On Thursday we were invited to be part of the media to cover the opening of Knott’s 41st Annual Halloween Haunt. We arrived early enough to see the opening festivities (the first time for us) which included a procession of hearses and the opening of the gates, where one unlucky guest got whisked away by the Scary Farm monsters. Dinner was held at the Knott’s Hotel where there was an open bar and a buffet included such dinner items as prime rib, a pasta bar and various appetizers. While this was nice, for the past fifteen years it has been a tradition for us to have the Pre-Scare boo-fet. We missed the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn etc. But most of all I missed the famous boysenberry punch which for us is like a drug. Two other traditions we did not partake in this year was going on the Log Ride and Bigfoot Rapids. So some traditions ended while we brought in a fresh taste of others.
After dinner, groups were formed led by a Knott’s employee and media had the choice to go with them and get pictures (with flash) inside the mazes and front-line access or go by themselves. Being such a slow night, the vibe at the park not only felt different, but the pass didn’t make much of a difference except for at Mirror Mirror which had as long as a 45 minute wait. We do suggest you get a Fright Lane pass for if you’re going on a Friday or Saturday night as it not only lets you go to the front of the line, but also comes with a Skeleton Key which unlocks secret rooms that are interactive in select mazes.
The night we went we went through all the new mazes except Trapped and saw The Hanging. We missed getting into the 12:30 Elvira’s Sinema Seance, but we heard mixed reviews (mostly good). The show was classic Elvira with interactive jokes that included the audience such as her asking, “What’s your favorite ride at Knott’s?” and the audience yelling out, “Elvira!” The Hanging was more traditional than last year’s Birth of the Green Witch, having more adult humor and poking sociopolitical fun at everyone from Paula Dean to Cory Monteith and Disney. In fact, one memorable part was when Disney’s buyout of the Star Wars franchise was parodied to the song “Under the Sea” from ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Here are the new mazes in no particular order
The Gunslinger’s Grave:
Ghosts of the past haunt this Western ghost town where The Gunslinger looks to get his revenge. This maze takes you through the streets of an old west town where you go through sets such as The Stable, General Store, Bordello and Town Hall. While the maze wasn’t very scary, the actors were entertaining (portraying cowboys, prostitutes and townspeople). We were just waiting for someone to get shot cheating at the poker game taking place in the bar while the classic piano played. The ghost-horse was a cool animatronic prop.
Dominion of the Damned:
While similar to Dominion of the Dead, Dominion of the Damned had a more gothic and sexy feel to it. Once again there’s the scenes with the art gallery, but the old cemetery and coffins were both classic and creepy. We seemed to notice there were more vampire related characters in the maze this year.
Houdini is back for one more seance and he’s bringing demons and the dead to this haunted theater. This was a great maze from front to back starting with the facade of an old theater that has its own special effects. Witness the illusions and tricks that made the great magician world famous gone wrong. The maze features everything from a performance stage where you need to watch your head to a dressing room where the ladies putting on makeup aren’t always what they seem. Some of the things we really liked were the performers (victims) in the water tanks to the giant, angry rabbit that pops out of a hat.
The Forevermore Killer is on the loose killing people based on the tales by Edgar Allen Poe. The sets in this maze have great detail in all the rooms. One thing we didn’t understand is why there were so many monsters wearing bird beaks walking all over. There’s a great part from “The Raven” where a woman in large wings seems to almost be floating around. We think what is “The Masque of the Red Death” scene was really neat as there was a whole, what seems to be, club and bar where monsters milled around as if affected from the plague. Also, “The Pit and the Pendulum” room which had a twist on the famous scene had a giant axe swinging to and fro over a watery pit.
This maze is designed to get you disoriented and lost. The monsters in it aren’t there for the scares, but to make you more confused. We feel this might be a great maze, but we were disappointed as we were actually led though it by one of the designers. Obviously he knew his way through without a problem, taking away the purpose of the maze for us.
We are looking at going back to Haunt again and we will bring you more reviews including anything new on the old mazes as well as Elvira’s Sinema Seance and another other shows we see.