Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Knott's Scary Farm 2013, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Haunt

As you may recall from a certain sad and dramatic post around this time last year, I've been a little burnt out on haunts. I'm certainly grateful for all of the cool Halloween events I've had the privilege of attending and reviewing over the past few years, but I think going to a dozen different haunted houses every October for several consecutive years will do that to a gal. In any case, I was planning to continue my moratorium on professional haunts this year, but then something happened. Something busty and beautiful and far too tempting to pass up.

Elvira returned to Knott's Scary Farm!

Okay, for those of you who didn't grow up in the shadow of Buena Park, Elvira always used to do a show at the Charles M. Schulz theater, and it was really one of the highlights of the Haunt every year. Basically, it was like a Vegas show, starring Elvira - kind of like the end of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. A little ribald comedy, a few song & dance numbers, and a chance to glimpse the Mistress of the Dark in action with your very own eyes. Then the Elvira stopped. For years, no Elvira at the Haunt. It was a tragedy! A travesty! In short, I was totes bummed. So when I heard that she was back this year, I knew that my attendance was inevitable.

As opening weekend drew near, my anticipation reached feverish new heights. The mazes sounded so intriguing! Before I knew what was happening, I was back in the throes of Haunt fever.

And dude...Knott's really delivered this year! Mr. Spooky and I agree that this was our best Haunt experience to date. 

The mazes. Oh, those mazes. I'm not sure what's going on at Knott's, but I had the distinct feeling that maybe they hired new people with a real passion for their work, or perhaps the same staff is behind everything but they managed to rediscover what they once loved about their job. In any event, after years of feeling like the Haunt was becoming increasingly corporate and soulless, I feel certain now that their heart is back in the right place. All of the mazes that we went through were creative and lovely, with spooky atmosphere as well as the startle scares we've all come to expect.

A quick rundown of the mazes, in the order we went through them:
  • Trick or Treat: Halloween night at the Green Witch's house. Loved this one. The Green Witch is a wonderful mascot, and the trick-or-treating theme is perf, obvs. 
  • Endgames: Post-apocalyptic with a brutal metal soundtrack. I didn't expect much from this maze, probably because I didn't vibe on the theme as much as I did with some of the others, but I thought it was cool and gruesome and scary.
  • Delirium: Descent-into-madness meets Hellraiser. Lots of cool imagery in this one, starting with the eyeball-studded facade. I tried to get a picture, but it was too dark...alas. I loved the Asylum, but it was definitely tired and I think it's so clever that they replaced a maze about the horrors of encountering the criminally deranged with a maze that confronts the terror of spiraling into insanity.
  • Dominion of the Damned: Gothic vampire maze complete with a mausoleum, garden, and - my personal favorite - a churchyard full of rattling caskets. This one was beautiful and eerie; one of my favorites of the night. So glad to see them abandon Club Blood in favor of returning to their goth roots for the vampy maze.
  • Forevermore: Edgar Allan Poe-inspired. Creative scenes and of course I love the subject matter. Instead of an intensely loud metal or dubstep soundtrack, this one featured readings of Poe's poetry and short stories, which was a great touch, and very effective.
  • Pinnochio Unstrung: Killer dolls and puppets. I dug it, but I think I liked the Doll Factory better. Still, Pinnochio is a great fairy tale ripe for a disturbing makeover like this one.
  • The Witch's Keep: This is just the Mine Ride, but with witches. Witches! We went twice.
  • Gunslinger's Grave: Old West spookiness. I'm struggling right now to remember specifics from this maze, but I still liked it a lot and I love how Knott's went the Old West route with a maze this year. It reminds me of Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, which is one of my favorite video games.
  • Black Magic: Ah, the Houdini/evil magician maze. No surprise really that this was my favorite maze of the night. 
We skipped the Slaughterhouse - it just sounded too uncomfortably gruesome, plus we've gone through that maze or some variation of it countless times before - and Mirror Mirror, because it had a line and I had read negative reviews from several different sources online. Oh, and we were unwilling to pay an additional $60 for Trapped, so that was out of the question.
The five scare zones were less intensely decorated than in years past, but they were still a lot of fun. There were Old West monsters and killer clowns and a Gypsy Camp and steampunk vampires and beautiful Mexican girls in sugar skull makeup. We caught a few minutes of Blood Drums, which was cool. And, oh yes, there was FOG. So much of it, clouds of it, surrounding us as we walked slowly down the pathways as shapes of people - or monsters - slowly emerged from it. That's the kind of priceless Halloween experience I have only ever had at Knott's, Goddess bless 'em.

Elvira's Sinema Seance...what can I say? It was fabulous, of course. The stage was festooned with witchy, Ouija symbolism and a digital backdrop of candles flickering in Gothic archways between red velvet curtains. The show began with a dance number by Academy of Villains, which was so cool, and then Elvira came out, resplendent in low-cut black and red sequins, lobbing sassy one-liners and singing Halloween-themed parody songs. My heart felt full with love for the Queen of Halloween.

Crowds were so sparse - because it was a Sunday, because we got there early, because we went in September instead of October - that we were able to squeeze in some peripheral Knott's fun as well. We rode the Log Ride (not decorated for the Haunt this year, but still so fun), the Coast Rider (just the kind of weenie coaster I love!) and the Pacific Scrambler, which made everyone on it laugh hysterically.  And speaking of laughter, Mr. Spooky and I have to hand it to the monsters this year: They brought their fucking A-game. It felt 100% like being a kid on Halloween night, with roaming groups of fellow kids in costume making mischief and wreaking havoc.

One of the funniest things ever happened when we were walking to the Scrambler: A group of monsters surrounded us and one of them said to Mr. Spooky, "Cut your hair!" Another exclaimed, "I can't tell which one's the guy and which one's the girl in the relationship!" We chuckled as we walked away and I jokingly said, "Those monsters sexually harassed us!" and Mr. Spooky replied, "Yeah, and what's really weird is that I saw them put a note on some girl's back who was walking by." Just as the words left his mouth, I noticed a piece of paper on his back!

Yeah, that's right: ENTER HERE with an arrow pointing down to his ass! We both collapsed in laughter until we were crying. I have never encountered such a level of commitment to a gag at the Haunt; normally they just scream or snort in your ear, or shake a can of beans in your face or whatever. This took planning! It took diversionary tactics! Bravo, you beautiful bastards! And that's to say nothing of when Mr. Spooky and I were sharing a tender moment near one of the rollercoasters, and just as he put his arm around my shoulders, one of the evil clowns walked up behind us and began singing, "Loving you, is easy 'cause you're beautiful..." into a megaphone. Again, we laughed till we cried.

Man, what else can I say? Knott's Scary Farm is a Halloween tradition. They are back in fine form. You've gotta go.

Faith in haunts: Renewed. It's a Halloween miracle!

1 comment:

Derek Christian Quezada said...

The "Enter Here" gag got me. SOOO tasteless sooo hilarious!


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