Running in Exeter University’s very own Northcott Theatre from Wednesday 11th of October to Saturday 14th of October is a must-see theatrical horror production called Shock Horror. Without spoiling much of the plot – as this production is one best enjoyed without preconception – Shock Horror follows Herbert as he explores the mysteries of an old, rundown theatre. Loosely inspired by The Woman in Black and critically described as a combination between that play and Stranger Things, Shock Horror transports the audience into a world of horror film fanatics and mystery.
Shock Horror is clearly a love letter to cult classic cinema. It’s peppered with references to Freddy Kruger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, features a wonderful segment on Psycho, and even an ode to the king of horror himself, Stephen King, with both references to The Shining and a fantastic visual reference to IT that sent chills down my spine. The setting of a dilapidated cinema allows for these references – which the horror junkies among us would recognise and love – to fit seamlessly into the performance without taking the audience out of the immersion of the show. Instead, it helped build an image of Herbert’s character as an intense horror fanatic desperate to showcase his life’s work.
Shock Horror is clearly a love letter to cult classic cinema.
From the off-set Shock Horror felt eerie and creepy. As we entered the normally welcoming Northcott Theatre we were greeted by the old, crumbling set of the cinema covered in a fog that seeped into the audience. Our first introduction to the set positioned the audience amongst the haunted imagery of Herbert’s mind – from the beginning we were thrown into the mystery of this abandoned cinema and it captivated us.
The selling point of Shock Horror is its combination of live action acting, primarily from Alex Moran who plays our protagonist Herbert, and the film that Herbert has been creating, which is shown right on the stage in front of us on the screen that takes over the middle of the set. The combination and complexity of the multimedia storytelling to unravel Herbert’s story was both unique and engaging. Watching Herbert react to the reveals on screen, while also getting the additional commentary and physicality from his acting, made for a gripping viewing experience. The use of VFX, camerawork for the multimedia aspects, and jump-scare-inducing sound effects paired with the backdrop of the creative and creepy set, Shock Horror created a chilling and suspenseful production that left audiences on the edge of their seats.
Aside from the beautifully crafted set design, which was used consistently to trick the audience into scares, Moran’s physical acting was a standout. Again, without spoiling much of the plot, Moran’s use of his body, and tonal changes in his voice, aided in cultivating this chilling atmosphere while gripping the audience. In certain scenes, I could barely pry my eyes away from the action on the stage, even if I wanted to, as I was too engrossed in the performance at hand. The terror and the mystery Shock Horror created was inescapable.
Though there were some minor audio difficulties on the evening of the 11th it didn’t take the audience out of the immersion of the narrative. If you have time in the next few days, I highly suggest purchasing a ticket for Shock Horror – it’s the perfect spine-tingling tale to get you into the mood for the coming Halloween season and is a must-see for the cult classic horror fans among us.