Movie Review

A scene from David Cronenberg’s ‘The Brood,’ one of six horror films to be screened on Aug. 27. Photo courtesy of Cinema Arts Centre

Above, a scene from David Cronenberg’s ‘The Brood,’ one of six horror films to be screened on Aug. 27. Photo courtesy of Cinema Arts Centre

By Kevin Redding

Summoning all horror lovers!

As summer creeps to a close, the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington — in collaboration with Retro Picture Show — sets its sights on the Halloween season and revs up the scares in its 12th annual Pay to Get Out Horror Movie Marathon.

Saturday, Aug. 27, starting at 10 p.m., moviegoers will be treated to six vastly different and obscure horror films from the ’70s and ’80s, which will get increasingly more and more deranged as the marathon goes on, until those in the audience who have “survived” the whole experience emerge from the theater at around 6 a.m. the next morning.

The whole night will be an endurance test of sorts: How much blood and guts and horror can you handle? And, how long can you stay awake? In fact, anyone who stays for all six films will receive a refund of $10 back and a free breakfast courtesy of the theater’s Sky Room Cafe.

For further incentive, all films and accompanying trailers will be shown in glorious 35mm, there will be free giveaways and raffle prizes and one of the six films has purposefully been kept a mystery to the public.

'House by the Cemetery' is part of the line-up this Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Cinema Arts Centre
‘House by the Cemetery’ is part of the line-up this Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Cinema Arts Centre

“If this is your genre, I recommend you come down, absolutely,” said Raj Tawney, director of publicity and promotions for the theater. “I think when we’re talking about classic cinema and movies that stand the test of time, horror often gets left out of the mainstream. Horror movies are just as important … the people who come are really passionate and care so much about these movies and that’s why the horror marathon has lasted so many years. They’ll come and stay up all night.”

This year marks the theater’s first Pay to Get Out collaboration with newly formed Retro Picture Show, a Long Island-based revival screening series focused on classic genre films. The two groups have worked together before, most notably in bringing “Friday the 13th” and “Friday the 13th Part 2” to the big screen for the original film’s 35th anniversary in May. Following the success of that screening, Retro Picture Show was asked by the theater to co-present the marathon.

“The response from the horror fans in the area has been overwhelming to say the least,” said Michael Ciani, founder of Retro Picture Show. “They come out and spend their hard-earned money to watch films that they have probably seen and most likely own on Blu-ray, so it’s an amazing thing. We truly appreciate it.”

“Our events offer genre fans the opportunity to experience the films they love on the big screen in 35mm,” said Ciani. “I use the word ‘experience’ because that’s what it is: an experience. We encourage people to get there early, choose their seats, meet with friends and other horror fans in the cafe before the film begins. Drink a few cocktails, discuss old horror films. It’s very social.”

Ciani, who has loved horror for as long as he can remember, says that finding good film prints takes a lot of hard work and research.

“Some of these prints are old, over 30 years old,” he said, “so a lot of them are in bad shape. We try to find the best ones available. Sometimes you have to find 35mm print collectors, sometimes the studio [and original distributors] will have it.”

But for him, it’s all worth it.

“I love old films. I feel like there’s nothing quite like sitting in a theater packed with like-minded fans watching a print of a film we all love,” said Cinai, adding “It’s really an amazing experience for everyone. I’m looking to re-create what it was like in the theater watching these films back in the ’70s and ’80s. I want everyone to have a great time. I love the cheering, the screaming, the laughing.”

The marathon’s selection of films cover all the bases of horror, from mutant children to werewolves to scary basements and more. But in true Cinema Arts Centre style, the choices are obscure and less heard of than, say, “Halloween” or “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The event’s lineup includes “The Hidden” (1987), David Cronenberg’s “The Brood” (1979), “The Company of Wolves” (1984), “Vampyres” (1974) and Lucio Fulci’s “House by the Cemetery” (1981), plus the sixth mystery pick — which has been kept so secret that not even Tawney knows what it is.

“We spent a lot of time selecting this year’s mystery film and put a lot of thought into it,” said Ciani. “The goal is to make the audience ‘lose their minds’ with excitement the second it begins … something immediately recognizable. I definitely think we nailed it.”

Tawney says that even though Retro Picture Show will eventually branch out and do these types of programs at different theaters, he’s beyond pleased that they’re getting their start in Huntington.

“Right now we’re currently giving them a home to really prove themselves and test ideas out,” he said. “Most of the time they handpick the films, curate the events and they bring in a lot of personalized promotional materials and posters and prizes, which they create themselves. They give a real personal touch to the event.”

In terms of the prizes, Retro Picture Show will certainly deliver for horror fans.

“For the raffle prize … I’ll be giving away three of the “House by the Cemetery” soundtracks on vinyl, so there will be three winners for that,” said Ciani. “And the free giveaway will be at the end of the night. I’ll be giving away a coupon code for an all-access pass to our Shocktober events that we have every weekend in October. People can buy tickets for all 5 events and get a free poster.”

The Cinema Arts Centre is located at 423 Park Ave. in Huntington. Tickets for the 12th annual Pay to Get Out Horror Movie Marathon are $40 per person, $30 for Cinema Arts Centre members. To order call 631-423-7610 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org. For more information on upcoming Retro Picture Show events, including its Shocktober events, visit www.retropictureshow.com.

Teresa Palmer in a scene from ‘Lights Out,’ one of this summer’s sleeper hits with a sequel already in the works. Photo courtesy of LA Film Festival

By Kevin Redding

“Lights Out” may appear to just be another entry in the often cheap and soulless things-that-go-bump-in-the-night subgenre that reigns supreme in modern horror, but don’t let its seemingly conventional premise, of an evil entity that shows up to haunt when the room is dark, fool you: This movie is scary, clever and — surprisingly — elevating by addressing mental illness and the effect it could have on a family.

First-time director David F. Sandberg takes on the challenge of stretching his original three-minute short — which was praised for being on a level of terror and suspense that most contemporary horror movies fail to reach — into something that sustains its 80-minute runtime and doesn’t grow stale quickly, which is tough when the concept is as simple as this. It’s creepy and makes for some exceptionally eerie visuals (the freaky silhouette appearing and disappearing with the flick of a switch will undoubtedly stick with you before bed) but how can that work for an entire narrative?

As Sandberg showcases, the answer is with great acting, characters we care about, and real human drama that raises the stakes when the inevitable horror fill the screen.

Gabriel Bateman and Teresa Palmer in a scene from ‘Lights Out.’ Photo courtesy of LA Film Festival
Gabriel Bateman and Teresa Palmer in a scene from ‘Lights Out.’ Photo courtesy of LA Film Festival

At the center of the scares is a family in crisis. A young boy named Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is left alone with his mentally unstable mother Sophie after his father dies in a mysterious freak accident at work (which makes for a really intense opening sequence). Sophie, played by an incredible Maria Bello, is way too damaged to be raising a kid; she spends most of her time locked away in her room talking to a dead woman named Diana, with whom she spent time in a mental institution when they were both young.

Diana is like the physical embodiment of Sophie’s psychological problems, which allows the movie, through jump scares and a freaky atmosphere, to talk a little about the dangers of trying to hide these issues and the consequences of harboring them — or unleashing them.

Diana makes herself known by standing in the shadows, aggressively attacking her victims, and doing everything she can to ensure that the lights don’t go on and halt her terrorizing, and the lengths to which she’ll go are really unnerving. Even during the day and when all lights are on, she could be hiding in darkness under the bed, or a corner of the room, or strike when the inevitable power shortage occurs. She can also travel to different locations, so safety is never really guaranteed no matter where you go.

Martin seeks refuge in his older sister Rebecca, played with a realistic chip-on-her-shoulder attitude by Teresa Palmer, who has long since moved out to escape her own dealings with her mother and Diana. Over the course of events, she becomes hell-bent on protecting Martin at all costs — even going as far as wanting to be his legal guardian. Together with her unexpectedly likable and resourceful boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) Rebecca helps Martin battle the evil that has latched itself onto their mother in an ending that contains plenty of high-tension scares and a big moment that’s sure to be contentious among viewers, in relation to mental illness.

Produced by modern horror master James Wan, who recently gave us a winning horror movie filled with great acting, characters we care about, and real human drama, with last month’s “The Conjuring 2,” “Lights Out” is truly effective and bold, serving as proof that a PG-13 rating slapped on a movie in this genre doesn’t always mean that it won’t deliver.

Julian Dennison and Sam Neill star in ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’

By Talia Amorosano

Garnering an impressive score of 8.4 out of 10 on IMDb and a perfect 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is a charmingly quirky, funny and imaginative film sure to seem particularly refreshing to those tired of riding the steady summer stream of formulaic and minimally heartfelt action blockbusters.

Written and directed by Taika Waititi and based on the book “Wild Pork and Watercress” by Barry Crump, the film made its world premiere screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year to rave reviews.

It opens with sweeping overhead shots of the breathtaking and mountainous New Zealand wilderness, setting the stage for the film’s adventures, which take place entirely in this beautiful natural setting. One of the central characters of the film is a young boy, Ricky Baker (13-year-old Julian Dennison) who has spent his life in foster care and has just been transported to a new home. He first appears in stark contrast with the rugged landscape, wearing an oversized hoodie with multicolored dollar bills on it, jacket covered in Illuminati symbols, and snapback cap.

The other main character and one of Ricky’s guardians, an old man who Ricky relentlessly calls “Uncle” (Sam Neill) despite his preference for the less personal “Hec,” is introduced with a wild boar slung over his back, dirty work boots and an unflinching scowl on his face. Initially, unassuming playful Ricky and stern repressed Hec hardly speak, but a series of traumatic and unexpected events pushes and pulls the pair of unlikely companions together on an impossible journey through the bush, where they attempt to evade a national hunt to bring Ricky back under the care of New Zealand’s child protective services.

During their travels they grapple with hapless hunters, rare and fierce animals, a bush-dwelling conspiracy theorist and growing feelings of understanding and appreciation for one another despite having said their “I hate you”s earlier in the film. What the film’s plot lacks in complexity its characters make up for in humor and heart. While the two protagonists are markedly different from one another, they never devolve into caricatures or stereotypes. Each actor plays his role with such a high degree of earnestness that the character he plays is genuinely likeable both in and of himself and in amusing conjunction with his counterpart.

When Ricky initially arrives at his new home, Hec asks, “have you ever worked on a farm before or are you just … ornamental?” Later, in the woods when Hec threatens to take Ricky home and hand him over to child protective services, Ricky refuses to comply and says dramatically, “might as well just kill me now!” before Hec shoots him a look that prompts him to sheepishly continue, “… don’t kill me.” Ricky refers to himself as a gangster yet writes haikus. Hec puts on a stoic air yet becomes extremely touchy when Ricky exposes the fact that he is unable to read.

Throughout the movie, each character’s individual development and the changing dynamic of the two characters’ relationship are full of interesting visual and verbal surprises. In addition to quirky characters and stunning visuals throughout, an unexpected but fitting range of music traverses the landscape of the film along with Ricky and Hec.

From eighties-esque synth instrumentals to mellow folk-singing interludes, to humorous impromptu singing by the characters themselves, the eclectic sound track of the “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is indicative of the pleasantly surprising but logical progression of the plot and characters. Holistically, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” manages to be different but not absurd, humorous but not heartless and emotional but not overblown. This thoroughly entertaining, down-to-earth and endearing film is almost sure to leave you exiting the theater retaining a bit of the warmth it exudes.

This movie is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content and for some language.

Talia Amorosano is a rising senior English and studio art major at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and is a frequent contributor to Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

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From left, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon star in ‘Ghostbusters.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

By Kevin Redding

What made the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” such a huge cultural phenomenon — captivating generations of proton pack-wearing kids and adults alike — was its truly unique and perfectly balanced blend of high-scale supernatural special effects and natural, irreverent comedy. Even with a great cast that included SNL alums Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd as two of four “schlubby,” everyman paranormal eliminators, nobody could’ve expected this odd anomaly to take the world by storm the way it did, shattering box office records, winning Oscars and striking a meaningful chord with pretty much anybody who would see it.

The movie was lightning-in-a-bottle, further proved five years later when the amusing but wholly underwhelming 1989 sequel failed to make an impact on its audience in the same way. It also had no pedestal to live up to when it first hit theaters.

Thirty-two years later, “Bridesmaids”/ “The Heat” “Spy” director Paul Feig’s all-female reboot has the misfortune of being held up against one of the most beloved movies of all time, a challenge even bigger than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

However, thanks to a stellar cast, namely the quartet of spectre hunters — SNL cast members Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and “Spy” star Melissa McCarthy — good-hearted camaraderie, a memorable batch of scary poltergeists in all shapes and sizes and a consistently funny energy throughout, this new version of “Ghostbusters” is a proton blast of summer fun, even with its flaws.

Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold have crafted something that will appease fans of the original — with plenty of nods and references, and cameos from most of the main cast, including a very touching tribute to the late Harold Ramis, to whom the movie is dedicated — while, most importantly, giving a whole new generation of kids their own heroes to look up to and dress up as. And these heroes are cool, science/tech savvy and laugh out loud funny.

Kristen Wiig — at her most endearingly awkward — is Dr. Erin Gilbert, a physicist on her way to secure tenure at Columbia University, whose paranormal-investigating past comes back to haunt her in the form of a newly republished book she co-wrote alongside her former best friend Dr. Abby Yates (McCarthy). With her academic career threatened, Gilbert confronts Yates, who now works at a small technical college with the eccentric and scene-stealing Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon).

Yates and Holtzmann are all about seeking out the paranormal, but Gilbert wants nothing to do with that field of study anymore. The three wind up face-to-face with a free-floating apparition at a historic mansion, where Gilbert finds herself a believer once again after she’s showered with all the concrete evidence she needs: the spirit’s ectoplasmic slime.

Setting up shop above a Chinese restaurant, hiring a whole-other-level-of-stupid receptionist named Kevin, played by “Thor” himself Chris Hemsworth, and rounding out the team with an MTA worker named Patty Tolan (Jones) who knows New York City inside and out, the Ghostbusters are ready to equip a whole slew of ghost-trapping gadgets and find out why there’s been a sudden emergence of paranormal activity lately.

Feig and Dippold understand what people love most about the original — the characters — and run wild with that, taking the main basic concept of realistic people hunting ghosts in the Big Apple and doing their own thing with it. Some jokes fall flat — as is common in an improv-heavy ensemble — and the plot loses steam once it kicks into high gear, making for a second half that’s a bit bloated.

But overall, like in the original, it’s really fun hanging out with these characters and seeing them play off one another. The first half especially, when the group is forming and getting into the swing of their newfound business, is an absolute delight. Also, the ghosts on display here are all wonderfully designed, and the movie contains some legitimately creepy scenes. There’s plenty of room in the world for two different groups of Ghostbusters, and this one certainly holds their own. In fact, it’s when the movie hits the audience over the head with nostalgia and restricts itself from being its own “entity” altogether, by not putting complete trust in its four funny leads to make it work without help, that it suffers.