October may be the traditional time to watch scary movies, but there aren't many new scary things coming to a theater near you this month, unless you count Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Escape Plan.
The Dallas Comedy House has a worthy-sounding alternative to pretending that you wet your pants after seeing Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan for the fifth straight time: a completely improvised horror movie.
Every Thursday in October, the DCH on Commerce Street will stage an Improvised Horror Movie that takes full advantage of the tired tropes that horror movies have developed and driven into the ground. The final Thursday of the month, Halloween itself, will feature a costume contest and a haunted house in addition to the final show.
Director and cast member Tabitha Muhn said she wanted to bring the improvised movie format to DCH ever since she first studied it at the iO Theater in Chicago under performer and teacher Jason Chin, who learned it from improv comedy godfather Del Close.
"What we did is something called the 'improvised movie' but then you can apply different genres to the bones of the form," Muhn said. "So you can do a romantic comedy or an action movie, anything really."
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The show plays on the stereotypes that horror movies have accumulated over the years since films like The Evil Dead, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street became carbon copied after achieving iconic status. The audience chooses who plays which character in the movie and comes up with a fake title that drives the plot, the action, the comedy and, of course, the killings.
"The killer wears a mask and we use props to identify the different archetypes," Muhn said. "For instance, the virgin has a flower that she wears behind her ear and the jock has a letter jacket, that kind of stuff."
Of course, the main goal of the show is produce completely improvised comedy, but it can produce moments of genuine horror, Muhn said.
"It's mostly a comedy because we're improvising and that lends itself to humor," she said. "There have been a few times on stage where a cast member has genuinely screamed from being scared on stage but it is meant to be funny."