Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA
Happy Tuesday! We’re sticking with Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest in our Halloween season coverage today, moving on to the park’s six scare zones offered this year. If you’ve come upon this out of context, rewind back a few posts to our Fright Fest 2019 Overview, and then check out our maze coverage from yesterday. If you’re already caught up, then continue on to our galleries and thoughts on these spooky domains!
Fright Fest’s entry scare zone holds a hellish theme every year, and this year is no different. For most of the night, the area is home to devilish creatures and a semblance of fiery wreckage. This year (at least on opening night), there seemed to be a few shortfalls. The signage accompanying the demonic rock work was not lit, and the flamethrower in the fountain area from previous years was lacking. In addition, during our stop through the area, the monsters appeared to be lighter than in the past.
Fortunately, Demon’s Door’s activity picks up at the end of the night, when monsters from other scare zones move over to the park entrance and exit to give guests a thrilling sendoff during the final hour of the night. This is always a fun time to just people and monster watch, because the plaza becomes a cornucopia of monsters and themes, forming strange alliances for double team scares and bringing the personalities of their scare zones together into one common vicinity.
Nightmares: A Twisted Fantasy
One of the park’s long-standing and all-time favorite scare zones remains Nightmares, a colorful, blacklit, devious version of everyone’s favorite fairy tales. Among the six, Nighmares is the area has the best ambiance of any scare zone in the park, taking advantage of the wooded environment around the Roaring Rapids area, and it has some of the most entertaining scare actors as well, including talking characters who can interact with guests.
From the Witch, Lorraine, to the Mad Hatter and March Hare to the Big Bad Wolf to the four-legged stilt walker, the characters in Nightmares have a built-in history with returning fans, and the various creatures have fostered a love and appreciation that brings people back year after year. This emotional resonance helps maintain a strong identify for this part of Fright Fest, because the familiar and distinct characters provide a “family reunion” of sorts every fall when Fright Fest returns. Plus, they’re just plain fun to engage!
Another iconic scare zone, Exile Hill is something I liken to a mash-up of Knott’s Scary Farm’s Carnevil and Ghost Town Streets. It’s Carnevil because there really isn’t much in the way of active theming, other than lighting of the general area, and it’s Ghost Town because it’s dark and foggy and has sliders coming out of nowhere. But this interesting combination forces the monsters to rely mostly on their scare tactics and behavior, rather than the surrounding ambiance.
There are plenty of undead creature of the night who lurk around Exile Hill, and despite the lack of actual sets or decorations, the moody darkness makes for a pretty solid scare zone just in its atmosphere. The two mazes—Sewer of Souls and Willoughby’s Resurrected—help maintain a pretty consistent flow of traffic, and the circulation is even greater this year because it’s the only way guests can continue to loop around the park, given the closed off area around West Coast Racers.
Exile Hill is also home to arguably the most recognizable and beloved monster in all of Fright Fest: Innocence Willoughby. The youngest daughter of the cursed clan was (storyline-wise) murdered by her own brother, and she has since returned with a vengeance. On Fright Fest nights, Innocence can be seen in her trademark, deliberately plodding motions, slowly moving toward victims with undying gazes designed to unnerve even the most stout-hearted. Innocence will floor guests who think they’re macho and send the less intrepid screaming away. She is creepy and devoted to character, and an absolute joy to watch.
Down in the DC Universe, across from the Justice League attraction, Witches Lair returns for a second year. This area is basically a mini gauntlet and portable scare zone, with a network of walls and small structures and vegetation meant to simulate a dark forest. In terms of ambiance, the un-enveloping nature of Witches Lair makes it one of the weaker areas, but the talent compensates by using the obstacles to their advantage, rushing to and fro and creating almost maze-like hidden nooks to spring startle scares and ambushes before retreating back into the fog. Witches Lair may not be the strongest scare zone in Fright Fest (in fact, it’s likely more the opposite) in terms of scenic direction, but the energy of the cast can’t be discounted!
Over by Twisted Colossus, the haunted steampunk aesthetic of TERRORtory Twisted also returns. Similar to Witches Lair (and to some extent, Demon’s Door), this scare zone openly feels temporary, with sets moved into place rather than existing architecture and barriers dressed to catalyze a more immersive ambiance. Admittedly, the mobile sets themselves are pretty lavish and look detailed. They just seem iike groups of objects rather than organic components of something more enveloping.
Fortunately, like Witches Lair, the monsters in TERRORtory Twisted thrive on targeting guests and engaging a silly/scary approach to deliver startles or laughs, depending on the character. Much like most of the mazes and scare zones, the enthusiasm of the talent makes up for aesthetic environmental shortcomings. One of my favorite parts of attending Fright Fest is watching the monsters pour their passion into their evening’s work.
City Under Siege
Last but not least, the clowns rule the neighborhood in the DC Universe, unleashing City Under Siege to guests in the area. The third of the recurring top three favorite scare zones at Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest, City Under Siege returned last year after at two year absence to defer to the Suicide Squad scare zone. Now that IP’s are of no use, the spastic and over-energized monsters roam an elaborately lit neighborhood overrun by freaks who are more than a little unhinged.
City Under Siege is also home to the Sliders of the Night show, which runs at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 10pm on Sundays. But more on that in our next update. Suffice to say, City Under Siege presents a whimsically unstable assortment of pranks and scares, and it’s another big fan favorite.
That wraps up this year’s scare zone photo gallery from Fright Fest. Having gone for the fourth year, now, I can say that the park’s most successful scare zones are the ones with continuity from year to year and sufficient theming to create an immersive and encompassing environment. Those that feel less permanently done also tend to be less satisfying, because the depth of the setting correlates a connection to theme. We’d love to see the weaker scare zones like Witches Lair, TERRORtory Twisted, and even Demon’s Door receive new enhancements next year. Creating a sense of place would go a long way to establishing the cache that Nightmares, Exile Hill, and City Under Siege have.
We’ve got one final Fright Fest update coming up, covering the entertainment line-up at the park, which is surprisingly good. Come back and check it out when we post it!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.