Knott’s Berry Farm Revamps Halloween Haunt 2013, But Will Their Changes Appeal To A Younger Audience?

Posted by Kate W on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Now that Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios has announced the first experience in their 2013 lineup (a Cabin In The Woods-themed haunted house), the race is on for other theme parks to start promoting their own spooky attractions. After all, it’s the one time of year that a theme park aims to be a dreadful destination. Knott’s Berry Farm has announced some massive changes to their 2013 event in an attempt to shake things up, draw a younger crowd, and position themselves in the upper echelon of Halloween spooktacular extravaganzas. And while some changes make a lot of sense, others are filling us with a sense of foreboding.

Exterior shot of Knott's Scary Farm 2012

Knott’s Scary Farm will kick off its 41st annual event on September 26th, 2013 which will run on select nights all the way through November 2nd. An attraction that has recurred for over four decades is likely to have some unintentional cobwebs that need dusting off: that’s why we were happy to hear that Knott’s is doing a little housecleaning this year.

Knott’s Scary Farm will still include a wide array of experiences including twelve mazes, four scare zones, and six live shows, but they have elected to trim off some dead weight in order to put on a more polished production. Among the dropped mazes are a Dia de los Muertos-themed attraction and something called Uncle Bobo’s Big Top of the Bizarre which sounds more like a museum featuring vintage circus oddities than something with actual fright factor.

Lockdown attraction at Knott's Scary Farm

By dropping these mazes and others, Knott’s continues their efforts to focus on quality over quantity. Six new mazes will actually debut this year, but the overall number will be fewer: as a result, visitors can expect fewer hokey painted plywood mazes with rubber-masked monsters and sleeker, more richly-detailed mazes with cohesive backstories and compelling characters. We’re especially looking forward to Forevermore (a gothic maze that promises to take guests into the subconscious of author Edgar Allen Poe’s mind where we can watch his grim tales unfold) and Mirror Mirror (an maze modeled on an alternate steampunk universe where a nonlinear mirrored path is sure to throw visitors off the beaten path).

Shedding rinky-dink attractions in favor of new ones is a good call, especially since Knott’s seems to be determined to position themselves as a real competitor to Halloween Horror Nights. But their one step forward was followed by two steps back as they announced that one of this year’s live shows will revolve around horror kitsch queen Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Sure, Elvira’s campy, tongue-in-cheek schtick appeals to thirtysomethings who have fond memories of her basic cable horror movie hosting days.  But if Knott’s is trying to court the 18-24 demographic they are missing the mark in a big way.

Character in Knott's Scary Farm haunted maze

Ultimately, only time will tell if bringing back Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is a misstep that will overshadow exciting new attractions and make Knott’s Scary Farm feel more retro and stale than terrifying and thrilling. But with the new level of detailed storytelling the Knott’s designers are bringing to their new mazes this year, we’re willing to take the chance.

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