You may have seen the posters. You may have heard the radio ads. You may follow us on Facebook, Twitter or have seen the posts on our websites. But, the WYO Theater and my company, Trident Theatre are presenting a series of classic horror films on the big screen at the WYO in September and October.
However, one of the more prevalent questions I get about this series (besides “Why is a theatre company presenting horror films?”) is “How did you pick the films you picked?” Trust me: there is something of a method to this madness. Regardless of the level of your horror film fandom, I believe that this series has something for everyone.
Earlier this year, WYO Theater Executive Director Erin Butler and I sat down to come up with some ideas that might not have been tried at the WYO before. Inspired by the Western Film Series that the WYO has presented for the past several years, I suggested several new film series, all based upon genres or sub genres. One of these was a horror film series, and as true horror fans know, it’s somewhat difficult to experience many of these films on the big screen any more, as the horror genre has found a following with on-demand streaming services.
So, to show something new, to appeal to a potential new audience, and to give frequent WYO patrons yet another reason to attend WYO events, the first classic horror series was created. The WYO is acting as the producer for the series, while my theatre group, Trident, has created the lineup and the particular presentation of these films.
So, the obvious question: Why is a theater company presenting horror films? Well, we’re not just showing any old flicks. Check out our website: www.tridenttheatre.com, and in our “About Us” section, you can see our mission statement.
Part of that statement includes the following phrase: “…To produce theatrical works written by and inspired by playwrights who are turning the tide of the theatrical landscape, or that have changed the course of theatre history.” Now, many could argue that film has taken on traditional storytelling that first developed on the stage, and has been able to adapt it to better suit the medium. But, for thrills, it’s hard for the stage to compete with the sheer terror that film can produce (I’m working on that, though). So, to keep in line with our mission statement, these films helped either re-launch the genre, strengthen the genre or have helped develop the genre in many unexpected and beneficial ways.
I suppose now would be just as good a time as any to discuss the lineup and how it was chosen. When thinking of “classic” horror films, it’s easy to conjure up images of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, The Phantom of the Opera, etc. Call it de-sensitization if you will, but most of these films might not be as thrilling to today’s audiences, although they terrified the audiences of their respective times. So, I originally thought to have a film that could still be relatively suspenseful and exciting to a contemporary audience, but still representative of a certain decade. Initially, I figured to pick one film each from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s, and while the 2000s might be a little recent to be considered “Classic,” there are still a few franchises from that decade that have significantly altered how horror films are created.
However, early in the planning process, we heard from a friend of the WYO that asked if “Psycho” would be one of the films presented. This particular patron described how that was one of his favorite memories of the WYO: how his parents had taken him to see that film when the WYO was still the Orpheum, when he was 10 years old. While Erin and I were a little unnerved by the idea that parents would take a 10-year-old to such a film, it cannot be denied that Hitchcock made the release of “Psycho” a significant cultural event, so much so that parents would disregard general ideas of ratings systems in order that their child could experience something that would be so impactful. At that moment, “Psycho,” originally released in 1960, made the series representative of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s (perhaps, a little more true to the term “classic.”)
The ‘80s and ‘90s were pretty easy to pick, as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” could easily be considered the horror film representative of their decades, simply based on what they spawned thereafter; not to mention the fact that they are spectacular films. The ‘70s, though, gave us some trouble. We had thought that we needed one film to be a break from the common theme in the remaining three films — each had a “psychotic killer.” So, initially I thought of “The Exorcist,” but even reviews anymore waver as to whether or not it’s actually scary to today’s audiences. Some say absolutely, some say not at all (really — the reviews are online). “The Shining” was unavailable for royalties. “Halloween” would have made the entire series about “psycho killers.” It was almost epiphanic, but “Dawn of the Dead,” just simply became the answer. Not only is it still relatively spooky, and absurdly fun, but its impact on culture is undeniable (any “Walking Dead” fans out there?), and its almost accidental theme of the destructive tendencies of capitalism make it quite artful in many ways.
So, there you have it. “Psycho” on Sept. 10, “Dawn of the Dead” on Sept. 17, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” on Sept. 24, and “Scream” on Oct. 1. All shows will begin at 8 p.m. There are prizes for contests at each screening, and co-hosts to give audiences a deeper look at the film or subject matter for each screening as well. You can get more info at www.tridenttheatre.com, www.wyotheater.com (pick up some tickets while you’re there), or our respective Facebook and Twitter pages.
I’ll see you at intermission!
The Sheridan Press