It's time to put on makeup! It's time to dim the lights! Because it's October, and the month is full of frights! Yes, the best movie-watching month of the year is here (if you love horror movies — and even if you don't): Art houses and cinemas, movie houses and theaters will be screening the best of new and old films that spook the spoop right out of us. Still, included on our list of the thirteen best cinema events this month are at least three films with nary a scare in them; that's because we're not complete monsters, and we want you to have a well-rounded month of movie-going, whether or not you care for ghosts, goblins, killers and witches. Since some great film stuff spilled over onto Cory Casciato's Geek Events list, so be sure to see what's going on over there. And here are our picks for this month in film, in chronological order:
13) The Keeping Room
Opens Friday, October 2, at Landmark Chez Artiste
Looking to both upend and play with genre expectations, The Keeping Room is an American Western that imbues its story with some much-welcomed girl power courtesy of its shining cast and fresh take on an old American homestead. Brit Marling (Another Earth, The East) stars as a South Carolina woman forced to lead a charge against two invading, drunken soldiers — alongside her sister (True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld) and their slave (newcomer Muna Otaru) — when tensions quickly come to a head. The screenplay, written by Julia Hart, gained scads of traction on the Black List (a site dedicated to cheerleading amazing screenplays into films) for years, but was only recently (and faithfully) brought to life by Academy Award-nominated director Daniel Barber. Get tickets and showtimes at landmarktheaters.com.
12) Wendigo w/ Larry Fessenden in Person
Screens Monday, October 5, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Actor/director/producer triple threat Larry Fessenden has become a genre staple, appearing in and shaping dozens of (often cheap) horror titles, including 2001’s Wendigo, his third, but biggest hit, that reminds us that old scary stories are awesome and sometimes the most effective. In this chilly tale, a family’s winter getaway is interrupted by a malevolent force that may just be a deer but probably is something far worse. Fessenden will be on hand to present the film and selling advanced boxed sets of new BluRay pressings of his first three films. For tickets and more, go to drafthouse.com.
11) A Film for All Seasons
Wednesdays in October at the Landmark Chez Artiste and Esquire theatres
Landmark’s popular and consistent classic-film showcase gets spooktacular with screenings both conventional, including The Innocents (October 7) and Bride of Frankenstein (October 21), and experimental: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s brilliantly terrifying Cure (October 14) and Murnau’s Nosferatu (October 28) with a live musical score by the wild, experimental dudes at Plastik Factory. The films play twice each day, at 2 and 7 p.m., for babies who need the light of day after a fright flick to get them home, or night owls who don’t mind things going bump in the dark. Get tickets and info at landmarktheaters.com.
10) The Final Girls
Opens Friday, October 9, at Sie FilmCenter
A cross between the meta-horror stylings of Scream and Cabin in the Woods and the fourth-wall peeling of The Purple Rose of Cairo, The Final Girls wears its bloody heart securely on its sleeve. Max, the daughter of a deceased horror actress still famous for playing a sexy scream queen in fictional ‘80s slasher Camp Bloodbath, attends a screening of her mother’s film when a catastrophe occurs, sending audience members scrambling. In the chaos, Max and her pals awaken to find themselves inside the film with a complete knowledge of the horror formula and a batch of unsuspecting camp counselors, Max’s deceased mother included, who they have to wisen up before masked killer Billy murders them all before the final reel. The film succeeds at having fun with slasher tropes while maintaining a unique sense of emotional underpinning as Max gets a second chance with her mother. The film also contains one of cinema’s most triumphant stripteases as well as one of its saddest stripteases, too. Oh, and plenty of blood, or is it corn syrup? Nope, it's blood. Tickets at denverfilm.org.
Screens Sunday, October 11, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
The passing of director Wes Craven from cancer left an indelible hole in the horror genre that will take years to fill, but thank heavens we still have his back catalogue of films that changed the cultural landscape and also inspired plenty of shrieks. Craven created three revolutionary staples: The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street and, finally, Scream, which may very well be the most perfect horror movie put on film. Kickstarting the “meta”morphosis of horror after his brilliant New Nightmare dipped its toe in those waters, Scream is a tightly wound jack-in-the-box of slashers and comedy; in it, Craven figured out that the rush of a horror flick is tied to our safe escape after coming face to face with our own stupid mortality. Proceeds from this screening will be donated to the American Cancer Society in Craven’s name, long may it reign. Tickets at drafthouse.com.
Kelly Gallagher's Pen Up the Pigs makes its voice heard at Cinema Contra.
8) Cinema Contra: Black Lives Matter
Screens Sunday, October 11, at Glob
Film has long been the preferred medium for activism, and in light of racial tension exploding all over the country in the past year, Glob’s Cinema Contra program takes a look at some pieces that highlight the injustices, treatment and messages that surround a statement that, sadly, had to become a hashtag in order to get people to listen and watch. The evening’s program features three experimental pieces that play with skin color and social misconduct, as well as classic civil rights films presented on 16mm whose voices are just as loud and needed today as they were back in the day. Suggested donation tickets available at the door.
7) Crimson Peak
Opens Friday, October 16, at Denver Theaters
The horror films of director Guillermo Del Toro have long cast a spell over audiences, from his exquisite Cronos to the gorgeous Pan’s Labyrinth and more: The man weaves good tales. This month he’s back in fighting form with the Gothic horror of Crimson Peak, which takes us to a breathtaking haunted estate in a time long ago where secrets and ghosts drip around like blood or candle wax. This one promises just a hint of bodice-ripping sexuality, which should appease fans of stars Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska; the slash fiction of them rolling around with the undead might finally become a cinematic reality. Gasp! Find showtimes and theaters at fandango.com.
Nina Forever gets in bed with the Telluride Horror Show.
6) Telluride Horror Show
October 16 through October 18 in Telluride
Nothing brings out the goosebumps like a crisp chill in the air — and for that reason alone, Telluride is great to visit this time of year. The resort town is getting ready to welcome skiers, but it’s still just empty enough that the specter of Halloween makes this the perfect setting for the Telluride Horror Show, a three-day feast of films that acts as the weirdo nephew to the sage Telluride Film Fest. Filmmakers and frightened audiences will have a score of new horror flicks to choose from, any number of which will give them the heebie-jeebies for that moonlit walk back to their potentially haunted lodging. A second wave of programming, along with some special guests and events, will be announced today at telluridehorrorshow.com.
5) Cemetery Man
Screens Saturday, October 17, at Alamo Drafthouse
Alongside other great Italian horror filmmakers resides the wonderful Michele Soavi, whose films tend to fall on the art-ier — if not still bloody — side of the spectrum. Case in point: This 1994 mini-cult gem (known by many as Dellamorte Dellamore) starring the broodingly hot Rupert Everett as a cemetery caretaker toiling away through the hours, romancing lonely widows and re-killing the deceased that occasionally return seven days after burial. This rarely screened pleasure has all the gore you want from an Italian blood feast, but with a surprising amount of existential ennui. Rest in peace with this film and get your tickets at drafthouse.com.
4) Girlie Night: Hocus Pocus
Screens Sunday, October 18, at Alamo Drafthouse
One of the most surprising celebrations of nostalgia has become the recent cult popularity of this spooky 1993 Walt Disney property about the Sanderson Sisters, three witches — portrayed by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy — accidentally resurrected by some nosy kids on Halloween. The film was directed by Kenny Ortega, who would later lead tweens to shrieking heights with the High School Musical films, and with this movie he's somehow created an annual watching tradition for adults who remember Midler & Co’s campy rendition of Jay Hawkins “I Put a Spell on You.” Get your tickets (because they will sell out) at drafthouse.com.
3) Back To The Future Part II
Screens Wednesday, October 21, at the Sie FilmCenter
Hey, '80s kids! That day that we never thought we’d be alive to witness is finally upon us! October 21, 1985 will go down in history as the day that Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly time-traveled into the future, and although a healthy amount of that film’s predictions have *sorta* come true, we still don’t really have our hoverboard, dammit. The thirtieth anniversary will be marked by screenings of this blockbuster classic all over the world, and the Alamo is even showing the Back to the Future trilogy today — but only at the Sie FilmCenter will this film be followed by an ‘80s dance party in the lobby courtesy of DJ Hollow. So grab those self-tying shoes and do a shot if the playlist includes Huey Lewis & the News’s “The Power of Love.” Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
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2) Extraordinary Tales
Opens Friday, October 23, at Sie FilmCenter
A hit at this year’s CineLatino Film Festival, Extraordinary Tales is a riveting and gorgeous animated anthology of five classic tales from the OG Master of Horror, Edgar Allan Poe. Featuring a bevy of perfectly cast voices for the stories — Roger Corman, Julian Sands, Guillermo Del Toro, Christopher Lee and even a posthumous Bela Legosi — Tales is the perfect way to start the seven-day lead up to All Hallow’s Eve and also enjoy some creative work focusing on the spooky genius who never met a raven he didn’t like. Tickets at denverfilm.org.
1) Big Screen Classics: Hausu
Screens Monday, October 26, at Alamo Drafthouse
Curiously, none of the movie houses we rely on in Denver thought to treat horror fans to some great film-watching on the actual holiday, so if you need a fright pill whose magic will carry the spooks into Halloween, look no further than the bat-shit crazy wild world of Japanese auteur Nobuhiko Obayashi. This 1977 stunner starts out like any run-of-the-mill horror jaunt with seven sweet schoolgirls venturing off to visit a relative in her beautiful home — which happens to be so haunted that the house itself has demented plans to eat all of the girls. Obayashi was a spirited commercial filmmaker at the time he made the film, and he had a lot of unusual, albeit supercool, techniques and unforgettable ways to crank the film’s tension and infuse it with a healthy dose of visual WTF. Come for the sights, stay for the possessed piano hungry for some teenage flesh. Tickets at drafthouse.com.