T.S. Eliot said April was the cruelest month, but that was clearly before he got a good look at all the sweet geek events happening in Denver in the coming month: Classic sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies, two conventions and our own homegrown horror-film festival are all on the calendar. Of course, some of those great events are on the same day, so perhaps that's what the poet meant — you are going to have to make some hard, cruel choices, especially in the middle of the month. Here's our list of April's ten best geek events, in chronological order, to help you minimize the suffering.
10) Fantastique: Highlander
The Alamo kicks off its latest genre series with the '80s urban fantasy classic Highlander. Sean Connery plays an immortal Egyptian with a Japanese sword masquerading as a Spaniard who inexplicably has a Scottish accent. Christopher Lambert learns the ways of the immortals from him. Clancy Brown uses safety pins in an unconventional and decidedly not safe way. All that, plus swordfights, pro wrestling and a killer Queen soundtrack? You can't go wrong. Co-curators Frank Romero and Jason Heller are truly kicking off this fantasy series in fantastic style.
See Highlander at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 2 at the Alamo Drafthouse. Local fantasy author Carrie Vaughn will be on hand to co-host and give away copies of Low Midnight, her latest book. For tickets, $7, and more info, visit the Fantastique: Highlander event page.
9) Double Dose of Duel
It's hard to overstate the significance of Steven Spielberg on the history of geek film (or mainstream film, for that matter). His catalog is filled to the brim with absolute classics of science fiction, fantasy and even a bit of horror. His first film, though, was the often-overlooked Duel, a made-for-TV movie about a man versus a big-ass truck. Working with some of the same themes he employed in Jaws a short while later, a strapping young Spielberg managed to make a masterwork of suspense and terror on a TV budget, only to have it almost forgotten in the wake of his later work. Now you have not one but two chances to see it on the big screen. Don't make the mistake of missing them both.
See Duel at 7:30 p.m. April 6 at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of its Taking the Wheel series. For tickets, $10.75, and more info, visit the Duel event page. You can also catch a 35mm presentation of Duel at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9 in the VAC Basement Auditorium on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, courtesy of the International Film Series. Tickets are $8 general admission, or $7 for CU students. For more information, visit the International Film Series: Duel page.
8) Films on Tap: They Live
Films on Tap is a way to turn classic (and not-so-classic) films into drinking games, and this month offers up a doozy. John Carpenter's They Live is a true work of art, combining action, horrific science fiction and a brutal satire of '80s America under the reign of Ronald Reagan into one perfect film cocktail. Add a few cocktails of your own, and you are well on your way to movie geek nirvana. As always, the first fifty people in the door get a free drink, courtesy of Breckenridge Brewery.
The film (and drinking) starts at 10 p.m. Friday, April 10 at the Sie FilmCenter. Tickets are $10, or $7 for Denver Film Society members. For more info and tickets, visit the Films on Tap: They Live event page.
7) Game of Thrones Watch Party
HBO's grand fantasy epic is back! But you don't want to watch solo, because who can face the grim prospect of something like another Red Wedding alone? Luckily, Game of Thrones has a lot of fans. And even more luckily, there's a weekly watch party where you can enjoy the carnage of George R. R. Martin's masterpiece in the company of those fans, with easy access to alcohol to drown your sorrows when your favorite characters finally meet their gruesome ends. (You do realize your favorite character is going to die, right?) Each week, the hosts throw in special guests and fun activities as well, just in case the bloodshed and dragons and whatnot aren't quite enough to keep you interested.
The games start at 6 p.m., Sunday, April 12 at The Armoury and continue every Sunday throughout the season. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Game of Thrones Armoury Watch Party Facebook event page.
6) Benjamin Percy The Dead Lands
Benjamin Percy's previous novels have covered terrain as diverse as a man-vs-nature tale and a werewolf apocalypse — all to great acclaim. His latest, The Dead Lands, reimagines the epic historical journey of Lewis and Clark into a trek across a post-apocalyptic America, where disease and nuclear fallout have reduced the country to a few isolated outposts surrounded by death and destruction. Based on early praise of the work from everyone from Stephen King to James Frey, The Dead Lands looks likely to be the novel that breaks the secret of Percy's enormous talent to a wide audience.
Percy will read from and sign The Dead Lands at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 16 at the Tattered Cover Colfax. Admission is free; the novel is $26. For more information, visit the Tattered Cover website.
5) Conclave of Gamers
You ready to get your game on? Board games, role-playing games, card games and more will be on offer at the fourth annual Conclave of Gamers. Three days of gaming, with everything from tournaments (for you hardcore competitive types) to pre-release game play-testing (for you cutting-edge types) are on the menu, so no matter how you like to roll (dice), you should find something fun to do. Plus, most every game is preceded by a "how-to-play" intro, so you can join in almost anything, even if your knowledge of games starts and ends with checkers.
The gaming begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 16 and continues through April 19 at the Crowne Plaza DIA. Tickets are $44 presale, or $52 at the door for a three-day, all-access pass; single day passes are also available. For more information, visit the Conclave of Gamers website.
One of Denver's oldest and best conventions keeps getting better, year after year. This year's lineup includes guests from shows both new and classic, including Christian Serratos (Rosita Espinosa on The Walking Dead), Armin Shimmerman (Quark on Deep Space Nine) and Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver and Stargate fame. There's also a tribute to Vincent Price, a celebration of fifty years of Lost in Space and StarFest's usual selection of mini-cons, such as WhoFest (Doctor Who), ComicFest, RoboFest and many more. Throw in the usual selection of con activities — cosplay, a giant dealers' room, panels galore — and you have three days of nerd heaven on tap.
StarFest kicks off at noon Friday, April 17 at the Denver Marriott DTC and Denver Hilton Garden Inn. Weekend passes start at $65 in advance ($70 at the door) for adults and $29 for kids ($33 at the door). Single day passes are also available. For tickets and additional info, visit the StarFest website.
3) Soylent Green
The Denver Public Library's Classic Film Series isn't above getting geeky, as its selection of the 1973 dystopian nightmare Soylent Green proves. By now the twist at the end is so well-known it's become the basis for countless jokes and tropes, but the film still works just fine as a cautionary tale about overpopulation, ecological collapse and not asking the right questions about what's in those delightful prepackaged foods we all enjoy so much.
Ah, the familiar comforts of the '80s slasher. Much like your favorite dish that mom used to make, they never really grow old. And there's no arguing that Madman is pretty damn old — closing on 35 years old at this point. Even if you haven't seen it — and you'd be forgiven, since it's one of the more obscure slashers — you'll know what to expect from the first few scenes. Kids at a summer camp. An old campfire story about a madman that appears if you say his name out loud. Lots of creative, gory kills. It's pretty much a by-the-numbers killathon, but that's what you came for, right? Of course it is. Relax and enjoy the carnage.
See Madman at 10 p.m. Wednesday, April 29 at the Alamo Drafthouse. For tickets, $5, and more information, visit the Madman event page.
1) Stanley Film Festival
There can't be many better places for a horror film festival than a reportedly haunted hotel that inspired one of the all-time horror classics in The Shining. Last year's lineup included Denver filmmaker Alexandre O. Phillipe's Doc of the Dead (in which I appeared), The Babadook, and classics like Gremlins. This year's program hasn't been announced yet, but the festival has only gotten better with each passing year, and last year's was phenomenal.
The Stanley Film Festival runs from April 30 to May 3 at the Stanley Hotel. Passes start at $95, with single-film tickets becoming available closer to the event. To purchase passes and see the lineup when it is announced, visit the Stanley Film Festival website.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time, and you can tweet your geek events for next month for me to include: @casciato.