We’ve been visiting Shocktober Fest for about four or five years now and this year was going to be no different! We’re mentioning this from the outset because we didn’t have the most amazing time there this year and it’s worth pointing out that this could be due to fatigue – the event was pretty much identical to last October’s and also very similar to the year prior.
As a note – we try to review attractions in isolation but, in this case, it’s going to be very much looking at the differences from last year – maybe start with last year’s review here!
The Coven of 13: The Village
Call it general Shocktober Fest fatigue but we started picking up on things that we hadn’t noticed before, one of which was prevalent throughout most of the haunts which we’ll get to in due course. The Coven was the new event for 2016 and it feels substantially changed from last year but not for the better. The swamp scene lacked the ducking of witches that was present in its last incarnation and, as a result, didn’t feel like the defining moment that it was last year. The smoke obscuring the actors was a lot thinner so it was easier to spot where they were creeping to next and their appearances were a lot more sporadic.
Elsewhere, there was a strong feeling that there were more outdoor sections than previously and these sections just recalled ‘The Colony’ for us – not very good when it feels similar to another attraction at the same event!!
The last thing we noted was that the Evil Dead style ending from last year was absent. In its place was something a bit more tragic but a lot less epic.
Twisted Clowns 3D
Twisted Clowns 3D was a definite improvement on last year where we absolutely hated it! The 3D throughout the entire attraction was great and worked well. The downside to this was that it was hardly ever exploited – we expected the 3D to provide some misdirection which it never did – this was a massive missed opportunity. Especially paired with the fact that there seemed to be very few actors in the first half of the maze. It picked up in the second section but we couldn’t shake the sense that it needed a larger cast.
The Chop Shop
Chop Shop was our favourite when we visited previously and it still holds that title! The one bit of advice that we’d offer here is to do whatever you can to get to the front of the group. We’ve been in this before where the line got so backed up because people (understandably we guess!) tend to be petrified of revving chainsaws and that is pretty much all this maze is! Think of that stereotypical scurried chainsaw chase out of a haunt but imagine it almost all the way around! So yeah, if you get stuck behind people that completely freeze up, this one can kinda suck! Funnily enough, the people behind us huddled together before we even got to the chainsaw gauntlet meaning it was just us in there. Perfect!
In a serendipitous turn, it suddenly began to rain as we entered this haunt. Not only did it add to the atmosphere on the walk up to the entrance but we hadn’t noticed before that some of the strobe sections in this maze are outside. The rain falling through these flickering lights made for a really nice cinematic visual. Add to this the strong smell of petrol lingering in the air thanks to the chainsaws and this particular run through Chop Shop was a visceral assault on the senses!
The rain was such a cool little bonus that we wonder whether it’s worth an attraction attempting something like this deliberately next year. It’s not as ‘out there’ as it sounds – one of the haunts at Halloween Horror Nights last year had a section where it ‘rained’ indoors. They used a special floor for that section to make it safe. It’d be a cool thing to see in the future!
The last thing that we’ll say here is that the guys in here are huge and probably the most intimidating out of all the characters at Tulleys – mainly because they’re silent, letting their growling chainsaws speak for them!
Considering that The Cellar is one of Shocktoberfest’s older attractions, it feels a lot more polished and complete than the other haunts. The theming is nicely done but there’s a general sense that this now just exists to keep the numbers up. Whilst it could be good fun (it certainly affords the actors many hiding places), it isn’t utilised well. There were a number of empty stretches and some (but not all) of the performances felt listless. This very much feels like the haunt you graduate to after ‘passing’ Creepy Cottage.
Our favourite parts were definitely the triangular tunnel (that puts you in a vulnerable position if a character happens to be waiting for you at the other side!) and the crate passage. This long stretch of ceiling-high crates gives the actors countless ways of attacking guests. With a few more actors in this section, it could be total chaos!
The Hellements VIXI
When we caught wind of the fact that Hellements may have been leaving the Shocktober Fest line up, we couldn’t have been happier. We’re not fans of hooded mazes in the first place and with Hellements nothing really happens until the final third where they chuck a few water and fire effects at you. Your enjoyment of VIXI will come down to this – do you find walking along a rope-guided trail with a hood on your head scary? You may encounter one or two actors before the finale but most of Hellements hangs on you being scared of a hooded maze as a concept. At the risk of repeating ourselves, the hoods take away any element of fear that we might feel going through these mazes. After all, you can’t see absolutely anything, so everything just becomes disembodied voices. You don’t have the dread of turning the next corner or stepping into the darkness because you just have zero context for where you are. For this reason, scares are probably light because they don’t want you running off somewhere when you can’t see any of the surrounding obstacles.
The thing that warrants the name change this year? There’s a slightly different story but, more importantly, there’s a new ending that you go through without the hoods on. Whilst this was an appreciated addition, it was underpopulated with actors and the main gimmick in this section utilised objects that seemed at odds with the afterlife theming of the maze itself. Almost as if the organisers had bought this new prop and then struggled with where to actually put it.
If Hellements indeed returns again next year, everything in the finale needs to be more interesting. Change the textures on the walls, floors – it needs to feel as though we’re taking an epic journey and at the moment, it really doesn’t.
The Horrorwood Hayride
Last year, we felt a change in the hayride – where it had been risque, it was suddenly family friendly. It was slightly less so this year but nowhere near as edgy as it used to feel. The characters that we encountered all felt ‘safe’ and interaction with the audience was more sparing than it used to be. The trailer ride is a fairly unique feature in the UK so it’s definitely worth getting on, we just wish it’d be used in a more meaningful way. Actors jump on the trailer, deliver a bit of a performance and then just hop back off again. No part of the experience is scary and the encounters are so random that it just comes across like a bit of an afterthought.
The Creepy Cottage
This is your starter maze. If you’re taking any newbies along with you, begin the evening with this one. We’ve found the quality here to vary over the years with previous walkthroughs feeling extremely light on actors. Not so much this year! We were surprised several times by characters who were incredibly well hidden and some of the performances were brilliantly acerbic.
We think this is a fun little haunt with some cool little touches such as the shifting floors. We’d argue that it isn’t scary but, in this case, that isn’t the point!
The Colony is a massive haunt that essentially takes you from one end of the park to the other (so it might be an idea to strategise your route and use The Colony to take you to the Horrorwood Hayride, Coven, Hellements and Creepy Cottage). The problem is that, for the size that it is, The Colony demands that there be plenty of actors or guests are going to find themselves walking along for decent stretches with nothing happening. Which is exactly what happened here. Sometimes this can work but with a large part of the maze taking place outside, it just never feels that scary.
There are some cool scenes within the haunt though, they just aren’t capitalised upon. For example, there’s a creepy moment where you walk through the community’s burial chamber with numerous alcoves where the bodies were laid to rest. It seemed like a really obvious space to put an actor, as though they had been buried prematurely. But nope, there was no-one to be seen in here at all. It felt like a real missed opportunity.
The other moment that we were really looking forward to this year was the pitch black section. It was such a memorable moment and reminded us of how hopeless we felt in ‘The Tunnel’ from a few years back. For a few moments, we believed we could actually get stuck in there! Sadly, this element was absent from The Colony this year and only served to highlight the flaws elsewhere.
Bigger isn’t always better. Don’t get us wrong, we’ve enjoyed Shocktoberfest every year but, with the sheer volume of events that we attended this year, the flaws in the experience are definitely becoming more apparent to us. Their announcement of a ninth haunt causes us more concern than anything else – as though boasting the largest number of attractions is now more important than providing a quality experience. Yes, it makes the ticket price seem better value but there are plenty of events that can rival Shocktoberfest with half the number of mazes. We’re worried that this is becoming a quantity over quality situation as they hang onto things well past their sell by date (Hellements is the key offender here).
We’re also noticing things that we hadn’t before; the wooden pallet look is becoming synonymous with Shocktoberfest in the same way that shipping containers are with Merlin. Couple that with characters that seem interchangeable between haunts -this year it felt like the denizens of The Cellar had escaped that haunt and invaded other attractions such as The Colony. There’s a real sense of homogenisation taking place. Maybe we’re just becoming the wrong audience for the event but there’s a very clear shift happening in the UK as far as these attractions go and we can see Shocktoberfest slowly falling out of relevance as events around them grow and innovate. It’s to the point where we know we have a tight Halloween schedule next year and we’re not sure we want to prioritise visiting this event over others when we see little to no evolution taking place.
Having been to this event a few times, I was hoping that Tulleys would improve the scares, set designs and mazes. Unfortunately, I felt that this time around the haunts were tamer than the previous year.
Coven felt to be the same theming as Colony except the actors were dressed as witches. The maze starts, where you have a workout sifting through the blow-up tubes around open areas where the witches would jump up through the smoke. The size of the groups they allocate to this one is far too big to make this work. It felt like there were not enough witches and due to the long strobe intervals, it was obvious where they were. The second part was walking through dark scenes with the odd witch speaking in riddles and spells. They were all just standing in the sets; no jump scares or threat was felt. The ending was also lacking with no reason for you to be glad to get out of there. This maze needs a serious update if it stays for another year. It’s the worst maze of them all.
To make this maze different to all the other clown mazes, they added the element of 3D, where you are supplied with flimsy paper glasses. You then walk through the maze where the setting is bright colours and walls and objects that highlight the 3D effect. There were a couple of scares in the maze; this was helped as they let us in as a group of four. This maze bodes well as it’s fun, the actors do keep in character and are a bit more in your face than the other haunts.
As the name states this is the cannibal attraction where you get to see lots of chopped up body parts with actors armed with cleavers etc. Again I felt the group sizes were too big for the number of actors in the maze. Luckily as our fear threshold is higher than others, we walked through so much quicker and ended up as a duo which made the latter part of the event better. We were then left traversing through a maze being met with the dreaded chainsaw at the turn of each corner. I still feel that, even though this maze is the best at Shocktober Fest, they should make this one more hands on.
The first time I did this maze I really liked the first half due to the animatronic snake and the second half of this maze where it was constant strobing and a lot of jump scares. I’m not sure why but it seems tamer every year. Again group sizes were too big, and the lack of actors spoiled this. However, the snake still exists and gives a great laugh.
With the name change this year I was hoping that they may have removed the hooded maze. Sadly, this was not the case. Once again we were hooded in a large group and walked through the attraction with the aid of a rope. Unfortunately, as it seems people are not able to walk in the dark with a hood on, it felt more like Crash Bandicoot as I kept crashing into the person in front of me, and the person behind colliding into me. During the hooded section, the actors would make the annoying growl sound which, after hearing it in every haunt, I was a little fed up of. I do like the added elements of the fire and water parts but it’s not enough to like the maze. They did, however, add a different ending where you were asked to remove the hood and I thought yes here we go… Sadly it was a bigger let down than last time.
This is the family ride where you get taken around the farm on the back of the tractor. The set designs seemed bigger this year with the addition of pyrotechnics and more loud bangs. The ride was also longer than previous years, however, there were not more interactions with actors on the route. The ‘visitors’ on the tractor were great portraying their characters but, again, the experience was so toned down compared to previous years.
The set design’s good. I found the number of actors too low, the group size too high. I also don’t like the hands on the shoulders in this one. I feel if the actors could hide better for the jump scares this maze could be great.
As mentioned above, this one feels to be the same as Coven but with different characters. Group sizes were smaller for this maze but I found the cast unimposing and very easy to walk past.
Overall I feel Shocktober Fest is a great adventure for first-time scare maze visitors but I feel more is needed next year to improve the current mazes they have. Hopefully the new maze they advertised for 2018 will tick all the boxes!
Shocktober Fest (2017) - Tulleys Farm
+ Plenty to do
- Characters all samey
- Not all that scary
We weren't as impressed with Shocktoberfest this year. As well as the event feeling staid, the existing haunts all seemed to be lacking life with actors and sets being seemingly interchangeable. However, with a full food court, midway games and live entertainment, we can't deny that a visit to Shocktoberfest is worth the price of entry. We just wish that they try harder next year!
Price: Between £10 and £70 depending on the level of participation and date visited.
Address: Tulleys Farm, Turners Hill Road, Turners Hill, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 4PE