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Knott's Scary Farm 9/23/17 review

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  • Knott's Scary Farm 9/23/17 review

    Going to preface this by stating that I did not get to go through every maze on this trip. I plan on making at least two more trips this year and will be hitting the mazes that I didn't have time for on Saturday and I'll post my thoughts on those then. I prioritized the ones I really wanted to do this time around (well, I DID want to hit Shadowlands, but by the time I was getting around to it I just didn't feel like slogging across the park to wait an hour for it, I was just ready to call it a night). Anyways, enough delay.

    Trick or Treat: Light's Out is a perfect example of how a cool gimmick can really refresh an aging attraction. I loved the redesign the facade got (and boy do I ever miss there being amazing facades for EVERY maze, not just the ones in the backlot). The flashlight gimmick itself was neat, though admittedly also somewhat underwhelming, it just felt underutilized. The layout seemed mostly identical to last year, though I am almost positive there were a couple additions towards the end that I don't remember from going through after last year's refresh. The music they had playing outside the facade was amazing too, had a very 80's Craven/Carpenter feel, almost a mix of It Follows and Stranger Things. That all said, I wouldn't necessarily mind this coming back next year, but any longer than that and it is overstaying its welcome. A neat gimmick only gets you so far and this is still a maze that's been around for more than a few seasons.

    Voodoo: Order of the Serpent is sort of a tragic story. Voodoo had a fantastic first year, it was an ambitious maze, way more open than pretty much any others that I can think of, branching paths, built over an actual reservoir to give a more authentic swamp feel, and one of the most gorgeous facades Knott's has ever done. Converting it into a more standard maze in subsequent years took a bit away from that, but didn't really hurt the maze necessarily, but it did lose some of its identity I feel. The gimmick they went with this year to change it up was...to send you through it backwards? I seem to recall hearing that it was also going to be restructured and redone, but unless my memory is failing, it's the same path it's been the last couple years just backwards. The only thing I can say is 100% different beyond that is moving the snake animatronic to the end (formerly the beginning) of the maze, which was for the better as I remember most nights in previous years seeing it literally just sitting unused outside of the maze and then just kinda tucked in behind some stuff when it actually was in the maze. Putting it more front and center and giving it real attention this year did it justice, it's a really cool prop even if the placement seems a bit odd (would make more sense earlier in the maze as far as the environment goes but not necessarily the story (and I'll get to that). So yeah, sending you through the exit seems like an odd choice narratively, In previous years you'd enter through a very classic New Orleans style facade, make your way into the backwoods and down into a swampy bayou, seeing various rituals performed before coming to a much bigger ceremony down in the depths of the swamps. It was a pretty simple story, but the layout flowing the way it did made sense. Starting in the heart of the swamps and making your way into New Orleans just seems..off, like you're literally going backwards, instead of descending into the darker heart of Louisiana and seeing what you are not meant to see you..ascend into New Orleans where some ritual is being done? I dunno, it just doesn't work. I honestly just didn't care for Voodoo this year, I felt that the maze's flaws were more apparent than they had been to me previously. There were a couple of cool moments, the great scare that finished the maze previously starts the maze off this time..and then it basically loses all momentum for the remainder of the maze. Having a more open environment isn't necessarily bad, but being able to see where you are, where you came from, where you're going, and those ahead of you so well kinda works against the scare factor. The maze also does not give actors much room to work with. Towards the end of the maze (now the beginning) when you are down in the lower layers of the bayou there's a chance for talent to hide and work, but towards the beginning of the maze (now the end) they really only have the shacks, those endless walkways along the water just do not work for scaring, like at all. Voodoo has had a good run, but I really want to see something replace it next year.

    The Hanging this year was awful. I hate to say that, I really do, the Hanging is always one of the things I look forward to most at Haunt, has been every year I've come pretty much since I started coming (and I've been every single year since the last year they had the Inquisition). It just..didn't work this year, and while it felt more like a tongue in cheek joke at the end, I almost feel like the writers thought so too. There were some genuinely funny moments, there always are, but the fights were weak, the pop culture references were few and felt weak, I hated the new Hangman, everything just felt so..off. It was a more politically slanted Hanging than any of the previous ones I've seen, which I don't necessarily mind, but of course they can only go so far with it, and it resulted in a hanging that came out of nowhere and was wholly unsatisfying. There's a musical number that is the absolute highlight of the show and it is a shame that the rest of it couldn't live up to it.

    Dark Ride was probably the new maze I was most looking forward to this year. Just the concept alone struck a chord with me, and it really has been too long since we really had a clown maze, I think the last was Uncle Bobo's, which was before Black Magic so it has been a good few years now. That said, did it deliver? Well, if you're looking for a clown maze, naw it doesn't really deliver on that front..mostly. I love cheesy old carnival dark rides, especially the haunted houses and this maze really does nail that feel, I mean..it looks (intentionally) cheap and cheesy as hell at times. Captures the feel perfectly. And there is a fantastic juxtaposition of those almost cardboard cutout sets with much more realistic and detailed behind the scenes sections, a pretty neat projector effect, and once you get to the later parts of the maze (I won't spoil it), the whole thing just pays off. Was it my favorite maze of the night? Naw, probably not. But it did deliver on the hype I had for it, which is commendable. There is some clown goodness to the maze still, but it is a bit of a darker maze in a lot of ways and it definitely (mostly) lacks the energy and feel you got from things like CCC or KCK, and it has a MUCH darker color palette. There were some missed opportunities, I felt like there could have been some more talent throughout the maze, especially earlier on, but the talent that was present did do a good job, there were some great scares. I'm sure this one has at least one more year in it, probably more. Also worth mentioning that maze is quite long, they really really take advantage of the space they had, there were times I expected it to end because, surely they've run out of room, and yet it kept going. Major props.

    Pumpkin Eater absolutely impressed me. There was so much variety and detail to the sets, it told a mostly cohesive story, the concept was, while not completely original, well realized and told. Some of the effects (one in particular stands out as something pretty unique and was very uncomfortable feeling in all the right ways) were fantastic, the props were great, the talent was on fire, this was definitely one of the big highlights of the night for me. Was great to see this area used for a maze again, I don't think anything has been back here since Slaughterhouse and that's a shame because it is a really good location and they made great use of the space. It feels like I don't really have much to say about this, which is funny because it really was one of my favorite mazes I went through. I don't think it's something I'd call an all time favorite, but it is definitely memorable.

    The Red Barn was probably my favorite of last year's new mazes. It was a perfect match for the Wilderness Dance Hall, the energy was absolutely insane, it really got me pumped going through it, the use of lighting and smoke and everything just was spot on, it was gory and violent and it just clicked for me. Was it as good this year? Despite getting a bit more story and cohesion along with a show element, I liked it more last year. This actually ended up being my longest wait of the night, mostly because I hit Trick or Treat early, pretty sure I waited an hour or so for it. Part of this is due to them pulsing the line for the show element, they make sure to let each group know that there is a show element and to move quick enough to not miss it, but don't go too fast. This really made it hard to go through and just enjoy the maze though, there was almost this pressure to just keep going and get to it ya know? I can't recall if I just didn't notice it last year, but I'm pretty sure it was new, there was writing on the walls that seemed to add to the story but I never really got the chance to read it. There were some actors that moved you forward and opened some gates and again added a bit to the story, there were also times some monsters would move to block your path, both of these were fairly clever ways to make sure you didn't move too fast so you'd get to the show element at just the right time. And the show element itself? Was fine. I don't think it really added enough that it was really worth it, but it was fine. The lighting also seemed wrong, I vividly remember the way the maze looked last year with the smoke and the dust and the dark lighting with the reds and it just looked PHENOMENAL and that was completely lacking this year. Chainsaws are still great to have back, but just like last year I always seemed to be ahead of them when they finally broke them out, shame. Still was a great experience and one of my favorite mazes of the last few years, it just didn't live up to my expectations after the maze blew me away last year.

    Elvira's show this year was probably one of her better shows since she came back. She was honestly rarely off stage, pretty much every dance number either involved her or she was at least present for. The humor was classic Elvira, there were some great nods to her previous shows and the movie (well, the first movie, I don't recall any Haunted Hills references). Her wardrobe was very fan-servicey, and she had a wonderful surprise for everyone towards the end, something I never thought I'd get to see her do live (no not that..sadly). It was a great celebration of her and it left me feeling some mixed emotions, I loved the show, it was fun, funny, sexy, but I was also just sad knowing that after this year I'm not gonna get to see her at Haunt again.

    Paranormal Inc. finished off my night, as it has many times the last couple of years since it was introduced in 2015. I still think its premier year was by far its best, being brand new they obviously put more focus and budget on it, having the same actors as the in-universe tv series present for the maze itself, having bigger stunts, etc. Last year and this year both suffered from that budget having to go to newer mazes, it sucks but it is entirely understandable that they need to do so, I get it and don't fault them for that, especially because the maze still holds up without those elements, which goes to show that a quality maze is still a quality maze. The energy is still high (not as high, but still high), the opening is still fantastic (and I am so glad they're sticking with it), there are some amazing scares and elements that really are just the future of Haunt mazes, it's just nice to have a really good ghost maze, there are so many cool details and moments, I love stuff like the typewriter typing by itself, the doors in the morgue pounding, things like the camera focusing on what looks like an empty wheelchair, but the video feed showing something far spookier, it just all works. Even the transition to the other side (which I believe the effect for this was added last year and it is a very simple but well done effect). The latter portion of the maze still feels weirdly, but rightly out of place, still has a few really cool moments, the talent is still great and I was so happy that they started playing the segments from the Paranormal Inc. show on the monitors outside in the line again. I definitely want at least one more year of this, I know it may be tough to do but if they could change things up a bit that would go a long way, just to keep things fresh as a lot of the maze's best elements stemmed from the unpredictability it had that first time through (well, first two times through). I know asking for an entirely new case for Paranormal Inc. to investigate may be a bit much (but to be fair, we did get three mazes all tied into The Asylum), but it would be cool to see. Still, I wouldn't mind walking through Hayden Hill's hallowed halls one last time in 2018.

    So yeah, just my (not so brief, in some cases) thoughts on my first night at Haunt 2017. Will, of course, be going at least a couple more times this season and I'll be sure to post my thoughts on the things I didn't get to do this time and maybe updated thoughts on those I do go through again. Thanks for reading.

  • #2
    Great review! Thanks for posting!

    Loving Disney Since 2006!
    Portfolio: anthonyhays.com | Pictures: Flickr

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