The Halloween season is certainly a very busy time for the TPG team, with a slate of scare events that we make sure to return to every year, our calendar gets very full, so when we get an opportunity to visit a scare event we’ve not experienced before, we jump at the chance.
This is a new event for us this year, it has been on our radar for a year or two, but unfortunately, things haven’t worked out previously for us to attend. This year however we made sure to save space for it, and when Dr Fright’s contacted us to invite us along we couldn’t refuse.
Dr Fright’s Halloween Nights is based in Northampton not too far off the M1, so it is relatively easy to get to. It has been running since around 2010, starting off with three mazes in a field and over the years it has grown to four mazes and is now housed in a number of marquees keeping visitors protected from the unpredictable weather. It is a previous winner of UK’s Best Halloween Scream Park and Best Design and Concept at the SCAR Awards and has received numerous other nominations.
When we arrived at Dr Fright’s we were met with a big queue to enter the event, but this moved quickly, with each group posing for a photo (which is available to purchase inside the event), before bag check and collecting tickets. The entrance is lit up with an impressive carnival style sign reading ‘Dr Fright’s Horrortown’ the overall theme of the event this year. Walking through the entrance, you are greeted with the event hub, a courtyard that holds the entrance to each of the mazes, the Horror Bar and the food and drink area, which has a food van selling the standard burger, hot dogs & sweet treats etc... Throughout the hub the Horrortown radio station plays throughout the night, keeping the atmosphere pumping.
The hub itself is themed with numerous facades of the titled Horrortown, with a gas station, post office etc... along with the themed entrances to each of the mazes, which do a great job of creating a cohesive theme and atmosphere for the event. Also in the hub area are numerous actors roaming around representing the different themed mazes, almost as soon as we walked in we were confronted by a giant mallet wielding circus master, but we also saw nurses, hillbillies and a Jack the Ripper style man wandering around. They were all doing a good job of stalking, scaring and interacting with guests all around the event. Perhaps the only thing missing from the hub was some midway style game to provide some further entertainment between the mazes, which was an addition we all enjoyed at Screamfest this year.
Once all the mazes are complete you are then able to visit the Horror Bar, security do check your ticket to ensure you have finished the mazes before allowing entry to the bar, which we guess is good practice to avoid encouraging and drunken stupidity in any of the mazes. The bar itself is decked out with large horror movie posters all over the walls, and a certain set of doors, from a certain zombie T.V programme that read ‘Dead Dead, Open Inside’ or something like that. Apart from the alcohol the best part of the Horror Bar is the live stream from inside the mazes, which has about four scenes from inside the mazes projected onto one of the walls, showing people’s reactions to the scares live. It provides some great entertainment once the mazes are complete and is very funny to watch people jump as the actors leap out at them.
Dr Fright’s features four scare mazes, and unlike most scare events in the UK, Dr Fright’s features new mazes each year, they may carryover similar themes for some of the mazes (for example last years ‘Killer Clowns in a Supermarket’ is succeeded this year with ‘Killer Clowns vs Cannibal Hillbillies’, but each house is designed and built from fresh each year:
Our first maze of the night was ‘Shock Therapy’, based in ‘Heavensgate Hospital’ where a psychopathic doctor and his legion of nightmare nurses stalk the halls for new victims. The main queuing area for each maze is hidden from the main hub, and each maze featured a nicely themed entrance façade. For Shock Therapy, it was the exterior of the hospital, with an ominous silhouette of a nurse visible in the window above, illuminated briefly by flickering lights. Once you enter each maze you are greeted with a brief preshow room, which gives a brief audio introduction to the maze, after which a light switches from red to green signalling that you are clear to enter the maze. This was a really good method of equally batching groups in to the maze, and set up each maze nicely, ensuring that everyone was aware of the backstory before entering, which can easily be missed in other events. In the case of Shock Therapy, we were greeted by the voice of the psycho doctor welcoming us into the wards.
The mazes itself was a good varied mix of the standard ‘hospital/asylum’ themed mazes, with both patients and nurses jumping out at us throughout. It was good to see a progression of scenes through the maze, with wards filled with beds, the morgue and culminating in a classic chain-link strobe maze, with some very effective and disorientating strobes, and some great actors that knew exactly how to move so that they appeared out of nowhere in front of your face when the strobe hit.
Overall Shock Therapy was a great maze, the variety of sets and great work by the actors made it a really fun maze, and while the hospital theme has been avoided by the more mainstream events (cough Fright Nights), it great to see a prime example of how it can be done well alive and well.
What the Hell?
Our next maze was ‘What the Hell?’, where a satanic cult has taken over an abandoned chapel and converted it into a devil-worshipping nightclub. The entrance façade featured a simple church exterior with an inverted cross and nightclub sign, which was perhaps the less detailed of the four mazes. The pre-show spiel welcomed us to the 5 Point Temple and set up that the cult members were hunting for the non-believers throughout the club, to be made into the blood sacrifices to Satan himself.
The maze started with a big nightclub scene with numerous tables and a bar running along the back, which was quite impressive to walk into straight off the bat, it’s not often that you find yourself in a big open space inside a scare maze, so the scale of this room really had an impact. From there the maze took place in numerous rooms filled with satanic items, and varied actors including old hags, evil bunny men and druid style people in a faux-outdoors section illuminated by starlight above. The final big scene is set in the chapel itself, with an alter and rows of church pews, all populated with a congregation of hooded figures and the previously mentioned evil bunny men, with numerous actors leaping into action as you pass them.
While ‘What the Hell?’ was certainly an interesting theme, it was the weaker of the mazes at the event for us. The sets were quite impressive and had some good scale to them, and also the variety of different types of actors was good, but there were not that many scares in our run through.
Killer Clowns vs Cannibal Hillbillies
Next up was ‘Killer Clowns vs Cannibal Hillbillies’, entering from the Hub area into Mumma Beef’s Farm, you find that the Carnival has set up camp, with a Carnival of Screams/Big Top style Clown mouth entrance, although this was not the best thing about the entrance, while queuing there was bluegrass covers of numerous popular songs (e.g. Com on Eileen), which created a great upbeat and fun environment.
The preshow sets the scene as the Clowns and Hillbillies are having a contest, with the winner being decided by who kills the most carnival goers (which is you). Clown mazes tend to go one of two ways, they are either clowns jumping out and trying to scare you or go for a more comedic fun experience, and this definitely falls into the later. Walking into the maze after a brief initial couple of corridors you are greeted with the main area of the maze which is very open and is set up as the outside carnival, with a big games stall and lots of other props, it looks great and is very weird to see as, you can see the proceeding groups walking around the carnival. Almost immediately you take a turn into hillbilly territory and are greeted with some very in your face and cannibals wanted to carve bits off you to cook up. Escaping the hillbillies, you then fully go into the carnival, where numerous axe-wielding clowns chase you around, with a final chainsaw toting clown chases you out.
Clown mazes are fairly standard at scare events everywhere, but the open nature and the mash-up with cannibals made this a unique and fun example.
Hollywood Horror 3
The fourth and final maze ‘Hollywood Horror 3’ is a returning update on one of the events favourite mazes. This maze mixes up iconic horror movies into one constant onslaught of recognisable characters. The entrance is themed to a typical wooden cabin, which features in many different films, with Halloween antagonist Michael Myers standing in the window. The preshow is a simple mashup of clips from horror movies throughout the years, before you proceed further into the house. As soon as you enter you find yourself in scene after scene from horror classics old and new, including Halloween, The Nun, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw & IT. Each film has one or two scenes through the maze, and there were some really good scares packed in there (in fact the Saw section made me jump more than Saw Alive at Thorpe Park ever has), and some really great effects, most notably the Friday the 13th water section, such a simple effect but extremely effective.
Hollywood Horror 3 was a really great maze and if you like horror movies then it’s a must, but generally the sets looked fantastic, the actors were doing a great job and the fact that it was all familiar settings from the films was a bonus.
All of our group had a great night at Dr Fright’s Halloween Nights, the mix of mazes gave a great variety of scares and environments to experience, plus the actors were working really well to produce some good scares. Thanks to Dr Fright’s for inviting us to the event this year, the event runs until 31/10/18, with prices ranging from £15.95 to £22.95 when pre-booked.