Review: Fright Fest 2019 Surprises & Scares

Wondering what new horrors lie in wait behind the facades at the 2019 Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest? Come along with us...if you dare!

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest has a few unexpected surprises for Halloween 2019. I realize that all surprises are, by their nature, "unexpected," but I resort to redundancy in order to make a point: the Halloween theme park attraction has not exactly been bellowing like a banshee about the changes, and a glance at their website suggests there is little if anything new. The mazes and scare zones have the same names except for Vault 666 Unlocked, which last year was rebranded Hell Fest to tie in with a movie release. Other than reverting to the old "Vault 666" name, everything seems the same as last year. However, what lies inside includes more than a few eye-opening jolts.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Review: Internal Transformations

Two of Fright Fest's familiarly named Halloween mazes are starkly different from past incarnations, Vault 666 Unlocked and Willoughby's Resurrected. In the latter case, the difference is simple but fundamental: Willoughby's venerable haunted house has been transformed into something close to a dark maze by turning down the illumination. The layout and settings are the same, but instead of gazing in wonder at the lovely decor, visitors stumble about in shadows that hide the ghouls lurking inside.

Six Flags Fright Fest 2019 Review Willoughby's Resurrected
This Halloween, the lights are low in Willoughby's Resurrected.

It's a risky gambit because the strength of Willoughby's Resurrected has always been its convincing simulation of a spooky mansion; take that away, and what's left but a series of jump-scares? Fortunately, the lighting remains sufficient once eyes have adjusted to the darkness; the look is definitely low-key and monochromatic, without the atmospheric use of colors that enhanced the sets in the past, but you still get a sufficient sense of the surroundings to feel as if you re in a real place, not a fun house.

The payoff is that the haunters have an easier time materializing unexpectedly at your elbow. You're not likely to see them coming; in fact, sometimes they're virtually invisible until they announce their presence with a growl or a sudden motion into your line of sight. We still slightly prefer the old approach to Willoughby's Resurrected, but the new approach increases the thrills.

Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Review Vault 666 Unlocked
Despite the familiar name, Vaullt 666 Unlocked is virtually new.

Changes are much bigger in Vault 666 Unlocked - it is virtually a new maze. Despite, the title, previous incarnations of Vault 666 included little in the way of satanic panic - it was all about scientific testing gone awry. Even last year's retitled Hell Fire did little but add some new characters; otherwise, the maze felt very familiar. So it's a delicious irony that, while returning to the old name, the new Vault 666 is almost nothing like its predecessors.

Remaining set pieces include an autopsy table with a body pin-cushioned with hoses and a mannequin that springs into view with a strobe light effect, but gone is the feeling of a laboratory-warehouse, replaced with settings that are seriously sinister instead of high-tech. The ambiance is akin to that of Willoughby's Resurrected - the place feels haunted - but the mood is more demonic, as if you have stumbled into the lair of some strange cult. The PKE meters are definitely off the scales!

The effect is more hair-raising than shocking - there are jump-scares, but the aura of evil is what really leaves an impression. We have enjoyed past presentations of this maze but always ranked them among our second-tier favorites; the new Vault 666 Unlocked for the first time vaults to top-tier quality, ranking among the best that Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 has to offer.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Review: Sophomore Hauntings

Two mazes that made their debut at Fright Fest 2018 return for sophomore sessions this Halloween: Sewer of Souls and Condemned. The former was our favorite; the later featured great sets but few scares. How do they stack up this season?

Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019

Condemned seems more to have attracted a few more spooks this year. The concept of a cockroach-infested figurative hellhole being truly haunted is still a winner, and we love navigating through crumbling wall-spaces and narrow corridors of the decrepit building, never sure what may be hiding among the filth. However, despite several drop-panel scares sinister effects (blood spattering on a shower curtain, a face pressing through a solid wall), we still feel this one is not fully living up to its potential. Maybe Condemned just needs a narrative kick to boost it to the next level - something like the landlord being hoist on his own petard at the end.

Six Flags Fright Fest 2019 Review Sewer of Souls
Dare you treat across the abyss within Sewer of Souls?

Sewer of Souls is at least as much fun as last year - maybe more so. Like Condemned, it features an environment seemingly designed to disgust, but in this case any sense of revulsion is tempered by the colorful black lighting schemes that turn the maze into a demented fantasy land, filled with mutants and god-knows-what reaching out of the cracks and crevices to claw at your skin as you slither past.

The highlight is a vertigo-inducing bridge over a yawning abyss that will have you hesitating to take another step for fear of plunging helplessly to your doom. Keep telling yourself it's only an illusion, but your body's survival instincts will not listen. This is probably the most truly frightening experience at Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Review: Old Favorites

Six Flags Fright Fest's remaining two mazes are Red's Revenge and Aftermath 2.

Red's Revenge

Red's Revenge remains an amazing immersive experience, transporting visitors into a demented fairy tale realm, where Little Red Riding Hood is taking revenge for the death of her grandmother. It's not super scary, but it is an amazing experience.

Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising

Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising is Fright Fest's most epic-scale haunted attraction. Unfortunately, it's the most isolated of the mazes, nestled in a back corner surrounded by few other Halloween activities, but it's worth seeking out, especially for first-time visitors. Our advice is to see everything else first and save this for last.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Review: Conclusion

Ten years ago, the mazes at Fright Fest were of the haunt-in-a-box variety and not imaginatively executed. Over the years, those feeble efforts have gradually been replaced. With this year's upgrade to The Vault 666 Unlocked, there is not a loser in the bunch; now there are six high-quality walk-through attractions, each with its own distinctive theme and everyone worth visiting (plus, bonus points are warranted for the absence of a killer clown maze).

Really, the only problem with Fright Fest is navigating around the Magic Mountain theme park. Not only is there a tremendous amount of territory to cover; there is also the issue of going up and down hill. You really should go in with a plan, not wander around hoping to find the stuff (and don't count on the attendants giving precise directions to the mazes).

SIx Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Review
Entrance to Territory Twisted scare zone

Our advice: Upon entering, head right toward the Full Throttle Sports Bar, nearby to which are nestled three haunts within eyesight of each other: Red's Revenge, Vault 666 Unlocked, and Condemned. Then head back toward the entrance but past the waterfalls turn right of the carousel to the tram, which will take you effortlessly up Exile Hill, where you can enjoy Willoughby's Resurrected and Sewer of Souls. Finally, walk down the other side of the the hill and turn left, which will take you to Aftermath 2. After that, continuing in the same direction will take you down the hill to the main entrance. This approach may result in missing some scare zones and shows, but it will spare you the exertion of walking up Magic Mountain, and you will get to all the mazes in an efficient manner.

Among Los Angeles Halloween Theme Parks, Six Flags Fright Fest is no longer an afterthought, a mere seasonal overlay that people visit out of convenience after enjoying Magic Mountain's rides and roller-coasters. It's a must-see attraction that provides an abundance of Halloween horror in half a dozen memorable haunted house mazes.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 Maze Ratings
  • 100%
    Sewer of Souls - 100%
  • 100%
    Red's Revenge - 100%
  • 95%
    Willoughby's Haunted Mansion - 95%
  • 95%
    Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising - 95%
  • 90%
    Vault 666 Unlocked - 90%
  • 80%
    Condemned - 80%
93.3%

Bottom Line

Haunt-seekers no long need be interested in rides and roller-coasters to make the trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain worth while. Fright Fest now stands among the top-tire Los Angeles Halloween theme parks.

Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest 2019 continues on weekends through November 3. Park hours are 10:30am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, 10:30am to 11:00pm on Sundays; Fright Fest activities begin at 7pm. The address is 26101 Magic Mountain  Parkway, Valencia 91355. Call 818-367-5965 for more information, or visit the website: sixflags.com/magicmountain/special-events/fright-fest-night.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.