Greetings again, adventurous movie lovers.
For a variety of reasons, the upcoming seven days hold far fewer alternative film screenings in the greater Savannah area than has been the case for quite some time, which offers a welcome break of sorts for those of us who like to partake of as many such events as possible. Now’s the time to rest up a bit and start planning for the next round of big-screen treats.
It’s also the perfect time to spotlight the upcoming 13-hour horror movie marathon taking place Sept. 29 at the historic Lucas Theatre.
The 2018 Graveface Psychotronic Fright Fest is the largest event of its kind ever held in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry, and aims to become an annual tradition showcasing celebrated thrillers and horror flicks with devoted cult followings that are rarely screened in public — as well as visiting filmmakers, spooky live music performances, horror movie memorabilia and collectibles vendors and raffles for valuable prizes of all kinds. Think of it as a miniature, movie-centric horror convention.
Both the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah and the Graveface Records retail store and indie record label (originally based in Chicago and now located in our own Starland area) have individually put on similar events in the past at venues like the sadly defunct Muse Arts Warehouse and the Tybee Post Theater, but this is the first time in the history of both esteemed organizations that either has partnered with another for the purpose of creating something bigger and better than might have sprung from one alone.
Much like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, for even casual fans of shocking cinema, Graveface and the PFS appear to be two great tastes that taste great together. This year’s lineup includes six — count ‘em — six feature films from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s, all of which have major cult followings and virtually none of which have ever been shown in a Savannah theater before. Three of these selections have already been named, with the rest being announced publicly over the next few weeks.
They include: director Fred Dekker’s beloved, gloriously retro 1986 horror/sci-fi comedy “Night of the Creeps,” which takes place (mostly) in 1959, and mixes alien invaders, bloodthirsty zombies and slithering slug-like creatures into an unpredictable and campy potluck; director Herschell Gordon Lewis’ disturbingly bizarre 1964 “hicksploitation” shocker “2000 Maniacs,” an almost absurdly gory low-budget drive-in flick about a group of Yankee tourists who have the misfortune to drive through a remote Georgia community called Pleasant Valley, which is actually a ghost town filled with Confederate dead that appears once every 100 years to torment and kill Northerners as revenge for their winning the Civil War (seriously); and the unjustly overlooked 1990 film “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III,” which is one of the original sequels to Tobe Hooper’s landmark surreal slasher flick of the same name (before the franchise was rebooted in 2003). “Leatherface” director Jeff Burr will be attending Fright Fest to discuss his film in a post-show Q&A.
The additional three features will include a notoriously gruesome flick from the early 1980s, an underrated gem from “Halloween” and “Escape from New York” director John Carpenter and a special surprise Stephen King adaptation that is tremendously creepy. The King title will remain a closely guarded secret right up until showtime. The event is co-sponsored by the popular international horror genre website Bloody Disgusting, and starts promptly at 11 a.m. and runs till close to midnight. It is open to mature viewers 14 and up.
No tickets to individual titles will be sold, only all-day passes, which allow folks to come and go throughout the day and see all of the films or as many as they’d like for one price. If you buy your tix in advance, it’s just $20, which comes out to be $3.33 per film, which is exactly half of $6.66. Weird, huh? That’s just a coincidence. Those same passes will be $25 at the door on the day of the event, which is still a steal.
However, for those who want the best deal, there are also 100 VIP packages available that contain all-day admission, plus plenty of other limited-edition items, including an exclusive silkscreened Fright Fest poster and T-shirt, a pinback button set, a rare horror movie DVD from the PFS’ famed archive of unreleased films, a pass to any Psychotronic Film Night at The Sentient Bean coffeehouse, and of course popcorn — all of which is contained in a special cotton Fright Fest tote bag. It’s a $100 value for only $50, and these VIP packages are selling briskly. Unlike standard passes, this VIP option cannot be purchased through the Lucas Box Office, only directly at Graveface Records’ locations in Starland and Charleston, S.C., or online at terror-vision.com.
I hope to see you there for one or more films. It’s gonna be a blast.
Coming up this week
Now, looking ahead to the next week of specialty screenings, from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, the historic Mars Theatre in the nearby town of Springfield (just about a 30-minute drive from downtown Savannah) presents Disney’s just-released reboot of its perennially popular Winnie the Pooh franchise, the live-action/CGI hybrid “Christopher Robin,” starring Ewan McGregor. An unusually meditative and thoughtful feature for children and those simply young at heart, it’s getting mixed reviews from critics, but those who love it really love it. This lovely single-screen movie house shows the film each night at 7 p.m. (Admission prices can be found in the accompanying sidebar listings).
Additionally, Fathom Events presents two special nationwide re-releases, both taking place at multiplexes out behind the Savannah Mall.
First up, on Sept. 2 is the 1993 sports biopic “Rudy,” based on the life of an actual Notre Dame football player named… Well, I’ll just let you take a guess. In the mid-1970s, this student overcame a serious (and undiagnosed) learning disability and plenty of personal hardships to become one of Notre Dame’s most beloved team members. The film, which stars Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings”) and Charles S. Dutton, was something of a flop in theaers when first released, but over time became a sleeper word-of-mouth hit through home video rentals and sales and cable TV screenings. It is now considered something of a minor classic sports film that is rarely seen in theaters. 7 p.m. showtime at the Regal Stadium 10 in Savannah and also at the Cinemark multiplex in nearby Bluffton, S.C.
Then, on Sept. 6 and 10 at the AMC Savannah 11 (which used to be known as the Carmike Wynnsong before that theater chain was bought and absorbed by AMC), screens the somewhat forgotten Japanese anime horror feature “Perfect Blue,” in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its original release. The story of an up-and-coming TV actress and model whose sanity begins to fray when she finds herself seemingly stalked by a serial killer, it is a rare, adult-oriented animated film that was quite controversial when it debuted, but whose infamy has dimmed somewhat alongside its director Satoshi Kon’s later picture, the critically acclaimed hit “Paprika.”
Now, this brand-new digital transfer is poised to reintroduce the landmark anime to a new generation of potential fans. It contains strong language, violence and nudity, so although it is an animated movie, it’s not designed for kids younger than 17. The Sept. 6 screening will be shown in the original spoken Japanese with English subtitles, while the Sept. 10 encore presentation will be dubbed into English. Both versions will be fully uncut, and start at 7 p.m.
'Midnight' on Tybee
And finally, Sept. 6 and 7 out on Tybee Island, the historic Tybee Post Theater presents director Clint Eastwood’s hideous 1997 cinematic adaptation of John Berendt’s legitimately bewitching Savannah-set true crime novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
This slapdash affair, which was transparently constructed (and ultimately failed spectacularly) as a star vehicle for Eastwood’s own daughter, also stars John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, a very young Jude Law and the late Lady Chablis as protagonists in the famed real-life 1980s murder trial of the egomaniacal and somewhat flamboyant Savannah socialite Jim Williams.
While the picture was generally panned by critics and outright reviled by many area locals who viewed the whole mess as a terribly missed opportunity to craft a timeless picture that genuinely captured our city’s unique charms and eccentricities, it is also adored by a segment of the local populace who remain starstruck that any sort of Hollywood picture could or would be made about our neck of the woods, no matter how ludicrously scripted or abysmally acted.
Every time it is shown in our area (and this marks the first time the Tybee Post has screened it), “Midnight” draws a large crowd of both the faithful and the merely curious, so expect a strong turnout for this two-night engagement. Showtime is at 7 p.m. both evenings. Admission to the Sept. 6 screening costs a few bucks more than the following night’s encore, but includes your choice of beverage (wine, beer or soft drinks) and a piece of chocolate, which is always a nice touch. Plus, alcohol will help take the edge off this stinker!
Until next issue, see you at the movies, be kind to those around you and don’t forget to turn off that cell phone.
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah.
IF YOU GO
What: "Christopher Robin”
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 30, 31, Sept. 1
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sept. 2
Where: Regal Stadium 10 and Cinemark Bluffton
What: “Perfect Blue”
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 6 and 10
Where: AMC Savannah 11, 1150 Shawnee St.
What: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 6 and 7
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
What: Graveface Psychotronic Fright Fest 2018
When: 11 a.m.-midnight Sept. 29
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
Cost: $20-$50; ages 14 and up