Apart from the odd random attraction or haunted house, Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights were my first proper introduction to scare events and to Halloween events in particular. Since emigrating to London many years ago, Thorpe Park became my ‘home’ park, so amongst many regular visits I’ve been to Fright Nights on three occasions in the past. To be perfectly honest, because I wasn’t particularly impressed with the last two Fright Nights I’d attended, I haven’t returned for a few years. Since I’m bingeing as many Halloween events as I feasibly can this year I felt it was worth giving Thorpe Park another try and I’m very glad I did.
Since Fright Nights at Thorpe Park is one of the most popular Halloween events in the UK, there is understandably a wealth of information available on their website for dates, prices and various upgrade and Fast Track options. Initially I was happy to stick with my standard ticket, but since last weeks press night, I’d heard lots of positive feedback for the event whilst avoiding spoilers. Due to this praise I decided to fork out for the expensive Fright Nights Ultimate pass. Not cheap by any standards, but it gave unlimited Fast Track rides and mazes all day. I was able to leisurely do many multiple rides of my favourite coasters and in the evening many multiple runs of all the mazes. That said, for a Saturday the park wasn’t anywhere near as busy as I was expecting, probably due to the weather which was grey, damp and, in the evening, raining.
Saturday 29th September was the opening public night for Fright Nights and during the day I didn’t notice any ride going above 30 minutes wait and in the evening the longest wait I saw for the mazes was 1 hour for Blair Witch when it first opened at dusk and the same for Creek Freak Massacre throughout most of the evening. The last couple of times I went, I saw many maze queues over 100 minutes, which made it tricky to get around everything once. I’d imagine that the queues will
In addition to the five mazes you can enjoy night rides on many of the main Thorpe Park rides, enter the Amity High scare zone near the entrance to Stealth, and watch their regular flash-mob style performances. The Angry Birds 4D Cinema is converted into the Screamplexx Cinema and has two different shows of two short horror movies. All four movies were pretty good, especially combined with the 4D elements of the cinema. The movies are definitely not for younger kids though, and run hourly from 3pm. There is a horror themed group escape game, Containment, available for an additional £10. Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience it.
The roaming vampire Amity High School kids were a good part of the event, but for me felt a bit thin on the ground even though confined to the Stealth entrance area. Their interactions though were good, and I’ve probably been a bit spoiled by other recent events with roaming actors. Sadly, I didn’t get to experience their performance. I’m assuming due to the inclement weather. Finally, for the main event, there are five scare mazes this year at Thorpe Park.
The Walking Dead: Do or Die
I’m a recovering addict of The Walking Dead TV series. I’ve been ‘sober’ for the last series and a half. I’m still resisting a few ‘pushers’ that insist I’m missing better highs and fewer lows and that I should give it another try. I’m still not buying their ‘gear’ anymore. That said my history means that I know a fair bit about the characters and lore of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead: Do or Die is loosely based on the Terminus story line of the TV and comic series. I had three runs of this and the first was in the daytime. Since most of this maze is out doors it was a fun, if a little average run through. The actors were good value, but it was difficult to build up the intensity in daylight. Runs two and three were much better in the dark. My last run through in particular was great. For me, I wouldn’t say it was a particularly scary maze, but it was a lot of fun. On my last run through at the final section, I was terrified of moving forward though.
The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare
The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare story concerns Negan, his beloved Lucille and your induction as a useful human resource to The Saviors. The opening scene brings your group in to the graveled space in front of some headlights and Negan himself. For fans this is a clear homage to a very specific scene. Unfortunately, the scene itself understandably cannot live up to the same sense of dread or menace that you probably felt reading or watching the horrifically violent and upsetting events.
The rest of the maze is solid, if a little uninspiring, and it’s certainly not ‘bad’ bad. I did two runs of this maze and to be honest I’m struggling to remember much detail after the first scene with Negan and it felt quite short. The other mazes that night have taken precedence. There are elements within the maze that hark back to previous
My biggest criticism of this maze though is the double batching system. When you’re in the main queue lines you’re put in to a group of 20 -25, asked to wait and then led to the entrance of a mostly pitch black tunnel. Going down the tunnel you quickly, and unexpectedly bump in to other people from previous batches. You basically queue then queue again in the pitch black before the maze starts. It was quite clear from the very vocal feedback in the tunnel that most people had no clue what was going on and why there was such a hold up. Hopefully this system can be refined over time.
Creek Freak Massacre
Anticipation and expectation were high for this one as early preview and press reviews for this new, fresh, original scare maze
I’ve not experienced many years of Thorpe Park scare mazes, but I’ve been through a fair few. Creek Freak Massacre though is easily the best one I’ve done and I marathoned 6 runs of this superb maze and managed to get in the last run of the evening with some fellow enthusiasts one of which was singled out for particular attention. For a theme park scare maze this one goes up to eleven
Clearly a huge amount of time, effort and passion has been put in to creating this maze and the numerous actors were superb throughout. On each of the runs there was always something different to experience. The theming, sounds, light, heat and smells all worked really well. I was scared and felt creeped out in equal measure on each run through.
My only minor criticism is around the volume of speech in the initial story area. Sadly a combination of the other participants, soundtrack, sound effects and people screaming from the maze made it difficult to hear the actor at times. Really excited to see how this can be improved upon next year.
I really enjoyed this ‘maze’. Whilst it’s more of a long walk mostly out doors there was more of a story to this maze than any of the others and is a lot creepier rather than scary. I managed three runs of this event, and in all instances the actors were good value, especially the introduction tour guides. Unsurprisingly it was much better in the dark than during the day time.
On each of the runs I had a slightly different ending as well. All fun, but some much more intense than others. Effects were great and in one particularly memorable run I was picked off from the rest of my group in the dark and then left to my own devices. I also loved the eeriness of the cutting/canyon walk through to the entrance to the cabin in the woods.
Blair Witch is the only maze of the current line up that I have technically done in the past. That said the maze itself is completely different to the version I did many years ago and is so much the better for it. As you’d expect for Blair Witch this is mostly outdoors and I managed three runs of this long walk maze. The first in dusk wasn’t great, but improved a lot in the dark. Sadly, all of them were plagued with pretty annoying groups.
Scares were solid if a little ‘samey’, however I was impressed with the maze and props itself. It starts off giving you a reasonable sense of disorientation and the overgrown foliage helps to immerse you into what feels like a real virgin forest. The ending in the house was unfortunately one of the weaker elements for me, but overall a solid maze.
As someone that had become jaded and disappointed with Thorpe Park Fright Nights it was great for me to have taken a break for a few years and to experience it again in what I hope is its ongoing renaissance. Admittedly I had fairly low expectations, but I’m pleased to say that I thought they did really great this year. Blair Witch and The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare were solid. Platform 15 and The Walking Dead: Do or Die were great and Creek Freak Massacre was superb.
If every maze could be at the same level of Creek Freak Massacre with the quantity and quality of say Traumaticas roaming actors then Merlin and Lego could have a truly world-class Halloween event on their hands. Double thumbs up from me.