2011 is the 10th birthday of Thorpe Park's Fright Nights, and once again the event is back with a single aim: to scare the pants off of you. The blood-chilling nature of Halloween is perfect for Thorpe’s thrill seeking audience, and for that reason the events are stretched (on and off) over a lengthy 3 week period; from October 6-31, so there can be no excuses for not going along.
This year Thorpe Park is boasting a total of 5 mazes, a record for a Fright Nights event, and more than many other parks around the world. Several of the mazes were also featured last year, and were covered in Theme Park Tourist's review of Fright Nights 2010.
The first is the year-round SAW Alive maze, which opened in 2010 as an accompaniment to the massively popular SAW The Ride rollercoaster. For those who have seen the films, the maze is features reproductions of many of the infamous scenes, with you as the victims! SAW Alive has had its share of criticism from diehard fans for not having enough action (including in TPT's own review of the maze), but for many the theming and torture effects (you’ll double take when you see the ‘naked’ victims) more than make up for it. The park suggests an age limit of 12, and although this is not enforced by any means, it is probably a good guideline for all 5 of the mazes.
Se7en is located in the park’s outdoor theatre, which usually hosts stunt shows, and is based around the idea of the 7 deadly sins (Greed, Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, Pride and Envy for those unknowing), with guests acting as those wishing to repent. This is often considered the least scary of the mazes, at least compared to those in the past, but has some incredible scenes, each relating to a different sin. If anything it is a joy, if a little macabre, just to experience the set pieces as more of a walkthrough.
The Asylum is generally considered the most intense maze, and unsurprisingly also the best of the lot. As the name suggests it is themed to an asylum full of insane patients, and of course they have broken from their cells and will chase you down until you drop. Located where Miss Hippo’s Fungle Safari once was at the back of Nemesis Inferno, the attraction is filled with sirens, strobe lights and, most impressively, many chainsaws. You will end up running for your life, often into dead ends, and there is no stopping until you escape through the gates at the end. This one is definitely not suitable for youngsters!
The Curse is one of the newer mazes, and has an original idea of being themed around a shipwreck. It is effectively placed in Amity Cove, but unfortunately after these premonitions it is a little disappointing. The maze is in fact located in a marquee, (which is claimed to be a closed off crime scene) and fails to use any of its nautical ideas. There are definitely some good scares in there, plus a couple of well thought out scenes, but overall it is lacking and will probably be the weakest of the mazes this year.
New for 2011 is the Experiment 10 maze, which replaces the long running Hellgate. Although the previous maze provided a few thrills, it had certainly run its course and Thorpe Park must be congratulated for updating it. The most noticeable problem with it was that it was themed to a castle, but located in the back of the hideous X:\No Way Out warehouse. Experiment 10 should fit the bill far better. It is yet another great idea from the Thorpe Park design team and we can only hope it is executed (no pun intended) with class. We have been told that guests will enter a laboratory being used for government testing, but it has gone horribly wrong and now the disfigured victims are on the hunt. Expect to be frozen, gassed and generally prodded until you don’t know which way is up. It's also interesting to note that the new maze shares a similar theme with next year’s new roller coaster, The Swarm, and perhaps there will be a tie-in in future years.
As always Thorpe Park will be open between 10am and 10pm during Fright Nights, meaning of course there will be heaps of time for night riding. Although the park doesn’t offer the feeling of isolation as sister park Alton Towers, the proximity of the rides, and the crowds to them, makes night riding intense. It is indeed a whole different park after dark, as they claim.
Fright Nights is the busiest time of the year by far for Thorpe Park, and for that reason it is a very good idea to book in advance. The park can, and often does, turn people down without prebooked tickets when attendance is high. Having said that, the 12 hour day is comfortably long enough to fit everything in, and it might be a good idea to arrive a bit later to prevent fatigue later on in the evening. Tickets for the event cost £5 more than regular entrance, which is actually a good deal considering the extended opening hours and the fact that all 4 temporary mazes are included in that price, working out a lot cheaper than at Alton Towers’ Scarefest, where separate tickets must be bought for the mazes.
We’re anticipating this year’s Fright Nights more than ever before. If you’re looking for thrills on Halloween, as you should be, Thorpe Park is the place to be. Wrap up warm and get ready to be chilled to the bone on a vast selection of mazes and one of the best ride line ups in the world.
Tickets for Fright Nights 2011 can be booked online via the Thorpe Park website. For those hoping to stay close to the park following late opening (including in its on-site hotels), Play and Stay is currently offering 10% off short breaks when booked via Theme Park Tourist before September 30, 2011.