It’s a little campy, a little creepy, part film screening, part theatrical extravaganza.
Halloween Horrorama, a sold-out event Saturday at Zoetropolis, is a celebration of all things spooky that unites ’90s horror classics like “Tales from the Crypt” with original short films made by artists right here in Lancaster.
Oh, and there are live performances as well, plus decorations and Halloween gags everywhere you look.
“It’s literally Frankenstein’s monster, this event,” says Adam Lenhart, a local filmmaker and one of the event’s organizers.
The Halloween Horrorama team consists of Lenhart, Jake McClellan, who makes art as Knucklehead and hosted last month’s Cartoon-a-Palooza at Zoetropolis, and Eric Griffin and Casey Prosick of the newly formed company PatchTown Films. The event is also sponsored by Mr. Suit Records and Golden Ages Tattoo. The event’s official after-party is DJ Salinger’s Monster Mash at Tally Ho Tavern.
Much as Cartoon-a-Palooza tapped into ’90s nostalgia with retro Nickelodeon cartoons and commercials, Halloween Horrorama will evoke the chills of the same time period with episodes of “The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror” and “Tales from the Crypt.” Expect to see a few of those familiar commercials of the same time, too.
For Lenhart, Halloween and nostalgia are deeply intertwined.
“I think, for us, it means staying true to the passions of our youth,” Lenhart says. “If you grew up and this was one of the first things you were excited about, to continue into your teenage years and into your adult years and even into your 30s with doing it with a bigger budget and wackier ideas is a great way to celebrate.”
The centerpiece of the night, though, are three original films made by the event’s organizers.
McClellan, who studied theater at Millersville University, enjoys creating eccentric characters for film and live performances. He’ll unveil “Monster Boy,” a short movie starring his new blue-skinned creation and featuring the music of local group Drac Mosey.
McClellan worked with Griffin and Prosick of Patchtown Films on the piece. The Patchtown team will debut its own film, “Carver,” which Griffin says draws inspiration from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
“It’s about a guy that loves Halloween and loves pumpkins and is very passionate about them, and he just can’t get a break, so he takes it out on some people,” Griffin says.
Lenhart will show “Candystealer,” his stop-motion homage to ’80s rubber-monster movies that he debuted at Zoetropolis earlier this year at a First Friday Fright Night at Zoetropolis.
The thrills and chills aren’t limited to the screen, though. McClellan will perform, along with the cast of Lancaster’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screening at Tellus360, which McClellan performed at last week.
The organizers say to expect to see decorations and gags everywhere you turn inside Zoetropolis. McClellan will host the event, joined by his virtual co-host, Squash the Pumpkin. McClellan will interact with Squash while the puppet is on screen, adding a playful element of breaking the fourth wall.
“We have a little beef, but we’ll get it settled,” McClellan says of Squash.
The night’s structure is inspired by William Castle, the filmmaker who thrilled audiences in the ’50s and ’60s with gags and gimmicks like a vibrating chair that activated at key points during “The Tingler,” and a skeleton with glowing red eyes that floated over the audience near the end of “House on Haunted Hill.”
The audience can also enjoy gag bags, included with admission, full of Halloween candy and nostalgic party favors like rubber witch fingers.
Halloween Horrorama and Cartoon-a-Palooza were born out of McClellan’s yearning for something different from Lancaster’s theatrical community. While he applauds the area’s thriving community theater scene, McClellan says he wanted to create a theatrical experience outside the traditional musical or play.
“That’s really what I’ve been looking for. … How can we bring the same theatrical gags that you can see at the Fulton, Prima, wherever, but see it in a different space, see a different spin on it, and also incorporate a different thing, a film aspect to it,” McClellan says.
Plus, an event like Horrorama gives chill chasers the chance to unite.
“Our heads (are) kind of in the same gooey pool of spookiness,” Lenhart says.