Thorpe Park Fright Nights









Every year I try to visit Thorpe Park's Fright Nights event at least a few times. The past few years it had gotten a bit stale but I kept on going because it had become a sort of tradition. So suffice to say I was pleasantly intrigued by the notion that this year's event would be funded by film production company Lionsgate, and would be updated to include four new scare attractions based upon the horror film franchise. These includes: The Blair Witch Project, My Bloody Valentine, You're Next and Cabin in the Woods, as well as the return of old Fright Night's favourites Saw Alive and The Asylum. This entry will review each of these mazes so there will be spoilers, you have been warned!

So firstly I want to do an overview of the 'theming' for this event around the park itself. At a visit to the park in a previous week an excitable member of staff informed me that the entrance would be done up to look like an abandoned cinema and that the park was being kitted out to look like the set of a horror movie, complete with grizzly extras roaming the park. Cool concept. Concept being the operative word here. What Thorpe have actually done is place a cardboard cut-out with a cinema graphic over the usual entrance to the park, and in the dome they've places a few prop boxes, string lights and clacker boards. I'm not saying Thorpe usually go all out, far from it, but with funding from a big company like Lionsgate I did expect a bit more. There was no other 'extra' theming of note around the park to convey a horror film set.

The second disappointment comes with the soundtrack. For the past few years Thorpe Park's Fright Nights have been accompanied by the awesome music of Midnight Syndicate and really added a creepy atmosphere to the park, especially after dark. Accompanied with eerie lighting and smoke effects once the sun had gone down Thorpe really was transformed into that Halloweeny ambience that keeps me coming back year after year. This year, things have changed. The rides have been given a weird voiceover by some character who calls himself 'The Director' and is apparently responsible for this shambles. He keeps going on and on about how we might not make the next 'cut' and other terrible puns like this. It's not scary, it's not creepy, it's not atmospheric. It's just cringeworthy. And annoying.

So yeah, overall Lionsgate have not made the best of impressions, but after all Fright Nights is about the mazes, so I'll focus on them now! I'll review them in the order I did them, so we'll start with The Asylum.

The Asylum



13 years on and people are still falling out of the exit of this maze kicking and screaming. It says it all really. Personally, I adore this maze but I feel it has lost some of its effectiveness over the years, and now with brand new mazes to compare it to one can't help but notice how tired this attraction is becoming in parts. 

The opening corridor scene is still very effective, you meander down a smuggy corridor with flickering lights with the wail of a siren heard in the not too distant future. The anxiety is almost unbearable, and I can definitely see why a lot of people bail at this point. The problems however come once we enter the maze itself. The main section of The Asylum is constructed of tall wire fences with escaped inmates lunching at their victims whilst hanging from them. This is very effective, but it goes on for far too long. The bulk of the maze, which is a good 3-4 minutes, is just this rinsed and repeated with no break. The soundtrack can barely be heard and what was initially scary soon becomes tedious. 

The final scene has been updated though. Shower curtains hang at random intervals down the last corridor, causing more panic when trying to find a route of escape from the infamous chainsaw wielding maniac who will eventually flush us out of the attraction.

So yes the maze is still effective but it is a shame that those screams heard upon exiting the attraction are the ONLY ones prompted by it. 5/10


Cabin in the Woods


Cabin in the Woods was the attraction I was most anticipating this season. I adored the film and was really interested to see how Lionsgate and Thorpe could collaborate and make this into a cool and unique scare attraction. Well they did not disappoint. Cabin in the Woods is one of the most unique and intense mazes I have ever done and I was really impressed with the attention to detail and quality of the theming found throughout the attraction.

You are split into very small groups of 2-4, as this is a free-roaming attraction and you can pretty much go where you please. You begin in the cabin itself and choose which door to go through to face whatever horror lies within. These range from hillbillies to zombies to clowns to god knows what else. If you are lucky enough you'll stumble across the infamous control room from the film. The maze is full of easter eggs such as this. The actors really played their part well and at one point I had someone with their hands around my neck pinning me to the wall. It was terrifically terrifying and consistently jumpy, I did not stop screaming until I found my way out of the attraction.

The only downside to this maze I felt was the lack of actual characters from the film itself. Cabin in the Woods is full of deeply horrifying creatures and it was a shame that none of these made it into the attraction. I wanted to see a Merman. 7/10

Saw Alive



This attraction made a return appearance for Fright Nights 2013. This attraction focus on your group travelling from scene to scene representing different traps laid by Jigsaw for his victims. Again, the attention to detail is stunning and the barrage upon the senses cannot be beat (basically, it's loud, it's dark and it stinks). The only qualm I have with this maze (and have always had) is the actors. They are meant to be VICTIMS. Why don't they act like it? Rather than staring sinisterly at me and jumping out they should be on the floor writhing in pain or screaming and clawing at us for help. None of this happens and it doesn't make sense, especially as most people are familiar with the franchise and so know what to expect from the characters being portrayed. 6/10

My Bloody Valentine


In place of Experiment 10 this year was a maze based off of the 3D slasher film My Bloody Valentine. There was a queue for this attraction and to keep us entertained two actors dressed as bloodied miners spent their time harassing unsuspecting members of the public.

The maze begins with the first appearance of the film's lead antagonist Harry Palmer, an obscene looking being complete with horrendous gas-mask and pick axe. He is terrifying to behold, but he didn't really do anything, just sort of stumbled along behind us. Hardly scary. The rest of the maze was too well lit in my opinion and although our group were split up to head in different directions, this maze did not make use of the solitary confinement rooms used so effectively for Experiment 10, which was a shame. The maze promised claustrophobic spaces, and whilst I understand there has to be a line drawn I felt like this wasn't as effective as it could have been.

There were however plenty of scares to be had. Constant actors jumping out at us as well as fellow 'victim' characters screaming at us to go back combined with the final exit scare worked well to provide an effective and substantial scare attraction. But it wasn't as good as Experiment 10 and this upset me a bit. 7/10



The Blair Witch Project


For this attraction Thorpe Park have renamed Canada Creek Burkitsville and have used the old Canada Creek Railway entrance as the entrance to the maze, and with great effect. The combined use of red lighting and fog machines created a really creepy and unsettling ambience and really set up the attraction well.

Whilst we waited our turn we had fun chatting with the redneck actor in the queue (why was she a redneck? Didn't really get that one). I felt like this maze would have been far more effective had the groups been smaller. I loved the atmosphere created by a pitch black walk through the woods. It was silent apart from rustling trees and faint giggling in the background. I felt like there were too many tents. I loved all the Blair Witch stick symbols hanging in the trees, but again there were too many. Most of the actors were quite good, just kind of wandering around looking lost (which is essentially what the Blair Witch IS) but towards the end some got a bit shouty which was unnecessary. And the shed. THE SHED. I'd been told the shed was recreating the ending of the film, so was quite looking forwards to it. All we got was B&Q's finest filled with too-much-fog and some random shouting at us to get out. What? The ending really ruined what was otherwise a rather atmospheric walk through the woods. 6/10.

So overall I feel like the new mazes are a good addition to the Fright Nights event but what is lacking is an effectively scary soundtrack and more theming around the park to keep the storyline consistent. Other than that, a good effort by Thorpe and Lionsgate and I look forwards to returning next weekend!




Until next time,











CONVERSATION

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