After sitting the event out last year and seeing as the silly annual pass restrictions have been removed, I decided to return to Fright Nights yesterday. In the past, I've never particularly enjoyed Thorpe's Halloween offering. I've always found their mazes to have bland set-design repetitive scares, and a lack of any atmosphere. After what was apparently an utter car-crash of last year, I'd heard that this years event was good. But after my previous experiences, I went in with low hopes- and unfortunately, they were met.
First up was their new maze, Creek Freak Massacre. I was unsure of this maze from the start- whilst it was nice to see a new attraction that didn't rely on an external property, it sounded incredibly generic, and with the marketing stating it was their "most intense maze ever!", I was nervous that it wouldn't meet that claim.
The preshow began, and the script here was actually pretty good, which gave me some higher hopes- but before I knew it, I was told my "shift" had "started early", as I was told to head through a crawl space into the maze alone. I'm an absolute sucker for seperation in mazes, as it allows for some really intense encounters, and will often lead to having several actors crowding you at once. But unfortunately, this just didn't happen in Creek Freak. As I passed through the maze, the vast majority of actors just got a little close and did a generic snarl, before walking off. This was incredibly dissappointing! Also to note is how you could clearly see any actor quite a while before you got to them. Then came the first person to hold a chainsaw, so I got ready. Now, chainsaw scares are incredibly overused, and as a result, I'm generally un-phased by them, unless the actor is essentially dancing with it, and bonus points if they're crazy enough to use contact whilst wielding the chainsaw. But here... they just stood and stared. No chase, no movement in fact. Just... nothing. Maybe my luck would change with the upcoming strobe maze? Well, kinda. The actor in here was moving- a little. Never really chased into any corners or forced to run. On a positive, the strobe maze was disorienting. I back-tracked on myself by accident multiple times, which was weird. Eventually I found the exit, and once again- the chainsaw in here barely revved or moved.
It was such a let-down. Perhaps I'm just wearing rose-tinted glasses here (or maybe I've just grown a bit of a resiliance since I started doing mazes), but both Cabin in the Woods and The Big Top were more intense. There were lots of oppurtunities to deliver some scares, but none of them came to fruition. The chainsaws also detracted
from the experience as every time you saw one, you were expecting to get chased- but alas, that never happened.
The design of the attraction was also a bit of a let-down. The vast majority of the maze was just a wide, empty wooden corridor with a red light, maybe a bit of haze. Whilst I can appreciate their efforts with transforming an incredibly small space, the corridors were incredibly bland and repetetive. In terms of lighting and effects- there's not much positive to say either. The maze is pretty much exclusively lit in red, but once again, it's just the same gel over and over. And with effects- there was one which was no surprise, as you could see the proxy sensor for it (and the haze highlighted it).
In short- Creek Freak Massacre is... ehhhhh. Despite a promising pre-show, everything was just... well, unenjoyable. As with the other mazes, it's a common theme at Fright Nights that "nothing happens".
Next up was Platform 15. In previous years, I've never really liked this maze, but we did it anyway, because you can't review something unless you've actually done it.
...yeah, I still don't like it. It's the same, reeeeally long drawn out corner through the woods at the back of the park. And, for the second time in this review- nothing happens. Now, "nothing" is something that can be really effectively used in a maze, assuming you've set-up tension prior. Holding tension is an incredibly hard thing to do as well- assuming you've got tension in the first place, as there's a lack of any atmosphere in Platform 15. Because of how wide the pathway is (for the most part), it's hard to feel intimidated by any of the actors. It's just a seemingly-endless trek to the exit where you're free to do another attraction, that's possibly enjoyable.
Our final maze of the day was Living Nightmare, and whilst Platform 15 spends too long doing nothing, Living Nightmare spends so little time doing nothing! Once again, there's a lack of any atmosphere in this maze. Throughout a lot of the maze (the early ones in-particular), the set feels incredibly sparse. There's a lot of white walls with nothing else. Things change a bit towards the second half, but it's nothing crazy. There's also a lot of rooms that seem to lack a ceiling, meaning that if you look up there's just "warehouse". The same goes for sound-design. For the most part, there's no audio- and if there is, it's either incredibly quiet, or forgettable.
After these, we felt done. There were still three other attractions to try out, but the lengthy queue-times for very little pay-off just didn't seem worth it.Although I couldn't think of any positives about my trip, I don't want this review to be pure negativity- so some ideas on how Thorpe could improve upon the event:
- Better sound design. The mazes (with the exception of Creek Freak which had a decently noisy finale) all feel really quiet, and it's no secret that sound really improves the experience as it can easily built atmosphere and tension. Heck, there are even some attractions which are entirely sound based, and are very effective.
- More theming. Many of the mazes have large spaces with un-themed walls, which really detracts from the experience. If we really want to loose ourselves into another world, we need to be able to see all-sorts of persuading items and objects from said world.
- More "aggresive" actors. I never felt targetted or intimidated by any of the actors at any point throughout my three runs. Perhaps implementing a script for actors to say that encourages involvement from guests, rather than a generic grunt. Characters conversing with guests really helps sell the world as it feels inhabited, personal, and therefore memorable.
- Opening the mazes earlier. I understand the want for free mazes, but because they're insanely busy, if you want to do them all there simply isn't enough time as all mazes are above an hours wait. If you opened them at, let's say, midday, that's three extra hours of maze time, and means guests have time to do an extra maze or two in that time, and it takes pressure off the rides.
I want to enjoy Fright Nights- I really do- but I kinda regretted going yesterday. Our experience at the park was more frustrating than fun, and I was genuinely bored throughout. It really says something when I wish I stayed home rather than going out to a place that's supposed to be fun. I really hope that Thorpe Park are able to improve their offering for future years- but until things have radically changed, I won't be going.