KNOTT’S BERRY FARM
Buena Park, California
Cedar Fair Entertainment
Knott’s Scary Farm (2021)
By Rob Milo for Screamscape
(10/7/21) Like just about everywhere else, it's been two full years with no major haunt event for Knott's Berry Farm. With the resumption of Knott's Scary Farm for the 2021 season, the park has seemed to have used their extra time wisely. The result: some things new, some things old, and some things gone, for now at least.
Scary Farm hosts more entertainment than any other haunt event, and it's seemingly impossible to see all the acts in a single evening. The dance group Doce de la Noche, performing in Fiesta Village is a real find, just as entertaining and inventive as Jabbawockeez, who set up at Universal Studios Hollywood. There are many similar dance crews around, and it's a real thrill to see what they pull out of their bag of tricks to ramp up the inventiveness.
Conjurers returns, bringing world class magicians to the Bird Cage Theatre, a perfect intimate space for such shows. Invitation to Terror, staged in the former Mystery Lodge, invites members to the debut of a new secret technology, as pushed by a rather familiar figure these days: a millionaire tech mogul. Things go predictably array during the course of the presentation, and it's good to see the Lodge put to good use with a new, if only seasonal, presentation. Extensive use of the Pepper's ghost effects sets this show apart.
Puppet Up!, returning for another season, remains one of the best shows around. Don't miss it just because it's not explicitly Halloween themed. It remains one of the least predictable and outrageously fun improvisatory experiences anywhere. Typically staged in at Muppet Studios in Hollywood, Puppet Up! amasses a group of genuine Muppeteers and their puppets for an unscripted series of comedic bits that never fail to surprise and delight. Just a word of warning for parents: this show is a hard 'R', based on the potential for language and conceptual themes.
One of the absolute strengths of Scary Farm is the wide cast of "scaractors" populating the grounds, awaiting any chance to pounce on unsuspecting visitors as they explore. The various scare zones, which comprise most of the park property, have returned as well, with a new addition, the Gore-ing '20s, setting up in the Boardwalk section of the park. This is a great addition, as it seems more music oriented and less typically horror themed. Roving gangsters, newspaper salesmen, baseball bat-wielding tough guys, and even a zombie band and their gang of flappers entertain and intimidate venturing crowds amidst this Prohibition-era zone. Previous scare zones such as The Hollow, CarvEVIL, Forsaken Lake, and favorite Ghost Town Streets all return in top form this year.
The long standing Hanging show is gone, possibly forever, replaced this season by Carnaval Du Grotesque, a variety show of sorts with cover bands, and side show acts performing daring physical feats.
The big draw to Scary Farm are the walk through haunt mazes of course, and many of the favorites from past years have returned with a vengeance. Returning mazes The Depths, Waxworks, Paranormal, Inc. Dark Entities, Pumpkin Eater, Dark Ride, Origins: The Curse of Calico, are joined by a new experience; Mesmer: Sideshow of the Mind. This maze marks a subtle evolution in that it doesn't rely on blood and gore as much as it instills a brooding sense of unease amongst its guests. Taking the form of a sideshow hypnotist act, Mesmer leads visitors on a trippy path through the dark corners of the human mind, throwing out a bevy of visual effects and immersive soundscapes. This one is a must.
The Timber Mountain Log Ride returns as the Halloween Hootenanny. A perennial favorite, this one is worth an annual revisit. We didn't encounter any live actors during our ride, but we're hoping they will return at some point. Not widely publicized is a seasonal revision to the Calico Mine Train, billed as Calico Candy Mine Ride. New narration and lighting promise a lively tour of the Calico Candy Mine, but the atmosphere soon turns very dark as a narrative about kidnapping and eating children (including fairly graphic audio) emerges. Honestly, this turn to child torture is a bit too much, even for an edgy event as Scary Farm. I'm not surprised it wasn't well publicized and it's likely this version only runs during Scary Farm evenings. Regardless, Knott's can do better in this regard at cheap thrills.
Despite this hiccup, Knott's Scary Farm retains its prominence as one of the finest assembly of haunt mazes, enthusiastic scare actors, and wide range of entertainment options for the Halloween fan.
Knott's Scary Farm is open during the evenings of select dates through October 31st