It’s Monster Month and that means watching scary movies, reading ghost stories, and of course the Twin Cities Horror Festival. TCHF is in it’s 10th season and I for one am grateful that many of the shows this year are in-person. I didn’t get access to the virtual shows that opened the festival last week but I will be reviewing all five of the in-person productions. Opening night I attended the first three shows. Splinter from Dangerous Productions, Blood Nocturne from The Winding Sheet Outfit, and Blackout in a Blackout from Blackout Improve. The Festival runs through Halloween, with the five shows rotating to purchase tickets to any or all performances go to https://www.tchorrorfestival.com/ On the site you will find descriptions of each show as well as each shows ratings for Language, Violence, and Blood. Below I’ve copied the schedule for the remainder of the run.
Friday, October 29
6:00pm Channel / Dogwatch Productions
7:30pm Creepy Boys / Creepy Boys
9:00pm Splinter / Dangerous Productions
10:30pm Blackout in a Blackout / Blackout Improv
Saturday, Oct 30
1:00pm Channel / Dogwatch Productions
2:30pm Blood Nocturne / Winding Sheet
4:00pm Creepy Boys / Creepy Boys
5:30pm Splinter / Dangerous Productions
7:00pm Blackout in a Blackout / Blackout Improv
8:30pm Channel / Dogwatch Productions
10:00pm Blood Nocturne / Winding Sheet
Sunday, October 31
1:00pm Blackout in a Blackout / Blackout Improv
2:30pm Creepy Boys / Creepy Boys
4:00pm Blood Nocturne / Winding Sheet
5:30pm Channel / Dogwatch Productions
7:00pm Splinter / Dangerous Productions
First up was Dangerous Productions Splinter, easily the scariest show of the night. Pay attention to the ratings on this one, there will be blood. Just as they did my first year reviewing the TCHF Dangerous Productions has delivered the most intense and genuinely disturbing experience. Always effective on the technical side of things, the violence feels and looks real. There will also be several moments of “how did they do that?” for the observant audience member. Hats off to the production team on this one led by Director and Production Designer Tyler Olsem-Highness. The play really begins as soon as the house doors open with Laura Mahler on stage clearly going through some hard times. It’s a wordless performance before the play properly starts but for me, it set the mood perfectly and I felt I had a handle on the emotion she was experiencing – it created a sense of sympathy from the beginning. Mahler gives a riveting performance as a woman who has lost her memory due to a traumatic event and is being experimented on by Forensic Psychologist whose experimental techniques won’t intentionally hurt her. To say much more about the plot would rob it of it’s tricks and treats. I was impressed with all the performances but a special shout out to Jay Kistler as the other guinea pig who finds just the right balance between finding the humor in a scene and then alternating to somewhere darker.
The second show of the evening was The Winding Sheet Outfits Blood Nocturne. This tells the story of Erzsebet Bathory whom I knew of as the basis of the 1971 Hammer film, Countess Dracula. This version is very different. First off, it’s a musical. Secondly, it attempts to be much more truthful in it’s telling of the real life Countess. The program tells us that Blood Nocturne was created and composed by the ensemble with quotes from actual letters and testimony. While trying to set the record straight they also challenge our societies default to print the legend as it makes a better story. Even as Emily Dussault as Bathory attempts to point out the truths behind the stories, she’s at odds with the rest of the cast who insist the horrific details that have been attributed to her make for a better story. While all three shows I took in tonight were very good, this was my favorite. I loved everything about it. It’s cast deserves to be singled out. I wish the program listed the performers with their character names since they were uniformly talented, I’ll simply list them all. Amber Bjork (also the Director), Kayla Dvorak Feld, Derek Lee Miller, Boo Segersin, Joshua Swantz, and the aforementioned Emily Dussault as the Countess. All of them are adept and find the darkest shades of humor within this gruesome biography. The cast plays the period instruments that accompany the songs and they are quite accomplished musically. The Orchestrations are simple, but haunting.
The third and final show of the evening for me was Blackout in a Blackout by Blackout Improv. The only thing of value I can say about this is to praise the performers. Let’s face it, this is improv, it’s going to be different with every performance, and if it isn’t, well you don’t really want to know that do you? So the less said about the storyline that emerged, the better. What I can tell you is that I’m already thinking of trying to catch this improv troupe again sometime. The group worked really well together and found a way to keep the laughs coming while also managing to try and add a touch of the supernatural to the proceedings. Find out more about them here https://www.blackoutcomedy.org/.