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Event Review: Knott's Scary Farm 2016 at Knott's Berry Farm

September 23, 2016, 10:04 AM · Knott's Scary Farm is at war with itself. On one side, the cheesy, spooky aesthetic that has become synonymous with the original theme park Halloween event over the last decade — on the other, a movement towards scares over charm and darkness over illuminated cheese.

When the latter wins, Scary Farm is at its best. When it doesn't? Well, you get much of the same that you've gotten in recent years. This is an event that's understandably aiming for a younger crowd than you see at Halloween Horror Nights — but high schoolers want to be scared, too. I think.

The direction I want to see Knott’s move is towards more simple scares and away from trying to create production values it doesn't have the resources to deliver. Turn off the lights, hide the scareactors and use set dressing to distract me while actors jump out from the other side of the room.

If that's not what you want, fair enough. I think it's fair to give you the lens through which I approach this event before telling you the must-dos and the mazes you can skip if time is tight. If you get to Knott's early and work counter-clockwise, you should be just fine. That all being said...

MUST DO:

Shadowlands

Shadowlands (Xcelerator Queue)
A newcomer to the 2016 event, this maze replaces Black Magic, which had become something of a staple in recent years. It doesn't disappoint. I was scared as much in this maze as I had been all of last year's event, as darkness was used to great effect.

Tooth Fairy (Behind Ghostrider)
I don't know if this maze is long for this world, as it's been around a while. Yet it remains one of the best concepts to come from Scary Farm in the 11 years I've come to the event, and if you haven't checked it out yet, now is the time.

The Dead of Winter (Theater near Log Ride)
One of last year's most disappointing mazes turned into a big surprise hit this year. Knott's dumped the bright lights and mediocre Frozen jokes and turned in a dark and spooky maze that vastly improved upon its predecessor.

Paranormal Inc. (Behind Ghostrider)
This is a personal favorite of mine and brings the comedy Knott's seems desperate to provide while managing to be quite scary, too. Stumbling through the darkness and entering hell makes this returner a winner.

SURE, WHY NOT:

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat (Under Ghostrider)
This might be Knott's most impressive maze thematically, but it's not scary and has overstayed its welcome. It's a fine diversion, but nothing special.

Red Barn (Boothill Cemetery)
I was pretty excited for this 2016 newcomer and while the throwback Texas Chain Saw Massacre-inspired maze gets it done in terms of set dressing, the two times I went through it didn't provide the number of scares it should have.

SKIP ME:

Voodoo (Behind Ghostrider)
This maze has slid down the learning curve like the banana splits since its introduction in 2014. This year slightly improves on last year's debacle but it doesn't hold up to the first incarnation.

Infected (Mystery Lodge)
I'm outspoken in my general dislike for this defective laser tag extravaganza. A new location didn't fix the problems that face it.

Gunslinger’s Grave (Silver Bullet)
I know Knott’s loves its Ghost Town history, but it's time to give up on this ill-conceived idea. There's nothing here that is remotely scary and that's a problem, turns out.

SHOWS:

Elvira does her thing with dancing and jokes and sexual innuendo that probably makes a lot of preteens regret they came with their parents, while The Hanging is the same terrible drivel that it's always been.

Knott's Scary Farm took a step forward this year. Next year will tell us which side of the coin won the war. #TeamScares

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Replies (12)

September 23, 2016 at 2:49 PM · Which one is better Universal HHN or Knott's Scaryfarm?
September 23, 2016 at 3:07 PM · Paul, the general consensus is that Universal is. I think Jacob put it perfectly when he said that Knotts should move away from trying to deliver production values it can't deliver on.

While Knotts can be fun, in recent years, it was quantity over quality for me. The production value is much lower than that of Universal.

Whenever I go to Knotts, I still have fun, but my expectations are different.

However, I actually prefer Queen Mary over both. Specifically the mazes that take place on the ship.

September 23, 2016 at 3:26 PM · Have to disagree with Jay big time on that. Production value on most new mazes (Infected, Paranormal Inc, and Shadowlands easily meets, and surpasses HHN (Hollywood at least).
September 23, 2016 at 4:05 PM · I wish they would bring back Trapped. The first and third year they did that it was spectacular and worth the up charge.
September 23, 2016 at 4:45 PM · To 99.104.161.56,

That could be true, I haven't gone this year (yet). I was going on previous years where they had many more mazes that seemed to have be lacking in production value.

I'll be checking these out.

September 23, 2016 at 5:17 PM · I last went to Knott's Scary Farm in 2014 and my two favorite mazes were Gunslinger's Grave and Voodoo. I'm surprised to see you ranked them at the bottom. That said, both were heavily reworked in 2015 and it's possible they lost something at that time. I'm also surprised that Trick or Treat is still around...I believe this is its fifth year and it is one of the bottom tier mazes IMO. I'm planning to give this event another try this year (mid-October), and I'm curious to see how it compares both to my 2014 experience and to my annual experience at SFMM's Fright Fest (which was surprisingly good last year...scarier than Knott's and with a few pretty impressive mazes).
September 23, 2016 at 11:00 PM · I thought Voodoo was great last year. Definitely do not skip that one.
September 24, 2016 at 12:37 AM · To Paul,
I personally have found Knotts to surpass Universal's HHN this year, AND last year! Knotts is WAY more fun, the mazes have gotten better and better each year, and are original, and don't rely on pop culture, and I've noticed that their lines NEVER get to the point where you wait 3 hours for a 5 minute maze, like at HHN. I think it's because all of the rides at knotts help spread the crowds around. Also, Knotts actually sells alcohol haha Always a nice plus
September 24, 2016 at 8:38 AM · I go to Knott's Scary Farm every year this is my 15th year in a row. I live in Jersey and fly down to this event and will be doing so OCT 21ST.

Last year I went to Knott's Scary Farm on a Friday and MY FIRST EVER I went to Horror Nights the next day.

I enjoyed Knott's over all SCARE PARK OVER HORROR NIGHTS.

Knott's scare zones are much better then Horror Nights...

TAKE EVERYTHING IN AND KNOTT'S IS Better then Horror Nights on a bigger scale ..plus well for me I can drink in Knott's last year HORROR NIGHTS NO BEER OR WINE OR ANYTHING.

Will be doing Knotts on the 21st and 22nd Horror nights this year.

SEE YOU THERE !!!

Nathan

September 24, 2016 at 11:51 PM · "and are original, and don't rely on pop culture"

Listen... you can argue that Knott's does a lot of things better than Horror Nights, but their mazes are in no way "original." While I don't understand why anyone on planet Earth cares if a horror entity is original (you know, I just want it to be scary), Knott's has for two years running had a maze that started as a parody of a Disney movie, a maze that literally is called "Trick or Treat" and another that's just The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by another name.

That's not a reason to not go to Knott's, but you gotta be kidding me if you think what they're doing is "original" by the weird way you're defining it. Both events have pros and cons — Knott's is much cheaper and less crowded and is still fun. Universal is much scarier but more crowded and more expensive. Also... why not both? I know not everyone can afford to avoid the choice, but if you can, I recommend both!

September 24, 2016 at 11:56 PM · Put me down as well as someone who really values Knott's attempts at pushing Halloween haunting and doesn't really understand the Universal hype train.

Would Universal have had the gall to try something like the Black Ops maze, Trapped from previous years, or this year's Skeleton Key rooms? Why are all of Universal's scares, regardless of maze theme, of the same variety (door opening, lights flashing, etc...)?

But worst of all, Universal's originality is, well, lacking. Their Exorcist maze was a recreation of the famous scenes from The Exorcist. Every one of their American Horror Show maze scenes was from an actual scene from the show, and watchers of that show could easily predict which scenes they would choose. Same for the Krampus maze, Texas Chainsaw etc...

Knott's tries the craziest stories (previous year's Forevermore is a real favorite), and comes up with wonderfully inventive set designs and really pushes original concepts, AND has the classic ghost town setting that screams Halloween from the moment you enter the park.

Better yet, Knott's really tries new ways of scaring. Universal has never done a maze with anything like the theatricality of the opening to the Paranormal maze (talk about crazy original concepts) and years on since Knott's invented both of them, Universal still hasn't introduced a version of the slider scare or the flying scare into their park.

It kinda baffles me. Haunt has been evolving and pushing boundaries for years and Horror Nights has been peddling expensive versions of the same thing for a long time now; yet Universal is the one perceived as the "quality" one.

September 27, 2016 at 11:17 AM · Universal uses LICENCED property. The mazes tell the stories. You are literally walking through the Exorcist movie... you see the progression of Regan's possession. of course you can predict where the maze is going to take you. But you don't know exactly what scare is going to pop out at you. They do the "originals" with the Clowns maze, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, etc. But those mazes don't have the super long lines and the big hype. People want to see The Exorcist and American Horror Story. People like walking through the movies that scare them. They get excited to see LeatherFace pull Kirk into the room with skulls on the walls and slam the metal door. It's like you are in the movie with them. Knotts is fun and the shorter lines can be more forgiving on a less than stellar maze. If people waited 3 hours for American horror story (which, they are), and it didn't feel like the show, people would be angry!

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