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Chicago This Week: Embrace the Darkness

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Saint Alphonsus Catholic church, part of  Open House Chicago

photo by eric allix rogers

Saint Alphonsus Catholic church, part of  Open House Chicago

Here are the five coolest things to do in and around Chicago this week

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Ironic and flamboyant British hair-rock band The Darkness are playing House of Blues this week, and for a different kind of extravagant performance watch AYA, a ballet in which the dancers soar through the air. If binge-watching Netflix is your idea of a good time, get out the house and instead binge-watch the indie (or big-budget) productions showcased during Chicago International Film Festival. There's a film connection at Open House Chicago, too, where you can visit, among other places, the steel plant that's home to Cinespace Film Studios. And make sure to drop by one of the open cathedrals to pray for your soul if you're heading to the Six Flags Fright Fest.

October 15–29 | Film
Chicago International Film Festival
Chicago International Film Festival is not a red carpet celebrity spectacle with world-premiere blockbusters, but an opportunity for cinephiles to binge-watch indie films and big-budget movies from around the world. The higher profile films—such as the Midwest premiere of Michael Moore's documentary Where to Invade Next, the opening-night presentation of Mia Madre starring John Turturo, and Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard—tend to sell out fast. That's okay, you'll see these films soon enough when they're released. Instead, scan the film schedule for synopses that grab you and spend those two weeks seeing movies for the pure pleasure of a great story.
Times vary | AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois St., Chicago | (312) 332-3456 | From $14 | website

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October 17 | Dance
If you've ever gone to a ballet and wished the dancers could jump just that little bit higher—to the ceiling, maybe—then you'll love this. Elements Contemporary Ballet and Aerial Dance Chicago combine forces for a three-act ballet danced both on the ground and in the air using flowing silk ribbons hanging from the ceiling. Dancers climb the ribbons and wrap them around their limbs; they dance suspended until they let the ribbons unfurl and tumble gracefully to the ground. The performance tells the story of one dancer trapped high above the others in a tangle of tree roots (symbolized by a thick, braided ribbon in the center of the stage). She frees herself and climbs down to join the others, and eventually finds her place among them.
8–10 p.m. | Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago | (773) 935-6875 | From $32 | website 

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October 17–18 | Architecture
Open House Chicago
For two days a year, 200 of Chicago's most architecturally significant (or just plain intriguing) buildings open their doors to gawking visitors as part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House Chicago. The sites scattered across 20 neighborhoods include: the gilded byzantine interiors of the Catholic churches in Ukrainian Village; the 52-acre steel plant in North Lawndale that is now home to Cinespace Film Studios (where Chicago Fire and Empire have filmed); and the Bronzeville Ace Hardware Store that was the former home of the legendary Sunset Cafe jazz club (once owned by Louis Armstrong) and which hides the club's stage and vibrant mural backdrop. Best yet: Open House Chicago is free and requires no tickets.
9 a.m.–5 p.m. | Locations vary | Free | website

AFAR Local is published every Wednesday, so check back for insider updates on restaurant openings, festivals, exhibitions, shows, weekend escapes, and more. Planning a trip? The AFAR guide to Chicago has you covered.

October 20 | Music
The Darkness
It's not surprising a band that writes songs about such topics as persistent venereal disease doesn't take itself too seriously. And, in the case of England's The Darkness, that means the rock band has an absolute blast on stage—and its audience does, too. Frontman Justin Hawkins will do just about anything to entertain his fans: wear leather jumpsuits unzipped to his naval, perform David Lee Roth–like mid-air splits, play a guitar solo while perched on a bandmate's shoulders and weaving through the crowd, and stage dive from a balcony. All this showmanship would seem like overcompensating if Hawkins and the rest of the band weren't also incredibly talented, and responsible for such hits as "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." These Raven Skies are the openers.
8 p.m. | House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago | (312) 923-2000 | $29.50 | website

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Weekend escape 
Six Flags Great America's Fright Fest
Dropping 180 feet at 72 miles per hour on the Goliath roller coaster is scary enough, but when you add six haunted houses and ghouls getting in your face while you wait in line for rides, Great America becomes positively terrifying. The amusement park's annual Fright Fest turns fairly innocuous rides like the scrambler-style Hometown Fun Machine into a toxic dump where zombies roam and jump out at you as you spin past, and the already frightening Viper wooden roller coaster brings radioactive snakes into the mix for extra screams. Bring the kids for moderate scares during the day, but at night the park becomes far too intense for anyone under 13. 
5–11 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.–midnight Saturdays, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sundays, through November 1 | 1 Great America Pkwy., Gurnee, IL | (847) 249-1776 | From $34.50; haunted houses wristband $30 | website

Laura Baginski is a Chicago-based writer and editor who specializes in travel and parenting. Because of the latter, the former doesn't happen as much as she'd like.