Reviewed: Frightwater Valley 2012
2012 sees the return of the fourth and largest Frightwater event yet at Lightwater Valley Theme Park, Ripon North Yorkshire. With more Halloween attractions thrown into the mix this year, and an extended event schedule with 3 additional dates added; is this the best Frightwater yet? UK Park News were kindly invited back for a third year running to find out…
Due to the popularity of previous years, the park’s management team decided that for 2012, two separate events for Halloween & Fireworks would be added to the calendar, meaning a completely separate “Nightwater Valley” event to be held 10th & 11th November 2012. This also means that Frightwater is extended from a two day event to a full 5 day event.
Despite the park telling us their events budget had actually been cut this year, thanks to a number of sponsorship deals including Haribo & Smiffy’s Halloween Store, the park managed to increase the number of event attractions on offer this year, including a rather smart dedicated Frightwater Valley map/park guide which was really useful in helping guests understand what was on offer around the park. Here’s the Full lineup of Frightwater attractions:
Underworld – Paid Scare Maze¬†New for 2012
Raptor Attack Live!
Darkwater Forest – Haunted Walk¬†New for 2012
Dark Lights Puppet Show
Lightfantastic Parade¬†New for 2012
The Haunting of Skeleton Cove – Pirate Show
Scare Zone Walk Through -¬†New for 2012
It’s clear right away from the number of new additions that the park has pulled out all the stops again in an effort to improve on last year’s event. It was apparant as soon as we met the marketing team at the entrance that improvements had been made – with an impressive Halloween themed entrance, with yet more themeing adorning the park throughout.
We arrived around lunch time and took a leisurely walk around the park taking in a few rides – the first being The Ultimate, Europe’s longest rollercoaster at 1.5 miles in length. After being frozen almost to death, we decided to grab some lunch in The Conservatory. Unfortunately this was perhaps the only major disappointment of the day – with the food being served only mildly-warm, in very cold surroundings. There was no heating in the venue, which was surprising, especially considering it was playing host to a children’s birthday party.
After lunch we headed over to try Raptor Attack Live where, while queueing, we saw Paul Roberts (Lightwater Valley’s very own on-park entertainer) perform his detachable head illusion – fantastic (check the embedded video at the bottom of the page).
Raptor Attack Live
Raptor Attack Live is a combination of a sub-terranian rollercoaster set within a haunted mine where evil zombies lurk and try to scare the wits off nervous guests as they make their way down to the underground station.
It’s not just Raptors that you need to worry about as it’s rumoured that a series of ghostly miners have been spotted haunting this long abandoned mine shaft.¬†
It’s worth noting that the number of actors, quality of interaction with guests, costume and especially the makeup was definitely an improvement on what was already good in 2011.
Last year the park’s scare maze (Dracula’s Labyrinth) was held outdoors in the fence maze, opposite the corporate event marquee. This year the park agreed on a new theme with “Underworld” and decided to setup the attraction indoors, opposite The Carousel within the Fairground area. For the first time in Frightwater’s four year history the park decided this year to charge an additional fee for the attraction (¬£2.50 per person), whereas previously it had been included in the entrance price.
This is a brave move for the park, but with the scare industry on the rise within the UK, it’s perhaps comes as no surprise as most parks throughout the country now charge a premium for these types of attractions. Although, at least Lightwater’s charge is relatively incidental when compared to the like’s of Merlin’s combined Carnival of Screams/The Sanctuary costing up to ¬£13.
So, how does it stack up to last year’s free scare maze? Well the first thing we noticed was that there was little queuing for the attraction, compared to both last year’s maze, and when looking at the scare zones within the park. Perhaps this is down to the attraction opening earlier and for longer this year due to it being indoors and not being reliant upon low light levels, or perhaps it’s because some people prefer not to pay the additional fee – we checked with the park who advised that popularity was on-par with Dracula’s Labyrinth last year.
Hosting the attraction indoors this year means the park have much more flexibility over what could be achieved. Guests await their journey in a queueline which plays a short video loop which backfills the story of “Underworld” explaining the carnage that has bestowed the country as zombies roam, terrorising people. The video is in the format of a BBC News bulletin as reports are being gathered from various locations, including a speech from David Cameron himself.
After receiving instructions from the host, guests are bundled into a tight space before being greeted by the first Underworld resident. As luck would have it, we were ushered to the front to lead the group through the door and into the maze.
It’s was soon apparent that the park had made a fantastic effort to ensure they improved on last year’s maze. The first part of the attraction utilises the existing kids maze within the indoor space, but then leads onto a series of dark walkways and low ceilings until 3 doors are reached. Of course a choice has to be made to proceed. Door number 2 seemed good to us, and as we proceeded we were met by a series of residents that would jump out, shine torches, scream/shout and on many occasions grab our legs and shoulders unexpectedly.
It’s worth noting that we’re quite accustomed to experiencing scare mazes here at UKPN, and we’re not scared or surprised easily. However I counted at least 4 occasions that I was made to “jump” (genuinely) before our group had got even half way around – quite an achievement. The attraction was host to a number of new effects including a zombie chowing on a half eaten human, who then screams at the passing audience to be saved – of course, there was nothing we could do to save him! There were a number of hidden actors that were ready to jump out and scare us as we made our way around, others that grabbed us through small gaps in the walls and others that followed us while interacting with our conversations.
Overall the experience was very interactive and there were plenty of times that I (and others in the group) were successfully “scared”. The level of themeing and effort invested into the maze itself are a vast improvement on 2011 – as are the number and quality of the actors. As “scare” attractions go – it’s one of the better ones we’ve experienced this year, however there are a couple of small gripes/potential improvements that could be achieved:
1. Whilst the physical themeing was fantastic, as was the quality of the actors, there seemed to be a lack of an ambient audio track. Parts of the maze are very quiet and it’d be nice if there was some sort of audio backfill.
2. We’re not entirely clear on the “Underworld” theme. Whilst there was a variety of different characters/sets within the attraction, we struggled to see “Underworld” as a consistent theme throughout, not that this really impacted on the success of the scare maze if we’re honest.
The 2012 attraction lineup also included two scare zones this year – the first along the path where the Falconry display sits, on the route to Falls of Terror (the birds were retired for the evening). The second was alongside the lake near Trauma Tower.
Guests are greeted by a zombie-style host who tells the story of an undertaker and previous victims that made it out alive, and those that didn’t. The pathway is illuminated by candlelight and individuals are reminded to stick to the route and to not deviate. The attraction meanders through the forest and exits at the bottom of the lake near the entrance to The Caterpillar Coaster. Along the way guests encounter a variety characters that emerge from behind trees, creep up from behind and jump out unexpectedly.
The Darkwater forest is a nice addition to the Halloween lineup, but it could probably have benefited from some lighting/smoke effects.
Finally, the park added the “Lightfantastic Parade” which brings the day’s events to an end between 18:30 and 19:00. It was really good to see the park invest in some professional lighting for this – a number of lighting rigs were setup around the “fairground” area and guests were able to enjoy the park’s very own rendition of “Thriller” with the 41 actors (supplied by “We Are Theatre“), and the park’s own staff. Guests were even encouraged to participate, which many of them did.
So overall, how did Frightwater Valley 2012 compare to previous years? The answer is that it’s a resounding success – the park tell us that their gate figure targets were smashed and increased on previous years. Improvements have been made year on year, and a longer, dedicated event for 2012 can only point to one thing; that Frightwater is becoming ever more popular and successful.
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UKPN Event Promo Video: