Before we get into all the noteworthy alternative cinema events taking place in the greater Savannah area over the next seven days, I wanted to put a bug in readers’ ears regarding a very unusual horror movie screening that may — and I stress may — take place the night before Halloween at the Regal Stadium 10 multiplex behind the Savannah Mall.
RSVP for this one
It’s a 2017 indie feature called “The Theta Girl,” and when I call it an indie picture, that’s something of an understatement. It’s my understanding this movie cost about $15,000 to make. 15 grand. By way of comparison, I read somewhere that when Dennis Hopper starred in George A. Romero’s 2005 zombie flick “Land of the Dead,” his personal budget for cigars during the month-long shoot was over $100,000 — and that was 13 years ago.
Consider that $15,000 doesn’t even come close to a couple of weeks’ worth of decent catering on most low-budget indies, so to complete a picture for that meager amount of money is a triumph in itself. To complete a picture that would go on to score a nomination for the Best Feature Film at the 2018 We Are Indie Horror Festival is doubly impressive. Critics and horror movie aficionados who have seen this ultra-DIY triumph by first-time feature film director Christopher Bickel say it’s a surprisingly well-paced and visually stunning motion picture that doubles as a gratuitously gory, cautionary take on psychedelic drug abuse.
The overwhelming majority of movies made on a scale such as this without any recognizable stars wind up going straight to DVD (or, in this day and age, directly to streaming), and might only have a shot playing in a small, DIY venue such as my Psychotronic Film Society’s weekly coffeehouse screenings of obscure gems and notorious duds. However, using the online “theatrical-on-demand” platform known as Gathr, folks can organize their own special showings of smaller films they’d like to see in a real movie theater, but which would otherwise never play in their hometown. The only caveat is that they have to motivate enough locals to go online and commit to attending the show by reserving a ticket in advance.
If enough folks reserve a ticket for both Gathr and the movie theater in question to make enough money on the show to justify bumping a screening of an existing mainstream title out of that auditorium, they will. If not, they won’t, and nobody ultimately gets charged for their seat. It’s that simple. For this 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 screening of “The Theta Girl,” that magic number is 40 — and so far, only five people have committed to attend.
So, if you’d like to support this up-and-coming filmmaker and get a chance to see a legitimately noteworthy underground movie on a real screen in a real multiplex, consider reserving at seat or two at gathr.us/screening/24863. Hopefully this booking will gain enough momentum to occur, and if so, you can look for an interview with the director and screenwriter in a future installment of Film Scene. Can you dig it?
Fantasy at Mars
Now, we start our roundup of specialty cinema events out in nearby Springfield, where the restored, historic Mars Theatre is hosting a multiple-day run of “The House with a Clock in Its Walls,” the newest release from acclaimed horror filmmaker Eli Roth (of “Hostel” fame). Roth may also be known to some for his moonlighting gig as a serviceable character actor, as he’s appeared onscreen in such films as “Rock of Ages,” “Death Proof” and “Inglourious Basterds.” This family-oriented film is a real departure for him, and a good corollary might be “From Dusk till Dawn” and “Machete” director Robert Rodriguez shifting gears to helm the immensely successful “Spy Kids” franchise.
This supernatural fantasy flick was based on a ‘70s children’s novel of the same name and stars Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Kyle MacLachlan. Showtime is 7 p.m. Oct. 11 and 13, plus a 3 p.m. matinee Oct. 14. As always, ticket prices can be found in our accompanying sidebar listings.
Landmark zombie film
The area’s other intimate, historic venue, the Tybee Post Theater out on Tybee Island, is hosting a special one-night-only revival of the aforementioned George A. Romero’s landmark B&W zombie film “Night of the Living Dead” on Oct. 11. The beautifully restored version of this intense morality play about a marauding horde of flesh-eating humans who’ve been restored to some sort of life-after-death state by unexplained means still packs a strong punch, even as its chocolate syrup fake blood and low-production values have been long ago surpassed by gruesome, full-color, photorealistic gore effects.
So don’t sell the comparatively tame “Night of the Living Dead” short. The public outrage to this particular film being shown to young, unaccompanied children resulted in the movie ratings system as we know it today. In other words, without NOLD, there’s no “R” rating. If you’ve only seen this film via beaten-up, blurry 16mm prints on cheap home video releases, get ready to be amazed at the crisp, beautiful cinematography on display. It will change your impression of this film’s merits instantly. Admission price includes a beverage of your choice (beer, wine or soft drinks) and a piece of chocolate. 7 p.m. showtime.
Sci-fi, Jimmy Stewart and more
At the exact same time on the exact same day, the Regal Stadium 10 will screen the brand-new, adult-oriented (meaning it contains graphic violence, rough language and sexual content) animated film “MFKZ,” a collaboration between French comic artist Guillaume “Run” Renard and the extremely popular Japanese animation house known as Studio 4°C. Grim, dark and dazzlingly inventive, it’s a sci-fi flick that blends film noir, anime, video game design and Lucha Libre wrestling culture into a futuristic dystopian mash-up about a half-human and half-alien hybrid who must battle his hidden inclinations to take over and rule the Earth. Listen closely for big-name vocal talent from the likes of film and TV actors Michael Chiklis, Giancarlo Esposito, Dascha Polanco, RZA and Danny Trejo. Can’t make this 7 p.m. Oct. 11 show? There will be an encore viewing at the same time Oct. 16.
Also on Oct. 11 at the Regal: a big-screen viewing of the brand-new season premiere of beloved British sci-fi TV series “Doctor Who.” Respected actress Jodie Whittaker (“Broadchurch”) plays the titular lead role (the first time it’s ever been played by a woman) and this 90-minute presentation includes behind-the-scenes interviews with both her and the director. 7:30 p.m. showtime.
Then, on Oct. 14, Regal screens Frank Capra’s iconic 1939 political drama “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” starring Jimmy Stewart, Claude Rains and Jean Arthur. It’s the tragicomic tale of an idealistic young U.S. senator who must come to grips with the harsh reality that his role as an elected leader is being compromised by a corrupt system. The film caused quite a stir when it was released, drawing the ire of many U.S. government officials who felt that it posited our country’s leaders as craven crooks. However, it went on to score a whopping 11 Oscar nominations, and win one Academy Award. It is now considered one of the most important narrative films ever made. This special screening comes courtesy of the TCM library of classic films, and will feature exclusive bonus commentary from that cable channel’s hosts. Showtime is 7 p.m., with an encore at the same time Oct. 17.
Finally, on Oct. 15, the Regal screens the new politically motivated documentary “Dummycrats Featuring Diamond & Silk.” Remember them? They’re the female black duo who catapulted to some sort of notoriety (or ignominy) a couple of years back through their relentless promotion of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and their unwavering support of his policies — including those which were clearly demonstrated to be deleterious to the black community at large.
Despite being accused of committing perjury in regard to claims the two violated federal campaign finance laws, they are now appearing in this low-budget, “Buddy Brand” Michael Moore knockoff film meant to mock Democratic politicians such as Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi and financed by right-wing conspiracy peddler Kyle Olson. As with virtually all of these GOP-funded propaganda films, this one has been kept hidden from critics, so that no one can get a glimpse of it ahead of time. That’s never a good sign ... 8 p.m. showtime.
Arthouse at Lucas
Heading downtown, on Oct. 12, the Lucas Theatre is bringing a highly anticipated film to town as part of its new Arthouse Series (which focuses on first-run indie and foreign features). It’s “Eighth Grade,” the acclaimed coming-of-age dramedy that marks the directorial debut of YouTube sensation-turned-successful-stand-up-comic Bo Burnham. It stars Elsie Fisher as an eighth-grade girl who’s beset with anxiety (much of it derived from her use of social media) as she approaches moving on to high school. The film took years to get off the ground, mostly because of Burnham’s lack of a track record as a filmmaker. He ultimately made the film for very little money, provided by edgy indie distributor A24.
A controversial and critical success upon its debut at the 2018 Sundance Film Fest, it also won Best Narrative Feature at the San Francisco International Film Fest, and enjoys a fairly stunning 98 percent positive rating at RottenTomatoes.com. Expect a strong turnout for this one-show-only 7 p.m. screening.
And finally, the Psychotronic Film Society’s long-running Wednesday night series of world cinema continues Oct. 17 at The Sentient Bean with the insanely rare Greek comedy “The Day the Fish Came Out.” Virtually unknown outside of that country, this 1967 futuristic farce was the very next picture directed by Michael Cacoyannis, the Oscar-winning filmmaker (he was nominated for the Academy Award more times than any other Greek filmmaker) who is best known in this country for his 1964 movie “Zorba The Greek.” This film is something of an anomaly in his career, in that it was not based on ancient Greek texts, but rather a recent, real-life event.
Set in 1972, the plot concerns two pilots who accidentally drop two atomic bombs on a remote, inhabited Greek resort island. The bombs do not explode, and in order to prevent a panic among those living on the island, the pilots go undercover to try and recover the bombs without anyone realizing their mistake. A strange cross between the nihilistic humor of “Dr. Strangelove” and a zany, psychedelic American or British “hippie comedy,” this forgotten film stars both a young Tom Courtenay and a young Sam Wanamaker, and is a true rarity, having never been released on home video or cable in the USA. The PFS will screen a fully uncut print of the film from a European source. 8 p.m. showtime, with discounts on craft beer and organic wine during the film.
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: “The House with the Clock in the Walls”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 11 and Oct. 13; 3 p.m. Oct. 14
Where: Mars Theatre, 106 S. Laurel St., Springfield
What: “Night of the Living Dead”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 11
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 11 and Oct. 16
Where: Regal Stadium 10
What: “Doctor Who" season premiere
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11
Where: Regal Stadium 10
What: “Eighth Grade”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 12
Where: Lucas Theatre, 32 Abercorn St.
What: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 14 and Oct. 17
Where: Regal Stadium 10 and Cinemark Bluffton
What: “Dummycrats Featuring Diamond & Silk”
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 15
Where: Regal Stadium 10 and Cinemark Bluffton
What: “The Day the Fish Came Out”
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 17
Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.