Contains spoilers! Don’t read if you don’t want to know what happens!
It’s been a while since I’ve written on here, and wow, hasn’t the season gone fast. It’s hard to believe that the UK’s Theme Parks will be shutting up shop in 2 or 3 weeks time for winter. As the rides all start to undergo their annual maintenance, us enthusiasts are left alone to shed a few tears as we realize that escaping from the ‘normal’ world has become even harder… and if this is you, fear not – I’ve got a post coming up showcasing the best ways to get a thrill off-season!
Anyway, that’s all to come so let’s not dwell – the best few weeks of the year have arrived! Attractions up and down the country have decked themselves up for Halloween, boasting of scares worse than your nightmares and extended opening hours into the night.
Perhaps the two most popular of these Halloween events are “Fright Nights” at Thorpe Park and “Scarefest” at Alton Towers. We headed to both of the events to check them out…
Warning! Contains spoilers!
We headed to Fright Nights for the opening day, Friday 12th October. This year Fright Nights take place between 12th-14th October, 19th-21st October and then 26th Oct-4th November. The park is open from 10am through until 9pm, an hour earlier than in previous years when it has stayed open until 10, booo. The main thing we do like about Fright Nights is that the entry price includes entry to the scare mazes (excluding The Passing, more on that later), however entry itself is a little complicated. If you own a Standard Merlin annual pass, there is a £5 surcharge to get into the park during Fright Nights, and you ‘must’ book in advance. Premium pass holders get in free, but also ‘must’ book in advance, although we didn’t and were let in fine – of course we were – they want our food and drinks money! It’s nice to see that Merlin (the company behind Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and almost everything else in the UK), have opted for the useless approach of ticketing information on their website, whereby you need to fill in a variety of boxes and select various options before being given a price for a specific day, which changes depending on how early you book it, or whether you intend to pay on the gate or not. To conclude, if you’re thinking about visiting the park during Fright Nights and don’t have an annual pass, click here to see what Merlin will charge you!
Having entered the park we crossed the bridge towards the main dome. It was nice to hear a bit of spooky music for ambience, however this is about all you get in terms of Halloween theming around the park. This was my second time visiting Fright Nights, following a brief visit last year, so I don’t have a very big hall of reference to draw upon in terms of theming in the past, but the park did seem vary bare. Don’t worry though, this was my only real complaint of the day, there was definitely more that impressed me than didn’t.
The Scare Mazes don’t open until 3pm at Fright Nights, so we spent the first few hours on the coasters and having a look around. It was great to see that most members of the ride staff had horror make up on, which really added to the spooky feel. Certain rides had switched their regular soundtracks and jingles for special fright night equivalents, however not as many as in previous years. In terms of rides, most were running well – Samurai and Slammer are however both out of action for the entirety of Fright Nights. As a side note, there have been a lot of rumours pointing to the removal of slammer at the end of the season, which has been in bits for the last few months, however contrary to this the ride was operating test cycles during the day.
Anyway, I know the reason you’re all here is to read the maze reviews, so without further a-do…
“Chaos reigns in the Asylum as some of the most disturbed and dangerous patients roam the building, lurking in hidden corners and tormenting anything in their way. Wind through the eerie corridors but watch your back!”
The Asylum is located in ‘The Showcase’, which if you’re stood outside looking at the exit to the Nemesis Inferno gift shop, is the building to the left of it. The story is that you are entering a mental Asylum full of killers who are gunna get you. The whole thing is essentially one big strobe light and mesh fence maze similar to (but not as effective as) the ending to Terror of the Towers at Alton.
The queue line soundtrack for this maze is a-maze-ing (little joke there), but seriously I thought it was the best soundtrack of the day. After queuing you are batched into groups of about 10 and form a conga line with your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you to enter the maze. This is obviously hilarious to watch because nobody wants to go at the front or the back, which causes a flustered panic until the person in question realises the whole queue are watching them and quickly try to look cool. After a quick safety briefing and the obligatory Merlin photo which you could later buy for an extortionate fee, the group enters the maze.
The first thing you notice in this maze is a weird kind of ‘open plan’ feel. The route is mainly defined by mesh fence which you can see through to other groups ahead of you, and the whole thing is dimly lit so you can always see something. Mirrors on the walls give a few people a scare before they realise it’s themselves they are looking at which is always funny to watch. There are strobe lights throughout the maze which are surprisingly disorientating, along with the scented smoke which smelt of some kind of decay. The actors in this maze were great, jumping from behind curtains, around fences etc. A lot of the time they would jump from behind and then join onto the back of the group. They even had a ginger dwarf jumping up and grabbing your legs.. pretty scary!
Asylum’s finale is possibly what it’s best known for – you leave the main ‘room’ with the strobes and fences in and enter a long thin corridor to the exit. Just before the exit there are a load of hidden actors who jump at you and pretty much chase you out of the door, where a crowd of people are usually gathered outside watching. There’s often a man with a chainsaw in this final scene, however we went through twice and didn’t get him – apparently they can’t use it all of the time because of the build up of exhaust fumes inside..yes it’s a real chainsaw! *without the blade on..
“Venture into a disturbing crime scene, full of dark and terrifying secrets that have lay dormant for 50 years. Investigators have shut down the area for fear of unleashing The Curse and sending everyone to a watery grave Angry souls do not rest easy!”
The Curse is located in a bright white marquee in the Neptune’s Beach area of the park. Words cannot describe how out of place and just plain rediculous this maze looks from the outside, to the degree that I’m sure that if an elderly couple were to visit the park they’d probably assume that a wedding reception was taking place, not a horror maze!
Don’t be fooled by the exterior though, this is a very dark and effective maze. The theme is kind of hazy, with many people thinking it was meant to be themed to a boat lost at sea, however it is apparently just an old crime scene. I won’t hold this against Thorpe though, I think all the confusion just added to it. The maze is full of dark narrow corridors with actors popping out from various doorways and windows and from round corners. At some points the route got so dark that it was impossible to navigate, our group managed to open the fire escape thinking it was the exit, to which the actors hilariously tried to direct us away from whilst staying in character.
To be quite honest, there’s not a lot more I can tell you on this one, it is what it is, a dark sequence of corridors with people jumping at you. One room was particularly effective though, where it was literally pitch black with actors grabbing arms randomly. Despite the simplicity and no major moments, I enjoyed this maze.
“From the twisted minds that brought you the World’s most terrifying rollercoaster, comes the World’s most extreme live action horror maze, SAW Alive! Come face-to-face with live actors in 6 blood-curdling rooms based on the iconic traps from the SAW films!”
Unlike the rest of the Fright Night mazes which are temporary attractions, Saw Alive opened in 2010 as a permanent year round Horror attraction at Thorpe Park. This was, until the 2012 season when the park decided to close the maze and reopen it only for Fright Nights. The queue was probably the longest of all the maze queues throughout the day.
Like Asylum and Curse, groups of ten enter the maze in conga-line format. The maze consists of 6 ‘scenes’ which are based from scenes in the Saw movies. The theming is quite good, especially in the first bathroom scene which most people will recognise from the first Saw Movie. There were a good amount of actors littered through the maze, notably a fair few scantily clad women tied up, which did not go unnoticed ;). The actors with the pig face masks on were particularly scary. Asides from the fit girls and recognisable scenes, I can’t say that this maze was really that good. None of us came out with anything interesting to say – I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it just lacks something. If you haven’t done it before though it’s still worth a go.
“Only the bravest inmates will volunteer as test subjects in the chilling and disturbing laboratory where the latest project,Experiment 10, seems to have taken a sinister twist for 2012. Beware of the mutated test victims as you experience your deepest, darkest phobias. You’ll be gassed, confined and left screaming for a way out of Experiment 10’s deadly grasp”
Experiment 10 is really good. Chances are that if you’ve done a few horror mazes you’re now used to the format of joining a conga line and walking through dark rooms as people jump at the group. Maybe this has become a bit samey? Then Experiment 10 could be the one for you. Introduced in 2011, the maze is now in it’s second year and seems to get the most favourable reviews of all the Thorpe mazes. It’s the first maze which doesn’t require you to hold onto the person in front of you, and this really does make you feel more exposed.
The maze is situated within the Arena in the center of the park. From the outside it looks like a few shipping containers bodged together, when in reality, it is just a few shipping containers bodged together. When it’s your turn you’re batched into a group and wait outside to be called in. An actor posing as a mutilated test victim storms out and shouts at you to get inside, there you are briefed and sent through into a small dimly lit room with an actor stood at the end. The room fills with smoke in a way that many people have said make them think of the holocaust, and it’s at this stage you can tell that everyone around you are already terrified. The lights go out for a few seconds and when they come back on the actor is up in someone’s face.. simple but effective!
You’re then shouted at to come through to the next area, where you are physically grabbed and pushed in one of two directions. The group is split in half, and they make an effort to spot who your friends are and make sure you both end up going different directions. You’re then all locked into small rooms, on your own, in the pitch black. There are 10 or so rooms so everybody gets their own. The room is about the size of a wardrobe, however I am sure that when I was locked in the interior wall of the room disappeared, as stretching my arms out and moving about I couldn’t feel anything. Anywhos, you’re then left in the room for what feels like forever, with actors banging on doors and making noises all around you. It might not sound it, but it really is scary. You start to hear other people being let out of their rooms around you in a random order. I wasn’t let out until last because I’d smiled at an actor on the way in so she thought it’d be funny to leave me there for longer. “You won’t smile at me again will you!”.
On leaving the individual rooms there are two routes through the next part of the maze. If you were in a room on the left, you walk through a corridor with low ceilings and various stuff hanging down. If you were in a room on the right you crawl through a small tunnel. The group then all met up together in the next room before going on, however I have heard from others that when the maze is well staffed you often do the whole maze on your own or with just a couple of other people with you. The next room was full of smoke and very dark, an actor in an electric wheelchair was whizzing round next to the group, bumping into things. He then sprang out of his chair straight into someone’s face, which was pretty effective.
Onwards through a mini-mirror/strobe maze (If in doubt, use a strobe maze) and into a room with a big screen in. In this room we see a video of a man with a circular saw cutting a girl in half. As he does so blood, (well, water) sprays out into the room. The man with the saw walks off screen to the right, which is when everyone notices a doorway to the right of the screen. It really was an every man for himself ending – as an actor with a saw jumped out of the door people were literally pushing and shoving their way to the exit.
Overall a really good maze, you really do feel the adrenaline pumping, especially in the individual rooms. It is short in terms of scenes/distance travelled but I don’t think it needs any more to scare the pants off of most people!
“New for 2012, prepare to be tried, tested and sentenced to death in The Passing, a uniquely interactive, intensely horrifying experience that will terrify even the bravest of thrill-seekers to their core.”
The Passing is new for 2012, and the only maze at Thorpe that has a surcharge of £3 to experience. The maze is located in the back of the X:No Way Out building and is accessed from the Slammer area.
Prior to experiencing the maze, the only thing I knew is that we’d have bags of some kind put on our heads, sounds a bit unhygienic? Anyways, this maze has the slowest throughput I’ve ever seen, so after waiting for about 30 minutes in a queue of about 30 people we were summoned inside in a group of 10. Alike Experiment 10, you are not required to form a conga line on this one, so it’s another every man for himself struggle maze. A man with a torch walks around us, telling us we’ve all been sentenced to death. He was doing pretty well at this, until a woman in a high vis jacket walked in with a camera for a souvenir photo.. thanks Merlin. On to the next room, where there is some kind of exquisite coat rack with a load of what look like top hats on. At this point everyone gets one placed over their heads. The front of them is made of some kind of fabric mesh, so you can still see out, just not very much.
You’re then moved on into the next room, which I assume was meant to replicate the inside of a coffin in the ground, as there is a screen in the ceiling which shows people coming and standing at the edge looking down on you. After a short video two tunnels open up at the end of the room. A woman dressed as ‘Death’ from Family Guy split the group into the two tunnels, whilst everybody was fighting not to get in last. It really would be hilarious to see night vision CCTV from inside those tunnels. I ended up in the left tunnel, which was pitch black and had a bit of a slide in it. Somehow one of the girls we were with who was sent down the right hand tunnel ended up ahead of us in our tunnel, yet the rest of the people in her tunnel had gone, so this provided plenty of confusion.
It was by now that we’d all realised the bags don’t really stay in place on your head and they were either twisting round or falling off. On exiting the tunnel you end up in a pretty standard dark corridor horror maze, not really too dissimilar from the feel of The Curse. There’s a rotating tunnel in there, but it wasn’t rotating when we went through so it was a bit poo. The interesting part is that none of this is happening in the conga line so everyone is running around trying to avoid being last. After a few more turns through what seemed like a bit of a mundane maze we open a door to what is meant to be the exit. A woman in usual Thorpe Park uniform takes your head bag and gives you a certificate of death and tells you to leave through the exit round the corner. We walk around the corner and open the door into a room lit with UV lights. Look back down at your certificate at this point! We didn’t, but it turns out there is UV writing on them telling you to rot in hell, or something equally as friendly and nice. The lights go out and “Oh wow I didn’t expect this at all [sarcasm], the maze hasn’t ended?”. A door swings open and you enter a room with loads of black plastic strips, like the doors they have in the store room at B&Q, hanging down. After walking through this with actors popping out all over the place we were soon at the real exit. This was a really enjoyable ending, however after hearing from others it seems that we didn’t see it at it’s best. We literally walked about 4 meters through the black strips to the exit, whereas it seems a lot of people ended up walking around them for ages and ending up back in the UV room and doing it all again a few times. Not sure if this is the intended ending or not but it sounds quite cool.
It’s a strange one, there’s no denying that it is very scary in places and bits of it are really well done, but asides from the bag head novelty I can’t say the maze really did it’s job that well. Saying this, the others in my group found it to be terrifying and really wanted to do it again, so it obviously worked for some people!
This concludes the mazes at Thorpe. As night fell the park was mainly flood lit, not a great deal of spooky colours or smoke or the like, some described it as a bit of a car park feel. I didn’t really think it was too much of a problem though. Swarm looks amazing at night with the LEDs on the trains, along with the fire effect on the fire engine which is now operational, sometimes. A final feature of the night was roaming actors around the park who were ‘escaped prisoners’, chasing screaming girls around and jumping from various corners and dark places. The only downside was that all of these actors went around the park together so there was a chance that if you weren’t in the right place at the right time you wouldn’t see them at all.
Overall, though, this was honestly the most enjoyable day I can ever remember having at Thorpe Park. Definitely worth a visit!