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Fright Nights

Fright Nights 2010

Here's our review and photos of Thorpe's 2010 Fright Fest:

TTP Review:

"This is my seventh year of reviewing Thorpe's annual Fright Nights event, and the quality year to year really has differed. 2010 for me saw all of the mazes offer excellent experiences, but other factors to the event let it down considerably.

Last year I spoke of how high Thorpe's entrance prices were for the event; this year the prices rose once more, with the on-the-gate price now standing at £40 for adults. This is the first time I have ever seen a UK Theme Park's pricing hit the £40 mark, and it really is pushing the limit of customers' wallets. When you factor in food, drink and merchandise, it becomes a prohibitively expensive day out. The £5 Annual Pass surcharge was again in force (and this time it applied on all Fright Night days), and the new £2 Car Park charge further added to the cost. What also annoyed me was the Park's insistence on taking a photo of your maze group at the beginning of every maze. How many sales of these types of walkabout photos they make I don't know, but I can't imagine it to be particularly high, and it sure is annoying.

I must also lament the fact that this year, for the first time, the Park did not bother with any Park-wide decorations at all. You wouldn't have even known that it was Halloween if you took a walk around the Park. You will notice that there are very few photos at the end of this review; this is because there was very little to photograph. Poor show Thorpe - and when Alton Towers are making such efforts with their Scarefest event (which this year is bigger - and better themed - than ever), there is no excuse.

So, with the high cost and absence of decoration, the Park this year relied solely on the quality of its Fright Nights attractions to justify customers' attendance. This year, to their credit, the Park introduced a new attraction, scare zone Dead End, which is discussed alongside the other attractions below:

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

The Asylum once again this year rules the roost when it came to intensity and scares. It felt longer this year, with more actors popping out of nowhere thanks to the disorientating strobe lighting and constant siren noise. The chainsaw man at the end of the maze was back, and for us this year was waiting at the end of the exit corridor, making us do an agonising walk up to him in order to make our escape. Actors were climbing on the scenery and really making the most of their surroundings to generate scares; it was great to see. I was leading the conga line when I went through this maze this year, and despite the fact that I have done this around 10 times now over many years, this year I still became so disorientated that I actually walked into a wall-length mirror..! The Asylum is still the standout attraction for Thorpe Park's Fright Nights, and long may it continue.

Dead End Terror Zone
(Located next to Zodiac - open air)

This was the only true new attraction of Fright Nights this year (not counting SAW: Alive, which was new for 2010 anyway). The story talks of a shadowy ride graveyard where a virus has devastated all in its path, leaving the undead lurking in the shadows. Well, they got the ride graveyard bit right, and I most enjoyed walking through the collection of ride antiques the Park were exhibiting - parts from the old Thorpe Farm (remember Potbellies?), the old Flying Fish, and the retired Miss Hippos Fungle Safari were all in attendance. As a "terror zone" walkthrough attraction however, it was dire. Laughably dire. There were only 3 actors in the maze itself, all wearing cheap-looking masks, and the experience lasted all of a minute. The storyline didn't make sense, and the only redeeming feature was the copious amount of smoke they'd pumped into the place to give the actors something to hide in. A really poor effort, and one that I'm not even sure is worth trying to improve - it looked too temporary, was too short and worst of all, didn't even make sense.

(Located in marquees in the Arena)

I was impressed with Se7en last year, and this year it proved that it's still a reliable maze that can offer a good few scares. My gripes that it feels too temporary (very hollow walls) and that there are relatively few actors involved still stand, but the attention to detail is still there - the smell in the gluttony room was particularly disgusting. Unlike other mazes however, Se7en's actors don't move from room to room, meaning that as soon as you've left a room, the scare has gone. In The Asylum or Hellgate, you can often encounter an actor who will follow you around for a bit, which makes them that bit more unpredictable. Still, Se7en remains solidly enjoyable - and I loved the new last room, which this year was absolutely filled with smoke such that you couldn't see further than 10cm in front of you. Very unnerving!

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

Hellgate is still the jumpiest of all the mazes, and has the advantage of being housed in a permanent building (the back queueline of X:\ No Way Out). This gives the maze a very solid and real feel, and allows it to use great effects such as the rotating tunnel halfway through, which can really be quite disorientating. There were a good number of actors this year, and all of them were trying hard, making good us of flashlights and holes in the scenery. One aspect of Hellgate that confuses me every year is the final scene, which Thorpe seems to tinker with every year, but have never got right. Unlike Asylum, Hellgate lacks any sort of grand finale, and often this last part of the maze appears lacklustre. If Thorpe next year finally invents a great last scare, Hellgate will become brilliant.

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

Once again I enjoyed The Curse, and I maintain that it unfairly gets a bad press. The scares in The Curse are very much of the "boo" variety, and are designed to make you jump than to mentally unnerve you in any profound way. However, considering that it is contained in a temporary marquee, the maze still feels very solid and its well themed - I particularly like the big pool of water in the middle of it, with the rotting remains floating around on top. There's no grand finale, and nothing particularly remarkable about the experience, but The Curse still holds its own against Thorpe's other efforts - the Park could do (and in the past, have done) much worse!

Barry & Stuart
(Located in the Time Voyagers Theatre

Thank goodness Thorpe did away with the poor SAW: Movie Bites for this year, and instead installed Barry & Stuart, a duo of BAFTA-nominated magicians, for 2010. Unfortunately, Barry & Stuart were only performing between 22nd-31st October this year, and so TTP did not get the chance to see the show.

SAW: Alive

This maze was the new stand alone attraction for the Park for 2010, and as such cannot be considered special to Fright Nights. However, this didn't stop Thorpe Park advertising it as a new Fright Nights attraction and milking it for all its worth. The maze is undoubtedly impressively themed (for the full review of SAW: Alive, see the Park Guide), but actually the quality of the scares was notably worse than in any of the other mazes (Dead End excepted). There were fewer actors here than in any of the other Fright Nights mazes, and it was simply less frightening. This is worrying given that this is a year-round attraction and not a Fright Nights one-off...

The Bottom Line

As you've read, I felt that the mazes were this year very well done, with the exception of Dead End, which was inexcusably rubbish. However, for all the good impressions that the mazes made, to not bother to theme the Park at all this year and then charge the highest pricing ever for the event is really poor. When you consider that Thorpe's sister Park Chessington and it's northern counterpart Alton Towers really make an effort with jazzing their Parks up for Halloween, it is disappointing that Thorpe's efforts this year in this respect were nonexistent."

Ben Case


The "Human BBQ"?
New maze: Dead End
Inside Dead End
Miss Hippo in Dead End
The Curse Sign
Exit to The Curse
Hellgate Entrance
The Asylum
SAW: The Ride Area
SAW: Alive at night
SAW: Alive queue
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