Bringing Horror Films To Real-Life Terror at Thorpe Park

Every year theme parks, film institutes, cinemas and anything else you can think of hold events based on horror and aim to create more screams than the Monsters Inc scream factory can hold. This year, Thorpe Park teamed up with Lionsgate and I went to the premiering year. Using some of Liongate’s most popular horror films, they conjured up some pulse-racing mazes.

Theme parks are seen to be one of the best places to experience real-life terror without actually having to escape an axe-wielding maniac and loosing a few mates along the way. With this said though, it seems it might not be as easy to bring well-known horror films to life.

Previously Thorpe Park has only ever concentrated on two horror films. The first being ‘Se7en’ which although claimed was only based off the seven deadly sins, holds a huge resemblance to the 1995 film of the same name. One of the park’s main attractions is the ‘Saw’ ride and live horror maze. Introduced in 2010, the ride is a permanent attraction, but the maze now only operates during Fright Night season.

As a self proclaimed horror movie “expert” I already had my expectations for this year’s Fright Night. But did they manage to take elements from the film and really make people feel as if death was only a step away?

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Home intrusion movies are one of my most loved themes, you always think that your house is a safe haven. ‘You’re Next’ is the 2011 American film directed by Adam Wingard (V/H/S, Pop Skull) who said his inspiration for the film was his love of home intrusion films. Focusing on a large family gathering, we feel the awkward atmosphere that comes with the tedious event. During the squabbling and snide remarks, a house breach by pig, sheep and wolf-masked wearers happens. With twists and turns and one badass chick, it was one of the best recent horror films to be released.

Thorpe Park’s version of this film wasn’t a maze, but more of an on-park chase. The masked crusaders whipped up a frenzy, especially amongst young girls. I was victim to four animals who circled me like I were prey. Even though the concept was good, the scare just wasn’t. Knowing that these people could not harm me in any way, once they held their knives to my neck, was a complete anti-climax. This attraction should probably be kept for the attention seeking youth who play upon the scare and act as if murder was on the cards.

This was now my third time experiencing the foot-aching scenes from ‘Saw’, but none-the-less enjoyable. It came out in 2004 and is the first of the marmite-like franchise. This film was directed by well-known horror director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring). We see ‘Jigsaw’, an unknown entity, thrust games upon unwilling victims, all in the name of the better good. With games ranging from ripping your skin off ice poles to drowning in blended pigs.

The maze doesn’t offer much in terms of frights and thrills, but it does offer some brilliant visuals and an uncanny likeness to the film. The first room contains the iconic scene where a man saws off his anchor of a foot. The walk through shows different games, with actors trapped and distressed. Even though there are no jumps, it does offer a creepy, stench ridden, eye porn look into the elements of the film ‘Saw’.

Want to have a wander through some dark woods at night? No? Well I went and did it on your behalf. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ could be considered as a dated movie, but 1999 is still recent to me. Directed by Eduardo Sanchez (Lovely Molly, V/H/S/2), this film delivers the found footage from some teens in the woods. It’s one of those horror films that everyone has heard of.

Showing my friends I had balls, I decided to go first for this one. Admittedly, there were some heart-stopping jumps, as the actors were hidden so well, but not a lot else. The dark trail only showcased a couple of hanging wooden witch emblems. The supposed “house” at the end was more just a fog filled shed. With a few improvements this could really be chilling.

This one was not exactly horror film based, but it’s there in spirit. The setting for a whole catalogue of horror films is a mental institute, because no matter what, they’re terrifying. ‘Session 9’, ‘Boo’ and ‘Grave Encounters’ are just a few to mention. It could be possible that the maze was based off the 1972 British horror film ‘Asylum’, directed by Roy Ward Baker who created ‘Quartermass and the Pit’ and wrote ‘Psycho’ before Hitchcock transformed it to film.

The Asylum is a personal favourite maze of mine due to the feeling it arouses. Using strobe lights, smoke, mirrors and sirens, a particular disorientated and uncomfortable nausea happens. Opting for the back, I encountered all the psychotic, bloody flesh covered patients. The part that gets everyone really reeling is the chainsaw chaser. Unfortunately, my friends dashed and I was left with a chainsaw being dug into my back. Luckily I’m hard as nails and just strolled out.

The Cabin in the Woods’ was my favourite horror release of 2012 because it was just so damn clever. An experiment involving every monster, creature and nightmare possible, the victim’s path was destined depending what basement object they chose. Written by the genius Joss Whedon, who bought us ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ and ‘Alien: Resurrection‘.

As a group of four girls we entered the cabin to be presented with an option of five doors. After being frightened by a hillbilly zombie, we chose the path of the fourth door. In a mosaic of white lifeless masks, we made our way to a control room where we used lights, sound and smoke to surprise others. Other rooms included a Grudge girl, ridiculously energetic clowns and other strange sightings. Unfortunately, the path was a little unclear and we ended up with about 20 people in a corridor that decreased in size as we continued.

I cannot knock Thorpe Park for the effort and thought they put into their night of terror, but it just didn’t make me feel on edge. Vast improvements on make-up and set props need to be made in order to really bring the horror that comes from films to reality. With a little more time, blood, snarls and limbs, Thorpe Park could really bring to life what the films can’t.

*Images courtesy of the author

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