By Brady MacDonald
11:15 AM EDT, September 17, 2013
Magic Mountain is in the middle of a four-year expansion of Fright Fest that will see the Six Flags amusement park in Santa Clarita add more monsters, better mazes, additional nights and longer hours to the annual Halloween event.
Magic Mountain's Fright Fest is playing catch-up to the 41-year-old Halloween Haunt at Knott's Berry Farm, the granddaddy of all Halloween events, which itself is furiously trying to keep up with the upstart Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, which has emerged as an unstoppable beast to be reckoned with in recent years.
Magic Mountain's revamp of Fright Fest began in 2011 with the addition of Aftermath, a massive outdoor maze that significantly raised the bar for quality.
A complete renovation of the perennial Willoughby's Haunted Mansion in 2012 saw the addition of elaborate visual effects and improved props and sets to a haunted maze that had grown tired and predictable over the years.
This year Magic Mountain will convert the space used over the last 11 years for the woeful Jokester's Hideout into Toyz of Terror, a new maze that is expected to rival Aftermath and Willoughby's. And much like Willoughby's, Toyz will be located in a permanent year-round location that justifies the significant investment.
Looking ahead to 2014, Magic Mountain has already announced plans to further improve Fright Fest with the addition of at least one and possibly two mazes in keeping with the new higher standards.
Change takes time, though. In the interim, Fright Fest's older mazes will continue to stand in stark contrast to the newer ones, with the great gulf between the fading past and emerging present growing more vast with each passing year.
With that said, let's take a look at the mazes on tap for Fright Fest 2013 at Six Flags Magic Mountain:
Toyz of Terror (New for 2013) — A crazy inventor unleashes his deranged playthings on anyone who dares step inside his toy factory in a new maze replacing the long-running Jokester's Hideout. Located in an otherwise unused building near the park entrance, Toyz is expected to include detailed set dressing, digital effects and triple the number of "scareactors" employed in Jokester's.
Total Darkness (2013) — Magic Mountain will take another shot at delivering on the promise of a simple but intriguing premise that just didn't work in 2012. This pitch-black maze will attempt to improve on last year's boring and pointless Blackout, which amounted to little more than a long and winding walk in the dark with no scares. Relocated from a ride queue to the stage of the Magic Moments Theater near the Colossus roller coaster, Total Darkness will actually feature two mazes that feed into one.
Weepy Hills Insanetorium (2013) — The hospital's mental patients join a medical staff gone berserk in this riotous insane asylum maze replacing the cookie-cutter Lecter's Slaughterhouse in a backstage area near DC Universe.
Willoughby's Resurrected (2012) — The completely refurbished attraction combining detailed set dressing, imaginative practical effects, inventive video projections and high-energy monsters into a fantastic maze was head and shoulders above virtually everything else at last year's Fright Fest.
The Aftermath (2011) — The post-apocalyptic maze of overturned vehicles, hovering helicopters and fireball explosions in the former Batman stunt-show arena typically features the biggest cast of any Fright Fest maze.
Chupacabra (2011) — Last year's most improved maze will be revamped again this season to further improve a thematic experience that relied on painted plywood walls rather than props and three-dimensional sets. With a little more attention to detail, Magic Mountain could turn this compelling story about the legendary Latin American creature into a unique signature maze not found at any other Halloween event.
Cursed (2011) — This pathetic gypsies-and-werewolves maze located in a ride queue covered in camouflage netting is just the type of attraction Magic Mountain needs to get rid of if the park hopes to continue improving the quality level of Fright Fest.
Black Widow (2012) — What could have been a terrific she-mates-and-then-kills spider-themed maze proved to be an unmemorable and unbearable dud during Fright Fest 2012. Located in an otherwise unused building at the top of the park, last year's worst maze would be a perfect candidate for a Willoughby's-style makeover in 2014.
Fright Fest 2013 at Six Flags Magic Mountain runs on select Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights Oct. 4-27. Up-charge tickets for the haunted mazes are $13 to $30 in addition to regular admission.
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