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Behind the scenes

Behind the horror at FRIGHT NIGHTS 2019

Creating the UK's scariest Halloween experience

The most terrifying time of year is upon us again with the launch of FRIGHT NIGHTS!!

We spoke to Jordan Middleton at Thorpe Park Resort to find out just how they manage to create scarier than ever before experiences year after year.

How do you successfully transport people into a world of horror for FRIGHT NIGHTS?

We usually start with an overarching concept – for example in the past this has been The Director or the Ringleader. This year Thorpe Park Resort is The Home of FEAR! The park-wide audio is used to reflect this, so this year if you listen closely to the soundtracks found in the various territories across park you may hear the characters discussing FEAR and how it has taken over the Island this FRIGHT NIGHTS.

Alongside this we use coloured lighting on our rides and territories to really make them pop in the darkness and feel like you’re in a completely different and dark landscape, which is then amplified with the use of fog machines to create a spooky ambience across the Island.

When do you start the FRIGHT NIGHTS creative process?

It’s cyclical really, the FRIGHT NIGHTS process never really ends! Right now we’re already discussing how we want the mazes and Island to evolve for the 2020 event as it’s important to always have that future perspective in mind as decisions we make this year can impact and influence this.

In terms of how we come up with new concepts, that is a collaboration of everything from the personal tastes and experience of the team involved alongside what kind of horror tropes are currently popular – we want to capitalise on the relevant fears of the public to make sure we’re delivering the most terrifying experience possible. But of course, things like blood, guts and chainsaws are timeless so I don’t foresee us moving away from that in the near future.

And from there it’s a case of constantly going back, tweaking and changing the concept until it’s absolutely perfect – even once the maze is built we will walk through and add a splash of blood here, an extra chainsaw there, until we are satisfied with the product. It’s often the case that you don’t get a good feel for the space until it is actually constructed and you’re standing in it, so it’s good to allow ourselves the flexibility to make those changes throughout the entire conceptualisation and build stages.

How do you up the scare each year?

We listen closely to guest feedback and make sure we take that all on board to help us deliver changes that will have the most impact. Last year guests told us Blair Witch was too short, so this year we’ve doubled the length of the maze. They loved Platform 15 but felt the ending was lacking, so this year we’ve delivered a brand new finale.

We also play a lot with the psychology of the guest and try to subvert their expectations – for example guests expect to walk in a linear direction through our mazes, so in some cases we’ll create confusing pathways that have them doubling back on themselves, creating a real sense of unease through the lack of familiarity. It’s a great way to create panic and dread with our audience, meaning the scares are even more impactful!

Merlin Entertainment