There's always talk this time of year of why people flock to scary movies and put Stephen King atop bestseller lists. The answer is simple: Being scared is fun, especially when we know that the threat isn't real.
The third Twin Cities Horror Festival brings these visceral delights to the stage through Sunday. It features work by nine local companies, with each tackling terror and tension in their own way. As with any festival, the event (at the already haunted Southern Theater) offers a mixed bag in quality. My three favorites:
It takes almost the entire show to work out what exactly Dangerous Productions: Red Red Meat is up to in this version of Mary Shelley's tale. A lot of the early impact comes from the the snap of a bone as a foot is amputated; the ever-present buzz of flies; the blood and gore when an eye is gouged out.
Yes, there's a reason why much of the stage is protected by a drop cloth.
Our Victor is a soldier haunted not just by post-traumatic stress disorder, but by the original Frankenstein novel. During the first part, these obtuse connections make for some slow going. It feels like we are just watching a speed-run of the original tale. Once the stories start to merge, however, Frankenstein takes on a brutal life of its own.
Transatlantic Love Affair's new work emerges purely in the mind.
TLA never uses props or sets. The world is built using bodies and voices (and a live soundtrack provided by Alex Hathaway). It serves this unsettling work well as we watch a woman (represented by five performers) dig deeper and deeper into a mental abyss while isolated in a cell.
It's never clear if the cell is in a jail or somewhere more... eternal. Director Diogo Lopes builds the tension in part by focusing on what the woman is going through in the present, while giving us only small clues about the past. When her story finally unfolds, it has the impact of a stage full of blood -- even though all of the visuals are just in our minds.
As Annabelle and any number of Saw movies have proved, dolls are creepy. As the audience enters the Southern, every seat is taken by a doll or stuffed animal. An hour plays out like a special children's edition of The Twilight Zone.
There are the expected tropes: haunted dolls, and a creepy ventriloquist with his dummy that seems a bit too alive.
Through it all, Four Humors takes absolute delight in both celebrating and twisting the traditions before them. It's like some kind of demented tea party or homebrewed haunted house.
For reviews of the rest of the shows, visit the Dressing Room blog at citypages.com.