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Preview: Fright Nights at Thorpe Park

Since 2002, when it opened with mazes ‘The Freezer’ and ‘Freakshow 3D’, Thorpe Park has prided itself on hosting the UK’s premier Halloween attraction: Fright Nights.

For its run, hundreds of excited customers line up each night to sample their ‘horror mazes’ – in which guests weave through darkened, themed corridors; frightened by terrifying actors at every turn. Although maze-only events such as Tulleys and Shocktoberfest do exist, the IP-factor that Thorpe brings to the table is unrivalled.

For the last 6 years, Lionsgate licensed stellar names including ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Cabin in the Woods’, and ‘Saw’ (a maze and a ride of which still remain today). After a couple of years in which the park tried to find its footing with self-brand mazes, they’re once again returning to big name branding in 2017 with AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’. Thorpe Park invites you to step into the world of the hit horror TV show with two brand new mazes. ‘Living Nightmare’ appears to be offering the choose-your-own-adventure style of attraction that won ‘Cabin in the Woods’ Best Scare Attraction at the 2014 annual SCAR awards (amongst other honours); whilst ‘Sanctum’ seems to be a ‘scare zone’ experience as is popular in the States, in which costumed characters do their best to frighten visitors in an open-roam arena.

The news that the Merlin-owned attraction is partnering with such an iconic brand is a positive sign that the Fright Nights event is once again finding its stride. As a bonus, AMC also have previous experience in horror attractions in US parks – including both seasonal and permanent installations for Universal. This should ensure that the new ‘Walking Dead’ mazes aren’t in need of a lengthy improvement period before they’re up to scratch.

Returning alongside the new attractions this year are ‘The Big Top’ – which is now in its third year and is reaching the standard of a top-tier maze; ‘Platform 15’ – which hopefully has found its footing after a mixed first year; and ‘Saw: Alive’ – which has been making use of its claustrophobic, permanent enclosure since 2010. Also continuing from previous years is ‘Containment’ – an escape room experience in which participants must navigate their way through a series of phobia-based scenarios.

Visitors to the park during Fright Nights can expect not only all five mazes included in the ticket price, but also extended hours until 10pm, allowing them to ride coasters including ‘Stealth’, ‘Saw’, and ‘The Swarm’ well into the night. The Halloween horror maze tradition is one that pushes artistic, logistical, and entertainment boundaries – and its a surprise that its not caught on in the UK as much as it is elsewhere. That’s why we’re particularly excited that Thorpe Park continues to put a lot of effort into putting out a five-maze event with such a valuable IP. Fright Nights runs throughout October. Catch us on the 28th as we visit for Preview Night, and read all about it shortly after!

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James Witherspoon

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