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Tower of Terror '17 Recap

Happy Halloween readers! My month has once again been filled to the brim with viewing as many horror films as possible, but this year in particular I made a very special goal. Every year the local indie theater in Utah plays a select few horror classics throughout the month, but this year they upped their game. They had movies playing every day, all month long with several new releases every week. They had a promotion where, if you saw ten horror movies during the month you got a free t-shirt, so you better believe my husband and I took the challenge and completed it. While this wasn’t every film they offered, these were the ten we were able to see.

SUSPIRIA- Suspiria follows a ballet student and the mysterious new European school she’s accepted into. When she learns of a few murders that have taken place there, she and her roommate attempt to discover what secrets the school might be hiding. This movie has been on my must watch horror list for quite a few years. I’d never been able to get around to it, so I was thrilled when I saw it was on the Tower’s list, and that it would be shown in a glorious 4K restoration. I was happy to finally see this horror classic and could appreciate it on its own terms. Suspiria is the definition of a very stylized horror film. I can see how this film would have been incredibly influential on someone like Guillermo Del Toro. The look of the film was amazing, and the way the kills were set up were (as weird as it is to say,) incredibly and artfully done. There were some moments in the film where I wished I would have seen it without the heckling audience laughing at some fumbling horror tropes that ruined the mood, but all in all I was very happy to see this on the big screen finally. The ending makes the whole thing worth it, and the score has now become one of my favorite horror themes of all time.

FRIDAY THE 13TH– Friday the 13th is all about the tragedy that happened at Camp Crystal Lake years ago when a boy drowned while the camp counselors weren’t paying attention. Consequently, the camp closed down for a few years but finally seems like it’s going to be able to reopen. Will reopening the camp unleash some horrifying revenge on the new counselors? And did that boy REALLY die? I’d seen the original and first entry in the Friday the 13th franchise a couple years ago and while I absolutely loved the ending, I found myself a little bored throughout the rest of it. Seeing it at the Tower on the actual day of Friday the 13th was a completely different experience. The energy of the crowd propelled the first half of the film and made it so fun to be a part of. Each kill was met with blood curdling screams from members of the audience who didn’t see them coming. And that ending that I loved? It was even better on the big screen with a whole audience fully engaged. If you ever get the chance to see this in a theater with a big audience, do it!

HAUSU – A young girl is invited to bring six of her friends to her aunt’s home in the country. Once there, each of the girls start disappearing one by one as the house seeks to devour them. Surprisingly, this cult classic Japanese horror film from the 70’s never managed to be on my radar. I read the description and went in pretty blind, not knowing the wild ride that was in store for me. This movie was an absolute trip and I can’t say that I didn’t have a ball with it. The movie is outrageous, and it’s crazy to think that someone not only thought it up, but that some producer out there agreed to make it. These visuals will haunt me forever, and not in the chilling way!

TEMPLE – Three American tourists get more than they bargained for when they follow a map to a hidden temple deep in the jungles of Japan. To be honest, I’m not really sure how this film made the Salt Lake Film Society’s cut to appear on the Tower of Terror’s schedule. It’s a made for tv film that’s incredibly average, if not mediocre. There are some cool effects and makeup here, but not much more. I’m sure they didn’t want to go with the obvious choice of Ringu or Ju-on which inspired popular American remakes, but it would have been the better choice. Or if they didn’t do exclusively Japanese it would have been great to see the modern Korean horror classic A Tale of Two Sisters.

AUDITION – A widower looking for a new wife, holds a faux audition for a film that will never be made in order to find the perfect girl to date. He instantly takes a liking for the meek and shy Asami, but soon will learn that she is not what she seems. Audition, like Suspiria, has been a horror film I’ve been meaning to get around to for ages, and was also delighted to see pop up on the Tower’s schedule. Throughout the film I was worried it had been a little too hyped, but once the film’s finale came all of those fears had dissipated (and might I add…new ones from what I was viewing came to life.) This film was so horrifying, and just as a whole very well done. The manner in which the story is told (through some flashbacks that the main character wouldn’t necessarily be privy to) was really great. Little by little the audience got the information they needed to sink further and further down the rabbit hole. And what we found there will probably haunt my dreams forever.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD – Night of the Living Dead follows a group of strangers stranded together in a house, hoping to survive an unheard of event: a zombie outbreak. The first time I ever saw this movie was in one of my film classes nearly a decade ago. I couldn’t recall much, so I was excited to be able to see it again in a theater. We caught a matinee, so there wasn’t a packed crowd to see it, but those who were in attendance were still very much actively engaged. The film is paced very quickly and you can just see how revolutionary that must have been for movies of the time because of how different it feels. It’s really incredible when there’s a film out there that basically marks the beginning of a genre, the way that this film marks the beginning of the zombie subgenre of horror. Night of the Living Dead isn’t just a gem to the zombie film genre because it’s the first of its kind, but because it’s a really solid film in its own right aside from being revolutionary. It’s incredibly well constructed and tense, two musts for a horror film. While some of the supporting characters come off a little two dimensionally, it never stops the lead character from stealing the show, or the film from being incredibly enjoyable as a whole.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE – A group of teenagers on a road trip pick up a mysterious hitchhiker and later stumble on the house of a psychopath they find difficult to escape. Two years ago I saw this horror classic for the very first time and was utterly terrified by it. It’s a film that’s an absolute nightmare that pushes your adrenalin to the brink. I was really excited to see this film on the big screen and it absolutely did not disappoint. Right from the beginning the audience feels unsettled, and that feeling only grows to down right uncomfortable by the end. To me, this is one of the scariest films ever made, and one of the best that the horror genre has to offer.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW –

A young couple’s car breaks down and stranded in the rain, seek refuge at a mysterious castle. Once inside, they meet a band of zany characters and discover a whole new world that they had no idea existed. Somehow, I’d gone my whole life without ever viewing this cult classic, but I decided that this year was the year to end all that. Boy, what an experience that was seeing it at the Tower for the very first time. For other first time viewers, I must say I would recommend seeing it on your own first before seeing it in a very rambunctious theater experience such as mine was. In the past, I’d been to some of the Tower’s interactive movie experiences (like Sound of Music, West Side Story and Mamma Mia) and had an absolute blast. This experience though was a whole other beast. There was a lot of fun to be had to be sure, but for seeing it the first time there was also a lot of distractions for a movie that’s already not exactly the easiest to follow (such as live commentary & a pretty well done simultaneous re-enactment of the movie happening right in front of the movie.) So, first time viewers this experience probably isn’t for you, but Rocky Horror Picture Show buffs who have seen the movie a thousand times, on the other hand (as I myself saw,) were enraptured.

PSYCHO – The fateful decision of a woman on the run to stay the night at a motel is at the heart of Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is probably the film that really began my love of horror. Perhaps for that reason,, it still holds a very special place in my heart as my favorite of the genre. But just a fondness for it isn’t the only reason it’s so great, the larger reason being that it’s just so masterfully done. Seeing it on a big screen only made that incredibly more evident. Each movement of the camera, each shot and the way its edited is a work of art. The performances Hitchcock gets from everyone involved are so good. Anthony Perkins in particular is just so nuanced in every single line he delivers as the iconic Norman Bates. This film is a must see in any medium available, but if you have the chance to ever see it in a theater, please take it. I just only wish I could see it back in 1960 with an audience who had no idea what was coming. How magical that must have been I can only imagine.

HALLOWEEN – A murderous psychotic killer breaks free from the mental hospital to return to his hometown and kill again on Halloween night. What better way to celebrate Halloween than by seeing Halloween in theaters? This slasher flick will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s one of the first that I saw, and quite frankly it’s still one of the best. Michael Myers is such an ominous and mysterious figure, made only more terrifying by the score that accompanies him. This too is one of the only slasher flicks of the era that not only had a great villain, but a likable (and not forgettable) final girl in Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode, to inevitably face off with said villain in the final act.

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