Knott's Berry Farm's less-is-more approach to Halloween Haunt in recent seasons has resulted in fewer but better haunted mazes with a greater focus on storytelling and attention to detail.
In its 45th season, the granddaddy of theme park haunted attractions is playing catch-up with Universal's Halloween Horror Nights, which specializes in mazes based on brand-name horror films with movie studio-quality sets. As it has throughout its history, Knott's continues to rely on tried and true Halloween tropes for its maze themes.
The increased competition has lead the Buena Park, Calif., theme park to adopt a quality-over-quantity ethos that has produced a line-up of haunted mazes that has grown stronger each of the past few seasons.
I returned to the fog on opening night of Knott's Scary Farm to review each of the nine haunted mazes. Let's take a best-to-worst look at this year's line-up:
Special Ops: Infected
Special Ops: Infected puts you in the middle of an apocalyptic zombie-killing video game. It's fun, loud, intense, aggressive and scary. Zombies are coming from everywhere. It's non-stop. And there's no escape. Fortunately, I was armed with a zombie-slaying laser gun.
The detailed design of Special Ops: Infected is outstanding. Everywhere you look you feel like you're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. And only you and your squadron can save humanity. One head-shot kill at a time.
The highlight of the maze for me: I shot a zombie over my shoulder with my back turned to her. The wounded zombie shuddered and fell to the ground in agony. I felt like a swaggering action hero.
Special Ops: Infected remains the must-see maze of Halloween Haunt and well worth the wait.