As the only SoCal theme park with a seamless day-to-night transition, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s FRIGHT FEST is a great value for thrill seekers. You can play all day and stay for coasters in the dark, menacing mazes, and stage shows at night. The park doesn’t close when FRIGHT FEST begins. Instead, as darkness fell, I slowly started to notice that some of the guests looked a little ragged, bloody, and just plain creepy. Ghouls, monsters, and zombified guests start to appear in the park around 7pm. These TRAVELING SCARE SQUAD characters are free to wander all over the park and could bump into you anywhere, including on the rides. This is the only place I know where you may end up riding a roller coaster with a werewolf!
All scare zones and shows are included in your park admission with only the mazes requiring an additional wristband for entry. Maze wristbands cost $15 for season pass holders and $20 for non pass holders. Lines were not long on the night I went, but if you don’t want to wait you can purchase an Express Maze Pass and skip to the front of the lines. These start at $30 and vary slightly in price depending on the date. Worth it as it gets closer to Halloween and the event becomes more crowded. Maze wristbands allow unlimited access to mazes, so you can go through your favorites multiple times.
For 2014 FRIGHT FEST, the team at Magic Mountain has given the event a huge cash injection, building expansive new mazes while upgrading and enhancing older attractions. This team is definitely committed to improving their event every year and I can testify that it just keeps getting better.
New mazes this year include RED’S REVENGE. This maze, spring boarding off the Red Riding Hood tale, plunged me into the afterlife. Red is dead and she’s out for revenge against the wolf who killed her and her dear old Gran. The first room inside shows a video with a narrator telling you the back story, but his voice is so low and spooky that he is very hard to understand. Huge set pieces in some of the rooms are really impressive with flat screen videos adding atmosphere in Grandma’s house. I thought some areas with large sculpted or animatronic characters could be a little darker. The lighting was pretty in pink, but the colorful effects reduced the scare factor. Overall, I loved the story idea and Red’s domain at the end of the maze was so interesting and beautifully done, I wanted to stay a while just to watch Red speaking from atop her enormous throne!
VAULT 666 is a brand new maze with a genetic laboratory theme. A tour of the facility where animal experiments take place, goes horribly wrong. I saw disturbed doctors taking care of bloody bandaged patients and human-animal hybrids lurking in dark corners. I was told at the preview presentation that this huge intricate maze has a cast of 40 actors inside. We went through it twice and the first time it felt a little empty, then on the second time through there were people jumping out of every available space! Just like any maze, your experience varies according to the actors inside. I give kudos to the people running it later in the evening who really managed to make my skin crawl.
WILLOUGHBY’S GARDEN OF DARKNESS is the third new maze for 2014. It extends the Willoughby family property from the house out into their haunted garden. This was another maze that I ran through twice and had two completely different experiences. The first time I was really scared. As someone who attends a lot of haunts, I don’t startle easily, but this deceptively simple maze had me screaming all the way through! Walls draped with shredded camouflage material had monsters hiding inside the walls and wearing ghillie suits which blended completely with their surroundings.
The first time through this maze there were so many monsters that I couldn’t go two feet without another hand reaching out to grab me. They were hiding in every corner and up against every wall. The second time I went through the maze, it seemed nearly empty with maybe five or six monsters inside. Since the decor inside is so simple, this one really needs to be packed with monsters to make it effective. Without them, I felt like I was just walking through darkened hallways. What a difference a monster makes!
WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED is the popular haunted house maze which winds through the Willoughby family home where the sinister family members wait. I love this maze, but I do have to say that every year I leave holding my hands over my ears. It seems that the actors in this one like to scream. And scream. And scream. And while this kind of scare tactic can be effective, by the end of it I tend to feel more assaulted than frightened. Sometimes a creepy quiet approach is even more terrifying than a blood curdling screech.
Case in point, AFTERMATH. Here the post apocalyptic zombie wasteland is enhanced by the quiet growls of the actors inside. The set for this one rivals any of the best cinematic theme park mazes. Fire effects burst forth from burned out cars. A plane is embedded in the side of a building, and a helicopter spins overhead. This is an outdoor maze with building facades that must be three stories tall. Full scale tanks, buses, and a cop car all add to the realistic scorched cityscape. This one feels like the set of a movie with zombie creatures moaning and victims sheltering against the broken buildings in quiet terror.
TOYZ OF TERROR 3D is a crazy funhouse maze that has been given a fresh 3D paint for the 2014 season. This one is fun! Guests are given 3D glasses to enhance the experience. I found it really challenging to walk through sections of this maze because the 3D effects coupled with slanted pathways make it tricky to balance. Hold on to the rails or your friends if you want to make it through this one! CHUPACABRA takes you to a Dia de los Muertos festival where a wild animal terrorizes locals. I was a little confused in this one. Actors inside kept telling me to go through a white door, which I never found!
Last year, guests entering TOTAL DARKNESS were given small lights to hold. I thought this was a mistake because the lights were too bright and illuminated the black plywood walls. This year I was thrilled to see that TOTAL DARKNESS was totally dark! Unfortunately, I had some real problems inside. Before entering, I was assigned a spot as group leader and given one end of a rope to hold. The problems started when they loaded 10 more people on to the rope and then told us to set off through the maze. This was way too many people to lead and the large group was totally unnecessary since the maze line was not long. I spent most of the time going through the maze at a snail’s pace or completely stopped, shouting directions and pulling on the rope like a game of tug-o-war to try to get my group to move forward.
The twists and turns in this maze are so tight that it is impossible for such a large group to move forward in a synchronized fashion. It felt like trying to run in a three-legged race with an octopus! By the end of it, I was frustrated and my hands had a bit of rope burn from pulling my group along. The LA Haunted Hayride has a similar dark maze and succeeds where this one fails by giving the group leaders a small lantern with a red LED light and skipping the rope. I suppose it would have been easier to handle with a group of 4 to 5 people, but the tight corners are just impossible to navigate while dragging ten blind bodies behind you!
If you love coasters, don’t miss TERROR TRACKS which features favorite rides running with the lights off and X2: AREA 19, a high speed ride taken over by aliens.
Seven distinct SCARE ZONES have monsters skulking and sliding in the dark. The makeup and costumes on the actors is fantastic and even though they stay hidden waiting to scare you, they are also willing to pose for creeptastic photos which is lots of fun. Some of the best monsters are in the new RAVENSTITCH, where steampunk scarecrows and human-raven creatures surround you. DEMON’S DOOR, is a fun area near the front gate where blacklight makeup makes the stiltwalkers and devils glow against a backdrop of fire effects and lava-like rock sculptures. More monsters await you in ZOMBIE XING, CITY UNDER SIEGE, EXILE HILL, NIGHTMARES: A TWISTED FANTASY, and THE WASTELANDS.
FRIGHT FEAST WITH THE WILLOUGHBY’S returns to the Laughing Dragon Pizza restaurant. Here you can indulge in an all-you-can-eat buffet while watching a Vegas-style magic show. Magician Michael Turco performs with dancers while scare actors creep around the tables and interact with diners. This does sell out, so book early if you plan to attend.
There are two stage shows this year. VOODOO NIGHTS is located in the plaza outside the FULL THROTTLE ride. On this stage there is a rotating group of dancers, DJs, and bands playing constantly from 7pm to closing. This is a great place to just hang out and people watch if you need a break or a snack. I’m a big fan of the HIGH SIERRA HYPNOTIST show in the Golden Bear Theater. This year hypnotist Suzy Haner takes audience volunteers and hypnotizes them into performing dances and other antics for the crowd. The night I saw her, she was able to hypnotize about 15 people which is quite a large number. I won’t spoil it, but there are only two shows a night, so plan ahead and try not to miss this free show. It is hilarious.
Are you ready to “scream bigger” at FRIGHT FEST? For tickets and information visit their website at http://frightfest.sixflags.com/magicmountain