Here's our review and photos of Thorpe's 2009 Fright Fest:
"I'm pleased to report that Fright Nights 2009 was a very well done event. Since last year, where I complained that the mazes just weren't as scary as in previous years, the actors seemed to all up their game to create some really quite uncomfortable experiences. Good stuff!
However, and this is my one big gripe with this year - Thorpe Park were really ripping people off. For the busy period (24th - 31st October), the Park forced everyone attending to pre-book at least 48 hours in advance online, at a price of £32 (or £28 if through this site!). All previously issued vouchers/BOGOFs/deals were revoked. Annual Pass holders also had to pay £5 to get in. Having had an Annual Pass myself for the last 5 years, this is the first year that I've had to pay on top of my Pass price to gain entry! And this was not all. Once in the Park, Freaky Fastrack for the 4 mazes was now at an astonishing £15! This is the same Fastrack that back in 2006, just 3 years ago, was priced at £7, albeit for one less maze. At a time when the country is struggling with a recession, these charges really are extortionate, and Thorpe Park should seriously consider whether customers will be coming back again next year with these prices.
My visit was on 25th October - the first Sunday of half term week. Usually this would have been one of the busiest days of the year, with maze queues exceeding 2 - 3 hours plus. Thanks to Thorpe's pre-book only policy, the average queue I saw today was around 20 - 30 minutes. I hope the Park take notice...
(Located in marquees in the Arena)
Last year, I said that "no longer is this a worthy attraction for Fright Nights". Well, what a difference a year makes! This year the maze was rotated 180 degrees, so that the entrance was now facing Chief Ranger's Carousel, and inside various set changes had taken place. The triggered loud entrance music and lighting changes as groups enter the attraction give the maze a sense of occasion, and the new UV section with writing on the walls, and the new dentist's chair room, all worked very well. However, as always, it's the actors that make a maze a success, and this year they did not disappoint! I've always found Se7en actors to be some of the most jumpy and noisy in all of Thorpe's mazes, but even more so this year. The make up on some of the actors was quite disturbing, and the new added sound effects and soundtrack make the experience even more hectic. The maze still feels a little too temporary for my liking, but this year's was an impressive effort overall, and very much improved in terms of scares.
(Located in the building next to Nemesis Inferno)
For me, The Asylum is still the main attraction at Thorpe's Fright Nights, and is always the one I am most apprehensive about experiencing due to its intensity! This year did not disappoint, with the actors again making full use of the strobes and smoke to dart about around guests, making everyone feel very disorientated and on edge. Thankfully again Thorpe Park kept the chainsaw man in there, which produces one of the best finales to a UK horror maze that I've seen. The reactions of some guests running out of the attraction, after being chased by this maniac, is quite hilarious. The theming has also been kept to a very high standard too, with the entrance and exit corridors worthy of special mention to really set the scene. Asylum has always been fairly consistent, however, so there's not a huge amount of improvement on previous years, but it's still a superb attraction.
(Located at the back of the X:\ No Way Out building)
Hellgate is not an attraction for those of a jumpy disposition. Here more than any other maze can the actors and loud air cannons make you jump out of your skin. The maze this year was as good as I've ever had it (although special mention must go to the year where one of the actors split the group up, making everyone feel very vulnerable!), with a large number of actors in the attraction. Actors stroked, whispered, screamed and grabbed at guests in this maze, and the new last scene where a woman started to throw her baby around the room was particularly disturbing. Hellgate can be mixed year-on-year, but this year was a winner.
(Located in marquees on Neptune's Kingdom beach)
The Curse was an excellent addition last year I thought, and I would still agree with these sentiments after my visit this year. I like The Curse because, unlike Se7en, you never feel like you're in a tent - you actually feel like you're on a boat - and compared to the other mazes, this one probably uses more special effects and props to generate scares. That's not to say there are no actors in the attraction, however - there are many portholes and railings for the actors to reach through and grab you, and plenty of acting talent to take advantage of them! It's a little short, and certainly not as intense as some of the other mazes (this year's being Se7en and Asylum), but it's still a great little attraction that is in my opinion, underrated.
SAW: Movie Bites
(Located in the Time Voyagers Theatre)
Due to an incident last year, the Circus of Horrors were not invited back to perform for 2009, which is a great shame. Instead, this year the Time Voyagers theatre was home to SAW: Movie Bites, a collection of snippets from the SAW films, followed by a trailer for SAW VI. It cut out a lot of Thorpe's target audience as entry was restricted to over-18s only, and it really wasn't that impressive anyway. The sign outside promised actors and sensory effects during the show, but these were not to be found. In fact, you could argue that it was just a big advertisement dressed up as an attraction. Thorpe can do better than this - bring back the Circus of Horrors for 2010!
Over-hyped and rubbish. SAW: Live was touted as the "new attraction for 2009", as "the ride comes alive" after 4pm. In reality, there were a few pig-men walking around outside the attraction leering at guests, and one actor in the queueline trap shouting "help me" every so often. Not scary - in fact, a waste of time. Poor show, and I hope this isn't indicative of the quality we can expect for next season's new permanent year-round horror maze, SAW Alive!
The Bottom Line
As you can see, I was thoroughly impressed with all 4 mazes this year, even if SAW: Live and SAW: Movie Bites were a resounding let down. This year set the standard for all 4 mazes in terms of acting quality and sets/props used. However, this still does not excuse the rip-off pricing that Thorpe were charging its customers. Park wide theming had also not returned to 2007 levels (fire, smoke etc), but again, like 2008, relied on individual ride teams jazzing up their own rides. Special mention to the Inferno and Colossus teams for that!
Overall, it's a well done for this year TP - but the Park should reconsider its pre-booking and pricing policies for next year..."