The Ten Best Geek Events in Denver in July

July is here, a time for blowing things up in celebration of America’s birthday! Woo, freedom! We can also celebrate our freedom to watch horror movies, play games and generally be total geeks — and the coming month offers plenty of opportunity to do all of that, too. Here are ten of July’s best geek events, offered in chronological order for easy planning purposes.

10) Scream Screen: Calvaire
Local horror impresario Theresa Mercado's Scream Screen series recently relaunched at the Sie FilmCenter with High Tension, but there's plenty more to come in July. The month starts off with her second entry in the series, the grotesque nightmare that is Calvaire. This fun little Belgian film is, in Mercado's words, "a mixture of Deliverance and Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which should convince any horror fans worth their salt to check it out. And there's more to come the following two Thursdays: July 9 brings the extreme home-invasion horror of Them (not the '50s movie about giant ants, mind you), with Martyrs — arguably one of the most horrific movies ever made! — closing out the series on July 16.  

See Calvaire at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 2 at the Sie FilmCenter. Tickets are $11, or $8 for Denver Film Society Members. For more info, visit the Calvaire event page at the DFS website.

9) Sci-Fi Film Series
For the past few years, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Film Society have been making the geek equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate: Take some great science fiction films — both recent and classic releases — and add a real scientist to talk about the science behind the film. The results are glorious. This year's slate of films kicks off with Snowpiercer and follows that with Her, Interstellar, the original Planet of the Apes and Blade Runner. Metro State University film professor Vincent Piturro will be on hand to discuss the films' cinematic merits, along with a scientist with the appropriate expertise on the subject matter. If you've ever wanted to ask an honest-to-god scientist, "So, do androids dream of electric sheep?" this is your best shot.

See Snowpiercer at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 8 at the Sie FilmCenter. Tickets are $15, or $12 for DFS members, or you can buy a full series pass for $65, or $50 for DFS members. Additional films follow each Wednesday throughout July, both at the Sie and the Phipps Theater at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Sci-Fi Film Series page.

8) Jeff Lindsay: Dexter Is Dead
Dissatisfied with the way the TV version of Dexter ended? Wishing there were another, less lumberjackcentric fate for America's most beloved serial killer? Well, you're in luck, because author Jeff Lindsay, upon whose work the show is based, has a distinctly different ending in mind for Dexter. Don't jump to any conclusions based on the title, either — before Dexter takes his final bow, he's got a few more twists and turns, as he's imprisoned for a murder that, for once, he didn't commit. 

Jeff Lindsay will read from and sign Dexter Is Dead at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 9 at the Tattered Cover Colfax. Admission is free; the book is $24.95. For more info, visit the Tattered Cover website

7) The Power of Poison
Poison gets a bad rap. The natural world, not to mention literature and history, is full of poison, but all anyone ever thinks about is the people it kills. What about the people it cures? After all, the difference between a poison and a medicine is often merely a matter of milligrams, and there's no better — or more fun — way to learn all about these fascinating substances than at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's The Power of Poison exhibit. Walk through a recreation of the rainforest to witness poison dart frogs, explore an enchanted book that reveals the truth about “magical” plants like belladonna and wolfsbane, or even solve a poisoning mystery. Afterward, you'll never look at poison the same way again.

The Power of Poison exhibit opens Friday, June 10 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Admission is free with general admission to the museum. For tickets and more info, visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science website

6) Magic: The Gathering: Origins pre-release

The newest — and final! — Core set for Magic: The Gathering, the world's most popular trading-card game, is hitting shelves this month, and that means it's pre-release time. Magic's pre-release tournaments are among its most casual events, meaning they're a great way to dip your toe into the water of competitive play, even if you're a total noob. Heck, especially if you're a total noob, since the Core sets are the game's entry-level product and this is a sealed event, so you don't even need to own any cards to participate. If you've been playing the digital Duels of the Planeswalkers on your computer or console and wondering if it's time to make the jump to the actual card game, this is the way to do it. Plus, this is the final Core set — the game's previous "entry level" product — so it's a chance to be part of history, as well.

July 11-12, various locations. Price may vary, but expect to spend about $30, which nets you six packs of cards plus a special promo card. For more information, check out the official Magic: The Gathering website, and find a location near you with Wizards of the Coast's store locator.

5) Ian Cooke Band Does Dinosaurs with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra
If there were an official animal mascot of geekdom, it'd be a dinosaur. Ian Cooke knows this, because Ian Cooke loves dinosaurs so much he wrote an album about them, called Antiquasauria. His cello-based singer-songwriter stylings may seem a strange match for such geeky material, but that's only because you haven't heard his dinosaur songs yet. Have a listen (hey, look, a conveniently embedded video is right above this blurb!), then come down to the Biennial of the Americas to see him perform four of his prehistoric thunder lizard songs with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Plus, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science crew will be on hand to answer any dino questions that may arise from the songs (or really, any dinosaur questions at all). 

The evening kicks off at 5 p.m. (music starts at 7 p.m.) Friday, July 17 in Civic Center Park. Admission is free. For more info, visit the Biennial of the Americas performances page.

4) Serenity
Joss Whedon's Firefly didn't even last a full season, but in its short time on the air it spawned one of fandom's most loyal cults. Thanks to that cult, and the fact that they bought a record-setting amount of DVDs once the abbreviated series was released to that medium, the show got a brief resurrection in the form of Serenity. Sure, it wasn't nearly as satisfying as six more seasons of the show would have been, but it was a whole lot better than nothing, especially since it turned out to be a pretty damn good piece of space opera on its own, even if you'd never seen an episode of the show. 

See Serenity at midnight July 17 and 18 at the Esquire. Tickets are $9. For tickets and more info, visit the Esquire's website

3) The Music of Harry Potter
Hogwarts wouldn't be Hogwarts without two things — a bunch of magical kids running around, and some stirring music from John Williams playing as you see it for the first, or fiftieth, time. Now you can relive the thrilling adventures of The Boy Who Lived through the music of the films, as performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It'll be a magical night for all true fans of the films and books, even old He Who Must Not Be Named. 

Hear The Music of Harry Potter at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18 at Boettcher Concert Hall. Tickets start at $30. For more info and tickets, visit The Music of Harry Potter event page.

2) Mondo X Chiller: Creature From the Black Lagoon
Before Jaws came along, there was no better reason to stay the hell out of the water than Creature From the Black Lagoon. As a group of scientists attemp to uncover a missing link between land-based and aquatic life, they run into a very much alive fish man with big claws and a tendency to kill. For an old horror movie, this one has held up remarkably well, and can still give you pause next time you go to dive into some murky lake water. 

See Creature From the Black Lagoon in 3D at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at the Alamo Drafthouse. Tickets are $7. For tickets and more info, visit the Mondo X Chiller: Creature From the Black Lagoon event page.

1) Denver County Fair
You'd be hard-pressed to find a county fair anywhere in the country geekier than the Denver County Fair. How geeky? Well, there's the robot opera, the zombie beauty pageant, a zombie shooting range (don't mix them up!), a platoon of Stormtroopers, the OhHeckYeah arcade and even unicorn rides. Pretty geeky. If you need a break from all that geekery, you've also got all the usual fair attractions — animals, pie-eating contests and the like — plus the geek-friendly, but not explicitly geeky, Kitten Pavilion. Meow!

The fair starts Friday, July 31 at the National Western Complex. Tickets are $10 for the weekend. For more information, visit the Denver County Fair website.
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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato