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Review: Six Flags Fright Fest

“The Best Fright Fest Ever” has not, in prior years, been much of a bar to reach for – but in 2018, Six Flags really did show some notable improvements.


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Six Flags Fright Fest, located at Six Flags Magic Mountain, is a special event that is somewhat included with park admission. Rides and Scare Zones are available to all guests, although admission to Haunts requires the purchase of a Fright Fest wristband for an additional charge. The event runs nineteen select nights between September 15, 2018 and October 28, 2018, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the park operating regular hours and Haunts opening at 7pm.  For 2018, Fright Fest features six different haunted houses,  seven scare zones as well as all of your favorite Six Flags Magic Mountain attractions, including Superman: Escape from Krypton, Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom and Twisted Colossus.

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Hell Fest

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It’s fun going in… but it’s hell getting out. Experience the maze from the new movie, Hell Fest, where all of your screams come true. Will you make it out alive?

It’s always odd basing a haunt off a movie that hasn’t made it to theaters yet by the time your event opens. This was unquestionably one of the problems that Hell Fest, the haunt, faced. However, there’s also a separate school of thought that a good attraction should stand strongly on its own – whether or not you’re familiar with the IP. It should tell its own story in such a way that anyone in the audience can appreciate it. This is definitely not true of Hell Fest.

Speaking personally, I saw Hell Fest, the movie, long after experiencing Hell Fest, the haunt. And even after seeing it and thinking back on the experience, the connection just wasn’t there. This was a major flop for Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Again, the first problem Hell Fest faced is the lack of familiarity with the IP for several weeks of Six Flags Fright Fest guests. But even without knowing the film or its settings, everything in this maze just flat out looked bad. Hell Fest appeared to be a haunt done on the cheap, thrown together at the last minute with little care for guest experience.

This haunt felt as though its scenic was simply made up of the left overs of past (bad) Six Flags Fright Fest attractions. Its scenes were completely disjointed and carried absolutely no sense of flow between them.

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As will become a flowing theme for Six Flags Fright Fest – one simply shouldn’t expect notable scares. With few exceptions, the Six Flags modus operandi essentially boils down to either teenagers in bad rubber masks, or teenagers in bad makeup – and in either case, all they do is jump out, scream in your face then duck away.

Condemned – Forever Damned

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Dare to step inside the horrific haunts of this dilapidated home where the walls are alive with the souls of those who once lived there and will unlease their fury on anyone who dares enter.

At it’s core, Condemned – Forever Damned is essentially a classic haunted house story. With little justification needed, we’ve wandered inside, and now we’re in danger of becoming the target of the evils who lurk within. It’s basic, but in this case it really did work well.

Condemned – Forever Damned boasts some of the strongest scenic pieces to be found at Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest. Beginning with a large scale mansion facade, guests enter through the front door and immediately find themselves in the first of many fully dimensional, completely fleshed out rooms within the house.

Furniture obstructs the flow creating a truly maze-like feeling while also adding a layer of authenticity to the world.  A half-height staircase implies the scale of the mansion could be even grander than that which lies before us.The house itself becomes some of its most impactful moments – including climbing through a kitchen cabinet to duck through a low tunnel and even find ourselves in the middle of the walls, squeezing between an impossibly narrow space full of exposed studs and insulation.

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Despite many of the cast being somewhat typical Six Flags Fright Fest quality, Condemned – Forever Damned did stand out as having some of the more “in character” roles that we’d encounter across the event. We’re not sure if it was simply more to work with in a stronger environment, better direction or just a more motivated cast – but whatever it was, it worked.

Atmospheric projection effects offered their own unique scares, bringing roaches and rats to life – as well as allowing hands to reach through the walls toward us.

Sewer of Souls

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Vanish into an underground world of lost souls and terrifying tunnels where evil oozes and creatures taunt. Prepare to become a permanent dweller in the terror that will numb you to the core.

Venturing deep into a murky sewer actually does create a unique backdrop for a haunt that is a welcome departure from the typical blood and gore hospitals and cobwebbed manors we often encounter. Unfortunately, although on paper we’re entering the sewers here, what we actually find is another bad ChromaDepth 3D maze.

Like essentially every ChromaDepth-styled haunt before it. Sewer of Souls is mostly two dimensional sets painted in contrasting fluorescent colors to create the illusion of depth. What often results is a gawdy, tacky flavor – and sadly here is no different.

At the end of the day, Six Flags got what they asked for with Sewer of Souls – but at its core, ChromaDepth is just almost never compelling.

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Beyond the to-be-expected teenagers in rubber masks, Sewer of Souls brought a few more atmospheric scares to the table that made it stand out, at least just a bit.

A giant rat puppet worked well in the setting and felt elaborate for a Six Flags haunt. A lengthy air bladder positioned at a 45º angle made it progressively more claustrophobic the further you progressed – and was further amplified by the inclusion of leg ticklers simulating the tails of scurrying rats running past and over your feet.

Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising

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The city of Ash Valley is threatened with the release of a dangerous virus. This is the park’s largest maze to date.

 

You can always tell when part of an attractions story is an out-of-character claim to its scale that it’s probably not going to be very story-driven. Instead, a somewhat unique outdoor maze is saddled with a generic zombie story where nothing really happens along the way.

 

Situated on the plot of the park’s former Déjà Vu coaster, Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising exists almost entirely outdoors. Aiming to create a post-apocalyptic-type flavor, this haunt is full of reclaimed items to further its sense of destruction.

In fact, many of those items were reclaimed from the park’s former Batman Stunt Show arena – including several crashed cars and a few building facades – one of which towers an impressive three stories above passing guests.

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Navigating the concrete slabs and crashed cars offers plenty of hiding places for lurking zombies. Unfortunately many do little more than jump out and scream.

Dense fog and occasional, sudden fireballs create atmospheric scares that up the Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising’s overall quality.

RED’S REVENGE

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Over the hell and through the woods to grandmother’s house you go. Enter the world of Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, but in this fairy tale, you and the Wolf are hunted by Red and her demonic minions.

Red’s Revenge offers a compelling twist to the classic Little Red Ridding Hood narrative, and in doing so poses itself as perhaps Six Flags Fright Fest’s most story-driven attraction.

Red is full of rage because the villagers let the Big Bad Wolf tear her to shreds, yet apparently, she didn’t quite die. It’s all a bit confusing, but perhaps could make a bit more sense with help from the attraction’s pre-show video – the only haunt at the event to have one. Unfortunately the audio levels are so low, and the noise from the surrounding haunt is so loud, that it’s nearly impossible to understand anything that’s being said.

Red’s Revenge has some impressive “wow” moments with its scenery – and not “just for Six Flags” either. Beginning with a large, fully dimensional “exterior” village scene that’s actually entirely indoors, we wind our way in and out of classic fairy tales leading to our ultimate encounter with evil Red herself.

Some scenes don’t work as well – like a giant fluorescent spider web, home to an equally giant spider. Others further the story in a solid way, like the interior of village houses that could be straight out of Pinocchio.

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Red’s Revenge delivers a bit stronger in the scares department thanks to its large, outlandish fairy tale-inspired costumes. Still little more than “boo-scares,” at least they fit within the world this time.

A highlight is finally encountering Red herself, perched above you with a fully in-character speaking role. Naturally, she’s threatening to kill you, just like in the fairy tale.

Willoughby’s RESURRECTED

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The Willoughby’s Family tale unfolds before your eyes at this once-affluent Victorian mansion that has become a haven to evil spirits. 

Based on the “iconic” demonic family that Six Flags Magic Mountain has been trying to establish as an IP for years, Willoughby’s Resurrected is, ultimately, full of meaningless characters with whom the audience has no real connection to. Generic ghosts and mundane monsters lurk in a house that you happen to be passing through.

 

Beginning with a modest exterior facade of the mansion – much less grand than the one found across the park at Condemned – Forever Damned, we enter into what’s-his-name’s world. Large scale sets – some twenty feet tall – prove that sometimes size isn’t everything. Although grand in scale, they’re hardly grand in flavor.

Perhaps because this is Six Flags Magic Mountain’s oldest returning haunt, the sets feel lacking. There’s no real “wow” to them beyond their size, and they definitely lack that je ne sais quoi. 

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Although technically falling under scenic, one of the most impactful aspects of Willoughby’s Resurrected are its uneven, sloping pathways. Likely an unplanned result of the park’s naturally mountainous terrain, within the walls of a faux mansion it creates a sense of disorientation – like something’s just not quite right.

Beyond the ground under our feet, our hosts from the what’s-his-name-family are mostly made up of more screaming teenagers in rubber masks.

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Six Flags Fright Fest boasts an impressive seven scare zones scattered throughout the park – some of them full of custom scenery and impressive lighting. A large part of the ambiance that makes this event enjoyable is the way the park itself is transformed into another world. Scare Zones are included free with the price of admission, and do not require a Fright Fest wristband, unlike the Haunts.

 

Witches Lair

Wicked witches will cast a spell on all who dare enter. Beware of cauldrons, broomsticks and black magic.

It turns out that witches live in a series of incomplete picket fences just outside The Riddler’s Revenge roller coaster. These disconnected barrier sections form a sort of maze that, in essence, starts no where and leads no where, with almost nothing to be seen along the way.

 

The Shadows

Eerie whisers, long windy howls and mysterious gory creatures lurk among us.

The midway formerly known as Pysclone Bay does little to transform itself into a Scare Zone – so little, in fact, that we actually didn’t realize it was one until looking at a park map after the fact!

 

City Under SIEGE

Comic-like, unruly characters are running rampant again in the streets of DC UNIVERSE.

On paper, City Under Seige – a world overtaken by DC Villains is a very compelling idea. In fact in past years, this space was used as an officially licensed Suicide Squad scare zone, full of the park’s very best scareactors (no, really) with elaborate prosthetic make-up to seamlessly recreate the likes of Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, and for better or worse, Jared Leto’s version of The Joker. But not this year.

Without the promotional license, City Under Siege becomes home to roughly six clowns, a vampire, a school bus and a crashed cop car, naturally underneath a laser-wave sky. It hardly feels like a world taken over by comic book super villains.

Terrortory Twisted

The Screampunk District has been transformed into the biggest scare zone ever, where steam-spewing mechanical beasts relentlessly hunt down their victims. 

So, there’s a few fog machines and a truck with a skull truck. Also the unused theater was given some moderate image-mapped projection.

Does that make this a Scare Zone? I’m not so sure; but the real crime here is whoever approved the name “Screampunk District” for everyday use.

 

Demon’s Door

Welcome to HELL… Once you enter, be prepared for your mind and body to be completely taken over by the evil spirits that await you.

Demon’s Door serves as the event’s entry statement – positioned just inside the park’s turnstiles. A fiberglass devil and handful of stand-alone stalagmites black lit and blasted with some fog creates a “better than nothing” tone to kick off your evening of frights.

 

Nightmares – a Twisted Fantasy

This evil nightmare has never been so edgy as your favorite bedtime stories take on a new and twisted tale.

Easily the best Scare Zone of the event, Nightmares – A Twisted Fantasy sounds simplistic on paper; mostly neon colored cheese cloth draped from the hillside forest just past The New Revolution coaster. Giant glowing mushrooms and assorted fantastical props transport this are into a warped world of Alice in Wonderland gone wrong.

Nightmares – A Twisted Fantasy featured a cast of the very best actors to be found across the event – and while on paper that may not sound like a compliment given how critical we’ve been of the multitude of teenagers in rubber masks, this Scare Zone really was different. Full of scareactors who were completely engaged in their characters, they went out of their way to immerse guests with elaborate one on one interactions, literally telling them entire fair tale stories.

 

Exile Hill

The dead have risen and are looking for new souls to take on this dark and sinister hill. 

The steep hill under Tatsu’s lift provides backdrop for The Shadows. Although somewhat lacking in any sort of noticeable action, and little more scenic than a few wooden huts, this very dark realm carries a distinctly ominous vibe.

Six Flags Fright Fest hardly carries the same lofty reputation as it’s heavy-hitting Southern California competition, and as such, it’s often an easy event to skip. We opted to return to Six Flags Magic Mountain after taking a few years off just to see if anything had changed, admittedly expecting that to not be the case.

The truth is that while Six Flags Fright Fest certainly is far from our favorite Halloween event, it is getting better. It’s taken years, but there genuinely is a better sense of production value in the 2018 event than any we’d seen from the park – or chain as a whole – before it. And although Six Flags Magic Mountain still has a long way to go to compete with its local peers, we’re glad to see improvements are on the table, giving us yet another event to add to our already stacked annual itinerary.

You can find an extended photo gallery from our night at Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest in this exclusive album on the Escape Authority Facebook page! While there, why not give us a “LIKE” if you haven’t already? We’ll give you candy!

Venue: Six Flags Magic Mountain

Location: Valencia, CA

Dates: Select Nights September 15th – October 28th, 2018

Hours: 10:30 am – 1 am (Fridays and Saturdays) / 10:30am – 11 pm (Sundays) / Haunts open at 7 pm

Cost: Starting at $53.99 if purchased in advance online. Fright Fest haunts also carry an additional one-time fee per night, beginning at $18 per person or $33 per person with express pass.

 

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