Halloween 2014: No more creepy clichés

Polly Checkland Harding
Photo of Beetlejuice and one of the Hocus Pocus witches

For this year’s Halloween, we’ve handpicked Manchester and Liverpool’s best and least hackneyed celebrations.

Writing about Halloween is like designing greeting cards. Stick with me on this. Every year, articles on the annual fright fest have to be reinvented – in much the same way that greeting card writers batter themselves about the temples trying to come up with new catchphrases for Easter, Christmas and, most unloved of all, Valentine’s. The ambivalent attitude towards Halloween in the UK doesn’t make things any easier. Forget the elaborately bedecked houses of America: here, cynicism and half-arsed, ironic t-shirts are about as good as it gets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I once dated a meat packer cum makeup artist whose yearly costumes were so gory, people actually fainted. So for any Halloween devotees who want to enter into the spirit of the Dia de los Muertos with all their heart (and guts), we’ve come up with a bunch of stuff to do before (or after) you die.

Enter into the spirit of the Dia de los Muertos – here’s a bunch of stuff to do before (or after) you die

Film first, but with a difference: Gorilla holds a back-to-back of two delightfully frightful classics from the 1980s and 90s. The mad antics of “bio-exorcist” ghost Beetlejuice will surely never get old, while Hocus Pocus sees Sarah Jessica Parker having a ball as a bleach-blonde witch (6.30pm, £8 adv). Over at 2022NQ, things are a splice more frightening with a triple bill featuring psycho-slasher Nightmare Maker, The Evil Dead (banned in some countries) and one UK premiere surprise screening (7.30pm-10.30pm, £5 adv). Hide behind your goodie bag and free candy if it all gets a bit much.

Over in Liverpool, meanwhile, the Gothic, bombed-out ruin of St Luke’s Church is the setting for a theatrical adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Adenuf Productions have stripped the script, and the monster, back for a creepier, haunting version. The evening performance on 31 October has sold out, but there are tickets to both showings on the Saturday (3pm & 8pm, tickets £7.50 matinee/£10.50 eve). Less monster and more carnival is the Voodoo Ball at the Kazimier (1 Nov, 7.30pm, £6 early bird), while avant-garde, feminist ‘zine Queen of the Track throws one mother of a party over at 24 Kitchen Street. Witch Bitch promises to be “a night of demon based debauchery, satanic seance with disgusting performance,” with DJ sets right through into the ghost of the day before.

Manchester, too, knows how to throw the kind of party that would give you nightmares – in a good way. Islington Mill opens out the whole of its Victorian building for its Halloweeeen and Zombie Pride Parties. The first features DJs, interactive installations and a six-hour film marathon (7.30pm, £3), while Zombie Pride includes a rave from the grave, a Tranarchy party squad and Zombieoke (10pm-4am, £4 OTD). Alternatively, do the zombie shuffle between red walls at Matt & Phreds’ Halloween special. Bad Ass Brass will play dark New Orleans funeral marches and Halloween classics, there’s a best costume competition and Happy Hour has been extended to midnight (9pm-12.30pm, £5).

Last, but by no means least, is a fright-filled night from Bad Language at the Royal Exchange. Alison Moore, Emma Jane Unsworth, Tom Mason and (cough) my very self will be trying to haunt the audience with stories (6pm). It’ll be freaky, it’ll be free. What’s not to like? So, people, for Halloween this year let’s play spot the best costume – not the cliché.

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