Frankenstein, the Mummy, zombies: Something is wrong here. Our fear of death is so great that every October we turn the dead -- our ancestors, our peeps -- into monsters. Mango's Cantina is offering a fine alternative tonight, with great food, music and dancing, and a chance to honor the dead instead of running away screaming. Día de los Muertos is the Mexican festival that marks the annual pilgrimage home of the spirits of the deceased. Co-curator Daniel Sandoval says, "As Latinos, we deal with the loss of loved ones in a different way than most Americans. We celebrate death rather than grieving, so we don't forget those who have passed on. We're paying homage to the people who have touched our lives." Fusing traditional Day of the Dead rituals with new media and music by some of Houston's most banging DJs, the curators of the cantina's event hope to put a fresh spin on this Latino holiday.
Attendees are encouraged to bring photographs and mementos of their dearly departed for placement on the main altar on the stage. Ofrendas, or offerings, of food, candles and marigolds are also welcome; vibrant aromas and light assist the visiting souls in finding their way home (or to the cantina). Five local artists -- Christian Azul, Adrian de la Cerda, Donna Huanca, Joshua Mares and Eydie Rojas -- will be putting finishing touches on their individual altars the evening of the event. "Every artist is choosing someone to commemorate," says co-curator Gracie Cardenas. "I want people to come away from the event being inspired by both life and death." 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, November 1. 403 Westheimer. For information, call 713-522-8903. $5 donation. -- Natalie Ledbetter
Face it: The vampire thing is all about sex. When fang-boy's lips hover above the jugular of some virginal babe, the audience awaits the moment of penetration, the scream, the blood -- whew, it's getting hot in here. Creepy Canadian auteur Guy Maddin has a new take on Bram Stoker's torrid tale. In his film Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, he turns an already sensual performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet into a voyeuristic adventure. Maddin mixes silent-film techniques with helter-skelter editing, titillating close-ups and music by Gustav Mahler to drive his point home harder than a stake through the heart. 7 p.m. Friday, October 31, and Saturday, November 1. Brown Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7771, www.mfah.org. $6. -- Greg Barr
Satan gets a bad rap. Yes, he's a wicked little fellow who sodomizes sinners with a hot poker, but that's just his role in the grand scheme of things. Maybe he has worries like the rest of us. Maybe he cares what people think of him, especially his nagging mother. In Devil Talk, a short film by Illeana Douglas, the Prince of Darkness chats with his mom on the phone and discusses the possibility of hiring a publicist to improve his rep. Hey, image is everything. Devil Talk will be screened as part of the "Halloweird Edition" of Microcinema International's Independent Exposure Series. Also keep an eye out for Five Fucking Fables, a disturbingly entertaining quintet of cartoons about you-know-what. 8 p.m. Friday, October 31. The Axiom, 2524 McKinney. For information, call 713-412-5120 or visit www.microcinema.com. $5. -- Keith Plocek
The Kinky History of Art
Sex (and death) sells, even in the 15th century
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Sex and violence in the media isn't exactly new. Renaissance- and baroque-era artists had an appetite for lust and gore too, and you can see plenty of examples at the lecture "Sex and Death in Prints" by Kevin Salatino of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Artists, unlike moralists, have never been squeamish about acknowledging these two bracing facts of life," Salatino says. The Alien movies have nothing on the gruesome deaths depicted in Goltzius's The Dragon Devouring the Companions of Cadmus. And on a more carnal level, Raimondi's I Modi, or "the positions," was so sexually graphic that the Catholic Church suppressed or destroyed all complete copies. "Some of these works," says Salatino, "are still shocking even now." 6 p.m. Thursday, October 30. Brown Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300, www.mfah.org. Free. -- Bob Ruggiero
Underground Railroad Crossing
Quilt patterns are often symbolic. Their makers pass down the symbols' meanings as they pass down the art. Slaves on antebellum plantations were responsible for both quilting and laundry; quilts hung out like regular laundry may have been used to give messages to escaping slaves travelling on the underground railroad. The 10th District African Methodist Episcopal Church is displaying replicas of these symbol-heavy quilts at this weekend's International Quilt Festival. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, October 30, through Saturday, November 1; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, November 2. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, call 713-781-6864 or visit www.quilts.com. $9; $7 for seniors and students; free for kids. -- Lisa Simon