Sept. 20--The release of "Insidious: Chapter 2" last week kicked off the 2013 horror movie season leading up to Halloween, but at the Plaza 8 Theaters, it's the classics that are getting the prime time treatment.
The St. Joseph discount movie house will host 10 beloved horror flicks and comedies over the next six weeks -- some as daily showings and others as one-night screenings.
"Halloween is a season for two audiences -- adult Halloween and kids' Halloween, and we're trying to take care of both of those crowds," says Plaza 8 manager Josh Hall.
It'll all start with a screening of George Romero's black-and-white zombie innovator "Night of the Living Dead" at 10 p.m. Sept. 21.
Romero's cheapie debut film set the template for the zombie flick with tight editing, realistic gore and a clever political undercurrent. When unexpected radiation raises the dead, a group of strangers that's essentially a microcosm of everyday America has to battle flesh-eating zombies as they hole themselves up in a farmhouse. Although the movie feels somewhat cheesy today, few horror movies reach a conclusion as desolate or unsettling. And that's why "Night of the Living Dead" is still so cherished today.
Three more black-and-white classics will be shown during special screenings in the ensuing weeks. "Nosferatu," an influential silent masterpiece starring Max Schreck as the eerie, pale-skinned vampire Count Orlok, will be screened on Oct. 5. "House on Haunted Hill," the spooky cult classic in which an eccentric millionaire (Vincent Price) offers $10,000 to five people whom agree to be locked in a large, haunted rental house overnight, will follow on Oct. 12. And another silent classic, 1925's "Phantom of the Opera," will be shown on Oct. 19, featuring a benchmark performance by horror legend Lon Chaney.
The other one-night screenings couldn't be more different, but they'll surely draw rowdy audiences. Huge crowds are expected for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" screenings on Oct. 26 and Oct. 31. More than a thousand people turned up for the four late-night showings of the widely beloved "midnight movie" in March, and the numbers should be similar on Halloween and the Saturday before Halloween. Meanwhile, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," which will be shown on Sept. 28, pits jolly ol' St. Nick against alien invaders and generally is considered one of the worst movies of all time. "Mystery Science Theater 3000" famously tore this movie apart, and the Plaza 8 crowd should get in some good jabs as well.
"It's just dumb fun. Riff away at it. Shout some lines at the screen," Hall says.
The Family Fright Fest's daily showings will be of the more modern and family-friendly variety, even if they're starting with Freddy Krueger's bloody debut in 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," which will run from Oct. 4 thorough 10. Hall says that although "Elm Street" is an R-rated flick with lots of blood, it's relatively tame by today's standards.
"If you sit down through 'Human Centipede' or 'Saw,' and then you go back to watch 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' you really see that what was shocking and gory and graphic really comes off as almost heartwarming now," Hall says. "Freddy's basically endearing now."
The daily showings will continue with three comedy/adventures: "Beetlejuice," "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (Hall says the theater is "really going to candy the place up" for "Wonka" week) and, of course, "Ghostbusters." The 1984 comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis remains so popular that those who attended the two special screenings of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" requested the movie come to the Plaza 8 as soon as possible.
"We had over 200 people at that second (screening) of 'Ninja Turles' and they were seriously screaming for 'Ghostbusters,'" Hall says.
Hall hopes that this six-week event generates more interest to the Plaza 8 Theaters, which could very well be closed by 2014. He hopes even more, however, that some magic moments are made.
"If there is a grocery store here one day, or whatever comes next, I hope those kids can be holding their kids someday saying, 'Yeah, it's that now, but one time my parents did this with me when there was a theater there," Hall says. "If it's not seeing 'Ninja Turtles,' I hope it's seeing 'Ghostbusters' or 'Willy Wonka' when we have a bunch of candy in the place."
For more information about the Family Fright Fest, call the Plaza 8 at 279-3333.
Showings before 6 p.m. cost $3. Showings after 6 p.m. cost $4.
Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 -- "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)
Oct. 11 to Oct. 17 -- "Beetlejuice" (1988)
Oct. 18 to Oct. 24 -- "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (1971)
Oct. 25 to Oct. 31 -- "Ghostbusters" (1984)
All of these one-time screenings start at 10 p.m. and cost $5.
Sept. 21 -- "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
Sept. 28 -- "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964)
Oct. 5 -- "Nosferatu" (1922)
Oct. 12 -- "House on Haunted Hill" (1959)
Oct. 19 -- "The Phantom of the Opera" (1925)
Oct. 26 -- "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975)
Oct. 31 -- "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975)
Shea Conner can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.
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