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To Scare or not to Scare: Part I

To Scare or not to Scare: Part I

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Every year, for the past thirty-two years, Knott's Berry Farm undergoes a transformation into what has become an enduring tradition for people who want a good fright. Knott's Scary Farm has been called the "Granddaddy of the haunted attractions." With its highly imaginative mazes, and extremely funny shows, Knott's has virtually set the standard for other haunted attractions like Universal's "Halloween Horror Nights," The Queen Mary's "Shipwreck," and the San Fernando Valley's extremely popular "Spooky House."

Knott's Scary Farm features twelve mazes, six shows, and more than one hundred "scare actors." I have found that in the years that I have been attending the Haunt that it is next to impossible to experience everything in one night. I have found that there are two intricate parts to a maze that can either make it or break it, and they are the theme and the scare factor for the maze. I will be reviewing each maze and the shows that I had the opportunity to experience.

"The Asylum": An abandoned sanitarium is the setting for this maze. The denizens of the Asylum are the escaped mental patients that have taken over. The look, especially the outside is particularly striking and creepy looking. The scares are more focused on disturbing images than actual people jumping out and scaring you. However, for the most part, a solid effort.
Theme: 9
Scares: 8

"Blood Bayou": There's nothing worse than a maze that has outstayed its welcome. Blood Bayou is no exception. The maze features what the map describes as "Voodoo Zombies" (of which there was only one) and "Cannibalistic Inbreeds" (of which there were many ad nauseum). The maze is overlong and has been the exact same maze for several years now. It is in serious need of an update. The only good thing I have to say good about this maze is that it certainly does deliver on the scares.
Theme: 4
Scares: 8

"Hatchet High": The storyline for this maze, is that a meteor has crashed into a high school, and has left the students and faculty horribly mutated. However, while the theme for the maze is very fun, the scares are quite simply not there. The maze is a very macabre tour through the halls of Hatchet High. Yes, there are evil cheerleaders and the requisite football players, (one who actually got intimidated by my height. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.) but the maze comes off more as cute rather than scary. Don't get me wrong, the maze is fun, but it needs to be scarier.
Theme: 8
Scares: 4

"Malice in Wunderland": In the years that this maze has been a part of Knott's Scary Farm, there has been one constant. Malice in Wunderland is without a doubt one of the most intense experiences in the Halloween Haunt. Alice in Wonderland gone twisted is a concept that has been done and redone several times and this version is no exception. Aside from American McGee's brilliant vision with "Alice", this is the best of the bunch. Throw in a set of $1 3-D Glasses, and you have an incredible maze that is both surreal and frightening at the same time.
Theme: 10

"Carnival of Carnivorous Clowns from Outer Space": As my group and myself were walking down the line to "Malice," we saw a wayward clown holding a sign that said, "Malice sucks, come to Clowns." I want to say that the clown was right but unfortunately, this is another maze that was exactly the same as it was the past couple of years. No new scares were added, so it does suffer a bit in this department. However, this is a solid effort and the themeing and scares for the first timers are definitely very well done.
Theme: 8
Scares 8

"Army of the Underworld": The Classic "Calico Mine Train" has been transformed into something out of "Army of Darkness." The creatures look as if they were ripped straight out of Sam Raimi's 1994 horror flick. The design and attention to detail is nothing short of incredible. Not one bit of the "normal" version of the Mine Ride is recognizable. The scares, however leave much to be desired, although there is one room in particular where the train stops and while there are monsters standing there, they do...absolutely nothing. It's a great mind trick, but again, it could have been pushed farther.
Theme: 10
Scares: 5

"Red Moon Massacre": The "Log Ride" as well has been transformed into a sawmill where werewolves have taken over. There is a storyline involving Little Red Riding Hood but that story is lost in the incredible visuals and the fact that the boats move so fast that many of the scenes fly by quickly. The ride is fun though and is the one of the best horror themed areas in the park.
Theme: 8
Scares: 9

"Terror Vision in 3D": Without a doubt one of the best mazes in the park. This maze deftly mixes scares and a great theme, with just a dash of nervous laughter. The storyline is that our beloved shows have gone twisted. For example, the "Brady Bunch" has become the "Fraidy Bunch." Gilligans Island has become known as "Killigan's Island." Truly a fun theme, and thrown in the $1 3D glasses you get a truly frightening and funny experience all at once.
Theme: 10
Scares: 10

"Curse of the Spider": Not a maze for those who have a fear of spiders, "Curse" is another of those "Can't miss" mazes. Entering a dark cave, you are assaulted from all sides by giant mutant spiders. The scares are slowly ratcheted up until you find yourself walking under a giant spider. Creepy, and scary as hell.
Theme: 10
Scares: 11 (An 11 simply because I am deathly afraid of spiders and this was my way of getting over my fears.)

"Jaguar: The Temple of Sacrifice": What a lame concept. Just because "Jaguar's" façade looks like an Aztec temple, a good maze this does not make. In fact, the maze is uninspired and the scares are so few and far between that by the end of the maze you really don't care what happened. The novelty with the Mine Train and the Log Ride is that the rides themselves are part of the scares. This one, sadly, is not.
Theme: 1
Scares: 0

"Lore of the Vampire": Truly one of the more original ideas for a maze. It utilizes both indoor and outdoor locations to seamlessly bring you a frightening history of Vampires. The sets are beautiful and the scares are definitely there, but they are pale (pun intended) in comparison to some of the other mazes in the park.
Theme: 9
Scares: 7

"Red Beard's Revenge": Now, this is the perfect example of how to do a maze. There is a logical progression throughout. You go from a bar filled with pirates, through a haunted pier, into a sunken ship, and finally end up where the pirates have hidden their treasure. The scares are very much a dominating force in the maze and for the Disney fans there are very subtle knocks at "Pirates of the Caribbean." Definitely a can't miss.
Theme: 10

As far as the shows go, unfortunately the one show that I was able to see was "The Hanging." This is the show where celebrities and movie characters that have caused the most pain and suffering to the general public are humiliated, shot, stabbed, and pretty much destroyed in extremely violent and amusing ways. Up until last year, Knott's had the distinction of being able to use horror movie "hero" Freddy Krueger as their main executioner. Sadly, New Line Cinema has forbidden Knott's from using the Freddy and Jason characters in the Hanging show. However, that is definitely not to say that the show has lost any of its bite. The show is absolutely hysterical and not one that should be missed.

The best way to get to see as much as possible is to book a reservation for a pre-scare dinner. It'll set you back about eleven dollars and you get to go into some of the mazes a whole half hour before the park opens to the general public. This is great because the Mine Train and Log Ride fill up fast and waits can easily exceed two hours. Or you can even book a V.I.P. reservation for fifteen dollars and not only get into the park, before the general public but you also get to have dinner in Ghost Town where many of the really creepy monsters are and this opens it up for some great photo opportunities. My other bit of advice, arrive early. The park gets extremely crowded if not there early, the wait just to get into the park can exceed forty-five minutes.

That's it for me. Join me here next week when I have a review of another one of Southern California's haunted attractions.

Rick Gutierrez is a Theater Arts Directing Major with a minor in Journalism. He lives in North Hollywood California with his wife, Molly and his hamster, Pippin.

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