The Haunted

What is so scary about horror movies? It's not monsters--they're all latex and makeup. It's not the gore--so fake. It's the startle. Dracula, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Ring and even The Exorcist scared the bejeezus out of most people. Today, the older films may seem campy, but each still upsets for one reason: the human connection. After all, Dracula, Freddy, Regan and that scary little wet girl were--at one time--living, breathing people.

In director Robert Neblett's production of Caryl Churchill's psychologically challenging and haunting The Skriker, that connection (and subsequent creep-out) is exactly what Neblett hopes to achieve--with a live performance. Now, The Skriker isn't an easy play to wrap one's head around. The main plot line is about an ancient shape-shifter called the Skriker (played by Eleanor Threatt) that haunts two friends. In the sub-plots and in the shadows, the audience also meets just about every boogeyman English, Celtic and Pagan cultures dreamed up. The 14 cast members play more than 50 characters. Sub-plot info comes in sporadic 30-second bursts. The creepiest 9-year-old we've ever seen plays Dead Girl. It's a lot to take in. But after 10 years of dreaming about directing this crucible, Neblett says, "As a director, if something's easy, I don't like doing it."

Aside from telling one complicated story, Neblett needs his "monsters" to make a more personal impact than those on giant multiplex screens. "You're never going to see a full monster costume. I think you'd dismiss them if you couldn't connect with them on a human level," he says.

And that's where the fear factor comes in. "I would say it has more of a creepy gets-under-your-skin vibe than Halloween or Freddy Krueger. We basically see throughout the course of the play average people being seduced by supernatural forces," Neblett says. "The central conceit is: What if we could see the supernatural world around us? What would happen if they were real and in our world today?" Supernatural beings as common and as plentiful as the people we see everyday, interacting in our lives, controlling our fate and ultimately killing us, all in plain sight? Now that's just scary.