Orlando's family-friendly fun factories spit out surreal moments the way China churns out iPads, and usually I can consume plasticized psychedelia like potato chips. But one can only absorb so much artificial absurdity before sanity snaps, and my limit arrived in Lake Buena Vista last Thursday. Thanks to a visit from vacationing family fleeing the cold, the day was my fifth in a row at Walt Disney World. Counting my California trip earlier in the month, I had spent 10 of the previous 20 days in Mickey's clutches, an unhealthy amount even for employees.
Thursday began before "rope drop" at Epcot's turnstiles with a blitzkrieg tour of the park's highlights from a 4-year-old's perspective (heavy on coloring crafts and posing princesses). Final verdict: Everyone loves Soarin', but Michael Jackson terrifies anyone under 30. The afternoon involved slumping poolside at Disney's new Art of Animation resort, watching children frolic in the froth vomited from frozen fuchsia fish. Larger-than-life (and curiously out-of-scale) statues of Ariel, Simba, et al. (all adorned with lawyer-approved "no climbing" signs) surround the sprawling campus; if eight hours of sensory overstimulation inside a theme park isn't enough for you, by all means book a room under the sea and find Nemo in your shower.
Later that night I sat in Hammerheads, an unassuming strip-mall tavern along Palm Parkway, silently sipping an Effinheimer porter and praying the beer would blur the week's weirdness away. Suddenly, an ear-piercing emergency broadcast alert assaulted the air. The bodies of the recently dead, announced an officious voice, had reanimated and were eating the living. From the back hallway, a decaying corpse lurched slowly toward the seemingly unconcerned bar patrons, outstretching its arms and opening its mouth to … lip-sync!
Dear god, where's a shotgun when you need one?
OK, it wasn't an actual undead apocalypse, just the opening night of Madame PeeVira's Cinema Carnage, a "horror drag show event" dedicated to dissecting George A. Romero's 1968 zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. PeeVira (the alter ego of A.J. Prats, a local theme-park performer who studied improv with L.A.'s Groundlings) previously appeared in the 2012 Fringe Festival show Dark Lady. Now the self-proclaimed "peevish voodoo mistress" has returned for a planned monthly series of "deadly drag, campy HORRORible films and special contests."
I've loved mocking mediocre movies since discovering MST3K in high school, and I produced Orlando's Rocky Horror Picture Show for a dozen-odd years. More recently, I've greatly enjoyed Logan Donahoo, a fellow survivor of RHPS, in Trash Cinema 101 (which celebrates six months of skewering C-grade cinema at the Venue on March 16). As a connoisseur of campy horror hosts, I give PeeVira credit for making a strong first impression, arriving in zebra tights, a black corset and an ascot, flanked by a pair of "Thriller"-inspired zombie backup dancers. And I appreciated that she made the effort to introduce herself to every patron, complimenting my jacket and offering me a free T-shirt. PeeVira's audience participation centered on shouting "zombie" whenever one appeared on screen and offering free drinks to whoever chugged fastest every time an airhorn sounded; I declined to compete, as OW doesn't reimburse for DUI defense, but the young lady who won two rounds in a row sure was game.
The screening commenced with some clever callback quips, like the appearance of Duane Jones as Ben, the archetypal African-American sci-fi/horror hero long before Will Smith, which prompted "Ladies and gentleman, young President Obama." Unfortunately, PeeVira's jokes and jeers soon slowed to a trickle, stopping long before the film's end. An emcee needs enough material to sustain audience interest for the full flick, especially if said pic is putrid. As constructive criticism, I'd start by selecting a more mock-worthy movie; though dated, NotLD is a genuinely great film. The same can't be said of Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors, which PeeVira plans to parody next month. As brain-melting as my Thursday was, it's nothing compared to Jack Nicholson's performance in that turkey.