The gates of terror were opened yet again in Buena Park as Knott’s Scary Farm celebrated 41 years of scaring the hell out of people at its annual Halloween Haunt event on Sep. 26.
It was a celebration in the streets as the night kicked off with the funeral procession, where several custom-made hearses lined up for pictures with the guests.
The music was blaring as the disc jockey towered over the audience as they waited patiently for a stroke of fun at their mock demise. Billows of smoke spewed out from the park as the monsters crept out from the thickness and rushed the main gate to reach out towards their victims.
The infamous Green Witch opened the ceremony and unleashed her creatures as she unlocked the gates. A scream came from the crowd as the monsters carried their victims into the park. Cheers and laughter erupted as they devoured their prey leaving only blood and organs behind.
Knott’s, the self-proclaimed pioneers of the Halloween theme park movement, attempted to raise the bar from previous years.
“This is our 41st haunt; we try to reinvent ourselves every year so we are not the same old, same old,” said Julie Owens, Director of Live Entertainment .
They may be the granddaddy of haunted attractions, but Knott’s lacked the spirit of what makes Halloween intriguing to everyone; fear.
For an opening night the performance of the maze monsters was lacking. Even though the makeup and costumes were flawless and convincing, the monsters seemed unable to truly scare people. There was no life and a predictable choreographed attempt to scare. Sure they might have startled people here and there but it wasn’t enough.
Knott’s did get it right in the set design of their mazes. It was magnificent. They were horrid and the mazes were constructed in a way where the audience could not help but immerse themselves in a frightful world. Most mazes followed the typical pattern of extreme gore, outrageous monsters and props. But just when people thought it was getting repetitive, a twist came out of nowhere.
Most of the mazes actually had quite a bit of life and if the audience paid close attention they could see that a story was being told as they passed through it. All the audience needed was monsters who can offer a good scare or startle to add more color to that painting.
New maze Mirror, Mirror stood out from the rest of the mazes at Halloween Haunt. It had the vibe of a fun house full of mirrors with a horrifying twist. Small groups were allowed in as this maze does not have normal starting and ending points. Groups were immersed into a room full of mirrors, easily getting lost and not finding the way out. What appeared to be a mirror was actually the group’s way to escape. The monsters kept groups trapped while they satisfied their desire of bring a scare to the group.
The Edgar Allan Poe themed maze, Forevermore, gave a new twist to the dark and mysterious stories and poems by the author. Each room represented a poem or story that Poe had written. The guests got a glimpse of some of Poe’s greatest works like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.”
Uncle Willy’s Slaughter House allowed the guests to experience a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” style maze full of hillbilly folks looking for fresh meat to eat. The guests entered the attraction through a dilapidated diner with a couple of monsters that tried to lure them into trying something off the menu. As the guests made their way into the back of the diner, they got a look at where these monsters got their fresh meat from. Victims were tied up in a barnyard screaming for help. Further along, the guests could see them cutting up the bodies in preparation for cooking.
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, made her much anticipated return to Halloween Haunt after a 12 year absence. Her quirky, witty and sass demeanor was still present for her comedic, fast paced show. She included the hip-hop dance team Academy of Villains to appeal to a younger generation who might not know who she is. The show consisted of a séance and spoofs of horror films that kept the guests entertained.
Gunslinger’s Grave gave the people the feel of being back in the Old West, complete with cowboys and saloon girls. The maze, located near Silver Bullet, allowed people to enjoy the environment of an indoor/outdoor experience. The layout and design of this maze is done exceptionally well as guests get the experience of entering an authentic saloon or general store.
The Haunt boasts 12 mazes, six of which are brand new, 4 scare zones and 6 live shows.
Alene Masse contributed to this story.