Our initial thoughts on Knott’s Scary Farm 2018
46 years ago a tradition was started at a theme park in Buena Park, CA called Knott’s Berry Farm that would change Halloween forever throughout the theme park industry worldwide. On the weekend of Halloween in 1973, Knott’s Berry Farm was transformed into Knott’s Scary Farm’s Halloween Haunt. Complete with monsters roaming the streets of Ghost Town and a show in the old John Wayne Theater hosted by Seymour, the 1st year of Scary Farm was a huge success. Knott's Scary Farm is no longer just a one weekend event. On Thursday September 20, 2018, the gates of Knott’s Scary Farm opened for another terrifying year. This year there are 25 nights, 9 mazes, 4 scare zones which includes the brand new Forsaken Lake and 4 shows if you count the dance party in Fiesta Village called Awaken the Dead. Below you will find our review on each maze, scare zone and show from opening night. This will be our honest opinion of each and we will try and include photos from the event. Photos and maze review updates will be added throughout the Halloween season so be sure to check back later. Hope you enjoy this opening night 2018 review. Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, give feedback. We'd love to hear from you.
2018 Maze Reviews
When first released on August 30th, 2018, Knott’s maze lineup on paper was the best it’s had been in years. There was excitement in the air for the returning mazes and the two new mazes had the potential to be the best two new mazes the Farm has seen in a really long time. Of course mazes can sound amazing but if the talent doesn’t live up to the hype of the maze, there will be some letdown. Opening weekend is difficult for talent as they’ve only had a dress rehearsal to practice their scares. Mazes don’t usually find their groove until the 2nd weekend. This was definitely true for some of the mazes last night. Talent will need to learn how to pace themselves and some will need to learn not to run into guests while they are trying to scare. Having said that, here are our first impressions on this year’s mazes.
The newest maze from Gus Krueger, Dark Entities is fun, creepy and very well detailed. The lighting is some of the best that Knott’s has ever done. There are over 1,100 interactive lights throughout the maze which only adds to the intrigue. To put that into perspective, prior to this year, Special Ops Infected had the most amount of interactive lights at around 250. Dark Entities pushes the boundaries of the lighting team like they have never been pushed before. The story flows well and it is easy to get sucked into the surroundings which make you feel as though you are really on a space station. The talent was hit and miss throughout the maze all 3 times we went through on opening night but for the most part they kept their energy level up until the end. This maze left a very good first impression on us and should have a really great run this season.
The Depths is the other new maze this year and replaces Voodoo. The facade isn’t much to look at but on the outside of the maze their is a really cool lighthouse that looks fantastic. This was our first maze of the night and to be honest, the story is a little confusing. The maze doesn’t flow quite as well as I was hoping for but having said that, the sets are really cool, the talent for the most part was doing well all 3 times we went through and the finale is awesome. One of the best finales ever seen in a Scary Farm maze. No spoilers here. You’ll have to see for yourself. Once everything clicks for this maze, it might end up being maze of the year.
Dark Ride takes over the Boardwalk Ballroom for the 2nd consecutive year. A huge fan favorite from 2017 and definitely our top maze of last year, Dark Ride has taken a very slight step back this year due to a couple of lighting choices and a lack of energy on opening night. The maze still looks amazing in the rooms you could see however the room with the monkeys from last year was completely blacked out on opening night and you were unable to see the amazing makeup work on the monkeys. That was very disappointing. Hopefully some lighting gets added to this room this weekend. Some of the talent was doing well and had decent energy throughout the night. If the talent grows a bit and the lighting gets updated in a few places, this will be another strong year for Dark Ride.
Last year Daniel Miller delivered another terrifying maze with Pumpkin Eater. It was great to finally have a maze again at the entrance of CS and it fits the theme of The Hollows so well. Opening night was a mixed bag for us. The first time through this maze the talent was on fire. It was easily the best maze of the night after our first trip through. The 2nd time through though left a lot to be desired. Not sure if the talent burned themselves out in the first couple of hours or what happened, but there was zero energy from 90% of the talent the 2nd time. This is where they will really need to learn how to maintain a good energy throughout the entire night. It was opening night and there are a lot of things that always need to be worked out, we just hope that moving forward the talent will pace themselves a bit better so they can maintain that energy throughout the night and weekend.
Trick or Treat Lights Out
The only maze of the night we did just once and that was enough. We know that a lot of people have enjoyed the new “lights out” edition of this maze but to us this maze has been stale over the last several years and adding a “lights out” feature does nothing to warrant this maze coming back another year. The talent on opening night didn’t have much energy although it is probably quite a challenge trying to scare in that type of environment. The final hallway that is supposed to be pitch black when your flashlights suddenly go out wasn’t even covered so there was a lot of light being let in from above which completely took away from what should be the darkest part of the maze. If you enjoyed this maze last year, you’ll enjoy it again but for us personally, we hope 2018 is the final year for Trick Or Treat. This is a great maze location and it needs a fresh theme.
The Red Barn
The Red Barn year 3. This maze has yet to reach it’s full potential and at this point we are not sure it ever will. There are some changes to a few of the rooms this year but the changes don’t really enhance the maze. There is a platform outside of the entrance where some guy stands up there with a microphone and talks to the guests in the queue. We weren’t able to hear what he was saying so we can’t comment on whether that addition is a positive or a negative. I applaud Knott’s for attempting something new for guests to interact with while in line, but we won’t know if it has the desired effect until we actually wait 30+ minutes for this maze. The talent was average on opening night. Some had a lot of energy while others didn’t have much at all. There is one guy in a wheelchair near the end of the maze that was funny every time we went through. He’s not scary but the humor works and was probably the best part of the maze. The guy at the end actually had a chainsaw but every time we went through he would hide behind the walls so we never got the full effect. Hopefully the talent will step up and bring this maze to life. Otherwise we could see this being Red Barns last year.
This is year 3 for Shadow Lands and gone is the pre-show which is a little disappointing. The pre-show was always fun and set the tone for the maze. In 2018 you begin in the forest which always came right after the pre-show. The rest of the maze is identical to the first 2 years. The talent was pretty lackluster on opening night except for those in the forest in the beginning of the maze. Opening night can be rough so we will see how this maze evolves in year 3 over the course of the run. There might still be some life left in Shadow Lands however the talent will need to step up bring the energy and the scares. If not, this might be the last year for this maze.
Paranormal Inc. Case #13 - The Haunting of Haden Hill
Paranormal Inc. debuted back in 2015 with rave reviews. It was one of the most beautiful and detailed mazes that Knott’s had ever produced. It has remained one of the most popular and successful mazes ever since. So going into year 4 we wondered what could they offer to make this maze feel fresh. Most mazes tend to start losing steam by year 3 and definitely by year 4. The beginning of this maze is the same as it has always been however the ending has been completely changed and it is brilliant. This is Paranormal’s best year since it’s debut. The talent was great on opening night, the sets are as beautiful as always and we cannot rave about the ending enough. We have never had a maze feel so fresh in year 4 as Paranormal feels this year. This is a definite must see in 2018 and one of the top mazes of this year. Get there early as there is still a pre-show and the maze capacity is limited to an extent.
Update: Paranormal Inc. is our favorite maze of the year hands down. After experiencing this maze multiple times over the course of two weeks, it has risen to the top of our list. That is very odd for a 4th year maze, but the new ending combined with the talent and energy level throughout the maze, this almost feels like a brand new maze. A definite must see this year. You do not want to miss Paranormal Inc. Congratulations to the entire team for breathing new life into an aging maze. Going into 2018 we were expecting Paranormal to be in it’s final season, but now we hope it’s back for another couple of years.
Special Ops: Infected
We were unable to experience Special Ops Infected on opening night so our full review will be coming soon. We haven’t been that thrilled with Infected over the last couple of years but this year there is a new talent captain (whom is a former Ghost Town veteran) that has taken over Infected and we are excited to see what he’s brought to this maze.
Update: We got to experience Infected on Saturday September 29th and I have to say, this is as good a year as any. When we went through the maze was full of talent and all were very interactive. I got 19 kills by the end which I think is my highest score ever. Major shout-out to former GTS monster and now Infected TC Greg Daniels for bringing out the best in the individuals who make up the Infected team. Very impressed with this year. We highly recommend getting here early as the lines to tend to get very long, very quickly.
2018 Scare Zone Review
One thing Knott’s does better than any other theme park are the scare zones. Scary Farm created the scare zone and it all started with Ghost Town. We weren’t able to spend much time in any scare zone on opening night so these will just be preliminary review on our first impressions of each zone and we will have a more detailed review soon.
From what we were able to see on opening night, Ghost Town is back to being the premier scare zone at Knott’s Scary Farm. Everything about Ghost Town just works so perfectly. The natural setting, the lighting, the fog, the monsters. It’s a perfect blend not found anywhere else. The opening ceremony this year is slightly different than the last couple of years. No longer do the monsters walk out to Johnny Cash’s Ain’t No Grave. This year they still all walk out together but they walk out to the song about Forsaken Lake that debuted at this year’s Midsummer Scream (www.midsummerscream.org). It’s still a great opening but I think coming out to Ain’t No Grave worked just a little bit better. Our biggest complaint about Ghost Town on opening night was the lack of fog down fog alley. It was also a bit brighter than normal with several different colored lights, but we didn’t mind that too much. If it was as foggy as normal, the lights would just add to the atmosphere. Here’s hoping that moving forward, fog alley lives up to it’s name.
Update: On Saturday September 29th, fog alley was full of fog. It was still a bit brighter than normal but the additional lighting actually adds to the creep factor a little bit. The talent was great again from what we experienced although we still didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Ghost Town. One of these nights we will definitely take a seat and watch these talented folks work and do what they do best. Scaring the holy hell out of their victims. I mean guests.
When Forsaken Lake was first announced we were truly excited. The theme sounded so perfect and the early costume and makeup designs looked amazing. So when we walked into Forsaken Lake for the first time, we were a bit underwhelmed. In person, the costumes and the makeup are amazing. Some of the best we’ve ever seen. The rest of the scare zone could use a little work. The set pieces are a bit awkward and out of place. There is also a real lack of fog and there isn’t too much show lighting. Most of the zone is pretty dark which really affects the funeral procession that takes place a few times a night. We were standing right in front of where the show takes place on opening night and it was fairly hard to see what was going on. Some green or blue lighting would really help the mood. Hopefully as the season moves along some pieces are added to really help make this zone what it truly could be. We are excited to see the evolution of Forsaken Lake.
The Hollow was a little disappointing in 2017. There was hardly any talent whenever we would walk through and the shows they would put on 3 times a night were hard to see and didn’t really add to the zone all that much. This year, we made two full trips through CS on opening night and both times there were creatures and witches everywhere and they were full of energy. It was a great change from the previous year. We were able to catch one of the shows at one point and while it was short, it did seem to work quite nicely. Hopefully the talent working in The Hollow this year brings it every night and manages to stay out in the zone and visible. It is a large area to cover so they will have to space themselves out so there is coverage throughout the zone. But we are looking forward to a very successful 2018 for The Hollow.
2017 was a rough year for Carnevil. The energy was very low throughout the entire season and the scare tactics were pretty rough. Of course the construction of Hang Time made things pretty difficult for the talent but they didn’t adapt all that well. On opening night of 2018, Carnevil was on fire. The energy was high, the scares were plenty and the lighting is back. We are not sure if there is new blood in Carnevil or if the removal of the construction walls and the return of the great lighting has brought a new excitement within the souls of the returning clowns, but whatever the reason, we are extremely excited to see what the rest of the season has in store.
Updated: Carnevil was on fire again on Saturday September 29th. There was tons of talent and they all had high energy throughout the zone. It is great to see this zone flourishing again. After a couple of tough years it appears as though Carnevil is back in top form. Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season brings out of these crazy clowns.
2018 Show Review
We did not see any shows on opening night so we do not have any reviews, but we will update as the season moves along.
The Hanging: Shhhh It Happens
Hacks Cutting Room Floor
On Saturday September 29th we went and saw the 11:10 show of Conjure featuring Taylor Hughes. We weren’t sure what to expect but we enjoy a good magic show as much as the next person. The Birdcage Theater was just about full when Taylor took the stage. His humor combined with his delivery, guest interaction and misdirection made this show extremely enjoyable. Some of his “tricks” had guests shaking their heads in awe. There were no mirrors, no big props, just simple slight of hand tricks that were pulled off right before our very eyes. By the end, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the show was and would love to go back to see what other magicians have to offer. In our opinion this is a great show and if you happen to be walking by the Birdcage Theater and they are seating for a show, take a step inside and watch some fun magic. You won’t be disappointed.
Awaken the Dead
Knott’s Scary Farm has decided to bring a dance party back into Fiesta Village and give it more of a party atmosphere rather than a scary one and we could not be more disappointed. Fiesta Village has a great setting for what could be a fantastically creepy scare zone. The problem is that Fiesta De Los Muertos never got the attention it deserved. The lighting was never very good, the music was terrible but the talent was usually on point but they didn’t have much to work with. They call it Knott’s Scary Farm for a reason. There shouldn’t be a DJ and dance party anywhere in the park. Our hope is that one day the powers that be at Knott’s decide to bring a maze back into this area. It was always the perfect location and it never shut down any rides and didn’t really disrupt the flow of day guests. Awaken the Dead dance party is definitely not the answer for this area.
Opening Night Conclusion
2018 appears to be another great year for Knott’s Scary Farm. There are some adjustments that need to be made here and there and some talent that needs to find their groove, but overall opening night was a success. We will be adding more reviews, updated reviews and additional photos throughout the run so please continue to check back with us to see what’s new. And if you liked this review, please feel free to comment and share. Thank you. See you in the fog.