Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA
We are back with another visit to the park normally known as the Extreme Park--Six Flags Magic Mountain, up in Valencia, California. After taking a look at what's new for 2016 at their Fright Fest event yesterday, we turn to the returning maze line-up today. Including Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising (which we covered yesterday), Fright Fest features seven total mazes scattered throughout the park, though three of them--Red's Revenge, Vault 666, and Toyz in Terror 3D--are all located in very close proximity to each other next to the park entrance and across from the Full Throttle roller coaster.
Quality-wise, the mazes run the gamut from impressive to lackluster, reflecting the spectrum of effort that Magic Mountain has invested over the years, with the newer mazes showing better theming and visual storytelling than the old mazes. However, what does save even the least interesting looking maze are the talent. The monsters inside each maze have great energy and really liven up the course. Some are creepy in character while others come at guests with high energy. But one thing is sure--the mazes are drastically improved directly because of the talent, and for that, the Fright Fest cast should be applauded.
Lets check out the six returning mazes in greater detail.
This retelling of Little Red Riding Hood takes guests to an alternate storyline where Red was turn to pieces by that big bad wolf, only to return to exact her revenge against all the people who failed to protect her. One of Fright Fest's recent mazes that signalled a shift in focus toward greater quality and more immersive and cohesive storytelling, this was an excellent overall experience and one of my favorites of the night. With rich, detailed theming and sets, a energetic and committed cast, and a healthy layout with plenty of scenes, Red's Revenge is the type of maze that will allow Fright Fest to compete with its more popular neighbors down south. Out of all the returning mazes, it had the best lighting and set dressing, adding up to a deservingly popular haunted experience!
Another newer maze in the Magic Mountain line-up, Vault 666 has been at the top of many people's lists when it comes to favorite Fright Fest mazes. Unfortunately for me (and I definitely seem to be in the minority), the maze itself wasn't quite as impactful as Red's Revenge and seemed to be generically solid. It's not a bad maze by any means, and the actors do a great job of emphasizing this story of an insidious medical facility where human and animal hybrid experiments are conducted. But the theming seems generic for this type of theme. Though there is plenty of it, there isn't necessarily any thing spectacular. So while I thought the maze was a great showing, it did not wow me as it has apparently done for many others. Of course, as with all maze experiences, sometimes, it depends on luck of the draw.
The Willoughby's Family has been recurring plot for mazes at Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain. This sort of sequel to the old Willoughby's Haunted Mansion maze takes guests deeper into the dilapidated Victorian mansion that now calls itself home to malevolent spirits. Located at the top of Samurai Summit, near the Sky Tower, Willoughby's Resurrected is a classic haunted house theme, and also incredibly dim. The photos below don't really communicate this, because I take advantage of long exposure, but the walkthrough itself feels very dark. Though the lighting is somewhat drab in many spots, I thought this actually enhanced the atmosphere, creating an even more melancholy feel. In contrast, the cast was anything but listless. As I went through, each monster seemed to hit his or her startle scare spot perfectly, and the ending sequence near the finale of the maze, with multiple monsters popping out in rapid succession, was a fantastic display of teamwork that left me giddy in witness. I went in with muted expectations, but I came out quite impressed with the effort put into this attraction!
The Willoughby's Garden of Darkness
On the other hand, the Garden of Darkness, also located on Samurai Summit across from Ninja and sort of near Superman, is a holdover from the days that led to general consensus raspberrying Fright Fest. The entire maze is camo netting and colored lights, with talent blended in to provide scares. Granted, the maze itself is quite dark, and the camouflaged monsters use this to great advantage to startle guests walking by who don't even notice them there. But still, this is lazy maze design requiring very little effort and providing very little visual interest. While it wasn't as bad as I feared (again, owing to the commendable efforts of the talent), it was certainly at the bottom of the maze rankings.
Located at the X2 Plaza in Baja Ridge, across from Viper and before the bridge walkway to X2, Chupacabra is another maze that shows its maze but is fortunately saved by its enthusiastic talent. The maze itself is one of the shortest at Fright Fest and carries a generic Mexican theme loosely based around the mythical beast of Mexican folklore. Design-wise, the scenery is better than Willoughby's Garden of Darkness, but the quality is still noticeably below that of Aftermath 2, Red's Revenge, Vault 666, and Willoughby's Resurrected. Fortunately, a very engaging cast actually got some start scares on me as I walked through via quick reflexes and great misdirectional timing. And when the actor were not scary, they were incredibly entertaining, reminding me of the atmosphere that occurs at the Fiesta de los Muertos scare zone at Knott's Scary Farm. In both cases, the cast as taken the little given to them and added their own attitude and spark to create a production much more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Toyz in Terror 3D
Finally, Toyz in Terror 3D, located near Red's Revenge and Vault 666, rounds out the tally. This relatively new maze uses the same Chroma Depth 3D painting that was popularized at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights to create very dynamic 3D environments (with the help of complimentary 3D glasses) that tell the story of toys gone bad. Specifically, an evil toy maker is turning human victims into toys, and they make for quite a maniacal selection. Visually, this maze is an absolute blast, and the it's quite a lot of fun to explore. With the toy theme comes a bit of a clown maze vibe--scary and playful at the same time. And it all makes for an entertaining haunted attraction.
As you can see, overall, Fright Fest's maze line-up is no longer anything to laugh at. There is quite a good amount of quality in most of the attractions, and even in those still lacking, the energy of the talent compensates impressively. Another note to mention about Fright Fest is its commitment to line control. Although the size of groups let in can increase on busier weekend nights, the event policy is to have separate groups go through mazes and avoid the "haunted line" syndrome that often plagues Knott's Scary Farm and definitely Halloween Horror Nights. Thus, as is the case with Dark Harbor, lines can build up to hefty waits. But fortunately, an upgrade to a front of line Express Lane pass is not that expensive--just a little more than double the standard maze wristband upcharge, which makes things much more palatable than at, say, Universal.
It seems that Magic Mountain is on a path of edging out older, less spectacular mazes each year so that its maze lineup continues to improve. There really are only two noticeably weak offerings this year anyway, largely in the way of theming and design, and if the current trend of replacement persists, we'll see Fright Fest with a maze lineup that can challenge Knott's and Universal within a couple of years. And for haunt fans, that is definitely a win!
We'll wrap up Six Flags Fright Fest coverage with a look at the other scare zones this week. And then, stay tuned for even more haunted attraction reviews as we really start to delve into more independent haunts! As always, happy hauntings!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.