2001 was the year that the Los Angeles Times called the Knott's Berry Farm Halloween Haunt a "creaky, middle-aged zombie that's lost its will to rise from the grave every night." The assessment was a little too harsh; though not breaking much ground, Knott's old and new elements mixed well enough to provide a satisfying if familiar cocktail.
Delirium (which immediately followed Lockdown The Asylum, in the area near the Ghost Rider roller-coaster) was the best of three new mazes. Although short on scream-inducing scares, the walk-through benefited from a surreal if somewhat generic theme - a sort of psychedelic nightmare filled with over-sized eyeballs embedded around the entrance, corpses covered in cockroaches, and assorted denizens of the darker realms of imagination. In a way, the mazes vaguely defined theme worked in its favor: refurbished effects (including a twitching animatronic body beneath a plexiglass floor) blended in smoothly, regardless of narrative sense, because they were all part of one big crazy dream.
The other two newcomers, Invasion Beneath and Endgames: Warriors of the Apocalypse, were less satisfying, though both had their virtues. Invasion Beneath re-imagined the Calico Mine Ride as if invaded hive-mind aliens. There were good mechanical effects; however, as was often the case with the mine ride, the cavern was underpopulated - the tall, silent creatures with glowing red eyes were achieved mostly with mannequins instead of actors.
Endgames: Warriors of the Apocalypse suggested a cheesy exploitation ripoff of The Road Warrior. With its blackly comic view of mankind's post-apocalyptic descent into barbarism, this could have been Knott's most distinctive theme of year if not for the existence of a previous post-apocalyptic maze (Fallout Shelter). Also, Endgame diluted its scares by spreading them throughout too long a walk-through (a problem addressed the following year).
Halloween 2011 saw Knott's Scary Farm a small step in the direction of revamping older mazes and rides to keep them fresh. Though the holdovers (including Sleepy Hollow Mountain, The Slaughterhouse, Uncle Bobo's Big Top, Virus Z, and The Doll Factory) still remained mostly the same, there were some signs of improvement. The second half of Fallout Shelter in 3D included a radioactive glow achieved with black lights, but it was still no match for the colorful 3D flare of Dia De Los Muertos. Strongest of the holdovers was Terror of London, which removed the confusing mad scientist's lab from previous years while retaining the mysterious sense of following in the elusive footsteps of Jack the Ripper.
In general, Knott's Halloween Haunt displayed impressive ingenuity, even though their masks, makeup, and props still lagged behind Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. The sets may not have been as detailed as Universal's, but they worked on their own terms, ranging from the convincing outdoor corn maze of Cornstakers to the painted flats depicting foggy Victorian England in Terror of London to the cartoony colors of Dia De Los Muertos to the appropriately threadbare settings of the post-apocalyptic Fallout Shelter and Endgames.
On the other hand, the extensive variety sometimes blurred distinctions among its dozen mazes and rides. Although each featured its own theme, there was nevertheless an interchangeable quality to some characters, who could have teleported in from one maze to another and been equally at home (or not). It would be several years before Knott's Halloween Haunt perfected its thematic approach to the point where every maze seemed truly unique.
Read our original Knott's Scary Farm 2011 review.
More in this series:
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2004
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2005
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2006
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2007
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2008
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2009
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2010
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2012
- Knott's Halloween Haunt History 2013