bigger footprint, it’s much more noticeable when there are few monsters on the street at any given time, which is no bueno. I’d personally like to see more talent brought in for this expanded footprint – or for the street monsters to simply remain in the traditional bounds of Calico, where the fog is billowing and lighting is dark. I’d much rather have a stronger concentration of monsters than one that’s spread too thin. As usual, there was fantastic talent on Ghost Town streets this year – many on-fire newcomers, and a bunch of returning vets; this collective mix made for the best scare zone experience by far at Knott’s this year.

Knott's Scary Farm 2015 review

Carnevil has always struggled with its size-to-talent ratio, and this year was no different. When you happen to catch a horde of killer clowns tearing it up on the Boardwalk, it’s pure magic, and hands-down some of the most amazing talent on the Farm. However, more often than not, it’s easy to stroll through the brightly-lit Boardwalk and only pass two or three monsters there, who usually have their attention focused on someone they’re following or are about to scare. While the Boardwalk is just that – the ambiance feels tired and lacking. The zone needs small stage shows – freak shows and oddities; flame dancers, sword swallowers, bearded ladies, etc. The works – we want it to feel like an evil carnival that’s come to town. And it doesn’t. Not even close. I personally feel badly for the talent out there – because it’s a huge area to work with virtually no supporting entertainment or programming. I’d even venture to say that Carnevil is the single hardest street position at Knott’s, simply because you’ve gotta do your thing all night long out there without the cover of fog, darkness, shadows or even many buildings to lurk around. It’s a super tough challenge, and we applaud the folks who did do a kick-ass job on Carnevil streets this year. Fingers crossed for more area support next season.

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Fiesta de los Muertos is still a diamond in the rough; we’ve been waiting years now for it to finally take off and really work well. And it hasn’t. I don’t understand why Knott’s holds back on this – although I will say that this year, Knott’s seemed to have put more into the area than ever before talent-wise. The walkways are more narrow throughout Fiesta Village, the foliage is there, lots of buildings give monsters ample places to lurk and lie in wait. You’d think it would be the perfect scare zone. However, it still lacks that certain something that creates the magical transition from an “activated space” to a really frightening locale. Having a DJ playing music loudly in the middle of the area doesn’t help the cause much, to be honest. Sure, some folks really enjoy that type of thing – but does Knott’s Scary Farm really need it at this point? I’m not so sure they do, and I am quite sure I’m not alone when I say I’d take a maze in that spot once again than a DJ stage/kinda-sorta popular dance floor. Fiesta de los Muertos is much more of a party environment than a scare zone – and that’s cool; I get it. But Knott’s needs to figure out once and for all what it wants that to be and then go for it wholeheartedly. We’ll embrace either one as fans – but just decide. This “scare zone” has been in limbo way too long now and needs some definitive creative direction that sets it in stone. That’s not at all a knock at the talent – they are out there every night moving and hustling through the crowds, scaring people left and right. The gang out there is damn good at what they do – I just wish it could really blossom into its own and be taken to the next level.

Knott's Scary Farm 2015 Review

Infected returned to Camp Snoopy again this year. The reason I bring it up now, is because with Infected in place, Knott’s loses an entire quadrant of the theme park to one attraction. We lose a scare zone, and we lose maze footprints for an attraction that most Scary Farm visitors don’t even get to experience. So let’s take a look at this year’s Special Ops: Infected – Patient Zero.

Knotts Scary Farm 2015_7746Infected has been an enigma to me over the past couple of years now at Haunt. On one hand, I love the idea and totally dig designer Jon Cooke’s vision for big, bold attractions that engage guests more strongly than ever before at the Scary Farm. On the other, there is no denying what a huge resource suck Infected is – with little return. Is it a good idea to give up a quarter of Knott’s Berry Farm and employ a scare zone’s-worth of monsters for one attraction that you have to wait a long time to do? Or should Knott’s look at creating a brand-new scare zone for 2016 and possibly bringing back a maze to that corner of the park? After seeing this year’s operation and all of its challenges, I think that it’s time to move past Infected and come up with some new concepts for Scary Farm. Capacity remains a huge – the biggest – issue for Infected. While tweaks were made to its operation this year, it still created horrible wait times that prevented most Scary Farm attendees from checking it out. Haunt Season Pass holders did a lot of Infected, for sure. However, casual fans/guests – they were absolutely left with the short end of the stick each night. If you have a major attraction that sees only a few thousand guests per night and you have over 25,000 people at your event – those aren’t great throughput numbers; definitely not for a top-billed attraction such as Infected. For those who did experience it, the overall consensus seemed to be that there was way too much “running” and that one longer course this year didn’t come off as interesting as last year’s two shorter courses version. There were sexier, more “interactive” guns this year – but they also came with wide-spread reports of the tech failing on them or being too buggy. Theme Park Adventure did Infected, and we’ve shared the full video for you guys to check out. There was a lot of running/rushing this year – too much, in my opinion. I can’t see how older folks, out-of-shape guests, or people with issues such as bad knees (that would be me) would enjoy this type of attraction. Especially with October nights here in Southern California feeling like warm summer nights; running from one end of Camp Snoopy to the other and back, up stairs and down, doesn’t sound terribly appealing. To me, it’s certainly not. Our group was a hot, sweaty mess by the end of the run, and while I think Infected is a very interesting experience – it’s a bit too physically demanding as opposed to spooky or downright frightening for me. I’d love to see Infected become less of a running obstacle course and more of a highly-intense scare experience that includes moments of having to run for your lives, etc. Personally, I’d just approach it differently creatively. Then again, as a 40-something, I am not exactly the prime/target audience anymore for Knott’s. The guys and gals that work Infected – whether as troops or monsters – do an absolutely outrageous job each night; they have to exert so much energy all night long that I simply don’t know how they do it. Nothing but huge respect going out to the entire Infected team for their limitless enthusiasm and energy. It seems to me this has to be the single most exhausting job one could have at Knott’s Scary Farm. Will Infected return in 2016? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. If it were up to me, I’d much rather see a scare zone and maze return to Camp Snoopy – something that more than just a portion of guests can experience, and something that doesn’t leave you dripping with sweat or physically spent. I applaud Jon and the team for their vision and efforts – I just think it’s definitely time to move on past this attraction and return Camp Snoopy to the broader Scary Farm mix that more people can enjoy on multiple levels.

There were two shows this year at Knott’s Scary Farm. In the Charles M. Schulz Theatre, the big production was Elvira’s annual song and dance revue. This year, the Mistress of the Dark’s show was called Elvira’s Asylum, featuring high-energy dancers, several songs numbers, and a bevy of boob jokes. In other words, everything you’d expect from an Elvira show at Knott’s; if you’ve seen it once in the past 20+ seasons she’s done it, you’ve seen it. That’s not meant to be a negative – the show was very successful this year, and Cassandra Peterson is super sweet. It’s just not a show that changes a whole lot from season to season, and in recent years, there is less Elvira and more filler during the show at Knott’s. By her own admission, Cassandra is becoming more and more busy with her own convention in October – Comikaze Expo. It seems as though that may be taking a toll on her attention/energy, which would explain the shorter and shorter on-stage time at Haunt recently. I’m not a huge fan of theme park entertainment anyway, so I could take or leave the Elvira show at Knott’s. We saw it this year and thought the stage design was really well done – big props to our friend and senior Haunt designer, Daniel Miller. Visually, Elvira’s Asylum was really great. Elvira was fun when she was on, and I do recognize that she is a huge part of Scary Farm history. I’d love to see more Elvira content (hey now!) next season if she returns, or perhaps a different type of show in the theatre entirely – although for Haunt, that facet has long been a challenge without an easy solution. Of the two shows at Knott’s this year, we did find Elvira’s Asylum to be the most entertaining.

The other big show at Knott’s Scary Farm is The Hanging, which was held once again – and for the last time – on the old Calico Square stage. This season’s show was The Hanging: Straight Outta Calico. Much like the Elvira show – if you’ve seen The Hanging in the past decade or so, you’ve seen it; a large-scale send-up of people and things in the pop culture spotlight (for better or worse). There are sex and crude jokes galore, as well as buckets of blood that get spilled as “celebrity” after “celebrity” is lampooned and wiped out on stage as onlookers cheer in Calico Square. The Hanging is loud, rude, and definitely is a cornerstone of Knott’s Scary Farm. While there were some really funny moments, we found this year’s show to be a bit tired, ending with the entire cast performing Do the Whip and Nae Nae awkwardly for no apparent reason; definitely a fizzle of a finale. The Hanging has been much better over the years, and as with any long-running production, some versions will inevitably be better than others. I have no doubt that 2016’s production will be more interesting – if anything, because it will be the first on Ghost Town’s brand new Calico Stage, which is currently under construction on the border of Calico Square and the entrance to the Boardwalk, not far from Voyage to the Iron Reef. We look forward to seeing the new stage – and a new Hanging production next Halloween.

There needs to be more entertainment at Knott’s during Scary Farm. Period. We miss Blood Drums in Camp Snoopy, we miss smaller shows in the Bird Cage, and we feel there should be even smaller productions such as the Red Moon Dance Company, or The Torture King elsewhere in the park – people want to experience more than scare zones and mazes at theme parks. Again, this is something that Knott’s should lead the pack in. It doesn’t matter to me if Haunt’s budget went to Infected or Paranormal, Inc. or anything else new and shiny – then approve a bigger budget, Cedar Fair. Theme Park 101 is that you must have lots of entertainment programming to appeal to a big chunk of guests that come to these Halloween events and want to rest and watch things during the night. If Knott’s truly has the need to emulate other parks’ operations during Halloween, then they should look to Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, which successfully blends its haunt programming with a huge amount of entertainment offerings that compliment one another perfectly.

There were many returning mazes this year at Knott’s Scary Farm. What we found very interesting – and very exciting – is that most of the repeat attractions had been changed-up a bit (or in some cases, a lot). This attention paid to returning mazes kept each one exciting and refreshed, and it’s exactly what we love as Haunt fans. Just because a maze debuted a year or two ago, doesn’t mean it can’t be tweaked and updated from year-to-year! Knott’s has done this more and more over the past decade, and it’s really beneficial to the event as well as fans, and is definitely the right thing to be doing each season.

Trick Or Treat received huge changes this year, and we loved it! With the addition of a couple new scenes, the maze – which has been a big favorite of ours since it debuted in 2012. A throwback to vintage Halloweens of yesteryear, Trick Or Treat is the home of the Green Witch, who lures children in and then does unspeakable things to them, turning them into her minion. A potions room was added to the maze this year, with a huge, bubbling cauldron that was completely gorgeous! The ending was greatly altered too, and the big show moment there was mostly eliminated, relieving the inevitable choke point when guests would stop and watch. 2015’s version of Trick Or Treat re-ignited our love and enthusiasm for this particular maze; it’s one we’d like to see return for one more go next year.

Another returning maze that was much improved this year was Voodoo: Order of the Serpent. When Voodoo debuted last year, most fans really loved it – and for good reason. Voodoo is a highly-detailed production that I felt was more of an “experience” last year than a traditional maze. Guest were able to choose their own paths and work their way through a Louisiana bayou crawling with nasty creatures and backwater inhabitants. One of the biggest disappointments to me was the abrupt ending last year – just when things were looking badass, we were spit out into the night, next to GhostRider; no ending, no climax – just the end of the building, so the end of the maze. Goodbye. See ya.

This year, Voodoo was given a brand-new Skeleton Key room (by far, our favorite) and guests were sent through the experience on a linear path, as opposed to letting them choose their own. It felt better, and the best part – it had an ending this time, giving guests closure.

One of the most thematically and visually disturbing mazes in Haunt history, The Tooth Fairy made a gruesome return this past season. The story here is simple: children trying to stay awake to see the fabled Tooth Fairy get more than they’ve bargained for when the nasty entity pulls them into her realm. Beyond that dark threshold, lies a world of terrifying monsters, and looming “dentists” who are blood-splattered, deformed, and wielding the ever-dreadful electric drill – the high-pitched whirring of the bit creating the jaw-clenching undertone to the maze’s soundtrack.

Last year, there were folks who took immediate issue with seeing children portrayed in such a foul manner at Scary Farm – small bodies mutilated and displayed throughout the maze. Considering the entire event (and most haunted attractions in general) feature scenes of death and violence, it didn’t really bother us – why should it matter what the age of a “victim” is when you’re dealing with a haunt? We thought the design by Daniel Miller was edgy, gritty and raw – a true gem in the Scary Farm crown. The same rang true this year, as the bulk of the experience remained the same. We really enjoyed the Skeleton Key room, which featured live actors looking for siblings that had been taken by the Tooth Fairy – good, spooky fun! And, we also appreciated the much-improved ending moment for this maze, where the Tooth Fairy makes an appearance over a child’s bed – the monster itself an animated figure that looks truly terrifying and downright nasty!

Last year, we really liked the use of projection to establish the “portal” to the Tooth Fairy’s realm. This year, that effect was missing, and the room where it is showcased felt underwhelming to us without it. Our suspicion is that the new Paranormal, Inc. maze stole the projector that was being used in Tooth Fairy, which is unfortunate – and if this is the case, Knott’s really needs to simply up the ante and rent an adequate amount of hardware to bring these mazes to life without skimping or borrowing assets from one to cover another; that isn’t a great practice in this day and age when fans expect nothing but “wow” factors in every maze they experience. Another surprise was the inclusion of a very dark section of the maze – complete with hair-covered walls – which was removed very early on last season due to it creating a major back-up of traffic. For years, Knott’s has daisy-chained mazes together in this area at Scary Farm; it’s always been a headache, and we’ve railed against that practice since the beginning. This year, the mazes had their own queues, which was a very pleasant surprise! Huge props to whoever finally made that call to separate the experiences! This move allowed for the “dark passage” to be put back in to the maze; if back-ups occurred as a result, they no longer impacted the maze that was dumping directly into Tooth Fairy.

The talent in Tooth Fairy was fantastic once again, and we found this to be nearly as solid as it was last year when it debuted. For a second-year maze, The Tooth Fairy still packs a punch, and should hopefully return at least once more in 2016. This is a solid, really well-executed attraction and goes down yet again as one of our favorite Scary Farm experiences.

Forevermore also received some changes this year, including an alteration to its Pit and Pendulum room (addition of a corpse cut in half by the swinging blade), as well as a few other modifications to the layout of the maze. All in all, Forevermore still felt very strong in its third season at Knott’s. We love the story of a serial killer using the tales of Poe as the template to his murders; that’re pretty freakin’ brilliant, and is one of my favorite themes ever at Knott’s. Will Foevermore return next year for a fourth go? No one knows at this point, but if it did, I would be totally fine with that. The maze’s original designer, Brooke Walters, packed so much amazing detail into Forevermore, that I see new things each time we pass through. I love that, and think that Forevermore will go down as one of the greats. The team working this maze was also very proud of it and had a blast; you can always tell proud crews – they give it 200% each night and it shows.

The Skeleton Key room for Forevermore wasn’t great this year. It was a show moment that singled one person out, leaving the rest of the folks to simply stand and watch, which I thought was a bit dull. Inclusion of Skeleton Key in this maze also seemed to really be a challenge flow-wise, as the way this attraction loads through the existing queue of Mystery Lodge is already somewhat awkward and problematic. However, we love seeing Knott’s add features and try new things from season to season, so we’re not dinging them for trying in this case.

My favorite touch in this maze is the Tell Tale Heart section, where we see a red light pulsing under the floorboards in unison with the deep, loud heartbeat the narrator calls out in the reading of the famous tale! Forevermore was really fantastic this year and we applaud all involved.

Since its debut in 2012, Pinocchio Unstrung has been one of the most popular attractions at Knott’s Scary Farm. Originally a Daniel Miller creation, Pinocchio delivered a one-two punch of epic set design and detail, combined with a dark story of revenge and murder. Pinocchio only wanted to be a real boy, but when the Blue Fairy denied him of his one wish, he flew into a murderous frenzy that’s going to go down in the books! This is definitely not a Disney fairy tale!

Pinocchio Unstrung has undergone major upgrades and changes over the years, with still some slight tweaks taking place for 2015’s Scary Farm. Now that it’s completed its fourth season at Haunt, chances are, this may have been its final run. Knott’s mazes usually are on a 3-5 year cycle, depending on popularity and other operational factors. Pinocchio has had a strong 4-year run; if it didn’t come back next year, we’d be completely okay and satisfied with that; and if it does return once more, that’s cool, too. The talent is great, the content of the maze is still wonderful and goes nose-to-nose with the best mazes at the Farm.

One aspect that we love about this maze is that it’s one of the last to actually be in the park – where you can stumble upon it as you explore the Scary Farm. Everything has been shoved back stage these days – and personally, I really long for the old school Haunt when mazes were located all over the park, and you’d find them as you experienced the entire event, walking from area to area. The final hope here, is that once Pinocchio goes, we’ll get a replacement maze in the barn, and not just lose the location completely.

In a shift that almost made an “old maze new” this year, Gunslinger’s Grave: A Blood Moon Rises featured the old West town overrun by werewolves and other ghastly creatures of the night. Designed and continuously tweaked by Gus Krueger, Gunslinger’s Grave has hit the 3-year mark at Haunt, which means it’s now eligible to be cycled out, in favor of a new maze taking over its location in the middle of the park, near Camp Snoopy and Silver Bullet. While most mazes are changed a bit from year to year for Scary Farm, Gunslinger’s was changed drastically in 2015; not really in layout, but content-wise. For the past several years, Gunslinger’s has been about a lone cowboy seeking his revenge on a group of outlaws that killed his family, placing guests in the middle of a “live drama” of sorts. Half maze/half experience, Gunslinger’s has been embraced by many and also, scrutinized by others for not being “Haunt” enough. I’m in the camp of people who really liked what Gus did with the concept of Gunslinger’s Grave, and I was really excited by the fact that we almost had a Scary Farm maze completely void of rubber masks.

This year, all of that changed, as Gus took a turn toward the supernatural and added werewolves into the mix; suddenly the old western town was crawling with monsters of varying shapes and sizes – some of the Red Hand Gang just starting to transform, and some of them in full-blown werewolf mode. I really liked this year’s twist, and felt that anyone accusing Gunslinger’s of not feeling like a Haunt attraction certainly were silenced by this new overlay. The downside, is that adding werewolves into the mix meant masks for the talent – a bunch of masks. My dream of seeing a Scary Farm maze completely void of masks was derailed completely, and we went back to muffled growls and unintelligible exchanges with monsters in the dark; a necessary evil in this case, I suppose – but I will continue to lobby for a maze at Knott’s without masks. It can happen! Gus was so close to making it so!

Will Gunslinger’s Grave return in 2016? I haven’t a clue, and if it doesn’t, I am okay with that – it’s had a great run, and I love the twist this year of adding werewolves to the mix. I think Gus has done a really good job with this particular maze over the years, and we absolutely adore the cast and crew of this maze. On a side note, no group has ever delivered an overall finer performance for our annual Scary Farm maze flow-through videos; this doesn’t really pertain to the general guest experience, but I want it to be said that seeing these men and women put on a hell of a show for the past three years as our cameras roll – that’s been nothing short of epic, and will live on and entertain TPAers watching online for years and years to come. Thank you and huge kudos to you all!

Rounding out the returning mazes and attractions for Knott’s Scary Farm 2015 is another fan favorite by Daniel Miller – Black Magic. This year marked the third Halloween for Black Magic, making this also eligible to be cycled out of the Haunt lineup, should Knott’s choose to add a new maze in its location next season. Black Magic is the tale of Houdini’s spirit returning to an old theatre – and the doorway to the afterlife popping open thanks to a wayward seance, allowing nasty spirits that perished in the building to return once again and torment the living; a really fun theme that’s worked super well over the past several years. Black Magic is one of Daniel’s best efforts in recent years – and we are so glad that it’s had such an amazing run at Knott’s.

From its registered projection-layered exterior, to up-close encounters with magicians within its halls performing slight of hand tricks for passersby, Black Magic has been a true gem at Knott’s Scary Farm, worthy of being immortalized quite favorably from here on out in the history books. One of the more elaborate mazes from Miller, Black Magic blurred the lines of reality and fantasy with its theme – something I am personally a huge fan of when it comes to show writing/haunts. Blending Houdini’s obsession with debunking the spirit realm with the creeping horrors of Knott’s Scary Farm was a great concept, and it’s held up very nicely for the past three years.

I have to sidebar here and let you in on a story that strays somewhat from a typical review. As you may know by now, Theme Park Adventure works closely with Knott’s each year documenting these mazes with flow-through video and photos. It’s a “tradition” that obviously, Knott’s chooses to continue with TPA each year – one that we love and are very proud of, knowing that could come to an end any given year. It’s been our pleasure shooting footage of each maze for many, many years – it’s something we look forward to doing each season and bringing to fans online to enjoy around the world all year long. This year, we encountered a first: on the night that we shot our flow-through videos at Knott’s, Mother Nature decided not to be on our side. As a result, by the time we got to the last maze of the evening – Black Magic – the skies had opened up, and it was pouring rain. While most guests were streaming out of the park, we were covering our cameras as best we could to shoot Black Magic in the downpour. As you experience these mazes, it’s sometimes easy to forget that some of them have large sections that exist outside – and are at the mercy of the weather on any given night. As we made our way into the maze, rain water was literally running in rivers through the attraction, and in some of the shots, you can actually see the rain pouring into the scenes from above. It was a disaster in the making as we tried not to rush the footage, while worrying the entire time about our equipment; my video camera was literally dripping as we walked through the maze. I was concerned about putting our cameras at risk, not knowing how much of the talent would remain in the maze while the shoot was taking place; it was the end of the night, and no one wanted to get soaked. I was seriously concerned that the maze would be vacated and we’d end up with damaged cameras and shitty footage. To my pleasant surprise, the maze was full of talent and they opted to stick it out and stay in character, regardless of the water rushing in from all directions. It was a mess, and we were all there together in the moment, making it work. I was super impressed by this, and as the years all kind of melt together when it comes to reflecting on covering Scary Farm for 21 years, our downpour in Black Magic will never be forgotten; it was a very rare occurrence that while I never want to repeat it again – will always stick out in my mind as a truly special moment in time. Super kudos to the men and women of Black Magic for putting on a hell of a show in totally horrible conditions for us! If 2015 was the final run for this maze, at least we have a crazy memory of our TPA experience there with an outstanding team!

And that, is that – our look at the returning mazes and attractions at Knott’s Scary Farm 2015! As usual, there’s so much to take in at Knott’s during Halloween, it’s almost overwhelming – and definitely warrants at least two nights to enjoy it all without cramming for time.

We felt that this year’s Scary Farm was a mixed bag of really tremendous offerings, as well as some thorns that hopefully get resolved for their 2016 event. As usual, our deepest thanks to the entire crew at Knott’s – from management to the men and women on the front lines long before the gates to Haunt come swinging open; the artists and builders who work in ungodly heat to create these attractions during the summer months. Thank you to the folks who scare because they care night after night, rain or heat, as well as the teams manning line control, food and beverage, retail, entertainment, security, parking, and everything else. Last but not least – to the Scary Farm designers and publicity team; the makers and pushers of the annual nightmare in Buena Park that continues to be the grandfather of all Halloween events. Thank you all for embracing TPA and allowing us once more to peel back the veil just a bit and share your work with fans around the world. Until the fog flows again…

– Rick West

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3 Responses to Knott’s Scary Farm Returning Mazes and Attractions 2015 Review

  1. Jason McGee says:

    God, are they really having the monsters at Knott’s act like the ones at Universal? That’s f&%ked.

  2. baforrest929 says:

    What a fascinating over-view. Thank you, Rick, and your entire crew, for all the work that is put into delivering amazing, and very fairly “judged”, reviews.

  3. baforrest929 says:

    I am in the middle, regarding the photo ops with the monsters. I noticed this trend started back in 2012, actually, and has grown to be all but impossible at this point. I see it, on one hand, as a distraction to the talent-it somewhat brings everything to a halt. If a monster is in a rhythmic-flow, and suddenly, someone stops and asks for a picture, it interupts their “job.” At the same time, it is similar to the Disneyland experience, where one gets caught up in the fun and enterainment. I have been collecting photos forever now, and get a real kick, as all the other park guests do, from posing with the amazing talent. Where to find a middle ground? That becomes difficult to answer. I do hope the production team of the Haunt find some way to arrive at a happy medium, regarding this situation.
    I agree, if Knott’s is emulating other parks, and preventing photo ops, that is downright ridiculous. If they wish to copy other parks, then, as you pointed out, they need to up the ante in regards to adding more talent, and making CarnEvil a very entertaining and dark-and-gloomy-disturbing area, with a freak-show vibe. The Queen Mary nails it perfectly in this regard, and if Knott’s wants to become initators, then this is the starting point for them.
    I totally support doing away with the ridiculous out-of-place shoot-em-up Infected area, too. I get it, Knott’s wants to appeal to the younger age demographic, but this style of entertainment is too far removed by what Knott’s Haunt is all about, espcially if it involves taking away a maze (or two), and a show (or two). THAT is why we all go to the Haunt, not, in my opinion, to basically play laser-tag. The Haunt happens once a year, whereas there are plenty of paint-ball style shoot-em-up offerings out there, all-year round.

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