Creating the soundtrack to terror. Nick Hutson on composing for THORPE PARK's Fright Nights

THORPE PARK Resort’s FRIGHT NIGHTS officially launched on 5th October and this year it is bigger and scarier than ever before, with six intense live-action scare mazes including AMC’s The Walking Dead: Do or Die and terrifying scare zones across the park. This year nowhere is safe!

To increase the intensity, THORPE PARK have worked with composer and sound designer Nick Hutson to create a new, sinister FRIGHT NIGHTS soundtrack for this Halloween’s unforgettably dark festivities. We spoke to Nick to find out how he created THORPE PARK’s ‘soundtrack to terror’.

How do you start the creative process?
Collaboration is very important. Back in June, I worked closely with the creative team at THORPE PARK to discuss what sound we wanted in the different zones of the park, as each needed a different, dark vibe. We decided to create a grunge sound for the bridge and entrance to the park; go “celestial” and almost Arabic with the Lost City; voodoo African for the Jungle and channel the downright creepy for Old Town which has a slow eerie vibe with lots of whispers and chanting. I was also asked to create a brand new version of the WWTP 1950s radio show playing in Amity just for FRIGHT NIGHTS, which was a lot of fun! We were able to use cameos from YouTubers Tim and Jenn Tracker and also vocal talent from various American theme park podcasts, including, to get an authentic American feeling.

How do you create the perfect scare-maze soundtrack?
When I create a soundtrack for one of the scare mazes, I’m always thinking what the story is for the maze, why the audio is playing and if it is part of the story e.g. playing on a TV or radio or in the background, or with no source.
The THORPE PARK team were great at providing me with ideas to expand into the queue line audio and maze audio. For example, Vulcan Peak blends between scary, distant, jungle music to a 1920s announcer telling guests about the tour company, so it immediately puts the guests into an era and a story. The announcer you hear in the queue then goes on to become part of the maze audio, so it is a seamless continuation.

How do you build suspense and make a truly terrifying soundtrack?
When I am creating the audio for one of the scare mazes, it is difficult to build suspense when you’re writing music that has no beginning, middle or end, so it’s all about creating one mood for that particular zone. I like to use as many voice recordings in my soundtracks as I can like whispers and dissonant harmonies that blend with sudden loud noises to really put everyone on edge. Moments of silence also help too as they build tension and suspense before the next big scare!

A soundtrack is only there to accompany an actor, the actors are the ones that are truly terrifying. Subtlety is key, blended with jump moments - and just horrible sounds. There’s a sound in the Old Town soundtrack that still sends the wrong kind of shiver down my spine, it almost sounds like scraping metal and is a shocker!