The Twin Cities Horror Festival is in the midst of celebrating its fifth year, yet this is the first year I’ve attended. Carly from Minnesota Theater Love has raved about it, so I purchased the Four Horseman pack and settled on A Zombie Odyssey, Cinderella, Senseless, and Sweet Dreams, Alfie. As luck would have it, I also had the opportunity to see a preview of The Philip Experiment, an excellent show for getting your toes wet in this genre. It reminded me that horror can include shows that are suspenseful and psychological and not full of blood and gore. Although the four shows I saw all had a mix of both…
After a car wreck, Brian Smith reluctantly finds himself on an epic quest to find his wife. His journey, however, is plagued with questions: What is happening to his body? Who is this mysterious voice? And why does everyone say he’s dead? A Zombie Odyssey blends movement, voice, and music to create an unforgettable voyage that pits zombie vs. society to see who is the real monster.
Ricky Coats stars in this one-man show, and it’s the perfect blend of mystery as Brian tries to figure out what’s happening to him, gore as he inevitably feasts on the flesh of others, comedy to lighten the mood from time to time, and humanity as he struggles with his transformation. It has a bit of a District 9 feel with the transition of the antagonist into a new being and the sense of a bigger message about the current state of the world. The music and lighting are so on point; this is a well constructed and directed piece of theater that tells a comprehensive story in a mere 60 minutes… But it’s actually a trilogy. Sign me up to see the next two because A Zombie Odyssey is the perfect bite of horror and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
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Everyone knows the classic tale of Cinderella. A sweet young girl who is saved from her evil step-family by a caring fairy-godmother and a handsome prince who falls madly in love with her, but what if Cinderella decided to save herself? With the help of her dead mother’s demonic spirit, Cinderella takes revenge on those who have wronged her.
I’m a sucker for a spin on a classic story, but Cheap Thrills Theater left something to be desired with this one, unfortunately. Between a weak script and strange lighting choices (perhaps more poorly executed than anything), the few comedic moments in Cinderella aren’t enough for me to recommend it. I hate being harsh, but let’s face it – it’s a limited amount of time to see a limited amount of shows and you should get your money’s worth.
One woman’s journey into an underground facility filled with darkness, horror and blood. Tense and terrifying, this nightmare journey drags you beneath the surface of humanity and doesn’t let go.
In contrast to Cinderella, Dangerous Productions’ Senseless is horror perfection. I saw their show Frankenstein at the 2015 MN Fringe and I’ll happily (but still somewhat hesitantly!) follow them anywhere. The story took me on a roller coaster ride with a well written back story and a few twists, and their special effects are deliciously disgusting. Yes, it’s gross but so well done I found myself laughing because they made me cringe so much. They use the stage well and find intelligent ways to portray the characters moving about the facility. Writer and director Tyler Olsen ensures that even small gestures will have a big impact; no movement is wasted on this exceptional cast. I’ll stop gushing so you can go and buy your tickets now.
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Sweet Dreams, Alfie is psychological horror smeared with blood and pock-marked with brevity, embodying the claustrophobic, hopeless feeling that comes part-and-parcel with existential dread. Alfie is about the wounds we think we wear on our sleeves. The ones we’re too scared or polite to bring up because, obviously, they’re right there. And every one is too busy worrying about their own to see what we see. It’s not selfish. It just is. It’s about solipsism. It’s about existential dread. It’s about the thing that goes *bump* in your mind.
Psychological is right! Sweet Dreams, Alfie was a lot for me to digest as I watched Alfie’s struggles with anxiety and depression unfold onstage. Savage Umbrella starts things off with a crisp, all-white set that seems fairly innocuous, but of course those demons are lurking all around. The show description tells you most of what you need to know, but I will say that I enjoyed the subtle, simple, smart effects that leave just enough to the imagination. Each scene evokes such strong imagery thanks to excellent lighting and the direction of Laura Leffler-McCabe, and I love that this story could tell just as powerful a story as photographs. This was my first experience with Savage Umbrella, and I look forward to more.
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Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of horror (I’m one of those people, too), there’s a lot to see at the Twin Cities Horror Festival and it’s a great way to support small, independent theater. I’m already looking forward to next year!
Twin Cities Horror Festival
October 27 – November 6
1420 South Washington Avenue