Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Criterion Channel Presents 29 Film 1970s Horror Showcase: Oct 4 | Genre Streaming for Cinephiles

This year's seasonal genre film offerings will be quite a different beast. Where in past decades we've consistently seen horror, sci-fi, cult, psychotronic, fantasy and B-movie showcases from our local independent cinemas, the conditions of the pandemic make none of the complexity of that programming practical for a virtual theatrical setting. Nor is there significant scientific rationale yet to be returning to cinemas. In years past there seemingly couldn't be enough in the way of All Hallows' Eve theme programming and repertory series in the local independent movie houses. The months of October and November could be filled to the point of overflowing with the season's disorienting frights, crepuscular surrealism, and discomfiting atmospheres, and I'd be left wanting for more. Thankfully a set of both real-world and virtual alternatives are available this year. Recently reopened to the public, Scarecrow Video steps up with their curated Halloween section of domestic and expansive horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and psychotronic selections. This year continuing their tradition of the Psychotronic Challenge now in its fifth 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, let's 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 of 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, we saw an abundance on the theme of the haunted house in 2015, and 2013 presented no small number of invaders from beyond. 2017 was heavy on 1970s psychedelic and psychological horror from Europe, particularly from the subgenres of French Fantastique and Italian Giallo. 2018's regional programming took a cue from Nick Pinkerton's feature for Sight & Sound, and their "The Other Side of 80s America" focus on the decade of independent and genre cinema issuing 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 explored the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. These manic explorations of class conflict, Cold War dread, ecological disaster and suburban paranoia also featured in Northwest Film Forum's monthlong assembly of, Shock & Awe: Horror During the Reagan Years. 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. Last year's offerings were bolstered by the recently opened The Beacon Cinema, and it's mapping a deep cartography of genre film in two concurrent series, The October Country, and Folklore Phantasmagoria. Titled after a Ray Bradbury collection of macabre short stories, the lowering gloam of the season's shift from late summer into fall evidently inspired The Beacon's programmer, Tommy Swenson. Their Folklore Phantasmagoria series also delivered on the promise of its title with a set of stylistically vibrant works from across the globe that put to test the parameters of the psychotronic.
But with both The Beacon and The Grand Illusion Cinema remaining closed, we can be thankful of options available both inside and outside of the dominant commercial streaming platforms. Shudder remains the home for horror online. Their offerings alone could fill any avid viewer's calendar month, and while its more than a bit hyperbolic, Screenrant isn't too far off base proposing "How Shudder Is Single-Handedly Keeping 2020 Horror Movies Alive". The excellent Arrow Films, and their genre imprint, Arrow Video, have also entered the game this year, inviting us to "Join the Cult: The Arrow Video Channel", and don't overlook Shout Factory TV's  "31 Nights of Horror 2020". Annually the online cinema that is Mubi offer up a selection of arthouse and deep cult cinema cuts on their platform spanning October. This year the Trick or Flick: Halloween Horror series found in their Library section, is complimented with a ongoing mini-retrospective from the Japanese auteur of the unnerving, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Nestled in the bounty of The Criterion Channel's October lineup, you'll find the motherload of a 29 film deep dive into the decade that began it all for the now-burgeoning genre. Their 1970s Horror showcase highlights the explosive decade of cult film issuing from an era that was itself transgressive, politically voracious, and boundary-pushing. From the Criterion Channel; "In the 1970s, everything was wilder, weirder, and more far-out - and horror movies were no exception. In North America, a new generation of maverick directors like Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, Wes Craven, Brian De Palma, Bill Gunn, and David Cronenberg (offered here in a triple dose) responded to the decade’s heightened political anxieties and Vietnam War-era sense of disillusionment by pushing the genre’s psychological intensity and visceral violence to shocking new heights. Across the Atlantic, Britain’s legendary Hammer Films continued to serve up old-school gothic spine-tinglers, while auteurs like Robert Altman and Nicolas Roeg wedded spellbinding terror to art-house experimentation. Bringing together some of the decade’s most iconic slashers, chillers, and killer thrillers alongside low-budget cult rarities and camp-tastic oddities this tour through the 1970s nightmare realm is a veritable blood feast of perverse pleasures from a time when gore, grime, and sleaze found a permanent home in horror."