For the past few years we have seen Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm battling for the top spot as LA’s most popular theme park haunt. This year, Six Flags Magic Mountain steps out of their shadows like a persistent zombie with a new and improved Fright Fest. Offering true day-to-night entertainment, Fright Fest is unique because visitors can purchase daytime admission tickets and enjoy the park and rides during the day, then stay for “Fright by Night”. Only the mazes require the additional purchase of a wristband for entry. All shows, scare zones, and special Fright Fest ride attractions are accessible with your regular daytime admission. Maze wristbands offer unlimited access to all mazes for $15 non-season pass holders or $13 season pass holders. That’s one hell of a deal!
At the park, the map comes with a “Fright Guide” intended to let visitors know which attractions are appropriate for all audiences and which are intended to scare the pants off you! Ratings 1-4 are for General Audiences, 5 is Parental Guidance Suggested, and 6-10 are Not Intended for Children under 12. Scare Zones open at 7pm and were ranked 6-10, though I didn’t see many things above a 5. I suppose the higher rankings are intended to let you know that these areas might include blood and gore or more intense interaction with sliders and stilt walkers. Monster makeup in the park has been beautifully realized by Scott Ramp and The Scream Team. Even the monsters we saw walking around during daylight hours had camera-ready prosthetics and looked great up close.
We began our evening at “Fright Feast with the Willoughby’s”. A buffet of all-you-can-eat salad bar, boneless chicken wings, and pizza with seasonal pies for dessert. Specialty of the house, tri tip steak barbecue pizza was tasty, but certainly not for those looking for healthy options. Kids would like the endless chicken strips, but might be a little creeped out by the wandering actors who leaned in to our faces while we ate. This is rated a 2 on the fright guide, but I did see one family leave with a child in tears who found it too frightening. I’d ask to take a walk inside if you intend to take children to this all-ages dinner. Magician Michael Turco, formerly of America’s Got Talent, performed family friendly magic with a bit of a Halloween flavor during dinner. Audience participation encouraged.
There are seven designated Scare Zones throughout the park. One fun area was Exile Hill where the dead have risen outside of Willoughby Manor. A ghoulish character with bloody goo dripping from his mouth was a sinister sight! And a stilt-walking woman with a skull face crouched waiting for people to pass by, then lumbered towards them. This area was only rated a 6 on the “fright guide”, but the actors raised the bar on the night I was there! Another really fun area was the City Under Siege located in the streets of DC Universe. This area, rated a 9 for frights, is populated by clown-like comic inspired characters whose brightly colored costumes looked great against the green lasers and fog. Expert sliders crouched behind trash cans and sent sparks flying in front of terrified groups of teens. I had a great time watching until The Riddler slid in front of me, nearly making me drop my camera!
A new feature this year is a group of costumed actors who are not designated to a certain scare zone. A park employee explained to me that this “free roaming band” has full access to all parts of the park at night. This includes mazes, ride lines, and anywhere else they feel like going… including inside the mazes. This might explain why I saw my favorite costume of the night in the DC Universe area, but he didn’t fit the theme of the Scare Zone. Part werewolf and part man, this ingenious costume allowed the actor to treat the werewolf part clinging onto him as a puppet with a fully functioning and moveable head and body. As he ran screaming past me the wolf appeared to be attacking him. Awesome!
Eight mazes require wristbands for entry. Lines were not too bad on a Saturday night for most of them. If you don’t want to wait, Express Maze Wristbands are available starting at $30 with limited availability. The three NEW mazes this year were in my opinion, the best of the night.
Weepy Hills INSANEtorium (new) starts with a video of birds in a field that you have to watch on your way in. I didn’t really see the point in that, but once inside the actors made this one a standout. Rated an 8 on the fright guide, the mentally ill patients and staff kept us clinging to the walls as we snaked through the small rooms full of deranged screaming lunatics.
Toyz of Terror (new) was almost impossible to find. Hidden behind a wall across the courtyard from the Full Throttle ride, we walked past it several times and barely made it in before closing. Park employees told us that they are making signs pointing towards this maze which should be up by the weekend. If not, please make an effort to find this one. Not one of the longest mazes, but it’s garish dayglo colors and wickedly warped dolls made this one chilling fun. The evil toy maker pops up asking to turn you into one of his dolls as you struggle to walk on the uneven floors of this funhouse-style maze. Rated a 10 on the fright scale, the rooms in this maze had so much going on that we felt it was over too soon.
Total Darkness (new) is almost exactly what you would expect from the name. Located in the Magic Moments Theater this maze starts in a disorienting room with a blinking strobe light. One person at the head of a small group is given a keychain light and a rope with knots. Others in the group are asked to hold onto the rope as the leader enters the darkness. Now, total darkness isn’t exactly true… even when you are not pressing on the keychain light, your eyes do adjust and you can see a little bit from the glow of the exit lights, but it’s pretty darn dark. Personally, I don’t think the rope was necessary and it would have been more fun to try without it. Something about the rope gives you a sense of security, like holding onto mommy’s apron strings, that made me feel safe. I led our group and also felt a little slowed down by the speed that we had to go since everyone was trudging along together like a band of sherpas crossing the Himalayas. Still, there are a lot of twists and turns in this one and we enjoyed it, but I’d say that the 9 rating on the fright guide is overstated.
Returning mazes include Willoughby’s Resurrected, a walk through the Willoughby family manor with cool digital photo displays on the walls and interesting Victorian era rooms. The actors inside this one screamed a lot directly into our ears which left us feeling more daunted than haunted by the end.
The Aftermath is the most truly EPIC maze. Located in the Movie District, this maze rivals anything that Universal can create. Billed as “one of the largest mazes in SoCal” this indoor-outdoor maze winds through a post-apocalyptic city where citizens moan and cry for help. The set pieces include full size vehicles, fire, and fog effects that are truly stunning.
Black Widow, rated a 7 on the fright guide, was the least successful of the night. The maze is full of webs, but we saw surprisingly few spiders and actors inside. It had more of a quiet and creepy feel which I would have rated closer to a 3 or 4 for frights.
Chupacabra has potential, but the darkness inside the maze prevented us from seeing all of the details inside. Snarling animal sounds startled us a few times and a huge paw thrust into my face near the end gave me the biggest fright of the night. But, I was left wanting more from this Dia de Los Muertos inspired maze. The mexican influence is certainly there, but I see this as a maze that can only get better with time and a little more attention to detail.
Cursed is set in the world of gypsies and werewolves, but this theme takes second place to the amazing actors completely camouflaged in gilly suits. They blended seamlessly into the walls and startled us over and over. I also loved the way that this maze is set in the semi-open air. This allows the real moonlight to pour in through the corridors which made it feel like you really were walking through the backwoods at night.
Fright Fest has exclusive “Thrills by Night” with the giant wooden roller coaster Colossus Backwards! Unsurprisingly, riding this nearly one mile track backwards is even more terrifying than forwards. They also offer “Terror Tracks – Rides in the Dark” for Full Throttle, Tatsu, Apocalypse, Viper, The Riddler’s Revenge, Batman the Ride, and Goliath. So, if you want to test yourself, you can try your favorite rides with the lights out.
Stage hypnotist, Chris Mabrey, won the night with his comic horror stage show. With only two shows a night in the Golden Bear theater, his show is worth the price of admission alone. Pulling onto the stage about 30 volunteers, Chris uses his amazing abilities to hypnotize about half of them into performing wild antics. And since it is Fright Fest, he ends his show with a hilarious scare prank. Making the volunteers believe he is invisible, he taunts them with stuffed animals, chairs, and even a Chucky doll which has them scrambling over each other to get away. We had tears rolling down our cheeks as we watched this show. Don’t miss it!
Ending our night with a dance party, the VooDoo Nights stage show runs continuously from 7pm until park closing with a rotating group of bands, DJs, and dancers. We learned how to do the Michael Jackson Thriller dance under the stars with a group of zombies. Now, that’s the way to end a party…
Of course, no night at Magic Mountain would be complete without funnel cake… and they have a special one just for Fright Fest. The Grim Turtle Funnel Cake is just what you need after midnight. Chocolate Funnel cake is covered in chocolate chips, whipped cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, pecans, and ice cream. Grab a fork and a friend and head for home. Tell your friends to check out Fright Fest this year at Six Flags, just don’t tell them what I said about the hypnotist… that’s between us (wink).
For more information about Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest, you can visit their website at http://frightfest.sixflags.com/magicmountain