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Fright Nights

Fright Nights 2008

Here's our review and photos of Thorpe's 2008 Fright Fest:

TTP Review:

"2008's Fright Nights saw in the arrival of "The Curse", a brand new 4th maze to add to the usual attraction lineup - would this make the event even better than last year's stellar effort? I called 2007's event "the best yet", and whilst 2008 was impressive, it ultimately didn't quite reach the heights of the '07 bash. Firstly, I was disappointed at the changes which had been made around the Park - the smoke on Samurai had gone, there was no fire to be seen *anywhere* around the Park (neither at the maze entrances nor the entrance gates), and the Park music was a bit all over the place (rides playing odd songs at odd times). Secondly, the Park did seem to be selling out a bit at £13 for a Fastrack ticket for all 4 mazes. When many guests have paid £34 admission, another 38% on top of that just to be able to enjoy all 4 Halloween attractions is a little steep (guests could purchase a 3 maze Fastrack for £7 in '06!) Lastly, the acting talent in the mazes seemed a little inferior compared to previous years' experiences...

Se7en
(Located in marquees in the Arena)

I'll kick off with Se7en. No longer is this "a worthy attraction for Fright Nights". This maze has impressed previously, but has always been the poor relation to The Asylum and Hellgate (and now also, The Curse!) Whilst I would still agree that the theming inside the maze is excellent, it is starting to show its age. Nothing has been done about the previous criticms of the maze feeling too temporary (it seems as if it's built from chipboard). Guests still walk aimlesslessly through blank corridors with obvious fire exits signposted. It's still very formulaic and predictable - seven rooms with seven sins and supposedly, seven scares. There are few scares here, though - actors either adopt the "zombie" look, using their (admittedly impressive) latex FX for shocks, or walk around banging the walls to make people jump. When there are now 3 other mazes to compare against, Se7en just doesn't cut it any more - this year my group didn't even get trapped in the cage in the last room, which made for an even more disappointing experience. I should mention the entrance to the maze has been improved, with flashing lights and louder music signalling departure of the next conga line, and also the fact that the first room has been given a new red glow, but these "improvements" do little to save an inferior attraction.

The Asylum
(Located in the building next to Nemesis Inferno)

Returning to the good old reliable Asylum - again, this year it was the Park's pinnacle attraction. Everything that was great about The Asylum was still present this year - strobes, smoke, smells, mirrors and most importantly, the elusive Chainsaw Man - long may he provide the amazing finale! I didn't notice a whole lot of change in The Asylum this year (although the new themed exit door is a marked improvement on last year's whitewash door), but there really is little need - this maze still outdoes all the others by quite a measure. I can return to the point that I have laboured on over the years - this maze works better when the actors are screaming and jumping at guests rather than sedately walking around, and that can always be improved, but it's a small point when the rest of the attraction is executed so well. This year I had freaks hanging from the ceiling, freaks darting in and out of view and best of all, touchy feely freaks. Brilliant!

Hellgate
(Located at the back of the X:\ No Way Out building
)

Hellgate disappointed this year. The actors in this Haunted House can usually be praised for the inventive ways in which they generate their scares, but this year they provided little. As per last year, there were lots of dead spots where we walked through corridors with nothing happening - but even when we did encounter an actor, they weren't particularly scary. Actors did not work together to maximise the fear factor, and there weren't many in the maze on our visit. I also didn't see the point of the last scene change - the bed had gone and instead we were greeted with a room filled with sheets and a zombified freak standing in the middle. He halfheartedly lunged at us and we made a hasty exit, a little perplexed. However, there have been many reports of Hellgate enjoying a great year this year, so perhaps I got unlucky on my visit.

The Curse
(Located in marquees on Neptune's Kingdom beach)

And lastly we have the new attraction for 2008, The Curse. Reviews I'd read for this maze prior to visiting were very mixed - some loved it, others thought it was awful - but I experienced the attraction with a level head. And I came out impressed! Unlike Se7en, I completely forgot that I was inside a tent during this attraction. Whilst some props were a little tacky, the majority of the scenery was faithful to the nautical theme and a good pace was maintained throughout the attraction. I loved the detail in the scene with the diver drowning in the huge pool of water! Unfortunately, the story for The Curse was completely lost (Captain and lover get washed overboard and a curse falls upon the whole ship), but this is no different to any of the other mazes (anyone know the Hellgate story?!) The acting talent in here was good, too. There were enough actors to prevent any dead spots, and often they worked together to produce the scares. A particularly hairy moment came when I was being clawed at by two raving loony actors through chians either side of me. Another scare came from the guy writhing on the floor grabbing at people's legs! It wasn't an Asylum beater as it wasn't as frenetic, but this year The Curse came a healthy second. Not bad for a new maze!

Carnival of the Bizarre
(Located in the Time Voyagers Theatre
)

The Circus of Horrors returned once again in the Time Voyagers Theatre for 2008, and once again gave guests a very "alternative" show! I'm a big fan of the Circus of Horrors, and I think they add a lot to Thorpe's event. Shows ran every half hour from 6pm - 9pm and were once again free which was a bonus. This year I was treated to the Mongolian Laughing Boy hammering nails into various parts of his body, an aerial gymnastics act complete with water submersion, and as always, plenty of fire eating. I have seen The Carnival of the Bizarre more explosive (literally!) than they were this year, but as ever Dr. Haze put on a good show - long may this act remain in the Fright Nights lineup!

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the Halloween attractions were very much a mixed bag this year. However, for all the negative points made, a mention must go to the effort the Park made on some of its theming this year. Nemesis Inferno, Colossus and Loggers Leap looked particularly impressive, with spooky setpieces aplenty. Cobwebs, severed heads and skeletons adorned these rides, and more - Rush once again sported it's trademark spooky playground look. The red lighting on the bridge was a particularly nice touch.

Much of this review has been a little pedantic. We must not forget that Thorpe Park's Fright Nights is still one of the best Halloween events in the country! This does not excuse complacency however, and it would only take a slight budget increase and a little TLC to rectify many of the issues raised. And let's be honest, I'm sure Thorpe Park can afford to do that on the profits made by Fastrack alone..."

Ben Case

Photos:

Inferno theming
Theming on the ground on Inferno
New maze: The Curse
Loggers Leap Theming
Witch outside Loggers!
Rocky Express ghoul.
Carnival of the Bizarre were back.
Inside the Time Voyagers Theatre.
Colossus Theming.
Quantum at dusk.
Riders on Quantum.
Vortex at dusk!
The Curse.
Asylum.
Storm in a Teacup at night.
Flying Fish at night.
Hellgate's new entrance.
Se7en.
The Se7en tent.
Slammer at night.
Stealth train waiting
Stealth at Night.
Nice lighting touches on the entrance bridge.
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