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Scare tactics: we faced our fears at Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights

Written by
Ben Williams

Halloween’s still a few weeks away, but London’s thrill mecca, Thorpe Park, is already in a spooky mood. Fright Nights – the park’s super-popular annual scare fest – starts tonight, and offers all the big coasters after-dark (more about that here), and five live-action walkthrough horror mazes, with actors trying their best to make you jump out of your skin.

We went along to last night’s press preview, and here’s what we made of the mazes (except for ‘Containment’, which was closed due to a power cut.)

The Big Top maze at Thorpe Park's Fright Nights

The Big Top maze at Thorpe Park's Fright Nights

Cabin in the Woods

Fear factor 5/5 | Fun factor 5/5 Creepiness 4/5

If you’re heading to Fright Nights, make this your first stop. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ – themed to Joss Whedon’s meta-horror movie – is easily the best of Thorpe’s mazes. With multiple routes through the smoke-filled cabin (and some secret rooms) each trip is slightly different. Plus, it had the best scare actors of the night. Blood-soaked hillbillies, sinister dentists, weird floating masks(?) – the actors put their all into scaring the bejebus out of us. And sweet mother of Jesus, it worked.

The Big Top

Fear factor 2/5 Fun factor 4/5 Creepiness 2/5

‘The Big Top’s brand new this year, and it’s good fun, if not much more. It’s certainly inventive. The action – all themed to an abandoned carnival – takes place in three separate circus tents, plus a theatrical outdoor section (nice touch). It’s lacking in real frights, though. It’s not dark enough inside, so you can see where the actors are going to pop out from and, I mean, how scary can a mime artist be? (Unless you count the thought of having to actually watch one and take their act seriously – now that’s terrifying.) Still, if you prefer silly over sinister, this one’s for you.

The Blair Witch Project

Fear factor 3/5 Fun factor 3/5 Creepiness 4/5

If the sun was up, this would pretty much be a walk down a garden path. But at night, with a few creepster actors thrown in, it’s an eerie little stroll through the woods. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ walkthrough is all outdoors, and is mostly about the creepy atmosphere rather than big scares (except for the ghoulish finale). Like in the movie, the actors are playing lost, terrified students, so when one of them runs towards you in their jeans and hoodie you don’t know whether it’s a creep or just a scared teenager. Here’s how to tell: are their mates taking the piss out of them? No? It’s an actor.

My Bloody Valentine

Fear factor 4/5 Fun factor 4/5 Creepiness 3/5

A walkthrough themed to classic Canadian slasher movie? Nah, six years after its release, its the 2009 remake that’s still alive and well at Thorpe Park. It’s a claustrophobic maze, with lots of long, dark, narrow corridors and tunnels. There are some big frights in there, too. Just watch out for that masked maniac…

Saw Alive

Fear factor 3/5 Fun factor 3/5 Creepiness 3/5

Will that cheeky jigsaw killer ever be stopped? He’s still up to his old tricks in this maze, which features six scenes from the ‘Saw’ movies. Bloody bathrooms, torture contraptions, strange pig masks and complete blackouts make sure there are solid scares throughout. We also found it to be the ‘touchiest’ of all the mazes – one actor kept holding me back by my rucksack.

Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights runs select dates from October 9-November 1, 10am-10pm.

Want more info about the rides? We ranked all of Thorpe Park’s roller coasters that are staying up late.

And read our full Halloween in London guide.

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