Attraction Review - Tulley's The Howl

So finally, the first new-for-me haunt of the 2017 season! The Howl has been on my list to visit for a while but, as is the case every year, it's just not possible to fit in every single thing I wanted to do last year so I made sure I made time for it this year.

With a name like Tulley's attached there are certain levels of expectation sprung to mind, and I was intrigued to see whether or not The Howl would live up to Shocktoberfest's notoriety - with regards to both quality and scariness!

We visited on opening night and entered through the cutesy farm entrance, now decked out for Halloween and guarded by two vicious looking pumpkin-headed scarecrow fellows. Nice start! I do always wonder what they do with these terrifying beasts during the day - surely they don't bother taking them down and shoving them back up again every night but at the same time, definitely too scary for kiddies?

Anyway, as this was the first night of the event the place was crawling with local journalists and photographers and the atmosphere was buzzing. The strong autumnal smell of the bonfire hit our noses and we made our way with the rest of the riff raff into what appeared to be the main show tent to await Granny Lycanthrope's introduction. We'd already encountered her once already when first entered the park and she really is fab - little personal narrative touches and interactions like this really set off an event for me and is always a highlight at Shocktoberfest, so fab to see that this is a tradition extended to The Howl.

A bit of background on the aforementioned narrative then. Essentially The Howl is a family farm inhabited by the lycanthrope family. They're your stereotypical hillbilly redneck incestual sadist maniacs with a penchant for terrorising their visitors, and as I'm sure you can tell by their family name there's something a little wolfy about them - a theme that carries through to the storylines of most of the attractions.

So, to celebrate opening night, The Howl were attempting a world record of most people howling at the moon (which we smashed, by the way!) It was camp, it was silly, it was tongue in cheek innuendo-filled Britishness and it worked perfectly to whip up the crowd's excitement! I love little touches like this, they make the whole event feel more personally and experiential.

The setting reminded me of Tulley's Shocktoberfest a few years back. A general air of spookiness with some pumpkins and haybales thrown around, but most of the theming contained to within the attractions themselves.It makes sense 100% where budgets are concerned and I'm hoping that similarly to Shocktoberfest that as the event grows as to will the external theming. That said, it did make it difficult to take many interesting pics as obviously photos are not permitted within the attractions so forgive me!

We started at the back of the park and worked our way forwards, and accidentally ended up doing the mazes in order of extremity! We kicked things off with Squealers Yard which, from the promotional imagery, I figured would be some kind of Chop Shop/The Pie Factory mash-up. And I wasn't half-wrong. As you can kind of guess from the name - the theme of this one is that you're essentially piggies for the slaughter, inevitably ending up in the slaughterhouse at the mercy of some kind of chainsaw wielding lunatic.

The theming is very rustic and makes excellent use of found items which works perfectly with the overarching farmy theme of the park. I love it when parks play to their strengths and maximise their assets and this maze is the perfect example of that. What stands out here though were the actors. At one point a tiny group of four of us had five actors coming as us from literally every angle which resulted in an incredibly intense and claustrophobic scare. We exited the attraction, chainsaw in pursuit, with our hearts beating quickly and palms sweating - if that's not the sign of a great horror maze then I don't know what is!

The promo images don't really give a lot away with this one and I guess it could be argued that the lack of external theming around the park really does mean that what lies within is one giant, horrifying mystery. The storyline of this one is actually extremely dark, even if it is delivered with a cheeky knowing wink. Essentially, the daughter of the Lycanthrope family, Chastity, is actually a bit of a hussy and gets knocked up a lot. To maintain her virginal reputation (yh right), the creatures she gives birth to are kept in The Shed, where they're essentially left to fend for themselves.

So yh, that's a thing. Aesthetically this one is VERY reminiscent of The Cellar at Shocktoberfest. Gross dirty laundry hanging up, dated old household items strewn around the place and creatures that torment you as you wander around the property. It actually gave me Wineville Chicken Coop Murder vibes which added to the continuation of the dark undertones. The 'children' themselves are disturbing, as you would imagine. Twisted and unstable, half of the terror comes from never knowing when to anticipate a jump scare or not!

Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of 'spooky circus' mazes. I'm no coulrophobe so these attractions always have to do a little more to get a reaction out of me than just having a clown go boo in my face. The start of this attraction is the same as pretty much every other circus maze in the UK - a series of small rooms with red and white flaps for you to wander through with the occasional circus freak thrown in for added measure. It clearly works for many, which is why you see this replicated so often, and by the sounds of the other guests' screams it was doing its job perfectly - it's just when you've done as many as I have it gets hard to get excited.

Then came the good stuff. Wide open sets including actual slides, the most disorientating vortex tunnel I've ever experienced and finally the double whammy. Probably the most disgusting squeeze cushion I've ever had to shove my way through (these really get me, I HATE that feeling of being trapped) follow by a clown popping out of a jack-in-the-box and firing an air gun at us. Jesus it scared the shit out of me. Perfect combination.

This is probably the attraction I was most looking forward to. I love haunted hotel themes because there's just so much you can do with them and thus you never really know what to expect! This was probably my favourite themed maze of the night, each room had an overlaying sense of decay that one might expect from a cheap Blackpool B&B all heightened with subtle touches of extra horror and grotesquerie - a toilet overflowing with bog roll, a crazy barman muttering to himself in the corner, a TV inexplicably still in existence with the capability to display white noise despite it being 2017.

Whilst low of the high octane, heart pumping pant shittingness, Hotel de Basquervilles is a subtler attraction that focusses more on creating an all encompassing sense of macabre with its creepy setting. The inhabitants are as much a part of creating this picture and bringing it all to life as opposed to driving the terror themselves, and it's so much fun to experience!

Considering last year I'd been massively let down by a werewolf narrative maze, I entered House of Hounds with baited breath. Basically, this is the maze that ties the whole Lycanthrope family storyline together - their dark family secret (a werewolf, duh) lies within this one, all you have to do is make it through to the other side unscathed.

Honestly, I didn't really enjoy the first 3/4 of this maze. I'm sure there are reasons, but for some reason the actors at The Howl are not permitted to touch you and because the strobe here was a little too slow and the walls a little too bright, any surprises and subsequent jump scares were scuppered. We basically just wandered through some chicken wire for a couple of minutes and avoided the beast lurking within.

So yh, we were all bravado and unimpressed, then turned the corner and the bloody full blown werewolf was stood there causing us to al shit ourselves. Then we turned to face a waist level squeeze cushion - kind of terrifying when being pursued by a monster! Then the final scare - a giant bloody werewolf head of out nowhere just coming straight at you. It shit Conor up so much he instantly hit the deck and disappeared into the squeeze cushion and we all exited the maze pissing ourselves laughing. What a fab ending! Just a shame the rest of the maze lets it down a little.

So, that was The Howl! Honestly if the rain wasn't starting to come down heavy we likely would have grabbed a beer and stood cackling around the fire for a bit. The atmosphere at the park is extremely welcoming and friendly with the perfect spattering of spookiness where needed. I'm so glad I finally got around to visiting and I can't wait to watch this park continue to grow year after year.

Talk later xoxo,