Critic's Notebook: Twinhead spoofs the young-adult horror novels of R.L. Stine with 'Fright Street'

Gore galore from Atlanta's favorite sketch comedy troupe


  • Eli Banks
  • ALMA MATTERS: Atlanta comedy troupe Twinhead Theatre's latest show 'Fright Street' parodies the young adult horror novels of best-selling author R.L. Stine. Cherry Delrosario (left) and Marcus Weathersby are cast members of the new show which imagines the 20th high school reunion of Stine's oft-beleagured teenage protagonists.

When you grew too old for Goosebumps, you could always move on to Fear Street.

That's something of the idea behind children's author and marketing mastermind R.L. Stine's two best-selling series of horror novels. Although the two series featured the same setting—the fictional town of Shadyside—Fear Street is actually a much darker place than the world of Goosebumps. The kids of Goosebumps overcome spooky foes using pluck and wit, but the older teens of Fear Street novels such as The Prom Queen, The Surprise Party and Killer's Kiss face stalkings, kidnappings, serial killers, decapitation, possession, blackmail, prison and violent insanity.

In other words, they're a perfect fit for early teens. And they're also a perfect fit for Atlanta's Twinhead Theatre. The comedy troupe, voted Atlanta's best theatre company by Creative Loafing readers in 2013, is presenting its own send-up of R.L. Stine's teen horror series with the show Fright Street running from Thurs., Dec. 4, to Sat., Dec. 6, at Horizons School.

? ? ?

  • Chelsea Patterson of Cutestreak Designs

"They're like campy B-horror films in novel form," says Twinhead Managing Director Diana Brown, who, like many of the other company members, was a Fear Street reader in her early teens. Twinhead's production centers around the few surviving members (about 12 out of 300) of the town's class of 1994 gathering for their 20th reunion. As they begin to share memories of their traumatic upbringings and to question why so many of their colleagues died in such outrageosly gruesome circumstances, they find they're being stalked by a new serial killer who seems determined to ensure there's not a single survivor.

"They never asked for help from an authority," says Brown about some of the recurring motifs that make the series so ripe for parody. "Somebody dies, and they're like, 'We can't tell our parents because we'll get grounded for being out late.'" Twinhead members collectively re-read the books in the Fear Street series to get ready for the show. "We started by just filling a big whiteboard with the things we loved, characters and deaths that were particularly great," says Brown about sketching out the two-act show. Twinhead member James Yates eventually compiled the ideas and wrote the script for Fright Street. (In preparation for the show, the group just published a [http://www.buzzfeed.com/twinheadtheatre/13-amazing-ways-to-die-in-rl-stines-fear-street-14hme|piece on Buzzfeed about their picks for the best ways to die on Fear Street).
Appropriately enough for a parody of the Fear Street series, Twinhead specializes in a Grand Guignol style of comedy. Twinhead was created in 2003 when its founding members were students in the drama department at Georgia State University. After graduating, the comedy troupe stayed together and slowly added members, performing early shows at the former Eyedrum Gallery. Their 2009 show The Cherry Orchard with Zombies featured a plethora of lo-tech, gross-out, blood-and-gore special effects.

"We learned a lot with that show," says Twinhead Co-Artistic Director Eli Banks. "We did the full script of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and entwined zombies into it. We really researched how to do those sorts of special effects on a low budget. Since then, we've tried to one-up ourselves." Bigger and better projectile vomiting, blood splatters, dismemberment and disembowelment have become something of an on-going goal for the group. "Fright Street is kind of a compilation of the effects we've done in the past," Banks says. "It's one of our most technically complicated shows."

In the end, the show's creators say the production is essentially a love letter to the cheesy thrill of the original novels. "We all just loved the Fear Street books and how they really owned their own camp," Brown says. "We tried to do the same with with the show."

Fright Street. $12-$20. Thurs., Dec. 4 to Sat., Dec. 6, 8 p.m. Horizons School, 1900 DeKalb Ave. N.E. 678-570-6028. www.twinheadtheatre.org.]