What goes on here: In this haunted house, a disturbed man in a gold masquerade mask leads groups of 10 through Northwest Film Forum, which the Satori Group has converted into a dungeon full of murder-clowns. Guests go in and out of theaters, travel down hallways haunted by creeps, and then get dumped out into the lobby, where a weird Charlie Chaplin figure sings old standards and gets too close to people.
Primary scare tactics: Creepiness. Dread. Psychological torture. Jump-out-and-scare-you stuff.
The scariest thing: At one point during the tour, there's a shaking door. You won't be sure if you can/should open that door. You should open that door. Also, the final moment of this performance reveals the frightening amount of faith we put in those who purport to lead us.
Least scary thing: The ambience kept my heart rate high and my limbic system primed, but some of the surprises held their notes too long. I went to a press preview with only a small number of guests in attendance, so the necessity to move people along on a busy night should fix this problem. Also, the weird Charlie Chaplin figure singing old standards lasts way too long.
Suggested drug pairing: There's a bar for drinking. Use it. (RICH SMITH)
This Is Halloween, Presented by Can Can
What goes on here: It's Tim Burton's classic The Nightmare Before Christmas repackaged as a semi-scandalous spectacle for the masses. The audience eats chicken skewers and knocks back $10 cocktails while they watch Tim Keller as Jack "the Pumpkin King" Skellington sing and dance, cabaret-style, along with Luminous Pariah, Paris Original, Marissa Quimby, and Baby Kate, while a ghoulish orchestra pumps out the show's signature tunes. Despite the glitzy and consumerist exterior, the crew manages to smuggle a complicated cabaret about the horror of fixed identities into the unpretentious space of the Triple Door.
Primary scare tactics: Existential terror. And, of course, the particular beauty of the dancers: They're all as sexy as long knives.
The scariest thing: The simple fact that a plain account of the images of this performance would amount to a great American poem of existential crisis. To wit: I was seated beside a mother and her 23-year-old daughter, who was obsessed with the original Nightmare Before Christmas movie. The daughter exclaimed "My childhood! My childhood!" as she watched the last few remaining slivers of it leave her body after Doctor Finkelstein made a cock joke with a long, black glove.
Least scary thing: People singing along to the songs. Also, Oogie Boogie, the big green ghost that talks like a drunk uncle and looks like a bag of garbage.
Suggested drug pairing: Molly. Get yourself in the affection mood. Have your friend rub your shoulders while you take in all the eye candy onstage. (RICH SMITH)
Hitchcock's Psycho with the Seattle Symphony
What goes on here: Every year for Halloween, the Seattle Symphony lowers a huge screen over the stage at Benaroya Hall. On the screen, they project Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The symphony plays Bernard Herrmann's unforgettable score live while the full movie is shown.
What kind of scary is it? Incest, robbery, infidelity, the hiding of dead bodies, the irritation of having to drive in the rain, the sadness of vacant motels, and the killing off of a character sooner than you expect all figure in. But Psycho isn't the kind of movie that startles you left and right. It's a taut, perfectly told story of unceasing tension that also involves a pile of cash, taxidermy, sandwiches, holes drilled in walls to enable voyeurism, and getting caught by your boss when you pretend to be sick to leave work.
Scaregasm: The scaregasm is definitely Norman Bates's relationship with his mother, although there's a case to be made for that whole knife incident in the shower.
Least scary thing: One time I had a neighbor who asked me what he and his girlfriend should do on Halloween. I recommended they go see Psycho at the symphony, they took me up on my recommendation, and they thanked me over and over afterward. As upsetting as the movie is, it's perfect, and watching the symphony orchestrate their movements to what's onscreen is a marvel. Sinking into one of Benaroya's comfy seats and absorbing yourself in a black-and-white movie with live accompaniment is deeply relaxing. You know Psycho is a love story, right? Bring someone whose hand you want to hold. Someone you would happily spy on through a hole in a wall.
Suggested drug pairing: Marijuana. Nothing makes the symphony sound quite as good, and an extra dose of psychoactive paranoia suits Psycho perfectly. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
For even more things to do this Halloween, check out our complete Halloween calendar.