Last weekend I got the chance to attend opening night of Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest. I have never gotten the chance to visit this particular haunt before. Usually I had always either been busy running around being a monster somewhere or I was debating whether or not it was worth the trek. However, this was the year where nothing would stop me from experiencing its frights and spooky delights. And, in all honesty, I think the haunt has a lot of promise. With some further editing and fine tuning, I do think the event can get up there with the big baddies like Knott’s Scary Farm, Halloween Horror Nights, and Dark Harbor.
Now, with that all being said, the following is my review of each of the haunts and scare zones in the order that I went through:
WITCH’S LAIR – SCARE ZONE
Description: Step into a wicked haven for cauldrons, broomsticks, spells and magic.
Thoughts: Located near the DC area, it was hard to miss the green labyrinth of a scare zone. There were mossy bits, characters on stilts chasing down potential victims for their mistress, and lots of screaming guests. I definitely got a sense that it was a scream of a time, but regret not spending too much time roaming the mossy bog-like atmosphere more while I was there.
AFTERMATH 2: CHAOS RISING – MAZE
Description: The city of Ash Valley is threatened with the release of a dangerous virus.
Thoughts: Starting off with this maze at the beginning of the night was definitely a low point for me during our visit. Most of my disappointment from this maze may be attributed to the lack of comfortability that opening night can bring for the staff. I am including both ushers and actors in my definition here. My biggest gripes surrounding the maze involve the talent as a whole. For a maze as lengthy as this one, it becomes a bit more difficult to stretch out the dead spaces and make it work for the guests without it starting to feel a touch boring. There were various areas where I thought it could benefit from an actor here or there to keep guests on their toes. After finding out about the silent addition of HELLFEST, I then assumed that the additional maze might have had to tap into the store of actors, which might have been why AFTERMATH 2 felt too dead for lack of better words.
Then there was the matter of a couple of actors breaking their character while we were going through, which was a bit more difficult for me to ignore. It was opening weekend, so I should cut slack, but character is paramount in maintaining the illusion of the environment. And when it happened not once, but a handful of times while going through the maze, I was left concerned.
The set design and the use of pyrotechnics throughout the course of the maze definitely was a big plus because it made it easy to see what the story was. It allowed us to believe that we were in a town that was falling apart and, as we walked throughout the course of the maze, we could see the story play out where everything was descending into chaos all around.
Overall, AFTERMATH 2 was arguably one of the weaker mazes of the night. As the talent becomes more accustomed to their positions after opening weekend, I have hope that the performances will improve.
THE SHADOWS – SCARE ZONE
Description: Eerie whispers, long windy howls and mysterious gory creatures lurk among us.
Thoughts: THE SHADOWS was quite dark and I had difficulty in seeing going through the Scare Zone. However, the actors in THE SHADOWS were very keen on playing around with words and I had quite a ball of a time trading witty comments back and forth. At one point I think I was discussing the differences between cooking people with more lean muscle over those with denser fat. It made a quick stroll through a Scare Zone that much more enjoyable.
WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED – MAZE
Description: The Willoughby’s Family mansion tale unfolds before your eyes at this once affluent Victorian mansion that has become a haven to evil…
Thoughts: Whenever I would hear of Fright Fest, it was hard to miss the mention of the infamous Willoughby’s house. Considered one of the longest running mazes at Fright Fest, WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED had a lot of hype to live up to and I think it did okay. The lighting was dark as we entered, creating a general sense of foreboding but it did make it a bit difficult to take in the finer details in the maze. The actors were energetic and didn’t break character while we were going through. However, I’m not sure if it was just because it was earlier in the night, but the first quarter of the maze didn’t have any scare actors. This left me wondering whether this was intentional in order to create a slow build to the first scare or if it was just a matter of needing actors in more important places. In the end, WILLOUGHBY’S RESURRECTED was okay, but could have used a little kick of some kind at the beginning to hook people into the maze more successfully.
EXILE HILL – SCARE ZONE
Description: The dead have risen and are looking for new souls to take on this dark and sinister hill.
Thoughts: This Scare Zone is located by the Sky Tower and it was rampant with activity by the time we got up onto that hill. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to find Innocence, the now infamous, fan favorite character who will creepily stare at you from afar. However, the actors that were roaming around were quite stealthy. There were a couple of moments when we were on our phones that they crept up behind us. They were so quiet that you could hear a pin drop because none of the actors made a sound as they crouched next to your ear. Definitely one of my favorite scare zones from a scare expertise standpoint.
SEWER OF SOULS – MAZE
Description: Dare to enter a foul-smelling wretched wasteland, sure to raise a few hairs…luring you in and then leaving you to fend for yourself.
Thoughts: I have been rather on the fence about whether or not SEWER OF SOULS was my favorite of the night. It was definitely a major highlight for me. After being introduced to the maze via a secret V.I.P. entrance with some stinky surprises, the maze lived up to its sewer title and took attendees through a very colorful, technically fun adventure that I wish could have lasted a wee bit longer . Unlike other haunts that have used poop and bodily function related themes in their mazes, there was no smell that accompanied the stinky array we trekked through. For that, I was grateful. SEWER OF SOULS is also one that can be viewed through 3D glasses. We didn’t get the chance to go through with them, but I didn’t think the experience was lesser for it. The majority of the details still managed to wow and surprise us all. That is good news for those of us with prescriptions.
The only note that I have regarding this maze that is easily fixed is control the fog machine better. I mention this because we heard from other colleagues of ours that there were evacuations in the middle of their run through of the maze due to an over abundance of fog. This coupled with the significant delay we stood in prior as we watched a fire marshall go in and out of the maze makes me think that fog was an issue. I assume that this was purely an opening weekend glitch that could be fixed with a little trial and error.
CONDEMNED: FOREVER DAMNED – MAZE
Description: If you’re looking for the newest real estate listing, attend an open house at the recently abandoned home.
Thoughts: I have waffled quite a bit on CONDEMNED: FOREVER DAMNED because I’m not sure if I love it or hate it. Initially, while going through, I loved it because there was an energy about the maze that felt almost rejuvenating. There was a claustrophobic sense that made me uneasy and the actors appeared to give it their all in terms of energy and character performance. However, despite all of that, I realized that there wasn’t anything particularly memorable about the maze. And a lot of that may have to do with the lack of story that I can’t seem to grasp from what I did experience. I got the sense that we were in a condemned house, but there was no real sense of the why or how. And that is what is stumping me. For a new maze, a lack of finite story makes it a harder sell for me as a guest going through because it makes it easier for the maze to stick itself into my brain. However, CONDEMNED: FOREVER DAMNED had some pretty solid set design and the energy it channelled and maintained in the maze definitely made it stand out against a couple of other mazes at Fright Fest.
HELL FEST – MAZE
Description: Experience the maze from the new movie, Hell Fest, where all of your screams come true… Will you make it out alive?
Thoughts: HELL FEST wasn’t originally on the previously announced list of new mazes being featured at this year’s Fright Fest. It was an addition that was subtly slipped into the event, based off of the movie of the same name. I had to ask Shannon what exactly the premise was because the characters roaming outside didn’t really connect home to me. With no expectations stemming from the movie and having had no prior experience attending Fright Fest prior to this, my expectations for the maze were low and were easily surpassed.
Given that the premise was a killer running loose throughout a haunt, it was easy to get that sense walking through the maze. You could sense that something was awry, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. There were some memorable visual moments in the maze and the actors that were used maintained their character despite the lengthy amount of time we lingered in the rooms. Was it super mind blowing? Not really given the premise. Did it entertain? Yes.
RED’S REVENGE – MAZE