Bay of the Living Dead: Shocktoberfest and Other Halloween Horrors Around Town
Halloween is the Holiest of Days for horror buffs, and foggy San Francisco abounds with a variety of fun events by which to celebrate the occasion.
Shocktoberfest, Russell Blackwood’s gloriously campy, and gory, annual Grand Guignol show at the Hypnodrome Theatre, returns for its 17th year. This year’s offering promises to shock and horrify you: Blackwood calls it Pyramid of Freaks!
“Grand Guignol began as an experiment in naturalism–it was hyper-realistic theater in 1890s Paris,” Blackwood tells us as he explains the origins of his show. “Because melodrama was still all the rage on Parisian stages, Grand Guignol grew into a sensationalist hybrid of the two genres.”
Shocktoberfest 17: Pyramid of Freaks consists of a several short plays with titles like The Haunted House, Demon Train to Sodom (described as a pulp fiction musical–authored by Bay Area theater legend Scrumbly Koldewyn) and the title offering Pyramid of Freaks. Some of the plays are original works written and performed in the Grand Guignol style, while others are translations of pieces which were originally seen in Paris over a century ago. The evening concludes with a spook show finale.
“We’re re-imagining the way we want Grand Guignol to be for a contemporary audience,” Blackwood said. “Sometimes the plays are Queer themed, sometimes they’re musicals.” The shows are not set during the present day, but are designed to take the audience back on a journey to the Paris of long ago.
The shows should not be seen by children, Blackwood advises. “Without a doubt we are re-interpreting the genre and adding to the canon of Grand Guignol plays,” he said.
Sounds like a spooky night at the theater! Shocktoberfest 17: Pyramid of Freaks is now up and running–there are previews on October 6 and 7, with the official opening night set for the 13th. Performances continue until November 19th.
Classic horror movie lovers will cream in their jeans with the plethora of offerings which will be screening around town. The beautiful Castro Theater the 1919 classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Often credited as the first feature length horror film, this surreal and visually stunning masterpiece influenced scores of filmmakers and ushered in the era of German Expressionism, a genre which inspired the look of the Universal Monster Movies that were produced in Hollywood during the 1930s. Caligari screens on Thursday, October 20 on a double bill with Fritz Lang’s brilliant, if highly disturbing psychological chiller M (1931).
On Saturday October 22, the Castro revives William Friedkin’s original The Exorcist—pea soup will not be served during the screening. The Exorcist is co-billed with the original Poltergeist–the movie which reminds you to turn off your TV at night!
October 30 brings another great double bill to the Castro. Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (“I’m not dreaming, this is really happening!) will be shown with the lesser known The Sentinel (1977). Both films serve as warnings to those thinking of moving into older apartment buildings!
Over at the Balboa Theater in the Outer Richmond there will be Halloween Horrors you can take the kids to! Every Saturday morning at 10 the Balboa offers Popcorn Palace–$10 gets you a movie, popcorn and a drink. This months offerings are the family friendly animated chillers Coraline (October 8), Paranorman (October 15), with Joe Dante’s hilariously wild Gremlins on the 22nd. And be sure to stop by on the 29th for some free, spooky Halloween cartoons!
Oakland’s New Parkway Theater will also be celebrating the season starting on on Thursday the 27th. You’ll no doubt scream for more when the Parkway shows Wes Craven’s Scream (1997) at 9:30 pm. There will be a lot more screams the following night when John Carpenter’s Halloween, the original slasher flick, screens at 10 PM. The delightfully gory The Evil Dead (1982 original of course) whets your appetite on Saturday the 29th at 10 PM.
Sunday the 30th brings a 3 pm matinee screening of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), the first film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. New Parkway management promises that this silent chiller will be shown with “live accompaniment like you’ve never heard before”. The theatre concludes their Halloween party on the 31st, All Hallow’s Eve itself, when the scary, campy Creepshow (1982) unspools at 7 pm.
And f you’re a couch potato who loves the really old classics, check out TCM’s October line-up, which offers many films from the vaults of Universal Studios and Hammer Films–all the old Dracula and Frankenstein flicks will be shown, along with many others glorious chestnuts. TCM spends the month paying tribute to star of the month, the great horror icon
More Halloween screenings to be announced in the next edition of this column in around two weeks.