Fright Fest 2017 made its debut at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on September 23, and with the discounted Haunted House Pass purchased during the annual Labor Day Flash Sale lurking in my phone I set out to see what’s happening at the park this year. Let’s take a look.
The Harbor Stage just inside the entrance still hosts The Awakening to kick things off, and Aftermath to shut it all down. In between there was a performance of Dance Macrabre and Mash Bash. I wasn’t able to take in any of these this year, but in the past they have all featured the same group of dancers and singers. I set out to spend time at Steve Daly’s Hypnosis Live. I’d seen hypnotists on TV before, including one where a person was told that every time he tried to say Magic Mountain he would instead say Disneyland that practically put my rarely laughing roommate on the floor, but this was my first time seeing one in person. Before anyone was brought to the stage, Daly took the audience through a few suggestions to start getting a feel for who may or may not respond to his powers.
At this point Daly invited anybody on to the stage that wanted to participate although it did have to be an equal number of male and female participants. Oh, and over 16, sorry kid. We then entered the part of the show where they were put under. With a light for them to have as a focal point, the audience was asked to stay quiet, and the only sounds were Steve’s voice and low massage type music. Apparently it wasn’t even necessary to be on stage for it to work.
Returning to the stage, Steve proceeded to use the power of suggestion to lead some group activities. For example, he had them thrust their right arms out rigid. They were then told their strength would increase tenfold upon his touch. And since they were “asleep”, none noticed that Steve’s assistant covered one of the rows to keep this moving. He also had them all do their best rocker moves on stage; presumably the group included one Jethro Tull fan rockin’ his flute!
Everybody had been told that several of them would not last the entire show, and at this point they were told to wake up and get lost, perhaps a touch more tactfully than that (the flute was a mistake, dude).
After culling the excess people and chairs, the suggestions became a touch more entertaining. He would tell the group to react to a certain word by feeling that they’d been pinched in a personal location. Or there might be specific tasks for specific people. One man was appointed to the Laugh Police, and was told to get mad at anyone laughing. While everyone else, well, ain’t it obvious? But then the cap was removed and replaced, and he was now a good fairy ready to flit about.
This is the longest show I’ve ever seen in a theme park, clocking in at nearly an hour. With time an issue, I ended up ducking out after about 35 minutes, but it is well worth one’s time to give a look to Steve Daly’s Hypnosis Live; certainly a departure from typical fare.
Three Scare Zones dot the park. They could all use better atmospheric lighting and fog, but each had at least one large prop to keep the theme coherent. Mt Rotting Cemetery is clearly the most interesting.
Sawmill Hollow occupies the space previously held by Arachnid Alley. If I’m not mistaken, the lone prop of this area had previously found its home in the Slaughter House Pig Farms Maze. That location wasn’t available with the reopening of the Iwerks Theater for Pacific Rim.
Arachnid Alley was relocated to the back of the park by Tava’s Jungleland.
With the loss of the Iwerks Theater as a maze location, plus the fact that the park no longer has a resident elephant herd, moving Arachnid Alley makes sense because the former elephant area is the home of the new maze for 2017, St Hades Hospital. In the past I haven’t been terribly impressed with the mazes at 6FDK. There are a LOT of bare walls, many of which seem to ooze the Cheapness involved (hopefully the photocopied map instead of a full color map and guide is due to a printing snafu, and temporary). But at least this year there was no blank plywood, so the walls were either black, or appear to be stone, weathered planks or the like. That said, while still falling short of the level Cedar Fair achieves in their mazes, St Hades Hospital was a step up, and the cast was doing a good job in their roles.
As it was so early in the Halloween season, not counting the candy department at Target of course, waits were minimal. St Hades Hospital was difficult to find and away from the other mazes, but I found this to be true throughout the park. My previous visit through their mazes had been in late October, and some of the waits were intolerable even with a VIP Pass. Therefore, I had not even seen Carnevil Clowns in 2015, the new maze from that year. It had a decent start and finish, but still a lot of blank, twisting hallways, albeit ones with red and white stripes.
Scrapyard of the Dead returned, and was the most improved maze, with some set dressing to go along with the chainsaws and what felt like miles and miles of chain link fencing. Before entering we finally got the no photos request, so I was compliant for the remainder of the evening……deactivate stealth mode
Passing the Shark Aquarium continues to be the most compelling aspect of Shipwreck of Horror, although there was a black light lit tableau before going inside that I don’t recall being there before.
Despite being in the park’s Midway of games and carnival rides, it was easy to not notice Arsenic & Arania’s Nightmare Manor, but comparatively speaking it is worth seeking out. The same cannot be said for The Boathouse at Blood Lake. Those people stepping down are full of excitement, but the near total absence of any decor and only 2 actors inside means that the excitement has transformed into disappointment by the time the exit is reached.
Unlike other parks’ Halloween events, Six Flags does not clear out the day guests and require a separate admission. Any pass or ticket gets you in, and an additional $29.95 gets access to the mazes. Another $10 ($15 after October 20) gets a front of the line VIP pass. Fright Fest runs Friday, Saturday and Sundays through October, as well as Monday October 30 and Halloween night. During the day there is cookie decorating and the Twick or Tweat Twail for the younguns. And let’s end this on a positive not; they do a really good job of decorating shop windows for Halloween.