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Knott's Halloween '15: A new haunted maze ruled by an evil queen, plus lots of zombie-killing ops

Knott's Halloween '15: A new haunted maze ruled by an evil queen, plus lots of zombie-killing ops
Elvira’s Asylum will include singing, dancing and comedy by the Mistress of the Dark. (Knott's)

Knott's Berry Farm will add a new haunted maze for Halloween Haunt 2015 featuring a vengeful ice queen and will bring back an interactive zombie-killing experience that arms visitors with simulated military assault weapons.

The 43rd Knott's Scary Farm will start Sept. 24 and run on select nights through Oct. 31.

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The granddaddy of Halloween events will feature 11 haunted mazes, three scare zones and two shows scattered throughout the Buena Park theme park. Elvira Mistress of the Dark will return as the face of the perennial event.

Among the new offerings for Halloween Haunt 2015:

Dead of Winter

The new Dead of Winter maze will put visitors in the icy grasp of a snow queen who sounds a lot like a vengeful version of Elsa from Disney's "Frozen."

Located in the Boardwalk Ballroom, the maze will include an army of resurrected Viking warriors hellbent on avenging the murder of the queen's family and determined to destroy anyone who enters her ice palace.

Dead of Winter takes over the space previously used for the Trapped escape room maze, ending a three-year run for the wildly popular and expertly executed up-charge attraction.

Paranormal Inc.

A team of ghost hunters from a cable television show investigate a haunted hospital where patients have been tortured for decades by deranged doctors in the new Paranormal Inc. maze.

Knott's promises interactive storylines, branching maze paths and aerial stunts in the fictional "Paranormal Inc." television show's first case dubbed The Haunting of Hayden Hill.

My Bloody Clementine

Knott's brings back live monsters to the the Calico Mine Ride along with the addition of new lighting, audio and video mapping effects for My Bloody Clementine.

The storyline follows a father and daughter who were brutally murdered centuries ago and return as ghosts to hunt and haunt their killers.

Special Ops: Infected

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The returning Special Ops: Infected zombie apocalypse attraction taking over six acres of Camp Snoopy will feature all new missions, more monsters and improved laser guns that can be reloaded and upgraded throughout the interactive experience.

Guided by squad commanders, teams of Haunt visitors will set off into an infected zone swarming with zombies. The mission: Kill as many zombies as possible and rescue patient zero. An expanded queue for Special Ops will be set up in the former Slaughterhouse maze location.

Also this year, a group of ghouls dubbed the Deadly 7 will join the 1,000 monsters prowling the haunted mazes and scare zones. Lead by the Green Witch, the marquee monsters representing each of the seven deadly sins will wander throughout the park every night.

Reviews of returning mazes from best to worst:

Voodoo: Order of the Serpent

Voodoo was easily the best new traditional maze of Haunt 2014, taking visitors into the swampy backwoods of a Louisiana bayou brimming with witch doctors and zombies.

The choose-your-own-path aspect of the maze made the experience highly repeatable and the amazing scenery set a new standard for Haunt quality. Knott's answered my wish this year by making the relatively short maze even longer, allowing for more space to expand the incredibly evocative swamp shanties in the bayou village.

Voodoo's new Skeleton Key room promises to summon the Serpent Goddess. (Next to GhostRider coaster)

Tooth Fairy

New in 2014, the Tooth Fairy maze mashes up two rites of passage: the legendary creature that sneaks into children's bedrooms in the middle of the night and an agonizing trip to the dentist's office.

The bizarre and twisted story got a little muddled in the middle but that didn't take away from a wonderfully detailed maze that delivered plenty of scares. The highlight of the maze was an animatronic version of the wicked tooth fairy herself in the final room.

This season, Tooth Fairy will add a Skeleton Key room, a pre-maze scene offered with several mazes that provides an intimate explanation of the back story for visitors who opt to pay extra for the Fright Lane front-of-line upgrade. Dead of Winter along with three other unannounced mazes will also feature Skeleton Key rooms. (Next to GhostRider coaster)

Forevermore

The beautifully rendered Forevermore maze follows the bloody trail of a modern-day serial killer who re-creates murders from the terror-filled tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

My favorite Forevermore scenes from last year included the pulsing red lights and thumping heartbeat under the floorboards in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and the corrugated steel walls squeezing in on both sides of a shrinking room in "The Fall of the House of Usher."

A new Skeleton Key room in Forevermore will be based on the Poe story of "Eleonora." (Located in the Mystery Lodge entrance)

Black Magic

The Black Magic maze recounts a number of Harry Houdini's most amazing feats -- including a water tank escape and knife-throwing illusion -- with some supernatural twists.

While Black Magic offered wonderfully rendered sets and a compelling story during Haunt 2014, the maze lacked a main character and featured far too many generic monsters with ill-defined roles. (Next to Xcelerator coaster)

Gunslinger's Grave: A Blood Moon Rises

With a well-conceived back story and impressive sets, the Wild West-themed Gunslinger's Grave maze suffered from one major problem: The masked cowboys wielding revolvers just weren't that scary.

A woman kidnapped by a lawless cowboy gang at the beginning of the maze was never revisited again. The lifeless saloons and corrals that visitors wandered through cried out for bar fights, shootouts and an old-fashioned hanging at the end. A new story line dubbed "A Blood Moon Rises" promises a werewolf invasion of the Wild West town. (Near Silver Bullet coaster)

Trick or Treat

Owned by Haunt’s iconic Green Witch, the beautifully rendered Trick or Treat haunted house has been consistently under-realized and under-utilized in recent years.

Hopefully the introduction of a new potion room and a bewitched attic helps improve the perennially under-performing maze. (Next to GhostRider coaster)

Pinocchio Unstrung

The Pinocchio Unstrung maze offered a twisted take on the classic tale, with the puppet who longs to become a boy embarking on a wild killing spree after the Blue Fairy denies him his final wish.

This well done but long-running maze has gotten a little tired and probably should have been replaced this year. During my visit to the Pinocchio maze last year it seemed like all the monsters were on a break. Hopefully the addition of a Skeleton Key room helps bring this dying maze back to life. (Inside Wilderness Dance Hall)

Scare Zones & Shows

Three scare zones will return for Haunt 2015: Carnevil, Fiesta de los Muertos and Ghost Town (which will expand into the backstage maze area).

Haunt 2015 will also feature two shows. Elvira Mistress of the Dark will return with an all-new music, dance and comedy show called "Elvira's Asylum." The perennial pop culture evisceration of celebrities and their foibles known as "The Hanging" mixes comedy and music with disembowelment and a noose-swinging finale.

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