Before cinematic horrors ascended in the haunt world, original terrors inspired by classic lore sprung up at Knott’s Scary Farm. The haunted house event in Buena Park, CA was the first theme park on the West Coast to bring harvest and horror fun to the state, later inspiring its neighbor parks to follow suit.
io9 recently attended the “Knott’s Scary Farm: Nightmares Revealed” event to learn more about the influence of the haunt’s legacy on this year’s production, and how it’s continuing to evolve alongside the horror community’s excitement for terror. With three new mazes—two of which are rooted in Knott’s Scary Farm lore, The Chilling Chambers and Cinema Slasher—the Scary Farm team pays homage to frights featured throughout the eras. To step into the future of immersive and interactive fun, this year they’re introducing a special lantern for a taste of gateway alternate reality game (ARG) shenanigans, which will unlock special moments throughout the mazes and around the park.
Maze designers Daniel Miller and Gus Krueger chatted with us about what fans of the iconic Halloween event can expect to celebrate 50 years of scares.
io9: I’m very excited for the event. It’s the 50th anniversary this year and I have to know how that influences the new mazes being introduced like Cinema Slasher and The Chilling Chambers.
Daniel Miller: I co-designed Cinema Slasher with Jon Cook, who was The Dark Ride designer—this is replacing it. We just all love horror films, we love them with a passion. We wanted to come up with this haunted theater in the last year it was open. So this owner, you know, he knew it was haunted and he knew he was bringing all these fans in. We go into the movie theater and in through the screen, into the scenes, exploring three different movies that are based on the slasher genre. So we kinda brainstormed and said what three movies would be best to represent? And quickly discovered that they actually had a link to mazes that we did before, like Trick ‘r Treat which was kind of based off Halloween. There’s also a slaughterhouse maze is based off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well. We felt like we had enough to show that this is also an homage to our past.
io9: How much of the story of each film will be revealed before guests go into the maze? Will there be footage of the fake movies projected?
Miller: Oh, definitely—each little movie theater actually has a clip and when you see that, you’re going to go into that and will experience that room. It’s really cool. And the ticket taker will also take you up front. It also kind of explains what you’re going into, so you can get a hint of what you’re seeing right before and the different feel of each of these classic slasher movies.
io9: Tell us more about how the interactive lantern will come into play at Scary Farm, and what can we expect in terms of how it will enhance the immersion at the event. Will we need to actively search for spots it will affect, or will it mostly trigger on its own while we’re walking about?
Gus Krueger: You don’t have to search when you enter the field; some things will only be triggered while you’re in the perimeter of that field. Some of it will say, “hey, keep doing that for five minutes”—or whatever. So depending on what we want to do, the lantern will do that for us. You’ll know, you’ll see it pulse like a heartbeat. Sometimes the heart beats fast, sometimes it beats slow. We can do things where it’s just like a sporadic random flicker. It’s been really cool and I’ve been able to spearhead the project locally to work with you. There’s games, locations where they may be using that technology. Working with the other designers [on how it will affect their mazes] was great. It was fun to say, “Okay, you have this tech capability. What do you you want to see happen?”, and then take that and put it all together. And of course, I put a ton of stuff in my [maze]. It’s a fun new technology [and] a learning curve for all of us to see how this is going to come about. But the goal in Chilling Chambers is when you go visit these four old mazes, each one has its own properties the lantern will do from there.
io9: I’m a huge fan of interactive stuff, so I’m glad you’re going to lean into that, but I’m also a really big fan of original horror mythology at the theme parks that take a life of their own. With Chilling Chambers, you’re taking us back through the history of Scary Farm. Can you tell us about the different areas that fans will be seeing that honor the event’s past?
Krueger: In The Chilling Chambers, you’ll enter into the Keeper’s cathedral, and the Keeper is the one who has been overseeing this world where all of the mazes go when they’re no longer at Scary Farm. So unbeknownst to all of us—all this time, the Keeper has been there in his cathedral. There’s portals will take you to these worlds from the past. So when you go, you’re going to visit The Asylum, you’re going to visit The Doll Factory, you’ll visit The Underground, which has been one that a lot of people are like, “Oh, I remember that.” [It] was a post-apocalyptic maze that we had in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. And then you’ll also visit the Carnival of Carnivorous Clowns. It was hard really deciding just a few mazes to feature here, but you can only do so much. But that said, there’s still so many other mazes, so many other callbacks that we’re able to do in different ways that you’ll find out when you visit. But yeah, in all four of those mazes I mentioned you’ll see at least three rooms that are recreated. Some of them are fairly faithful to the [older version]. Some of them are new ways to see that and new ways that envision it. They’re made for for fans that have seen it before, but also fans who’ve never seen it before. It’s for everyone.
io9: What were your favorite characters to pull from the archive? Were there some that the team really needed to include?
Krueger: This maze I actually did design alongside Jon Cook and Ted Dougherty, so when we worked on it, the things that were slam dunks—no way we could avoid it, were The Asylum and The Doll Factory. I mean, when you see our polls, anytime we say: “Hey, what do people want to see?” It’s always those two mazes up at the top. So there was never any question as to whether or not they’d be involved. We each have our favorites, we each have little things we’ve tried to try to find ways to tribute in there. But those two mazes, far and away, were never in doubt.
Knott’s Scary Farm 50 unleashes its nightmares in Southern California’s Knott’s Berry Farm beginning September 21 and running through October 31. You can book tickets online.
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