Halloween is right around the corner, and, for some of us, candy corn, costumes, haunted houses, horror movie marathons and monster mashing is celebration enough. But for those who like a little extra treat in their bag of Halloween tricks, two Charlottesvillians have developed Hellmouth, an interactive choose-your-own-horror-adventure audio tour.
Head to the Downtown Mall, open up the Hellmouth app and either turn up the volume on your phone or pop in some earbuds to step into the story.
You’re a special agent called back early from vacation for a pressing assignment. Your boss explains: “We have reason to believe that Satanists are converging on a small town in Virginia named Charlottesville to open what is known as a Hellmouth,” a portal to another dimension that, if opened, will release chaos and evil into the town. Paranormal abnormalities have been recorded all over the downtown area and you must visit and investigate those sites, then report back. Your mission is to stop the Hellmouth from opening. Remember one thing, your boss insists: “Fix your heart or die.”
A map built into the app and tracked by GPS is pre-marked with all of the sites where paranormal abnormalities have been identified. A series of original stories and vignettes—written by Hellmouth creators Drew Bergman and Sam Patteson and featuring 14 actors playing nearly two dozen roles—play along the way.
“We were looking for a good venue to tell non-linear stories, set in areas where they might have the most impact,” says Patteson, and when the pair couldn’t find a good avenue to do so, they decided to write their own app.
Bergman says that he and Patteson worked on the storyline over the summer, and after the white supremacist torch-lit rally of August 11 and the deadly rally and car attack of August 12, they were compelled to change the course of the story. The original stories “became adrift and confused in the aftermath of [that] weekend,” says Bergman.
They started thinking about what prompts a person to join a hate organization, how hate groups attract new/young members and why hateful behavior is so seemingly normalized, Patteson says, adding, “it’s become almost a farce here. First, the KKK came to town, then the alt-right. Can literal Satanists summoning the devil be that far behind?”
Hellmouth then “became an outlet for the two of us to focus disgust, rage, hopelessness and our knee-jerk penchant for gallows humor into something at least a little more productive,” says Bergman.
Patteson knows it’s something that requires a dark sense of humor and a certain tolerance for satire, adult themes and some gore, and Hellmouth special agents are invited to convene at Champion Brewing Co. on Halloween night for a party with music, art, projections and more. But will they have fixed their hearts? We’ll have to wait and see.