Tuesday 31 October 2017

Derren Brown's Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon at Thorpe Park: Review

Halloween is here! Whilst I always go for the same iconic ripped shirt I bought from ASOS covered in fake blood each year, it’s really not the season unless you’re truly spooked! Me and the bestie Laurence recently went to Thorpe Park to try out Derren Brown’s improved Ghost Train, Rise of the Demon, and so what better time to write a review? We certainly left feeling unnerved…

With an original delay of 2 months there’s a lot to live up too, but I can certainly say overall there is NO attraction currently like this in the UK, a whole new type of experience. Derren specifically asks to reveal no spoilers, to maintain the fun and shock of the attraction, so don’t worry, this review will contain NO MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS. Even so, maybe you should keep the light on reading, just in case…

The fast-track for this ride is a hefty £85, but I really did enjoy in the queue trying to grasp where we were going and why we were getting on the train. The Victorian-era brick building is plastered with propaganda-style messages about fracking; are we frackers, is the station a safe space? This certainly made my brain whirl, and I was especially impressed by the pre-photo-op which kept your senses on alert. However, being able to meet Derren, makes one thing clear; this isn’t a ghost train, this is DERREN BROWN’s ghost train. It really is frustrating just how much giggling and screaming happens from guests in this first segment (staff really should say to be quiet before it starts), but Derren soothes you, noting that it’s OK to be afraid, and that you are allowed to close your eyes and talk to each other after the entire experience has finished. Thus the plot, and being scared, blur into the background…

Derren Brown’s Ghost Train, is like no other. On this train, your senses play tricks. Reality and fiction become blurred. You lose track of yourself and our always on edge…the real game, is trying to stay sane.

Going to see the train for the first time is truly an in-awe experience. The big queues outside disappear, and your small group can barely even touch the cavernous station. However, it was very disappointing to see how quickly this image was destroyed. Staff were not in character and weren’t focused on you, which was especially shocking when no-one offered to help with the VR-headsets (one rider complained she saw nothing the whole journey). Even using the VR whilst it was working, was a struggle. For a reported budget of £13 million, the graphics are not industry-standard, and the 360 perspective VR allows was never utilised; all the action happens in one direction. The shifting realities between segments loses the sense of making you on edge, to simply being confused. Whilst the VR does blur with reality and the train itself really well, the storytelling is broken. You leave knowing that there could have been more! Thus, the horror gets lost in your frustration.

Whilst I didn’t ride the original, from what I’ve seen this version is a real improvement. Even though I I’m harsh on the VR, the whole experience is so much more than this, and highlights the thought needed to create an experience that leaves people talking and wanting more. It’s exciting to think this ride can be continuously updated as new technology and trends are introduced. Even now, there is one moment that makes this a MUST-RIDE. I was left stunned (you all won’t stop talking about it), and Derren Brown should be proud to have his name attached to an attraction that is the first in using new techniques.

However, there’s already signs the train has already been de-railed (signage hasn’t been updated signalling there’s no longer a bag drop for example). Will Derren and Thorpe Park be able to solve the problems of non-effective connection (and then dis-connection) with the audience? Can I stay unnerved throughout? Its future is not clear now, but as me and Laurence seemed to have different experiences when we talked about it as we left, I’m not sure the final destination has been reached just yet…

3/5, but could be 5/5 with more love and new ideas constantly tried.

Find out more about Derren Brown's Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon, here.

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