Knott's Berry Farm opened the 49th edition of its industry-changing Knott's Scary Farm after-hours Halloween event Thursday night, highlighted by two new mazes.
Last year, Theme Park Insider readers chose Knott's Scary Farm as the runner-up to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights at the world's best theme park Halloween event. Knott's was the original such event, however, and even with the competition from Universal, remains a must-visit for many Halloween fans - and not just for those from Southern California. As I was exiting one of the new mazes this evening, a Theme Park Insider reader from Australia greeted me, telling me that he has just flown in from Orlando, having gone to Halloween Horror Nights last night. Knott's Scary Farm is a global brand among theme park fans now - and this year's event shows again why Knott's has earned that respect.
So let's get to those two new mazes, shall we? The first, Bloodline 1842, replaces Paranormal, Inc. in the park's backstage area. It's a huge upgrade, providing an impressive visual spectacle with the added bonus of shoot-'em-up game play.
The story here is that we have volunteered to defend the streets of Valdonia by attacking bloodthirsty Valhymphri with the latest Bellatorian weaponry. That's the type of word salad that I would expect from a detailed video game adventure, and Bloodline 1842 delivers a taste of that IRL.
With just two new mazes a year to develop and install - and no IP licenses to pay - Knott's goes hard on story and theatrical effects. The production design here elevates what could have been a gimmicky shooter maze. In fact, the targets here seemed relatively scarce. Just look for scareactors wearing a necklace of blue lights, the fire away until they turn red. But beyond the targets, there is so much to gawk at here.
As much as I enjoyed Bloodline 1842, this year's other new maze left me more impressed. The Grimoire sucks us into the world of a mysterious spell book that can turn nightmares into reality. Set in the queue and building for the late, great, Mystery Lodge, The Grimoire replaces last year's Invitation to Terror show. It's another upgrade, showing how horror can make you think as well as feel.
We enter through a graffiti-strewn maze that leads us to a campground where two enthusiastic young campers share with us this neat old book they just found. Veterans of horror tropes know that's not gonna be good, and sure enough, all hell soon breaks loose. Literally. Here The Grimoire offers its first unexpected twist, directing us into one of the campground tents to continue our adventure.
From there, we walk through a 19th century home, a World War I trench, and a 1950s suburban home on our way back to the campground, which now has been overrun by The Grimoire's demons. Eventually, we end up in a suburban backyard, into which we descend on our inevitable journey to eternal hellfire.
Yup, that'll keep the kids from cracking open any books. Better stick with the TikTok, I guess. Seriously, the WWI scenes here shook me, putting us into a claustrophobia-inducing trench, enhanced by some of the best audio design I've heard at a theme park Halloween event. That feeling is echoed later un the maze as we descend into the backyard on our way into Hell - another version of the same thing surely feared by those trapped in Europe's trenches more than a century ago. Whether you crack open the book or not, some damned fool will set history on repeat. It's a heavy message for a Halloween event, but one shows that horror need not be a superfluous genre.
Returning mazes this year include last year's Mesmer: Sideshow of the Mind [Video], a master class in carnival fun-house tricks that embraces the theatricality of Knott's mazes, as well as 2019's Wax Works [Video] and Origins: The Curse of Calico [Video], which gives Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town the creepy backstory that the home of the industry's original Halloween haunt event deserves.
The Depths [Video] and Dark Entities [Video] also impress with their visuals, as well as their surprises underfoot. If Knott's keeps with its track record, this could be final year for Dark Ride [Video] and Pumpkin Eater, which debuted in 2017. As a sarcastic love letter to many of the tropes found in classic theme park attractions, Dark Ride has been a fan favorite and is well worth a walk through if you've not experienced it before.
Knott's Scary Farm's shows include the returning Puppet Up! Uncensored returns in the Walter Knott Theatre as well as a new Conjurers: Dark Magic show in the Bird Cage Theater and Carnaval du Grotesque on the Calico Mine Stage. For tickets to Knott's Scary Farm, starting at $59, please visit our travel partner's Knott's Berry Farm tickets page.
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