As a former resident of Austin, Texas, I regularly crave the horror-exhibition experience offered by the Alamo Drafthouse, a popular regional theater chain voted the best theater in the country. Like many up-and-coming local franchises, the Alamo offers a full restaurant menu for a true dinner-and-a-movie experience. I became familiar with this model while living in Oregon, as the theater pub phenomenon was in full swing there as well. Still, the Alamo sets itself apart by offering innovative programming that further enhances the theatrical experience, which includes its screening of horror films.
Several years ago, for example, I made it out to a showing of Friday the 13th: 3-D. This third installment of the series capitalized on the popularity of 3-D films with many kills designed specifically to enhance such effects. The drafthouse showing was a one-night event, and it drew a rambunctious crowd of fans. While such fan enthusiasm was new to me at the time, I now know that it’s common at the Drafthouse. I’ve attended many other screenings with similar results. I saw a sneak preview for Hostel: Part 2 in which writer/director Eli Roth was tied up by some dominatrices and whipped. Lower profile events included the midnight Terror Thursday (now Terror Tuesdays at 10:00PM) screenings, which featured various rarely screened horror films. My favorites: Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Hidden, and the best slasher ever, The Stepfather! Such screenings became a staple of the summer between my first and second years of grad school, and I miss those late night treks to downtown Austin immensely. Below is a clip of host Zack Carlson introducing the final screening for Terror Thursday, Black Christmas:
Curious about the state of horror programing at the Alamo, I checked their site and discovered that the Alamo in Houston (operated by different owners than the Original Drafthouse in Austin) has a series called “Horror Remix.” The tagline “All Killer, No Filler,” sums up the concept: the curators trim the excess fat from bad horror films, leaving behind the juiciest half-hour of each title. Films are grouped together thematically, with such titles like “Dummy” (puppet horror), “Shopping” (slashers in malls), and “Death Rock” (no description necessary). Click on this link for the trailer for “Dummy,” which, to be quite frank, looks absolutely terrifying and hilarious to me. Also, here’s the promo for “Death Rock”:
I dig the fan revisionism at the heart of this series, and (shock) I love the way these various sub-genres get grouped together to demonstrate the similarities and differences within these categories. As a result, the screening becomes, on the one hand, a study of formula and genre. On the other hand, it demonstrates the ways in which genre films do not always obey convention, as these movies ultimately must be shaped to fit fan expectations. In essence, this is what I love about the Alamo: it honors film fandom unabashedly, recycling old and forgotten texts for new audiences in a theatrical settling. Sadly, such experiences are rare in this age of corporate theater chains.