Classic horror movies meet live music at Winnipeg’s Park Theatre for unique event

A scene from the 1922 German Expressionist horror film, "Nosferatu.". File

A pair of Winnipeg creatives want people to look at classic black-and-white horror films in a whole new way this February.

Photographer Joey Senft and graphic novelist GMB Chomichuk are presenting ‘Love You to Death’ at the Park Theatre — an experience that combines film, live music, and more.

The concept — re-imagined footage from Nosferatu (1922), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Metropolis (1927), with a live score by an all-star quartet of local musicians — came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senft said.

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“(Chomichuk) is actually my neighbour. We had this idea during the pandemic. I was photographing his wife … and we were doing a photo shoot in his front yard.

“I was doing some filming with my phone and we made it look black and white.

“He said, ‘oh, we should make our own silent movie.’ It was a great idea, but we aren’t really ready for that yet, so we wanted to try to do kind of a trial run. We had the idea of coming up with the Love You to Death event, which is bringing silent movies with music to the Park Theatre.”

Senft said the idea was originally based around F.W. Murnau’s silent classic Nosferatu — until they realized the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra had recently done its own live score to the film.

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“We decided to do something a little different,” she said, “where we’re bringing three movies but cutting them down … it’s a reimagined story, so it’s not really the story you’re used to seeing if you watch the full movies.”

The event will be soundtracked by a foursome of notable musicians — Keri Latimer on “bone-chilling” theremin, the “haunted keyboards” of multi-instrumentalist Rusty Robot, “spirit summoner of the cello” Natanielle Felicitas, and the “spirit-dancing strings” of guitarist Rafael Reyes.

“Because the movies are so old and kind of sci-fi, I immediately thought of Keri Latimer who is a theremin player… if Kari’s not in, this is basically not happening because you really need to have that sci-fi sound to it,” Senft said.

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“Rusty’s name came up because he plays keys and all kinds of weird things with a whole bunch of different percussion instruments.”

Robot — known for his solo work as well as for performing with bands like the Waking Eyes, the Weakerthans, Imaginary Cities and the Sheepdogs — says he jumped at the chance to participate in the project.

“For me, the most unique part of creating a live soundtrack with other musicians is using the screen as our guiding metronome,” he said.

“It directs our tempo, dynamics, emotion, melody, etc. It forces us to really listen to each other and to search for anchor points to switch to something new.

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“We’ve surrounded ourselves with a buffet of strange instruments that make strange sounds. I’m sitting behind a relatively normal drum kit, beside a Moog synthesizer sitting on a Farfisa organ, underneath which lies a trumpet and little tickle trunk of doodads that make all kinds of unique noises.”

Robot said the foursome was given a month to review the edited films, come up with an original soundtrack, and rehearse.

“I’m familiar with the general ideas and the aesthetics of the films,” he said, “though I’m not sure I’ve ever personally watched them all the way through. I was always fascinated with the visuals of Metropolis, and how they were achieved.”

In addition to the re-imagined films and the live performance, Senft said there are other visual elements involved in the event as well, including a poster and a special beer label for the event designed by Chomichuk.

“It’s a little bit of everything — we really wanted to have a collaboration of film artistry and music artistry — and we also have a monster that’s going to be there as well, so we have movie makeup artistry involved.

“I just wanted to bring a whole new audience to something different that people haven’t seen before.”

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More information about Love You to Death, which takes place Feb. 16, is available at the Park Theatre’s website.

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