Starting this Friday throughout the month of October, the Citadel Mall 16 will host Retro Horror, showing a few little known horror films for a mere five bucks a ticket. Sure the usual argument now is that you could watch these films on your hand-held device or on your TV thanks to streaming services but, like comedy, horror is best experienced with a group.
It’s a communal experience. The screams and probable laughs resulting from said shrieks can be pretty infectious. These little known films aren’t worth reviewing. Instead here are some fun facts about the five films showing. I should state that these undiscovered gems are all pretty fantastic and that, despite their age, don’t look a day over thirty-five years old.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Sept. 27-Oct. 3
In Wes Craven’s mind-melting affair, four high school kids in middle class suburbs are haunted in their dreams by Freddy Krueger, a man in a dirty red-and-green sweater with a particularly sweet glove made of finger knives.
Apparently his little movie was so successful that the company that produced it, New Line Cinema, became known as The House That Freddy Built. That success spawned six sequels, a craptacular remake and a WWF-worthy face-off betwixt Krueger and Friday The 13th‘s misunderstood madman, Jason Voorhees, called Freddy Vs. Jason. If it weren’t for Wes Craven’s sleeper hit, we wouldn’t have such films as the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the Friday trilogy, the House Party trilogy, the Rush Hour trilogy, the Hobbit trilogy, the Blade trilogy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret Of The Ooze.
At the midway point of the film, we meet a frazzled schoolteacher portrayed by Lin Shaye (sister to New Line Cinema founder Robert Shaye). Most of today’s audiences likely know of her as Elise Rainier from the Insidious films.
Oh yeah, it should also be noted that before turning into a Tim Burton staple, Johnny Depp got his start in this film as Glen, the boyfriend of the film’s heroine Nancy (Heather Langenkamp).
The Thing (1982), Oct. 4-10
In this adaptation of John W. Campbell’s novella, Who Goes There? / remake of Howard Hawk’s 1951 monster classic The Thing From Another World, a group of American researchers in Antartica fight for their lives against a formless being that attacks its victims and ultimately takes their form. Gnarly gore and creature effects by the criminally underrated Rob Bittin ensue while the film’s protagonists played by Wilford Brimley, Keith David, and Kurt Rusell among others find themselves growing increasingly more paranoid.
The Thing was released on June 25th alongside another film, Blade Runner. Believe it or not, both of these films bombed in theaters.
It didn’t just bomb with audiences but critics as well. Roger Ebert famously went off on the film’s effects, calling the film a “barf bag movie.” Funnily enough, that made many an underage horror nerd want to see the movie even more.
Friday The 13th (1980), Oct. 11-17
Two decades after some counselors are murdered, a bunch of kids and Kevin Bacon decide to re-open the ever-so-unlucky Camp Crystal Lake. Drinking happens. Marijuana smoking happens. Hi-jinks happen. Strip-poker happens. Sex happens. Murder happens. A pop culture classic is born after aping and gorily building off the success of Halloween.
The makeup effects by guru Tom Savini are pretty kickass. That’s a fact, not opinion.
Brotha Lynch Hung fan LeBron James has expressed interest in rebooting Friday The 13th. It’ll probably never happen but if Jason Voorhees were to take on the Harlem Globetrotters, that’d be kinda neat.
Jaws (1975), October 18-24
According to my notes, this film is about a gigantic shark tormenting a small resort town and haunting the psyche of its police chief played by Roy Scheider. Apparently the young punk that directed it went on to make movies about aliens, globe-trotting archeologists and dinosaurs. I’m sure none of those films were any good.
The aforementioned punk, a Steven Spielberg I believe, based his film on Peter Benchley’s book. Apparently, Spielberg didn’t get as much enjoyment out of the book — finding himself rooting for the killer shark rather than the hapless humans.
Benchley was no fan of the movie, particularly its climax and was ultimately thrown off the set during the filming.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968) Oct. 25-31
A random group of strangers barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to escape the hordes of flesh-eating ghouls that have recently come back from the dead in George A. Romero’s influential classic.
At a time when big budget color affairs were becoming the norm, the Pittsburgh zombie film was shot on a shoestring budget in black-and-white. In the end it became one the most successful independent films ever made.
Despite popular belief that all zombies crave brains, that’s far from true. The idea of the living dead craving brains wasn’t a thing until Dan O’Bannon introduced the idea in his 1985 horror-comedy, Return Of The Living Dead.
Bill Cardille, who played the television reporter in Night Of The Living Dead, was known to many Pittsburgh locals as Chilly Billy, the host of the horror movie program, Chiller Theater. His daughter, Lori, would later star in Romero’s third living dead film, Day Of The Dead.