Welcome to The Pulse, your lifeline on media and pop culture. This is part 3 of a multi-part series ranking over 60 Knott’s Scary Farm mazes spanning 16 years. For the full introduction, please click here: https://www.thegrandgeekgathering.com/the-pulse-knotts-scary-farm-0
For previous entries in this multi-part special, see here:
As stated last week, the remaining entries in this Halloween Haunt special will be in the traditional “Top 10” format and will run through the remainder of October. Today we’ll be looking at entries 30-21, we’re passed the halfway mark now boys and ghouls! Now, on with the list!
The Definitive Ranking of Knott’s Scary Farm’s Halloween Haunt Mazes (2002-2018) #30-21
30. Feary Tales in 3D (2005-2007)
Kicking things off for this week we have Feary Tales in eye popping 3D. Another take on the “good gone bad” concept, Feary Tales was (as the name suggests) a look at classic Grimm’s fairy tales through the twisted eyes of Haunt. Not the first time that Knott’s has taken on this theme (Mother Noose’s was a rather memorable take on it from many years ago), this was a more serious go that utilized the blacklight 3D effects Knott’s had become rather proficient in over the years to paint absolutely gorgeous landscapes with which to mystify and terrify guests. The soundtrack for this maze was also quite strong and I’ve had it just randomly pop into my head over the years since. There were times that the specific fairy tale being referenced got a bit lost, but overall the maze did do a good job of keeping a consistent feel to it with a very fae-esque design that helped hold it all together.
29. The Doll Factory (2007-2011)
Definitely a fan favorite, The Doll Factory was a very strong take on a very common phobia. Telling the chilling tale of the Marionette Murderer, a man who would turn his victims into dolls for his collection, The Doll Factory utilized very creative visuals and body horror (think Sid from Toy Story about 20 years later) combined with a heavy techno and steampunk-esque style. The Doll Factory had a memorable facade, a great theme, hard hitting music and disturbing visuals. The scare actors were on point, great energy all around. It was a dirty, dark and grimy maze that you just felt as you went through the titular lair of the killer. Got nothing really negative to say on this one, it was a great maze that ran its course well.
28. Pinocchio Unstrung (2012-2015)
So how do you follow up a classic like 2007’s doll-themed maze The Doll Factory (see above)? With a puppet themed maze of course! I remember being pretty hyped for Pinocchio Unstrung when it was announced. It felt like a perfect concept for Knott’s to give their spin to, Pinocchio having been denied his wish by the Blue Fairy takes his revenge against unsuspecting park guests. Featuring memorable scenes from the classic tale including a somehow more twisted take on Pleasure Island, a gruesome tour of the inside of Monstro (this time as a massive angler fish), it was a brilliant adaptation in classic Scary Farm style. Some years the scare actors were a bit, to put it bluntly, lazy and that definitely brought the maze down. But the nights where they were “on” the maze really shined. There were some memorable props and animatronics (from the massive face of Monstro to an animatronic Jiminy Cricket and an inexplicably large and monstrous Pinocchio, it combined many of the best elements of Scary Farm mazes before it and held together well for its 5 year run. I also always loved the opening narration that played while waiting in the often fairly substantial line, even if it got a bit repetitive (Pinocchio’s laugh was perfect) hearing it over and over.
27. Club Blood (2008-2010)
Most vampire themed mazes in Scary Farm’s history have leaned towards the more traditional, classical vampire or classic gothic themes as seen in Lore of the Vampire or Dominion of the Dead/Damned. Club Blood, in contrast, was very much the “modern” vampire maze. As though it took a page out of the opening of Blade, Club Blood sees guests surrounded by blood thirsty dancers (and oooh boy were those the highlight of this maze) before plunging into the backrooms of the late night club, witnessing the horror of humans harvested for their delicious red nectar, served up in plastic bags, drained of their life essence. It was cool, it was hip, it was sexy, it was everything we loved about vampires in the late 90’s and through the first decade of this century.
26. Dominion of the Dead (2012)
Not to be confused with the classic maze of the same name from Haunt’s past. 2012’s Dominion was a beautiful and artistically driven experience featuring brilliant use of high contrasting black and white, macabre and twisted art pieces (I in particular remember a cello or something of the like that had some rather interesting features). Light on the scares, Dominion instead leaned heavily on its atmosphere, helped in no small part by the brilliant use of Dead Can Dance’s “Host of Seraphim”, a song likely best known for its appearance in Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Mist”, the incredibly haunting tune coupled with the somber visuals left a serious impression on me. This was easily one of the stronger mazes of 2012 and it was a real shame that its followup, Dominion of the Damned, did away with what made this maze so successful.
25. Black Widow’s Cavern (2007-2010)
Among the most fitting themes I could imagine for the Calico Mine Train, Black Widow’s Cavern was so simple in concept yet flawless in execution (something that will come up again later so stick a pin in that comment for now). You take a mine train through an old and abandoned mine taken over by enormous spiders. The theme just worked, the sets and props mostly consisting of static and animatronic spiders along with copious amounts of artificial webbing (including the classic fishing line from the ceiling that brushes across your face), actors in costumes likely recycled from Curse of the Spider, and the classic fog/bridge scene now featuring a giant spider leaping at the train. Then of course was the absolutely wonderful use of the world famous glory hole/center showcase scene. A humongous web with an enormous animatronic spider atop it that moved along the web and scared guests, it was by far the star of this attraction and it damn near broke my heart seeing it fall into a state of disrepair in its final year, the poor thing was practically falling apart and barely moved. It was a sad and tragic end to such a well done and memorable experience. There is something to be said of simplicity being executed so well and Black Widow’s Cavern is the poster child of taking a very basic concept and delivering on it with masterful precision.
24. Fallout Shelter in 3D (2010-2012)
Knott’s has toyed with the post-apocalyptic/nuclear terror theme in the past, I only got to experience one of those attempts prior to this, so I can’t really speak to them, but this particular take on toxic ooze gone bad leaned far more heavily on Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ than I would have expected when it was first announced (here I was thinking it would be closer to, well, Fallout). One of the last mazes I can recall that utilized the 3D effect Knott’s had been refining over the years, I actually feel it was mostly unnecessary and didn’t really add to the maze as it has others in the past. It left certain aspects far too bright and colorful for my liking. Still, the sets were fine, the story carried itself well and given the heavy homages to my favorite film of all time it did at least leave me smiling when all was said and done.
23. 13 Axe Murder Manor (2005-2008)
Once again set within the longest maze space that Knott’s provides, 13 Axe Murder Manor is probably the quintessential “haunted house” (do note I mean haunted house specifically as they certainly have done much more with ghosts in mazes we’ve yet to discuss) maze of Knott’s history. Featuring large and elaborate sets, brilliant showpieces (such as books flying around a room, guts literally spewing from a corpse and dangling from the ceiling), a morbid dinner scene; it was gorgeous maze with so much eye candy to take in, a foreboding atmosphere and it used its length to its advantage. I remember a lot of buzz around this maze over its run and it’s definitely held on as a long time fan favorite, and for good reason.
22. Forevermore (2013-2015)
Also occupying the same location as our last maze, Forevermore was a high concept maze that set guests on the trail of the Forevermore Killer. Excerpts of many of Poe’s classic stories and poems accompanied the soundtrack as you walked the bloody footsteps of a madman obsessed with recreating the author’s famous works in agonizing and brutal fashions. From the corpses of cats hanging, and yowling, from trees to a massive chamber with a swinging pendulum, there’s plenty to love for literature fans and so many little details and references scattered about. The Pit and the Pendulum scene was particularly impressive, with the swinging blade just “narrowly missing” as you walked around the chamber. The ending, themed after Masque of the Red Death of course, was always poorly timed (at least in my experience) with most walk throughs often missing the climactic moment, and it really did feel sort of out of place given the darker mood of the rest of the maze. That aside, Forevermore was a highly memorable attraction with some of the best individual scenes I can think of in recent park history.
21. Dark Entities (2018-Present)
Wrapping things up with is one of the newest mazes on the countdown. Last year’s Dark Entities was one that I remember being really pumped for at its announcement. Promising a combination of Aliens, Event Horizon, Dead Space and The Thing, some of the greatest sci-fi/horror films (and game) of all time, what could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit apparently. Now, given its placement relatively high on this list, I’m obviously not writing the maze off as a complete failure, but it really did drop the ball given how much higher I think the strength of its concept could have carried it. The maze opens and closes the same, with guests walking through a doorway that apparently was supposed to have some sort of laser effect with accompanying vibrating floor, to simulate being teleported from Earth to the ship the maze proper takes place on and then back. Now the vibration always seemed to work, but the laser effect never seemed to at least in my experience as I do know others had pointed it out as something they found well done or clever, so just bad luck on my part I supposed. The layout of the maze was somewhat confusing, I often found myself having to end up being pointed in the right direction by cast members (and I don’t get turned around often in these mazes). The scare actors never really seemed on top of their game with relatively weak performances. The lighting on the set didn’t really work, it should have been darker, the creature designs weren’t impressive, the story was muddy and didn’t flow very well, it just didn’t go as far with the concept as it really should have given its inspirations. I definitely saw the potential and from what I hear things did improve over the event last year and this year it’s apparently quite a bit better so I am certainly willing to give it a good chance. I really did enjoy aspects of this maze despite my negativity, it’s just something that I saw so much more potential with that those flaws were all the more frustrating. Here’s hoping 2019 really is an improvement for Dark Entities.