All About Evil, San Francisco Style

And now, for my latest love letter to San Francisco, I invite you in to the Victoria Theater, the historic Mission theater that has been around more than 100 years. This weekend I had my first opportunity to walk inside its handsome doors, when I went to see All About Evil, the campy slasher flick directed by notable SF drag queen Peaches Christ. The show was marketed as a "4-D experience" not only because Peaches had organized an entire pre-film performance, complete with choreographed monster dances and movie-specific ballads, but also because the film itself was shot in the theater, and all of the gory scenes took place in our very seats. The fabulous SF-based performer Trixxie Carr introduced the show by belting out some impressive ballads while dressed as the film's main character, the diabolical Deborah Tennis (pronounced "de-BOR-ah ten-ISE"). I might go even as far to say that the lovely Ms. Carr would have been just as excellent cast in the film itself--maybe in the sequel? The film also highlighted classic actresses from John-Waters-era camp and gore such as Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson (a.k.a. Elvira).

I'll be the first to admit that my tolerance for gore is low at best, but perhaps what made this experience so awesome was that the cast and crew were so committed to its campiness, so utterly loyal to an artistic vision that constituted a tribute to slasher films past, that it was hard not to get swept into the visceral excitement in the room. Besides, there's really now way to avoid giddiness when one is just two rows away from the sheer glamor of tangoing zombies and arrogant murderesses in period costume. Add to that the a palpable sense of suspense when we, as an entire theater full of people, collectively realized that the room in which we were very sitting, with its victorian air and old-fashioned decor, was as real a character in the film as the evil twin girls or the naive theatergoers who break Deborah's rules.

I was amazed by the artistry and impressed by the scale of the production, which has been on the road for several weeks now. But perhaps more than anything I was moved by the sense of community that linked all of these performers together. After the first set had finished, Peaches introduced all of the dancers by their stage names, and pointed out who had written the lyrics and who had choreographed the steps, who had put in extra time in the art department and who had helped with costumes. It was a true collaborative effort, and it was as fun to see them acknowledged, and the pleasure that gave them, as it was to see them perform.

The alchemy of that show was heightened by the fact that we got to see it where we did, in a beautiful theater just a week before Halloween in the best city in the world.

San Francisco, I'm so not over you yet.