Fright Nights returned to Thorpe Park Resort this weekend for its 14th year, bringing a creepy carnival to the Resort, complete with sinister clowns and carnival creatures all overseen by the sinister Ringleader. Featuring two brand new scare attractions, plus the return of the ever popular Lionsgate themed mazes, we take a look at all the news from the opening weekend of Fright Nights 2015.
Headlining this year’s event is THE BIG TOP, an abandoned carnival set on Amity Beach where guests can join the Figaro Bros. famous show. Set in three large circus tents, the exterior theming creates an effective first impression, with an impressive entrance to both the first and final tents. Guests are led through a variety of carnival shows, including a mysterious fortune teller, mirror maze, fun house, torture chamber and clown’s dressing room. The maze also features an open exterior section underneath the beach bridge where The Ringleader greets guests and introduces them to a selection of carnival game stalls and a Zoltar Machine before ushering them into the final tent as other guests watch on from the bridge above. For opening weekend many guests had mixed experiences of the new maze, with some runs being better than others. Although the maze featured some good moments, some areas of the maze felt a little too large with too much space, and in places not a great deal of theming, meaning at times the experience dropped and lacked the intensity indicated in some of the promotional videos. The mirror maze was too simple in its layout with only one false path, although we understand that additional partitions and theming are due to be added to the maze in the coming days. However, despite the limitations of the space, the actors in the maze created a wide range of suitably creepy carnival characters throughout the maze and gave some very impressive performances. THE BIG TOP has a huge amount of potential and we are sure that as soon as the planned additions are made will develop even further to fulfil this.
Returning for another year are the four Lionsgate themed mazes – The Cabin in the Woods, SAW Alive, My Bloody Valentine, and The Blair Witch Project. By far the stand out maze of these was The Cabin in the Woods. The maze itself has seen a couple of minor changes to a couple of the rooms but retains its free flow element meaning guests can choose which route they take so no two journeys through the maze are the same. However it is the performances of the actors which really took this attraction to another level with all the performers throwing themselves into each and every section creating a fully immersive maze and some very effective scares throughout. SAW Alive also proved to be one of the best experiences of the event. The maze appeared to have a whole new energy compared to previous years with more actors and a wide range of special effects to create some effective scares throughout and a good solid maze experience. Another attraction which appeared to have more actors than in previous years was The Blair Witch Project which, combined with what seemed to be a more restricted and overgrown path, provided the opportunity for more scares than previously. The final shed at the end of the walk has also been replaced for 2015, however it now lacks the closed off entry and exit the previous building had which takes away from the ending of the walkthrough. Due to the current construction taking place on the site of the former arena, My Bloody Valentine has been re-located to the area in front of Crust which earlier this year also hosted the Island Beats stage. Due to this move to a smaller area a number of changes have had to be made to the experience. A fresh introduction has been scripted for this year, however this now takes place in a more open first room and can be heard by those waiting to enter the maze which does slightly detract from your first impression. The maze has seen the loss of the first hospital scene meaning guests head straight into the mine itself where they are split into one of two routes. Throughout the maze there seemed to be a lack of actors, and on occasion some did not seem ready for when a group came through which meant some key scare opportunities were lost.
This year’s event has also seen the addition of a paid for escape room experience, Containment. Challenging guests to solve the puzzles in each of four escape rooms to obtain the code to break out and find the antidote to a deadly virus, the attraction provides an interesting addition to the line-up. Each room presents a unique task in which you have to work in a team to solve the clues to discover the code, all whilst being distracted by live actors, loud noises and special effects. Each task becomes progressively more difficult as you move through to each room and when combined with the time pressure and distractions creates an excellent addition to Fright Nights.
A fresh cast of roaming actors, the Carnival of Fear, were unleashed led by The Ringleader to bring the circus scares to guests throughout the park meaning there was no escape even outside the mazes. In certain areas of the additional theming has also been added with the exterior of Bush BBQ receiving particular attention with the addition of pumpkins, a spooky scarecrow, and a gravestone. A range of new Fright Nights merchandise is also on offer in the Resort’s retail outlets with T-Shirts, mugs, pens, magnets and keyrings available to buy.
Thorpe Park Resort have also brought their VIP experiences back for another year with guests being able to choose from behind the scenes tours and, for those feeling especially brave, the chance to Face it Alone. Whilst in previous years guests have been able to choose which maze to brave solo, this year your fate is decided by the Wheel of Misfortune during a special selection ceremony which determines which determines which maze the entire group of those facing it alone will have to brave that evening and takes place in the exterior section of THE BIG TOP at 2:45pm each day adding an extra element of apprehension to the experience. The experience itself has been given a whole new level of intensity with the actors going all out to provide what can only be described as an insane but memorable experience which will make you see whichever maze is selected for you in a whole different way.
Overall, Fright Nights 2015 provides some interesting scares, with us being particularly impressed with The Cabin in the Woods, Saw – Alive, and the increased intensity of the Face it Alone experience. Although there are still a number of things the Resort need to develop, we are sure that as the event goes on these will improve to create the perfect balance of thrills and scares.
Have you experienced Fright Nights 2015? What are your thoughts on this year’s event? Have your say over on the Attraction Source Forum. As the end of the theme park season approaches, we’ll continue to bring you all the latest developments.