No art form has better captured the horrors of Halloween than cinema. If you're looking to get into the spirit of the season, here are thirteen terror-filled films — including creature features, slashers, ghost stories, musicals and even a documentary — screening around Denver this week.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
October 26, 9:30 p.m.; October 27, 7:15 p.m.
Director John Carpenter originally wanted his Halloween series to tell unrelated stories every year. But his first film, all about the villain Michael Myers, was such a success that Carpenter scuttled his initial idea and made Halloween II, another film about Myers. A year after that, Carpenter tried to return to his original concept and told a different story altogether with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It's the black sheep of the Halloween family, and the only film in the franchise that doesn’t star Myers. In the thirty years since its release, Season of the Witch has been reconsidered as a fine standalone film drawing on Celtic mythology and fairy tales, even if Myers's biggest fans still bemoan it. For tickets, go to the FilmCenter website.
The Nightmare Before Christmas, with a live score performed by the Colorado Symphony
October 26 and 27, 7:30 p.m
Boettcher Concert Hall
Some people can’t help but celebrate Christmas before Halloween's over; others relish both holidays at the same time. For them, there is no greater movie than Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, in which Pumpkin King and Halloween mastermind Jack Skellington stumbles into Christmasland and is overwhelmed by the Christmas spirit. In a misguided attempt to merge the two holidays, he kidnaps Santa Clause (whom he dubs “Sandy Claws”) and brings a grisly brand of holiday cheer to Christmas, much to the horror of people around the world. Longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman composed the score and sang the part of Skellington in this stop-motion classic from 1993. The Colorado Symphony will play the score of the film while it's projected on the big screen. The concert takes place at Boettcher Concert Hall on Thursday, October 26, and Friday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20 and can be found at the Colorado Symphony website. Watch the trailer here.
78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene and Psycho
Opens October 27
Sie FilmCenter and Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene premiered earlier this year at Sundance and has been on a tear ever since. Produced and directed by local filmmaker Alexandre Philippe, the documentary is a full-length deep dive into a three-minute scene that changed not only the slasher genre, but Hollywood itself. The film has garnered near-universal praise and has been called a must-see for film geeks. Cinematographer and producer Robert Muratore, composer Jon Hegel, sound designer Phil Hegel and editor Chad Herschberger will be in person at the 7:15 p.m. screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake location on Friday, October 27, and the 4:30 and 7 p.m. shows on Saturday, October 28, at the Sie FilmCenter. The Sie will also screen Psycho in its entirety on Saturday, October 28, at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 29, at 2 p.m. Tickets can be found at the Drafthouse and Denver Film Society websites. Watch the trailer here.
Scream Screen presents: Two Evil Eyes
October 27, 9:30 p.m.
Horror icon George A. Romero passed away in July. Although he’s considered by many to be the father of the zombie film, he directed many movies that weren't about zombies. Resident horror connoisseur Theresa Mercado has put together a series celebrating the “non-zom” films of Romero, for her Best of Denver-recognized Scream Screen program. The last film in the series, Two Evil Eyes, an anthology of two short films (the other directed by Italian horror icon Dario Argento and both based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe), will screen Friday, October 27, at 9:30 p.m. The film will be preceded by a live performance by the local band Law of the Night. Tickets can be found at denverfilm.org, and the trailer can be seen here.
Near Dark and The Hitcher on 35mm, with screenwriter Eric Red in person
October 27, 7 and 9:45 p.m.
Alamo Drafthouse Littleton
Screenwriter Eric Red will present two of his films in person at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton on Friday, October 27, both on 35mm film. In The Hitcher, C. Thomas Howell plays Jim, an innocent young man driving across a lonely desert highway who picks up Ryder, played by Rutger Hauer. Hauer plays one of the most terrifying psychopaths ever seen on screen. Near Dark is Kathryn Bigelow’s debut feature and is best described as a contemporary Western/vampire flick with touches of Peckinpah violence. Violent, erotic and filled with black humor, the film stars the then-unknown Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton as vampires who kidnap the hero, Caleb, played by Adrian Pasdar. Near Dark plays at 7 p.m. and The Hitcher at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, October 27, at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton. Tickets can be found at the Drafthouse website. Watch the Near Dark trailer here and The Hitcher trailer here.
Dismember the Alamo
October 28, noon
Alamo Drafthouse Littleton
Every year, Alamo Drafthouse hosts a surprise four-film marathon called Dismember the Alamo. The series often showcases newly restored films, hard-to-find gems, rarely seen oddities and genre classics, some even on 35mm. Despite the fact that attendees don’t know the exact films until they begin, the series has sold out every year since the first Alamo opened. The marathon starts at noon on Saturday, October 28, at the Alamo DrafthouseLittleton. Tickets are $30 and include all four films. Limited-edition Dismember the Alamo T-shirts are also available. Buy tickets at the Drafthouse website.
Bride of the Monster
October 29, 7:30 p.m.
Connoisseurs of trash cinema have a special place in their hearts for Edward D. Wood Jr. Most have seen his Plan 9 From Outer Space or at least Tim Burton’s charming biopic Ed Wood, but the Sie FilmCenter wants you to dig a bit deeper and watch the beautifully inept Bride of the Monster. The film marked the last speaking role for the legendary Bela Lugosi and includes the octopus attack made famous in Ed Wood. As a bonus, drag queen Evelyn Evermoore and two of her friends will perform drag and comedy in the vein of Mystery Science Theater 3000 during the film. Tickets can be found at the Denver Film Society's website; watch the trailer here.
October 29, 4:30 p.m.
Wanting to wallow in nostalgia with the kiddos? Head over to the Sie FilmCenter for the family-friendly comedy Hocus Pocus. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Katherine Najimy star as a coven of witches unwittingly released by the new kid in town, Max. With the help of his sister, played by Thora Birch and her magical cat, they aim to save the town by stopping the trio from becoming immortal. The film is filled with plenty of hijinks and shenanigans. Tickets can be found online on the Denver Film Society site; watch the trailer here.
Shaun of the Dead movie party
October 29, 4 p.m.
Both Alamo Drafthouse Denver locations
Edgar Wright hit it big this summer with the action-comedy Baby Driver. But cinephiles have been Wright fans since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, a cult classic that kicked off a spate of “zom-com” films. Simon Pegg plays Shaun, a slacker trying to find some sort of focus in his life – all while the zombie apocalypse is happening. Like all great parodies, this flick simultaneously makes fun of and pays homage to its predecessors. Join the Alamo Drafthouse for a Shaun of the Dead movie party at both Denver-area locations. The Sloan’s Lake screening is already sold out, but the Littleton screening takes place on Sunday, October 29, at 4 p.m. Tickets can be found at the Drafthouse website; watch the trailer here.
October 30, 7 and 9 p.m.
John Carpenter’s The Thing may be the rare remake that’s superior to the original, which is saying a lot, considering the original was a gripping, taut, psychological thriller set against a backdrop of cold-war paranoia. In both films, an alien that can masquerade as a human infiltrates a research station in Antarctica. Carpenter jettisons the cold-war metaphor and ratchets up the thrills, gore and paranoia, throwing the audience into doubt about which characters we can trust. Tickets can be found at the Drafthouse website; watch the trailer here.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
October 27 and 28, midnight; October 31, 10 p.m.
What Halloween wouldn’t be complete without doing the Time Warp (again)? In addition to the Esquire's normal monthly screenings of Rocky Horror on Friday and Saturday, October 27 and 28, the theater will host a bonus screening on Halloween night at 10 p.m. A shadow cast will accompany each screening, and costumes and participation are not only allowed – they’re practically required. Tickets can be found on the Landmark Theatres' website; watch the trailer here.
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October 31, 7 and 7:30 p.m.
Harkins Northfield and Alamo Drafthouse Littleton
Horror fans know Halloween as “the night he came home.” And they know Halloween as a landmark film, not only in horror but in independent filmmaking. On a budget of $300,000, the movie went on to gross $70 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable films in history. It also, along with Psycho, is credited as a landmark in the “slasher” genre. Bonus connection between the films: Psycho stars Janet Leigh while Halloween stars her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. Spend Halloween watching Halloween, with bonus content only available in theatrical screenings. Tickets can be found on the Drafthouse website. Watch the trailer here.
October 31, 7:30 p.m.
Aurora Movie Tavern
Eminently quotable and featuring Gene Wilder at his comic best, Young Frankenstein is a pitch-perfect parody of the classic Universal monster movie. Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and Gene Hackman round out the stellar cast in Mel Brooks's film that both makes fun of and pays homage to Frankenstein. Tickets can be found at the Movie Tavern website; watch the trailer here.
Looking for more to do? Visit the Westword calendar online.