Attraction Review: Tulleys Shocktoberfest 2019

Many thanks to Tulleys Shocktoberfest for gifting us tickets to experience this event.

I've been going to Tulleys Shocktoberfest for 6 years now, and the way the event has developed over that short time has been astounding. What started off as a humble farm with a few haunts has this year blown up into a world class Halloween event and honestly I found myself stood at various points during the evening wide-eyed and jaw-dropped just soaking it all in. One way I identify that an event has truly immersed me is when I come away feeling like the whole thing has been a dream, and that was definitely true of Tulleys Shocktoberfest 2019. The whole thing felt like a surreal and terrifying dream (in the best way) and I haven't really stopped thinking about the event since, and it's been over 24 hours now!

As I've been to the event quite a lot and written a ton of reviews, I'm not going to go in depth here about the scare mazes that from my perspective didn't seem to have changes since my last visit. I will focus instead on my thoughts and feelings on the two new for 2019 scare mazes plus an overall overview of the event as a whole. And in case you can't already tell, I thought it was pretty fucking fabulous! Oh and obviously spoilers ahead. As a reminder, the pumpkins are a SCARE rating only - I'll go into detail as to what I think of the theming/effects etc in the body of the review.

So let's start off with The Wreckoning. When I first visited back in 2013 this space was themed to a music festival infested with cannibal festival-goers and honestly it was actually pretty good if memeory serves me right? There was a full blow corn maze in the centre and some pretty legit scares throughout. The year after the maze was rebranded to The Colony which honestly I've never really understood from a thematic perspective. The area this maze covers is massive and it always felt like the theme wasn't strong enough to carry a cohesive narrative and there were never quite enough actors to cater for the space. So I was excited to see The Colony had received a little facelift this year and would be reappearing under the guise of The Wreckoning, which in case you couldn't tell by the title is a pirate themed maze - awesome! 

According to the Tulleys Shocktoberfest website, The Wreckoning follows the storyline of 'shipwrecked and unscrupulous' pirates who have created a new world on an island, bringing with them 'violence, murder and disease'. Slightly dishearteningly this maze suffered a lot of the similar issues as The Colony before it. The space is just so vast it's impossible to bring a high level of intense scares throughout without having a huge cast, which understandably Tulleys Shocktoberfest don't have. It especially doesn't help having mazes like Chop Shop and Wastelands right next door which do deliver high octane scares - you have every chance of entering this maze riding on the adrenaline of those two and could end up feeling short-changed.

But on the other hand, I absolutely love that there are a variety of mazes at the event with varying scare factors. It's actually quite nice to not have every single maze having your blood-pumping with terror for every minute of the event (I imagine that would get quite exhausting). And there are some really impressive and atmospheric sets throughout The Wreckoning. The fabulous stark white room filled with fog remains, which to this day is still one of the most psychologically terrifying scares I've ever done at a Halloween event, as well as a giant shipwrecked pirate ship that we must walk across the deck of. It's wonderful to see the space refreshed for 2019 and what I'd recommend is do this one first to ease yourself into the scares for the night if you're of a more nervous disposition than us seasoned scare maze goers. Personally I prefer a much more intense experience but if you enjoy great sets and a rustic, creepy atmosphere then you will love The Wreckoning. And considering how fucking incredible Wastelands is (we'll get to that in a sec) I'd hazard a guess that most of this year's budget went into that, so I'd love to see The Wreckoning developed and expanded upon for 2020.

I'll be honest, when the promo video for this one came out I kind of shrugged and went cool, new maze great but we've seen 'escaped inmates' done in haunts a thousand times over so it wasn't something I was particularly excited for. But believe me, you've NEVER seen it done like this. The scale and craftsmanship of this entire attraction is staggering. It felt like walking into an event all it's own - an entire themed land built around one scare maze. I was not expecting anything like it which only served to make its impact all the more powerful. So it's a post-apocalyptic vibe, but full blown Mad Max/gasoline punk style. Sexy scary people walking around in costumes made of metal and covered with spikes, dragging huge weapons around the yard. To the right is a small show scene with oil drums, rusted metal and more weapons, everyone just hanging out menacingly and seeming like they're preparing for a war. They aren't scare actors in a typical sense, instead they just carried on with their scene almost like we weren't there at all, and the result was extremely immersive - you very much feel like you're on their turf.

Inside the maze then - yes here it is pretty much your standard 'prison breakout' theme but with an apocalyptic twist. The theming is piled up and claustrophobic - it's dark and hard to see where one doorway ends and another begins, so it's very easy for the actors in these locations to get good scares in. And it's very intense and loud - if you've seen the first scene of Mad Max Fury Road you'll know what I'm talking about, winding through corridors and everything around you almost swallowing you up as it towers around you. It's extremely overwhelming. There were no real 'gags' here like you get with other Shocktoberfest haunts like Coven and The Cellar - it feels more old school in that sense in that Wastelands Penitentiary relies heavily on the dark and intense atmosphere of its theme and set design to deliver the terror as opposed to the wonderment of a well timed and clever scare gag. And the set design is impeccable, the attention to detail is flawless and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were truly walking through a prison - it's that detailed and realistic. 

The cell block breakout scene is absolutely the crown jewel inside the attraction - we're split from the group before entering the chaos here through which toilet we choose to use (male, female or non-binary - how modern!) which only serves to amp up the anxiety as we wander ever closer to the malevolent flash of the strobe light. And once inside it's absolute chaos - between the strobes, loud classic rock style soundtrack and maniacs screaming menacingly in your face it's very easy to get lost in here. And again, the scales is magnificent - this is a full blown, wide open two-storey space filled with cages that allow the actors to climb above us to deliver their scares, with dark and terrifying cell blocks off to one-side for us to be further split from our groups and even more huge apocalyptic weapons for inmates to threaten us with. It's just madness from start to finish as you enter this section and it's one of my favourite scare maze sections to date. We leave the maze with a final showdown with a masked inmate beckoning us to the foreboding electric chair that stands waiting for us in the centre of the pitch black space before allowing us to emerge back into the barren wastes of the yard once more.

But that my friends is not where this attraction ends! We happened to time our exit perfectly as we poured out to find the yard pumping with EDM complete with electrifying light and pyro package. The atmosphere here was absolutely insane. Everybody just stood around, mouths wide-open staring at each other repeating 'oh my god, oh my god' as we couldn't believe what we were experiencing. What a finale to an already incredible attraction. The addition of this alone, as we stood in the centre of the yard surrounded on all sides by shipping containers piled high, is what has elevated Tulleys Shocktoberfest into a world-class horror event. It's truly impressive and added such an electrifying punch to the atmosphere of the entire event.

So in case it wasn't clear, I really fucking enjoyed Tulleys Shocktoberfest 2019. When you've been visiting an event like this as long as I have it's quite easy to become a little disenchanted with the same haunts over and over again, impressive as they are, but with the addition of Wastelands Penitentiary alone it feels like Tulleys Shocktoberfest are back to put their mark on the UK again in terms of delivering an incredible Halloween event. And that's not even taking into account the fact that the likes of the insanely terrifying Chop Shop, wonderfully innovative Coven and truly creepy The Cellar remain part of the event line-up, as well as the return infamous Horrorwood Haunted Hayride.

What a way to kick off Halloween 2019 and if Tulleys Shocktoberfest isn't on your itinerary this year then frankly you're doing it wrong. Thanks very much to Tulleys Shocktoberfest for inviting us down to be part of their fantastic press event.

Talk later xoxo,