The sun is beginning to set in Santa Clarita, California, casting sinister shadows over the horrific, post-apocalyptic streets of Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest 2019. Rows of excited and terrified guests line the DC streets, awaiting the hordes of monsters who will soon be tormenting the night. Suddenly, herds of witches, clowns, and stilt-walkers emerge from the looming fog, scaring the crowd as they head to their mazes and scare zones. The monsters have been unleashed; let the scares begin.
Each year, after the sun goes down, Six Flags Magic Mountain hosts Fright Fest – featuring six haunted attractions, six scare zones, two shows, and altered rides. New to the park this year are the maze Vault 666 Unlocked and the show Sliders of the Night. The rest of the mazes and attractions remain the same as previous years, with a few new additions and modernizations to keep guests coming back. Nonetheless, with the actors’ high energy and dedication to character this year, Fright Fest 2019 creates a new experience regardless of the repetitive mazes.
Vault 666 Unlocked
This new maze invites guests into a local antique shop filled with haunted exhibits and artifacts. To gain access inside, guests must interact with a dry-humored shopkeeper who provides riddles, leading to a skeleton key which must be found in the entry room before the maze itself. However, the more you struggle to find the key, the more straight-forward riddles she will give you. Vault 666 Unlocked provides an innovative new haunted attraction that requires you to think critically rather than walk passively through a haunted maze.
While walking through this extensive maze, guests will come across many scare-actors, beautiful designs, and highly intricate details. Each item has a haunted history that is shown through the ways in which it haunts the guests. One room that exemplifies this concept is a Victorian room filled with an abundance of creepy dolls as well as human-like figures in long dresses with veils covering their faces. With their faces obscured, it is difficult to tell which figures are scare-actors and which ones are simply mannequins. Just as dolls often emit an uncertainty and feeling of being watched, these mannequins too cause this fear and pressure.
Although there are a few recognizable props from previous years – such as the arm walls from Hell Fest in 2018, and the operation table from Vault 666 in 2017 – this new experience shows that Magic Mountain is beginning to place more focus on the value of details.
Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising
Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising takes place on the set from the retired Batman Stunt Show and relies heavily on its detailed facades to bring guests into an end-of-the-world experience. As guests walk through this post-apocalyptic outdoor maze, they are yelled at by military personnel who are hurrying to get patrons out of the already-in-shambles city. The use of the sets is a clever way to repurpose old facades, however, there is little storyline other than the repeated notion that the world is coming to an end, and very little explanation as to the events leading up to it. Due to the theme of this particular attraction, guests are rushed through with very little time to actually appreciate the set design. Some guests might even get frustrated that there were few jumps or scare-actors within the maze itself; however, if Aftermath’s focus was solely on set design, it achieves greatness in that particular category.
Sewer of Souls
As one of the most visually appealing attractions of the night, Sewer of Souls literally places its guests into graffiti-ridden haunted sewers, and takes advantage of 3D effects. There are some great, maze-specific features such as claustrophobia tunnels, narrow pathways, and creatures that blend into the walls. This maze heavily relies on sight and the 3D feature to do the work as there are very few scare-actors sprinkled throughout. More than anything, this particular attraction serves an aesthetic purpose, providing guests with much to look at and less to react to; thus being a nice break from the many other jump-scare intensive mazes.
Condemned: Forever Damned
As one of the stand-out mazes of the night, Condemned returns for a second year. Featuring a disgustingly unkempt home, Condemned has every guest in a rush to get away from the putrid smells within. This maze plays on all of the senses, and even features water effects. As guests try to exit the house, they must climb through a bunk-bed as well as squeeze through walls that get smaller and smaller. This attraction plays a lot on common fears and phobias such as bugs and claustrophobia which made it one of the most well-thought-out mazes of the night. Although shorter than some of the other mazes, Condemned packs a lot of horrific themes into a smaller experience and definitely places a focus on quality over quantity.
This classic-style haunted house is a Fright Fest staple that continues to provide high energy and a few jumps. Once again, we return to the Willoughby home where even more mystical happenings are occurring, as well as the reappearance of the family themselves. Guests can expect to come across some archetypal horror scenes including graveyards, ghosts, and floating candles; nonetheless, this attraction serves as a great starter-maze for those who want to ease into the scares.
Yet another classic Fright Fest attraction, Red’s Revenge returns for its sixth year to take us into a twisted fairytale world where Little Red Riding Hood is hell-bent on getting her revenge. After the attack by the Big Bad Wolf, Red feels that she was not protected or helped by the other fairytale characters and seeks to find solace in the gruesome haunting of their world. With an engaging introduction video to begin the experience, guests are in for quite a scare before they actually enter the maze itself. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this maze is a beautiful scene in which Red stands on top of a cascading staircase delivering a monologue as the world around her is destroyed. This powerful moment helps bring the story full circle and provides an aesthetically balanced and pleasing image to juxtapose the chaos around her.
NOTEWORTHY SCARE ZONES
City Under Siege
City Under Siege is back in the DC streets and filled with more clowns! This area features laser lights, abandoned cars, heavy fog, and an abundance of escaped inmate clowns. The aspect that stands out the most in this particular zone is the amiable clowns who individualize their scare experience to each guest they come across. Not only are the clowns great sliders, but they also have great stories to tell if you ask them!
Nightmares: A Twisted Fantasy
This visually appealing zone features a gruesome take on some classic fairytale characters. With its vibrant, neon colors juxtaposing the darkness of the night and the sinister content, this area is unsettling to say the least; especially when meeting characters like Pinocchio and the Mad Hatter who are oddly disturbing due to the twisted design of familiar characters.
This outdoor lair is simply composed of a few wooden walls and props sprinkled within a dimly lit section of the park. With the abundance of fog and different paths to take, one could walk through this area multiple times and have a different experience each time. This scare zone is extremely interesting in that it is almost maze-like due to the wooden panels it is composed of, but, due to the openness and freedom of flow, feels like a scare zone. As guests walk through Witches Lair, they are tormented by the unruly hosts who disappear and reappear – like magic.
Sliders of the Night
This new show is a highlight of the entire Fright Fest experience. One hour before the park closes, a collection of sliders meets in the City Under Siege scare zone to perform a variety of stunts on all fours. Each performer runs and slides on their knees, setting off sparks and applause. As the show progresses, the stunts become even more challenging, leading up to jumps, lifts, and audience interaction. There isn’t a storyline to the show, as it is more of a display of talents, but their level of skill could eventually make them the slider display to beat.
Although a major player in the theme-park world, Magic Mountain is still growing within the haunt industry, but Fright Fest 2019 was a big leap in the right direction. There is stagnancy that remains a huge factor each year as the mazes are reused, and even the new attractions are compilations of recognizable, old haunt pieces. However, with the level of interaction and detail Fright Fest is beginning to feature, new life is being breathed into older concepts. Nonetheless, there is much to be said about the high level of professionalism exuded by the scare-actors who make this year’s experience enjoyable with their dedication and excitement. Although many of the mazes and scare zones are the same as previous years, 2019 is a great year for scare-acting at Fright Fest and manages to rejuvenate the old, repetitive themes.
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