SFMM Fright Fest 2017 Review
The past few years Magic Mountain has been upping its game and making Fright Fest a real Halloween contender. Unlike Knott's and Universal, the park does not close and reopen when the event begins. Loud speaker announcements give multiple warnings that the normally family-friendly park is about to get scary.
When the clock strikes 7 on event nights, guests that are already in the park, and those that show up for Fright Fest specifically can enjoy the scare zones, atmosphere, live entertainment, and photo ops at no additional charge. If you would like to visit the mazes, simply purchase a general admission, or front of the line wristband.
This difference makes for stopping by with an annual pass for a few hours easy and affordable. But, it also makes for large crowds, with throngs of pre-teens that like to taunt and harass the talent.
While an effort has been made the past few years to up the ante, not much has changed for 2017, with the main attractions not showing any noticeable differences.
Dead End is the sole new maze this year, which replaces Garden of Darkness. The maze itself is quite sparse inside, relying on total darkness much of the time to prey on your fears. The concept is quite reminiscent of a previous maze which was housed backstage at the theater near Colossus.
Dead End left a bit to be desired, but fits perfectly inside the Exile Hill scare zone, steps from the now iconic Willoughby's Resurrected maze, which hopefully never gets retired. The classic haunted house boasts numerous scares, tons of talent, and a bit of nostalgia. Willoughby "family members" that haunt Exile Hill are perfectly cast, and are a highlight year after year. These original characters show the level of creativity that is available here.
Up front, the Demon's Door scare zone is a perfectly creepy way to welcome and bid farewell to guests. Noticeably gone are the zombies that once wandered the midway near Bugs Bunny World, supposedly replaced with a roving, constantly changing band of characters, that I have yet to see on the visits so far this year.
The most visually impressive scare zone anywhere in So Cal is Territory Twisted, which encompasses the area around the Gearworks Theater, Colossus and Scream. Lighting, smoke, digital projections, massively cool props, and energetic talent make this area a must visit.
A few feet away, the Suicide Squad experience inside of DC Universe again offers an unmatched light show and numerous photo ops with recognizable characters from the comic. A high-energy soundtrack adds to the atmosphere.
On the other side of DC Universe, in front of the new Justice League dark ride, a sinister masquerade takes place in the Damned 'n Disguise scared zone. The City of Metropolis changes before your eyes.
Near Katy's Kettle, between Tatsu and Viper, the dark, tree-covered midway is transformed into Nightmares: A Twisted Fantasy. The glow from the blacklight-lit costumes and props make this scary and fun at the same time.
Fright Fest's scare zones are well executed and offer a completely different experience from what is offered elsewhere.
Other entertainment includes the usual cast of performers on the Full Throttle stage and a hypnotist show in the Golden Bear Theater. A DJ entertains those partaking in adult beverages at the Metro Park Pub. While the DJ was playing a fun mix of old school and hip hop, there was no one at Club 6 Feet Under to enjoy it.
As for the mazes, there are five others, which are in addition to the two previously mentioned. Three are located up front in a normally unused area. Red's Revenge remains one of of my favorite mazes. The fairy tale is perfectly executed. Vault 666 manages to tell a story while terrifying guests. Toyz of Terror 3D is reminiscent of Fright Fest days of old and should be retired. The same can be said of Chupacabra near X2. Please put this blood-sucking goat out to pasture.
On the flip-side, tucked into a dark corner of the park which was once the home to Deja Vu, Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising is massive and utilizes set pieces from the old Batman Stunt Show stage. This one delivers the "wow" factor, and is home to more actors than any other theme park maze I have ever seen.
For the price (or lack thereof), the value of Fright Fest cannot be beat. The atmosphere and energy blows Horror Nights out of the water. Special effects and select mazes rival Scary Farm. While still a bit rough around the edges, a trip to Valencia is worth the visit.
Hopefully, management considers revisiting the buffet dinner with the Willoughby's inside of the Laughing Dragon restaurant.