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Fright Nights

Fright Nights 2011

Here's our review and photos of Thorpe's 2011 Fright Fest:

TTP Review:

"2011 was Fright Nights' tenth birthday party, and what a party it was - Thorpe Park honoured the occasion with a brand new maze and on-Park roaming actors. Out was the considerably below-par 2010 Dead End Terror Zone, and in was Experiment 10, a high quality attraction that rivals Asylum for the title of "most intense Fright Nights maze"! Experiment 10 is a breath of fresh air, and thanks to its uniqueness, gives Fright Nights an edge over the other UK scare attractions (Thorpe's biggest rival being Scarefest at Alton Towers).

I complained last year that the Park did not invest in any Park-wide Halloween themeing (something that other Parks, like Alton Towers, really excel at). This year saw themeing returning to the Park, in the form of Fright Nights-branded oil drums and hanging nooses. It might not beat the pumpkins, bunting, scarecrows, skeletons and cobwebs that Alton Towers decorate their Park with, but this is a step in the right direction and reminds visitors that they are actually attending a special event!

I also complained last year that the Park were insulting their guests with the prices they charge. Last year saw prices reach the £40 mark - but this year the on-the-day price increased to £43.20! The £5 Standard Annual Pass fee was also in force, as was the (increased) £3 Car Park fee. Fastrack tickets for the mazes had also increased, at £17 extra to fastrack all of the 4 mazes, or £5 per maze for individual fastracks. 5 years ago, during 2006's event, fastrack for all mazes stood at £7. In 5 years Thorpe have increased their prices by an astonishing 143%! One has to wonder for just how long Thorpe's visitors will put up with their ever increasing charges for this event...

However, there was much to commend the Park for this year. The mazes were all of a good quality (although there is a big difference in intensity between Experiment 10/Asylum and The Curse/Se7en). The Park made special effort to get new Fright Nights music loops on the ride sound systems (Stealth's little girl whispering "it's only a dream, it's only a dream" is particularly eerie). The roaming actors, from a freaky circus, were highly entertaining (and to have them pushing around a 10th-birthday cake was a nice touch!). In short, I thoroughly enjoyed myself - check out individual maze reviews below:

Experiment 10
(Located in shipping containers in the Arena)

Due to rumoured structural difficulties with the corridors along the maze route, Hellgate did not return for Fright Nights 2011. Due to it being rubbish, Dead End Terror Zone also did not return for 2011. In their places was Experiment 10. Experiment 10 is the result of a special Fright Nights focus group, and a little reorganisation of the event's creative team at the Park. The Park has taken a gamble with a new approach to a scare attraction, and it has certainly paid off. The maze sees guests touring around a government test facility where the experiments have gone a little wrong. There are many parts to this maze, and there is more than one route around it, making it very re-rideable. At first, you are briefed as to what you're about to tour around by a lab official, in a room with CCTV screens and guns on the wall. You are then directed to a chamber to be "decontaminated"; you are instructed to line up against the wall and the chamber is plunged into darkness whilst gas pours into the building from the ceiling. This in itself was unnerving, but was followed with something even more so - shouting officials in gas masks then marched (sometimes pushed) guests into tight individual cells, and locked them in there from anything between 1 to 3 minutes at a time. It is claustrophobic to say the least, and if you draw comfort from the fact that you usually tackle Thorpe's mazes in a group, this maze (where you are alone for large parts of it) may not be for you...

Once you have braved the solitary confinement, you then are ordered in one of two directions; you either crawl on hands and knees along a dark downward sloping tunnel, or you fight your way through a very narrow corridor with hanging cloth and material making it very hard to see where you're going. Either way, it's dark and it's again claustrophobic. At the other end, you might(?!) meet up with your loved ones you left behind in the decontamination chamber. The rest of the maze is more akin to other Thorpe mazes, but is executed very well. You walk through rooms containing blood-splattered hospital beds and medical equipment. One very clever scene had the lights dimmed so low you could barely see where you were going, and then the lights were turned on so that you could see that you were walking in a room filled with severed limbs hanging from the ceiling. Nice! Another scene had clearly copied the Asylum, with a very intense strobe light completely disorientating you. Smoke and haze were very densely used in this attraction, meaning that you often couldn't see more than 30cm in front of you at any one time. The final scene was a typical "jump" scare, with one last official in a gas mask springing on you and chasing you out of the maze.

The attraction uses its set and its storyline to scare you more than it uses its actors, but when the story is so unique and polished, this is no bad thing. The maze places you in some uncomfortable situations, and because it is based in metal containers (and not the usual Thorpe marquee...) it feels very permanent and real. I felt that the Park could have generated more scares from the "solitary confinement" part (not a lot happens during your time in the cell), and it is a shame that the best part of the maze is the first half - the ending could be stronger. However, I queued around 45 minutes for this maze, and in that time I saw 15 people bail early from halfway round the maze. I have never seen so many people exit a Fright Nights attraction halfway round because they couldn't take it any more - this is surely testament to how much Experiment 10 is frightening its guests. A truly impressive, unique attraction, and one which Thorpe Park can rightly be proud of.

The Asylum
(Located in the building next to Nemesis Inferno)

I have commented a great deal on The Asylum in previous years, so I won't retread old ground. I will say though that Asylum for me is still the most frightening Thorpe Park maze; the sustained intensity of the strobe lighting, sirens and actors just cannot be beaten. Although Experiment 10 comes mighty close!

I had one of the most intense experiences in The Asylum this year out of my last 8 years of reviewing Fright Nights - it was thoroughly emotionally draining! The maze was crawling with actors - I don't think I've seen so many in there - and they were on top form making increased use of props this year (dolls' heads and syringes come to mind). The chainsaw finale still invokes fear into even the most hardy of guests - you can see from the photo at the bottom of the page that people still come running at full speed out of the maze! The Asylum has definitely still got it.

Se7en & The Curse
(Located in marquees in the Arena / on Neptune's Kingdom beach)

I have grouped Se7en and The Curse together for this review, because I feel that there are many similarities between them. Both mazes are for starters inferior to the other two already reviewed. Neither sustains the level of intensity of The Asylum and Experiment 10. Both rely on "jump" scares rather than any psychological fear. Both are set in temporary marquees, so have a rather temporary feel about them! This is not to say that either are bad attractions - Thorpe Park have done much worse - and the standard of themeing in both is good. The smell and scenery in Se7en's gluttony room is particularly disgusting. Thorpe have made some minor tweaks in both mazes for this year, which is welcome - it was particularly noticeable that Se7en had more lighting this year, and some scenes had been redesigned. Both mazes are looking a little old and tattered in their age, though. They are worth a go, but this year could not hold a candle to either the Park's headline maze The Asylum or brilliant debut Experiment 10.

Barry & Stuart
(Located in the Time Voyagers Theatre)

Barry & Stuart were so entertaining in 2010 that they were invited back again for a second year at the Park. The duo garner very impressive reviews for their twisted magic, but as the shows were only staged during the peak half term dates, TTP did not get the chance to see the show.

The Bottom Line

Thorpe celebrated their 10th birthday in style. Experiment 10 will almost certainly be considered by many to be Thorpe's new scariest maze, and the addition of on-Park actors was a great move. Se7en and The Curse are however clearly now the support acts for the Park's other two mazes, and Thorpe's money-grabbing tactics continue to grate. All things considered though, Fright Nights 2011 can be counted as one of Thorpe's best. Happy bloody birthday indeed!"

Ben Case

Photos:

Event flyer
Entrance
Noose!
SAW nooses
Colossus drums
Samurai drums
Experiment 10 sign
Queue
Exit to Experiment 10
Se7en sign
Se7en marquee
The Curse
Entrance to Asylum
Running out of Asylum!
Park actors
10th birthday cake!
Storm Surge at night
People on Storm Surge at 10pm!
Samurai at night
Swarm advertising at night
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