Live horror: Don’t Go Into the Cellar Presents…13th March 2015, Art House Southampton

skull, cellar, morbid curiosities

Don’t go into the Cellar Presents…

A spooky evening was had by all as The Haunted Eyeball attended Morbid Curiosities, a production based around classic horror stories, adapted by Don’t Go Into the Cellar and performed at the Art House.

Jumping at the chance to enjoy a live performance of some of our favourite classic horror stories, the Haunted Eyeball raced to see Morbid Curiosities on, the appropriate evening of Friday 13th March 2015. Climbing up to the cramped, yet cosy, upstairs rooms of the Southampton Art House, we hungrily devoured four tales of ghoulish terror, originally authored by Victorian crime writing gentleman Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the 20th Century’s finest weird fiction writer, H P Lovecraft. The atmosphere was built by the obligatory spooky skull and strange, horned creatures perched on an intimately sized stage. We couldn’t wait to find out what stories would unfold and who would present them to us? Would it be Lovecraft, of Sherlock Holmes, or…or…

In fact, Harry Houdini (Jonathan Goodwin ) was to be our narrator, and he presented the evening using a rather jarring inflection. He SPOKE like this, “Ladies AND GENTLEMEN!” which was in some ways far scarier than the first act. Indeed, the HORRORS that he proclaimed would FOLLOW made us ALL the JUMPIER because of his randomly loud VOICE.

OK, we are nitpicking about volume. In a larger room it would be fine, and the presenting style perfectly fit Houdini’s outlandish, earnest sense of showmanship. It drew us directly into a ghastly world of horror and mystery.

After introducing himself, Houdini passed the first story to his associate, the genteel Mrs D’Odd (Amy Bullock). She described her rather tongue in cheek ghostly encounter, based on Selecting a Ghost by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Nailing the pomposity and the aspirations of a would-be aristocrat, this drew belly laughs and many eerie moments, all played out nicely with an excellent payoff.

With one ghostly tale laid to rest (or not), Houdini returned to ponder over a horned skull, and talk of false séances that enraged him. Although very well performed, Playing with Fire by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was simply less impressive as a story – and this is a personal reaction. Basically, when you bring unicorns into it, it all veers away from the horror we’d turned up for, and for some reason it was a little harder to follow. Although performed with gusto by ‘Houdini’, we wanted some real, gut-wrenching horror, dammit, and were on tenterhooks for the eventual appearance of anything by H P Lovecraft. Given Houdini’s presence, we already had an inkling what of one of the stories would probably be, but were wondering what the other one might be from.

Part two

It turned out that both of the last two stories were by H P Lovecraft, and here the show fully hooked us again.  ‘Miss Rhodes’ (Amy Bullock) gleefully told the tale of The Hound, wherein a twisted couple, whose playful games with the dead would make Leatherface blush, get a nasty surprise when they grave rob an ancient amulet. Amy Bullock clearly took delight in the monstrous side of Miss Rhodes’ character. A truly great interpretation.

To our considerable delight, another Lovecraft gem followed. Of course, the presence of Harry Houdini meant we had immediately suspected that one particular story had to be told, and we were not disappointed. Under the Pyramids was bombastically presented, and vivid enough to smell the incense.

The stories of Conan Doyle and Lovecraft more than overcame the cramped conditions of the Art House top floor, and despite the presence of bright light, electronic speakers and drunken shouting from outside. The second half of the show was strongest, from a horror fan perspective – but when it got there it delivered pretty much what we were hoping for. Morbid Curiosities was an enormously fun event, and  we recommend for all UK-based Eyeballers to attend one of their shows as soon as possible. We can only hope that the shows get the creepy locations which they truly deserve, maybe somewhere like an old manor house or the Vaults of a long-disused port. The Haunted Eyeball sincerely hopes to see ‘Don’t go Into The Cellar’ and its other uncanny productions again. Nothing compared to hearing Lovecraft’s uncanny words spoken aloud with a group of people, and we had chills when the show rounded off with:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange aeons even death may die..

Cast and Credits

Houdini – Jonathan Goodwin

Mrs D’Odd, Miss Rhodes – Amy Bullock

Director – Gary Archer

Scripted by Jonathan Goodwin

Website

Monster Monday: Lord of Tears (2013) AKA Owlman

First of all, thank you to Mike at the Lovecraft ezine for sending this to my inbox. Thanks for sleepless nights. Really.

The Lord of Tears is coming soon, a ‘low budget horror’ directed by Lawrie Brewster, also involving David Schofield, a veteran genre actor and craggy faced genre favourite from American Werewolf In London among many, many others.

Funded by Kickstarter, this has the potential to be extremely effective. A man in the Scottish Highlands is menaced by a childhood terror, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Slenderman, which they have, improbably, made even scarier.

Lord Of Tears, Owlman, Slenderman, terrifying, short British horror, scary movies, Hammer, low budget horror, horror films, Scottish horror films

Lord of Tears

This is a monster that really shouldn’t be that scary. It utililises the dread horror of the Slenderman, and yes, the Slenderman is already pretty unnerving. It’s the internet boogeyman meme that just won’t die, that’s bad enough.

But then, egad, it makes it worse. So much worse. The trailer creates a terrific sense of dread and atmosphere.

And what’s so scary about owls? Really?

OK, then imagine yourself in your own dark hallway, or in the centre of town on a Friday night out, and what do you see peering out at you, from the end of that dark hallway, or from a shop window reflecting the night back at you?

This. This monster is what you see.

Hope you’re also going to be pre-ordering the blu ray, with all the goodies, and enjoying this on its release in July 2013. If not, look out for the review on this site in the summer.

Thanks for the nightmares, you wonderful filmmakers. And for the rest of you horror fans – enjoy….if you dare.

Review: When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream: A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories
When Dead Gods Dream: A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories by James Pratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classy collection of well-crafted horror stories. Inspired by Lovecraftian nightmares, these five stories take some wonderfully twisted liberties with certain famous icons.

Cthelvis

The one and only King of rock is trying to make a comeback, but his star is fading and even his manager has lost hope. Things look up for Elvis when a group of supporters appear with a big offer, but as he reads their ‘good book’ some revelations slowly make the King deeply suspicious. Should he risk the world just to make it back to fame and glory? This was a great story that also filled in a lot of information about Elvis’s life, and painted ‘the King’ in a very sympathetic light. A superbly judged blend of sinister cultish intrigue and reimagined real life history.

Black Goat of the Hundred Acre Wood

What happens when little children grow up? Sometimes they move on to bigger, more monstrous dreams. So what happens to the innocent icons they once dreamed of? In this case, a certain famous bear of very little brain soon discovers a few things have changed, and finding hunny (sic) is no longer his biggest priority. This was a successfully eerie take on a well-loved story. Spot-on descriptions made it possible to imagine certain famous illustrations recast in a terrifying new light. This was a strangely affecting tale about the loss of childhood innocence of a Lovecraftian source. Sadder than a sad donkey, perfectly sweet yet bitter.

Jonas Bell Presents “The King in Yellow”

A past-it actor gets his mitts on a forbidden manuscript and the fabric of reality is suddenly in mortal danger. But, the show must go on, right? Lots of surprises in this take on the King in Yellow. It’s amazing anyone manages to say the lines at all before ripping off their own head. Inescapable throes of utter madness aside, this was a really great play on the notorious production.

A Pilgrimage to Carcosa

Dealing with the complex politics of the Dreamlands and beyond, a dreadful deal and revenge is sought. Epic in scope, this was an intriguing glimpse of the cruel inter-dimensional rulers in the Dreamlands, and a lesson in how to negotiate through the King in Yellow (or not), although it seemed just a little disconnected compared to the other stories here.

Sanitarium

A low key but effectively creepy tale. The new guy at the local sanitarium learns they have some inmates with a certain ‘look’, who must be kept asleep at all costs. Everything hinges on potential human error, so we’re not all screwed – yet – are we? Fun characterisation in the conversations with the other orderlies, too. Great piece.

James Pratt’s ‘When Dead Gods Dream’ deserves a read by any Lovecraft fan, and any horror fan who appreciates tales told with tongue firmly in cheek. Capturing eons of dread and suspense, cutting through the dark with a sharp sense of humour, these rise above any cheap parody and make this a highly recommended collection.

When Dead Gods Dream – A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories – as available on Amazon.co.uk

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