Exclusive Event Report: Knott’s Scary Farm 2013
This past Thursday, 9/26, Dread Central hit Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA for Media Night and the opening of the 41st annual Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt. Read on for a rundown of some of their returning (and new) attractions.
Arriving a bit late (due to infamous Los Angeles traffic conditions), we unfortunately missed the traditional hearse procession, which had wound its way from the park’s main entrance to Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel (the more than a dozen or so death coaches were parked outside in the hotel’s main lot upon our arrival), although upon checking in, we found that the festivities hadn’t let up one iota and had only relocated to the hotel’s expansive ballroom.
Decked out in seasonal spookiness with the black-cloaked and masked staff manning an open beer and wine bar, as well as several rather exceptional culinary stations, the ballroom served as a place to socialize with other attending media, all set to the sounds of horror-related rock tunes (Bobby Pickett’s ‘Monster Mash’ had greeted us upon our entrance), prior to the guided maze and scare zone tours which awaited us.
Divided into groups, Knott’s staff ushered us into the park following the reception, and in an effort to conserve time in order to facilitate a walk-through of all of their attractions, we bee-lined through employee and public areas alike.
This year, Knott’s Scary Farm happily offers up the return of horror celebrity and icon Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, in her all-new show ‘Elvira’s Sinema Séance,’ and although we unfortunately missed the performance (as we did the ‘Elvira Look-alike Contest’ and the historically raunchy show ‘The Hanging’), we did experience the majority of the park’s fright mazes, four of which are brand new for 2013 (‘Black Magic,’ ‘Forevermore,’ ‘The Gunslinger’s Grave,’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror’), two of which are ‘re-imagined’ (‘Dominion of the Damned’ and ‘Trapped: The New Experiment’) and six of which return from the 2012 season (‘Delirium,’ ‘Endgames,’ ‘Pinocchio Unstrung,’ ‘Trick or Treat,’ ‘Uncle Willy’s Slaughterhouse’ and ‘The Witch’s Keep.’)
So what did we think?
The Houdini-inspired ‘Black Magic’ featured some interesting art design and a few very clever moments, while ‘Mirror Mirror’ is exactly as it sounds; a hall of mirrors ‘old school’ carnie gag which proved entirely disorienting in its execution, and while the maze itself is quite short in duration and doesn’t evolve into any sort of narrative, it’s effective and quite a bit of fun.
The ‘Dominion of the Damned’ maze and its resident vampires came across as ‘comfort food,’ in that not much has changed from years past, and SoCal residents familiar with the attraction will more than likely experience a sense of nostalgia. ‘Delirium’ was the same. Lighting within the ‘The Gunslinger’s Grave’ maze was muted to the point of obscuring the scares (it needs some work, certainly).
‘Forevermore’ (housed in the same structure as last year’s ‘Tower of London’) seemed in concept the most unique of this year’s maze attractions, in that its odd ‘Edgar Allan Poe inspired serial killers’ motif was somewhat out of keeping historically with Knott’s tone. There were indeed some inspired (and bloody) moments, and set decoration was intriguing, though in narrative it seemed a bit half-baked.
As it was last year (in this writer’s opinion), the ‘Trick or Treat’ maze, from its jack o’ lantern-lit interior to its flying books and soaring witches, remained the park’s crème de la crème. The narrative of the abduction of trick or treaters by a coven of witches remained, and this very simplicity immediately engaged the attendees who traversed it with me. Some of the maze’s props do need a bit of tender loving care (the Halloween tree at the attraction’s entrance, most noticeably the unpainted foam repairs which dotted its branches, for example), although this didn’t cut down on the attraction’s enjoyment.
In addition to their seasonal mazes, Knott’s offers up some of the most thrilling roller coasters on the West Coast, three of which we hit: ‘GhostRider’ (one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world), ‘Silver Bullet’ (entirely thrilling in its absolute aggression) and ‘Montezooma's Revenge’ (0 to 55 mph in just 3 seconds!). Couple them with several other rides, myriad restaurants, fortune tellers, over 1,000 monsters roaming the fog enshrouded park and again, ELVIRA, it’s quite simply a steal for the $38 admission per ticket (pre-sale).
Knott’s Scary Farm may not be on par with the frights offered up by a few of their haunt competitors (Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, for example), though I don’t think they are interested in doing so, as their identity continues to reside firmly in the PG-13 realm. It’s a park geared towards catering a ‘safe’ scare and a whole lot of laughs, where teenagers can cuddle into their adolescent dates and seasoned, returning guests can recall doing the same thing, and who says that’s a bad thing?
Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween Haunt dates are October 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, 30-31, and November 1-2, 2013. Event hours are 7pm-1am; Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm-2am. Haunt is a special ticket event not covered by regular Knott’s Berry Farm admission or a Knott’s Season Pass. Halloween Haunt is not recommended for children under 13. There are no guest costumes or re-entry privileges allowed for this event. Ticket prices are $38-$54 presale online and $62 day of event. Knott’s Scary Farm tickets are available at Knott’s Guest Relations, by phone at Knott’s Haunt Line (714) 220-5200, or online at the official Knott's Scary Farm website (service charges apply).
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