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Halloween News: New maze announcements from Universal and Knott's

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Published: August 7, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Last week I lamented no new Halloween theme park news, so naturally this week is jam packed. Both Knott’s Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights unveiled new mazes, with Knott’s rolling out their entire slate and Universal grabbing the biggest headlines. Let’s start with a rundown of the announced mazes for the 2014 edition of Knott’s Scary Farm.

Knott’s Scary Farm preview

Knott’s announced four new mazes (compared to six last year) and a Scary Farm season pass last night in Buena Park to the delight of a theater filled with enthusiastic fans. The season pass has been long begged for by fans of the event and as of right now those who currently have a Knott’s Berry Farm season pass can purchase the special blackout-free ticket.

Right, that’s the catch. To get as much Scary Farm as you want, you need to take on a year’s worth of Berry Farm. At just $65 (and in limited supply) it might just be worth it to pick up a season pass for both the regular park and the seasonal event — assuming you’ll go enough times in October to make it worth it.

Now about those four new mazes.

The upcharge maze Trapped is back for its third year and the details were left purposely vague. The maze features a mixture of show elements and up-close-and-personal interactions with monsters over the course of a 25-minute long maze. The idea is to offer a very intimate and horrifying experience for a select number of guests a night. I haven’t experienced the maze either of the past two years, so I can’t speak to its effectiveness — though the fact that it’s back for a third year gives you an idea of how it’s performing ticket-sales-wise.

Voodoo is the new maze from Brooke Walters, a veteran of the Scary Farm design team. Walters described the maze as non-traditional, one that eschews the traditional wooden walls in favor of a more convincing atmosphere. The maze will take place in a large soundstage, giving the designers the freedom to create a convincing bayou set. This maze offers the most promising concept of any of the new announcements.

The Toothfairy maze is classic Knott’s Scary Farm — take a children’s tale and add the three G’s: Gritty, Grungy and Gory. It will take place inside of the tooth fairy's lair, where she has enslaved children foolish enough to try to stay awake to meet her. I expect some sort of hellscape-look with some frightening children-are-trying-to-kill-me imagery tossed in there.

The zombie maze Special Ops: Infected was the last announced and features the concept I’m most tentative about. Knott’s rolled out the fanfare with this announcement; they brought in a slew of actors in military garb and the leader of the troop engaged in a lengthy dialogue with the host of the evening. The gist of the maze is this: Guests are armed with guns and sent in squadrons into the maze to fight the zombie hoard. That’s the end of the official information given by the park.

My takeaway from this is that this interactive element of the maze (or arena, quite possibly) will be an interesting novelty, but will absolutely detract from any potential scares. When creating a maze at an event like this there is nothing more important than the atmosphere. An atmosphere filled with laser sounds and the feeling that you can easily defeat the monsters ahead of you... well, it’s not one that’s going to keep me rapt in fear.

In addition to those new mazes, here’s a rundown of the returners:

  • Trick Or Treat
  • Dominion of the Damned
  • Forevermore
  • Pinocchio
  • Black Magic
  • Gunslinger's Grave
  • The Witch's Keep

You can read my review from last year to get an idea of what to expect from each maze.

While Knott’s announced their lineup in one fell swoop, Universal Studios dropped a few more announcements over the past seven days.

Alien vs. Predator is something of a dream come true and its announcement created as much buzz as any I’ve ever seen while I’ve covered the event. Using molds from the original films, AVP will be held on soundstage 747 in Hollywood (the same location as the Black Sabbath maze last year). Putting the maze inside the soundstage ought to give the creators more freedom and flexibility in their designs while also protecting the large props and puppets from the elements, such as they are.

The maze will be featured in both Hollywood and Orlando and will presumably follow the same storyline. John Murdy tweeted some information (you should go read his entire timeline, honestly) about the setting of the maze. Aliens and Predators are battling in a forest/countryside and we get caught in the crossfire... this maze sounds very promising.

We know AVP will be on the backlot, and I assume The Walking Dead will be as well (it was last year). That means we’re talking about some wild lines for those two mazes — I highly recommend going there first.

As if this week wasn’t packed enough, Universal announced Dracula Untold: Reign of Blood based on the upcoming film (Sept. 19). Murdy has long desired to cross some classic Universal monsters off his list and this Dracula origin story appears to be his window into the mythology. We know the House of Horrors is already occupied by the FaceOff maze, which means this will be getting its own maze somewhere else... perhaps the Jurassic Park queue?

Just seven weeks until you get a chance to experience this all for yourself — until then, we’ll keep you updated right here on all there is to fear.

Readers' Opinions

From Anon Mouse on August 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM
$65 is awfully cheap for a special events pass even if it must be combined with the annual pass.
From Jay R. on August 7, 2014 at 3:38 PM
Jacob,

I heard the AVP maze will have different storylines in Hollywood & Orlando. (This might have changed, though)

In Hollywood, the setting will be within a spaceship with the aliens & the predators, so I think that tweet was in reference to the Hollywood maze.

In Orlando, the maze is suppose to focus on a secret Weyland-Yutani corporation bio-weapons facility.

I might try Trapped this year at Knotts, seems like it would be fun.

From Russell Meyer on August 8, 2014 at 10:21 AM
I'm really looking forward to the AVP maze. Those characters can only be pulled off when the makeup and costuming are near perfect, which Universal tends to be really great at. Some local haunts have tried to do Alien and Predator makeups, and they typically just look sloppy, and aren't in well designed sets. I think the AVP maze could be even better than the Walking Dead maze this year.
From Kris V on August 8, 2014 at 2:16 PM
In my opinion, Alien vs. Predator could be hit or miss. I base this on Orlando's attempts with the Thing franchise. The first Thing house was very scenic to walk through, but was low on scares. It also relied on a bunch of puppets. The second Thing house (based on the prequel) was much better when it came to scares. On top of that, it was an improvement over the film it was based on. No doubt, I believe the AVP house will look great, but a great looking house with no scares does not make for fun repeat visits. I bet it will be in one of the "tents" over by MIB.

I wasn't sold on the film trailer for Dracula Untold (it looked like a lame version of the Batman Begins formula for Universal monsters), but that doesn't mean it won't make for a good house. The Wolfman was a great house based on a very boring film.

Does anyone know if the Halloween film house been confirmed yet? If so, that means we're probably only getting 3 original story houses and five IPs. That's the same as last year, but I really wish it could be an even amount, especially if the scarezones are going to be based on IPs as well. I know IPs bring in the money, but man, we have had some awesome original houses over the years and I would hope that the creative team would stretch themselves to continue this.

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