October 31, 2021
Halloween (1978)October 31, 2021
Horror / 1978 / 91 minutes
Credited, rightfully, as the film that kickstarted the “slasher” subgenre, Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween is a masterwork of building tension, an exercise in mood and suspense that takes its cues from Hitchcock, unlike most of the 80s gorefests it would inspire. The film’s key innovation – besides the indelibly terrifying image of the blank-faced “shape” aka Michael Myers – is setting it in an innocuous American suburb; there’s nowhere, not even a nice middle class home, where the viewer is safe. Jamie Lee Curtis makes her scream queen debut as one of several babysitters being stalked by a masked, escaped mental patient on Halloween night, her only savior being the patient’s maniacally driven doctor, played with gusto by the great Donald Pleasance. But the secret weapon of Halloween is the score – composed by Carpenter himself – a tinkling, off-meter piano figure that continues to haunt long after the final unsettling frame. A Halloween season perennial.
Screen Slate Presents: Popcorn (35mm)October 31, 2021
Horror / 1990 / 91 minutes
In this underrated slasher, a killer stalks a group of film students hosting an all-night horror movie marathon at their local theater. Popcorn blends modern practical gore effects with a reverence for old-school scares; like Joe Dante’s Matinee (1993), it’s full of films-within-the-film featuring William Castle-esque gimmicks like Shock-o-Scope, Odorama, and a giant mosquito that flies over the audience. As the kids rig the gimmicks, the killer stalks the catwalks, knocking them off one-by-one while circling closer to Maggie, a student whose surreal dreams of a cursed short film called Possessor seem to be linked to murders. Released around the same time as the 80s slasher cycle had run out of steam, Popcorn is an idiosyncratic and uniquely endearing entry in the genre.
Popcorn is scheduled alongside Anguish, another cinema slasher that takes the surrealism of the film-within-a-film concept to the next level.
Screen Slate Presents: Anguish (35mm)October 31, 2021
Horror / 1987 / 89 minutes
Fans of David Lynch will lose their minds (and eyeballs) over this undeservedly obscure, offbeat thriller by the late Bigas Luna. A Russian Doll narrative structure spirals around a serial killing ophthalmologist (Michael Lerner) who collects eyeballs under the hypnotic influence of his overbearing mother (Zelda Rubenstein of Poltergeist). Yet when the fourth wall suddenly ruptures, the setting shifts to a movie theater screening the apparent film-within-a-film, where a young patron is convinced that the man sitting near her may be a murderer—and then things get really weird. Rife with paranoia and hallucinatory narrative criss-crossing, the film suggests an unlikely mix of Buster Keaton, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, and Lamberto Bava. Few, if any, films are so conceptually premised upon their being seen in an actual theater. The ability of Anguish to make its audience genuinely paranoid is unparalleled, giving each screening the feel of a one-of-a-kind additional layer to the film’s surreal structure. Any chance to catch it with an audience in 35mm is can’t-miss. Just make sure you know who’s sitting behind you.
Screen Slate previously included Anguish in its series “The Medium is the Massacre” at Anthology Film Archives. This screening is scheduled back-to-back with 1991’s movie theater slasher Popcorn.
Poltergeist (35mm)October 31, 2021
Horror / 1982 / 114 minutes
The question of who actually directed 1982's Poltergeist has long been a topic of debate for horror fans, but whether the credit belongs to producer Steven Spielberg or director Tobe Hooper, the quality of the end result cannot be denied. The story of a middle class California family who find their suburban dream home plagued by destructive supernatural forces, Poltergeist is one of the great horror movies of the modern era, one that has been giving children nightmares consistently over the last 30 plus years. What makes it an enduring classic is the impeccable filmmaking on display – both Spielberg's command of the medium and Hooper's gift for shocks are there on the screen – as well as the brilliantly realized special effects, unforgettable Jerry Goldsmith score and the wonderfully realized performances of the cast, highlighted by Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Zelda Rubinstein and the gone-too-soon Heather O'Rourke.