Well much like Chessington Thorpe Park have entered the Halloween spirit and started Fright Nights a lot earlier this year, in fact, on the fitting day Friday 13th! So with mixed success over the past few years yet with last year arguably the best year to date, adding something new (as oppose to a rename or slight re-vamp) was needed to keep the event as fresh as always, and this year they may well have achieved this.

So what’s new? Well there was a new maze this year, Se7en, the chance for you to repent your sins with the seven deadly sins all in one maze. Also returning is the Asylum and Hellgate mazes, along with something different for the Circus of Horrors!

Entering the park you may have been forgiven for not knowing it was Fright Nights, again like in the previous years there was nothing in the way of theme or new banners on the outside to let you know what was going on, just the scroll board letting you know the park was open between 10 am and 10 pm. Once in the park many were handing a leaflet, advertising prices for you to skip the queues for the day, including a reasonable fastrack for the mazes of £7 for the three.

Walking around the park again there was no indication that Fright Nights was actually on, even the small pumpkin patches that had brighten up the place in previous years were missing, the maps to let you know where you were going weren’t there on opening day but did appear further into the event. Fortunately I knew where they were but there were a lot of people who were surprised when they came across them, as stated by Hellgate only having a 5 minute queue at 5 pm!

Also noticeable around the park were some cages which would later be house to the Circus of Horrors, one by Stealth, one by Rush, one in the dome and one which had no one activity by Nemesis Inferno’s loop (no idea why it was there!)

With the mazes’ opening at 4 pm again (which really isn’t a problem) it gives you plenty of time to experience the rides, and I suppose find out where you’re going for the mazes.

At 4 pm the first stop had to be Se7en, going in previously years and obviously enjoying the mazes, the chance to experience a new maze was top of my list. Located in the arena first impressions aren’t good. With the Se7en logo roughly put over the arena sign, quite frankly, looking dreadful with bright colours behind the sign to the right and left, Thorpe’s new effects (added to all mazes) were the fire lanterns which even when on, nothing was going to disguise the sign, but good effects non the less.

Once inside you have to keep an open mind that again little had gone into theme, the tent which housed the attraction, with rope adding to the effect… However that’s not what I was there for and open mind at the front of the queue it was time to enter. Seven is about the seven deadly sins, if you hadn’t gathered with seven rooms presenting them to the wanderer in the maze. This is designed to be a very intense, gross and sick maze, so my hopes were high as I’m a fan of anything that makes me jump.

Now then, I’ll be honest this maze has got some great reviews, but somehow once over and done with I somehow felt very let down for what I’d just been though. What I hear you say? Well there wasn’t enough, simple as, to get you really scared (unless your 10) with not one scene that will really stay in your head when you close your eyes to go to sleep. The maze starts with a low tunnel, anyone with any height will be at length to know why this is the case, this is the only section the roof is low, it’s pitch black while you’re walking to the first scene. In a clever move the scenes are broken up with black plastic drapes to walk
through, so if someone was going to pop out at you, you wouldn’t see it.

This just doesn’t happen, with every scene laid out with one actor in each scene, acting out the part of the deadly sin, the only problem was I can’t even remember the seven deadly sins, let alone which one I was standing in! With no notice this must also be hard for guests to know exactly where they are. Cast that aside, the scenes are actually very small, often by the time the last person in your line (7-8 people) have entered the room, the first person has left. It just wasn’t that disturbing, sorry for those that loved it but compare this to even say some scenes in the famous movie it just wasn’t realistic, and after the final
scene where you’re locked in a vault was over, I left laughing.

You haven’t a clue I hear you say! Well maybe not but every ones scare levels are different, but let’s look at some positives and yes there are some. It is certainly more of a maze, often leading you into dead ends, now this gets slated however this was great, just imagine if you stick a few more actors in these dead spots. It was different, it’s not like the other two mazes and does offer a new experience to the mazes and dare I say, a starter maze for the other two? With a lot of potential, I’m sorry this was a disappointing maze to start the day.

Next I was off to Hellgate, probably the most improved maze last year I was really looking forward to this maze. No queue at 5 pm was great and into the maze within 10 minutes was defiantly a bonus. Walking through the entrance you still enter the tunnel while waiting for your group to get called in, this year though there was no story, but hey you know you’re here to get scared.

With queuing out of the way it was time to enter, for those unfamiliar with Hellgate, it appears to be a house which you walk through which is beyond haunted, the house has been repossessed and has some odd house mates. This maze was not only as good as I remembered it, it was better, there is a really chilling atmosphere in here probably helped by the large X building it’s housed in, but there is a real sense of being somewhere you wouldn’t want to be. The actors are there to scare and do a great job, jumping out, banging, and sudden appearance and disappearances really keeps you active and keeps your wits
about you. The scenes are much bigger than sevens, with more detail and although not actually suppose to be more disturbing, certainly have a more real feel to them, which is why its there.

This is a great maze with extra little touches and scene changes from last year all work well, and unlike seven you’ll really have to keep your wits about you.

Onto the Asylum this needs no explanation what it’s about. On what was supposed to be the worst of the three mazes (in the good way!) it has been known to be the scariest of the mazes in the past. With inconsistencies in the past few years (where’s the chainsaw guy??) some people had been disappointed by the maze. But not me, this is a disturbing maze, dark, strobe lights and fog made it simply disorientating. This is what Fright Nights is about. Yes there are disturbing scenes, the actors are great and are dressed accordingly with it not always the case that the most gross looking person is always going to be the scarcest scene, I can speak for many of my friends and I, who won’t forget the women with the baby any time soon yet it was probably the most simple scene ever.

Awesome, simply a great addition to Fright Nights and after a poor start with Seven, I was happy I stayed around.

Circus of Horrors!

That’s not all, this year the Circus of Horrors was let loose in the park, the 3 cages would be house to a show every 30 minutes (and yes, you will be annoyed guessing the times by the end of the night) Now I have been sent rude e-mails in the past for being critical of the Circus of Horrors in the previous years and I’ll stick by those write ups, however its in the
presentation, with this being the single best move the park have made for Fright Nights, and indeed I have a hell of a lot more respect for the COH team than perhaps I once had.

Its very nice sitting in a cinema, watching a show from a distance and having to pay to see different shows to see them all, with perhaps catching the wrong one and simply not being impressed. However this was simply a brilliant idea, nothing can prepare you for standing right next to the act while there doing it, and the sense of “look the other way” is much more apparent than sitting back and watching from a distance.

This also gives much better interaction and the chance to catch all of the shows if you make time to see them all, hats off to the Circus of Horrors, who’s ever idea this was, great respect for these guys when your right there in the “in your face” environment.

So that’s it for the Fright Nights part, well you also have to remember that you get a chance to ride the rides in the dark, Stealth at night is simply awesome. Was it all good then? I think the park will call this a success however its worth noting that perhaps it could have been better, Security was poor at best compared to last year. Even with the great idea of the COH being in the park, 1 guard (if he was there) wasn’t enough to stop the unnecessary abuse that they got, lets hope it doesn’t stop them coming back.

The theme as said was non existent, which is disappointing even though the mazes are there for the purpose of Fright Nights, however this doesn’t mean that maps shouldn’t have been made to make life easier for general guest.

These points are important points and would be wrong to brush them aside and just rate the mazes and not the event. One thing is for sure this is Thorpe’s best Fright Nights to date for what’s on offer, as an event there’s improvements that can be made, with a lot of the effects that the park had (fire effects) all broken towards the end of the event.