Knott's Scary Farm 2016: Returning Mazes

Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA

Welcome back to another Knott's Scary Farm update! Yesterday, we looked at the new mazes for 2016, and today, we'll look at the returning crew.  There were six of them in total, and for the first time, the backstage Ghostrider area did not contain a single new maze.  But that's okay, because the collection there still proved pretty strong.  Lets dive in.

Trick or Treat

Back for its fifth consecutive year, Trick or Treat remained unchanged from last year (which saw a redesign of its last quarter and lengthening of the layout.  Nonetheless, this maze offered some fun spooky times and was its usual high energy self, especially when crowds were low (which they were at several points on Friday night.  So even if it wasn't scary for more seasoned Haunt visitors, it still carried that old-fashioned, nostalgic Halloween vibe.  Plus, it's the only place where you could find Haunt monster favorite and monster-with-a-cult-following #MFSheetGhost!

Voodoo: Order of the Serpent

Voodoo was a bit schizophrenic across my visits.  On Thursday, it was relatively lifeless, with only its still-beautiful theming to sustain it, but very lacking in scares.  By Friday, things had improved, and though the maze wasn't as exciting as the top tier for 2016, it still provided a nice experience.  The layout remained unchanged from last year, except that guests could now go through what was last year's Skeleton Key Room.  Interestingly, every time I was in the area Thursday and Friday, the maze had absolutely no line and was a walk-on.  I suspect this will change when things get busier, but it currently looks like Voodoo will be one of the quicker waits at Haunt.

Paranormal Inc: The Haunting of Hayden Hill

Last year's incredible rookie sensation was back and unchanged for a second year, but the lack of novelty did not matter.  The maze was still as good as ever.  Thursday's experience was fantastic, with all cylinders clicking except for the bungee position that occurs over where the two sides reunite.  But on Friday, the talent seemed to be on fire, with scares coming in droves and maintaining a relentless pace.  It was pandemonium inside this abandoned and haunted asylum, and there were screams everywhere.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I went through it multiple times (thank you Fright Lane!), and each time was an absolute blast.  That boosted this maze from my #3 or #4 on opening night up to #2, ahead of Infected!  Of course, maze experiences can be hit or miss, so I can't guarantee an immaculate experience to everyone.  But the Paranormal Team seems to have brought its A game overall, and guests would be remiss to skip this maze just because it's a returning maze with a frequently long line.  Even if it's an hour (and it usually isn't, barring technical malfunctions), it's certainly worth it!

The Tooth Fairy

This Daniel Miller disturbing gorefest was similar to Voodoo in that opening night felt a little listless, with actors going through paces in some respect.  But by Friday, the energy was in, and this maze brought plenty of scares to the table.  Fully staffed, Tooth Fairy felt like it was in its prime debut a few years ago.  When there were breaks, though, the maze was less impactful.  Still, for "middle of the pack," this maze was very strong--a testament to the overall quality of all maze offerings this year above all previous years!

The Dead of Winter: Wendigo's Revenge

There's no way to sugarcoat it.  Last year's Dead of Winter was terribly disappointing.  Drab, uninspired, with more staring than scaring, the maze was more appreciated for its air conditioning to escape 2015's warm and humid September and early October nights than for its haunted maze qualities.  Fortunately, the maze was partially redesigned (with Daniel Miller's assistance) this year, and the result was much improved.  Gone were any attempts at the "high contrast" aesthetic promoted for last year's iteration.  The ice queen also bid adieu in gruesome fashion, killed by the savage and vicious Wendigo that prowls the frozen tundra.  More blood and gore and more locations for pop-out startle scares brought new life to this sophomore maze, and though it's still far from a top performer, the maze now commands a respectable showing.

The Gunslinger's Grave: Red Moon Rising

I seem to like this maze more than many of my friends.  It may be luck of the draw, because most of my walks through this maze, which follows the Gunslinger as he takes on a new reincarnation of the Red Hand Gang as werewolves, have been full of energy and great scares provoking solid reactions from guests.  Plus, the intense-sounding soundtrack is one of my favorites.  This year was more of that same energy, with plenty of monsters roaming the grounds and some colorful characters injecting some life and entertainment into their improvised dialogue.  I even got a few good startle attempts at me, which rarely seems to happen.  And overall, the maze was quite enjoyable.

Along with the prime new mazes covered yesterday, this year's Knott's Scary Farm maze line-up really doesn't have any weak spots.  The only lackluster performances occurred at Voodoo and Tooth Fairy during times where it seemed like actors were on break, which isn't necessarily something I can completely fault the park for.  Dead of Winter and Gunslinger's Grave could also suffer from this if the timing is right (or wrong, I guess), given their less dynamic nature compared to some of the newer standouts.  But all in all, the mazes are very strong.  I can't really say that there is any maze that "sucks," and that's not something I've usually been able to attest in prior years!

It seems competition has stepped up everyone's games, since Universal has upped the quality in their mazes as well and has also eliminated weak links that previously plagued their slate.  When that happens, we the haunt fans win.

Come back later this week for a look at Knott's scare zones.  And if I can get to it, we'll also check out both of Scary Farm's shows!  In the meantime, be good to one another, and enjoy a spooptacular week!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.