Pretty Girls Make Graves Horror doesn't get any weirder than Dario Argento's over-the-top Suspiria. The film's huge, decadent sets spill over with primary colors. The soundtrack -- by an Italian rock group called the Goblins -- is an assault of frantic rhythms and agonized wailing. The plot is best when it's nonexistent: namely, the first half-hour, a torrent of bloody chaos with no logical explanation. Prefiguring Wes Craven, Suspiria blurs the borders between dream and reality; fleeing an unseen murderous force, characters stumble into surreal nightmares -- snail-shaped hallways, rooms filled with coiled wire. A wide-eyed Jessica Harper heads a great cast of oddballs: Udo Kier (as a blind man); the queenly, ultraposh Joan Bennett; and Alida Valli, a Teutonic taskmaster with a scary set of bright white bicuspids. See Suspiria at 2, 7:15, and 9:20 p.m. (also 7:15 and 9:20 p.m. Thursday) at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5.50; call 668-3994.
Moaning With Mona Penned by the late Philip-Dimitri Galas (Diamanda's bro), Mona Rogers in Person is a one-woman show starring Helen Shumaker. A wicked comedy about knee-slapping topics like misogyny, self-loathing, and mother hatred, Mona earned Shumaker a cult following when it premiered in 1985. Now, after working with Ethyl Eichelberger (R.I.P.), Karen Finley, and Joan Cusack, Shumaker returns to direct and star in the show. See Helen as Mona at 8 p.m. at Cable Car Theatre, 430 Mason, S.F. Mona Rogers in Person continues Thursday-Sunday through Nov. 26. Tickets are $14-18; call 956-8497.
Chatting With Christopher Unlike Ian Softley's godawful Backbeat (which also starred Ian Hart as John Lennon), Christopher MYnch's The Hours and Times doesn't even attempt to capture the Beatles' music. Instead, wisely, it speculates about a small private detail: manager Brian Epstein's unrequited love for Lennon. Low-key and poignant, Hours graced many 1992 top-10 lists; MYnch's new flick -- Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day -- is due this fall. The latest installment in Film Arts Foundation's "Meet the Mavericks" discussion series features MYnch and producer Andrea Sperling; they'll talk at 7:30 p.m. at 346 Ninth St, S.F. Tickets are $10-12; call 552-8760.
Mighty Mark The Mark Morris Dance Group's original and often outrageous fusions of classical music and modern dance have earned comparisons to Balanchine. Choreographed to Henry Purcell's 1689 opera about love and war in Trojan times, Dido and Aeneas casts Morris in dual female roles: Dido, the queen of Carthage, and her nemesis, the Sorceress. A collaboration with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Dido and Aeneas starts at 8 p.m. (continuing through Saturday) at Zellerbach Playhouse, Bancroft & Dana, Berkeley. Tickets are $26-42; call 776-1999.
Killer Playthings It's easy to see why Walter Robinson describes his wood sculptures as "Quarantined Toys": They're cute, colorful, and deadly. Robinson likens the sculptural process to "the extraction of meaning from the subconscious." Well, Freud would have a field day with Robinson's Motherland, which depicts a huge, bendable, scissorlike object trying to cut through a kidney-shaped breast/missile thingy. See "Quarantined Toys" and Evri Kwong's "It's a Beautiful World" -- a collection of colorful paintings in which human-robot hybrids are disciplined -- from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Morphos Gallery, 49 Geary, S.F. Both exhibitions continue through Dec. 5. Free; call 399-1439.
Headless Love Critical sensitivity informs Trinh T. Minh-ha's essays and short films. Her first feature, A Tale of Love, follows the life of a Vietnamese immigrant who works as a model for a photographer who idealizes headless female bodies. Feminism, voyeurism, and cultural consumption are at play in the film's self-conscious narrative. Minh-ha will attend the S.F. Cinematheque premiere of A Tale of Love at 7:30 p.m. at AMC Kabuki 8, 1881 Post, S.F. Tickets are $7; call 588-8129.
Teen-Age Pics In a collaborative program with Southern Exposure, mixed-media artist Alfonzo Moret worked with Mission-based young adults, helping them use cameras autobiographically. A group show of the resulting work, "Mission Voices" features images by Luis Coria, Claudia Cruces, Luis Hernandez, Sergio Rivas, Rosa Rodriguez, Tamara Sanchez, and Moret. A reception for the show lasts from 7 to 9 p.m. at Collision, 417 14th St, S.F. "Mission Voices" continues through Oct. 27. Free; call 431-4074.
Veronica/Victoria/Eva OK, readers, you got three options: Veronica's Room is a suspenseful play by Ira Levin, featuring distinguished campster Flynn, the star of Theatre Rhino's recent production of Camille; Victoria Jordanova is an innovative, internationally known harp composer and performer who experiments with electronics and percussion; Eva Festa is a performance artist who plays the violin in the nude while swinging on a trapeze. You can see Veronica's Room at 9 p.m. at Climate Theatre, 252 Ninth St, S.F. Tickets are $10-12; call 978-2345. You can see Victoria at 8 p.m. at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, S.F. Tickets are $6-8; call 626-5416. You can see Eva (in the girl, the devil, her violin) at 8 p.m. at Dance Group/Footwork, 3221 22nd St, S.F. Continues Friday-Sunday through Oct. 28; tickets are $8-10; call 824-5044.
Boombastic With 1993's "Oh Carolina" single and Pure Pleasure LP, Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-grown Shaggy offered a humorous, self-deprecating alternative to the macho stance of other dancehall artists. Boombastic, Shaggy's new LP, is rougher and closer to roots reggae, but it still has pop elements (R&B backup singers) and weird genre-mixing experiments ("Jenny" combines reggae with lounge music). You can hear him at 8 p.m. at Club Townsend, 177 Townsend, S.F. Tickets are $18-20; call 974-6020.
Blondes Have More Angst Part of the Roxie's program of strange noir films, The Blue Gardenia is a little-known effort by Fritz Lang, director of Metropolis and M. The plot: A slimy lothario is murdered and the last woman who spent the night with him is assumed to be the killer. The visuals: bleached blondes in extreme anguish. Ann Baxter and Raymond Burr star. See femmes fatales with dye jobs scheme and cry at 2:30, 5:50, and 9:20 p.m. at the Roxie, 3117 16th St, S.F. Tickets are $3-6; call 863-1087.
What a Racket Once upon a time (the early '80s), F.M. Einheit was the drummer for industrial-strength ear-torturers EinstYrzende Neubauten. Today, he's teamed up with Dan Fogelberg. (Just kidding!) Einheit's latest project, Einheit Brstzmann (a collaboration with fellow German Caspar Brstzmann) is noisy as ever: "You need nerves of steel to listen to this kind of music, and you need courage," the group's promotional material boasts. Industrial may have gone pop with Helmet and Nine Inch Nails, but artists like Einheit Brstzmann continue to chart the genre's extremes. Hear them (if you dare) at 7 p.m. at the Trocadero, 520 Fourth St, S.F. Tickets are $10; call 995-4600.
The Rice Is Right Taiko drumming (by San Francisco's Taiko Dojo), rice-pounding ceremonies (by Kagami-Kai), and tea ceremonies (by Omote Senke) are all part of Japantown's Fall Festival. The fest also features cooking demonstrations, song and dance, and audience participation events like tug of war and karaoke. The festival lasts from noon to 7 p.m. (continuing Sunday) at Japantown, Post and Buchanan, S.F. Free; call 202-0353.
Tag-Team Surf Rock Two classic pop-cultural phenomena -- surf rock and Mexican wrestling -- in one: That's the magical musical formula offered by Los Straitjackets, a masked quartet hailing from Nashville. The group's debut LP -- demurely titled The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sound of Los Straitjackets -- features tracks like "Itchy Chicken." They'll rock out and S.F.'s own La Chingona will kick ass during the latest installment of "Incredibly Strange Wrestling"; the showdown starts at 10 p.m. at the Transmission Theater, 314 11th St, S.F. Tickets are $7; call 861-6906.
I Like Spike One of this year's best films is a video: Spike Jonze's clip for Bjsrk's "It's Oh So Quiet," a comedic, colorful short that mirrors the song's abrupt mood shifts. Chocolate, an earlier spaghetti-western skateboard flick by Jonze, is among the entries in this year's Low Res Film and Video Festival -- all shot on super 8, 16mm, and hi-8, the festival highlights technology's influence on low-budget cinema. The lights go down at 8 and 10:30 p.m. at 111 Minna, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 995-2363.
Angry Tigger An adult magazine cover girl/centerfold and frontwoman of the polymorphously perverse Bay Area band Hyperdrive Kittens, Tigger LeTwang is angry that our "breast-obsessed society isn't doing more to maintain the health and well-being of its supposed objects of desire." She's talking about breast cancer, and her approach to the problem is Breast Fest '95, a series of concerts to raise money for Bay Area women's health organizations. Breast Fest '95's finale features Hyperdrive Kittens, Van Gogh's Daughter, Color Puddy, and the vivacious Veronica Klaus at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Tickets are $6; call 885-0750.
Word Perfect Stephen Beachy's contemporaries present the road novel as a he-man adventure, but Beachy's 1991 debut, The Whistling Song -- a hitchhiking epic in which bizarre coincidences form patterns -- uses the form to interrogate America. Beachy is just one of a group of writers involved in "Notorious," an evening of reading/performance. Others include Lawrence Braithwaite (whose first novel, Wigger, "deals with white nigger wannabes"), Margaret Crane, and Wayne Smith. The spoken word starts at 8 p.m. at the LAB, 2948 16th St, S.F. Tickets are $5-7; call 864-8855.
Show and Tell With Jennie L. Best-known as the director of Paris Is Burning -- you know, that documentary about an obscure practice called drag -- Jennie Livingston is also a film curator. In conjunction with S.F. Cinematheque, she'll present an evening of shorts by gay/lesbian directors. Early efforts by Gus Van Sant, Maria Maggenti, Todd Haynes (Dottie Gets Spanked), and Livingston herself (Hotheads, featuring comedian Reno and Diane DiMassa, creator of the hilarious Hothead Paisan comic) are all part of the program. Scope things out at 7:30 p.m. at the S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut, S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 558-8129.
Spooky and Kooky "Frankenstein, Dracula, and even the Mummy/ Are sure to wind up in somebody's tummy!" Lon Chaney sings gleefully over rockin' piano at the start of Jack Hill's 1964 Spider Baby. Actually, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy don't even appear in Spider Baby; starring Chaney, Hill's eccentric horror/comedy pits a sweet family of oddball cannibals against greedy relatives who want to take their mansion away. You can see this obscure gem at 7:15 and 9:15 p.m. (also on Tuesday) at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5.50; call 668-3994.
Pop Quiz Yo La Tengo is a trio from the East Coast. Their latest album has rock critics in a tizzy. And their frontguy -- Ira Kaplan -- used to be a critic himself. They play -- along with fellow Matador act Run/On -- at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Tickets are $8.50; call 885-0750.
The Klaus and Werner Show In his obscene, terminally cranky memoir, All I Need Is Love, Klaus Kin-ski saves a special dose of vitriol for director Werner Herzog. Les Blank's Burden of Dreams captures the pair's love-hate relationship, documenting the disasters, accidents, illnesses, and fights that dogged Herzog's three-hour-long, three-years-in-the-making epic Fitzcarraldo. In Fitzcarraldo, Kinski discovers that building an opera house in the Amazon is impossible; in Burden of Dreams, Herzog discovers that making a film in the Amazon is impossible. Ask Blank all about it (he'll be on hand) at a 6:30 p.m. screening of Burden of Dreams at the Goethe Institut, 530 Bush, S.F. Free; call 391-0370.