Tuesday, October 2, 2018

All Monsters Attack at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 11 - 31 | Shock & Awe: Reagan-Era Horror at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 3 - Nov 3

There isn't enough in the way of All Hallows' Eve theme programming and revival series in the local cinema. Which is a shame as this is truly the season for genre film and its frights, surrealism, and disorienting, crepuscular atmospheres. Thankfully, every year Scarecrow Video steps up with their October screening room calendar and curated Halloween selection of domestic and international horror, sci-fi and genre movies. This year, like previous, their Psychotronic Challenge returns for it's third installment, challenging viewers to select a new theme category for every day in October from the deep trivia of the cues on offer. While we're here, lets talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema (regardless of genre, era or style) it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. For horror and genre aficionados, there is no other resource in North America like that offered by Scarecrow Video and their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions in the depths of their archive. With nearly 130,000 films on offer, there is no singular online streaming resource that can compare. In previous years, the annual citywide cinematic offerings for the months of October and November have seen a great set of films exploring desolate worlds, classic Japanese horror, a vampiric romaticism double feature and a night of music from a maestro of Italian horror. Also in the way of recent Halloween seasons of note, the local arthouse cinemas presented a an abundance on the theme of the haunted house in 2015, and 2013 saw no small number of invaders from beyond. Last year was heavy on 1970s psychedelic and psychological horror from Europe, particularly from the era of abundance seen in the subgenres of French Fantastique and Italian Giallo.

One of the longest running, and most consistently satisfying of the local Halloween series has been The Grand Illusion Cinema's monthlong All Monsters Attack calendar of horror, creature features, classic thrillers, sci-fi, and cult cinema. This year's installment features the  kind of core genre gems that audiences have come to expect, straight from the horror golden age of the late 70s through early 90s, alongside a small selection of 1930's studio masterworks. This year's set of offerings include Dominique Rocher's valiant attempt at breathing new life into the zombie genre, "The Night Eats the World", Kathryn Bigelow's late-80s cult favorite western/vampire genre mashup "Near Dark", and Antonia Bird's black humor cannibalism western "Ravenous". Both horror westerns additionally notable for their soundtracks by Tangerine Dream and Michael Nyman respectively. The first film adaptation of the Richard Connell story of the same name, and easily the best of them is the pre-code 1932 effort by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Their realization of "The Most Dangerous Game" would also be a early intersection of Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, acting a producers. Astoundingly, only a year later the director/producer team would complete and release one of the all-time classic adventure creature features in the 1933 Schoedsack/Cooper "King Kong". In truth the production of both films was concurrent, as the nocturnal jungle sequences of "The Most Dangerous Game" were shot on the Kong set and the former's cast includes both "King Kong" leads, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. Freshly restored and rereleased thanks to The Criterion Collection, Scarecrow Video will be presenting a members-only All Monsters Attack screening of “Sisters”, Brian De Palma's 1973 psychodrama exploring similar themes of multiplicity and psychological doubles as his cult hit of a decade later, "Body Double".

Rounding out the series is the postmodern fare of Drew Goddard's Joss Whedon-funded "The Cabin in the Woods", and a Halloween double feature including an often overlooked, (and of rare quality) production by Roger Corman. An adaptation of the novel by the same name by Brian Aldiss, author of 1969's "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" which later garnered the imagination of Stanley Kubrick, returning after a 18 year hiatus "Frankenstein Unbound" would be Corman's final directorial effort. Starring John Hurt, Raul Julia, and Bridget Fonda, the cast alone is an indicator of the greater-than-usual legitimacy of the Corman project and it's circuitous conception of the classic Mary Shelley novel. Presented by the Sprocket Society, on the 200th Anniversary of the release of Shelly's "Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus", the night will also screen a as-yet disclosed "secret" second feature. This past June's issue of Sight & Sound and their "The Other Side of 80s America" cover feature focused on the parallel faced of the decade's cinema from the United States. Concurrent with the pop culture revelry of Reaganite family-oriented dramas, action, teen movies, and sci-fi blockbusters, a more rebellious and independent strain of US movie making scratched at the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. Anne Billson's supporting article "A Nightmare on Main Street" plumbs the deeper realms of the decade's more assertively subversive low-to-medium budget genre fare, these often “unburdened by notions of good taste". Behind the facade of 80s corporate cinema, upstart movies like Brian Yuzna’s "Society", James M. Muro’s "Street Trash", Abel Ferrara's "Ms. 45", Jack Sholder's "The Hidden", William Lustig's "Maniac Cop", John Carpenter's "They Live", Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead", Steve De Jarnatt's "Miracle Mile", and Larry Cohen, in films such as "Q: The Winged Serpent" and "The Stuff", were making horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies that exposed the toxic underbelly of Reaganomics America.

Seemingly taking a cue from the above Nick Pinkerton feature for the BFI, Northwest Film Forum have assembled a monthlong Wednesday night Shock & Awe: Horror During the Reagan Years series. A gratuitous assembly of subversive political allegory, class conflict, gore and pure mania, Brian Yuzna's "Society" is probably best representative of the series' themes. Also on offer are Greydon Clark's "Wacko" parody of 1980's slasher franchises, and Peter Medak's haunted house classic starring George C. Scott. Of regional interest, "The Changeling" is set in and around the Pacific Northwest, as Scott's protagonist has relocated to the University of Washington for a professorship after the tragic death of his family. Seeking a secluded location to write music and find isolation in his studies, he instead encounters one of the more memorable supernatural houses of the 80s. And no overview of horror of the decade would be complete without the work of both John Carpenter, and the grandfather of zombie films George A. Romero's later entries in his "Dead" franchise. At the height of the Cold War, it's no wonder we find the protagonists of Romero's "Day of the Dead" holding out against the undead hordes in a ICBM silo, as the world rages outside. Following the success of one of the earliest entries in the American slasher genre with "Halloween", and before the career defining "Escape from New York", Carpenter's numerous contributions to 80s genre cinema are represented in the series with "The Fog". While visiting Stonehenge during the UK promotion of "Assault on Precinct 13", Carpenter was inspired to make a ghostly revenge film drawing equally from the horror comics of the 1950s by publishers like EC, and their notorious "Tales from the Crypt", as well as a 1958 British creature thriller titled, "The Trollenberg Terror". Also central to any A-list assembly of the decade's best horror, Sam Raimi's first two "Evil Dead" films are still a visceral, preposterous, and hysterical symphony of low budget innovation. Building a whole career for television and cinema from the boundless invention of these two films, Sam Raimi's reworking of his first "The Evil Dead" into it's even more boundless second generation, "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn", is the spastic springboard from which this influential American director launched his career.