What "Horror" Means to Me - Rooftop Cinema Club

What “Horror” Means to Me

My mom wouldn’t let me watch two films as a kid: The Exorcist or The Evil Dead. In fairness, I had watched them both by the time I was eight – I snuck them out of the video store – but she didn’t know that. As far as my mother knows (and luckily she still doesn’t do the internet), I didn’t watch either of them until I was well into high school. Her reasonings? She didn’t want me watching The Exorcist because she didn’t want to have a difficult conversation about religion; and she didn’t want me watching The Evil Dead because it scared her, so she just knew it would traumatize me. Alas, all watching The Exorcist did was fascinate me with practical horror effects; and all watching The Evil Dead did was make me wanna go to a cabin in the woods. But, besides those two films, it was open season for a horror dork like me.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

And, no, I don’t mean Christmas. It’s Halloween, people! And nothing says Halloween quite like the beauty and the bounty of horror films and much more. We get 31-days of uninterrupted horror. Many television channels run non-stop horror marathons throughout the month. “The Monster Mash” and “Ghostbusters” are played just about every single second somewhere on the radio. And, all across our rooftops, you can catch some of your favorite horror classics. But, before we talk about those classics, let’s talk about the generational divide of horror.

When I was 10 years old (insert AOL dial-up sound effect), the horror classics were less about the movies and more about the characters in those movies. It was all about Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Pinhead, Ash, Chucky – the same iconic horror figures that keep finding themselves remade over and over again. We just had a Child’s Play remake, we’ve got new Pinhead and Leatherface films in development, and a court battle still rages to see who controls the rights to make another Friday the 13th film. The generation of horror filmmakers is my generation of horror dorks, but that class is slowly, but surely, graduating. What does that mean for horror? What does that mean for the new generation?

What horror means, cinematically, has shifted in a drastic way the past decade or so. Yes, franchises are still “the thing,” but the most memorable and iconic horror films have been smaller, more cerebral pictures, from a generationally diverse set of filmmakers. Pictures like The Babadook, The Witch, Hereditary – those are the kind of slow burn, psychological horror films that harken back to the 1960s and 1970s when filmmakers like Nicolas Roeg, Philip Kaufman and Roman Polanski were scaring audiences to death. It’s almost as if we’re devolving, in the best ways possible, back to a time when we didn’t need catch phrases and sequels and theme songs written by hair bands. I watch something like Tigers Are Not Afraidand it makes me extremely optimistic about the future of the horror genre.

Out with the old, in with the new? Or more like – out with the then, in with the then then? Look – remakes aren’t going to stop. Neither are a studio’s desire to pump out as many sequels as possible. The Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises reactivated the whole idea of pumping out super cheap sequels to a point that you’re always making a profit. And there are audiences for that model of filmmaking. We still see it with The Purge and Insidious franchises and The Conjuring universe. People just love being scared. And, the horror pool is pretty deep, so there’s room for everyone – and something for everyone. It’s easy to sit on the fence and grouse about how “horror has changed” and about how “it isn’t as pure as it once was.” It really just depends on where you’re looking and what you’re seeing. If you look past the multiplexes and into the independent horror films being released today, you’ll find that horror, as a genre, is stronger than ever. The films are out there, even if they might be a little harder to find.

As for Rooftop, we’re bringing in something for everyone (you know, like we do). We’ve got objective classics like The Blob, Village of the Dead, King Kong, and Carnival of Souls; we’ve got contemporary classics like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Poltergeist. We’ve got modern classics like The Conjuring, The Blair Witch Project, Midsommar, and Candyman. And we’re mixing it up with curated personal favorites like Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fright Night. From the 1950s to the 2010s, we’ve got you covered with something – every type of horror you can imagine! And what better place to snuggle up with a loved one and get the wits scared out of you than the rooftop?

If I had grown up with a rooftop cinema near me, I don’t know that I could have handled it. Even in my late-thirties, I think about the idea of experiencing a movie on a rooftop, in the open air, and it makes me wide-eyed. As a kid, the sky would have been the limit (pun intended). So the idea that we’ve rolled out kid-friendly screenings at select venues makes me think about all the kids who get to experience the magic of the Halloween season with us – whether it’s a film like Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown, those are the memories you hold on to when you’re older. Sure, a film like Hocus Pocus might not be scary – but it still screams “Halloween!”

We screened The Evil Dead last year. This year we’re screening The Exorcist. If your parents did the same thing to you that mine did to me, and you didn’t have a way of sneaking a copy from the local video store; if you’ve gone your whole life without seeing The Exorcist – well, we’ve got you covered on that front too. We’re excited about the prospect of your spending your Halloween with us on the rooftop. We’re excited about the idea of watching you jump and scream surrounded by fellow horror lovers. And we’re excited about doing our part to share this season and some of our favorite horror films all month long. 



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