Six Flags Magic Mountain this year has given its Fright Fest a new haunted house, a pair of new scare zones, and some fresh entertainment options. Those refreshed options imbued an event that remains a little rough around the edges with some fresh energy.
Magic Mountain competes in one of the most crowded Halloween theme park environs in the United States; you won’t hear many excitedly tell their friends they’re going to Fright Fest to kick off spooky season. Six Flags does itself little favors with a pricing structure that favors pass holders and no one else. A Haunted Attractions pass costs $25-30 depending on the night, but you still need to buy a general admission ticket. That will run you between $115-125 if buying from the Six Flags website.
That is, it will not surprise you, substantially more than a Knott’s Scary Farm or a Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights ticket. And that’s a shame, because while the creative crew at Fright Fest puts on a fine show, it’s not quite at the level of their better-heeled brethren.
Operations within the maze are disorganized; Six Flags does not utilize the hooded guest control employees that have become ubiquitous at other events. It can make for confusing meandering through their haunted houses. That, combined with actors who at times meander through the halls without a clear sense of direction remind you what separates Knott’s and Universal from the rest of the pack.
But, more than any other year at Fright Fest, those problems felt eminently fixable. The themed environments were strong enough to immerse guests. There were usually enough actors in the haunted houses to feel like Six Flags’ long run into austerity hasn’t touched Fright Fest just yet. And if the price point hurt attendance, it didn’t show on Saturday night; walkways were crowded, no doubt drawing from the park’s season pass base. It appeared most rides were running, including Tatsu which has suffered from long periods of downtime this summer.
With only six mazes, you shouldn’t have much of a problem hitting all of them if you show up at opening — but here’s a rundown on what to expect. The first three mazes are nestled in what is now a backstage area behind the Full Throttle Sports Bar — if you’re really old, are back where Flashback used to be.
Truth or Dare
New for 2022, Truth or Dare didn’t open until 9:45pm on Saturday due to technical issues. This Saw-meets-WandaVision maze clearly has some ideas to play with, but I don’t think we got the best version of it. We walked through multiple empty rooms with unused props that hinted at a Jigsaw-torments-his-victims vibe that never truly developed.
Instead, Six Flags put its energy behind a few acrobatic-based scares throughout the house. Knott’s has used similar techniques over the past five years with middling results. Beyond grabbing for theatricality, having someone float past you on wires often reduces the immersion in a themed environment. Despite missing some early scare opportunities, and my thoughts on stagehands run amok, going through this house as one big group was fun, and if they’re able to continue to do that throughout the season, I think it’ll be a hit.
Vault 666: Unlocked
My favorite house of the night featured some long walks through well-dressed sets, giving actors lots of places to hide among props and other periphery. This returning house will be familiar to haunt veterans in style, but its construction into an existing building gives the journey some texture. As with many houses in this vein, we’re walking through a series of spooky rooms before eventually we get to something vaguely cult-like. How far we’ve come since the 1980s!
Condemned — Forever Damned
A gross-out house, not far removed from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Scarecrow houses of yore. Six Flags is more willing to force its guests into ducking under barriers, squeezing through airbags and other, ah, contact points than Universal. Knott’s has shown a greater willingness for these sorts of high-contact devices over the years, but there were moments when Fright Fest, for better and for worse, felt like a large-scale home haunt. This house really captured that.
A long walk around the perimeter of the park takes you to Apocalypse, which shrouds the fourth house of the night.
Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising
Chaos reigns in this zombie-themed, open-air walkthrough attraction. The opening set piece was spectacular and features a ball of fire repurposed from the wooden coaster next door. But poorly communicated directions can make it difficult to know where you’re supposed to go next, often leaving the task of direction giving to the zombies who are supposed to be mangling your flesh. This could be solved with a few non-zombie actors in the field — or, again, some guest control employees.
The final two houses sit atop the hill between Ninja and Superman: Escape From Krypton. The good news? Few tread here, so expect shorter waits as a result. These houses are also longer in the tooth than their front of the park brethren, which might affect their waits.
Sewer of Souls
A throwback to the days of 3D-over-everything, Sewer of Souls offers a disorienting journey through a toxic dump. Your tolerance for 3D glasses will dictate how badly you want to toddle through this house — you’ll also have to suffer through a pair of ginormous airbags to reach your final destination. This is not for the claustrophobic.
If Magic Mountain has a legacy in the haunt game, it’s Willoughby's. There have been updates, tweaks, and upgrades to the house over the years, perhaps most notably an over-reliance on screens in some areas of the house. Once the screens featuring creepy little girl and spooky boy started showing up at local haunts, they started to feel badly out of place at theme park Halloween events. But, I digress! Willoughby's is a classic haunted mansion built into yet another unused building at the top of the hill. While that's problematic for the daytime park, it's delightful to have so many houses stuffed into old buildings, eschewing the switchbacks and tents of other events.
We also checked out the Spirit With the Spirits buffet ahead of the opening of the haunted houses. For $59.99, you get a buffet that includes chicken fingers, sausages, mac n' cheese, meatballs, pulled pork, baked beans, salad, two dessert options and a drink ticket.
My partner and I tried a mocktail that was effectively a sprite with grenadine and a cocktail that included vodka, cranberry, lemon juice and grenadine. We got to keep the plastic cups, though given Six Flags’ loose article policy, this ended up as more of a burden than a blessing.
The Voodoo Nights show, taking place on the Full Throttle stage, seems to be the largest entertainment offering of the event. I walked past The Rising, which takes place by the fountain at the front of the park, multiple times throughout the night and never saw anything beyond classic scare zone trappings.
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