FRIGHT FEST has always been a bit of a well-kept secret for haunt fans in the LA area. For the past few years, the reputation of this Valencia gem has been growing and from the crowds present on opening night, I could tell that the secret is out. Fright Fest is freaky fun. It’s also one of the most affordable Halloween events in the city. Unlike other theme parks, which close their doors to daytime park goers and re-open with separate ticketing for their haunts, Six Flags is still the only park to offer seamless day to night entertainment. They do this by selling separate wristbands for the mazes. This is great if you want to go with friends who love a good Halloween party, but they aren’t quite brave enough to face down the maze demons. Park tickets are sold separately, or you can gain entry with your season pass. Maze wristbands are sold at various locations in the park or online. Express Maze Passes are also available which offer shorter lines, though on opening night the crowds were so intense that even the express lines were quite long for the more popular attractions.
RED’S REVENGE is a dangerous walk through the forest filled with wolves, VAULT 666 is a horrific hospital where animal-human hybrids hide, and TOYZ of TERROR 3D is a demented doll factory. All three are worth the long lines. Try to get to these early even if you do spring for the Express Maze Pass. They are worth seeing and full of fun surprises. I’m a big fan of the painted floors in the 3D maze which make just walking through it without running into the walls a disorienting challenge.
WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED and WILLOUGHBY’S GARDEN OF DARKNESS are the haunted house and garden of the Willoughby family. Walk through the house first and then cross over the EXILE HILL scare zone to finish the story in the garden. This year the scare actors in the house were fantastic. I appreciated the nuanced scares and the way the actors inhabited the creepy characters they were given. The garden works best when there are more monsters. A simple design with long stretches of greenery, there isn’t much to look at in the garden, so this one relies heavily on the ability of the monsters inside to hide and blend in with their surroundings. When there are a lot of them, this feels like the maze in The Shining, terrifying and claustrophobic. When there aren’t any monsters, this one can feel tedious.
CHUPACABRA was my favorite this year. Darker and with eerie fog effects, this Day of the Dead maze was super scary! It’s amazing how a little fog and a little less light can turn a fun maze into a real terror. I could barely see to navigate my way through parts of this one and I loved it. It also benefits from a creepy soundtrack (or was that all in my head?). This maze has no roof, so hearing the howl of the Chupacabra and looking up to see the real glowing moon is a fantastic bonus.
New for 2016:
AFTERMATH 2: CHAOS RISING is a large scale outdoor maze following on the heels of the original AFTERMATH, a post apocalyptic zombie thriller. AFTERMATH 2 seems to take place in an earlier time with more survivors and police present. I have to admit that I liked the first version better. In AFTERMATH, there were no survivors and guests walked through a creepy wasteland of broken buildings, burning cars, and slow moving zombies. It had a chilling atmosphere and was one of my favorites. In the new maze, they’ve tried to turn up the heat with cops in riot gear and victims begging for help. As I entered, I was told by a park employee, “please don’t run”. Then, entering the maze, a cop shows up and shouts “RUN RUN”. This made me giggle because, well, the RUN (don’t run) contradiction was confusing and silly. Clearly I can’t run through this maze because the path is more twisting and winds back on itself more tightly than the other version and as more cops appeared and screamed “RUN”, it just became more and more absurd. I think speeding up the pacing of this maze meant that a lot of the original feel was lost and the sets are so detailed and cinematic, it’s a shame to be rushed through them.
SUICIDE SQUAD invades the park’s DC Universe area with some amazing photo ops. The actors playing the Joker and Harley Quinn are standouts. I heard more than one young person ask if they were really the same actors from the movie. Scott Ramp and the Scream Team have done a brilliant job with makeup. Every character in the park looks amazing, even close up. There are no latex masks on show here. The effects are all movie quality gorgeous gore.
VOODOO NIGHTS is dance show located in the Full Throttle Plaza. The band THE CURSED played scary-themed hits from the 80s and 90s and the crowd sang along. Throughout the night the band would take a break and dancers or the DJ would keep the party going.
HIGH SIERRA HYPNOTIST was not on stage on opening night, but I’ve seen this act in previous years and it is not to be missed. I don’t want to reveal too much, but this show is a highlight of the event every year.
FRIGHT FEST is open select dates now through October 30.
Tickets are available at Magic Mountain Fright Fest