KNOTT’S BERRY FARM
Buena Park, California
Cedar Fair Entertainment
Knott’s Scary Farm 46 (2018)
By Rob Milo for Screamscape
The haunt season is in full effect, and 2018 has brought out the best out of parks in Southern California. A new scare zone, Forsaken Lake debuts this year, along with a pair of new live shows. Knott's Scary Farm's event has been running since 1973, and their event reflects the expertise they've accumulated over the years.
Touring Ghost Town, visitors venture through fog-shrouded streets and alleys, illuminated only by high placed colorful spotlights, which pierce the dense haze with eerie precision. It is within this fog that the ghouls sit and await their innocent subjects.
Ghost Town has always been the highlight of Knott's Scary Farm, and it never disappoints. Much of the entry area is roped off prior to the opening, so a large crowd inevitably gathers, waiting for the debut of this year's haunted cast. At 7pm, the motley horde emerges from their lair and quickly infiltrates the fearful masses awaiting their fate. Dozens of the undead roam the town of Calico, ready to prey upon unsuspecting souls. Creatures of all types, garbed in ragged old west apparel, charge into the crowd, terrorizing anyone they can. There is no better thrill than this moment all night, and it always elicits triumphant cheers from the awaiting crowd.
Camp Snoopy has again transformed into The Hollow, where guests find themselves surrounded by giant fog-emitting towers and pumpkin-headed scarecrows. What is typically a child-friendly environment quickly evolves into a creepy haunting ground for the local dead populace, eager to scare passersby.
Over on the Boardwalk, the Carnevil scare zone returns, now with more space to run around since Hangtime's work walls are down from this time last year. Clowns and carnys taunt guests as they explore the Boardwalk. Hangtime utilizes its lighting package to its fullest extent as it cycles through a number of patterns designed especially for the season; a suiting touch.
One of the more anticipated new scare zones this year, Forsaken Lake, is nestled on the dark path between the Log Ride and Silver Bullet. It's not easy to find, unless you're a repeat visitor. A lone groundskeeper swings his lantern near the entrance beckoning to those approaching. Set pieces depict mausoleums in an old New Orleans cemetery. A thudding score pounds visitors' ears, and fog occasionally envelops the area, providing denizens with cover. The mood is somber, broken occasionally by the thunderous roar of Silver Bullet as it roars over the lake. Although this reviewer missed the nightly spontaneous processional, for those who find the Lake, it is certain to be a memorable experience.
One of the two new shows this year, Conjurers, in the Bird Cage Theatre, is essentially a magic show, with a lot of comedic moments thrown in. Magician Dana Daniels delights crowds with his mind-reading parrot, Luigi. Volunteers from the audience are a big part of this show, and veteran magician Daniels is adept at showing everyone a good time. This show was an unexpected delight, and a fun way to escape the scares for a few minutes. Magicians Taylor Hughes and Chipper Lowell are scheduled to take over show duties over the next few weeks.
Hacks! Cutting Room Floor is an improvisational show, based on horror film tropes. As in the Conjurers show, volunteers from the audience are summoned to the stage to participate in unscripted scenarios with the regular players. Many of these bits fall flat, since the volunteers are not seasoned professionals, and they aren't able to summon up the talent to elicit anything more than awkward laughter from the audience. One bit that did work especially well involved cell phone text conversations sourced from audience member phones. The players would insert answers from the text messages into the dialogue, frequently resulting in embarrassing the phones owners. This show will be a bit different each time, depending on the volunteers, so it's worth a look.
This year's Hanging show again addresses the year in pop culture figures, and skewers them all in search of the worst offender. In the process, the presentation, which rarely rises above the intellectual level of a ten year-old, manages to offend the sensibility of just about anyone who hangs around long enough. Although the show's concept is still solid, this guest is curious how (or why) this show has lasted so long in its current form.
All the rides are running during Scary Farm as well. Silver Bullet runs without lights, turning it into a less predictable experience than usual. The Timber Mountain Log Ride is adorned in its Halloween Hootenany decor this year, minus live scare actors along the route. This iteration of the famed ride is a must see for its Pirates of the Caribbean level of detail that rewards repeat rides. Though the Calico Railroad doesn't run during these evenings, it still belches ghostly steam and looks positively resplendent, bathed in blue light. Nearby, the Calico Mine Train operates as it has the last few years, with no additional Halloween theming. It's still just as fun as ever though. Lastly, Ghostrider seems built for the cool fall evenings, and feels as though it's running faster than it ever has before; a great way to wind up the evening of laughs and scares.
Knott's Scary Farm is haunting now during select evenings through October 31st.