Kbatz: Dragonwyck

Frightening Flix

Dragonwyck A Spooky and Charming Little Old Film

By Kristin Battestella

 

I was a bit surprised when I stumbled upon this 1946 title starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price, for I had never heard of it before. Based upon 1944 novel by Anya Seton, Dragonwyck is a creepy little gothic tale of frightful mansions and murderous tendencies.

Miranda Wells (Tierney) dreams of bigger things than her family’s Connecticut farm, much to the chagrin of her devout parents Ephraim (Walter Houston) and Abigail (Anne Revere). When a letter arrives from Abigail’s distant and wealthy cousin Nicholas Van Ryan (Price), Miranda takes the offered opportunity to serve as companion to Nicholas’ daughter Katrine (Connie Marshall, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House) at the Van Ryan’s legendary Hudson Valley estate Dragonwyck. Once at the mansion, however, tales of hauntings, local unrest, and the uneven relationship between Nicholas and his wife Johanna (Vivienne Osborne) can’t deter Miranda from falling in love with Nicholas. But of course, he is married, and spends far too many nights in his secret tower room…

Though not a horror movie or thriller per se, Dragonwyck has many fearful moments and suspense-filled sequences, largely due to the simplest suggestions of intrigue. The black and white cinematography, creepy angles, spooky lighting, and haunting score by the famed Alfred Newman (How the West Was Won, The King and I, Camelot) give just the right amount of suggestion that not all is well at Dragonwyck. Screenwriter and first time director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra) makes great strides in giving us the basis of the novel’s complex time and place, but some sequences in Dragonwyck do seem ill edited. Quick references to a change of time and place aren’t enough to indicate the move-sometimes it seems like you’re watching a film ‘edited for content and cut to run in the time allotted.’ Thankfully, performance and story win out with the help of great costumes and gothic sets.

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I don’t know much about Prince Aly Khan, except that he seemed to mentally ruin not one, but two Hollywood ladies- Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney. Perhaps more well known today for her many romances, Tierney (Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Leave Her To Heaven) was pretty and she could act. Maybe her beauty draws the viewer in, but Tierney’s expressions of innocence, naiveté, and love keep us interested in Miranda. We want her to find joy and happiness-even if the high society life at Dragonwyck clearly spells doom. Likewise, parents Walter Huston (Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre) and Anne Revere (National Velvet, The Song of Bernadette) are stern and respectable parents with only the best interests at heart. Observant viewers will also see a young Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) as Peggy, the crippled Irish maid with a good heart.

It’s pretty plain to see that the ‘low’ farming folk have more values and morals than the ‘high’ Hudson folk, but Vivienne Osborne (Tomorrow at Seven) earns a piece of sympathy as Nicholas’ wife Johanna. She seems chubby and more interested in food than her daughter, but we feel that in some ways, this snotty style is not her fault. Her callous upbringing and lack of attention from her deceitful husband help blur the lines between this detailed look at the early Victorian lifestyle and Hudson society. But of course, Vincent Price (The Ten Commandments, The Pit and the Pendulum) plays a man who is not always what he seems. He’s thinner and more subdued than what we expect from the maniacal old horror maven to come in later films. Price’s Nicholas looks the waistcoat and top hat society man, we believe he can be respectable and a good love for Miranda-and yet we should know better. Price shows his range through Nicholas’ love, flagrant callousness, addictions, and other… nefarious… tendencies.

Dragonwyck is not a perfect film, and it is a little dated in some respects. Mankiewicz’ inexperience as a debut director also hampers some scenes. Nevertheless, gothic lovers and fans of classic suspense can enjoy Dragonwyck. Younger audiences may not understand some of the historical back-story about patroon landowners keeping tenant farmers in feudal like arrangements, but the spooky air is just right for a youthful scare or two. But of course, the DVD edition of Dragonwyck is now out of print. Thankfully, fans of Vincent Price can pick up a copy in several horror sets. It’s a strange placement, but fans of the cast and viewers who love a little bit of Bronte suspense will enjoy getting their hands on Dragonwyck. I’m tempted to find the book now, too!

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David’s Haunted Library: Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror

David's Haunted Library

33410340Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror by Eden Royce is not your traditional horror anthology. This is a book of 13 tales that have the feeling of being passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation in the deep south. The feeling I got is that they’re the type of tales a friend might tell when they invite you over to their Southern mansion to listen to horrifying tales as you sip brandy by a roaring fire. Every geographical region has its own set of stories that gets told by the people who live there. In Eden Royce’s book, she gives us a set of southern horror tales that make you feel like you live there.

In this book, you will find horror tales set in the deep South that include magic, vengeance, and creatures who will eat you alive. One of my favorite stories in this book was Grandmother’s Bed. In the beginning of the story, I thought it was about a woman who was fearing taking over her grandmother’s place in the family after she died. While it is about that it also gets into the family’s history in their neighborhood and the power they have over others. I enjoyed how this story was told and how it felt like it could be about any Southern family.

Another good one was The To Do List. This one is about a woman who keeps lists on what she has to do all over her apartment. When the woman’s boyfriend moves in, he buys her an organizer to keep her lists in. After awhile he misses seeing the lists and knowing what she is up to. He decides to take a look in the organizer and realizes that his girlfriend is planning something sinister. This story had a little mystery to it that I enjoyed and it teaches you that knowing too much about your loved one could be dangerous.

I also enjoyed The Strange Dowry Of Spinster Pumpkin. This story is about a woman who has been taking care of her sick mother for a long time. She feels resentment for having to do it, but she does what she needs to do. One day the woman’s mother congratulates her on her upcoming marriage, the daughter doesn’t understand what the mother is talking about but soon discovers that her sick mother will be dying and leaving the daughter with an odd parting gift. I loved how the mother-daughter relationship is shown in this story. While the daughter has a lot of anger towards her mother, she still shows love through all that she does. You see her personality change when she realizes she will lose her mother. I think there are a lot of people who have relationships like this one, love isn’t always pretty.

Spook Lights II has some great horror stories in a setting that adds a different dimension to each tale. Eden Royce makes the deep South come alive as a place with a dark mythology to it. Not only do you get a history lesson in what living in the South is like, you also get to experience the tales of horror that are told here. Even the language used throughout the book adds to the feel of each story. If you have an interest in Southern folklore this is a book you shouldn’t pass up.

 

Kbatz: Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Frightening Flix

 

 

Freddy’s Phantom of the Opera a Mixed Bag

By Kristin Battestella

 

 

The 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera adds a whole lot of gory to update the oft-adapted novel. Unfortunately, the convoluted changes to the source sully what could be a fine macabre rendition, leaving more crossed signals than scares.

New York singer Christine Day (Jill Schoelen) finds herself upon the stage of a past London opera house after discovering a lost Don Juan Triumphant manuscript by alleged murderer and composer Erik Destler (Robert Englund). Erik has paid a disfiguring Faustian price to have his music heard – the devil has scarred his face and now the Opera Ghost must use the flesh of his victims to mask his horrendous wounds. When he hears Christine sing, however, The Phantom seeks to dispose of diva La Carlotta (Stephanie Lawrence) and replace her with his muse. Will Christine come to love her musical benefactor or discover his murderous hobbies?

 

Director Dwight H. Little (Rapid Fire) starts this Leroux adaptation from writers Gerry O’Hara (Ten Little Indians) and Duke Sandefur (Dark Justice) with a satanic warning, ominous music, a creepy bookshop, bloody manuscripts, and then contemporary New York opera auditions before a Victorian London transition. Unfortunately, the framing added to The Phantom of the Opera is more than confusing. Is it reincarnation, time travel, or immortality? Are we watching a flashback induced by some demonic spell when Erik’s music is played? Memories from The Phantom’s point of view recalling his devilish pact further muddle this twist. Though Faust elements from the novel and scenes or characters not often included in onscreen adaptations are represented, purists will wonder why these frustrating bookends and superfluous changes were shoehorned in here. Thankfully, the murderous opera mishaps and quick pace move for the 93-minute duration – the tale remains familiar enough and there’s no time to fully question the additions or the unnecessary endings that just keep on going forever. Evil elements, plenty of brutality, and some supernatural hocus-pocus make for a decidedly horror mood. We’ve know doubt that this angle will be sinister, not romantic, and many Phantom fans will enjoy the outright villainous tone even if the execution of the inserted spooky is laden with plot holes and flaws. Ironically, despite its gory strides and fiendish aspects, The Phantom of the Opera is clearly trying to ride the coattails of the musical productions and includes a disclaimer declaring that this version is unaffiliated with Webber and company. Go figure.

Fortunately, the gruesome Phantom skin and make up designs for star Robert Englund work devilishly good. He stitches up his icky face, harvests fresh flesh from his victims, and remains strong and skilled with weapons as he slices and dices. For all its misguided vision, this Phantom of the Opera is not afraid to bloody it up and out rightly mention sexual context – be it accusing peeping tom stagehands, some nighttime prostitution, or would-be rapacious action. Erik has his needs! Through his Faust pact and filleting folks, The Phantom maneuvers diva Carlotta’s exit early before going out to the local pub or spa for some more kills. His interest in Christine, however, feels secondary, lame, and tacked on to the demonic upkeep as if elevating the full on, killer creeper is meant to make us forget the obsessive love plot. Compared to what usually is the source of Erik’s motivation, this Opera Ghost doesn’t have much reason to hang around the house when he could be getting his lust and hellish tendencies elsewhere. Broadway shade, crammed in horror – the lengthy skin peel reveals help The Phantom of the Opera doubly cash in on Englund’s Nightmare on Elm Street heights as well as the musicals. This Erik is obviously not a sympathetic soul, but he’s not a multi dimensional villain either. He’s The Phantom and he’s bad this time around, oooo. The would-be menacing spectacle doesn’t do Englund justice or give him the layers and depths he is more than capable of delivering.

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Poor Billy Nighy (Underworld) is also totally wasted in The Phantom of the Opera as an angry, would-be manipulative but largely ineffective opera owner. He doesn’t have much to do except bitch, and late stage star Stephanie Lawrence as Carlotta likewise feels blink and you miss her rather than any sort of antagonist. So-called inspectors and other nondescript secondary players are forgettable, as-needed plot devices or set dressings. Without much beyond the Raoul name change for Alex Hyde-White (Reed Richards in the infamous 1994 Fantastic Four film) as Christine’s barely there paramour Richard, it’s tough to follow his supposed heroics in the hectic underground finale much less root for his success. Sadly, all of these players could be excised – no name police could have been called to the opera house for the shoot ‘em up showdown and The Phantom of the Opera would have been no different. Critical in the role as Christine Day, Jill Schoelen (There Goes My Baby) also misses the mark if you are looking for a strong period piece blossom. While she makes a capable eighties scream queen, Schoelen is a fish out of water at the opera. Christine should do more than go round and round with Erik in one slow motion battle after another, right? But say hey, its SNL alum Molly Shannon!

There is a new blu-ray edition of The Phantom of the Opera, which is nice since the bare bones DVD has subtitles but tough to see alleyways and dark fight scenes. Again, the head rolling gore is well done, but some of the violence also feels unnecessary compared to the atmospheric blue lighting, red reflections, and flaming effects. Askew angles, the tilted hat, and shadowed, one eye close ups of The Phantom also up the brooding. There is little of the actual stage spectacle here, but the Victorian interiors and layers of Old World feel intimate. As horror, this production design is more than serviceable even if it’s not all it could have been. The subdued palette, generic costumes, and low budget mistakes, however, won’t be as grandiose as some Phantom of the Opera fans may expect – Erik’s lair looks like a standard, commonplace cave set with some candles. Perhaps that’s realistic to what the underground living would be, but there isn’t enough to it for a film. Fortunately, the scoring provides the right gothic mood and melody. Sure, it’s not quite sweeping and will seem knock off inferior to the more famous Phantom musics, but it is the one part of this conflicted Phantom of the Opera that does what it is supposed to do. And oh my, shout out for the floppy discs and giant computer monitors!

 

The Phantom of the Opera suffers from its identity crisis as a horror film and a book adaptation just as it much as it proves a scary update of Leroux is possible. Had it abandoned the contemporary twists and devilish ties and simply played it straight while upping the sinister and gore, The Phantom of the Opera might have stood out from the crowd as more than a cliché Freddy or Webber cash in like those try hard, faux rip offs we get today. At times, this rendition feels like a bad edit, the audience test viewing that’s missing all its final bells and whistles. Are we still awaiting the real director’s cut with all the polish, clarification, and panache? The Phantom of the Opera is not the definitive adaptation of the novel, and ultimately, nor is it the best macabre rendition – I’m not sure anyone will ever surpass the Silent version in that regard. Mixed bag though it is, if spooky audiences, Phantom students, and Englund fans accept this late night tale for what it is, The Phantom of the Opera can be a fun, serviceable, gruesome good time – complete with the heads of divas in the punch bowl.

Kbatz: Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

Frightening Flix

Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe Surprisingly Good

Several months ago, I saw an interview with Cassandra Peterson-aka Elvira-discussing Tomb of Ligeia, one of her favorites in the American Pictures International’s Poe series by director Roger Corman. Unfortunately, for the life of me I couldn’t recall having seen this final adaptation starring Vincent Price. When the 1969 film came on out on a double billed DVD with An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe, I gave the set my full attention. Perhaps it’s not a total shocker since I like the rest of Corman’s Poe series, but Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe are surprisingly good.

Verden Fell (Price) vows that his late wife Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) will defy death. He becomes reclusive and keeps away from sunlight with his dark colored glasses-until the beautiful Rowena (also Shepherd) erroneously comes to his ruined abbey. The couple falls in love, despite Rowena’s previous attachment to Verden’s friend Christopher (John Westbrook). They marry, but Rowena is ill at ease in Ligeia’s former home. Ligeia’s Egyptian antiques are everywhere; her spirit seems to linger over Verden during the night, and there’s a nasty black cat about that makes her displeasure known.

Director Roger Corman (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum) takes a few departures from his earlier Poe films by brightening up Tomb of Ligeia with natural locations and a little more romance than usual. Adapted by Robert Towne (Shampoo, Chinatown, Tequila Sunrise) from Poe’s short story, the analysis of mind and will power over death itself weaves the film together with ancient Egyptian allusions and plenty of ambiguity towards black cats. Each plot resolves satisfactory, but Poe’s twists and Corman’s interpretations leave the viewing thinking longer than prior pure shock conclusions.

Even though this is the last of the Poe pictures, Vincent Price looks younger here. His Verden is a little more sympathetic than his earlier, often evil roles. Not only is Price not as over the top as we love, but he’s actually sad sometimes, even pathetic with his dependence on his little glasses. But of course, Tomb of Ligeia does have the bizarrity we’d expect, including some ambiguity about necrophilia. Ew! Thankfully, Price looks good with Elizabeth Shepherd (Bleak House, Side Effects, Damien: Omen II). Any age difference doesn’t seem to factor in; they match well, and have nice, genuine chemistry. The more romantic tone between Verden and Rowena isn’t so tough to believe amid the scares. Nice as it is to have the sweet emotion amid the creeps; Shepherd is freaky in the duel bits as Ligeia. It’s obvious it is she, of course, but the showdown with Ligeia and the dream sequence with the ladies are well done. John Westbrook’s (The First Churchills) Christopher is in the odd middleman position in this love triangle, but his outside, sane perspective helps the audience balance out some of the horrors.

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While not as stylized as its Poe predecessor The Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia has some beautiful natural locals and production. There’s a hefty amount of daylight scenes here-and they all work in the spooky, gothic, Early Victorian setting. There are some great ruined abbeys, the English countryside, and even a romantic stroll through Stonehenge. You might think these pieces don’t go together, but the morbid set interiors match the abbey in gothic look and spooky tone. The Victorian costumes are also early in style, alluding to a bit of the Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. And of course, there’s a very disturbing classic Corman dream sequence that scares better than some of the stranger, more bizarre visual dream trickery previously done.

Side B of our set offers more Vincent Price in a one-man show called An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe. Price showcases four tales from Poe in various stage settings, beginning with “The Tell Tale Heart.” I imagine you’re familiar with the tale, and Price is delightfully over the top here. His crazed style suits the story. The production here looks a little low and bare, but theatre fans can certainly enjoy this spirited Poe dramatization. “The Sphinx” is actually a Poe story that’s new to me. Price changes his looks and time period for each tale, strengthening his suave approach to the audience. He is clearly enjoying the punch line here, and this tale is better dressed than “The Tell Tale Heart.” Some might think a one-man production is stale and boring, but swift camera movement keeps things fresh. Not the crazy angles and dizzying modern zooms, but there’s just enough cuts and close ups to create the illusions needed.

So, that’s how “The Cask of Amontillado” is pronounced! I was never quite sure. The older Price is made up even older here for this unusual interpretation. You’d expect to see this one played out, not in effect told as perhaps “The Tell-Tale Heart” can only be. Price, however, does the voices of both men involved, playing on the amusement of the story and the unreliable status of the narrator. The camera again moves with him, cutting from several sides and using duel tricks almost like Gollum and Smeagol in The Two Towers. It’s a simple maneuver, but it works with the very handsomely dressed dining room stage.

It’s strange that director Kenneth Johnson (V, Alien Nation) would do “The Pit and the Pendulum” here in 1972 when Roger Corman did the feature length film ten years earlier. Nevertheless, Price looks the old and crazy part. Each tale has progressed his age, the time period, and the story’s deceit. This short here is more abstract and dream like than Corman’s back story filled movie. The fire and brimstone effects in this Pit go for more frights rather than a Twilight Zone twist ending. You would think Vincent Price effectively reading books line for line onscreen would be boring, but no. The stories dramatized in these readings are all told in the past tense with Poe’s great unreliable narrator telling his askew interpretation to the audience. Even though it may look old or too theatre to modern audiences, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is perfect for Vincent Price fans, film students, or literature teachers looking for a short and sweet visual accompaniment for the classroom.

The DVD set of Tomb of Ligeia and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is relatively simplistic, with only a commentary of Roger Corman and Elizabeth Shepherd. It’s a little slow in pacing, but fun and informative for the die-hard fan. The subtitles for Ligeia are great, too. Fans of the previous Poe pictures or sixties horror films can enjoy Tomb of Ligeia, but period piece and gothic fans should tune in, too. However, hardcore viewers looking for a blood fest and straight horror should skip these stylized tales. Likewise, I also don’t know about cat lovers enjoying Tomb of Ligeia. Feline folks will delight in the pesky cat scenarios, but cat enthusiasts won’t like some of the black cat bashing, either. Ah, it’s the beauty of Poe, something for everyone!

Once Upon A Scream Author Spotlight: K.L. Wallis

Horroraddicts.net publishing has recently published our 4th anthology called Once Upon A ScreamRemember the Fairy tales that you grew up reading? Well they are back again with a horror twist. Once Upon A Scream includes 18 tales that are fantastic and frightful. One of the authors in this anthology is K.L. Wallis and recently talked to us about her writing:
What is your story in Once Upon A Scream called and what is it about?
 

OnceUponAScreamFrontMy story is called Briar. It is about a man who gets lost deep in the mythical Black Forest – largely due to his own curiosity – where he stumbles upon a fairy tale castle, and gets trapped. Despite first appearing vacant, the castle’s occupants turn out to be more the stuff of nightmares than of fairy tale.

What inspired the idea?


The idea came from an odd blend of things I had recently read. I am a huge Anne Rice fan, and was inspired by the idea in Interview With A Vampire of the mindless, hollow vampires of Eastern Europe. I also wanted to play on technique, so was opting for a minimalist style as demonstrated by Cormac McCarthy in The Road. I was fascinated by the nameless protagonist and wanted to emulate that. While opting for a minimalist approach, I used more descriptive language in the begging, when things are looking a bit brighter for our protagonist.
When did you start writing? 

I started writing Briar about a year ago for an assessment piece I was working on for university. It actually came together very quickly, and I had the first draft completed in the space of a couple of afternoons.
What are your favorite topics to write about? 

Much of what I write about comes back to mythology and legend. I can’t help myself! I tend to use very Gothic techniques in my prose, even when I am not writing ‘Gothic fiction’ per se.

What are some of your influences?

I am most often inspired by other literature. Sometimes by something as minor as a word I want to play with on the page, or a phrase which comes to mind. I like to explore things, particularly motives. I don’t like bad guys who are bad for the sake of it, I like to ‘justify’ and rationalize the irrational. Or, as I mentioned earlier, I am often influenced to write simply to experiment with technique. To quote Picasso, “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” – my favorite quote and personal motto as a writer.

 

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?

In fear of suddenly becoming very unpopular, I wouldn’t say that I am particularly drawn to all horror, but I have always had a deep affinity for vampires and the spiritual. I just don’t like ugly bad guys! Zombies are definitely not my thing! Perhaps that’s my own vanity speaking, but there is something about a beautiful immortal villain which is so enticing. I think vampires represent the darker side of human nature, which in itself is fascinating. Also, as mentioned, I am a fan of Gothic techniques in literature, and so this genre is inadvertently very much my playground. My motivation to write horror isn’t so much about blood and gore, but more so about creating a sense of suspense and apprehension – to keep the reader hanging on what may be around the corner.

 
What are some of the works you have available?

Briar is my first publication, but it will not be my last! I am currently working on a couple of short stories in other genres which I am hoping to submit for publication soon – time permitting.

What are you currently working on?Pic

I have several things in the works at the moment. I am undergoing post-graduate study (Honours) in Creative Writing, so my exegesis and creative artifact for that are precedent at the moment. I am looking at bending the boundaries of perspective, so I am focusing on two pieces with non-living narrators. As is the nature of Honours, this is likely to change greatly within the next year and a half/two years. I am also re-writing one of the Greek myths, which is turning out to be one of my greatest challenges so far. Trying to re-create a world which has been and is no more, is an extreme challenge. Especially with the complexity of Greek mythology. I am also writing a short story about a girl with multiple personalities, a chic lit novel, and (when I finally get around to completing it) a vampire novel set in the days of Jack the Ripper.

Where can we find you online?

I need to increase my online presence, but currently you can find me mainly on Facebook at my business page Restricted Quill, or Restricted Quill’s website: Restrictedquill Official

Interview with John DiDonna of Phantasmagoria

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We’ve all seen horror on the big screen but have you ever seen a live Victorian Horror show?  I recently had a chance to interview  John DiDonna, the creator of Phantasmagoria Orlando who has been bringing live horror to audiences for seven years.

 

Cimorene (Dion Leonhard) of Phantasmagoria breathes fire at Reninger's Industrial Steampunk Show in Mt. Dora Oct. 17, 2015.

Cimorene (Dion Leonhard) of Phantasmagoria breathes fire at Reninger’s Industrial Steampunk Show in Mt. Dora Oct. 17, 2015.

What is Phantasmagoria?

So many words to describe. . . it is a Whimsically Macabre Victorian Horror Circus!  We bring stories of horror to life in “Phantastical” dance, live music, explosive stage combat, large scale puppetry and enthralling storytelling!  It has also been described by many as a “Graphic Novel come to life!”

What is the legend behind Phantasmagoria?

The legend goes back to the ancient storytellers of Greece who wandered the countryside, . . never knowing that they were immortals born of the story. They wandered alone, till one day two came upon each other and they realized they were a race differing from mortal humans, and they travel through the centuries finding each other, and bringing the stories to horrific life!

 

When did Phantasmagoria start?

7 years ago – it was brought together for one show and has continually built upon itself with all newPhantasmagoria wicked0079

shows each year, and eventually to a 12 month a year ongoing theater troupe!

 

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have spent my entire life loving horror, but most especially literary horror. The dread of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic writers who brought these stories to feverous minds.

 

What were some of your past performances?

We have performed our large mainstage show for the entire month of October for the last seven years at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.  Over that time we have performed close to 60 stories of the macabre, all culled from literary horror, mythology, legend and folklore (all adapted from the public domain into our own style of storytelling)  With that we also have two touring shows, and a myriad of special event style shows that we perform 12 months a year that range from fire performance, to dance, to storytelling to even children’s shows of the whimsically macabre.

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How long does it take to put a performance together, including set design, writing of the script and finding the right actors?

Oh my. . . for the script? About a year of research, story reading, inspiration, adaptation, edits, etc. Then for rehearsals about 2 – 3 months for developing a mainstage show. The puppets are the big design element, sometimes as large as 20’ long and 14’ high.

The troupe itself is ongoing so the actors are already here for the most part, though we add new people through our yearly auditions.

What do you look for when someone wants to be a part of your organization?

Ensemble. Collaboration. Energy. And a multitude of skill sets from movement to dance to stage combatPhantasmagoria wicked0089 to acting to puppetry etc.

 

How many performances do you put on per year?

Between mainstage and special event/appearances probably topping 50 at this point in time!

 

When is your next performance?

Coming up we have our touring show “Wicked Little Tales” in Baltimore, Maryland from March 17 – 20th, then we perform a series of mini shows upon our return, and then our second touring show opens for the Orlando International Fringe Phantasmagoria wicked0039Theater Festival in May 2016. The summer is filled with appearances and children’s shows, and then this fall we premiere Phantasmagoria VII “The Cards They Are Dealt” for the month of October!

 

What can people expect at the show?

To be enchanted, to be frightened, to be overwhelmed with all the senses. . . to become PART of the show as the audience IS the show, they share in these adventures with us, trapped as we are in the same room with

Allegra (Mary Beth Spurlock) of Phantasmagoria eats fire during the VIP aftershow following a performance at Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre July 25, 2015.

Allegra (Mary Beth Spurlock) of Phantasmagoria eats fire during the VIP aftershow following a performance at Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre July 25, 2015.

these stories. We have heard many a scream, many a gasp, many a laugh. . . and even some loving tears throughout the years.

 

What does Phantasmagoria have planned for the future?

To keep touring and growing! We have mini troupes planned now for further performances and we want to bring the stories to as many people around the globe as we can! We are experimenting with some interesting technologies right now too to bring that to the world through this little computer screen.

Check in with us at:

www.facebook.com/PhantasmagoriaOrlando

PhantasmagoriaOrlando.com

https://twitter.com/PhantasOrlando

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Free Fiction Friday: A Very Special Christmas Eve by A.D. Vick

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Johnny and his little sister Stacy went to bed earlier than usual that night, but they didn’t mind. It was Christmas Eve after all, and what child isn’t willing to sacrifice a bit of play time when he or she knows that turning in early might just hasten the arrival of Saint Nick? The last thing they did before retiring to their rooms was to watch their mom place a cup of hot tea and a small plate of chocolate cookies on the counter for Santa. “The jolly old elf travels all over the world through the cold and snow every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good little girls and boys,” she would often tell them. Both children took her at her word because…well, didn’t they receive the toys they asked for the last couple of years?

During the year Mom would often warn her children that Santa only brought presents to youngsters who behaved. Stacy generally tried her best to do what was right, never forgetting her mother’s warning. She felt confidant that, after having asked Santa for some new dolls, that he would deliver the goods as he always had. The one thing she couldn’t understand though, is why her marionettes would disappear during the weeks and months that followed Christmas. She knew that she loved them and took good care of them; yet, they would sometimes simply vanish from her room. Whenever she complained about these events to her parents, they generally brushed off her concerns dismissively, telling her that she simply needed to stop leaving her things outside where other kids or the neighborhood dogs could run off with them.

Johnny, being a couple of years older than his sister, really didn’t buy into his mother’s warnings that Santa only brought toys to children who behaved. Johnny had a secret. He knew what was happening to Stacy’s dolls because he would sometimes sneak into her room while she was out in the yard playing with her girlfriends. He would then take them out to the nearby creek; and after pretending to drown them, would gouge their eyes out with his pocket knife before cutting off their heads and tossing them into a nearby trash can. Upon his return home from these occasional escapades, he delighted in hearing his parents chastise his teary-eyed sister for once again neglecting to take care of her things.

The boy had a mean streak when it came to girls and his sweet sister Stacy was not exempt from his hurtful machinations. Still, he felt confidant that Santa would once again bring him toys this Christmas Eve.

Stacy climbed under the covers of her comfortable bed; and with visions of sugar plums and new dollies dancing in her head, she fell into a peaceful slumber. Johnny on the other hand, decided to remain awake. He would listen until he could be sure that his parents had gone to bed. Then, he’d lie in wait for Santa, determined to catch a glimpse of him.

Within an hour the sounds from the TV ceased and Johnny heard, amid his parent’s playful banter, the door to their bedroom close shut. He quietly climbed out of bed and gazed out the window, searching for any signs of Santa’s sleigh or his reindeer. The snow, still falling on a gentle breeze, made the neighbor’s colorful light display across the street seem all the more authentic. It’s really Christmas, he thought to himself. Santa should be here with my presents any time now! 

His thoughts were distracted by a sudden pitter patter on the roof followed by the sound of footsteps. Johnny could barely contain his excitement as he stole quietly toward the living room, which contained both the family tree and the fireplace. That’s where he knew he would find Santa. Reaching the end of the hallway, he poked his head around the corner for a first peak.

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Without warning, a dark, hairy, claw-like hand  grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him around the corner in one fluid motion. The boy gasped, but before he could even utter a sound one of the hands covered his mouth, making any cries for help impossible. Johnny struggled, but it was to no avail. Still, he couldn’t see just who or what was holding him fast.

He heard a hissing sound just before his captor spun him around without removing the hand from his mouth. His blood ran cold as he gazed at the creature holding him in place. No, this wasn’t Santa Claus, whom he’d been hoping to spy upon just moments before. Instead, he found himself staring into the face of a most hideous thing. The creature before him was tall and furry with a long snake-like tongue dangling from its mouth. Its ears were large and pointed; two curved horns grew out of its head. Attached to the body’s backside was a long, pointed tail. Overall, the monster’s body appeared somewhat man-like, but Johnny knew this was no man. The creature holding him seemed more like the Devil than any man he’d ever seen.

Pure terror gripped at him as the creature opened the top of a large wooden basket before placing Johnny inside and once again closing the lid. The boy screamed at the top of his lungs, calling to his parents for help– calling to Santa, but it seemed that no one could hear his anguished cries.

His abductor strapped the basket to his shoulders before ascending the chimney to the roof where a sled awaited him. He gave a push with his left foot and the sled lifted off on the snow-laden breeze toward a destination only known to him.

Some hours later, the mysterious being approached a shadowy, misty castle that stood upon a mountain top populated by twisted, deformed trees. The large door at its entrance creaked open at his approach and closed shut again once he was safely inside. After disembarking from the sled, the creature removed the basket from his shoulders and opened the lid, allowing Johnny to climb out.

The boy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief as he looked around the large, gloomy, torch-lit hall. He could hear the cries of other children, both male and female. Their moans seemed pained and anguished.

“Where have you taken me?” Johnny asked, crying. “I want to go home.”

“Home, so you can steal your sister’s dolls?” The creature asked. “Home, where you delight in her pain and her tears? I think not. This is your home now, and as you can hear, there are lots of other children here to play with. We’re going to have lots of fun watching you learn what meanness really is.”

The frightening being’s tongue dripped saliva as he hissed once again while continuing to look down at the terrified boy.

“Merry Christmas, Johnny! Welcome to your new home: The Castle of Gruss Vom Krampus!”