Horror - Auckland Arts Festival

Horror | Auckland Arts Festival

Horror films are a genre unto their own but how well do our favourite spine-chilling moments translate to live performance?

It’s a challenge Swedish creator Jakop Ahlbom has taken up with gusto. Horror, an 80-minute stage show, tackles a number of the traditional sub-genres with a kaleidoscopic range of stunning visual and sound elements.

Bright red raincoats, swinging axes, shattering windows, spooky forests – the show has it all and, of course, it’s set in the austere environment of a haunted mansion. The soundtrack is a fabulous assortment of creaks, squeaks, gurgles, laughter and jewellery box music as well as some excellent instrumental.

It occasionally leans more towards what you expected from Spookers as opposed to Psycho but it’s an interesting, if patchy, cinematic mosaic. But does it work?

Not really. Horror is more of a pastiche with a mishmash of references that pay homage to the film genre and it’s not the nail-biter we’re told to expect.

Far too many of the moments veer on the cliched, and the timing often results in comedy rather than neighbour-clutching terror. The underlying story, based on nepotism and child abuse, is also a rather tired trope for a contemporary production.

The strength of the work lies with the brilliant mime performances of the artists. Both Judith Hazeleger and Gwen Langenberg are phenomenal performers and are well supported by the other members of the cast.

Coupled with excellent choreography, the various sub-plots come together to provide the highly anticipated blood-dripping climax: an entertaining, yet inevitably predictable throat-slitting, knife-wielding finale with plenty of bodies flying through the air.

The set and lighting are also worth a mention. Replete with vintage music systems and crackly televisions that turn on at ghostly whim, animated objects, and a number of fabulous disappearing tricks, this is the perfect magician’s studio.

It lives up to its reputation with plenty of blood and gore but as a theatrical work, Horror performs much better as a satire than genuine fear-inducing drama.