Following the recent-ish announcement of The Walking Dead coming to Thorpe, I thought I'd share a review of TWD: Breakout, Movie Park Germany's 5 Euro upcharge scare attraction. And also share some expectations I have for Living Nightmare and Sanctum as a result..
I have to say, I was really looking forward to this. Movie Park are well known for this Halloween event, and they continually bring in big name IPs as well as original concepts (this year, they've got an 18+ maze themed to the Hostel series which looks to be at least partially an alone experience for example), so that sets a certain bar. The maze itself was really pushed hard, on the website, on leaflets, on the park map and on park too - it was almost like it was a crowning success for the park; their gem along with their big new ride. They advertised "the latest technologies" which helped achieve special effects, along with the standard 'intense, scary' jargon that most mazes get. And even though I haven't watched the TV show (and still haven't yet), I knew how much scope the franchise has.
Warning - spoilers
After doing some queueing in some shipping containers, you reach the entrance of the maze, which is themed around the Harrison Memorial Hospital (apparently from the first series). You could hear lots of banging to the right of the wall, which I thought was a bit of a spoiler, since an actor was bound to appear.
You get batched in in groups of about 8, and encouraged to stay together, but it's not a conga line maze. The first scene just ends up being a standard safety scene (delivered on TVs in multiple languages), and then an actor appears from a hidden route to your left (despite the loud noises you hear outside coming from what should be your right). It was a clever bit of misdirection, and though not scary, showed some promise. The actor then chases away to go down the corridor on your right, banging the walls to encourage you to leave..
Unfortunately from here, things go downhill. You walk past the famous 'Don't Open, Dead Inside' doors, with no sort of effects or actor or special lighting or anything; a particularly disappointing thing since that was so widely pushed in advertised. An actor appeared, shouting 'Boo', and doing some general arm waving to try and invade our personal space. No context to the scenes, and I realised that it was actually the same actor as from the first scene, which begun to ring alarm bells as to the number of actors.
You continue through more scenes, which are very well themed, but had little sound effects and no special effects. Occasionally an actor appeared, but they all did the same thing - shout 'boo' and walk like a zombie who'd an accident in their underwear... Though the theming was nice, you weren't given any chance to really interact with it - you were always well away from anything of note, and given tonnes of space with nothing filling it. It was the worst thing a scare maze can be - boring.
The ending was cliche to say the least... Large open space, couple of barrels and a door at the end of the room. Oh, except a big burly man with a chainsaw appears out of nowhere by the door. Been there, done that. However, a tiny ray in the ending was the fact that the actor kicked down a barrel onto the floor, creating a huge, echoing thud - easily the biggest scare in the maze, and shows that there was at least a glimmer of thought put into 'how can we actually scare people' when designing the maze.
So yeah, TWD: Breakout was a very poor maze. Few actors, little-to-no use of standard scare tactics introduced and nothing exciting or interesting to go with it. Maybe having done a few good mazes over the years has hardened me up a bit too much, but there was just nothing of note.
Something which still sticks in my mind about Breakout is how well themed the maze was, and how well designed the sets were. Looking at photos of the maze and looking at images from the show, they are very similar down to the small details. So I expect that AMC / Fox have quite high expectations and demands about the theming of the maze that have to be met. Given the Paragon Creative have been spotted on park (the company who also did a great job when making Saw Alive!), I expect that those expectations will be met, especially with Living Nightmare.
From the brief description that Thorpe have released, it sounds like Living Nightmare will be in a similar vain to Breakout in that there are a variety of scenes from the show in the maze that you go through, except that they are including Season 7 in there. Also, as we're told that we can "choose your path and decide your fate", there might be the possibility of multiple routes akin to Cabin - a nice touch which works nicely with the 'assorted scene' vibe.
I must admit I'm concerned about what sort of scares we're in for. Thorpe have gotten a reputation that their style of scare is 'growl in people's face, brush against their arm and slam against a wall' and move on. Though I don't strictly agree with this (and we've seen them move away from that with the likes of Big Top, Blair Witch and Platform 15 in my opinion), I certainly see where people are coming from. And it feels almost inevitable that we could be in for that treatment here. I'd really love to see some effects that play on the senses more here - smells are something which are particularly under-used by Thorpe. And I feel like having a hospital scene, for example, which is literally 'cold' would work well. Couple in some other effects here and there, and it would work really well. But I'm just not sure we're in for that.
As for Sanctum, given it's said to be an outdoor maze, and from the little we've seen of it, I get a feeling like it will be a bigger, better, more-coherently themed version of Dead End. The general story seems to be 'death and destruction wasteland, you enter a safe bit, but oh wait, it's not safe' - something that Thorpe can do well. The containers could act as means to create a long route to walk around, and be used for impact scares. Chuck in a couple of set pieces and bits and bobs and it'll be a fun little maze. I'm not expecting anything groundbreaking, but it has the potential to be a perfect filler maze, as well as helping spread the crowds around.
tl;dr - Germany's Walking Dead maze is on the whole, naff, but the theming is good. I expect good theming at Thorpe and hope they can produce something different in terms of scares.