The second stop on our 2015 Long Halloween is Knott's Scary Farm. Yes, we're doing the two big theme park haunts down here in a row. Normally we try and space things like that out a little for variety's sake, putting a few solo houses in the middle, but when it came down to it, there were so many things we wanted to do this year that were only running in October, that the few that were open in September we just had to jump on. This is one of them.
From past experiences, I'll say that Knott's isn't quite up to comparing with Universal Studios. They lack the same quality and dedicated special effects/production design/makeup people and have always had a slightly lower quality, with more mazes based around cheap, loud-noise based jump scares (having actors with gloves covered in washers slamming against plywood does get the job done, though). As well, they tend to keep their mazes on for several years at a time, offering only a few new attractions each year alongside other mazes that have been around for up to five years. All told, while I love constantly rotating variety like at Universal, I also do love the familiarity of keeping stronger mazes from years past and mixing them with new blood.
The one thing that Knott's does have going for it, though, is volume. While Universal usually only has about 6 mazes and their Terror Tram, Knott's tends to average about ten mazes each year, along with some other odds and ends interactive attractions.
We skipped last year's Knott's, and their introduction of the interactive Infected, zombie hunt attraction, due to a number of other haunts demanding our attention, but with some of our favorite haunts from previous Long Halloweens not making a reappearance this year, Knott's got added back to the schedule. Will the returning mazes still scare? Will the new mazes offer anything, well, new? Let's find out!
Long Halloween Tip # 6: Research what you can in advance. For smaller, or newer haunts, research can tell you if events are worth your time and money, while for bigger events with multiple attractions, research can tell you what to hit first to avoid the really big lines and make the most of your night.
With Infected being an experience that you can attend via a limited number of timed tickets handed out at the beginning of the night, we knew we had to get to the ticket handout first, which is sometimes easier said than done.
Things didn't get much better once we got to where the tickets were being handed out. There were maybe a half dozen Knott's employees standing at the entrance of the Camp Snoopy area, each of whom had a small stack of tickets and handed them out at their discretion to the swarming mobs that gathered around them like ants. There was no order, lines were non-existent, and I'm also impressed things didn't get violent the way the people mobbed the employees. In short, I guess I'm saying that this was something that could have had better logistics and more organization, but with a little effort and a little more yelling, I was able to get Fi and me tickets for 10:00 pm.
With this done, we finally got to wander the park. Like Universal, there are a few scare zones around Knott's Scary Farm, though they aren't as well marked, or populated. While they've got a bunch of sliders (guys with special knee pads that allow them to noisily slide along the ground, a very creepy and fun effect when done well) who do great work, most of the scare zones were too dark to see the characters, or in the case of the "Ghost Town" scare zone, too foggy to really see where we were going. Still, there were plenty of scares to be found in these zones, you just had to go looking for them (well, except for the always entertaining clown area; they were pretty hard to avoid).
And with that, we were off to the mazes!
Maze Ranking: # 6
The Tooth Fairy
Then we got to do The Tooth Fairy this year, and my thought was, Delirium who?
The Tooth Fairy was the maze of the night, utterly terrifying with its many portrayals of dental trauma and children being kidnapped and mutilated by a demonic tooth fairy. I'd almost say this one was too much, too disturbing for an event like Knott's Scary Farm which has a lot of kids in attendance, but we had a blast getting scared out of our minds by the tooth-obsessed psychos of this maze. The additional room we had at the beginning, thanks to our Skeleton Key passes, got us a little more backstory of the maze, starting in a suburban bedroom with a child (well, a 20ish-year-old child) looking for his lost brother before ripping out one of his own teeth in front of us.
Maze Ranking: # 1
Voodoo: Order of the Serpent
Maze Ranking: # 5
Trick or Treat
Maze Ranking: # 7
Now we're getting to the really cool ones. Forevermore is based on the premise of a serial killer who themes his crimes to the poems and stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and with this premise you tend to get one room or section based on its own dedicated story, which is executed well. The Raven, The Pit & The Pendulum, The Telltale Heart, The Masque of The Red Death and more are represented in awesome, twisted representations of the story. The additional Skeleton Key room themed to Eleonora, a story I'm unfamiliar with, was a fun bit of improvised heart surgery. As huge fans of Poe's work, this is a favorite of ours from year to year, and as long as they run it, I don't imagine that'll change.
Maze Ranking: # 3
Maze Ranking: # 2
Dead of Winter
Maze Ranking: # 8
Maze Ranking: # 4
The Gunslinger's Grave: A Blood Moon Rises
Maze Ranking: # 9
Special Ops: Infected - Patient Zero
And, well, that only really lasted for a few minutes. While the initial part of the excursion went well and I killed a fair number of zombies, the ambiguous description of how zombies could hurt us, combined with the ease of dying and the difficulty in coming back from the dead, left me unable to do any of the shooting and video game fun that one would expect from such an experience for close to half of our run. For half the time I was just wandering around with a useless gun, getting yelled at occasionally by our "squad leader" and watching everyone else have a great time. No doubt I missed some important rule or didn't take a full opportunity to recharge my weapon, but I think in designing an experience like this, they made it too easy to fail and not easy enough to live out the kind of zombie video game experience that you'd expect in something like this. Perhaps if death only meant being disabled for 15 seconds or so, I'd have different words for the experience, because while I was alive, this was quite a bit of fun, and because of that I would still highly recommend this experience.
It's a scientific fact.
-- Matt Carter
(We know there's a lot of Matt Carter's online you could spend your time with, so thanks for hanging around this one!)