Montreal is without doubt a 4G city – ghosts, ghouls goblins and gremlins – when it comes to its Halloween celebrations, and this year again provides no rest for the wicked with a wide-ranging array of activities and events catering to a broad spectrum of seasonal fun seekers. We’ll commence with the family-oriented fun times first…
The family that scares together, um, swears together? Cornball adages notwithstanding, the good folks at La Ronde will have your whole clan clinging to each other as they promise to turn the world-class theme park into a world-class “scream park” at this year’s edition of Fright Fest. On Saturdays and Sundays until October 28, starting at 5 pm, La Ronde will throw open the doors on no less than three haunted houses – District 510, Death Row and the brand new Massacre Museum – and other shows while letting loose a whole range of freaky costumed creatures that promise to be frightening with a smile when it comes to the kids. Speaking of which, step into the park’s Zombithèque and have the wee ones done up undead-style from 6-9 pm.
While Charlie Brown may have found waiting for The Great Pumpkin fruitless, there is no such disappointment in the Montreal Botanical Garden’s yearly presentation of the already-underway Great Pumpkin Ball. The Great Pumpkin Ball is a big orange bounty of family friendly activities, from the riotous variety of decorated pumpkins in the Main Exhibition Greenhouse, to the Little Monsters Courtyard (promising “pumpkin-aroos, battling monsters, Insect Soup, a hungry frog toss and a squash hunt” as well as other Halloween-themed activities), to the home of “friendly witch Esmeralda and her funny magic formulas,” to Halloween origami and much more. Open every day during operating hours until October 31.
Not all of the colourful characters who inhabit Montreal are of the flesh and blood variety, and the good folks at Montreal Ghosts (“In Strange Company Since 1999”) have dedicated themselves to sharing the stories of some of the city’s more fleeting and ephemeral denizens. Montreal Ghosts, which offer both ghost tours and ghost hunts in Old Montreal – the centuries-old home of many of la belle ville’s most illustrious historical spectres – promises its guests a one-of-a-kind evening street theatre experience courtesy of the many professional actors they employ. This year participants can take advantage of a special ghost hunt on Oct. 26 & 27 as well as Oct. 30 & 31. The 90-minute, interactive, all-ages tours depart at 6:30 pm (and also 8:30 pm on Oct. 27).
Montreal’s fascinating Pointe-à-Callière historical museum – which kind of has a permanent, built-in Halloween feel… complete with a real, exposed graveyard on one of its subterranean levels – reprises its Jack O’Lantern tour for kids again this year. Kids of all ages are invited to accompany Jack (“a young Irishman wandering in the world of the dead, looking for a lantern to light his way”) as he wends his way through the museum telling stories and teaching his companions how to talk to ghosts. These tours take place during the afternoon on Oct. 20 & 21 as well as Oct. 27 & 28.
Zombie walks are a recent phenomenon that’s enjoying increased popularity the around the world and which involves little more than putting on some ratty clothing, ruffling the hair, applying ghastly-looking facial makeup and walking around like you’ve been up partying for three days. Like just about anything that involves a large grouping of people these days, even the undead are being drawn into the ever-livelier Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles. The bigger, better, deader annual Montreal Zombie Walk kicks off there on October 20, and this year boasts an expanded itinerary.
The Zombie Walk starts at noon and a tent will be provided where participants can get their zombie on with a makeup artist for only ten bones. The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival has organized a zombie dance crew that will perform Time Warp and Thriller before the walk departs at 3 pm for a two-hour stumble through downtown and Old Montreal. The zombie apocalypse concludes at Katacombes where there will be an after-walk party featuring a costume contest and live band performances by Chahut d’ruelle, Jimmy Target & the Triggers and Misfits tribute band Bloodfeast. The Zombie Walk itself is open to corpses of all ages.
And now that the kids have wandered off to bed, Halloween nightmares dancing in their heads, the adults can get down to the business of having some frightful fun themselves at the following +18 events…
Bolder and brasher with each subsequent edition, the Spasm film festival is the hub for all things horror and hilarious for nine days in October (namely 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27), with several special events and screenings at various locations throughout Montreal. It all culminates with an Old School Halloween Party at the Plaza Theatre featuring music from the 60s (starting at 10 pm), 70s (11 pm), 80s (midnight), 90s (1 am) and 2000s (2 am). Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, and note that costumes are mandatory.
It’s Christmas at Halloween for Rocky Horror fans (and for reasons best explained by someone who knows more about campy, glammy, gender-scrambly rock musicals than yours truly, there never ever seems to be any shortage of Rocky Horror fans) this year. Mainline Theatre – famous for its always edgy and entertaining brand of resident theatrical evil – presents Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, based on the original 1973 British stage production from which the movie was adapted. Mainline’s version features an expansive cast, a live six-piece band and original choreography, but no projection of the film (Oct. 17-20, and tix are $23). If you want to see the original 1975 film on the big screen with a live cast acting it out onstage below, then this perennially popular phenomenon is yours to be had at The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball 2012, held again this at the gorgeously renovated Imperial Cinema in downtown Montreal. There are two shows a night– hosted by incomparable tranny master of ceremonies Plastik Patrik – on Oct. 26, 27 and 31 ($17.95 in advance, and $19.95 at the door).
In other anticipatory pre-Halloween activities, Theatre Ste-Catherine once again plays host to their annual, and very popular, shock’n’awesome Haunted House party tour, this year titled “No!”. As in “No! promises to pluck you from your happy place and set you in a darkness you never wanted to imagine. Sound fun? No!” Billed as the only haunted theatrical experience in the city, No! runs from Oct. 25- 31, from 8 pm until late, and as usual it’s only “$20 to get out!”
Utterly unique, multidimensional and multidisciplinary arts space The Darling Foundry – housed in a former ironworks, built in the 1800s, and located just a few short blocks from Old Montreal – lends its industrial expanse again this year to the Cirque de Boudoir Halloween extravaganza “A Night to Dismember” on Oct. 27 (and which last year sold out with more than 650 petrifying partygoers). This year’s theme is iconic villains and victims from classic horror flicks – think Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees (yup, he has a last name), Damien Thorn (the Omen series), Marion Crane and/or Norman Bates from Hitchcock’s Psycho, Chucky, The Crypt-Keeper, Honey Boo Boo, all of The Golden Girls, whatever strikes your Hollywood horror fancy. (Non-theme costumes are perfectly hunky dory as well.) Terrifically terrifying décor will be provided by Remy Couture, providing a backdrop for performance pieces and a host of DJs. It’s $20 in advance, $30 at the door.
Montreal’s dance clubs never fail to get creepy on Halloween, and this year is no exception as Circus celebrates its “Dark Knights” event with U.K. breaks/house DJ James Zabiela, Tallahasee’s DJ Camo, and Montreal-based progressive house DJ Scott James on Oct. 27 from 2 am to 10 am… St-Laurent Blvd.’s exclusive BLVD44 is throwing a “High School of the Dead” mashup party on Oct. 27, the principle theme being, it would appear, survival… Downtown’s Club 1234 kicks it with their “Mad House” monster mash event featuring MC Mario and DJ Ludo in the main room, a high-paying costume contest, and “Vampire,” “Devil” and “Insane Frankenstein” bottle service packages… And Arena, located in the former Montreal Forum (the old home of the Habs, and which has a few hockey ghosts of its own) rolls out its Vampire’s Ball on Oct. 27 starting at 8 pm. R&B, hip-hop and house music by DJ Payce and VJ Hypnotica, and lofty cash prizes for best costume. Tricks and treats, indeed!