Knott’s Scary Farm is great this year. Not quite 2017 great, but still great nonetheless. Sure there’s a few hiccups, but I’m happy to say that it’s still my favorite part of the Halloween season. Okay, so where do I begin...
How about nitpicking! The opening ceremony sucks. I hate getting stuck behind a big group, and being trampled by a bunch people behind me. Knott’s looked at Horror Nights and said “we can do that!”. Please. No. I wish they would do something similar to 2015’s ceremony, now that would be great!
The merchandise is awesome. It’s a complete 180 from last year, and I love it. There is so much variety. The vintage stuff is so cool, and I like that they’re putting some spotlight on the talent. The tribute store and art show are also excellent, and serve as a great nod to the past. It’s about damn time that Knott’s acknowledges its 46 years of history, and this is the way to do it! Now all we need is the Haunt Museum back!
Time Zombies is a neat overlay of Showdown in Ghost Town. It does it’s purpose pretty well; a fun, yet overly difficult money munching arcade game that just so happens to be VR. It’s alright, but nothing that I’d ever do again. If anything it serves as a nice compliment to Scary Farm’s lineup.
Timber Mountain Log Ride: Halloween Hootenanny is back this year, and it’s just as strong. Sure there’s no talent this year (there was an accident), but I’d argue that it never really needed it. It was just a cool little bonus. The way that the safety speech screws with the final scene is lame though. Other than that, it’s still a lot of lighthearted Halloween fun!
Along with the scheduled lineup up shows, Scary Farm also has several “pop up” experiences and “atmos-fear” characters. These small shows include a Thriller Burlesque on top of the Saloon, stand up with a medicine man, a nightly funeral procession, and a wicker man burning at midnight. And that’s not even all of them! These add some nice touches of immersion, and really sell that the park is one big Halloween attraction. The characters, like the Train Conductor and the Grave Digger, are cool additions. I just don’t think there’s enough of them, there should be more. I love the direction that Knott’s is going with immersion, and I hope they have even more of it next year!
This year the entertainment was expanded to three shows. I’m glad this happened, as it was much needed to help eat up crowds. The shows this year are-
Hacks! Cutting Room Floor, Conjurers, and The Hanging: Shhh, it Happens.
The Hanging has been pretty hit or miss the last couple years. It seems that censorship and creative bankruptcy are sending it to its inevitable grave. Or maybe parody shows like it are a dying art, as people just aren’t interested in that type of entertainment anymore. Unfortunately, this seasons version is indeed a miss, in fact it may be the worst iteration of it that I’ve ever seen. It’s got a decent premise, but it doesn’t really do anything with it. It completely lacks any sort of plot, and characters come on stage with no punchline or point. The jokes, which is the entire point of the show, are either tired, too obscure, or super cringeworthy. Most offensive of all, however, is that it’s a boring, dull drag. If you have to skip anything this year, even for a ride, skip The Hanging. Watching it will leave you depressed, as all it does is remind you of how edgy and topical it once was.
Hacks! is a comedy improv show, which means that it can either be hilarious or painfully awful. It’s all up to the audience. Skits include ad libbing over a movie clip, acting out strangers text messages, and a cute little effect with a green screen. The team of comedians themselves are solid, but bring a volunteer up there and anything goes. Thus is the problem with Hacks, and unfortunately it’s just the nature of the beast. The venue also hurts the show, as it’s much to big of a theater for this type of experience. They have lots of trouble filling seats every night! It would do so much better in the Bird Cage. Hacks is worth checking out, just know that a lot can happen that will either make you love it or hate it.
Conjurers - Magic and Mirth in the Bird Cage Theatre is the show to check out this year. It can come across as just an average magic show, but the humor and personality are what make it so special. The magicians (especially Dana Daniels) are all fantastic and super funny, and give some soul back to the Bird Cage during Haunt. It’s also worth rewatching, as a new magician hosted the show every weekend in September and Chipper Lowell is supposed to bring a couple acts for October. Out of the three, Conjurers is the clear winner of the shows, and it proves that sometimes simplicity works best.
Scare zones are probably what Knott’s does best. Their level of immersion and theming is unbeatable. Before I get into this years four zones, I should mention the loss of Fiesta De los Muertos. This was a massive misstep. The new dance party, Awaken the Dead, just doesn’t do the area justice. It’s too insignificant, and it feels as if, ironically, all the life has been sucked out of such a major part of the park. I know that some didn’t find Fiesta to be as good as the other scare zones, but it’s still better than an empty dance floor with some bored go-go dancers. Hopefully Fiesta De los Muertos can come back with a vengeance, and they can bring back some energy to the area as well.
Ghost Town Streets is the original, and still the greatest zone of all time. Calling it just a “scare zone” isn’t doing it justice. It’s an experience, it’s what Haunt is all about. I can sit in Fog Ally all night long, watching the various creatures attack unsuspecting guests. I can’t really explain it, you have to see it for yourself.
CarnEvil is a killer clown haven with some seriously entertaining talent. The sinister yet bright and colorful lighting should be a major detriment to scaring, but the awesome talent work together to deliver some great scares that are out in the open yet still very surprising. A hellish looking HangTime looms over the Boardwalk, providing a pretty nice visual and another distraction for scares. There’s also a cool light show that happens every hour or so! CarnEvil is great, and it stands with Ghost Town as a Knott’s classic.
The Hollow is in its third season now, and after some experimentation last year, it’s returned to be a truly scary experience yet again. You can once again join the Witch Hunter, and help capture the amulet that gives The Hollow power, but the vocal point has now been shifted back into a terrifying scare zone. It has the perfect amount of fog and darkness to let the various scarecrows and other demonic beings scare very aggressively, and it is so awesome. This very may be the scariest part of the park, and I’m sure it’s gonna stick around for a very long time.
Forsaken Lake is new for 2018, and it’s located in quite a weird spot between the little dip under Silver Bullet and the entrance to Fiesta Village. That’s a very small footprint, and it’s also my problem with Forsaken Lake. It’s just too damn small. Hopefully next year they expand the area to pass Silver Bullet and near Camp Snoopy. I find it odd that it’s in such a small and inconsequential part of the park as well. There’s no major attraction that warrants going through the zone, so you have to go out of your way to see it. Now for positives! The talent are killer and so are their costumes; they give off some cool Haunted Mansion vides. The gothic set pieces and thick fog mix into an intimidating experience, that is only elevated by plentiful scares that lunge from the dark shadows that surround you. The soundtrack is simple yet eerie, and convinces you that you’re actually walking through a sunken graveyard. Despite its problems, Forsaken Lake has got some great potential, and I’m intrigued to see how much it’ll grow throughout the years.
CORRECTION: It does seem as so that talent ARE allowed to roam through underneath SB and near CS. The set pieces are just oddly bundled together near Fiesta. Why they don’t spread them out is anyone's guess.
This season, there are seven returning mazes and two new ones. The great thing about Scary Farm is that they often change up their returning attractions (for better or for worse) so they feel “refreshed”, and are worth revisiting year after year. The maze talent are awesome, as usual, and deserve all the attention and praise they can get. So I can’t say that there’s one maze that’s truly awful, but there are the weaker links.
Pumpkin Eater is back and it’s still pretty damn scary. Scenically and thematically, it’s very different from the other mazes, as it’s very surreal and bizarre. The whole thing is just one big pumpkin filled nightmare, and wow is it intense. With its tight passages and dark, twisting hallways, you’ll feel an adrenaline rush of fear and claustrophobia. The scares are also very simple yet aggressively effective. There’s a couple new touches here and there, like a new scene with an animatronic, that give the maze a nice little twist. The only nitpick I have about it this year are that some great gags seem to be missing, so that detracts from the the experience just a tad bit. Potentially the scariest maze in the park, Pumpkin Eater will certainly continue to strike fear in the hearts of guests for more seasons to come.
ShadowLands debuted only two years ago, and was once the best maze at Scary Farm, but it seems that Knott’s themselves are ready to move on and forget about it. While it’s still strong, looks hauntingly beautiful, and delivers some great scares, ShadowLands seems to have gotten weaker with each subsequent year. For one thing, it’s now missing the opening show moment; which is unfortunate since it now lacks its once powerful and surprising entry statement. Some other rooms, as well as the cool samurai finale, have also been scaled down to disappointing results. ShadowLands is still a great maze, but it sucks to see it become more neutered compared to its previous incarnations. I’d rather have it disappear into the fog than have it return possibly worse next year.
The universally loved Dark Ride returns to Scary Farm, and it’s also come back relatively unchanged. I’m fine with that though, because I believe in the phrase “don’t fix what isn’t broken”. The amazing sets and insane attention to detail make this attraction very convincing. You legitimately feel like you’re walking through a disturbing, rundown carnival ride. The scares are really crazy and creative, and though it’s not the most intense experience, it’s still nothing to gawk at. Dark Ride still remains as one of the must dos at Scary Farm, and it’s so good that I can see it sticking around for a long time.
The insanely fun Special Ops: Infected comes back this year, and still remains hugely popular. Fighting off the undead through impressive city sets with your laser gun is as thrilling as usual, and while it isn’t particularly scary, I’d argue that it’s not supposed to be. Just see it as a different “flavor” of horror. The talent here give it their all, and that’s something considering this is possibly the most difficult maze to work in at Haunt. So props to everyone there. Though Special Ops is still an awesome attraction, I also wouldn’t be too sad to see it swap out with something new. Its maze footprint is long and winding, so I’d love to see a new maze take advantage of it. That being said, if you’re at Scary Farm, you HAVE to do Special Ops: Infected. It’s a totally different type of maze that will keep your senses high and your blood pumping. It’s great!
The Red Barn’s redesign is easily one of the most disappointing aspects about Scary Farm this year. Last years cool opening statement and frantic attitude are abandoned, and instead we get a strange house like first portion filled with boring, cheap looking rooms covered in plastic chains. Aside from a couple of interesting scenes, the rest of the maze is also too bland and poorly constructed compared to its incarnation last year. Not all is lost however. The talent straight up absolutely save this maze. They and are definitely the best part of the whole experience. The scares may be scarce, but the ones that work REALLY hit the mark. That’s all thanks to the incredibly talented casts, as even if they have almost nothing to work with, they still manage to shine. The new barker that was added with the facade was also a cool touch, I loved seeing him “preach” and interact with the crowd. This has to be Red Barn’s finale year, as other than its talent, no one else seems to care about this maze; not even Knott’s. After only two seasons, it’s been left as a mediocre drab, an empty shell of its former self. I want to see it put out of its own misery already.
Trick or Treat: Lights Out is back once more for its second season. Or eighth, if you want to get into specifics. Either way, Trick or Treat is still a good maze that offers a very unique experience compared to its siblings at Haunt. As you travel through a dark, abandoned house armed with only a broken flashlight, the fear factor skyrockets and the scares are practically everywhere. There is some really great scenic design in Trick or Treat as well. I especially love the backyard section, where a strobe lights up the entire room for only a split second, only offering a glimpse of the monstrous trick or treaters that surround you. I felt like the maze needed some new scenes, however. Trick or Treat was left completely unaltered this season, and that’s a small problem if you consider that some of those rooms are from an attraction that’s eight years outdated. Those scenes are just too familiar now, and aren’t as detailed and impressive as the newer rooms. Other than that, I’m still very happy with Trick or Treat, and so are guests (it consistently gets at least a 90 minute wait!). I’d imagine that there’s at least one or two more seasons left for the Green Witch and her minions.
Paranormal Inc. may be one of the older attractions featured at Haunt, but that doesn’t matter because it’s still one hell of a great maze. It’s all around very impressive, from the incredible opening moment (that’s unfortunately been cut down) to the new surprise ending that will leave your head spinning! The scares are groundbreaking for a theme park haunt, and every room will bombard you with a sheer, terrifying intensity. The split path adds to the crazy amount of content, and makes it worth revisiting. It’s gonna be bittersweet to see Paranormal go, as I’ve stated before that it’s been around for a while, and could be considered for the chopping block next year. I’ll be excited to see something new, but I also wouldn’t mind if it stuck around for maybe one more season. Whatever fate has in store for Paranormal, it’s still astounding, and it may be the single greatest maze that Knott’s has ever had.
Dark Entities is new for 2018, and offers the experience of being trapped in a space station overrun with an alien menace. The facade is weird but it works, it’s convincing as the entrance of a strange facility. It starts restrained, a sort of “calm before the storm”, tricking you into a false sense of security. Then, all of a sudden, the s**t hits the fan. Disturbing creatures creep along the walls, and horrifically mutated bodies lie everywhere. Think “The Thing” meets “Event Horizon”. The rooms will feel as if they are getting tighter and tighter, giving you some closer encounters with grotesque aliens. This maze is disgusting, darkly humorous, and will leave you in a state of claustrophobic horror. A unique use of lighting makes the maze feel more “organic”, and scarier. Speaking of scary, the scares are a sort of a mixed bag, but most of them succeed. The ending could be stronger, but it works nicely as a distraction for more scares. I adored Dark Entities, as it felt like an old school Knott’s haunt but with some new tricks up its sleeve. I’ll be anxious to see some more alien terror next year!
The Depths is another new addition to Scary Farm for 2018. It tells the story of a mining crew that stumbles upon the terrible secret of an old seaport village. And damn is this maze successful. It’s the sort of opposite to Dark Entities, as instead of tight, claustrophobic corridors, The Depths is vast and open. That doesn’t make it any less scary though. You’ll start in the chaos of a panicked mining camp, and then go to a variety of different themes like a Lovecraftian temple and a den of evil mermaids. There are a lot of fantastic gags in here, like a “water” room, a man-eating shark, and a creaking, unstable pirate ship. The effects completely throw you off guard, and leave you vulnerable for some great scares. I also love how the story goes in a lot of different places, but it doesn’t feel confused or jumbled. The only problem I have with The Depths is its lack of a proper facade. The lighthouse is really cool, but it’s surrounded by these ugly black walls that don’t do it any kind of service. Having a mining shaft with a creepy old man sets the mood pretty well, but it doesn’t look good with the lighthouse when there’s a massive black wall between them. They should’ve painted some ocean or harbor mosaic on the warehouse or something. Other than that, I’d say that The Depths is nearly perfect. It’s a scary journey through the darkest reaches of the sea that’ll be around for many years to come!
So that wraps up Knott’s Scary Farm 2018! Though there are problems, I think the positives more than make up for it. If it’s anyone’s first time going, or if they haven’t gone in a long time, don’t take this review as your deciding factor. Go anyways! Scary Farm is, no matter what word of mouth, something that any adrenaline junkie needs to give a chance. It’s the granddaddy of all haunts, it made the industry what it is today. It’s legendary. And after 46 years, it’s still got it!