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.

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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.

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Gather round, all brave souls, for the nightmare that await you at “Phantasmagoria II.”

The performers in "Phantasmagoria II" slowly rise at the start of the show. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

ORLANDO — Imagine a troupe of circus performers who arrive by caravan in your community. They’re ready and eager to charm and entertain you in a variety of ways.
They play the violin, so delicately, so intimately. They sing for you, then dance, and seek to make you laugh and smile.
And then … in the darkness of the theater, it happens. But it occurs quite slowly, so that it takes you by surprise. You’re sitting there comfortably in the pitch black, when your senses perk up, and you realize it’s happening …. a cold hand is reaching over and touching the back of your neck …
Or maybe an obscure figure is moving closer to you … grabbing you by the throat as you scream –
If you’ve ever gotten together with a group of friends, and sat around telling one another ghost stories, you might recognize that feeling. No one literally touches your neck or grabs your throat, but a really creepy ghost story provides the same sensation: you start with the ordinary, the commonplace, and then something odd slowly insinuates itself into the tale. The twists become more and more ominous. And then — wham! It grabs you by the throat.
The sheer pleasure of watching “Phantasmagoria II,” director John DiDonna’s second installment of his Halloween mix of dance, storytelling, humor and puppetry, is that Gotcha! feeling you continuously experience while sitting there inside the cozy comfort of the Mandell Theater, surrounded by other patrons and perhaps some friendly faces, and you’re so intimately close to the performers that they sometimes walk right up to you and start speaking directly to you …. and yet they still have the ability to make you feel like that clammy hand is tip-toeing along the back of your neck …
… scared you yet? … te he he …The Halloween season was never so much fun.
“Phantasmagoria II” opens with the cast lying on the floor of the black box theater, each one covered by a black sheet. They slowly rise, as if shaking off a 100-year-old sleep, and cast aside their slumber to do what they were invented to do: entertain.

The Empty Spaces Theatre Co. is producing "Phantasmagoria II."

And like a brilliant circus troop, they set out aggressively to do just that — singing for you, dancing, clowning around, being acrobatic. It truly does feel like a multi-talented circus that wants nothing more than to grip you and hold on to you, hypnotically, so you could never dare take your eyes off them, as you ponder what unexpected thing they might do next.
Then comes their true raison d’etre: to tell you some ghost stories. They recreate several classic tales of terror, including Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Woman of the Snow,” a Japanese ghost epic about a wood cutter and his father lost in a blinding snowstorm, and visited — saved? — by a mysterious woman in white …
One of the reasons “Phantasmagoria II” casts such a bewitching spell over the audience is the ingenious way the performers recreates that feeling of folks telling ghost stories around the campfire when you’re all alone in the woods. Using virtually no props or sets, you have only the performers acting out those horror tales as the narrator leads them on. And, as DiDonna did so creatively in the 2010 version of this show, the scariest things fly at us as life-sized puppets: the mysterious figure known as the Red Death who enters the castle of Prospero, the portrait of a hideously deformed Dorian Gray, the ghostly Japanese woman in white. There are other creatures as well, including the most terrifying of them all, which is conveniently saved for the show’s dynamic and ferocious ending.
The interaction between the actors and the puppets, the mix of screams and haunting wails, the dim lighting that leaves you feeling just a tad bit vulnerable and anxious …. it all gives “Phantasmagoria II” a surreal look, almost like you walked into a theater but along the way accidentally stumbled into someone else’s nightmare. You can’t escape, so all you can do is watch this chilling nightmare unfold ….
…. right before your eyes.
Using a superb cast of storytellers, dancers, and singers, “Phantasmagoria II” is one of the most fiendishly clever nightmares you’ll ever tumble into. And when it’s over and the lights have come up, and you’re no longer sitting in the eerie darkness, you’ll likely to remember just how invigorating and stimulating brilliant theater truly can be.

“Phantasmagoria II” plays now through Sunday, Oct. 30 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 p.m. There will also be a special performance on Monday, Oct. 24 at the same time.
Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. The performances are at the Mandell Theater at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center at Loch Haven Park in downtown Orlando. For tickets or more information, call 407-328-9005 , or buy tickets online at

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