The Mile High Horror Film Festival is almost here, and that means it's time to turn out the lights and scare yourself stupid. This year's festival offers a slate of incredible retrospective films, from "respectable" classics like The Shining to gorehound favorites like Saw. Along with the old favorites, an impressive selection of new films will be shown, each ready to become your next favorite movie. In either category, there are just too many movies to realistically see in the four days of the fest without risking serious damage to your psyche (hey, you have to sleep, even when there are horror movies to watch), so a little guidance is in order. Here are our five top picks for can't-miss films at the fest.
5) Tales of Halloween
Horror has a long history of top-notch anthology films, and that tradition looks to continue with Tales of Halloween. Ten stories of seasonal terror await, brought to you by genre vets like Neil Marshall (The Descent) and Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera). Early reviews have been mostly positive, crediting the film with a classic, old-school horror vibe in the vein of EC Comics. If it lives up to that billing, it could join anthology classics like Creepshow and Trick 'r Treat as one of the fun-sized horror films for the ages.
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4) He Never Died
Henry Rollins stars in a horror comedy about an immortal cannibal who just wants to do the right thing. That should really be all you need to hear, right? Rollins may be known first and foremost for his music and spoken word, but his occasional acting turns are almost invariably memorable, and now someone has finally cast him in a role with some real meat to it. Even if you're one of those people who find him an insufferable blowhard, you should find plenty to love here, as Rollins spends a decent amount of time getting punched in the face, as the clip above shows.
3) The Final Girls
For hardcore horror buffs, meta horror — horror that references the genre's tropes and cliches, to comment or subvert them — can be a lot of fun. Chances are good most of Mile High Horror's attendees are pretty hardcore, and that makes The Final Girls as close to a sure thing as there is. A famous scream queen's daughter finds herself and a few friends sucked into a classic slasher movie, and has to find a way to survive until the credits roll. A sharp deconstruction of the slasher genre mixed with a story of familial bonding, The Final Girls is next-level horror and a hell of a lot of fun.
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2) They Look Like People
Horror gets a lot of flak for being too repetitive, too predictable and too reliant on gore and jump scares. That makes a film like They Look Like People stand out. A quiet, intense film about a man who believes he's been recruited to fight a shadow war against shapeshifting demons disguised as people, it's a movie that relies on strong characters and their deep, complicated relationships, eschewing most of the standard trappings of horror in favor of quiet tension and exploring the dark places our minds can go. It's definitely not for everyone, but it's the perfect change-of-pace film to cleanse your palate between more traditional offerings.
1) Return of the Living Dead
When it comes to retrospective screenings, determining your own "must-see" films is pretty easy — just pick your favorite(s) and go! That said, I couldn't complete this list without giving a shout-out to my own favorite, must-see classic of the fest. There are a lot of reasons to love Return of the Living Dead, even if scream queen Linnea Quigley wasn't going to be there to talk about it (she is, by the way). There's the history — this is the film that introduced the idea that zombies eat brains, and featured running zombies about two decades before that was ever a controversy. There's the humor — laugh-out-loud funny lines pepper the script, and even thirty years after its debut it ranks in the top tier of horror comedies. There's the music — a killer soundtrack featuring punk-rock royalty, and a zippy, synth-laden score that perfectly matches the mood of the film. Mostly there's just the fact that this is one of the absolute best zombie movies ever made, and even as played-out as zombies are today, it's absolutely worth seeing on the big screen. So see it, already!
The Mile High Horror Film Festival runs Thursday, October 1, through Friday, October 4, at the Alamo Drafthouse. For tickets and more information, including showtimes, visit the Mile High Horror Film Festival website and the Alamo Drafthouse website.