Enter, all who dare, the Haunted Swamp in Maitland.

The tombstones in front of the Enzian Theater are not nearly as creepy as what awaits patrons in the nearby Haunted Swamp. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

MAITLAND – If there’s one thing Florida is known for, it’s swamps, and plenty of them all over the state. And if they look quiet, keep in mind that there’s quite a bit moving around in those marsh lands.
According to the web site “Wildlife of Florida Swamps,” the state’s natural swamplands are “home to many microscopic life forms such as insect larvae and tiny snails. These critters form the base of the food chain and are eaten by larger animals like fish and frogs.”
One other thing the site noted: swamps are not always as peaceful as they might initially appear.
“These eerie-looking wetlands may seem still and quiet, but they are actually teeming with wildlife activity,” the site notes.
Which raises another question: in addition to that wildlife, what if one of those swamps was actually …. haunted?
The folks at the Enzian Theater in Maitland have a simple answer to that: come on over, and find out.
The theater is now hosting its 3rd annual Haunted Swamp: Walk of Terror, on Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. until midnight — and, of course, there will be a final walk through on Halloween.

What it offers is 2,000 feet of swamp land to walk through on a dark night, with a few things along the way guaranteed to leave patrons … well, positively screaming.
So this weekend, the theater’s guests have been invited to stop by and check out the Haunted Swamp … if they dare.
So far, said the theater’s executive director, Elizabeth Tiedtke, quite a few people have already done just that.
“It’s definitely been well attended,” she said, adding that last year, it was held for just two weekends in October, but business was so good that this year, organizers started it even earlier.
“This is the first year that we’ve done it for three weekends,” she said.
And it’s quite elaborate, Tiedtke added, in those chilling efforts to put a genuine Halloween-style scare into the hearts of anyone brave enough to go through.
“They spend half a year putting it all together,” she said.
Patrons are encouraged to come in costume and bring along their friends, because as Tiedtke noted, there’s a lot of terror to be shared inside the swamp.
The theater’s Eden Bar stays open until 2 a.m., so there will be plenty of drink specials to calm the nerves of the folks who make it through the swamp, she added.
The swamp has already scared up a lot of good business in the first two weekends, said Matt Curtis, the theater’s program director, so the final weekend can’t be missed.
“We drew well last year, too,” he said. “We did it for just two weeks last year, and this year we added to that.”
The Halloween eve Swamp Tours run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and tickets cost $10 in advance, or $15 the day of the event, which includes unlimited swamp tours, drink discounts and food specials at the theater at 1300 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland. There’s also a $25 VIP ticket that provides front of the line access.
In addition to the Haunted Swamp, the theater has been getting Central Floridians into the mood for Halloween by showing classic horror films, including John Carpenter’s “Halloween” tonight at 8:30 as part of the Wednesday Movie Pitcher Night, and then “Friday the 13th” on Saturday at midnight.
Call 407-629-0054 for more details.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Classic horror movies on the lawn: It’s the Wednesday Movie Pitcher Night at the Enzian.

The Enzian in Maitland is hosting classic horror movies in October, part of its Wednesday Movie Pitcher Night series. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

MAITLAND – Maybe it’s that familiar piano music that everyone instantly recognizes ….
…. or Jaime Lee Curtis’ frantic scream ….
…. or that eerie mask that Michael Myers wears …
When the Enzian Theater hosts its Wednesday Movie Pitcher Night tomorrow, the aim is to revisit one of horror’s esteemed cinematic classics.
“Halloween,” the 1978 slasher/stalker movie by director John Carpenter, is a part of the theater’s monthly tribute to horror classics, following showings of “A Nightmare of Elm Street” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Matt Curtis, the Enzian’s program director, said when they were selecting movies to show outdoors, “Halloween” seemed like an obvious choice.
“It’s an important film,” he said. “It’s one of John Carpenter’s main calling cards, and set the tradition for the stalker movie.”
With a poster showing a hand swinging a knife, under the tag line “The Night HE Came Home,” Halloween is about a six-year-old boy, Michael Myers, who murders his sister and spends years in a mental institution before escaping as an adult to the town of Haddonfield, where he begins following teenager Laurie Strode.
And he does it on Halloween night.

John Carpenter's "Halloween" was released in 1978 and has since become a horror classic.

As Matt Curtis noted, this movie set the standard for the modern day slasher movie, although few of the imitators managed to capture this film’s style and wit – and genuine scream-out-loud scares.
“There’s a lot of really subtle touches that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” Curtis said. “John Carpenter’s films play great outdoors.”
Outdoors is the operative word here. For months now, the Enzian has hosted free movies on its property, inviting the public to drop by, relax on the grass, and watch a flick together.
“This is ongoing, and we’ve been doing this since the spring,” Curtis said, adding that the crowds have been lining up ever since to join in.
“I think they start putting down blankets an hour before showtime,” he said.
“It’s outside on the hill next to the Eden Bar, and that space fills up quickly,” said Elizabeth Tiedtke, the Enzian’s executive director. “It’s new for this year.”
October has been a particularly good month for attendance, she said, since those horror movies are drawing in strong crowds.
“We’ve had probably on the highest side of our attendance for all the October films,” Tiedtke said.
That’s not a surprise, Curtis said, since horror movies are a great adrenaline rush – terrifying, but in a safe environment.
“I think it’s a thrill,” he said. “People like being scared, but they’re being scared in a safe environment, and it’s a communal thing. People like to get together and be scared as a group.”

Got a folding chair or blanket to sit on? Bring it to the lawn of the Enzian on Wednesday to see "Halloween." (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Typically, the Wednesday night movies start at 8:30 p.m., although beginning in November, Curtis said, they will begin a little bit earlier, at 8 p.m.
Enzian plays these movies on either DVD or Blueray discs, since many of these older films are no longer available on traditional 35mm prints.
“We decided to make it free, just a great time for people to come here,” Curtis said. “For the whole month, we’ve been trying to show classics of the (horror) genre.”
On Sunday, however, the movie theater will also show a family-friendly scary movie – “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” the 1949 Disney movie that includes an animated version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and its menacing headless horseman.
“This Sunday we’re even doing a kids event,” Curtis said. “It’s been a blast. This is the most we’ve ever done in one month, and people want more and more.”
The Enzian is at 1300 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland. To learn more, call 407-629-0054.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

A stylish mood piece, the “Vampire’s Ball” is a superb mix of horror and dance.

The Orlando Ballet is performing its production of "Vampire's Ball" at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

ORLANDO – Was it all just a dream?
The handsome young man from the village lies on the ground, looking dazed, disoriented. He curls up into a fetal position, and trembles. Is he asleep, and wrestling with a terrible nightmare that’s haunting his subconscious?
Then he sits up, and stares out at the audience seated in the darkness of the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, and for a moment, remains perfectly still. Has he suddenly woken up from this tormented dream?
And then the village boy opens his mouth …. and displays his razor sharp fangs, the mark of a vampire on the hunt for fresh blood. The nightmare truly is just beginning.
The remarkable achievement of Robert Hill’s production of “Vampire’s Ball,” which had its premiere on Friday at Bob Carr, is the seamless way the Orlando Ballet merges the richest traditions of the horror movie with beautifully choreographed ballet. Horror may sound like an odd choice to mix with ballet, if you’re more likely to associate this performance art with something like “The Nutcracker” – kind of like the merging of ice cream with salsa and hot peppers. How can you blend efforts to terrify an audience – the true motivation behind horror movies – with the classical grace of ballot? Can anyone imagine the fiends at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights coming at you in a menacing way …. and then breaking out into some gracious ballet moves? It kind of kills the moment, don’t you think?
What works so well for “Vampire’s Ball” is the way the production blends the look and feel of the horror genre’s most celebrated and instantly recognizable moments – the mad scientist in a Gothic castle, the hunchback monster lurching in the corner, the graveyard where a vampire emerges from her coffin, the innocent young villagers whose moment of romance is interrupted by the ghouls prowling in the night – with stylish dance movements staged by Hill, the Orlando ballet’s artistic director. Not so much a story as a series of vignettes, “Vampire’s Ball” is sky high when it comes to setting a mood that magically creates a happy marriage between horror and dance.
The production opens with a vampire, dressed in a black and purple cape, standing before a pipe organ — the kind one might instantly recognize from a centuries old church …. or the kind of instrument that the Phantom of the Opera might have enjoyed playing in the sewers of Paris. A woman performs ballet in front of him; the lighting is a mix of red and purple, and mist rises from the ground.
Then we’re in a castle, where a hunchback lies on a slab, as a mad scientist looks through the sinister potions in his laboratory. He selects a huge syringe, then injects the creature, which comes menacingly to life.
A coffin at the front gates of a graveyard slowly opens …. a woman emerges, and bares her fangs – a vampiress coming out at night. Then we see the creatures that haunt the countryside, where a beautiful young couple dressed entirely in white are spending some time alone together. The sky behind them is dark red, signifying that the sun is setting. They dance in front of the setting sun, to a song with lyrics that include “Whenever I am alone with you, you make me feel at home again.” Little does the poor couple know that the mad scientist, the female vampiress and the ghouls that follow them are slowly closing in on their innocent play …

Operatic masks were sold at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre during Friday night's performance of "Vampire's Ball." (Photo by Michael Freeman).

“Vampire’s Bill” is clever in the way it milks the clichés of the horror genre, so everything that happens is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever watched old Hollywood horror movies from the 1940s, while at the same time giving us mad scientists and vampires who brilliantly excel at ballet. One of the reasons for that is the enormous skill of performers like Katia Garza as the vampiress, David Kiyak as the innocent village boy, and Douglas Horne as the doctor. Garza alternates between bearing her fangs in an ominous way – and performing some amazingly skillful dance moves, gliding across the stage ballerina-style in her toe shoes, while Horne is equally talented at making the doctor seem demented, crazed, twisted – while at the same time moving with enormous speed and grace. It’s a terrific balancing act that Hill pulls off.
While the first act sets up the loosely structured “plot,” the very different second act is mainly set in the Vampire’s Ball. Even Hill, during intermission, came out to greet the audience and noted, “I’m looking forward to the second act because it’s kind of different from the first act. This is my first time seeing it, too.”
Different, indeed. For one thing, the second act manages one genuine scare that had some in the audience letting out a loud gasp – no small feat for a ballet performance. It also puts a heavier emphasis on music, and manages to throw in a clever mix of styles and influences – from classical music by Bach to Michael Jackson and Rocky Horror. Consider it ballet with a little something for everyone.
“Vampire’s Bill” is wonderfully accessible to anyone who thinks ballet might not be their thing to watch – and so much of it is absolutely riveting. My only regret is that the production only runs for two more performances, tonight and then on Sunday at 8 p.m. Considering how much skill and effort went into this lavish production, it’s too bad audiences didn’t have the entire month of October to catch it. So do yourself a favor: go to see “Vampire’s Ball” this weekend. It’s a great way to get into the Halloween spirit.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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