Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Thorpe Park "Fright Night" 2010 Review

It’s once again that most wonderful time of the year, Halloween and while Christmas and Easter might be equally groovy, there is something about Halloween which just rings out good times, which could largely down to the fact that it’s also one of the few holidays were we’re not being made to feel guilty about something. Halloween is also doubly special for myself seeing how it is also my wedding anniversary, the first of which is now quickly approaching. So wanting to do something special to celebrate this (if alittle early) special date my gorgeous wife Lily, we headed up with my brother in law Robert and his lady Phoebe to Thorpe Park, whom were once again holding their “Fright night” event, were for a limited time the park plays host to six horror themed mazes and usually dresses the park up with various cool looking horror props, which sadly were absent this year, which seemed an even more confusing move, especially seeing how the ticket prices have once again gone up and despite the fact the park now looked the same as always, I was still keen to see for myself what their mazes had to offer.

The park boasts six mazes in total, each with its own unique theme and all featuring a mixture of static props and live actors in full horror make up, aiming to scare the hell out of the guests walking through the mazes, using a combination of sudden shocks (jumping out suddenly etc) and general performance pieces.
To go through each of the mazes you are first put into a group of six people, were you then have to keep your hands on the person in fronts shoulders / waist forming a sober conga line as you follow each other through the maze, but not before being given the lowdown on what to expect, where they are especially keen to stress that you don’t attack the actors, who like strippers cannot be touched by you, which honestly makes sense as you don’t really want your actors being punched out by some panicked guest and in a way this only adds to the tension, seeing how this human chain leaves you feeling more than alittle vulnerable and only adds to the tension once your inside the maze.

So allow me to now give you the general low down on each of these mazes, so beware as the review will contain some spoilers.

The Curse

Set in a haunted ship, this was the first of the main mazes we went through and made a great introduction to the fun ahead, especially as this was the lightest of the mazes in terms of horror, relying more on the actors jumping out on the guests and had some nice touches such as the bodies floating in bubbling water. Still unlike the other mazes it resists the urge to give a final big scare, while some people felt made it anticlimactic, personally I felt it didn’t need it.


This was one of my favourites and has the advantage of having a building to be housed in all year round, which also enables it to not only have some great perminant design work, but also some interesting set pieces such the rotating tunnel, which might be an oldie but it’s also a goodie, much like the arms shooting out from holes in the scenery. The haunted house theme works well, with the horror slowly building as you work your way through, combining some interesting ideas, though it really doesn’t string them together as well as “Se7en”. The actors put on a good show, with an interesting mix of characters, including a spitting image of Riff Raff from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975). Again no big ending but a fun ride throughout, especially with nothing too threatening for the more nervous park guests.


My favourite of the mazes, with the theme being surprisingly enough “the seven deadly sins” all contained in an apartment block from hell. Still despite the more obvious of themes, it still manages to not feel too tied down to the more traditional ideas for each of the sins, especially judging by some of the characters, with one of my favourites being the woman who gets so annoyed by the screams coming from the room next door, she threw her TV diner on the floor, before walking over slowly to harass the group, while other moments proved slightly more questionable like the girl dressed like a ninja jumping on the bed.
The gluttony room proved extremely nauseating thanks largely, to the rotton milk smell, which truly hits you when you walk in the room, thanks to the use of the plastic strip curtains which only keep the stench in the room, creating a real wall of putrid smells to hit you when you enter the room.
The design work is amazing, with the actors truly getting into the role, with a large emphasis on making the guests feel more uncomfortable than sudden shocks. Still with the actors staying in their rooms, it does mean that unlike other mazes you’re unlikely to encounter a particular character again, once you have gone through the room. Still the girl in a masquerade mask did a good job improvising when the group got held up and restrained from calling our particular leader something derogatory, which I no doubt would have and instead concentrated on one particular member of our group, taking full advantage of the rules which allowed her to touch the guests, while they couldn’t touch her.
The big finale has you in a room with dense smoke, which really prevented you from seeing much atoll, which after having so many people jumping out in the other mazes, really has your mind playing tricks on you, when you stumble into this final room.


This maze has for a long time been the pride of Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights and certainly had the longest queue, no doubt thanks to it’s reputation while no doubt also aided greatly by the crowd of screaming people running out.
Set in an asylum (funny that), were it’s clear that the shit really has hit the fan, pretty much from the moment you see the nurse strung up with a plastic bag over her face. Once inside it’s heavy with smoke and constant strobe, while you’re bombarded with white noise, only furthering adding to the disorientation and I’m sure that if I wasn’t epileptic when I went in, I’m almost sure that I was after this maze. Still the strobe lights really helped the actors to pull off some creepy vanishing acts, while I also got harassed by one of the inmates, who was pretty insistent that I “kiss the baby!!”
The big finale though is what make this one special as you get to meet the crazed surgeon welding a chainsaw, who first runs past the group before turning around and chasing you out and despite knowing that it’s not a real chainsaw it still didn’t stop the burly guys ahead of me running out like a bunch of sissy girls.

Saw: Alive

This maze is slightly different to the other seeing how it’s open all year round and was brought in to tie in with the Saw rollercoaster, which I can safely say I have no interest of ever going on. The maze has some really impressive set design which really makes you feel like you’re in the movie, including the trademark clocks, several of the more memorable traps, as well as a room all to similar to Jigsaws control centre, while at the start of the maze your group photo is taken with the Jigsaw puppet on his tricycle which was a really neat touch.
What lets this maze down, was the actors who on this occasion seemed more bored than anything resembling enthusiasm for shocking the guests, which really made me feel sorry for the first girl we encountered and who was really busting a gut, with her crazy act which was unnerving, especially to have her screaming right in your face while clapping manically. Meanwhile the few other actors pretty much consisted of some bored guy slamming a chain to make a few loud bangs and some half hearted jumping out on the group. Phoebe who had been through the maze before, also pin pointed their lack lustre performances (excluding the aforementioned crazy girl), stating that her first time through the maze had been better, thanks to the actors really going out of their way to provide the shocks. Still for the fans of the series it’s a suitable tribute, but rests far too heavily on the actors working it, to provide the shocks.

Dead End Terror Zone

Although I didn’t get to see this maze, thanks to it never seeming to be open on the day we were at the park, it would seem from other reports that I wasn’t missing much, with the maze being more of a graveyard for parts from old attractions and featuring too few actors to make it effective.

Fright Night runs till October 31st and makes for a fun night out, even if this year does feel to be overly lacking, thanks to the non existent Halloween theming around the park, which this year was sorely missed and for a park of Thorpe’s stature as well as Ticket price, it really only adds to the fact that this year they kind of dropped the ball, with the event being only really saved thanks to four of the six horror mazes, with these failings on such basic things, certainly will make me wonder if the ticket price will be worth it, especially if it turns out to be another year like this one, were effort clearly felt to be lacking in places.

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