Thorpe Park Ghost Train Review: An Expensive Fail

May 27, 2023

We head down to Thorpe Park on the opening day of the reimagining of the Derren Brown’s Ghost Train ride to bring you this Thorpe Park Ghost Train review.

Derren Brown’s Ghost Train was one of the most expensive additions to Thorpe Park when it opened in 2016 and then further reworked 12 months later. The ride reportedly cost £13 million and after riding it over the years guests started to question just where on earth all of that money went.
The ride was introduced by Derren with a pepper’s ghost effect as he describes his version of a ghost train before we see a floating Victorian carriage that was an impressive illusion created by mirrors.
You would then place on a VR headset (which was almost always blurry) and watch a show, step off the carriage which has now transformed into a tube train and follow an actor led sequence before heading back on the train popping on the headset and watching the rest of the show.
The ride would conclude in a fake shop holding area which would become the big finale (it wasn’t that big whatsoever) and then you come out into the gift shop and away you go.
Mixed reviews is probably a kind way to describe Derren Brown’s Ghost Train which many people enjoying the more actor scare maze type experience of the ride but absolutely hating the VR. There were constant questions on where the huge budget went for the ride and that the ride itself was nothing compared to a classic ghost train dark ride experience that has come before it. It dared to be different which is commendable but it just didn’t work (as a concept and over the years as a ride experience with many effects failing) and a change was sorely needed.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Derren Brown IP is no more and the Ghost Train has had a rebranded story a new protagonist in the pepper’s ghost effect pre show and sadly, the best bits of the extremely poor first iteration of the ride have been taken away with very minimal improvements made.

The exterior of the building is very similar to the original version with the exception of a couple of new signs and posters dotted around this new train station paint scheme.
Each poster links to an old ride or attraction at Thorpe Park and has been aged rather wonderfully. These retro designs suit the queue line theming and have me intrigued about what I’m about to witness. There is also a train times list of stops and hints to a certain Chapel Station where the train does not stop anymore. 
Roaming actors were interacting with the crowd which was great to see and Chapel Station was also mentioned in their dialogue. It was very clear that this station was going to play a major part in the new storyline of the ride. The old storyline was rather confusing and leaned more towards the environment and its protection. I’m as tree huggy as the next guy…. said no one ever. I’m glad they’ve changed the story.

The new story revolves around a tribe called the Believers who wanted to become immortal and summoned an evil spirit to aid them in their quest but it went wrong and a demon consumed their souls. The ritual took place at a crypt within the St Giles Chapel near Chapel Station and as a result the Thorpe train doesn’t stop there anymore. 
Guests are greeted by Angelis Mortis the Station Master who appears in the pepper’s ghost effect to tell the story above in a themed waiting room pre show area. You are given the option of leaving before the windows slam shut and it seems as though you have no choice but to board the last train. There’s flickering Final Destination style travel boards (I instantly got film flashbacks which is always nice) and I thought the pre show was greatly improved on the poor Derren Brown version. 

The above is about as complimentary as I get with only a few minor improvements to follow thereafter.
Thorpe Park Ghost Train has kept it very close to the bone with this reimagining with the bare bones structure of the ride remaining the same. Pre show is the same process, boarding the train and offloading is the same, back on the train, fake shop, exit. This formula hasn’t been changed and in that regard it already feels similar yet different and any similarities should really be erased from our memory. Forever.
An old waiting area after the pre show we now walked straight past (there should be an interaction here with an actor) and we boarded the new train. Instead of the ‘wow’ moment of seeing a floating carriage suspended in midair we now have a run down tube train that whilst themed nicely just doesn’t have that ‘wow’ factor anymore which was one of a very few redeeming characteristics of the ride.
It’s understandable why it has been taken away as it doesn’t contribute to the new storyline but at least replace it with another ‘wow’ moment because now you’re just stripping the only salvageable things from the old ride from this new instalment and making it even worse! 

The acting quality was spot on as we took our seats on the train and scenes played out infront of us whilst the ride system simulated our travel to the next destination. With the removal of VR you are now relying on acting performances to keep you hooked and absolutely no screens have been placed on the windows to simulate train movement so they’ve turned it into a tube station entirely so you’re underground and with the black windows it makes sense. A sneaky cost cutting decision but effective in delivering the underground tube experience.
We arrive at Chapel Station and enter a newly themed crypt scene but unfortunately cost cutting comes into play with only one wall out of 4 themed. Three black walls followed by a very well themed crypt staging area where we watch scenes unfold. The use of microphone audio effects throughout the ride are impressive but once again you’re relying on good acting quality and this will differ on every run-through. On this occasion it was good.
I must say that the script was very repetitive when it comes to telling the story of the believers as we heard it three times throughout the run-through. In the pre show, on the train and then worked into the crypt segment. Fed the same story three times makes sense to our short attention span generation of Tik Tok junkies but it just felt unnecessary. The facts were quite simple. Chapel Station bad. Thorpe Junction good. 

Some cool effects are in the crypt scene matched by some equally cheesy ones and by this point it didn’t feel like a ride anymore. It felt like a dungeons theatrical experience but a very cheesy low budget theatre one at that. I was smiling throughout but not with happiness it was more of a oh dear kind of smile.
The building is huge and I mean huge and all it now houses is a simulated train ride, a cool looking crypt and a few actors. Whilst it’s an upgrade from Derren Brown’s at least that iteration of the ride felt like a ride. This just feels like cheap motion based location to location theatre.
We board the train and a scene plays out that feels ever so familiar from the Alton Towers Dungeons Molly Leigh end scene and then a UV effect taken straight from The Curse at Alton Manor makes for a quite eye-catching spectacle but fancy lighting sadly can’t paper over the cracks of a dull experience.
The fake shop finale scene has somehow gotten worse and with the only wow moment (the floating carriage) removed there’s nothing within the entire ride that feels like a wow moment anymore.

The merchandise in the Last Call Cafe (your final destination) is quite nice with the Believers ruins actually being one of the more standout designs of the entire ride. It reminds me of old school pop punk days where this pattern could be used on guitar straps and skateboards and clothing in this grungey punk style.
I will also go on record to say the Last Call Cafe being used as a coffee shop is genius. It’s such a nice and inviting space and it looks great, arguably greater than 99% of what you see inside the ride.
Thorpe Park Ghost Train has highlights, for me those were the improved preshow, the detailing of that one wall in the crypt and the run down tube train and UV effect but it just feels like a lot of money has been invested, for nothing.
The revamp feels like it cost £10,000 (maximum) excluding the cost of the new cafe refurb and now you have this big building that is how to a moving theatre production that is underwhelming to say the least.

Whilst the Dungeons at Alton Towers feels like its slowly dying being an upcharge attraction within Alton Towers Resort seemingly costing more in staff wages to run than what it makes in return at least Ghost Train at Thorpe is included. 
Is it an attraction you’ll want to keep doing? No
Is it an attraction you can justify the size of the building its in? No
Was it worth the refurb? No
The positives I can take from this is that it’s another experience for people to revisit Thorpe Park for, whether that’s a positive or negative experience remains to be seen but it’s a new dark ride back on the map at a Merlin park with Curse at Alton Manor and the upcoming Nemesis Sub Terra reopening driving a resurgent dark ride 2023 line-up.
Many people were praising this ride on a marketing early preview experience and I get it, it’s new, it’x exciting but at the end of the day it’s theatre, not a ride and £13 million for this… in addition to its running costs, actor wages and refurb cost… well… it all feels like an expensive fail.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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