Over the years Thorpe Park Fright Nights has had a huge impact on my scare journey. It was the place where I first visited a scare maze, it was the place that made me fall in love with scare attractions and it was the place I first reviewed when I first started Parks, Scares and Glitter. But How influential has this event actually been to both Thorpe Park and the scare industry as a whole and which attractions were ones that had the biggest impact. In this blog post we look at what attractions I feel are the ones that left a mark.
Yes, this maze had its controversy but let's not forget that this attraction was the one that really put Fright Nights on the map as a go to scare event. Its intense strobes, chain link fence, overwhelmingly enthusiastic actors and, of course, that chainsaw finale all came together to create an attraction that was as terrifying as it was bonkers. What made this attraction just a bit more special was the fact that guests came running out of the exit and could be seen by everyone. So for those heading to the queue it was nerve wrecking seeing people come running out and for those not brave enough to enter, they could at least get some joy and understanding of what's inside from those exiting. A chainsaw chase finale has become such a staple at many different scare events since that I believe that The Asylum was crucial for bringing it to the main stay of the UK scare industry. The Asylum opened in 2005 and lasted a whopping 9 years in operation before finally closing its doors at the end of the 2013 season amid controversary asking for the attraction to be closed because it was stigmatising mental illness. The petition reached over 5000 signatures asking for the maze to be closed down. Thorpe Park have always defended the attraction and say that the petition had no effect on their decision to close the attraction.
In 2009 Thorpe Park had opened Saw: The Ride and it went down really well with everyone, so Thorpe Park decided to capitalise the reaction and opened their first year round scare attraction Saw:Alive in 2010. The maze called the old Thorpe Belle home and it went down well with guests so of course they added it to the Fright Nights line up. Guests loved it. Its detailed sets of scenes from the Saw films were instantly recognisable and the actors inside the attraction always gave sheer terror as if they were playing one of Jigsaw's games. The maze only ever went through small changes over the years so it never really changed drastically. It continued to open along with the park during the 2011 season but in 2012 it was dropped from the main park season mid-season. This would be the end of the maze opening year round. It did return every year for Fright Nights until it closed at the end of the 2018 season. When Thorpe Park introduced Face It Alone's, Saw Alive got a bit of a reputation for being the 'worst' to get as the actors really went for it and guests were apparently safe wording and wanting to leave. Of course these were just rumours but It kind of felt like it had given the attraction a new edge above the rest in the latter years. Saw:Alive will always be influential in that it was the first major IP to be brought into a theme park for a scare attraction in the UK and is highly likely to be responsible for the Lionsgate era
When it comes to older mazes at Thorpe Park that people shout about, Experiment 10 is another that everyone who experienced it says was such a great maze. This maze began to develop a reputation pretty quickly as being the most terrifying attraction the park had done to date and its easy to see why. Gone was the usual conga line style attraction. Groups were split and put inside a box, alone. It was pitch black, the actors would bang on the boxes. You would then be let out of these boxes and made to journey the rest of the attraction on your own or with any other unlucky people who were also let out at the same time, which didn't happen often. Experiment 10 really brought the shock factor to the park and this alone/smaller group experience would go on to be replicated in a lot of attractions around the UK, not just at Merlin parks. Not only that but the conga line style attractions were also be phased out from scare events and attractions in the years following this mazes closure with it even being an advertised feature of 2013's Cabin in the Woods attraction at the park (Though this attraction took it one step further by being advertised as also being a choose your own path). Experiment 10 only stayed around for two years (2011 & 2012) but it left its mark in the parks history and even over the UK scare industry.
Containment didn't have a huge influence on the park or Fright Nights itself but it definitely had a much larger impact in general than it gets credit for. It brought the concept of escape rooms to the attention of an audience base that may not have known about them. Escape rooms started to become more mainstream around the 2015/2016 period in the UK and with Thorpe Park opening Containment in 2015 as part of Fright Nights, putting live actors inside it kind of gave guests a brief experience of what it was like to do an escape room whilst keeping up with the scare factor that the park become known for during the Halloween period. In doing this the park had unconsciously helped to grow the escape room market from just a handful of attractions in 2014 to now more than 1500 rooms in the UK. Containment remained at the park until the end of the 2019 season having only undergone a couple of rooms within the attraction being changed over the years it opened to keep it fresh.
I've talked about positive influences for the park in the previous attractions but I think Vulcan Peak needs to be on this list because it taught Thorpe Park an incredibly valuable lesson. It taught them not to do things by half and to not take the piss out of their guests. Thorpe Park completely overhauled Fright Nights in 2018 and unfortunately the event that year is considered to be the weakest Fright Nights in its history. The two new mazes were dire but Vulcan Peak was by far the worst. It was a simple hooded walkthrough, following a rope. That was it. There was no real story, no ending, 1 maybe 2 actors at most who just did the bare minimum. It was dreadful and people weren't shy about voicing it. Thorpe Park, the event where they had ground breaking attractions and highly themed attractions and attractions that people genuinely fell in love with created this car crash of an attraction. One positive thing that Vulcan Peak actually achieved was that it got people talking about the event. It may not have been more positive reasons, but it got people talking and probably actually helped them as I think people wanted to see if it was as bad as everyone made out. 2018's event taught Thorpe Park that they need to take care and really respect Fright Nights for what it had become. They needed to go for quality, not quantity and that they just needed to plan better. Its a lesson the park took on board as in 2019 they Opened Creek Freak Massacre and redeemed themselves, but Vulcan Peak will always be a scare of what happened in 2018.
TERROR AT AMITY HIGH
2018 may have been a terrible year for its mazes, but it introduced people to scare zones, which since their introduction have become better and better but there is one that started it and that is Terror at Amity High. Located near Stealth, these roaming characters would interact with guests and stay entirely in character for the whole night. They had to be quick witted and very sociable. Not only did they interact and try to scare guests they would also burst into dance in a flash mob every hour. All this combined into something really fun and really quite different for Thorpe Park and people loved it. It hasn't left the park yet and is going into its 4th year. It even could be argued that it was the inspiration for 2020 season when they had to change focus on what Frights Nights was due to the global pandemic. 2020 did see the introduction of quite a few scare zones, one of which was a near identical version of Terror at Amity High, just themed to werewolves instead of vampires. 2020's scare zones pretty much proved that the park needed them as well as mazes and they will be returning this year. Thorpe Park had tried to do a scare zone before with the Dead End: Terror Zone in 2010 but that one didn't work out as well as Terror did and It was a full 10 years since they would be reintroduced to the park.
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