Celebrating its 49th year, Knott’s Scary Farm (or Halloween Haunt as us nerds call it) has settled upon the town of Calico and Knott’s Berry Farm once again. This year, Scary Farm boasts 9 haunted attractions, 5 scare zones, 3 shows, and plenty of other fun experiences that very from scary too spooky. While we are a far scream away from its humble beginnings in 1973 where Seymour The Master of the Macabre was the headlining act, there is something intrinsically attached to Scary Farm that has never changed. That’s its deep rooted belief in creating a wonderfully scary and original product for the masses to love during the halloween season.
Scare zones and Scary Farm go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are synonymous with each other and my mind immediately conjures images of Scary Farm scare zones whenever the event is mentioned in passing. What we absolutely love about the scare zones at Knott’s Scary Farm is the abundance of them as well as the variety offered for guests visiting the event.
While in Ghost Town Streets, guests are given maybe the scariest scare zone in all of SoCal if not any haunted event. Filled with fog and teeming with monsters; there really is no place to hide in Ghost Town. If anyone wanted to get an idea of what Scary Farm is all about, Ghost Town is where you should take them.
Then if you wander down Memory Lane, you’ll find a party to die with The Gore-ing 20′s. This zone stands in stark comparison to Ghost Town in the best of ways. While these monsters aren’t visually scary, they’re cut from the same cloth as every other monster at Scary Farm. They’re intense, they’ll get in your face and will give you some of the most unique experiences within a scare zone at the park. On top of that, they have a live band play throughout the night which is really when this zone thrives. It’s just so much damn fun honestly.
Then right down the way on Boardwalk, things take a silly turn because these monsters ain’t clowning around! In Carnevil, the vast array of clowns hold nothing back and thrive within the ridiculous. One moment these mischievous clowns will have you in stitches, then they might be giving you some! Their humor is a great decoy for how scary this zone can be. Additionally, the pure energy in this scare zone is unmatched at Scary Farm.
Venturing further, past Fiesta Village and into Camp Snoopy guests will find themselves in the middle of The Hollow. This is actually the last year of the Hollow and its seriously going to be missed. It’s soundscape and music created a hauntingly beautiful environment. It was rather minimalistic in its approach and it works so well. Compared to the bombastic nature of Ghost Town, The Hollows thrived in luring guests into what seemed to be a more calm environment only to be met with intense scares and some really impressive sliders. If you venture into The Hollow, beware the shadows. Because so much lurks in them that your eyes can’t see.
Then lastly, near Silver Bullet guests can find the fanciful and elegant scare zone of Forsaken Lake. In this boggy fog filled zone, guests will find monsters whose bodies were soaking in water just a bit too long. Chasing guests in hope to add you to their group of the undead.
This years outing in scare zones is still some of the most impressive in SoCal. Although it did seem like some of the scare zones got a bit more love than others. Forsaken Lake felt a bit barren in terms of talent and it becomes more apparent when the fog clears and you get a good view of the entire zone as you walk through. Additionally, it felt like The Hollow was missing a good amount of its lighting. From the Sierra Sidewinder sign, all the way to Huff and Puff felt too dark. We love the dark and eerie ambiance of this scare zone but theres a big difference between lack of light and minimal lighting for mood.
MESMER: SIDESHOW OF THE MIND
Busting out on the scene at Scary Farm last year, Mesmer was not only a feast for the eyes but it was genuinely scary. The way the sound design crept under your skin while the grisly visuals drew your attention was second to none. We are happy to say that in its sophomore year, Mesmer continues to delight us in the best ways. Gone now is the pre-show and it’s been replaced with an additional room guests just flow through now. We like this much more than a pre-show because the maze never really needed it. With its constant narration, it was always relatively clear what was happening throughout the experience.
The scares are plentiful and it seems as though the cast brought what they learned from last year to this year and have somehow amplified some of the scares. Like it’s first year, we still have feelings about the ending of the maze. After a full experience this is just so strong visuals and audibly. For the last room to be a bungee scare feels a bit off. But, if that’s the only issue to be had with the maze then we are happy people.
The Depths is such a ridiculous and fun monster romp. The visuals are fantastic and it’s filled with amazing jaw dropping moments. I mean, guests enter a room with a large scale octopus and venture through a moving ship. It’s imaginative and just a blast. While we love the experience, the story lacks. Visually it doesn’t tell the story well enough for normal guests (not nerds like us) to comprehend it while navigating the scares.
We personally believe that not every maze needs an in-depth story to be successful or fun. In the case of The Depths, it succeeds because of its ability to distract guests long enough with amazing visuals just long enough to scare the pants off them. If we could make a small change, it would be to the ending. Yes, a massive animatronic shark coming at you is fun. But it seems too disjointed from what was happening earlier in the experience. We know that a new, well executed endings can give mazes new life. Just ask Paranormal Inc in its last few years. I think the same thing could happen here.
Waxworks has honestly aged beautifully. While some mazes don’t stand the test of time, WaxWorks continues to bring the scares along with a great big helping of gross out factor. It mixes great lighting design with claustrophobic maze design to really amp up the experience for guests.
One aspect we’ve always loved is the interactive buttons spread throughout the maze. Guests will find red buttons that will play dialogue audio cues from Dr. Augustus Scratch about the different scenes guests are walking through. It’s rather fun allows for more opportunities for the monsters to scare you while you’re busy trying to press the buttons.
Dark Entities has always left us rather confused in its consistency. Many times we’ve ventured into the infected space station and are met with some of the most aggressive scares that Scary Farm provides. Couple that with an absolutely incredible lighting package and a tight maze design and you’d think you’d have a hit on your hands.
Right? Well, unfortunately that’s not always the case. More often than not scare actors aren’t utilizing the naturally dark and shadowy corners of the maze created from the lighting design. They often linger within the passageways creating a more eerie and creepy feeling. When this happens, the lack of jump scare moments compared to the other mazes in the backstage area is painfully apparent.
In its last year, Pumpkin Eater returns one last time to turn guests into pies and maybe turn you into a living jack-o-lantern. Like many Daniel Miller mazes, Pumpkin Eater delighted in not just scaring you, but eliciting visceral reactions from guests. While our opinions on this maze have been hot and cold over the years, it’s still capable of making our skin crawl with its fantastic sound design and rotting pumpkin guts set design.
While Pumpkin Eater easily succeeds in grossing us out, it seems to have lost its teeth. While the sound design and maze design has barely changed since its premiere in 2017. This year we saw almost none of the jack-o-lantern carved face prosthetics that we love so much. We even noticed a lack talent inside the maze, creating many moments where we walked without any scares.
While Pumpkin Eater filled a very important void at Scary Farm, it seems to be the right time for it to be leaving the Farm.
ORIGINS: THE CURSE OF CALICO
Honestly, we won’t lie. We are massive fans of Scary Farm. So when they revealed Origins as a maze back in 2019 we had high hopes for it. But it blew every expectation out of the water. Even with minimal changes since its opening year, Origins remains a classic maze at Scary Farm and is clearly our favorite child.
Although there are moments that could use some tweaking, the over all experience is just so much fun. And don’t be deterred by this maze if you’re not a fan of the events history. This maze does a great job at being able to tell the comprehensive story with dialogue from Sarah Marshall herself throughout the maze giving guests an idea of what they are about to experience.
Another maze in its last year, Dark Ride is still a ridiculous romp into the absurd. Killer clowns, carnies and vagrants have run amuck inside this old dark ride and you’re here to face their wrath.
While I think our run through of Dark Ride wasn’t the best. Mostly because of a major lack in monsters, we know when Dark Ride is staffed correctly it can really be a ton of fun. Also, the maze is showing its age with broke effects and missing pieces that it once had. Even with those issues, we still think Dark Ride is a perfect example at the incredible level of imagination the designers at Knott’s Scary Farm have, and we are here for it.
One of two new mazes at Scary Farm this year, Bloodline:1842 takes the guns from infected and places them within a whole new story. This time around, instead of zombies; you’re hunting vampires (Valhymphri) which is a nice change. Given the long storied history Scary Farm has had with vampire attractions. This time taking a more Victorian era Steam punk feel. Very similar to how Necropolis (camp Snoopy scare zone) looked like.
The actual footprint for Bloodline is massive. Compared to Paranormal Inc (left Scary Farm last year) Bloodline uses the area previously used for switchbacks as part of its pre show and gun distribution. Allowing the warehouse to be used for the entire attraction.
Bloodline has some incredible large scale sets that are just gorgeous. Some of the best looking sets Scary Farm has produced to be honest. Then you have the high paced sound design that makes the whole experience feel that much more intense, which we loved. Couple all that with great scares that come high and low, you have a fantastic experience.
The ending of the maze could use a bit of reworking. If you happen to find yourself in the back of the pack, you might very well miss the vital information that could help the ending resonate a bit more than it would without it. It just creates a very anticlimactic ending after having been through such an intense experience only to be left with questions.
A couple things to note about this attraction. We actually find having the guns a great distraction because it opens us up to more scares than we typically would be. But others find it distracting to the point where they don’t get scared at all. As if it takes them out of the experience too much. Additionally, while the story is clearly rich in detail and rivals some of the more story driven attractions in Scary Farm history. Because of the nature of the experience, not many guests are going to understand what’s happening other than the obvious. Which isn’t entirely a bad thing. If you’ve created an experience that solely relies on the story enough to the point that guests will have a poor time, then I’d think that experience is a failure. But we think the situation with Bloodline is far from that.
The second new maze for Scary Farm in 2022, The Grimoire takes guests into the world of an ancient relic whose dark stories exist purely to turn your greatest nightmares into a reality.
Probably one of the strongest narratively driven maze experiences Scary Farm has produced to date, The Grimoire succeeds in telling a high concept story supported by well written dialogue to accent some of the more complicated moments of the story. Honestly, it’s a lot to take in. From the moment you’re experience begins, you’re bombarded with information that gives life to the story. Can it be a lot for more casual guests, probably. If guests are lost on the concept that the scenes you’re walking through are moments throughout time where The Grimoire has unleashed its horrors upon those who’ve opened the book, then everything will seem like just a complete hodge-podge of different elements. Especially if you get stuck at the very back of the group for the opening show moment, underlying everything important in the story.
Aside from the story, The Grimoire is filled with amazing moments of beautiful production design and soundscapes. Moving from a war torn bunker from World War II to a black and white 1950’s style home is no easy task and yet Scary Farm is able to pull it off flawlessly. We actually found ourselves ducking while the sound of guns and ricochet bullets surrounded us.
Something to note that didn’t really hit me till a few days after our experiences was how The Grimoire books mysteriously looks very familiar to another book at Scary Farm…one found inside Origins: The Curse of Calico. Are they connected? That is yet to be answered. Could it be tied into the 50th anniversary next year? Only time will tell.
Ultimately, The Grimoire is a fantastic addition to the Scary Farm lineup that took some major risks. While some succeeded and other didn’t, its why we love Scary Farm so much. They aren’t afraid to experiment with experiences that are outside the box of what we have come to expect from the event. There is no innovation without experimentation. And The Grimoire is a great experiment in creating high concept mazes that can easily be digested by the masses.
Knott’s Scary Farm again proves why its the Granddaddy of all haunted events. 2022 is a fantastic year filled with new scares and wonderfully upgraded experiences across the park. You’re also not going to find such a wide variety of offerings at any SoCal halloween event. While we think Scary Farm is the top dog in terms of Southern California experiences, they often set the bar rather high for themselves. Typically surpassing it, but this year feels oddly stagnant compared to previous years of Scary Farm. It might seem odd, but there’s typically this warmth that comes from Scary Farm each and every year. That intangible aspect that ties it back to its roots. But that warmth was absent this year and it felt much more cold and calculated.
Is Knott’s Scary Farm 2022 bad? Not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a fantastically produced product that will have you screaming until you head for the exit. Its maze designs are stellar, the imaginative way the team brings scares to life are second to none, and ultimately places guests right in the middle of a living nightmare. The only event standing in the way of Scary Farm right now is Scary Farm. But that shouldn’t deter anyone from attending because nothing can compete with the power house that is Knott’s Scary Farm.
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