KNOTT’S SCARY FARM 2021 REVIEW – MAZES

Throughout our years of attending Knott’s Scary Farm, we’ve always known them to have the most mazes out of any halloween event in SoCal. Sometimes offering up to 13 different haunted experiences. At that time, it felt more like quantity over quality. Although people never really seemed to mind because everything had that “scary farm” style which we all loved. But over the years, the quality started to really over take quantity and Halloween Haunt started to really flourish in its new identity…Scary Farm. This year, Scary Farm is offering up 8 different mazes/haunted houses, 5 Scare Zones (1 new this year), and so much more. But today we are focusing on the mazes for 2021!

WAX WORKS

Mysterious lights and strange noises have begun to emanate from the eerie abandoned wax museum. The once prominent plastic surgeon, Dr. Augustus Scratch, has been seen tinkering at night and is now ready to show off his beautiful yet terrifying life-like masterpieces of hot molten wax and bloody flesh.

It’s rumored that blood-curdling screams can be heard echoing through the halls of Wax Works as victims are horrifyingly submerged into a scorching hot cauldron of bubbling wax. Take a closer look at his gruesome works of art and try to escape his deadly grip or become the newest masterpiece to add to his collection.

Back for its second year at Scary Farm, Wax Works continues to scare guests with its extremely dark and gruesome scenes. It seems as though nothing new was added to the maze from 2019, but we aren’t too mad about it. The maze worked perfectly in 2019 and it still does in 2021. The wonderfully dark passageways really create a sense of tension as guests walk through the experience. There is plenty of gruesome imagery to keep guests distracted while scares come from all directions.

One of my favorite aspects of this maze is the facade. How it feels like a real building with videos outside displaying what this place used to be. The juxtaposition between the friendly, yet oddly off putting, queue video and the burnt down facade really help set the tone for the whole experience. The Designer behind this maze, Daniel Miller, really has a knack for creating really beautiful and scary facades for his attractions.

This maze does have a good amount of scares, but it also has more characters roaming the different rooms than it has boo hole scares. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just creates a much different sense of foreboding than is present in other mazes. Ever present monstrosities coming after you in every room is definitely unsettling. That’s not to say you won’t get scared in this maze. I got it more times than I’m willing to admit and that’s because the maze design works in it’s favor, creating many tight turns and claustrophobic scenes. Guests inevitably traverse closer to one side of walkways which helps scare actors come at them with an easy scare.

In 2022 I’d love to see a different scene added or adjust a current scene. The currently ending feels slightly anti-climatic based on how the whole maze feels. But I know that the ending is constructed in such a way because it’s going along the side of two buildings, so there are some major road blocks in creating something big. The previous scene is meant to be the “grand finale” with people in pits of wax, melting and burning to death (how delightful) but with a long back corridor afterwards, I forget it kinda quickly.

THE DEPTHS

A heavy fog drapes over an abandoned port village where ancient creatures lurk inside the pitch-black underground caves hidden below the seaside shores. The Nightwatch Mining Crew has mysteriously disappeared and village rumors point to the eerie tunnels the town sits upon. Myths of the terrifying horrors that lurk within the cave have often been whispered but never confirmed.

Did the crew meet their demise at the hand of vicious creatures that live within the cave? Journey into the ominous caverns and follow the crew’s path into The Depths, discover if the superstition revolving around the cave is true or not. But be warned! All who have entered the haunted trails have never resurfaced.

The Depths is another gorgeous maze designed by Jon Cooke before he left The Farm. The story is sort of lost in the experience, but overall it’s enjoyable even without a clear understanding of what is actually happening. Deep dwelling monsters entrapping and killing miners underground sounds like so much fun!

Something added in 2019, which was clearly removed (or just closed) was the scene where they take you down into the mine. In theory, it’s a perfect moment to catch guests up on the story while providing a small scare. But in practice it just created longer lines and didn’t add much to the story. I’d say adding some scares and story moments would make that moment so much better, but heading straight into the experience is good too.

The myriad of creatures that roam this maze are not only scary, but also really cool to look at. You’ll find yourself forgetting you’re looking at a monster and get scared in the process. Of course, this maze has one of the coolest scenes at Scary Farm! A massive room with the formidable Kraken attacking a massive boat that rocks back and forth as if it were on the rough seas. Seeing this scene for the first time when the maze debuted was jaw dropping. Even today, after having been through the maze multiple times, it is still incredible and is a MUST SEE while at the event.

PARANORMAL INC – THE FINAL SEASON

The Haunting of Hayden Hill: Paranormal Inc. maze reopens its doors one final time to those brave enough to uncover a bizarre and supernatural adventure. Guests investigate a haunted hospital where the patients were tortured for decades by deranged doctors and nurses. Demonic spirits of the murdered victims have been detected throughout the mysterious halls of this haunted hospital, while evil medical staff prowl for new patients to torture.

Ugh…Paranormal Inc has been at Knott’s Scary Farm since 2015 and it debuted with massive fan praise and long lines. Considered to many people as the scariest Scary Farm maze ever created, it was a blow to me and many when hearing it would leave Scary Farm in 2021. Over its long run at The Farm, Paranormal Inc has gone through changes and adjustments that really kept it fresh and new and we are really sad to see it go. Because after all these years, I STILL consider it one of the scariest mazes at Scary Farm 2021.

Extremely dark passageways, ingenious usage of digital and practical effects, a jaw dropping opening show moment, and a multitude of monsters everywhere. I know this opinion isn’t shared by some of the “Scary Farm Veterans” who frequent the event. But I definitely think we ( I am a Veteran attendee of the event) are jaded to a certain point. But seeing new comers go through this maze and literally freak out around each and every corner is probably the most satisfying thing to watch and a testament to how damn good this maze is and how it has maintained it’s ability to scare people after 5 years. For us, Paranormal Inc will forever go down in Scary Farm history as one of the greats and a Scary Farm classic.

Dark Entities

Teleport beyond earth and into a realm where the darkness is absolute. In the depths of space, a lone station faces terror beyond all imagination. An extraterrestrial mutation has invaded the station, and it’s on the prowl for new hosts. The unearthly inhabitants’ force increases as it feeds on its unwilling victims. Escape the dark entities before its deathly force eliminates all living forms aboard the station. There’s nowhere to escape in this scare maze when time is running out!

Dark Entities is one of those mazes that can really be hot or cold depending on the cast within the maze. Luckily, the cast of monsters when I went through were out for blood! They were bouncing off the walls and hitting scares like I’ve never experienced in this maze before. To be completely transparent, this hasn’t been my favorite maze in the past. But this years cast really is going for it and creating a much needed sense of urgency throughout.

One thing I absolutely love about this maze is it’s usage of lighting. There are no overhead lights, it’s all ambient light coming from the set. This is the ONLY maze to do this at Scary Farm and it makes sense given its setting. The lack of main overhead lighting really gives this maze a darkness that others can’t compete with. Also setting the tone with a sense of urgency are slow flashing lights, almost like the ticking of a clock, creating a great sense of tension.

Since its debut, some of the fun moments seemed to have been changed or removed. We would really love to see live actors return to the ending of the attraction because it really made it more dynamic than it is currently. We’d even be okay with a completely new ending when it returns next year. Another thing to keep in mind is the location of this maze. Because it’s located directly behind Paranormal Inc and Knott’s no longer does the “2 for 1” maze lines; it almost always has no wait. This is by far, not indicative of the quality of this maze. Unfortunately lots of people tend to think this way and it’s not true at all. Make sure to spare some time for this maze because the cast truly makes it!

Origins: The Curse of Calico

Pierce the veil of time and discover the secret of the evil fog that hangs over Knott’s Scary Farm in Origins: The Curse of Calico. Unearth the sinister paranormal activity that plagues the town as Sarah Marshall is put on trial for her suspected crimes of witchcraft. All will be unveiled when the Green Witch rises up and curses the townsfolk, transforming all who have accused her into a wicked horde of malicious creatures with an eternal quench for the living.

Let’s not beat around the bush on this one, Origins: The Curse of Calico is still hands down the best maze at Scary Farm. We will say we are bias because we love the idea that there is a maze about the event…at the event. It’s meta in a way only Knott’s can pull off! Utilizing their own home made “IP”, Knott’s puts Sarah Marshall at the center of the story to depict the events leading up to the transformation of Calico into its cursed form.

For us Scary Farm nerds, this is truly the holy grail of mazes. But even for people who’ve never been, they seem to enjoy it just as much. This is because the maze works on multiple levels, and it couldn’t unless each part worked well enough on it’s own. The sound design is stunning, the story telling works not only audibly but visually as well, the sets are some of the best at the event, and the maze design lends itself for so many scares that can evolve over the night.

Another maze designed by Jon Cooke, it takes the gritty realness of Ghost Town while allowing its inherent beauty to shine through in spectacular fashion. The only hard part is finding time to look at it all while monsters lurk around each and every corner. If you’re a Scary Farm nerd like myself, you’ll have to go through Origins multiple times in order to catch all the wonderful easter eggs to Halloween Haunts past!

Dark Ride: Castle of Chaos

Journey through an abandoned carnival ride where cruel carnie folk still linger in the shadows in Dark Ride: Castle of Chaos. The carnival has become a refuge for freaks and carnies. Now those shunned performers have created a dark world of terror which they plan to unleash on those who enter.

Dark Ride will lead brave visitors through a treacherous Halloween maze into the bowels of a long-neglected attraction, as sinister shadows and horrifying scenes cast the gloom over the once pleasant ride. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare, being helplessly trapped inside an abandoned carnival ride without a way out.

Another Jon Cooke classic! This wonderful attraction not only is scary but beyond fun! It’s the perfect example of how a maze/haunted house can be crazy, zany, off putting, and scary all at the same time. There is an inherent humor that underlies all of it which helps set up the scares. You’re traversing the track of a dark ride with rather overly thematic music, but quickly venture into the “employees only” sections of the ride. This is really where the maze excels the most for me. The mix between “on set” and “behind the scene” moments throughout the maze. At times it even feels like you’re truly moving through an old closed ride. I attribute a lot of this to the set and maze design which is really convincing for me.

One thing that was slightly disappointing for me was the missing interactive buttons near the end of the maze which triggered a camera to take guests photo. Which would end up at THE GIFT SHOP, which was the last room of the maze. You could see your photo up on a monitor that said “I got the shit scared out of me at The Castle of Chaos” and it was not only funny and a poke at the theme park industry, but wonderfully interactive. It was missing this year and I’m not sure why! Would really love to see this return to the maze in the future.

Mesmer: Sideshow of the Mind

Within the canvas tent lies the secret of the most potent force in the universe: the human mind. Give in and succumb to the hypnotist Mesmer and his sinister sideshow, as it pries on your hidden fears. Release your inner thoughts and descend into a world of madness, torture, and eerie enlightenment in this haunted maze. There you will uncover the grotesque secrets hidden as you brave through the most terrifying show ever created.

This maze is the closest a Scary Farm maze has every gotten to be true art. This maze is haunting and gorgeous in a way only Daniel Miller can provide. Mixing macabre themes with elegant execution really helps set Mesmer apart from the rest. Mesmer is interesting in many ways. Although everything about it is new, it definitely harkens back to mazes of the past that lived in it’s current location. Mazes like Uncle Bobo’s Big Top of the Bizarre and Black Magic are clear influences on this new “circus” themed maze that fits perfectly within Carnevil. Some of you reading this might find it confusing to compare Mesmer with these prior mazes. But, if you think about it…it’s kind of true. Although thematically Uncle Bobo’s couldn’t be further removed; the carnival theme is very much refined but also the tone is darkened, similar to Black Magic. It also reminds me of mazes like Forevermore, which has narration throughout to help guests navigate the story. While sometimes the story of Mesmer gets muddled; the bare bones idea of the maze is evident enough for everyone to enjoy.

The visual spectacle of this maze is taking Scary Farm mazes to the next level. Large looming creatures and incredibly impressive set designs that keep guests on their toes. Some of my favorite aspects of this maze are the timing of sound design with visual cues. Specifically a scene with metronomes set across a wall with lighting cues to each one. It’s gorgeous in execution and really points to some of the smaller design choices that help make Mesmer stand out from the rest.

I do think the ending needs a bit of work, the whole maze is so damn impressive. And after coming face to face with multiple large animatronics throughout the experience, you’d expect the final room to be absolutely insane. The final scare is effective, just not as grandiose as you’d expect. Maybe it’s a problem of its own design? The whole maze is jam packed to the brim with impressive sets, moments, monsters, and animatronics that nearly anything would be considered disappointing in comparison. But I wouldn’t take away anything from the entire experience just to make the end better because that would just be a massive disservice to the maze as a whole, it’s that damn good.

Pumpkin Eater

Survive the wrath of the murderous 7-foot tall creature that haunts the old woods surrounding The Hollow in the haunted trail, Pumpkin Eater. The notorious creature is on the prowl hidden within the dark confines of the haunted town he once terrorized. To escape the sinister Pumpkin Eater’s wrath all that enter must go on a quest through the silent town of victims, face a cave of crawling insects and solve the labyrinth of thorns that blocks the way out.

Pumpkin Eater is back and just as gross and fun as we remembered! Based on the “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” nursery rhyme, but gone so very wrong. Pumpkin Eater invites guests to visit a small town where a 7 Foot tall creature haunts the old woods. This is the only maze at Scary Farm that makes me cringe. The sound design within the pumpkin scene is visceral and unbelievably gross. This year, Knott’s updated this maze after the tilting barn scene. Instead of corn, you are now where the corn is being processed. And rats are completely infesting the area! We love this addition, although we find rats cute and not gross.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Scary Farm is always the place to visit during Halloween for wildly imaginative ideas that will equally have guests jaws on the floor and screaming in fear. Each year is always such a blast to visit because it truly feels like they try incredibly hard to top themselves. This years lineup of mazes, although only showcasing 1 new maze instead of 2, still packs the punch needed to keep the title of Grand Daddy of all Haunts here in Southern California. There really isn’t much to complain about, but one thing we noticed during our visit was the lack of actors in some mazes. From the perspective of a Haunt nerd, it’s apparent when mazes are lacking actors. But we’ve even heard from guests that some of the mazes feel understaffed, and they are people who are coming to Scary Farm for the first time. I don’t think this is budget cuts or anything related to Knott’s in-particular. I attribute this to the overall issue of staffing many businesses are having currently. There simply wasn’t enough people coming out for open call like they usually do. There are a myriad of reason why this is, but nothing we want to get into on this site nor do we feel we have the proper understanding of it all to say more. Scary Farm is still casting monsters for it’s event, even while the event is running! So hopefully this small issue can be resolved. Then you might be wonder, does this affect the event as a whole? After attending a few nights of Scary Farm…no, we don’t think it does. Although maybe a few rooms feel empty, Knott’s has done a really good job at putting actors where they’ll make the best impact.

The vast variety of maze themes, tones, and scares at Scary Farm 2021 is impressive; while also maintaining a high level of production value and personality. As we creep ever closer to the 50th Anniversary of Knott’s Scary Farm; these experiences continue to be crafted with love and admiration of the event and its storied past. Strengthening the bond between Scary Farm present and Halloween Haunt past. We are looking forward to the next couple years leading up to Scary Farm’s 50th and if this year is any indication of seasons to come…oh boy…are we in for a scary treat.

FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT KNOTT’S SCARY FARM, CLICK HERE!

5 thoughts on “KNOTT’S SCARY FARM 2021 REVIEW – MAZES

  1. Desiree

    I knew something was different about pumpkin eater, but I couldn’t figure out what! Great review! Hoping to go again soon and look out for all the details I missed!

    Like

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