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Review: SAW Alive Horror Maze at Thorpe Park

SAW  Alive Horror Maze logo
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When Thorpe Park opened SAW - The Ride last year, it was always expected that the park would look to further exploit the horror movie license upon which it is based. The devious traps laid by evil genius Jigsaw in the six Saw movies to date would surely provide inspiration for a Halloween horror maze or two – and indeed live actors did terrorise guests in the coaster's queue line during last year's Fright Nights event.

After that half-hearted attempt at a "live" Saw experience, though, it was something of a surprise when the park announced that it would install a permanent, year-round attraction known as the SAW Alive Horror Maze for the 2010 season. So just how scary is it entering a recreation of Jigsaw’s twisted world? TPT editors Nick (a horror fan) and Natalie (most definitely not a horror fan) went to Thorpe Park to find out.

Warning: this review contains gruesome images and plot spoilers, including a full description of the events inside the SAW Alive Horror Maze. Do not read on if you want the plot to be a surprise - or if you do not like the sight of blood.

Expanding the Saw area

We have to admit to being pretty skeptical when SAW - The Ride was first announced. Although it's a popular-enough movie franchise (and the first installment was a great piece of horror film-making), we feared that Thorpe Park was playing too much to its core teenage audience at the risk of producing a tacky attraction that wouldn't "belong" in a theme park.

But full marks to Thorpe Park, they pulled it off in some style. Although the Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter rollercoaster itself has divided opinion (we are fans, especially of the initial dark ride section), the park invested in strong, immersive theming of the queue line and ride building which genuinely helps to build an intimidating atmosphere. In fact, we think SAW -The Ride is one of the best-themed rollercoasters in the UK – and certainly puts the token efforts to date on Thirteen at Alton Towers to shame.

SAW Alive Horror Maze exterior image

For SAW Alive, the park has expanded the industrial-style setting of SAW - The Ride to encompass an "abandoned" paddleboat on the edge of the park’s muddy, brown lake. It's hard to think of a more appropriate setting for a Saw attraction – combined with the "warehouse" which houses SAW - The Ride, the grubby waterfront location looks like exactly the sort of place that Jigsaw would bring his victims to torment them. We were genuinely concerned about what lay within the boat as we approached SAW Alive’s queue line.

Building the suspense

SAW Alive Horror Maze queue image

As with SAW - The Ride, a combination of Jigsaw-designed torture contraptions and mock razor-wire has been used to create a creepy queuing area for SAW Alive. Unfortunately, the sense of suspense and danger created by the well-themed queue evaporates when visiting the attraction as we did on a sunny spring morning. For all the effort Thorpe Park has put into the queue line, we felt more scared queuing in an empty field at the back of the Alton Towers Hotel during Scarefest 2009 than we did waiting for SAW Alive. The simple reason? Everywhere is scarier in the dark. It's hard to feel threatened when you can see people cheerfully queuing for Colossus only a few dozen yards away.

Of course, we can't blame Thorpe Park for the weather and on darker days the queue line will look suitably foreboding. However, we do wish the park had followed the example of other mazes such as The Boiler House at Alton Towers and incorporated some of the plot into the queue. Even SAW - The Ride's waiting area includes voiceovers that give some indication of the situation riders are supposed to be facing. However, we entered SAW Alive with no background whatsoever on why or how it was that we had come to be captured by Jigsaw.

Entering Jigsaw's lair

SAW Alive Horror Maze entrance

As with most horror mazes, guests enter SAW Alive in groups of around 10 people. Placing your hands on the shoulders of the person in front, you march across a short drawbridge into the paddleboat – greeted by Jigsaw's "face
your fears" slogan daubed onto the wall in (we hope) fake blood.

We doubt that too many of Jigsaw's victims in the movies were asked to pose for a photograph with his favourite "Billy" doll before being brutally tortured. However, that’s exactly what guests do on entering SAW Alive. Hardly the stuff of nightmares – but a good chance for Thorpe Park to sell you something on the way out.

Following the photo, groups head into a small room where they are introduced to the plot by a typical "challenge" video from Jigsaw. You'll face 6 deadly traps – and have only 16 minutes to make your escape. Do you want to play a game?

Escaping with your life

SAW Alive bathroom scene

Image © 2010 Thorpe Park

The maze gets off to a promising start (for those who like to be scared, at least). Groups pass through the iconic bathroom set from the first movie, where they are supposed to get a gruesome look at the scene above (along with the smell of Britain's stinkiest urine). Unfortunately, on both occasions when we went through the maze there was no live actor in the bathroom (he had left his foot behind and presumably made an escape) – although the rest of the maze was very well populated with some enthusiastic actors.

Nevertheless, we were pumped full of adrenaline as we ploughed on into the infamous "electrocution corridor" section. Yes, that's right – Thorpe Park wasn't kidding when it hired students to test out electric shocks for use in SAW Alive. There's a sense of genuine physical danger as you pass through a narrow tunnel surrounded on all sides by the (very low voltage) electric fence – we can only imagine the carnage that will ensue when groups of Surrey teenagers pass through this area.

Continuing the positive start, we were scared out of our wits when encountering a scene of chained-up bodies, one of which was contorted into a seemingly impossible position. We'll let you use your imagination as to which one of the bodies turned out to be real (and alive) – it seems that Thorpe Park has invested in some genuinely talented people to provide the scares in SAW Alive.

From that point on, things get pretty confusing. Groups move on past a number of other contraptions from the movies, most of them in the process of torturing some poor soul. In addition, a number of actors move through the attraction providing traditional "jump out" scares along the way. However, we struggled to discern any cohesive plot once we'd passed the electrocution area – and certainly didn't feel personally involved in any of the trials that Jigsaw had set up.

Before long, guests emerge with little fanfare into the exit area, where they can purchase their group photo and emerge back out into the daylight.

Is it scary?

For us, a horror maze has been successful if you emerge at the end breathless, giggling, and bursting to discuss the highlights with your fellow survivors. SAW Alive's "escape from Jigsaw" plot would seem to be the perfect set up for such an experience. So were we terrified in the best possible way? Unfortunately, we’d have to say no.

On the plus side, the theming, acting performances and level of detail in the maze are all excellent and well above the standard of most temporary Halloween attractions. Given the level of effort on display, then, it's slightly disappointing that SAW Alive is not nearly as immersive as it could, and should be.

SAW Alive Horror Maze electrocution image

Image © 2010 Thorpe Park

The Saw movies provide just about the perfect set up for a horror maze. Most of the movies see groups of people staggering from one gruesome challenge to the next, hoping to satisfy Jigsaw and escape with their lives. That's the key element – Jigsaw does not mindlessly murder people, but gives them a chance to escape if they are tough enough. Who wouldn't want to prove their will to live by surviving an imaginary Jigsaw challenge?

Having recreated several of those challenges very convincingly, though, Thorpe Park has missed the opportunity to place guests into the thick of the action. With the exception of the excellent electric fence section, groups file past most of SAW Alive’s traps without even having the chance to register what is happening – and shoot out of the other side in well under the 16 minutes demanded by Jigsaw at the start.

Of course, we're not suggesting that Thorpe Park should physically involve its guests in torture traps (though it might help to deter the constant breaking of its no-smoking rules). Nor do we think that the actual physical length of SAW Alive is a problem. But it would be a far superior attraction if guests were given time to linger at each trap, and witness actors trying to escape (and probably failing). This would have implications for throughput, but has been achieved on other scares mazes in the past. It would also make better use of the actors, rather than having them wander aimlessly through the maze providing traditional "boo" scares.

SAW Alive Horror Maze trap image

Image © 2010 Thorpe Park

And why not give guests some small tasks to complete in order to escape? Even something as simple as unchaining an actor or locating a key would add immeasurably to the overall experience.

Finally, we'd like to see a proper climax to the attraction that leaves guests with some sense of achievement and has them buzzing on the way out. We’ve witnessed people physically sprinting away from horror mazes in the past in order to escape from hoards of zombies or some other spectacular finale, but SAW Alive simply sees people emerge, blinking into the post-ride shop – many of them exclaiming "was that it?"

As we've mentioned, there were some scares along the way – most of the hand-on-shoulder, jumping-out variety – and judging by the shrieks emanating from around the boat (and from Natalie) these had the desired effect. We certainly enjoyed SAW Alive, but hope that Thorpe Park continues to evolve the plot to make it more immersive and exciting.

Overall impressions

SAW Alive Horror Maze exterior image

Although it's not quite the interactive horror experience we had hoped it would be (and could still become), SAW Alive is still an intriguing addition to Thorpe Park that builds upon the strong theming of SAW - The Ride. Adding a year-round horror maze is certainly an interesting experiment by the park, and we hope that it will continue to evolve and improve upon the experience to keep the attraction fresh.

That said, we can't help feeling that SAW Alive would be much more effective on a cold, dark evening when a dimly lit paddleboat would seem very spooky indeed. Unfortunately, even with the extended opening hours Thorpe Park offers during the summer, it won't be possible to try out SAW Alive in the dark until Fright Nights in October – which perhaps goes some way to explaining why horror mazes are usually reserved for such events.

We'll be back at Thorpe Park for Fright Nights, ready to be scared – and SAW Alive will be one of our first stops.

You can see more images of Thorpe Park's newest attraction in our SAW Alive Horror Maze gallery.

Have you survived SAW Alive? Were you terrified by Jigsaw's traps? What could Thorpe Park do to improve the attraction? Let us know in the comments section below.

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There are 28 comments.

To be honest, i was expecting much more from it. I would have thought that people would be alone, that would make it more scary for the person in. Also, there should be loads of ways to go so you dont know where your going and then that would scare the living daylights out of people. I would of also thought that they would get Jigsaw on the tv to ask the guests to do a certain challenge to make them get stressed and panicky as if they were really there! That would be great! Thanks for reading =D

Wow, going through the maze on your own certainly would be scary! That would be similar to something like the House of Horrors at Universal Studios Hollywood - one of my favourites. Unfortunately, I think Thorpe Park is going for maximum throughput which might make this unlikely.

I think a few bits of interactivity would make all the difference, and agree that seeing Jigsaw within the maze as well as at the beginning would add to the suspense.

The Saw Alive attraction was RUBBISH.

We were made to line up in a train of around 8-10 people hold on to the person in front of you and run through a darkend few rooms really fast so they could get loads of people through.

It was so dark we did not even know what was there. I was told by freinds not to bother but I had to see for myself. Word to the Wise, by all means try it, but do not wait in line for 30 mins as you will regreat it.

Cut a long story short, waste of 30 mins lining up and another 3 mins in the so called maze. So I have lost 33 mins of my life on this rubbish.

Had read a fair few reviews online for Saw Alive but every single good thing i had read seemed to be missing today. The whole walk through lacked any plot. There was no video i had read about. We were just basically shoved in our group of 10 in to the maze and left to it. There didn't seemed to be ANYBODY being subjected to any of the traps. We could see where the scares were coming from due to actors standing right in front of us as we entered each room. Being shouted at by someone going "ragggghhh" dos'nt make a good scare. It all just seemed abit pointless and lacking something. Well...lacking alot in fact. Thorpe Park has done excellent horrors mazes in the past during the Fright Nights but something has gone wrong here. Maybe it was an off day. The reviews i'v read do paint it in a more positive way. We only had to cue about 10mins even though it said 30mins. But even cueing for 10mins for what only lasted around 3mins was again abit pointless. The scariest part though was the end room......where we saw how much they were asking for our group photo. We exited kinda shugging our shoulders.

Sounds like it might have gone downhill since we produced this review. When we went there were at least some people in the traps, although even then there were a lot of "ragggh!" actors wandering the maze as well.

Overall starting to seem like a missed opportunity for Thorpe Park - hopefully they'll take some of the negative feedback onboard.

i did like it, but i do admit yes it could be more scary. fortunately when i went through the maze there was an actor in the bathroom scene in room 1, it wasn't a nice feeling when he grabbed my foot but i must say it was quite a suprise! the effort carried out to design this maze is amazing. big thumbs up for that. but as you said, i would be alot better if the public could help out actors in traps. it would add to the experience you get. hopefully Thorpe Park decide to do this for fright night this year. Then it really will bring saw ALIVE! :)

Good that they are at least mixing up where the actors in the the maze. It means you should get a slightly difference experience every time you go through it...although they are going to need to make bigger changes I think to make it worthwhile keeping it open on a long-term basis.

i went into the saw maze with a few of my friends! i expected it to be amazing, but it was rubbish. i qued up for an hour ten minites in the sun, got sun burnt, and inside it stank, none of the actors came up to me, you cant really see anything, it was rubbish, it was a complete waste of time i think!

i went into the saw maze too! it was starey and its might to be pich black you no i loved it so much!

What a gem!!! It's a real shame more folks don't know about this site, this article covered everything I needed this morning :
D

oh and another thing, the pictures are a lie, theres no people with pig faces or anything like that!

there is pig faced people it might have changed such as in the freezer a pig man comes up to you

whent to saw alive this week ..different experience from those above, As our group walked in past the prison style desk the woman at the desk told us that jet would remove one of us from the group. which put everybody on edge...first the bathroom scene had a crazy woman staring into the bath who followed our group around the whole way latching onto the only female in our group wich scared her sh##less which i found massively amusing and laffed nearly the whole way through. the actor held onto her around her waist wispering your my mummy- save me into her ear the whole way through. Apart from my massive amusement which detracted from the scaryness the rest of the group (all men above 25) where genuinely disturbed/scared by the experience although for me as said there could have been less emphasis on throughput and more on apsoloutely terrifying the guests. but excellent no one was actually removed from the group but the actress followed us out the door across the bridge before she ran back in great fun. lee

I guess that shows how dependent it is on the scare actors who are working in the maze at the time. I went through it twice again on Sunday and my experience was much the same as when I wrote the review - certainly nothing as entertaining as what you describe!

This is much the same experience that I had when I went through the maze with my wife. There was a group of about 8 of us to start with, but somewhere along the line, it ended up being just me and the other half going through the rooms. Hayley, my wife, is not the tallest person in the world and with me being 6'1", she went it front of me and led us round (It wasn't because I was a big girl lol!) We eventually emerged from the maze having been subjected to some intense scare tactics. As there was just the two of us for most it, the actors concentrated on us heavily and we both felt genuinely disturbed. Great attraction I thought, and it was possibly better as we visited when it was quiet and it was more about quality than quantity.

I was (un)lucky enough to be picked to lead our group through and I have to say it was a pretty daunting experience even though I'm not easily scared by such situations. The worst part for me was when I went down a dead-end with a mirror at the end, it was dark so I could only just make out a figure which seemed to be approaching from the other direction and refusing to let me through what I thought was a plastic strip screen. It took me a few attempts at fighting past myself in the mirror before I realised what was going on. My teen daughters thought it was very scary, I suppose it's that group that these things are mainly aimed at...

:o)

well im not a wimp but this really did scare the c**p out of me!! i screamed like a little sissy girl all the way through. It was theee most scaryst moment of my whole life!! my brother has gone to Thorpe park today and i told him to stay wellll away from the maze. It was actually awful i hated every second of it!! I was biting my friend because i was that scared lol. Extremly cleaver but No-one could ever get me in there ever again! saw ride was excellent tho :D x

I agree with you Shona! I'm not easily scared but I went last week and it was THE worst experience of my life, there were alot of actors in traps tho and they told us someone would be removed which definitely added to it... It was very well done but clearly not my thing! u wouldn't get me back in there for anything... I'm still traumatised :(

Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo
News? I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!

Many thanks

I've been into Saw - Alive twice now and both experiences have been very different. My second visit was very similar to other reviews of being very scared and not wanting to go back into the maze again. However the first time I went into the maze was a complete laugh. My dad was unluck enough to be leading the way around the maze and we quickly found ourselves lost. The rooms were so dark we couldn't find the way out and even when we did, we were then faced with the task of getting out of the next room.
So caught up in a mission to find the exits to each room, our group went from being very scared to laughing our heads off as we called out to actors to help us find the way. I remember very clearly asking one actor for a map. I guess the actors have been told to help people who are lost as one male slowly lead our group to the exit of one of the rooms without so much as attempting to scare us.
While my first visit to the maze was funny, the second time around wasn't and I don't think I will be running to queue for this ride again in a hurry.

From what I have read, Saw Alive is Scary but not extreme enough. I havn't had the chance to enter at Jigsaw's peril yet, because due to a small breakout of fire on April 5th 2011, the maze was shut for obvious reasons.

I think that Saw the Ride is exelent, and from my ex boyfriends p.o.v (point of view) Saw Alive was a Hair - Raising experience. But he's only one example, I was shocked that he was scared coase he has seen all the Saw movies...

So, does anyone think that Saw Alive is worth riding? Should I waste 10 minuits or so of my time at Thorpe Park? I need some advice, I want to go in, but not alone (I know how you feel Natalie! I am a totaly Chicken too)

Thoughts?

Well I went in with 4 of my other female teenage friends, thinking it would be a laugh, and it wasn't.
I came out with finger shaped bruises on my shoulders from my friend behind me who was literally terrified and sobbing... she's a bit of a wimp haha.
I was fine and not really scared until we went into a pitch black room (4th I think...) The queue stopped moving and the only noises we could here were each other asking 'what happened?' and 'why are we stopping?'
They intentionally left it to the point when we stopped expecting some form of shock and were genuinely more focused on wondering what was going on before suddenly flashing a strobe light which illuminated 4 actors around our queue, right in our faces, one of whom grabbed my ankle. I screamed and afterwards considering, I am surprised that they would do something like that because I was THIS close to kicking whoever it was in the face. I have natural adrenaline reactions and once punched my friend who came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. :')
Overall I would never go in again, but it made for a good conversation piece for the rest of the day :)

I went in there with my friends. We watched videos on youtube and we all thought it looked really good! We travelled for over two hours to get to Thorpe park, and only mangaged to get on 5 rides, which we weren't too pleased about.
We were expecting people to be in traps and pig men walking around. There was like one trap, no pig men, and no bloody light. You couldn't hardly see anything. I don't think it was anything like the film. There's no 'posessed' people in the films running around all happy, is there? Unless I missed something...
It did scare me, i'm not going to lie, but it should be more like the film. But on the other hand, the saw ride was amazing!

There have been mixed reviews to the maze, and I have to say it was okay. I was disappointed because I was expecting an experience, but the whole thing was just walking around looking at screaming actors and having a person jump out every few seconds. The groups of ten isn't good as although nice to go round in give groups of friends or family, it takes away the thrill factor.
I would have made it an experience, like putting groups of four or five in a series of recreated Saw traps, though of course, not putting any of those people in any danger.
For instance, the people will have to take part in about four traps (like in Saw 5), where one person comes out the overall winner, and the final level being the electrified maze with a series of tests and the Pig mask men roaming around to try and 'kill' the people by dragging them away or pushing them down trap doors.
I would have loved to do something like that, as well as the whole thing being recorded, and people who aren't competeing (like family or friends of the people inside) can watch their progress, as well as buy copies of the tapes afterwards from one of those photo stalls. And the winner gets a prize, like a mini trophy or something.
That would be the Saw experience people would like xx

After reading this article, some of the reviews on here and waiting for half an hour in the outdoor, fake barbed wire rimmed queing area I wasn't really expecting all that much however as we entered the building I began to get pretty freaked out. I told my friend, Will, that he could NOT let go of my shoulders, whatever he did he couldn't let go and then we went in. My friend Ellie went in first. She was really really scared but she kept laughing. There were these two women stroking the boy's faces and coming right up to us. I buried my head into the guy in front of me and hardly saw any of the ride. The effects were really good and the actors were so scary. They wouldn't leave us alone and came right up in our faces, screaming and shouting. It was the scariest few minutes of my life and I just wanted to get out. When I did I was super proud of myself and now when me and my friends look back on it it's really funny. I loved it and hated it at the same time. Recommend this to any groups of teenagers who want a bit of a laugh. ;D

i went on saw alive shortly after it opened first and it was TERRIFYING!! for a start i was at the front of the group got all of the bad frights. it seemed to go on for ever!! my legs were like jelly for the entire thing!! it must have less scary since then....

it was my birthday weekend starting from today, and so there's a queue from outside, 15 minutes wait. we all though allright cant be that scary. so i went right at the front. we walked through and yes it was slightly frightening, but i was very disappointed,

(A) its not a maze.
(B) i didn't see any live actors in torture scenes.
(B) you see all the actors coming anyway.

it was good and a little bit of fun, i just think thorpe park can do better.

Went there with my mother on October 31 and was expecting a lot more from it.

The abandoned warehouse near the lake is a great setting, the rooms are detailed but apart from the first room (the famous bathroom) where a flashing light made an actor sitting quietly in the bathtub suddenly disappear right in front of my eyes, amazing trick may I add wich sadly only me noticed from the group)the other rooms were ruined as you could see most of the actors "hidding" in the corners and I should point that upon entering the hanging bodies room, I could tell from miles away wich body was an actor. Again, it has a creepy atmosphere, but the acting wasn't convincing and you don't really interact with anything. Maybe it's because I don't scare easily anymore, my mother along with the teenagers in our group were terrified, but I didn't really buy it. Overall it's cool to see such production (I'm a fan of the movies) but the maze is just another run of the mill hanted house attraction.