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...
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 (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.
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.
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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