Movie Blog: This Week’s Best Bets
If you’re anything like me (and God help you if you are), you’re looking forward to the arrival of this Tuesday like Clark W. Griswold looks forward to the fourth Sunday before Christmas, like Jennie-O looks forward to the week before Thanksgiving, like emergency rooms look forward to the Fourth of July. The arrival of October brings with it the promise of indulging in an entire month’s worth of horror movies. Clearly I’m not alone in my mania, as a number of local rep houses are already stacking their schedules with creepy offerings. Here are five such examples. (Note: It falls outside of the format for this week’s column, but don’t skip out on the Trylon Microcinema’s screening of Portrait of Jason this Monday and Tuesday. It’s a fascinating document. I’ll have a full review up tomorrow.)
Tuesday, October 1: Escape from New York (Theaters at Mall of America)
Theaters at Mall of America continue expanding their programming beyond new releases with a month-long series of genre films helmed by master of horror John Carpenter. While the selections for this week and next aren’t “horror,” per se, they still offer payoffs in all of Carpenter’s sweet spots, including his unerringly precise 2.35:1 aspect ratio compositions, pulsating electronic synth music scores, and love for tough-minded protagonists. The collaboration between Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell was a particularly fruitful one, and their greatest triumph together — the nihilistic 1982 remake The Thing — is on the calendar for later this month.
Wednesday, October 2: Drácula (Trylon Microcinema)
How creepy is this? Take-Up Productions is taking its “Universal Horror: Monsters, Murder & Madness” series to a literal graveyard this week for a special outdoor screening of the 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula, starring Carlos Villarias as the count and directed by George Melford. Shot concurrently with the more famous Bela Lugosi version, using the exact same sets and filmmaking equipment, the Spanish-language version has developed a cult following all its own, with some people swearing it marks a distinct improvement on the better known incarnation. (Melford and his crew had to shoot by night while the other film’s crew were off the clock.) Drácula will screen at the Pioneers and Soldier Memorial Cemetery off Lake and Cedar at dusk. Stuff your pockets with garlic, in my opinion.
Thursday, October 3: Frankenstein & Son of Frankenstein (Heights Theater)
If there was ever a pairing between monster and maker that invited speculation as to what lurked beneath the putty and cobwebs, that pairing would have to be James Whale with Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. As memorably depicted in the 1998 film Gods & Monsters, James Whale was one of the great Hollywood outsiders, a gay man whose remove from the general social mores of the time helped him cultivate a genuine sympathy for the hulking beast at the center of his most famous films. The original film remains an efficient spookshow, and its 1935 sequel Bride of Frankenstein is an indispensable early example of the cross-pollination of horror and humor (or, if you prefer, “camp”). The Heights will be showing the 1931 original along with the underseen 1939 installment Son of Frankenstein, which introduced Igor into the fold.
Ten years ago, screenings of Scanners and Maniac kicked off a long and fruitful celebration of Trash Film Debauchery, a series that assuages the unabashed vomitorium-seeking freaks among us. To honor a decade’s worth of cinephilia well to the left of propriety and good taste, the Trylon is holding a double feature of those two titles all weekend (the latter presented on funky VHS). Scanners is best remembered as the movie with one of the most gut-churningly realistic head explosions in movie history, though beyond the grue is another of David Cronenberg’s reliably icy critiques of modern social interactions. And the ever controversial NYC slasher epic Maniac is … well, it’s still pretty damned sleazy. (Here’s hoping the Trylon can land the 2013 Elijah Wood remake for its series of local premiers.)
Friday, October 4 through Thursday, Oct. 9: Rear Window (Parkway Theater)
I could go on and on about how awesome Rear Window is, and how I usually place it among the 10 greatest movies ever made, or at least among that small group of movies that, while you’re in the process of viewing them, seem like they clearly excel at every single aspect of the medium that matters. What I wrote when coming up with my faux-Sight & Sound ballot last year: “There are three movies I always say feel, when I’m watching them, like they are clearly the most perfect example of popular, American, narrative filmmaking. If Rear Window just barely makes the cut over The Night of the Hunter and Do the Right Thing, it’s probably because the nascent auteurist in me knows Alfred Hitchcock deserves it over the man who made one masterpiece and nothing else and the man who spent the rest of his (underrated and interesting) career trying to top his one clear masterpiece.” Also, few scenes as chaste as the one where Grace Kelly turns on the lights in James Stewart’s apartment are as powerfully sexy.