It is the time of year where ‘Brain Hemorrhage’ shots, webbed accoutrements and tepid, gourd-spiced milk creep back into our peripheral vision. Whilst I’m far from fanatical, my interests in True Crime podcasts, Mindhunter-esque serial killer documentaries and Kim Petras’ seasonably-themed Turn off the Light albums are certainly exacerbated towards the end of October. Armed with a phial of fake blood and a checklist of spooky excursions, I spent this witching week hunting for the most unsavoury and unsettling cultural evenings.
The first stop came in the shape of David Grieg’s adaptation of Stanisław Lem’s philosophical sci-fi Solaris; currently running at Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre until the 2nd November. The play opens to a phosphorescent space station, choppily intercut with visuals of rough waters. We meet Kris Kelvin (Poppy Frame), the career-driven, high-energy Scientist and project supervisor, sent to monitor the group’s research as they orbit the eponymous planet. After the former project leader Gibarian (Hugo Weaving) dies under mysterious circumstances, the crew start pondering the potential of the planet’s sentiency, whose emotional fits of colour and hyperreal ‘visitors’ are sent to survey the personal interrelations of its human prisoners. When Kris receives a visit from a seductive simulacrum of her old lover, Ray (Keegan Joyce), the Scientist becomes romantically unhinged, lounging around her bunker in her underwear and blasting Sonic Youth. Whilst the drawing together of loose ends is rushed to the detriment of its conclusion, Solaris is a play which pokes and stokes our darkest existential insecurities. What is sentience? Can we trust our emotions? You leave feeling tender and the sensation lingers long after the curtain has closed.
The second chapter in my quest for Halloween culture landed me in Soho’s rafters, having accepted ‘A Curious Invitation’ to the Century Club’s Vampyre Ball. I do not typically frequent members clubs, I savour frugality; Sunday batch cooking sessions, storing penny-pinching vouchers from The Metro in my back pocket. Nevertheless, I alighted the bus shortly after 9pm and after entering through a series of unassuming brown doors on Shaftesbury Avenue, was greeted by a heady farrago of Shibari life drawing, beetle preservations, mock marriages, faux funerals and open caskets – conveniently located for my signature mid-party nap. Staff courteously served a rotation of canapes as we explored the club’s ‘dungeons of despair’; a BDSM basement where members were freely invited to offer their buttocks to the whips and paddles of two leathered inhabitants; their subject’s nylon wigs quivering on the impact. Waiting with my partner in the green room before his own comparably tame musical performance in the nine-piece carnival of body-hair and animal print that is ‘Town of Cats’, I felt thoroughly underdressed in the company of such kaleidoscopically colourful hosts. Bondaged burlesque artists powdered their noses, patching their bodies with rose petals and prosthetics, fire-breathers and moody maître d’s nibbled at grapes wearing nothing but a thick layer of gold paint. What’s more bloodcurdling than unexpectedly catching sight of an exposed, golden penis? Reader, there is nothing more supernatural.
Whilst the presence of golden genitalia is as of yet unconfirmed, if, like me, you’re keen to economically honour this witching season, UnderPinned are hosting a free Halloween party in collaboration with Minute App at the UnderPinned HQ in East London. The evening will include Dr Leon’s Brain Surgery featuring spine-tingling immersive theatre and ASMR inspired hypnotism, scary film screenings, a late-night DJ set from LAFV (Love At First Vibe) and more contact and companion-making than you can shake a mangled bone at.
I recovered from my week of ghostly excess with a remedial cocktail of funsized Skittles – stolen from previous evening’s green room rider – binging Sam Raimi’s 1981 Evil Dead, from behind the dewey veil of last night’s make-up. The critically acclaimed, low-budget, camp, schlocky Horror film is a fine example of the versatility of corn syrup which sees a group of five teenage stock characters make the supreme blunder of holidaying in a remote woodland hut, drawing contemporary parallels with Cabin in the Woods. This was the fright to end all others; the terrifying realisation that this film was the product of 22 year-old Raimi’s imaginings. The perpetual pain of existence and the anxiety of underachievement; these are perhaps the biggest spooks of all.
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