ATLRetro’s Hellacious and Horrorific Halloween Guide 2015

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Calling all ghouls and gals! Come see why we think you should raise hell in Retro Atlanta this Halloween season!

1. Head Rolling Tunes! Get sinister All Hallows Eve (weekend) with a helluva lot of rancid rock ‘n roll! The Star Bar gets hellacious this weekend with Hell Night featuring326009_298795516804941_172672546083906_1195943_20653855_o2 BigFoot, Timmy James & the Blue Flames and Night Terrors on Friday (10/30)! Or get your horror punk fix with their 24th Anniversary Party & Halloween Bash featuring Horror Business, Pretty Vacant, Salad Days, Road to Ruin and Kool Kats The Casket Creatures on Saturday (10/31)! Get monstrous and go, go Godzilla on down to the Variety Playhouse for a night with the Blue Oyster Cult (10/30)! Rock out retro-style with The B-52s during their “Halloween Scream” show at the Fox Theatre (10/30)! The Earl gets monstrously metal with their Halloween party featuring Wolf Eyes, Timmy’s Organism, Video and Uniform (10/30)! And Smith’s Olde Bar terrifies with their Howl ‘o’ Ween rockin’ tribute night featuring The Cherry Bomb (Joan Jett); Learning to Count (Ramones); and TNT (AC/DC) (10/30)

2. Fangtastic Films! Halloween just isn’t the same without blood-filled horror flicks! If you’re craving the crazed, catch John PsychoCarpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) at 7:30pm across town [Hollywood Stadium 24 in Chamblee; AMC Avenue Forsyth 12 in Cumming; AMC Barrett Commons 24 in Kennesaw; AMC Sugarloaf Mills 18 in Lawrenceville; and Georgian Stadium in Newnan] on Thursday (10/29)! The Plaza Theater delivers killer screenings with Gerald Kargl’s ANGST (1983) (10/29); Victor and Edward Halperin’s monstrous classic, WHITE ZOMBIE (1932) (10/30); and don’t forget to Time-Warp it up with some uber musically-inclined transsexual aliens at as they continue their tradition of screening THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), featuring the live cast of Lips Down on Dixie at midnight, with special Halloween treats (10/30)! Get bewitched with a screening of Kenny Ortega’s HOCUS POCUS (1993) at dusk at Atlantic Station during their “Spooky Film Fest” (10/30)! Ghosts invade Studio Movie Grill (Alpharetta/Duluth) with their 30th Anniversary screening of Ivan Reitman’s GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) at 7pm/9:30pm (10/30)! Celebrate 40 years with Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Jim Sharman’s cult classic, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) at AMC Phipps Plaza at 10pm (10/30-10/31)! The 9th Annual Atlanta Horror Film Festival haunts at DooGallery featuring 70 independent horror films from across the world (10/28-10/30)! And get homicidal at The Earl Smith Strand Theatre with their screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece, PSYCHO (1960) at 8pm (10/31)!

3. Dance with the Dead. Do the Monster Mash with DJ Evil Jet at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club’s annual Halloween Bash (10/31)! 10.31MarysPallookaville celebrates All Hallows Eve and their second year of corndogula slingin’ with their Ice Scream Ball & Halloweiner, featuring drink specials, music, tricks & treats, costume contests and more (10/31)! Or get ghastly and groove on down to Mary’s for their Hallo-Weenie Dance Party (10/30), followed by their Scary-oke! shindig and costume contest on Halloween night (10/31)! Or rattle your bones during Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX’s Fright Night Halloween Party, dripping with devilish drinks, costume contests and more (10/30)! Spook on down to Callanwolde Fine Arts Center for their “Halloween Night on Callanwolde Mountain” family-friendly party featuring trick-or-treating, live music with the Callanwolde Concert Band featuring Matthew Kaminski, costume contests and more (10/30)! And party it up in Virginia Highlands with their Halloween Night in the Highlands event featuring costume contests and more (10/31)!

12079683_10153767154624015_1522384923892883865_n4. Gothic & Ghastly. It’s a night of gothic chills at Atlanta Symphony Hall as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presents a night of Danny Elfman’s music from the films of Tim Burton at 8pm (10/31)! Haunt on down to the Historic Oakland Cemetery for their annual hour-long Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2015 Ghost Tours, featuring music, a fortune teller and more! Come on out and tiptoe through the graves, make a few new spirited friends and hear the hallowed tales of some of their eternal residents, running from 5:30pm to 10:30pm (10/29-10/31)!

5. Horrifying Haunts. It’s a gore-fest at Chambers of Horror Haunted House at the Masquerade as they terrify with their adults-only blood-infested splatter-fest [10/29-11/1, 8pm-12am/1am (weekend)]! Or creep on down to Netherworld Haunted House in Norcross and spook it up through Nov. 1 (7:30pm-10:30pm week days; 7pm-midnight weekends)! Ghastly-2015-illustration-with-title-banner

6. Thrilling and Chilling Theatrics. Be the Headless Horseman’s next victim and get your bones chilled at Serenbe Playhouse’s thrilling presentation of their immersive spooky attraction and show, THE SLEEPY HOLLOW EXPERIENCE, haunting through Nov. 8 (Wed-Sun at 8pm; Fri-Sat at 10:30pm)! The Arts Exchange spooks it up with their Halloween 2015 party featuring performance art, a spooky amphitheatre and experimental music at 8pm (10/31)! Get immortal with the Center for Puppetry Arts’ presentation of Jon Ludwig and Jason Hines’ THE GHASTLY DREADFULS: RAISING SPIRITS adults-only spook show filled with creepy stories, devilish dances and more (10/28-10/31; 8pm)!

7. Psychotically Psychedelic. Rattle your bones and get psychedelic at the Red Light Café with their Night of the Dead Halloween Party featuring gr8FLdude & frenz and Dead Affect (10/31)! Or jam it up with Honeywood during their Halloween trader-vics-halloweenshow at the Crimson Moon Café (10/31)! And it’s “Hawgtoberfest” at Hottie Hawgs BBQ with Swami Gone Bananas (10/31)!

8. Tricks or Tikis! Trader Vic’s takes a big hairy bite out of you with their Werewolves of London Halloween dinner event, featuring a prix fixe menu ($35/person) including monstrous starters, entrées and desserts. Werewolves & Pina Coladas, OH MY! Trader Vic’s calls all werewolves to come in & enjoy Pina Coladas à la Warren Zevon‘s “Werewolves of London” this Halloween! Costumes are encouraged & are worn best if your hair is perfect! Doors Open at 5:00 p.m. (10/30)!

9. Decaying Eighties. ATL Collective delivers two nights of rotting flesh as they raise the dead with their performance of Michael 10.31BasementJackson’s Halloween classic, “Thriller” at Vinyl (10/30-10/31)! Or do the Monster Mash at Steve’s Live Music as they dish out a spooky night with The Lizardmen and Devomatix (Devo tribute) (10/31)! Kool Kat Becky Cormier Finch and Denim Arcade deliver a rockin’ ‘80s Halloween show at the Dallas Public House (10/31)!

10. Groove Like a Ghoul! It’s a night of boos and blues as Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck and the Atlanta Horns get down at their annual Halloween Bamboo Au Go Go Party with The Reverend & the Lady and Yoshito Kiyono at the Northside Tavern (10/31)! Put on those dancin’ shoes groove like a ghoul at The Basement as they get down with forty thousand years of funk during their Keep on Movin’ Halloween Dance Party (10/31)! And get ghastly and groove on down to the The Music Room for the Dangerfeel NewbiesSoul of Jazz Halloween Jam (10/31)!

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Step Right Up to CARNIVAL OF SOULS, Just One of a Macabre Menagerie of Movies at the Plaza Theatre’s October FrightFest

Posted on: Oct 16th, 2013 By:

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962); Dir. Herk Harvey; Starring Candace Hilligoss and Sidney Berger; Friday, Oct. 18 @ 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 19 @ 5:30 p.m. & 7:20 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

During the Plaza Theatre’s week-long celebration of classic horror, a number of legendary films are being shown, including NOSFERATU, WHITE ZOMBIE, FRANKENSTEIN and THE INVISIBLE MAN. But sandwiched in there is a film that dwelled in relative obscurity for years before home video led to its rediscovery and reappraisal: Herk Harvey’s incredible CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

The film’s plot is deceptively slim. Church organist Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) and her two girlfriends are challenged to a drag race over a rickety bridge, and plunge into the river below. While the police drag the river for the remains, Mary emerges with no knowledge of how she survived. Upon leaving the town of Lawrence, Kansas, for Utah, she starts experiencing supernatural events that grow in intensity. She sees haunting visions of a ghoulish, pasty-faced man everywhere she goes. A nearby abandoned carnival pavilion seems to be pulling her toward it. And, eventually, she begins experiencing states where she becomes literally detached from her surroundings—nobody can see or hear her. These all seem to be leading her to an inevitable fate, as she is continually beckoned to take her rightful place among the dead in the Carnival of Souls.

The bones of the story may seem familiar if you’re a fan of old-time radio or THE TWILIGHT ZONE. A similar tale was first told on THE ORSON WELLES SHOW in 1941. “The Hitch-Hiker” took place on a cross-country drive, after the narrator (Ronald, played by Welles) has a car accident following a blow-out. After getting his tire fixed, he sees the same haunting hitchhiker motioning to him at various points on his journey. Nobody he encounters sees the strange man, yet the hitcher continues to appear along his route. At a stop, he calls home only to receive the news that he never survived that accident, and realizes that the hitcher is Death himself, waiting for him to accept his fate and move on. The story was a radio staple for years, and was later adapted by Rod Serling for TWILIGHT ZONE, with Inger Stevens in the lead role of “Nan.”

The story of a person who should have died—who may, in fact, be dead as the story proceeds—is not an original one, and has been seen many times before and since CARNIVAL OF SOULS. From Ambrose Bierce’s 1890 short story “An Encounter at Owl Creek Bridge” to 1990’s JACOB’S LADDER and 2001’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and from 1983’s SOLE SURVIVOR to 1999’s THE SIXTH SENSE, the basic story proves to be still-fertile ground.

But few have done it as well as CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

Herk Harvey, an industrial filmmaker based in Lawrence, came up with the film’s premise as he passed the then-closed Saltair Pavilion on his way to Salt Lake City. To set his film apart, he claims to have wanted to achieve “the look of a Bergman, the feel of a Cocteau.” His atmospheric lighting and high-contrast cinematography come about as close to that as one can achieve on a $33,000 budget. The film is one of those rare “dreamlike” movies that earns its name. The looming camera angles and the oppressive feeling of dread that accompanies her strange visions translate Mary’s sense of feeling trapped in some otherworldly web to the screen with incredible effectiveness. CARNIVAL’s organ score also adds to the disorienting effect of the film. The textual reason for its presence is an explicit reference to Mary’s profession, but its unconscious association is with silent film. And the intrusion of something from another time or place (the specter of death, the abandoned pavilion) into our present is one of the main conflicts that defines the atmosphere of the movie.

Lee Strasberg-trained star Candace Hilligoss also deserves strong praise, as she carries the entire weight of this film. She has the task of making the character of Mary Henry—who is extremely distancing and unsympathetic—into a character that we fear for. Hers is not a character that we immediately identify with. Everyone that reaches out to her gets pushed away (some deservedly so), and yet we eventually identify with her growing need to connect. As her supernatural experiences become more and more frequent, she suddenly finds that she needs these people. They’re at least less unnerving than that strange man she keeps seeing.

The movie was relegated to the bottom half of double bills upon release, and while late-night broadcasts inspired a small cult of film buffs to take cues from it, CARNIVAL’s quiet approach to horror kept the film from spreading far outside those numbers. It wasn’t until 1989, with the debut of the film on VHS, that people really began to take notice. New prints were struck and screened at art-houses and film festivals across the country, and Herk Harvey—who had continued to be a successful industrial movie maker and film instructor—was finally able to see his only feature film gain the kind of respect and acclaim that it had long deserved.

Herk Harvey joined the Carnival in 1996.

This is not a movie to be slept on. It’s a small, haunting masterpiece of horror cinema that was almost forgotten. It’s the kind of re-discovery that you wish would happen more often. Feel that pull? It’s the call of the Plaza, drawing you into this CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Care to dance?

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Retro Review: WHITE ZOMBIE Walks Again in the World Premiere of an All-New Restoration at Atlanta’s Historic Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Jan 16th, 2013 By:

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932); Dir. Victor Halperin; Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, John Harron and Robert Frazer; World premiere Friday, Jan. 18 @ 8:00 p.m. hosted by Prof. Morte (scary details at end of story), and Jan. 25-31; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Long before George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD forever redefined “zombie” in the public mind as “undead, flesh-eating ghoul,” the Halperin Brothers first brought the Haitian legend of the zombie to the screen with 1932’s WHITE ZOMBIE.

The movie finds young couple Madeline Short (Madge Bellamy) and Neil Parker (John Harron) reuniting in Haiti to be wed at the plantation of their friend Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer). Beaumont’s secret love for Madeline drives him to visit local voodoo master Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi) in order to enlist his help in winning Madeline’s hand. Legendre provides Beaumont with a potion that will transform her into a zombie, robbed of her will and love for Parker. He complies with Legendre’s instructions, but soon finds that the villainous voodoo master has plans of his own for the young beauty.

In 1932, America was in the midst of a newfound fascination with voodoo due to New Orleans’ emergence as a tourist destination. Interest was further fueled by authors such as William Buehler Seabrook. Seabrook was a well-traveled journalist, explorer, occultist and Georgia resident who had gained renown by documenting occult practices across the globe, including some of the only objective contemporaneous reporting on Aleister Crowley. Seabrook’s interest in the occult led him to spend considerable time in Haiti researching voodoo and the Culte des Morts. This adventure resulted in his 1929 book THE MAGIC ISLAND, which introduced the concept of the “zombie” to American audiences.

Producer Edward Halperin and his brother, director Victor Halperin (along with screenwriter Garnett Weston) capitalized on the nation’s interest in voodoo by borrowing liberally from both Seabrook’s work and Kenneth Webb’s 1932 Broadway play, ZOMBIE, and crafted an atmospheric masterpiece. The Halperins enlisted Bela Lugosi, fresh off his success in Universal’s 1931 smash DRACULA. It’s unclear as to Lugosi’s reasons for choosing to immediately follow a major studio hit with a micro-budgeted independent film, but he may have seen it as a way to stretch his creative muscles in a low-risk venture. Although he was paid little for his role (reports vary from $500 to $5000), his co-star Clarence Muse reported that Lugosi rewrote portions of the script, restaged some of the scenes and even directed portions of the film. His personal investment in the end results may be why Lugosi considered WHITE ZOMBIE a favorites among his own movies.

It could also be because it’s just a damned fine film.

The film deftly balances the legendary with the actual. While Legendre’s zombies are the reanimated corpses of Haitian lore (their look provided by Universal’s maestro of makeup, Jack Pierce), the film also depicts his use of a poison that emulates death and results in the victim’s deathlike trance and subsequent subservience to a bokor or sorcerer. Though this method had long been suspected, a pharmacological explanation for the zombie phenomenon wouldn’t be confirmed until ethnobiologist Wade Davis’ explorations into Haiti in the 1980s.

Beyond the film’s knowing mixture of fact and fiction, it benefits from the collaboration of Victor Halperin, cinematographer Arthur Martinelli and music superviser Abe Meyer. Together, they take what may have read on the page as stagebound and stodgy and create a dreamlike vision that mirrors Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR (also 1932), echoes elements of contemporaneous Universal horrors and anticipates Val Lewton’s exercises in atmosphere and sound design. Constantly inventive staging and camera work—taking place on sets borrowed from DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME—operate in sync with native drumming, chants, ambient noise, eerie rearrangements of classical works and original music by Xavier Cugat to deliver a palpable sense of creeping death under the oppressive hand of Murder Legendre.

And in the role of Legendre, Lugosi becomes the embodiment of evil itself. No other role—not even Dracula—fully utilizes his mesmeric power and hypnotic presence. From the opening scene, when his eyes are superimposed on the landscape of Haiti, his presence is felt in every frame of film; this is the power of his performance as Murder Legendre. The Halperins attempted to recapture the magic of this film with a sequel, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES, but made the mistake of attempting to replace Bela with Dean Jagger. It’s no small wonder that the subsequent film failed.

For years, WHITE ZOMBIE only circulated on washed-out transfers of faded 16mm prints, mastered for public domain VHS and TV broadcast. In 1999, two rare 35mm prints were used to create the restored version released on DVD by the Roan Group. However, those prints were hardly in pristine condition, displaying evident damage and dropped frames.

Left to right: Bela Lugosi as voodoo master Legendre, a mesmerized Madge Bellamy and a concerned John Harron in WHITE ZOMBIE (1932).

In recent years, Los Angeles-based Holland Releasing had heard that a previously unknown complete 35mm print was rumored to be in the possession of an aged film collector. Thomas W. Holland (a previous resident of Roswell and Marietta) spoke about the efforts to track down this elusive print and its owner. “I heard a rumor about an old fellow who claimed to have a superb, original 35mm print and that began a worldwide search to find this aging, eccentric film lover and convince him to let us acquire the film for a full restoration.  People think I’m joking when I say I had to go through a friend of a friend of a friend to contact this man.” When the print was found, Holland was stunned at its overall condition. “It must have been removed from theatrical service early on, or been set aside as a special studio print.” The Holland Releasing group then set about restoring the film.

AlgoSoft-Tech USA, based in Bishop, Georgia, was hired to return WHITE ZOMBIE’s image quality to its original standards. AlgoSoft’s president, Dr. Inna Kozlov, a famed mathematician in her native Russia, took on the project with great excitement. “We arranged to have the vintage 35mm print scanned, frame-by-frame, at a very high resolution so as not to lose any information.” From that point, Dr. Koslov and her technology developer, Dr. Alexander Petukhov wrote customized software to correct any imperfections in each frame. “Our goal was to return the film’s visuals to how they looked in 1932, the way a vintage carbon arc light source would have glistened through a silver nitrate print of the era.”

Another Atlanta firm, Crawford Media Services, was chosen to do the final re-assembly of the motion picture which included intensely detailed color-correction. “Being a black-and-white film, WHITE ZOMBIE required far more expertise and patience than a typical color feature to get the light levels correct,” says producer Holland. “This film is a gothic masterpiece, and we wanted it to look exactly the way it did when audiences first saw it.”

Once the Georgia image work was completed, the master was sent to Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California. Using a variety of sources, Chace remastered the film’s faded audio tracks to restore the sound to match the quality of the restored image. “Early sound films had a tremendous amount of inherent hiss, clicks and pops,” Holland says, “but Chace was able to give us a new audio track that greatly reduced this. We weren’t looking to make a hi-fi version of the WHITE ZOMBIE track, just a cleaner, clearer representation of how the movie originally sounded in theaters of the ’30s.”

Of course, any restoration invites an amount of controversy, and WHITE ZOMBIE is no exception to this rule. The Holland restoration, which has been licensed for use on an upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release by Kino/Fox Lorber, is already attracting its share of debate from advance reviews. (The release offers two viewing options for comparison: the Holland restoration and a “raw” transfer of the print used prior to AlgoSoft’s restorative work.) However, without actually being able to see an arc light-projected silver nitrate print of WHITE ZOMBIE, it’s impossible to say that the Holland restoration is an inaccurate representation of how the film looked in 1932.

What is most exciting, though, is the chance to see WHITE ZOMBIE on the big screen once again as the restoration makes its world premiere at the Plaza Theatre. The Plaza is making this night a grand event. Hosted by Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow (aka Shane Morton) and Blake Myers (Atlanta effects artist, filmmaker, Buried Alive Film Festival programmer and ATLRetro Kool Kat, whose credits include THE WALKING DEAD and V/H/S), the film will be preceded by the vintage Betty Boop cartoon “Is My Palm Read?” and followed by the 1932 short subject “An Intimate Interview with Bela Lugosi.” Following the filmed entertainment, the team behind WHITE ZOMBIE’s restoration will take part in a question-and-answer session. And attendees will have a chance to win a lifetime all-inclusive ticket to the Plaza, original Plaza seats and T-shirts and monster masks from event sponsor Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse.

Following its premiere on January 18, the film will be showing at the Plaza for a full week, running from January 25-31, and will be shown on a one-time-only basis in theaters across the Unites States and Canada. But you can be there first and see WHITE ZOMBIE brought back to life at its world premiere in Atlanta.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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