REVIEW: Slaughterhouse at Knott’s Halloween Haunt 2012

Slaughterhouse at Knott’s Halloween Haunt is an oldie but goodie that made yet another return appearance during the 2012 run of the world’s largest Halloween event. Regardless that this maze has been part of the Scary Farm lineup for the past several years, fans returning to Buena Park stepped inside and found that the maze was greatly re-imagined for this year’s run.

Slaughterhouse at Knott's Halloween Haunt 2012

Long-time Halloween Haunt designer Todd Faux took the charge of re-imagining Slaughterhouse this year, reconfiguring much of the maze and really, breathing new life into it. A huge kudos to him; by all accounts, Slaughterhouse should have been on its way out; now, the maze could easily have at least another season left in it. Granted, the theme remained the same – unsuspecting victims turned into BBQ meat and sold off as a Southern backwoods chain’s prime product. It’s a cannibalistic mess that is ghoulish, gory and simply works.

Slaughterhouse at Knott's Halloween Haunt 2012Slaughterhouse suffered in 2012 from the “no visible signage” policy at Halloween Haunt, and to be brutally honest, due to the entrance of the maze being moved to a different location, we had to ask someone where to find it on opening night of Haunt this year! This may be a lofty statement, but if I had to ask where the entrance to Slaughterhouse was, I have to imagine that a lot of people walked on by throughout the month and didn’t even know they missed a maze! A real shame, and a prime example of why we truly dislike and disagree with the no visibility stance of management; these Haunt attractions should be front and center throughout the season. Trying to “hide” them during regular park hours or making it so they can’t have decent signage during the event is absolutely pointless, especially after 40 years. Everyone visiting Knott’s in October is well aware of the world-famous event; it should be touted, not hidden away; that doesn’t make sense to us at all.

Slaughterhouse’s entrance not only used to be marked with a sign, but more important, a series of scenic elements such as pickup truck and large billboard in the queue area, which really worked nicely to build anticipation and establish a sense of place. This year, guests actually entered the maze walls before seeing any of that; and its impact was all but lost. It’s important to stress that this was not Todd’s decision; the Haunt design team’s hands were tied by this new mandate. It’s something we sincerely hope Knott’s takes a second look at in 2013, as Haunt’s mazes and overall experience suffered from it; it didn’t gain anything, in our opinion.

Slaughterhouse at Knott's Halloween Haunt 2012The talent throughout Slaughterhouse has always been very good; year after year, this team is always very proud of their maze, and 2012 was no exception. Nor should it have been; following Trick Or Treat, Slaughterhouse was my favorite Halloween Haunt maze last year! Everyone involved all the way up to Todd should be very proud of what they accomplished with Slaughterhouse; in an environment such as Halloween Haunt, when the majority of your guests are returning visitors, turning an old maze into something new and exciting is a very big trick. Todd has done it before, with his re-envisioning of Cornstalkers recently, which was another huge testament to his worth as a senior member of the Halloween Haunt design team.

One thing that Slaughterhouse has that many see as a weakness (and we tend to agree) is the use of masks throughout the maze. This type of maze and environment begs for guest interaction and spoken dialogue from its talent. Muffled grunts or phrases from behind sweaty latex masks simply doesn’t cut it, and brings the quality of this production down. What we’d love to see, should Slaughterhouse return for the 2013 season, is the reduction of masks and the freedom for monsters to engage guests with approved, thematic dialogue. I think that would push Slaughterhouse to an even higher level of perfection and would be a fantastic proving grounds that would possibly help shift the mindset of management that mass masks everywhere is the way to go. Clearly, as the leader in the Halloween event arena, Knott’s should be looking at new ways to increase the terror and interaction between its guests and nightmarish monsters.

Great job, everyone that worked on/in Slaughterhouse 2012! Jobs well done!

– Rick West

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