Knott’s Scary Farm returns, and while only two of the mazes offered are brand new, there’s enough life in the lineup to show some genuine promise. Their rides and coasters offer genuine thrills, tempered with some of the strongest mazes they’ve produced in years, culminating in an experience that’s the best of both worlds. knott’s scary farm 2019
As always, Knott’s Scary Farm 2019 offers much more in the way of live entertainment than its biggest competition over in Universal City. Like last year, Conjurers is a cute rest stop at the Birdcage Theater, but Puppet Up is the clear breakout star of the year, to say the least. Including non-scary options at major haunts is always a crap shoot, but the improvising puppeteers of Brian Henson’s off-color show are so funny and so talented, it barely matters that the Charles M. Schulz Theater has become a de facto “safe zone” from the scares that lurk in the streets and mazes of Knott’s.
Elsewhere, The Hanging is experiencing its strongest year in ages. Pop culture parodies as a genre have largely been abandoned, thankfully, but for all of the comedic low-hanging fruit that The Hanging grasps at, the lore behind the show is being used more creatively than ever, tying its central characters into both the Ghost Town Streets scare zone and the brand new Origins: The Curse of Calico maze. This culminates in an abrupt twist-ending that serves the show well.
The scare zones of Knott’s Scary Farm continue to be its bread-and-butter. Its countless scare-actors are as vivacious and as threatening as ever, making every one-on-one interaction a genuine treat. The fact that a major theme park as large as Knott’s only boasts four scare zones actually works in the park’s favor, so that each zone (with the exception of the expanded, yet still modestly sized Forsaken Lake) gets adequate space for its home scare-actors to really stretch their legs.
Though, for as talented as their citizens are, it may be high time for long-standing favorites like Carnevil to get a makeover. While there isn’t much more intrinsically Halloween than spooky clowns, the almost 20-year-old scare zone would do well with a coat of fresh paint, at the very least.
Infected: Special Ops
Infected: Special Ops is finally bidding Knott’s Scary Farm adieu this year after six years of service. While the interactive maze had its ups and downs during its run (the uneven Camp Snoopy terrain and ticketed time slots of its infancy were luckily short-lived), the last few years saw Infected really hit its stride, meshing its clever and inventive use of laser guns with genuinely well-designed scenery that would be effective even without the run-n-gun effect. The thrill of landing a headshot inside this maze will certainly be missed, even if waiting in gargantuan lines inside Mystery Lodge may not be.
Shadowlands hit the scene in 2016, a brainchild of the famed Jon Cooke, and blew many minds with its unique concept of exploring East Asian folklore and mythology. In a post-Logan Paul world, the fact that its opening scene takes place in a “suicide forest” pushes the boundaries of good taste, but the rest of the maze is every bit as impressive as it was three years ago. With moving walls, bungee performers and some of the most fantastic sound design of any maze at Knott’s, it’s bittersweet that 2019 will be the curtain call for Shadowlands.
The last of three departing mazes, Paranormal Inc. experiences its fifth and final haunt season in Buena Park. A smash hit right out of the gate when it started, Paranormal Inc. took a theme (a ghost-hunting TV show gone wrong) that could’ve been rote and boring and infused it with surprising influences, like the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill. For some reason, this year’s iteration ends shortly and abruptly, and while the final scene is a brand new one, it’s an anticlimactic end to what had become one of Knott’s breakout mazes. That being said, here’s hoping that whatever takes its place near the back of the park has as impressive an opening scene as Paranormal‘s now-legendary prologue.
One of two new mazes for the 2019 season, Wax Works offers some fantastic set pieces, but with an antiquated theme that doesn’t quite rise to the heights that last year’s newcomers did. Even the maze’s facade, while impressive, is virtually a carbon copy of the classic Black Magic facade, right down to the flapping jaw and the projection mapping.
The line queue underneath Ghost Rider, familiar to fans of Trick or Treat, doesn’t have too much to look at, save for a fun retro-style commercial, beckoning guests to Wax Works. Inside, however, there are a few impressive set pieces, showcasing the “exhibits” found inside the wax museum, blending period costumes with some genuinely creepy wax faces. The execution is solid, but in 2019, Knott’s can stand to serve up more original fare.
The Depths made a stellar debut last year, and for 2019, it retains its title as not only the standout maze of the Knott’s Scary Farm lineup, but one of the best the event has ever seen. The Depths takes a theme that could easily be done cheaply, with low-budget sea monsters and undead pirates, and instead weaves a unique, engaging tale that at once feels both classic and thrillingly contemporary. The maze evolves as scenery changes from underground caverns to inside the wreckage of a doomed ship, to say nothing of the phenomenal character design. The sea creatures inside The Depths come to life, sometimes due to fantastic costuming and effects, and elsewhere due to jaw-dropping animatronics. While there isn’t much to see on the outside save for a lonely lighthouse, what’s inside its walls more than makes up for it, creating one of the most unforgettable experiences in Scary Farm history.
Dark Entities debuted alongside The Depths last year and was easily overshadowed. For whatever reason, science-fiction and alien-themed mazes have never done quite as well as other themes at Knott’s Scary Farm. There are a few large, impressive set pieces and alien creatures inside the corridors of Dark Entities, but the maze lacks the urgency that a spaceship overrun by malevolent forces should display (surprising considering the blaring sirens and flashing lights). Not to mention, when a large amount of scare-actors are playing human characters driven mad (a la Sam Neill in Event Horizon), they’re forced to work that much harder to compete with the character designs shown off in The Depths.
There isn’t much new to be seen inside Dark Ride (aside from a hilarious new ending room), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still one of the top mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm. The intentionally low-rent scenery and props in the “ride” portion are as charming as ever, plus, there isn’t much elsewhere in the park that compares to the jaw-dropping scope of the maze’s climax, with its terrifying animatronics and menacing scare-actors. Dark Ride‘s concept of traversing through a broken-down theme park ride remains one of the most original ideas that Knott’s has presented, and the maze can only get better from here.
Origins: The Curse of Calico
Origins: The Curse of Calico is the other new maze for the 2019 season, and the fact that it’s so steeped in Knott’s lore is absolutely fascinating. The maze itself is fantastically designed, with the Knott’s crew using vibrant colors and textures to represent the beginning of the curse that has overtaken Calico, as opposed to how the curse is depicted after years of decay inside the Ghost Town Streets scare zone. Hopefully, Knott’s continues this effort, giving scare zones more of a backstory and perhaps even tying them in to other scare zones (it wouldn’t be hard to canonically link Dark Ride and Carnevil, for example). The effects inside the maze are never too much, either, adding just the right amount of ambience to the brand new maze.
After its debut in 2017, Pumpkin Eater became a fast fan favorite, and in its third season, it hasn’t lost a step. As the maze takes guests from the titular villain’s lair to inside gigantic pumpkins, even the air changes, becoming humid and sticky. This may well be accidental, but nonetheless, it adds quite a bit to the claustrophobia of the maze. Plus, intermittent scarecrow scenes conjure pleasant memories of Scary Farm favorite, Cornstalkers.
While Knott’s only typically offers a couple of brand new mazes each year, Origins: The Curse of Calico shows that it benefited greatly from the extra time and attention, seamlessly tying together the story of a scare zone, a maze, and a show in a way no haunt has ever done before. Wax Works is the less impressive of the two, but still a fantastic walk-through experience, and Puppet Up is a sleeper hit worth visiting. All of this, plus the always unforgettable street experience of Knott’s scare zones makes 2019 a must-see season for the Orange County behemoth.
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