Five Essential October Events in Pittsburgh

Macabre musicals, monstrous metal and more October happenings.


My girlfriend and I have a (year-round) subscription to Shudder, the streaming-video service that exclusively deals in horror. We started firing it up regularly as soon as September began; we’ve mostly been focusing on schlocky ’80s stuff. We’ve watched “Chopping Mall,” “Bloody Birthday” and “Black Christmas.” “The Slumber Party Massacre” and its sequel. We fell asleep the other night in the middle of “C.H.U.D.,” and there’s no shortage of further options.

We’ll try to watch a comedy or a prestige pic (Oscar season is right around the corner, after all), and we will immediately give up and return to something creepy. It’s spooky season, after all — you know, the fun holiday — and until sometime in early November, all activities should be a bit ghostly and/or ghastly.

I couldn’t possibly list all of my Halloween-season favorites here (I included Hundred Acres Manor, which opened nearly a month ago, in last month’s roundup, for example.) There are innumerable good choices; these are but a few.

“Evil Dead: The Musical”
Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Sept. 27-Oct. 19
Everything about the enduring low-budget hit is unlikely, from the fact that it got made at all (and spawned two sequels) to its status as a milestone of horror cinema (which inadvertently led to the first Spider-Man movie and thus the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that’s a thesis for another day). Even in an era where ironic musical comedies are more commonplace, the blood-soaked war with the undead is an extremely unconventional pic for the proscenium — and yet Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s production, brought back by audience demand, is always a hit. They’re only booking a handful of performances, so don’t wait on tickets.

The Basement
2420 Penn Ave., Thursdays-Sundays, Dates TBD
The nationally lauded ScareHouse has left its longtime home in Etna and will reopen next year in a new space. In the meantime, its extreme sister experience, The Basement, takes center stage at a new location in the Strip District (dubbed the Scream District for this season). The Basement will be a bit too intense for some people — isolation, intimidation and darkness are the chief tools of torment — but for the hardy and brave, it’s an experience that always provides a fascinating (and extraordinarily well-acted) story in and around the scares. It’s a very particular brand of theater, but a fascinating one. It will be flanked by a new escape room; look in this space next week for my thoughts. (Note that unavoidable delays have pushed the opening of both The Basement and the “Stalked by a Killer” escape room back from what was originally published in this space; expect a mid-October opening for both.)

Row House of Horrors
Row House Cinema, Oct. 13-31
The theater’s annual array of silver-screen horror is headlined this year by a pair of director’s cuts: the timeless and troubling classic “The Exorcist,” with 12-plus minutes of added footage, and Ari Aster’s beguiling and off-kilter “Midsommar,” which confused the heck out of audiences (this writer included) earlier this year. Joining the lineup is the underseen (but excellent) ’00s gem “The Descent,” iconic slasher pics “Candyman” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Pittsburgh’s landmark picture, “Night of the Living Dead.” Not up for genuine terror? For those who prefer their spooks more silly than scary, “Hocus Pocus” is among the selections.

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” with Live Score
Spirit, Oct. 29
Speaking of Hollywood horrors, “Plan 9 From Outer Space” lives in infamy … as one of the worst, most awkward and clunky films ever made. Director Ed Wood’s space-invaders feature was beset by cheap effects, the death of Bela Lugosi — an inconvenient fact that did not stop Wood from giving the icon top billing — and a generally incompetent director. All this makes for a hilarious viewing experience, which will be accented by a new, live score. Local standout Swampwalk will provide the music, Spirit will provide the screen; you provide the snarky comments.

Jergel’s Rhythm Grille, Oct. 31
I suppose this isn’t technically a Halloween event, but here’s why it qualifies: First, it takes place … on Halloween. I guarantee you will see a dozen half-hearted Joker costumes at Jergel’s during this show. Second, hair metal and glam metal is just kind of … inherently Halloween-themed? Hair metal season lasts from June through November. Most Halloween playlists look for the one token “creepy” song from every ’80s power-ballad band. Like, say, “Love is a Killer” from rockers Vixen, who bring a reformed lineup — half of the classic players, half hired hands — for what will undoubtedly be a spirited performance at the region’s best venue for throwback rockers.

Categories: After Dark, Things To Do