It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas. It's Halloween season! Otherwise known as the time of year when young lovers look for movies to tremble through together and psychotic minds (all of us, really) crave a good scream...or just a simple on-screen bloody decapitation.
Enjoy this month's fine films, listed here in chronological order depending on their release in Denver. There are some non-Halloween-related movies on this list, but they have sinister edges. And it wouldn't be fair to make this whole list about the Alamo Drafthouse, but for October frights done right, bookmark the Alamo's calendar page. It has something spooktacular going on nearly every night this month.
1. Scream Screen
October 1, 8, 15 and 22 at 9:30 p.m. at the Sie FilmCenter
Westword’s choice for Best Recurring Classic Film Series, the Scream Screen returns to the Sie FilmCenter this month. This go 'round, hostess Theresa Mercado is looking to crack open some skulls and see what’s swimming inside with "Journey Into a Damaged Brain," which is the month's theme. Four deep cuts of horror cinema spotlighting derangement and dismemberment will show, including Maniac (William Lustig), Possession (Andrzej Zulawski), Der Fan (Eckhart Schmidt) and Angst (Gerald Kargl). As an added treat, all four films will be preceded by some of Denver’s best edgy music talent (Already Dead, Ian Cooke, French Kettle Station and Echo Beds). Get tickets at denverfilm.org.
2. A Film for All Seasons
Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m. starting October 5 at the Mayan Theater
Before the big-gun Oscar-bait films start rolling out, Landmark is showing some diverse horror greats, like Philip Kaufman’s creepy Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Hitchcock’s strangle-palooza Frenzy, De Palma’s terror musical Phantom of the Paradise, and Nobuhiko Obayashi’s batshit-crazy Japanese gem Hausu. Get your tickets at landmarktheaters.com.
3. The Greasy Strangler
Opens October 7 at the Sie FilmCenter
One of the biggest, nastiest splashes made at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was by The Greasy Strangler, a bizarre horror comedy about the battle between a father and son over the affections of a “hootie tootie disco cutie” who rolls into town. Bringing horror to this tale is a grotesque, big-wanged, oiled-up murderer who begins strangling townsfolk and may or may not be connected to the father and son. Festival audiences have either fallen in love with the film’s over-the-top gore, violence and sex or been nauseated by its greasy trappings. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
4. The Birth of a Nation
Opens October 7 at Denver-area theaters
Tackling horrors of a different kind (and making a grand splash at Sundance) is Nate Parker’s debut stunner, an epic retelling of one of history’s biggest yet not widely lauded footnotes: Nat Turner’s bloody rebellion against slavery in the antebellum South. Turner (played by writer/director Parker) was a slave and preacher who used his voice to bring up his fellow slaves and, in the process, inspired them to battle their slave owners.
The film has been praised for its authenticity and powerful message, but it experienced a setback on its way to screens after a situation involving Parker – a rape case of which he was acquitted in 1999 – was unearthed. The news has overshadowed this month’s release and left Parker avoiding Q&As and some of his fellow castmates who have publicly re-thought their involvement in the film. Will the important story of one of history’s most important revolutionary figures be lost in the controversy of the man who plays him? An interesting question, for sure. Find tickets and showtimes at fandango.com.
5. Shin Godzilla
October 11, 12, 13, 15 and 18 at the Sie FilmCenter
America might have tried to revive the Godzilla franchise, but Japan is its rightful owner. So forget Gareth Edward's 2014 reboot and watch Shin Godzilla (which translates to “true” or “new”). Hideaki Anno, the film's director, uses a combination of rubber suits and CGI to bring the monster back in a way that will surely satisfy domestic audiences. After all, it was the highest-grossing film in Japan over the summer. Get your tickets for this limited engagement at denverfilm.org.
6. Closet Monster
Opens October 14 at the Sie FilmCenter
Coming-of-age movies are a dime a dozen, but Closet Monster is a hearty soup made up of a lot of delicious film ingredients that sets it far apart from other films. The film's protagonist is named Oscar (the winning Connor Jessup), a high-school senior chomping at the bit to get out of his town and attend Joe Blasco’s legendary special-effects makeup academy...if only to take him away from his parents' sour divorce, a brainless job, and his burgeoning sexuality, which comes in the form of Wilder, a mysterious hotcake whom poor Oscar agonizes over. Relying only on the support of gal pal Gemma and the advice of his sardonic hamster, voiced by the incredible Isabella Rossellini, Oscar’s mind and body begin to crack as all of his worlds collide. Directed by Stephen Dunn, who grew up loving the Nightmare on Elm Street films, Closet Monster has been billed as "horror-ish"; bad things happen, and as Oscar fights his demons, we're never quite sure if we're watching reality or imagination. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
Opens October 14 at Denver-area theaters
Truly great horror films have a knack for making social commentary and exposing the awfulness of the monsters around us. Take Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was born of the Kent State shootings, or Night of the Living Dead, which was steeped in the awfulness of the Vietnam War and racial violence. Their kernels of truth made for truly lasting horror tales.
Director Jonás Cuarón marks his directorial debut (he co-wrote Gravity with his father, Alfonso) with this striking tale of a group of Mexicans (heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal among them) who cross the Mexican border into the United States and fall prey to a psychotic vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who sees the crossers more like cockroaches than humans and decides to take care of the “problem” himself. Morgan is terrifying, but somehow the desert ends up being the scariest monster of all. The film uses horror to deliver a state-of-the-union address, one we must all hear. For tickets, go to fandango.com.
8. Nightmare on Elm Street marathon
Saturday, October 15, starting at noon at the Alamo Drafthouse
The long, lucid saga of the man of your dreams, Freddy Krueger, and his battle with the teenagers of Springwood, Ohio, will be chronicled in this epic movie marathon that will cover the 1984 horror classic that started it all and its six sequels. That's eleven hours of film. Viewers who make it all the way through will receive a fancy TBD prize as a badge of honor and a fresh supply of nightmares to follow them for weeks. Get your tickets at drafthouse.com.
9. Telluride Horror Show
October 14 through 16 in Telluride
At night in October, the sleepy burg of Telluride becomes creepy as hell and the perfect setting for a three-day cavalcade of horror films. Find out more at telluridehorrorshow.com.
10. Boo! A Madea Halloween
Opens October 21 at Denver-area theaters
It must be said: Love him or loathe him, Tyler Perry is our only living auteur. No one else has a studio at his disposal and writes, directs and even acts in his own work as often as Perry. His tales often focus on morality – and are punctuated with high melodrama or knee-slapping comedy. The two often mix in Perry's bizarre avatar, Mabel "Madea" Simmons, a tough-as-hell senior woman who speaks loudly and carries a small handgun. She dolls out sass and advice in equal measure to troubled family members dealing with drug addiction, cheating spouses and bratty children. Madea has appeared in nine Perry films, and now she gets her own Halloween adventure, in which the old biddy and her prickly family fight off ghouls, ghosts and zombies all while keeping an eye on mischievous teens at a party. This may end up being the most epic – and ridiculous – Madea adventure yet. Get your tickets at fandango.com.
The American Genre Film Archive houses some spooky treats.
11. AGFA Reel One Horror Party
Monday, October 24, at 7:30 p.m.. Results released Halloween night at 7:30 at the Alamo Drafthouse
The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA for short) is truly doing God’s work by collecting, restoring and sharing the little-known gems of genre film that often don’t find themselves in the bigger archives solely because of their propensity for blood, gore, boobs, kung fu and other exploitative (read: FUN) reasons. Visitors of the Alamo Drafthouse often get to enjoy the fruits of the archive’s labor when they screen 35mm prints. But this Halloween, AGFA is throwing a party with two separate screenings. Viewers will get to watch the first reels (roughly twenty minutes) of four different horror films that live deep within the AGFA's catalogue. When the last frame rolls, audience members get to decide which film they want to watch in its entirety. The winner will show the following week. Reserve your seat (and donate to AGFA at the same time) at drafthouse.com.
Opens Friday, October 28, at the Sie FilmCenter
Once upon not long ago – well 25 years ago, actually – a little film distributor with big dreams named Miramax was taking the indie/arthouse world by storm and releasing quirky, fancy and awesome films. One of its most memorable titles was a bizarro French tale called Delicatessen, a post-apocalyptic black comedy about an apartment building full of odd tenants living in a world with little food. The tenants are occasionally treated to a delicious meal by the landlord, who seems to conveniently have new dishes right when he loses janitors. A new handyman shows up and quickly figures out his role in the building's food chain. The film is the magical calling card of writing/directing duo Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Jeunet later brought us Amelie, Alien: Resurrection and A Very Long Engagement). For its silver anniversary Delicatessen gets a fancy restoration and re-release so you can see the eye-opening film that sparked a revolution in arthouse cinema. Get your tickets at denverfilm.org.
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What four films await you in Alamo's horror-movie marathon?
13. Dismember the Alamo
Saturday, October 29, starting at noon at the Alamo Drafthouse
Two years ago, the Alamo started a new tradition with this marathon of four mystery horror films. The previous Dismembers showed Prom Night, Scream, Night of the Creeps, Squirm, The Devil and Onibaba. Last year, director Stuart Gordon showed up to screen his films Dagon and Re-Animator, so it's anyone's guess who'll show up this year. And with food and drinks delivered right to your seat, those eight hours sitting in the dark will fly right by. Get your tickets at drafthouse.com.