REVIEW: Trapped: The New Experiment 2013 Knott’s Scary Farm

TRAPPED_2013_2319In 2012, Knott’s Scary Farm added a new attraction to their Halloween Haunt line-up for its 40th season: Trapped. The premise of Trapped was that small groups, or even individuals, would venture into the most adult-oriented maze experience ever created for the Buena Park event in Southern California. It was an up-charge attraction, which many — Theme Park Adventure included – questioned, with a $60 price tag. The doubts anyone had however, were quickly extinguished by the immediate and on-going success of Trapped for the entire 2012 Scary Farm season. We all knew this attraction would return for 2013, and it did. Trapped: The New Experiment was announced this past summer, and fans waited with great anticipation and anxiety for Halloween Haunt to begin.

I’ll say right off the bat, that Theme Park Adventure was not allowed to shoot any stills or video inside Trapped: The New Experiment this year. In fact, we didn’t know that we were going to get to see it until we were escorted at literally the very end of Haunt’s opening night to the maze, which was housed this year in a new location – the Boardwalk Ballroom at Knott’s. As a result, our review is really only text; I will be as brief as possible.

Whether it was due to opening night jitters and glitches, or the fact that we were literally the last group of the night to go through, Trapped: The New Experiment was not very engaging, not frightening in the least, and barely interactive. To increase capacity, Knott’s designed a larger attraction with three routes, each sporting the same theme and scenes (as well as being ADA compliant). Since the footprint for Trapped was so much larger, scene size wasn’t affected; in fact, despite another route being added this year, most of the scenes were actually larger – or at least, felt that way to us. Perhaps the larger spaces made the maze and its scenarios seem less intimidating.

Rather than finding our way through each room as we did in 2013, each escape route or “puzzle” was pretty easy to figure out almost instantly for our group. There was no guess work involved. No harrowing moments with monsters looming. And the creativity of the scenes was rudimentary at best. Everything we really enjoyed about Trapped in 2012 was pretty much sucked out of The New Experiment in 2013. There were no surprises, no innovative puzzle rooms, and no challenge except to wrap our heads around how this returning maze could be so bad.

Let me make one thing very clear: The major challenges that Trapped faced this year had nothing at all to do with the talent staffing it. The talent was actually the best aspect of Trapped, and I felt bad for them, watching them struggle to be intimidating in scenes that just didn’t work, or to try and create panic when none was necessary. The men and women working Trapped did an excellent job, considering the environments they had to work with; kudos to them, because they were very good.

One of the first rooms featured a gag with spiders. Spiders. That’s got to be one of the most terrifying subjects guests could face in a situation like Trapped. However, once our group was shut in to a confined space and a multitude of creepy crawlies was projected all around us with no supporting effects, not even I was freaked out; and I have a completely irrational fear of spiders. In fact, I was the first in our group to forge onward, into the thick of the “spiders”, knowing that it was all projection and nothing more.

Another scene featured a walkway over water, where guests had to complete a human chain and get “electrocuted” as a group to gain access out of the room. While this was probably the most elaborate of the rooms in Trapped, it never once seemed daunting, and no one in our group really thought we were in any danger of being shocked even a little. We all had to hold hands (that would have been a photo – Brady MacDonald from the LA Times and me holding hands in the middle of Trapped), and that elicited nothing but laughter and awkward jokes from everyone; not terror in the least.

There was a padded cell that I believe was supposed to close in around our group while a mentally ill character paced back and forth; the room didn’t work, the talent only pointed at the door, and we all walked through. That was a major fail, but I get it; not everything works properly all the time. In this case, the talent should have made up for the technical mishap and at least taunted or attempted to scare us by blocking the doorway out. That sadly, didn’t happen.

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Toward the end of the maze, we entered a room that had several metal grates leading into narrow ducts. Straight ahead, a large “adult sized” duct was set into the wall, with its grate hanging open. Naturally, we all walked straight past the others and into what we thought was the only route we were meant to go. It turns out that our group took the ADA route, and that grating should not have been hanging open for us. In fact, had we taken some of the other ducts, we could have crawled and even slid into the finale scene. Placing the biggest and most obvious route directly across from the entrance to this scene was really poor design, and I’m sure our group wasn’t the only that missed out on what could have been a really neat, claustrophobic scene. The only difference is, none of us paid for the experience, and unfortunately, others did.

The finale of Trapped was the most anti-climatic and confusing scene I can remember in a Halloween Haunt maze. We all walked out into what looked like an abandoned cocktail reception room that was empty. No monsters. No other guests having drinks and watching us emerge from our experience (which my guess is, what the scene was intended to do), no nothing. No sense of escape or accomplishment. And worse, no surprise ending, like last year’s Trapped featured so nicely with a faux ending. In fact, as we all stood there asking each other if that was it, a Knott’s employee wandered through and simply pointed, saying, “You exit there.”

And that was that. I think Brady was generous in his review when he said it was only half as good this year than 2012’s version. We were horrified by the lazy design, completely generic and not creative rooms, and really bummed that Trapped was such a let-down for all of us. To me, it felt like a money grab, which I know was not the case – Knott’s truly wanted Trapped to be amazing this year. However, it fell flat on its face and was the biggest mess I have seen at the Scary Farm in recent memory.

In all fairness to Knott’s, management recognized there were major issues with Trapped as well, and several of the scenes were re-designed. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to experience the altered version of the maze. We had one shot at the very end of Haunt’s opening night, and walked away with a really bad experience burning in our minds. How could something so successful last year go so very wrong this year? It’s a frustrating question that was the single biggest disappointment of Haunt 2013 for us, in a year when pretty much the rest of the Scary Farm was the strongest it’s been in quite some time.

Naturally, this is only our opinion. We have many friends and TPAers that did Trapped and enjoyed the hell out of it; some even paid to do it numerous times. What we heard throughout the Haunt season was that people who experienced the original Trapped last year, were severely disappointed by this year’s version and its puzzles. Those who didn’t get the chance to experience Trapped in 2012 were mostly very satisfied and pleased with this year’s maze.

We’ve heard from fans that think the maze was absolutely terrifying this year, and that it was their favorite thing at Knott’s. And that’s great – we hope most people enjoyed it much more than we did, because we never want to see something go south at Halloween Haunt. Unfortunately for TPA, Trapped: The New Experiment simply failed.

If Trapped is to return in 2014 (and if it made Knott’s money, I suspect it will), I really hope that new eyes are put on this project, because in light of this year’s flop, it really needs to pack a redeeming punch to shake off the less than stellar season it had this year.

Did you experience Trapped: The New Experiment this year at Knott’s Scary Farm? What are your thoughts about it? Was this your first year, or second for Trapped? Sound off below and discuss which year was better and why with other TPAers!

– Rick West

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