Twin Cities Horror Fest continues to freak audiences out at Southern Theater

Dan Norman

Dan Norman

The Twin Cities Horror Festival is an annual incursion of short plays devoted to the unsettling, the macabre, the gruesome, and the terrifying. Ironically, it draws a warm and cozy community to the Southern Theater: audience members who chat beneath the dangling skeleton parts and listen to “Monster Mash” in the lobby while they wait for the next scary story to begin.

Twin Cities Horror Festival 2019

The Southern Theater
$15; multi-show packages range from $55-$180

Not every town does this. In fact, according to stage announcements, at eight years strong ours is now the world’s longest-running horror theater festival. This year’s productions feature even more variety than usual, exploring a wide range of spooky scenarios.

Fans of Midsommar will want to check out Incarnate, which feels like a harvest-themed companion piece to Ari Aster’s new movie. It’s set in a cultish religious community that favors agricultural metaphors; you know it’s going to be good as soon as the priceless Lauren Anderson steps forth, spreads her arms, and joyfully cries, “Swing the sickle!” Another standout in the intensely committed cast is Laura Mahler as a convert whose soul is clean but who’s not afraid to get her hands—and face—a little bloody.

Speaking of blood, Horror Fest fans know they can count on director Tyler Olsen-Highness to bring his signature gift for gory verisimilitude to the Southern stage each October. This year, Dangerous Productions reanimate Frankenstein, burrowing into the not-so-good doctor’s guilty mind while he goes about his limb-lopping business. The creature’s real-life creator, author Mary Shelley, gets to tell her story in Amp. Writer/actor Jody Christopherson never lets the momentum of her solo show slack, and thunderous production design perfectly sets the gothic scene.

Transfiguration is also the theme of Bug Girl, a visually stunning if narratively muddled life-size shadow play. Creator Liz Howls and her hardworking team create incredible effects as they play with scale on adjacent screen panels. The Southern’s movie screen also gets a welcome workout in plays like Four Humors’ Rule of Three, a timely segmented show that incorporates a scary vaping video and a sketch with what seems to be a highly interactive computer screen, warning of the dangers of deepfakes.

Other strong productions include ...And What Alice Found There, the Winding Sheet Outfit’s exploration of Lewis Carroll’s troubling relationship with his title character; and Feminine Inhuman, a fun collection of dances dramatizing mythical female monsters, pairing Matthew Kessen’s lightly comedic folklore monologues with movement by Erin Sheppard Presents.

The fest also sees the welcome return of 2018 Fringe favorite Geminae, a supernatural space oddity that floats Leslie Vincent into what might become a zero-gravity tomb. Rogues Gallery Arts’ Charcoal Moon is a more standard interplanetary thriller, but writer/director Duck Washington steadily builds the suspense—to the chagrin of one opening-weekend audience member who succumbed to the mounting tension and discovered that in space, everyone can hear you fart.

Twin Cities Horror Festival
The Southern Theater
1420 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis
Through November 3;