Theresa Mercado on bringing horror's obscure gems to Denver fans

Theresa Mercado's Cruel Season series -- Cruel Summer, Cruel Autumn and Cruel Winter -- is a labor of love. The horror movie fiend launched the series last year and has slowly grown it via word of mouth, as fans tell their friends about her killer film selections and handmade souvenirs. The latest installment, Cruel Autumn, kicks off with the bizarre alien exploitation flick Xtro at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 3 at Crash 45. We caught up with Mercado before the big night to talk about her love of horror, her custom made souvenirs and how she finds films like Xtro to share with the world.

See also: The ten best geek events in September in Denver

Westword: The Cruel Season series is a horror movie series, right? Is there a vision, or something you want to accomplish with the series?

Theresa Mercado: Yes, it is all just horror movies. I'm a huge horror movie aficionado. My goal with starting this was to show people that there are some phenomenal horror movies out there. I think a lot of people kind of correlate horror movies with Chinese food -- you know, you have one bad experience and everybody thinks it's all bad. There are some great horror films out there that are worth seeing, even if you're not a horror movie fan. My goal is to show people these movies, kind of open up their minds to the genre and to show people things that they couldn't normally see in the traditional midnight movie series in town -- to just find weird, obscure different things that people haven't seen, or can't see around town on the big screen.

How did you become such a horror fan and what is it about horror that appeals to you?

I love anything macabre, dark, fantasy, relating to death. I love the Universal monsters, and all the old-timey monster movies. I grew up as an only child and at a young age my parents always treated me a little more mature than they should have. I spent a lot of hours watching movies and TV. My parents never really censored anything I watched, with the exception of sex. They let me watch Freddy Krueger movies and people getting sliced and diced, but if boobs ever came on, my dad would always make me cover my eyes. As soon as the boobs were gone, I could look again. I could see somebody getting decapitated or a human eating another human, and they never thought that was a problem. I watched a lot of content from an early age that was probably inappropriate for a small girl, but was always really drawn to themes of horror.

As I got older I started watching USA Up All Night, which was a horror and exploitation movie series on USA Friday nights, like at ten or midnight. I'd have friends come over and stay the night and we'd stay up and watch these movies and that series was my first exposure to a wide variety of Troma movies and horror movies and exploitation movies. As I got older, in my teens and early 20s, I got obsessed with finding the most obscure, outrageous, hard-to-find, violent movies. Still, as an adult, I'm always hungry to find these movies that no one has seen or just the most bizarre films. I love it.

You've been doing this series for almost a year and a half, right?

I started it in May of 2012. So, yeah, a bit over a year.

Last time we talked about it, you said it had really grown over that time.

Yeah, the first one was probably twenty people, which I was thrilled that twenty people came. I would have been thrilled if five people came. It's definitely progressed and gained momentum each month. We're usually around forty, 45 people each month now. A lot are regulars that come each month. A lot of new people still come each time. I'm always excited when it's not just my friends but a bunch of new people, and they're like, "Oh, this is so cool." Those are the people I'm most excited are there, because they found out about it somehow on their own and are genuinely interested, not just there to support me.

The series is seasonal, correct-- Cruel Summer, Cruel Autumn, Cruel Winter? And each season has its own theme?

I try to, yeah. It's not always a seasonal theme per se. They're always broken into four films per season. One season was four films from four different countries. The winter series was all films that centered around cold and isolation. The summer series was films about youth and independence and trying to break away from society. These four are very -- I wanted to find four films that nobody had seen. Now, obviously, no one has not seen anything, but four films that people will see and say, "Oh, what's Xtro? What's Martyrs? I've never seen that." These are movies that, hopefully, aren't people's favorites and they'll come actually see something that's original for them.

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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

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