Sunday, October 23, 2022

It's the Spookiest Time of the Theater Year! Twin Cities Horror Festival Season XI

Updated 10/23/22

You've heard us sing the spooky praises of Twin Cities Horror Fest for years. Won't you join us this year for the most delightful, spooky, chilling, hilarious, gory theater you'll see all year? We've been expecting you...

The Twin Cities Horror Fest Season XI (TCHF) runs from October 20 through 30 at the Crane Theater. Tickets are $15 and every bit of the ticket price goes to the artists. Support our post-pandemic artists!

This year, TCHF has eleven shows for your horror holiday fun. You can easily see them all (and you should).

Here's a quick take on the line-up of shows. (Note: We'll update this post as we see each show.)

Stabby Stab Stab presented by Special When Lit & The Winding Sheet Outfit
Two pre-teens are compelled to serve a modern monster; an eyeless watcher whose price for loyalty is blood. In the age of electronic loneliness, how far would you go for friendship? Stabby Stab Stab examines recent true-life happenings in nearby Waukesha, Wisconsin. 

Our thoughts: Nissa Nordland Morgan (who also wrote the play) and Kayla Dvorak Feld are unnervingly believable as pre-teen girls who become obsessed with Slenderman and plan a murder to appease him. Based on a true story, this show covers a lot of story and character in just one hour. Director Amber Bjork makes the most of the intimate Crane studio space and the show design is spare but effective. Perfectly timed projections depict the girls' online conversation and music by Derek Lee Miller and Sam Landman create a chilling atmosphere. (Pro tip: Sit near the front for a better view.)

Learn more: If you want to learn more about the true story behind the Slenderman killings, check out Living with Slenderman by Kathleen Hale, or the HBO documentary Beyond the Slenderman. If you're not yet sufficiently freaked out, check out more spooky stories at Creepypasta.

The Shrieking Harpies by the Shrieking Harpies
The Shrieking Harpies are a musical improv trio featuring Lizzie Gardner, Taj Ruler, Hannah Wydeven, and with Justin Nellis on the keys. Our show blends musical genres into an improvised story, with a focus on feminism and friendship. No musical styling or genre is untouchable! Known for their incredible improv, this is one horror experience no one will see coming.

Our thoughts: The Shrieking Harpies don't need props, just a pair of folding chairs, to tell a great story. This show is all about the interplay between the three talented singers/improv artists and their accompanist. Starting with a horror-related subject selected at random by an audience member (pulled out of a plastic pumpkin, of course) and an audience-suggested name, the trio creates a story that constantly surprises even the performers (to our delight). At our show, the Harpies skillfully wove a story of two unhappy teens, a single dad, a horny vice principal, and a deal with the devil. It's great fun to see how they bring all the threads together by the end of the show. With songs! 

Learn more: Keep up on the Shrieking Harpies on their website and look for the amazing Lizzie Gardner, Taj Ruler, and Hannah Wydeven on stage around town. Interested in exploring more stories about the devil? Check out WatchMojo's list of the Top 20 Greatest Movie Devils. 

Gillman Genesis presented by Monster Science Productions
Reverend Matt’s Monster Science returns to the Twin Cities Horror Festival with two biographies (on alternating days) of the greatest creators of horror amphibians. Learn the exciting, tragic story of Milicent Patrick, the forgotten designer of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and about the monsters of Guillermo del Toro, the greatest living monster creator. Plus jokes!

Our thoughts: You can't even go wrong with Reverend Matt and his hilarious analysis of monsters and pop culture. He's doing two alternating shows this year and we saw his show on Milicent Patrick, "the forgotten designer of the Creature from the Black Lagoon." As usual, his blend of monster facts and hilarious commentary, delivered in deadpan, professorial tones had the audience in the palm of his hand. He definitely made us want to learn more about Milicent Patrick and re-watch The Creature from the Black Lagoon. See below!

Learn more: Read Mallory O'Meara's (2019) biography of Milicent Patrick: The Lady from the Black Lagoon. For more info on the legendary Universal Monsters, check out Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror, a massive coffee-table book filled with pictures and stories. Also, definitely see The Creature from the Black Lagoon, available for free at Tubi. (PS: Tubi has SO MANY good horror films FOR FREE. Check it out.)

Spooky & Gay Cabaret presented by BC Theatricals
Who says Halloween comes once a year? SPOOKY & GAY is a queer horror storytelling cabaret featuring original songs, stories and standup - like Goosebumps, only gayer! Written and performed by award-winning Florida playwright-performer, Bruce Ryan Costella.

Our thoughts: Orlando-based storyteller Bruce Ryan Costella has been traveling the country since the spring with his Spooky & Gay Cabaret and it's excellent timing to have him here at the TCHF. Using only a few lights and special effects, Costella tells spooky stories with a gay twist interspersed with songs (on his ukelele!) and short comedic takes on subjects like the worst Halloween candy. Although often comic in tone, his stories have real heart behind them such as his poignant tales about gay bars. Plus a little Cher on the uke! I was hoping for maybe some Donna Summer as well. Very endearing and engaging and a welcome addition to the TCHF! 

Learn more: Definitely check out the merch table for the adorable Spooky & Gay poster, specially created program, and sparkly sticker. Speaking of spooky and gay, Shudder has an excellent new docuseries called Queer for Fear, about the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the horror and thriller genres.

Writer's Room Presented By The Vincent Hovis Experience

A group of creators set to work on an undisclosed project in a remote office. As they try to figure out their combined purpose, they begin revealing their backgrounds...and other information. Writer's Room explores how people manipulate the truth in today's modern world and what that means about the grey areas between good and evil. Written & performed by Emily Dussault, Keith Hovis, Sam Landman & Leslie Vincent. 

Our thoughts:​ Three people enter a room, strangers to one another, only knowing they have been offered the chance at a high-paying writing gig by a mysterious person or group. Could it be Netflix? Oddly, the instructions they receive come via cassette tapes and an old-school tape player. The snarky and not very likeable characters are supposed to work together to create scenarios using the prompts on the tapes, which get more and more personal. The story takes a turn for the meta, which is always fun, but it gets a little confusing and quite dark. These talented performers are always fun to watch, but this one didn't quite hit home for us. 

Learn more: Just a note to follow artists Emily Dussault, Keith Hovis, Sam Landman and Leslie Vincent, as they do wonderfully creative and unique work.

Dead Mountain presented by Third Floor Studio
Based on the tragic events of the Dyatlov Pass Incident where nine university students perished during a ski trip in 1959. Fast forward to 2022 where a driven researcher, obsessed with finally proving her theory for what caused the hikers' demise, takes her team to the same treacherous wilderness in search of answers. Will they meet the same fate? Or survive the place known as "Dead Mountain."

Our thoughts: The Dyatlov Pass incident is an enduring mystery that still puzzles researchers. The many theories about how the nine hikers died in the Ural Mountains have filled books, documentaries, and TV shows. Third Floor Studio sets their version, written and produced by Cara White, in two time periods. In 2022, a female researcher (the program doesn't list character names) is setting out for an expedition to confirm her theory about the deaths. In 1959, we learn about the hiking party through diary entries of Luda, a young woman in the group. The diary entries are read as voiceover in what sounded like a good Russian accent (props to CJ Mantel for dialect coaching). Once the researcher arrives at the site, the past and present overlap. Could the folk tales of a mountain spirit that the scientists dismiss be real? Although this is a fascinating story, there wasn't quite enough setup of the mystery for those who didn't know it, and the script could use some tightening. The atmosphere was creepy, and it did make us want to learn more about the real mystery. 

Learn more: After years of speculation about what befell the hikers of Dyatlov Pass, the mystery may have finally been solved (as the researcher in Dead Mountain hypothesized.) Check out Caitlin Doughty's wonderful Ask a Mortician video called Wait, FROZEN solved the Dyatlov Pass Mystery? Donnie Eichar's nonfiction book about the mystery called Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is a few years old, but very well-researched and fascinating. The horror film Devil's Pass (2013) has a really fun semi-bananas take on the story.

Victor Invictus presented by Phantom Chorus Theatre
Witness Victor Frankenstein’s Creature brought to life onstage in the form of a terrifying, life-sized bunraku puppet! Can the Creature find the deceased Doctor’s lost journals to cure his growing madness, or will he succumb to the bloodthirsty voices in his fractured mind?​

Our thoughts: How can you go wrong when your horror show features live organ accompaniment and sound effects? The spooky vibe is immediately set with music (composed and performed by Steven Zubich) played on a candlelit organ. As this retelling of Frankenstein starts, we were immediately struck by how much the live Foley sound effects (designed and performed by Andrew Rosdail) add to the action on stage. We begin with the 'birth' of Frankenstein's Creature, which doesn't shy away from a little gore (a few organs, intestines.) The Creature (ingeniously designed and built by Marc Berg and beautifully acted and voiced by Keegan Robinson) enlists a young Scholar (a compelling Kristina Jansons) to help him locate the Doctor's journals and help quell his growing madness. The acting in this show is excellent, including Josh Vogen as Victor, Thomas Buan as the Investigator, and Cheryl Yakacki, Taylor Leone, Thalia Kostman, and Braden Joseph in a variety of roles. Writer/directors Marc Berg and Thalia Kostman create an absorbing narrative, a spine-chilling atmosphere, and a tight, swiftly moving production. We definitely look forward to seeing more from Phantom Chorus Theatre. (Note: This show was understudied by Aaron Fiskradatz and Lindsey Oetken. As far as we know, we didn't see the understudies, but we appreciate the preparedness.)

Learn more: Read more about the art of Bunraku at Invitation to Bunraku. If you've never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, do. It's quite good! For more about Mary Shelley and other early women sf authors, check out the delightful Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson.

Bad Egg by ​Denzel Belin Presents
She was a bag egg...or was she? When yet again deemed rotten and sent down the trash chute, V finds her trip to The Factory is more than pure imagination - it's a living hell. Fighting against assumptions, a crazed candy fueled hellscape, and the vicious threat of the Orange Ones lead by The Kook, this is the story of a girl not afraid to be loud and get what she wants.

Review to come ...

All Your White Darlings presented by Dangerous Productions
On Nile Island, corporate home of, Theo, a Black man, is a welcome “diversity hire”. Nile Island is soon blindsided by the murder of a white islander in response to the police killing of an unarmed Black man on the mainland. Theo finds himself forced to face the pale quality of his relationships with his co-workers, his neighbors, as they distance themselves from him and make their fear of his Blackness apparent.

Review to come ...

Edgar Perry presented by The Coldharts
17-year-old Edgar Allan's life is over. Expelled from University, abandoned by his fiancé, and estranged from his foster family, he has but one option left: to reinvent himself 'Edgar Perry' and dominate the ranks of the United States Military. A world premiere minimalist-musical from the creators of 'Edgar Allan' & 'Eddie Poe.'

Review to come ...

Ted's Talk presented by Haunted Basement (Catacomb Collective)

Welcome to this year's Annual Expose in Hell: Dawn of a New Day! This year Ted will delight you with the year's most diabolical, ingenious, and innovative tortures! Come see which creamy curds rose to the top and revel in their achievements of blood worth spreading! "There is no escape, not really...Enjoy the show!" - Tammy, the SM

Review to come ...

Happy Horror Fest to all and to all a Spooky Night!!