Knott's Berry Farm previews its 2013 Halloween Haunt line-up
Written by Jacob Sundstrom
Six new mazes and the return of Elvira will highlight this year's Halloween Haunt at Knott's Scary Farm. The country's longest-running Halloween event last night rolled out its entire event lineup, which includes 12 mazes, four scare zones and seven shows. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark — an icon of the horror industry — will host her own show revue-type show featuring singing and dancing. Elvira was featured prominently at Knott's Scary Farm from the early 1980s all the way up to 2001, which was her last involvement with the park — until now, of course.
While Elvira will cause some buzz around the event, it's the mazes that draw in the target audience; you know, the people too young to know who Elvira is. So how does Knott's maze lineup stack up?
Among the returning mazes are Trick r' Treat, Pinocchio: Unstrung, Delirium, End Games, Slaughterhouse and The Witch's Keep.
Trick r' Treat was the most memorable maze of last year's Haunt, which featured the event icon, The Green Witch, and played upon many of the tropes of classic Halloween films while offering some great show scenes, particularly late in the house.
The Witch's Keep is another Green Witch-themed maze which was unofficially in last year's lineup; it took place on The Calico Mine Ride and was little more than a redressing of the ride daytime guests experience. Perhaps now that the maze is officially on this year's docket, it will get a more thorough treatment.
Delirium was my favorite maze of last year's event and its return was well received by the nearly 2,000 season pass holders in attendance. Delirium offers inventive scares and phenomenal set design. When Knott's is at its best, Delirium is the kinds of creation it spins out. Pinocchio was forgettable for me, particularly after the success of the Doll Factory mazes several years back.
End Games (I see you, Hunger Games) plays off the post-apocalyptic gladiator theme that seems to be getting more and more popular in recent years. The technology used in the maze (closed captioned videos of people going through the maze) is fun, but at times the scares felt too distant as chain link barriers separated the guests from the scarers.
Slaughterhouse, now the owner of the longest-running-maze title, is getting a refresh this year. This should be a welcomed change because while the maze is a fan favorite and fits right in with the other trope-happy mazes Knott's creates, the scares have become a little familiar and could use a new look.
Six new mazes include an all-new Trapped experience. Trapped: The New Experiment is a sequel to last year's up-charge maze which puts a group of up to six people in a maze where they have to solve puzzles to escape.
While not the first of its kind, Trapped is what many call the future of Halloween events. Mazes like this push sensory boundaries in ways a normal maze can't by putting the scarer to guest ratio at 1:1, if not outnumbering the guests. I did not experience Trapped last year, but it received rave reviews and sold out every night of the event.
Did I mention that Knott's makes a killing on this event? Oh yeah, they do.
Mirror Mirror is the most intriguing maze included with your admission. While the word "maze" is used to describe these haunted attractions, there's nothing exactly maze-like about them. You go in through the entrance, walk through the course and head out the exit. According to the designers, Mirror Mirror will actually be a maze -- meaning you can, and probably will, get lost inside. How they will pull that off logistically, I have no idea. But it's an exciting and refreshing take nonetheless.
Black Magic plays on a Houdini gets involved with the cult story, Forevermore is the story of a serial killer who uses Poe's stories to commit creative murders and The Gunslinger's Grave is an old-west themed journey through revenge.
While the song and dance of introducing these mazes was impressive, it's the execution of some of the more challenging mazes that interests me the most. One of my biggest complaints with Knott's Scary Farm in the past has been that the mazes, while technically "original" ideas have not been all that, well, original. Yeah, you didn't base Slaughterhouse off of a movie, but... well, it's not exactly an outside-the-box idea.
Speaking of originality, one of Live Show Supervisor Jeff Tucker's talking points was the freedom granted by not basing mazes on outside properties. What may have been meant as a dig at Universal Studios' movie-based mazes may actually be an indicator that the team learned from last year's Evil Dead takeover of the Timber Mountain Log Ride.
Last year was not the first time Knott's created a movie maze (2006's The Grudge 2 maze earned that distinction), the rushed Evil Dead attraction was... lackluster, to say the least. It was announced last minute, leading many to believe that Knott's jumped at the chance to make a quick buck by advertising the Sam Raimi flick. Whatever the reason, it seems that Knott's is moving away from outside properties, at least for the time being.
In addition to the Elvira show, Knott's returns the pop-culture-skewer-fest The Hanging. Blood Drums is another returning show, while Possessed, Cursed and Academy of Villains are all new for 2013.
The Green Witch remains the official icon of Knott's Scary Farm, though she may have some very pale competition in the mistress of the dark.
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