Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
Guess what, folks? We're pulling double duty today (hehehe... duty) and giving you a second update! This one returns us to the dark and foggy veil of Knott's Scary Farm--in particular, the dark (very dark in many areas, this year) fog of Haunt's vaunted scare zones!
The same four scare zones return this year--Ghost Town Streets, Carnevil, Fiesta de los Muertos, and The Hollow. But each has had adjustments that have given them new character and life (or lack of life). Some are minor, while others are more noticeable, but they all add up create a unique ambiance that offers a lot of depth--and plenty of entertainment for one time or repeating guests.
Last year, rope drop at Ghost Town included an arrival moment for the monsters, and it was fairly dramatic. Seeing familiar and creepy character slowly emerge from the mist beyond is a pretty dramatic sight, and the little show repeated this year. Only instead of only Ghost Town, all four scare zones send monsters toward the park entrance to face the opening rush of guests. And once the ropes drop, it's chaos!
Ghost Town Streets
Ghost Town is the scare zone that started it all at Knott's Scary Farm--and at haunted attractions period. This year's Ghost Town is dimmer than in previous years, though regular guests may not notice with all the frights and screaming they'll both encounter and emit. But I've found it tougher to photograph this year because there aren't very many well illuminated spots in the area. Still, in terms of atmosphere, it's hard to beat this haunted old west town.
As advertised from the Scary Farm Announcement Event, new to Ghost Town this year is "Mad Eye" Joe. This is the same character as "Sad Eye" Joe during the daytime, but at night, he has no censor or filter, and the banter can get pretty inappropriate--and hilarious! Joe's situated in a back corner of Ghost Town, behind Goldie's, and appears to run until midnight each night. I love the improv nature of the interactions, and allowing the subject matter to be more adult brings a very fun element to Scary Farm.
I just hope no one gets butthurt about things and complains, causing a manufactured scandal that ruins "Mad Eye" for the rest of us.
Of course, the heart of Ghost Town Streets (and all scare zones) is the talent, and this year, Ghost Town is littered with more than ever, including many new faces and many monsters who previously came from other scare zones. One of the supervisors on the streets compared it to the Golden State Warriors: Ghost Town has assembled a superteam of talent taken from other scare zones. There are familiar characters like The Bride, Gecko, Fork, Sequel, Seaweed, and more. But there's also an Undertaker this year, plus a Grave Digger, and plenty of other creatures out to take your souls.
And Ghost Town's natural dark feel lends itself well to Haunt, as a typical stroll through the alleyways and streets is always accompanied by shrieks of terror. My favorite GTS memory from opening weekend was watching two girls be scared into sitting position by a pair of monsters huddled around them, then ambushed by a third monster after the first two walked away. As they picked themselves up, a fourth monster sent them back down to a crouching position from the opposite direction. Realizing they needed to escape, they summoned the energy to pick themselves up and walk away, but they were promptly set upon by a fifth monster who chased them off, then a sixth and seventh monster in succession eliciting screams. It was positively glorious to behold.
We would also be remiss to exclude Spookywampus from our attention, since it's just recently returned from a summer of... apparently philandering. But at least the Catawampus is a responsible parent and is rearing its new kid.
Because of the Hangtime construction site, Boardwalk Streets are a little different this year. Gone are the overhead string lights that provide a lot of illumination. Instead, Carnevil is darker and moodier this year. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily translate to ambiance, because half the zone is just construction walls, which doesn't offer a lot to work with. Fortunately, the clowns (and here are a LOT of new ones this year) have made do with what they have to throwing great energy around anyway. Given many people's natural fears of clowns in general, scaring in Carnevil often becomes more psychological exercises than anything else, and those crazy carnie folks have run wild all over The Boardwalk!
Fiesta de los Muertos
The scare zone in Fiesta Village has also undergone some changes this year. Gone are the dance parties that completely ruin any creepy atmosphere. Instead, the mood has taken a more sinister and deliberate tone. Unfortunately, aside from different lighting and a new soundtrack, there doesn't seem to have been much additional theming added. The serious nature of Fiesta de los Muertos has also taken away one of my favorite aspects of the area--the sarcastic, mocking attitude of monsters that provides entertainment where it can't be scary. It could be just opening weekend adjustments, but the zone as a whole didn't seem to be quite clicking... yet. Though there were certainly monsters who were accomplishing effective scares anyway.
The most striking changes (and improvements) have come from The Hollow, which has seen a huge update from last year's sort of half-concerted effort. New lighting, new theming elements, and a developed storyline have been added here, and the result is pretty spectacular. The Hollow is the only area to have actually gotten brighter, and while it was the most difficult place to photograph last year, it's the easiest this year. In addition, this sinister Camp Snoopy has more monsters than last year and just more energy.
The introduction of theatrical moments has been a wonderful addition to The Hollow. They flush out the storyline of the scare zone and give guests unadvertised free entertainment!
There are five little mini-shows that take place by a cage near Sierra Sidewinder, building upon each other throughout the night:
08:05: Meet the Witches
08:30: Meet the Witch Hunter and his Sidekick
09:45: The Maiden Witch is captured
10:45: The Hag is betrayed
11:30: The third totem is found
And then, finally, at midnight at the caves and waterfall area near the Grizzly Creek Lodge, the Witches confront the Witch Hunter and his gang. For those who happen upon these events or who follow along the entire night, it's a great easter egg (or series of them) to enhance one's experience at Knott's Scary Farm. Kudos to the creative team and talent who take part in these series of productions!
Here's a video of the show, which lasts five minutes. My only significant critique is to signify the end of the show more definitely. Many people linger after the the wicker man lights up aflame. The music does crescendo to a momentary stop, but I feel a full beat or two beats of silence and fade to black between that and the dramatic "end credits music" would be helpful. The video below stops before the "end credits music" starts playing.
Of course, the monsters still make the scare zone, and The Hollow has witches, trolls, faceless men, scarecrows, pumpkin heads, and more lurking throughout. Knott's has invested a serious amount of attention here this year, and the results are very evident. The park's quality has been improving each year, though mainly with mazes. If scare zones are the next trend, everyone wins.
Finally, at the end of the night, during the last half hour, the main gate is the site of photo meet and greets and opportunities. During the night, monsters are not allowed to stop and pose for photos. They must stay in character and could be severely punished for breaking character to take pictures with guests.
The last half hour out front mitigates this, offering guests a chance to take pictures with street characters in a semi-in-character setting. The monsters are still spooky and scaring, but they are allowed to directly interact and dialogue with guests, rather than the typical scare and dash.
And that closes out a pretty massive photo spread from the farm! Knott's Scary Farm has truly brought a fantastic line-up of monsters and talent and creative endeavor this year, and I love how everything has turned out. Though there are still minor areas of improvement that could be afforded, overall, the streets look great. You can bet that I'll be at Scary Farm regular to just observe and enjoy the scenery, the scares, and the experience!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.