Last Thursday, Inside Universal was invited to Knott’s Berry Farm for a special look at their 2016 itinerary for their annual Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween haunt. Now, longtime readers are probably aware of our strict focus on Universal Studios Hollywood, and while that obsessive focus will still continue, we thought we’d share a unique look at Knott’s Scary Farm from the perspective of a Universal-centric site.
For all the buzz and constant chatter surrounding Halloween Horror Nights’ repeated use of high-profile intellectual properties, Knott’s Scary Farm can be seen as a healthy counterbalance.
In the place of recreating familiar scenes from some of Hollywood’s most iconic horror films, Knott’s chooses instead to feature homegrown properties spun from the minds of the event’s three creative staff members: Jon Cooke, Daniel Miller and Gus Krueger. While Cooke appeared to be the event’s lead, Miller and Krueger both led several maze designs at this year’s event. Indeed, contrary to John Murdy and Chris Williams’ obsessive involvement in Universal’s entire maze lineup, Cooke, Miller and Krueger appeared to divide duties as needed – allowing each of them to serve as principal creative designers behind a number of mazes without heavy cross-pollination. The end result is a less cohesive – though more diverse – lineup of experiences at Knott’s Scary Farm.
In fact, if I had to use a word to describe Knott’s Scary Farm, it’d be exactly that – diverse.
Halloween Horror Nights – for good or ill – has a tendency to come off as somewhat homogenous to non-discerning fans. Scares can sometimes be remarkably similar maze-to-maze, and Universal doesn’t appear to sway away from guests walking through room-to-room in a linear manner. Knott’s, on the other hand, forces guests to kneel, choose between two paths, and run past constricting walls – again, more akin to a haunt than a traditional maze. That being said, one could also say that Universal’s production values are considerably higher than that of Knott’s, and the event has a whole typically features a different lineup year-to-year compared to Knott’s affinity towards reusing several properties. Different methodologies call for different advantages and disadvantages for each event.
Speaking about this year’s lineup, Knott’s Scary Farm will feature nine mazes, including Black Ops: Infected, Paranormal Inc, Red Barn, Shadow Lands, The Gunslinger’s Grave: A Blood Moon Rises, Tooth Fairy, Trick or Treat, The Dead of Winter: Revenge of the Wendigo and Voodoo – Order of the Serpent. Of course, the event will also feature The Hanging (think of it as a mash up between Bill & Ted and the old Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show) and Elvira’s Danse Macabre.
While many of the this year’s offerings build off of last year’s lineup, we’ll highlight two experiences that we think are especially unique: Black Ops: Infected and Prey.
For the former, guests will be armed with laser guns in an epic zombie battleground in Knott’s Berry Farm’s largest maze to date, creating a highly interactive environment that’s sure to provide a unique experience in the Southern Californian haunt community. As for the latter, Key Room holders (think of Universal’s VIP Experience) will have the opportunity to navigate an old-fashioned hay maze with mutants lurking about. Your aide? A faulty lantern that only Knott’s can control. It’s a wonderfully simplistic concept with a hint of interactivity that may prove interesting as the event unfolds.
As for the presser itself, Knott’s Scary Farm truly seems to have the most enthusiastic fans around – no doubt about it. Whether it’s due to Jeff Tucker’s surprising command of the stage, or the lineage of Knott’s Berry Farm, longtime Halloween Horror Nights observers might be surprised at how enthusiastic fans can be at a public presser. There’s a sense of comradery inside the theater that’s hard to deny, and the Knott’s Scary Farm community genuinely seems to be invested in what Knott’s has to offer. So while Halloween Horror Nights fans might be the most obsessive given the event’s use of high profile films, Knott’s Scary Farm fans are definitely the most boisterous when it comes to rooting for their favorite haunt.
If you’re looking for a different, but equally as captivating experience as Halloween Horror Nights, be sure to give Knott’s Scary Farm a try. It might just be want you need to create a healthy haunt diet.
Knott’s Scary Farm runs from September 22 to October 31 on select dates at Knott’s Berry Farm.