Thorpe Park has been accused of exploiting students after it offered them £50 to take part in psychological and electric shock tests for its new Saw Alive Horror Maze attraction.
To receive the money, students must agree to undergo a range of mental and physical tests. The electric shock tests in particular have caught the eye of UK tabloids, leading to calls from a Conservative MP for the park to reassure participants that the tests are safe.
David Willetts, the shadow minister for universities and skills, is quoted by Metro as saying: "I would want to know that these tests are safe and the trials are properly regulated."
Thorpe Park has responded to the concerns, with divisional director Mike Vallis saying: "Our number one priority is the safety of the students involved." Although the publicity is ostensibly negative, management are likely to be delighted with the coverage which will add to the mystique of the new maze and help to build word-of-mouth among the park's core teenage audience.
Saw Alive is based on the popular horror movies, and will be located close to Saw: The Ride, the themed Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter coaster which has proven hugely popular since its spring 2009 opening. It will recreate six scenes from the Saw films, with guests being "tested" in each one by Jigsaw, the evil genius who torments victims to test their will to live.
The new maze may be slightly different to the temporary horror mazes seen at both Thorpe Park and Alton Towers during their respective Halloween events. Given the automated nature of most of Jigsaw's tests in the movies (along with the year-round nature of the attraction), it is likely to feature fewer live actors. It is not clear whether Thorpe Park truly intends to include electric shocks among the maze's tricks, or whether the advertisements are merely a publicity stunt. However, mild electric shocks are administered by arcade attractions around the country, and even as part of an exhibit at the Science Museum in London, so their inclusion is not completely infeasible.
Merlin, the owner of Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, has been promoting the "scariness" of its newest attractions frequently over the last year. First, Thorpe Park claimed that an exorcist had to be called in after staff held a "seance" under Saw: The Ride. Then, to promote its upcoming Thirteen rollercoaster, Alton Towers has claimed that it will limit guests to one ride per day and only allow those aged 16-55 to ride.
Theme Park Tourist will be visiting both parks between March 20 and 27 to test out the new attractions, and will feature photos, videos and reviews on the site soon afterwards.
You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions over at Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section.