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A Season of Screams at the Carolina Theatre

by Mark Burger

The Halloween season is upon us, and there’s something spectacularly spooky brewing at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, as the ongoing “Critic’s Choice Cinema in the Crown” series offers a special holiday-themed extension called “Screen Screams,” and the selection of films being shown is certainly something to shriek about.

On Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the month of October, a series of vintage shockers will be screened on the third floor of the Carolina Theatre, each one carefully selected by programmer Budd Wilkins for maximum fun and scares.

“I am a big horror buff,” says Wilkins.

“Some of my formative memories “” for better or worse “” were being taken to horror movies in my youth. Food of the Gods is probably the earliest, though now I wonder whether I was more scared by the giant rats or Marjoe Gortner’s hair! Lucio Fulci’s Zombie was another “” especially the splinterin-the-eye scene “” and the other one was The Fog, hence the love for Carpenter, which has not abated over the years.”

Monday screenings are devoted to the classic films of Britain’s legendary Hammer Films, which has been revived in recent years and continues to specialize in genre films. Selections from Hammer’s heyday include the 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera (Oct. 6), starring Herbert Lom in the title role and directed by Hammer stalwart Terence Fisher. Eric Porter and Angharad Rees headline director Peter Sasdy’s R-rated 1971 psycho-shocker Hands of the Ripper (Oct. 13), which takes a bold new look at the legend of Jack the Ripper. “Hammer time” concludes Oct. 20 with the R-rated vampire chiller Twins of Evil (1971), which stars Peter Cushing and Playboy’s first twin Playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson, in the title roles.

Wednesday selections include David Cronenberg’s R-rated 1983 cult classic Videodrome (Oct. 8) starring James Woods and Deborah Harry; John Carpenter’s groundbreaking, R-rated 1982 remake of The Thing (Oct. 15) with Kurt Russell leading a top-notch ensemble cast; and Carpenter’s R-rated 1988 sci-fi thriller/ social satire They Live (Oct. 22) starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster.

“I programmed the Screen Screams series with an eye to balancing more obscure films with other ‘crowd-pleasers’ like the two from Carpenter,” says Wilkins. “I’ll introduce the film, screen that sucker, then lead a discussion with whomever wants to stick around and participate. The smaller venue in the Crown offers us a chance to get a little more obscure, and since part of my ‘mission statement’ as I’ve always conceived it has to do with film literacy and education, it’s the perfect venue to bring something a little out of the way and unexpected to the people.”

Regarding the Hammer selections, “I reviewed both Hands of the Ripper and Twins of Evil on Blu-ray, and I’m hoping to bring them the attention I think they deserve. Hammer is (or should be!) a recognizable brand name “” especially now that they’re back producing new films. It’s a studio whose work I greatly admire, so the chance to throw some love their way definitely appeals to me. Phantom is such a wonderful version “¦ with a great turn from Herbert Lom. I hope it’ll come as a surprise to people who are maybe only familiar with the Broadway musical. Hands ha s it all: Solid performances, great period detail, comparatively bloody kills (for the gorehounds) and a surprisingly tragic finale. Twins doubles down on the sexiness with the Collinson twins, a tight-lipped, almost dour turn from Cushing, and some great visuals. Madeleine Collinson died recently, so that one will go out in her memory.”

For the others, “Videodrome is one of my all-time favorites from probably my favorite living filmmaker: a mind-blowing, endlessly relevant, surreal and sexy take on interactive technologies and lowestcommon-denominator entertainment.

The Thing is a textbook illustration of how to do a remake right. It’s truly scary, eerily paranoid, and flat-out grotesque. What’s not to love? They Live gives you meaty social commentary, one of the epic on-screen fistfights, and Roddy Piper running out of bubblegum. This one pretty much defines what a cult film can do.” !

WANNA go?

The Carolina Theatre is located at 310 S. Greene St., Greensboro. The “Screen Screams” selections will be screened at 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. All tickets $5. For more information, e-mail buddwilkins@buddwilkins.com or leave a message on his blog: www.buddwilkins.com. For tickets or more information, you can also call 336.333.2605 or visit the official Carolina Theatre website: www.carolinatheatre.com.

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