Six Flags Fright Fest
It’s Spooky Season again! That means it’s time for the local theme parks to vie with each other for the biggest and best Halloween attraction. I have not been to Universal, Knott’s, or Disneyland (this year), and the new Warner Bros. event hasn’t started yet. So when I checked out Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain, I wasn’t comparing it to anything but years past. How does 2018 stack up?
There are 6 mazes, down from 7 last year, and 3 of them are repeats from previous Fright Fests. Magic Mountain brought back Red’s Revenge, which is narratively ambitious but doesn’t quite work in execution. The video at the beginning is a good idea, but it’s absolutely inaudible due to ambient noise. So the backstory of the maze is washed out, and we’re left with a vague idea that Red Riding Hood is angry at being killed by wolves and is back from the dead for her aforementioned Revenge. Although it doesn’t then make sense why we would be in danger. I mean, it’s not like we’re the wolves that killed her or anything. So maybe that video was important after all! Red’s Revenge specializes in setting and scenery, but not a lot of real scares.
Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising is back too. This is Six Flags’ huge outdoor maze, with sprawling outdoor sets. They pump this one full of so much fog that it can be hard to see where you’re going. I like fog as an effect, but it concealed the neat set dressing a good chunk of the time. With so much space, I thought it could have used some more actors, but I like that this one has a story progression, as you try to escape a quarantined city before the virus infects you. (Spoiler alert: you fail) Their final returning maze is Willoughby’s Resurrected, involving a depraved family in a dilapidated old mansion. This one is pretty much like it’s always been–which is just OK.
There are 3 mazes billed as new this year. These include one themed to “Hell Fest,” a horror movie coming out September 28. I was excited for this, hoping the movie studio may have loaned Six Flags some of the sets to use. Alas, it turned out to be a revamped Vault 666 from years past, with seemingly random rooms thrown together in no particular order. Having not seen the movie, I can’t say for sure, but the maze did not seem to follow any kind of plot. For example, there was a sterile laboratory room followed immediately by a dusty dining room. It didn’t make sense. There were two rooms with bodies hanging from the ceiling, so I’m guessing that’ll be featured in the movie. Overall though, I didn’t feel anything cinematic.
The other two new mazes are better. Sewer of Souls had some gross bathroom-related scenes which are definitely NOT something I enjoy. But it also had some neat physical effects and several rooms with a neon color scheme that stood out from the rest of the mazes. I went through with some other media outlets, all of whom enjoyed this one quite a bit. My favorite was the final new maze, Condemned–Forever Damned. Themed to (another) dilapidated house, this one had a lot of fun features that almost made it seem like a low-level obstacle course. Ducking, crawling, turning sideways through a narrow space made this one feel truly interactive. It was much better than wandering passively waiting for something to jump or scream at you. You felt like more of a participant. This is the direction that all theme park haunts should be going. I can even envision a more extreme version, with climbing ladders, sidling along ledges…that would be a winner!
Scare Zones and Shows
Filling in the sections of park without mazes are the Scare Zones. These decorated areas are usually along the main walkways, full of fog and costumed actors growling, screaming and jumping at you. They try to give each of them distinct themes, but in the dark and fog, it can be a little hard to distinguish them from each other. There are exceptions of course. The clowns from City Under Siege are obvious, as are the walking shrub monsters from Witches Lair. For the most part, the Scare Zones are a way to make walking around the park more entertaining and thematic, but they don’t deliver any Must-See moments, like they did in 2016 with the Suicide Squad themed scare zone.
There are two stage shows. I missed High Sierra Hypnotist, which takes place inside a theater, but it had a substantial crowd when I walked by. Their outdoor stage show, Voodoo Nights, features “great bands, DJs, sizzling dancers, and dark fun!” This one is set up right outside the entrance to 3 mazes, so it gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. The two times I walked by, the stage was full of lights, color, and high energy music, with many people watching the show. This seems like a great way to entertain guests without them needing to make specific plans to see it.
Lastly, there is my favorite reason to visit Six Flags, and the scariest thing in the park–the rides! I still believe Magic Mountain has the best collection of rides in the country, and many of them run with lights off during Fright Fest, called Terror Tracks. Sadly, I didn’t get to go on any of my favorites, like X2 and Full Throttle. Nor did I get to try Twisted Colossus, which I STILL haven’t been on! Luckily I got a mild ride on Gold Rusher in the dark and a super thrill on Crazanity. Crazanity is their newest ride, and unlike the darkness on the roller coasters, this spinning pendulum is lit up with thousands of incredibly bright, colorful LEDs. It’s an eye-catcher that dominates the back half of the park, blazing brightly in contrast to the dark and fog in the scare zones. I was hyped for this ride, and it didn’t disappoint. The loading time is a bit slow, but the ride was spectacular. It is a top-tier ride, up there with most of the coasters. I walked off with a huge grin. I only wish it spun a little faster as it swung you upside down 15 stories in the air.
If you’ve been to Fright Fest before, I don’t think this year’s additions make it stand out enough from previous years. The new Condemned maze is a winner though, and if they start replacing some of the tired ones like Willoughby’s with new creations like that, they’ll be on the right track. The park was full of people, many screams were heard, and you never had to go far without costumed ghouls trying to scare you. I was pretty pleased with the roaming scare actors, in fact. And the rides are still top notch. I also should note that each maze sent in small groups instead of a steady stream of people. The conga line approach goes faster, but ruins the experience inside. It’s the main reason my trip to Knott’s Scary Farm years ago left a bad taste in my mouth. Kudos to Six Flags for avoiding that. There’s fun to be had at Fright Fest. How much may depend on how recently you’ve been and your tolerance for lines.
Six Flags Fright Fest is open every weekend from now through October 28th. Fridays and Saturdays until 1:00 am and Sundays until 11:00 pm. Descriptions of all the mazes, scare zones, and other attractions are available at their website here. They’re also giving away a pair of tickets each day, and you can buy tickets online to skip that when you arrive.
Photos by Juliet Rylah