The House of Torment is probably responsible for more soiled adult underwear than anyone would like to admit. In 2014 BuzzFeed ranked the haunted house tenth on its list of “19 Terrifying Haunted Houses You Should Experience Before You Die.” “Once you walk into the House of Torment, there is no safe haven,” BuzzFeed wrote. “If you hide behind someone, a monster will fly above you, if you try to go to the bathroom, an actor will attack your port-a-potty.” For its thirteenth Halloween season, House of Torment offers three haunted houses in one. There is the Dead End District, inspired by the new Mad Max movie and, according to co-creator Jon Love, filled with “tribal, visceral, and grunge elements;” the Hex of the Harvest, a traditional Halloween experience with more than 350 hand-carved pumpkins; and the Laughterhouse, “an experiment in the lowest common denominator of fear,” with chainsaw-wielding clowns. Each house takes about fifteen minutes to experience, and while everyone’s fear quotient is different, there are certain elements that are bound to be universally terrifying. “Some people are scared the most by our performers on zip lines, because they move in a way that is so unexpected,” Love said. “Some people are scared the most by what we call our squeeze shoots—giant inflatable pillows you have to push your way through, which create a claustrophobic feeling—because they don’t understand them. That being said, we believe that inherently, fear is a derivative of the unknown, so the single scariest thing to anyone is going to be the thing they understand and expect the absolute least. For me, it’s something we call a ‘boomstick.’ That thing gets me every time.”
House of Torment, October 30 to November 7, houseoftorment.com
Afraid of Your Shadow
Hand-shadow puppets are one of the ways we learn how to scare people as kids. The first time a young one pretends to devour somebody’s head by turning his or her hands into an alligator’s choppers can be a thrill. But unless one learns how to contort one’s digits in more elaborate ways, the practice quickly loses its appeal and is relegated to child’s play. The interactive exhibit “Shadow Monsters,” on display through this weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, rekindles that lost fascination for adults and expands the possibilities for children. Here’s how it works: you, museum visitor, stand in front of one of the light boxes positioned on the floor of Cullinan Hall so that your likeness can be projected onto movie-sized screens adorning the walls. Then go to town with gesticulation. You don’t need to be a master manipulator of your hands, or any other part of your body, for that matter, to make these shadows scary. Thanks to some fancy vision-recognition software employed by the artist Philip Worthington, your shadow will be purposely deformed and take on a life of its own. As is explained on the website of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, where the exhibit was previously displayed, “mouths with razor-sharp teeth will surface; tongues, eyes, and fins will appear; and birds will squawk and dinosaurs burp.”
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, October 30 to November 1, mfah.org
Let’s Do the Time Warp . . . Again
Patricia Quinn’s lips are utterly recognizable, arguably second only to Mick Jagger’s, which were the model for the Rolling Stones’ logo. Anyone who has seen the cult classic movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, about an innocent couple’s run-in with a transvestite scientist and his wooly band of deviants, knows Quinn’s bright red lips (and impeccably white teeth). Her mouth, or rather her character Magenta’s mouth, pokes out from a black screen during the musical’s indelible title sequence and lip-synchs the song “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” Quinn will bring her memorable lips to the Texas Renaissance Festival, a month-and-a-half-long fantasy land with an array of themed weekends, for a fortieth anniversary screening of Rocky Horror. Rather than simply getting Quinn’s signature during one of her autograph sessions, perhaps be bold and ask her to also pucker up and kiss one of her headshots. Granted, it’s probably a long shot. Maybe a more reasonable aspiration would be to join her in doing the Time Warp later on, as part of the screening of the movie.
21778 FM 1774, October 30 to November 29, 9 a.m., texrenfest.com
Around the Campy Fire
Camp Halloweekend will start off innocently enough on Friday with a screening of Wet Hot American Summer, a forgotten summer camp satire from 2001 that has recently resurfaced because of the rising fame of many of its actors, among them Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, and Paul Rudd. But later on, this two-day immersion festival featuring movies, music, and an assortment of recreational activities will start to get a little hairy. A nighttime double-feature of Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp in the great outdoors is bound to leave at least a couple of people a little uncertain about retreating to their co-ed cabins—wink, wink—for the night. Those who don’t jump in their car and bail on the weekend altogether will really be asking for it on Halloween. A quote-along to Evil Dead 2 will give way to a set by the Black Sabbath tribute band Brown Sabbath, which will in turn give way to the unknown: an all-night marathon of horror movies peppered with—gasp—“special surprises.”
Camp Champions, October 30 to November 1, camphalloweekend.com
Left in the Dark
The phenomenon of glow in the dark is all fun and games until you start seeing stuff you can’t unsee. At the Perot Museum’s new exhibit “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence,” organisms that produce unexpected light are magnified for your wonderment, with three interactive displays of note: the Woodland Mushroom Floor, recreating North American forest floors lined with boomers, including one that’s been inflated to forty times its actual size; Summer Night Fireflies, capturing an evening filled with lightning bugs and their secret language of bright pulses; and the Mysterious Glowworm Cave, a model of a habitat in New Zealand that’s blanketed with the ambient outlines of fly larvae.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science, October 31, perotmuseum.org
If there is one event to catch during Fashion Week San Antonio, an eight-day romp with twenty events featuring a dozen designers, it is the Dia de los Muertos Masquerade Ball on opening night. Here’s why: a) San Antonio is the epicenter of Day of the Dead ceremonies and thus produces some expert calavera masks and b) it’s a great way to enjoy the changing of the seasons, enjoying the weather outside at the new Tobin Center Riverwalk Plaza.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, November 1, 8 p.m., fashionsa.org/2015/