Sumter’s (Opera) House of Horrors

“Everytime I think about something nice, you remind me of bad things!”
–Jane Hudson, as played by Bette Davis

I’m going to make a confession.  I’m still afraid of the closet monster.  Yes, I have checked and checked and checked again, and I am fully aware that nothing lives there except my wardrobe, but some childhood fears don’t go away so easily. 

From Nosferatu to The Shining, the best thrillers have given those fears a life inside our minds—and we are (usually) glad to let them do so.  I was recently part of a conversation reminiscing about those movie moments that shocked or scared us half to death, which brought out such memorable names as When a Stranger Calls and The Ring.  For complex psychological reasons, we love to be frightened half out of our wits. 

With our twenty-first century sensibilities (and the real terrors that our society has lived through), it can come as sort of a shock to realize that “horror movie” was not always a synonym for “slasher flick.”  Long before CGI and special effects, the best of the horror/suspense genre could make an audience scream.  Sometimes, the scariest stuff is what you don’t see.

Get ready for a horrifying October at the Sumter Opera House, beginning with the “House of Classic Movies” on Friday, October 12.  Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was a huge hit upon its release in 1962, with an initial gross of $9 million (more than $65 million in today’s dollars—comparable to, say, Twilight).  Nominated for five Academy Awards, this story of a has-been child star Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) and her helpless sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) is as creepy today as it was fifty years ago.  The deeply disturbing “Oh, Blanche? You know we’ve got rats in the cellar?” scene is worth the $2.50 per person admission.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the film begins at seven.  Refreshments will be for sale.

The hair on the back of your neck may still be standing on end two weeks later, with Joe Landry’s Vintage Hitchcock on October 25, 26 and 27.  Don’t miss the three-in-one performance of “The Lodger,” “Sabotage,” and “The 39 Steps.”  Presented in the style of a 1940’s radio broadcast, this homage to the Master of Suspense takes place onstage at the Sumter Opera House, with actors performing in live-radio style, complete with vintage commercials and live sound effects.  The October 25 and 26 shows will begin at 7 p.m., with a Saturday matinee on October 27 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10.00 and available now at the Swan Lake Visitors Center.  Call (803) 436-2640 or toll-free, 1-800-688-4748 for more info.  The Sumter Opera House is located at 21 North Main Street.  (Note:  Vintage Hitchcock is produced by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc.)

Blood and gore?  No, not really, thanks.  Chainsaw-wielding or masked maniacs?  Absolutely not.  Characters and situations that really mess with your mind?  Oh, yes.  As Arthur Conan Doyle once put it, “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”  Join us in downtown Sumter and prepare to be horrified!

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