Friday, October 17, 2008
Haunted House(s) review: Six Flags Fright Fest
As for the haunted houses themselves, the preponderance of thrills and chills come from other park activities - though it IS pretty scary leaving your valuables in those public lockers.
It's probably not fair to compare the haunted houses at Six Flags head-to-head against the stand-alone doom rooms around the area - I mean, the ones cobbled together for Six Flags' annual Fright Fest season are more or less just designed to lend a small additional spooky thrill to the entire theme park experience.
But there's this: at those other places, you can't ride a bunch of roller coasters while you're waiting for the zombies to come out.
Which they do - at sundown.
The Price: Hold onto your wallet, or better yet chain it to your belt loop - admission to the park runs $29.99 per person, if you purchase online - but that's only the beginning. It'll cost you another $15 to park, and you may find yourself closer to the Ballpark than to Six Flags by the time you've navigated yourself to an empty space. And then you'll need to shell out another $15 per person for a haunted house pass that gets you unlimited access to the haunted houses within the park, three of which we sampled during our visit.
[NOTE that you can also purchase individual haunted venue admissions for $3 each - but if you're planning to visit as many as your wits can stand, and go in as many times as you want, it makes sense to just spring for the whole enchilada.]
The Line: Well, since Mrs. Film Guy and I navigated the queue early in the evening, we probably missed out on the greater part of the crowd. Having worn ourselves out by walking all over creation and testing our g-force tolerance (and nausea threshold) by braving the Titan, we decided to get this whole haunted house business done with so we could get back to the barn in time for the bad Sci Fi movie of the week (Crazy Eights, starring Traci Lords, of all people).
As a result, we waited only a few minutes at both of the first two venues ("Bloody Mary's Circus of Fear" and "Phobia"). Though the third house - "Stage 13" - proved more of a half-hour wait, and that after finally figuring out where we were supposed to go within the maze of cattle chutes leading us (in a loosely interpreted manner of speaking) to the house's entrance; we first found ourselves on the boarding platform of a thrill ride that was out of commission, and had to retrace our steps to follow a cannier - younger - group of teenagers who learned from the error of our errant way.
Oddly, in the Stage 13 setup, visitors are not allowed to bring any "loose articles" into the house, which includes, for instance, purses - so before entering the cattle chutes we'd been directed to head over to the Batman ride area to deposit Anne's purse in amongst the bank of storage lockers provided for just such provisos.
The Haunt: Bloody Mary's Circus of Fear - both this and "Phobia" are being run by local Boy Scout troops, so don't be surprised to find a scoutmaster standing in front of the place checking for your wristband (or taking your ticket). If you've had a bad experience with scoutmasters, then I suppose this might prove scary right off the bat, but otherwise it's kind of lame. This house is characterized by a fair amount of heartfelt screaming, most of it associated with the frequent blasts of compressed air you hear from somewhere within the premises. There's an animatronic dude in an electric chair getting zapped, a bunch of demonic looking clowns, and a guy with a chain saw to bid you adieu upon emerging from the exit. Just before which you will be hit in the ankles with a blast of compressed air. Otherwise, the darkened maze incorporates your typical shadowy figures jumping out at you left and right as you try not to be surprised by them. Again and again.
Phobia: Face Your Fears - did I mention the scoutmaster out front? O.K. Since this house is located right next to "Bloody Mary's," you can still hear the compressed air blaster coming from that place, which makes you think you're going to be blasted again (though you never will be - or am I just saying this to throw you off balance?). There's not a lot memorable about Phobia - another darkened maze, a wall sculpture of some guy who looks like Shakespeare, some alien autopsy stuff going on - and of course shadowy figures leaping out at you screaming periodically. (Yawn.) Replacing the guy with the chain saw at the exit to this establishment is a metal-clad chappie wielding a steam-powered machine gun, but it's not particularly scary because HE POINTS IT AT THE GROUND when he shoots it - instead of at you. I'm sure there's some liability or political correctness issue involved here, but regardless I can assure you it's not scary when someone machine guns the turf at your feet with great deliberation.
Studio 13 - this is a bigger budget house in which the set pieces are highly professional and the actors are a bit better coached. It employs another darkened maze (which seems to be the only formula for haunted houses at Fright Fest) and it's a difficult one to navigate, requiring much feeling around to discover the curtained outlet into the next room. Also here we get some strobe light action, with ghouls coming at you in seemingly inexorable slow motion, which is a nice spooky touch. There's one set of curving pathways that takes you back and forth in and out of the same eerie, zombie-occupied room. The zombies gaze at you hungrily, as if they were political pollsters and you were the respondent who could fill out their weekly quota. There are evil clowns here, more evil-seeming even than the evil clowns in Bloody Mary's place, though you might fault me for profiling. (They may, in fact, have happy clown families at home and only appear to be evil.) You got your giant spiders. And hanging upside down mummies. Oh, and another guy with a chain saw.
In a fit of curiosity worthy of a doomed cat, I took a perhaps subconsciously-intentional wrong turn at the end of the maze and opened a (totally unlocked) door into a storage closet instead of taking the door marked "Exit." And that has made all the difference.
Wet-Your-Pants Factor: Unless you've got that scoutmaster phobia I mentioned, don't give it a second thought.
Now, these folks stranded just below the apex of the Titan as the sun starts to go down? THAT'S scary!