Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Knotts Scary Farms Halloween Haunt 2010 Review: Longest post ever.

This is a post that does not involve just Halloween; it involves my entire experience at Knott’s Berry Farms and compares and contrasts the daytime standard park experience with the Halloween Haunt. Also before we begin I want to let you know that my night pictures are very fuzzy/grainy/smudgy, I apologize on the lack of image quality, and I will attempt throughout this post to utilize photographs that others have taken that are of better quality than my own images.

I arrived at the park about a half hour after opening, and it was an overcast, humid day ripe with the potential for rain. The park was already half ready for the evenings Haunt, with fire resistant scrim “spider webs” spread over the walls, windows, and signs for the theme park gates and signs were up for the various themed sections for the haunt at night when you walked in.

The first place we went to was the Camp Snoopy Section. It instantly captured my heart as that day they were doing “Camp Spooky”, Kids were running around to a couple of booths set up, making Halloween Crafts and getting candy. Halloween Music was playing over the loudspeakers, and the first thing to begin playing on my visit was the Monster Mash. The Kid Halloween music was only playing in the Camp Snoopy Area and was a delightful start to my day.

It ended up raining, and because of it the park was nearly empty, so it was an excellent opportunity to enjoy the park without a ton of people around.

Some of the Haunted Maze entrances are evident as you walk through the park, most notably the entrances for Dia De Los Muertos, The Doll Factory, Fallout Shelter, Labyrinth, Virus Z and Corn Stalkers. In Camp Spooky, the Very Beginning of Corn Stalkers is opened to the kids as Snoopy’s Haunted Harvest, so that they can walk through. It was short as they routed the kids away from the truly scary sections, and back out in to Camp Spooky.

Two Rides were obviously decked out for Halloween during the day, one being the Log Ride and the other being the Calico Mine Ride. I did not get the chance to go on the Calico Mine Ride, which at night is renamed Black Widow Cavern, but I did have the opportunity to go on the Log Ride.

At night the log ride is renamed Sleepy Hollow Mountain. The things I saw were pretty basic but two props stood out, one being some my favorite Animatronics from Scare Factory: the Headless Horseman and Haunted Horse. It was not active at the time, but just seeing it made me grin wildly. The second thing that stood out was the pumpkin gate from The Gauntlet Haunted Maze from years past. The Gauntlet no longer exists, so the pumpkin arch had been repurposed from an Entrance Gate in to a very complex set piece in the log ride. This was not lit during the day.

Other Elements that were obvious during the day were the lamp-post scarecrows that indicated the theming zones of the park at night, dressed skeleton props are throughout the Ghost Town, and The Entrance to the Charles M Shultz Theatre is transformed in to the Entrance for Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus of Magic and Mayhem, a show I’ll speak of later in this post. Also throughout the park are Halloween Merchandise, of course, and one thing in particular caught my eye. It was a pumpkin Head plushy! Oh, I coveted one of those during my day in the park, and I finally got it before leaving for the hour and a half that the park is closed for a speedy retheming of the various areas of the park, opening of the other entrance areas for the 5 other mazes in the park, deployment of drinking zones, and warming up those fog machines.
HE'S SOOOOOOO CUTE! His name is Gourdie.
And he says Squash all the time. hehe. OMG Squee. 

My Husband, the Doctor and I left the park about a half hour before the park closed and went to dinner at TGI’s where we met up with two of our other friends whom joined up with us for the evenings events.
We returned to the park a half hour after it opened again, and was greeted with metal detectors. I was happy to see such precautions taken, not for the sake of other patrons, but for the sake of the actors.
Upon entering, I was greeted with fog, lots and lots of fog. The park was ripe with the scent of fog juice, and lights shone through the murk. I have to say the atmosphere was electric, with teenaged girls freaking out by the very sight of the fog. That’s when I heard them, ducking through the darkness, the scratching and clinking of metal fingertips and metal shoes against pavement, then the screams. It was, in a word, incredible.

Themed areas or Scare Zones:

The atmosphere was the most remarkable thing, something so innocent during the day turned very dark at night. There were three distinct areas of theming, and the rest of the park was generally themed…

The Camp Snoopy area turned in to the Necropolis, a steampunk inspired area involving steampunk zombies on stilts, gear gobos, corseted ladies, a soundtrack that included the sound of steam machines, and at least one lit Zeppelin hanging on a wire. It was my favorite area of the park and provided for my best photos of the night. There was quite a bit of fog and its signature color was red. The Necropolis is one of the more atmospheric areas of the park, and I very much enjoyed that area.

The Boardwalk area turned in to the Carnevil, a land of demonic clowns, The boardwalk already has many carnival games, and all of these were open during the evening. However this area of the park lacked true theming, as it was just the area where the clowns roamed free. The Beer Garden blaring club music in this area KILLED any atmosphere in this part of the park.

The third area was the Ghost Town, which is not very different during the daytime. Western demons and metal tipped spooks stalked the walkways, and it was FILLED with fog. There isn’t a foggier area in the entire park. There was little to no music, just the sound of wind and an organ player on the top of the ghosts towns Inn. It was incredibly simple, but very effective. I felt lost and exposed in this supremely foggy environment and I loved how a monstcer could jump out at any time. The prevailing color scheme in this area involved black lights and blue and was generally very dark.

There were Eleven Haunted Mazes.

11. SlaughterHouse
                This is… a pure gore fest. There were things in there like hanging skin from the ceiling, having humans as sushi and bbq… just pure gore.  It lacks any appeal to me. Honestly. There was nothing remarkable about it. Gore done right is shocking; gore done in droves is ignorant and stupid.

10. Lockdown-The Asylum
                This was the first Maze we went through, and frankly it was forgettable. Yep, crazy inmates, yep, they are murderous. Nope. Not that scary.

9. Club Blood
                Vampires! That’s kinda cool, and Vampire Strippers! Even better. However I’m taking points from them for recycling an image from one of the Blade movies (I believe it was trinity), and not being nearly in-your face enough.

8. Doll Factory
                I honestly do not remember to much about this haunt. I went through it, but extenuating circumstances prevented me from enjoying it fully. I like the premise though.
Found on Flickr, Image by jericl cat
Of Dia De Los Muertos

7. Dia De Los Muertos (in 3D!)
This is the first in my list of “3D” attractions, that list consists of two. This is… well… it’s a pretty haunt, I love the imagery of The Day of The Dead, but it was not a very good haunt. Making a haunt from xenophobic fears of another culture’s holiday is just bad form. It also seemed to show its age, I’m going to guess that this either is an older Maze, or one that was thrown together quickly. I could see the LED tea lights thrown in to filled Neovana glasses… I would have liked to see them do what we among the home haunters do, which is alter the flame elements to make them look better. No such luck. Very pretty, but I’m taking points for sloppiness and badly topical xenophobia.

6 The Labyrinth
This was more wicked nature spirit and Mad Hatter inspired and genuinely appealed to those of us who enjoy a creepier feel. Pan demons stalked the halls and there were many freaky fae laughing maniacally. It also features a large animatronic of a rock monster, which was very impressive. It seems a little disconnected from the rest of the park, but I do give kudos to the actors for making it interesting. The Pan Demons in particular had a great time growling and torturing this poor woman in front of me. And a dancing dandy at the end of the Haunt freaked my Husband and the doctor out.

5 Uncle BoBo’s Bigtop of the Bizzare (in 3D!)
                Black Humor at its finest and another “3d” haunt. I love the really dark carnival music that was blaring throughout the haunt, and the really awesome actors. There was the classic spinning tunnel, moving much faster than usual, and I had to work hard to keep standing while going through it. I liked the polka dot room, and the actors that camouflaged among the dots. I also enjoyed the farting elephant…. The dark humor is really prevalent, culminating with the incredible thingy! What is the incredible thingy? Well…. You got to go see for yourself!

4 Terror of London
                This is one of the few Haunts where I received a good startle, and the theming is top notch. The whore house actors were some of the best, one girl literally sat in a chair upside down to provide a distraction while big bad and creepy snuck up behind and screamed with a bang. I got a scare when an actor popped out from behind a corner at the right moment, and I commended him on succeeding. The music is good, and it is truly beautiful inside, one area involving a meat pie shop with lanterns and another involving a graveyard with a gorgeous angel. This haunt also has an actual STORY. OMG! The story being that you’re constantly just behind Jack the Ripper, you find his victims as you go and encounter the seemly denizens of Victorian London. It is in an area of the park that gets no attention, and there was NO line. This is a do not miss Haunt for those who like creep and story.

Corn Stalkers during the Day as snoopy's Haunted Harvest...
My husband and the Doc. 
3 Corn Stalkers
                I love corn mazes, first off. So when I saw that it was a corn maze I fell in love. It starts off in a hick’s home, and you go through their farms haunted corn fields.  Also it had one of the most impressive endings of any of the mazes, involving a not so obvious hanging man prop at the pinnacle of a barn and a Giant pumpkin Head Animatronic growling and swiping at you. The actors are scare crows and they do their job very well, sitting very still as you stare at them to see if they are real and jumping at you. If you like corn mazes, hit this haunt.

2 Fallout Shelter
                A very creative idea which was one of my favorites, it starts with an atomic holocaust, which leads to desperation in the shelters residents, insanity, and finally extreme mutation. It’s centered on an abandoned military fallout shelter, and is EXTREMELY well done. The settings are very detailed and accurate, and this is home to the best prosthetic/mask in the park, an actor comes out from behind a curtain to scare you and all you see is one side of his face, the other side is spiky and grown out horribly and the actor is in character so he tries to hide the mutation. Brilliant. However it is also home to the worst animatronic in the park, a badly done fully mutated human. Yuck.

1 Virus Z
                This is the best of all the haunts in the park in this humble girls opinion. A classic Zombie apocalypse, the zombies LOVE getting right in your face. It’s obvious that the former residents were desperate, and items are laying everywhere. Zombies are sitting in a movie theatre, there are zombie kids in a bus, zombie office workers, it is so detailed, and so believable, it works. One actress bit at me mere centimeters from my face, another clicked his metal fingertips milliseconds before I crossed the spot of his hand, one actor jumped up at me from a seat in a movie theatre scene, using totally the inability to see afforded by the projector aimed at the guests. The movie theatre had posters from old films including psycho and pussycat kill kill kill. The office scene had ergonomic keyboards stained with bloody fingerprints.  The detail is… astounding. I can’t cover it all here. It was perfect. If you go to Knotts Haunt this year, DO NOT miss this Maze.  Oh and look out for the zombie old lady with the feather duster, it likes to bug tall boys.

Themed Rides!

I didn’t get to go on any! I had wanted to go to on the log ride, because of the props I saw on it earlier, but It closed at one, and I was so tired and busy I could not get in line in time. (the line was 1hour 40 minutes long!)


I only saw two Shows, The first Being Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus of Magic and Mayhem. Ed Alonzo is one hell of a comic Magician, and being able to see him in this capacity was a real treat. My inner magic nerd was thrilled. This is a really good show with loud rock music, girls in corsets and tutus, and some impressive feats of magic and acrobatics. Go see it if you want a 30 minute break from the madness.
I also saw the hanging. Black humor, topical, and killing Justin Beiber. Very funny but very SNL.

My Arguments with the park and what they could have done better:
*Steps up on Soap Box*

The steampunk element in the necropolis was misused and in my opinion, misplaced. The back area by the Terror of London would have been perfect for the necropolis, and another theme could have taken its place in the camp snoopy area. Maybe a classic Halloween Theme with a ton of Jack O Lanterns and really traditional monsters? That’s what I would do. Oh or maybe a witch infested zone, that would be awesome.
The Beer Gardens should not be blaring Techno or pop, that was crappy and killed the mood. Dark Carnival music or dark rock would have been good, but popular club music is mood killing.
Gratuitous Gore needs to stop.
It's pretty and all, BUT WHAT IS IT FOR?!
The 3D gimmick is really getting old. Reality check, WE SEE IN 3D ALREADY! God. Stop acting like its novel. Oh, and if you’re going to have two 3D haunts in the park don’t charge me a buck to buy the stupid 2 cent paper glasses, and don’t sell 3D glasses at haunts that don’t need it. They were trying to sell it at Fallout! It was just another way to get your money folks, and it was a bad way to do it. 
Don’t close the themed rides at 1!
Use what you put up, having crap up for no reason is wasteful.
*Gets off soap box*

The Real Reason you should go:

Throughout my evening I noticed one thing over and over: the actors. So let me focus on the true strength of this park’s haunt. It wasn’t the theming, the sets, the lighting, the layout of the mazes, or the music, it was TRULY the actors.
Let me be blunt: 

The actors in Knotts Scary Farms are the best haunt actors I have ever seen.

They were truly in character from when they started until they left, and each actor had a character that was unique. Before we left for dinner my husband and I spied many of the actors walking in with their costumes in hand. Each takes care of their own costumes and seems to take pride in their characters.

One actor by the log ride was nice enough to allow me to take a photograph of him near the end of our evening, which you can see below. He did not speak, just moved his head, and was quite the smartass, turning away when I moved to take the first photograph. If that gentleman has the chance to read this, thank you for being so kind. Nice mask BTW.

Their costumes were not always complicated, but their interactions with guests and each other made them truly great at what they did.

One actress, one of the lady Clowns, I caught in character at least 6 times that night, the first being when my husband turned to me, pointed her out and called her Creepy, she immediately caught it, ran up to him, and got in his face.
“DID YOU CALL ME CREEPY??!?” a gruff, mean, nearly yelling voice asked my husband from under the clown mask and curly red hair. My husband is a natural smartass and quick on his toes, and responded sweetly.
“No I said you were charming!” The girl under the mask immediately curtseyed, bowing her head forward, acting nearly bashful.
“Why thank you…” a much squeakier, clearer voice responded from under the mask as she turned on a giant clown shoe heel, and stalked away after a teenaged girl.

I saw her stalking teenagers throughout the night. I caught her one last time much later that night interacting with the other Clown girls in the Carnevil section of the park close to the Dia De Los Muertos Maze, the girls were talking amongst themselves, in character, and then the group of them broke out in a terribly creepy laugh.

I loved the Chainsaw guy. He was this BIG Demon clown working in with a band of clowns, a big gang of them, and they would stalk down and scare the hell out of groups of teenagers. It was really beautiful to see the stupid impervious teenaged boys screaming and running for their lives. GOD that was satisfying.

I spotted a witch three or four times walking through the mist in the ghost town streets, it was creepy how she was there and then disappeared in to the fog.

Another actor caught my husband resting. My husband was sitting on a bench, and watching the crowd when he realized that the crowd was looking back at him and pointing and laughing, he looked to his right and an actor was sitting next to him glowering at him. My husband apparently busted out laughing and asked how long the actor had been sitting there, and the actor held up 5 fingers, indicating 5 minutes, got up and walked away.

The actors’ sense of humor was also apparent throughout the entire night.

One actor, while I was in line for one of the mazes caught me looking at an animatronic at the end of the maze, pulled out an Airzooka from behind his back and shot a ball of air at me and busted up in a clown laugh.

One guy in a maze stood there very still, jumped out at us and said sardonically when my husband, the Doctor and I did not react like he had hoped:
“Shake my hand! I’m a scarecrow!”
The Doctor shook his hand with a laugh.

The Gent in the photo above and another actor had a very humorous interaction just before I took his picture. Another actor ran up behind him and kicked him in the ass, and the gent above chased after him immediately, running in to the crowd.

One actor had a fart machine or whoopee cushion and was hiding in the darkness under the giant Gargoyle, he used it and the Doctor reacted with
“OMG the gargoyle farted!” From the darkness a deep voice responded with great humor
“Nope, that was just me.”

In one area, a pair of twin clowns was making fun of the crowd, as they walked past one saying about a woman who rudely ignored them:
“I think that girl has PMS” The other responding in nearly the same voice
“Yes totally, what a bitch.”

In one maze a man walking behind me had an Oakland Raiders jersey on, and one monster Raced out at him and screamed loudly
Scared the guy and set me laughing for a good 15 minutes.

Actors were growling and snarling throughout the night, many were very good at it too. Many actors had the metal finger tipped gloves and metal shoe plates and used them to great advantage. Something so simple got me to blink many times. Some actors even had metal plates on knee pads and used them to slide, sending sparks in their wake. In one haunt, Terror of London, a girl sat completely still and actually scared me when she jumped up, in the same haunt an actor sat in a boat, very still as the crowd walked past, staying still even as one guest shone his light on him and announced that he wasn’t real. The actor jumped up and growled, sending teenagers screaming in to me. In necropolis the actors took a steampunk turn, speaking with English accents or glowering out from goggles.

These actors were truly amazing and just going and seeing their work alone makes it worth the money. They are the ones that make Knotts Scary Farms Halloween Haunt one of the best haunted attractions in the world.
How to do it, visiting the park for Halloween and getting your money’s worth:
Buy your tickets online: Tickets are cheaper online, if you buy them at the gate they are 50 bucks any day and they may run out (there is an attendance cap). Plan around the price, Different days cost different amounts online. The night we went, Saturday the 2nd, was 38 bucks a ticket online.
Get there early: Park early, and enjoy the shopping area beforehand. By early I mean early, like 5pm. parking costs more when you’re just going to the haunt, so go park in Standard Park parking area, and have dinner in one of the Restaurants around the park.  
Don’t pull a 16 hour day: If you go to the Haunt, don’t go crazy beforehand, it’s hard to enjoy when you’re tired from an already busy day at the park.  So if you go to the park for Halloween, plan to only go for the haunt one day, and go the general park another day. Make a weekend of it.
If you’re just going for the Halloween side, don’t plan on going on any rides: Don’t waste your time with rides when you want to see the haunts and shows. Rides are insanely busy during this time. So go to the park on another day to do all the rides.
When you get in to the park, make a beeline for The Themed Rides: That line isn’t going to get any shorter, and it’s best to wait in line now, and then go around to the mazes and soak in the atmosphere after than go to the mazes now and possibly miss out on the rides like I did. They have a map, use it to your advantage.
Make a list: They have descriptions and locations of all the mazes, and all of the times of the shows, on the events map. Make a list of the ones you are interested in seeing and plan accordingly. Think about crowds, The Hanging draws a large crowd and holds them for 30 minutes, so during that show time hit the busier mazes or rides. However, understand that none of the mazes have super long wait times.

Food Is Expensive in the park! Be warned.
Try to take your time in the scare zones: allow the actors to stalk you, give them time to plan. That way they can actually get to you and scare you instead of chasing after you. 
Certain areas of the park are quieter than others: The area around the western gate and The Necropolis are quieter then the Carnevil section, if you need a break from the crowds, head here.
Avoid using flash when you take pictures: Flash can kill an actor’s night vision and kick them out of character.
Don’t take kids. This is, or should be, an adult event. There are a lot of adult themes, and trust me, they are fantastically Lewd. Hehe. 6 year olds SHOULD NOT be in the park during the Haunt.
And try to enjoy yourself.
If it's not fun, it's not worth it. 

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