Halloween fell on a Saturday this year, which if you’re at all familiar with North Hill, is the start of one of the most terrifying horror stories of them all. A collective groan is heard from the emergency services as both the busiest nights of the week and one of the most debaucherous nights of the year clash to bring you an epic weekend of fright night festivities and fancy dress fuck ups (i.e. there is no excuse for black face, you ignorant sluts).
As usual, there’s a bounty of activities to choose from to keep you busy on Hallow’s eve, but I chose to spend my evening watching a screening of the slasher classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre, hosted at the Plymouth Social Club. However, this wasn’t just an ordinary viewing, oh no. It came complete with a live soundtrack performed by the group Imperfect Orchestra Projects, a spin off of the Imperfect Orchestra, featuring a handful of the same members but with some very interesting ideas.
I always find myself very disorientated on Halloween, for someone who’s better at faces than names, it’s always a logistical nightmare squinting through everyone’s face paint to try and figure out if you know them. I wander into the venue, a vision of horror in itself with beige decor, 70’s wallpaper and retro coving detail and in there I find a Lost Boy, a witch and various characters from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Clothes rails line the walls draped in pots and pans and a blender sits majestically with a microphone positioned over its lid. I shuffle to my seat and wait eagerly.
Now, before Saturday, I was a Texas Chainsaw Massacre virgin. That’s right. Despite my huge love of horror movies especially of that era, the TCM seemed to have passed me by. I’d seen snippets and many a GIF online, but to watch the full movie with friends, along with an improvised and dominating soundtrack performed by the IOP, made me want to save my cherry for the big night. It was well worth the wait.
The evening began with an introduction by horror writer and award winning publisher Johnny Mains who spoke about his love of the original blueprint of the slasher genre. We were then treated to an introductory piece by the Orchestra, with haunting lyrics droning over the instruments, guitars played with violin bows, cymbals being scratched and hit with forks as well as a harmonium organ bellowing over the top.
This kind of immersive performance in a venue so small, intimate and packed with people was very intense, which is no bad thing. I felt like I was being given an exclusive insight into the horrors that occurred in that American redneck state so many years ago. I couldn’t help but feel the anxiety of Franklin, helpless and bound to his wheelchair as well as the fear and uncertainty for Sally’s life as she runs through the bushes of the Texan outback to the sound of beating drums. The Imperfect Orchestra projects group did well to maintain the originality of the soundtrack in their production, only adding to the suspense, the ambience and the myriad of Foley work that made the film the classic that it is.
The film ended with some audience participation and an OUF! afterparty (only the best bloody club night in Plymouth), and we began to dance the fear away to Psycho Killer and Lust for Life. A truly incredible evening with something utterly special in the performance by the Imperfect Orchestra Projects crew. I know I won’t be able to watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre again now without missing the real life screams, the wall of noise from the drum kits and the chainsaw blender. A unique and memorable way to spend Halloween. Oh and one more thing, do you like head cheese…?
All images courtesy of Jo Cookney