Kool Kat of the Week: Brandt Gully Spooks it up with a Fright Nights Film Series Killing it through Halloween at The Springs Cinema & Taphouse

Posted on: Sep 21st, 2022 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by the Marietta Daily Journal

 

 

Brandt Gully, owner and operator of The Springs Cinema & Taphouse located in Sandy Springs, GA, delivers a haunting month of creepy cinema during their Fright Nights film series, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 21st through Halloween! Not only will you have a chance to experience a killer line-up of chilling crowd favorites (NOSFERATU anyone!?) on the big screen, but you’ll also get to experience these films in special ways, including live-accompaniment and a Q&A event with cult classic star, Catherine Mary Stewart! If you’re looking to add to your spooktacular Halloween schedule, you’ll definitely want to creep on over to The Springs, Sept. 21 – Oct. 31!

ATLRetro caught up with Brandt to chat about the Fright Nights film series, what it’s like to delve deep into the business of independent movie houses, and the importance of catering to the community, no matter what line of work you’re in. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at the fangtastic Fright Nights line-up, here!

ATLRetro: ‘Tis the season for monsters and spooky things and what better way to celebrate than to gather in a movie theatre, perched on the edge of our seats, scarfing down popcorn spooked out of our wits?! We can’t wait for The Springs’ Fright Nights Film series! Can you tell us a little about this film retrospective?

photo by Jarrod Cecil

Brandt Gully: Fright Nights is our new horror-focused series that features nine different classics through Halloween and then will continue on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. In this first ‘spooky season’ installment, we are trying a little bit of everything ranging from a 1920s silent film classic up through 80s and 90s favorites and even a couple of offerings for kids. We are even mixing in different types of movie experiences along with the screenings—a live music experience with The Invincible Czars performing their score alongside NOSFERATU (1922), a double-feature at our Springs Drive-In where we set up a 50-foot screen in our parking lot, and capped it all off with a Halloween night screening of BEETLEJUICE (1988) in our “interactive film style” concept that we call Movie Parties. We are throwing a lot of different things at our customers during this series to see what they like so that they can help guide us with future offerings. And lastly, our series will be hosted each week by our friend Sunny Midnight, who is well known in the local film and convention community for her love and work with horror and sci-fi films.

What a killer line-up! The movie selection for this series includes classics like NOSFERATU, ‘80s cult horror with NIGHT OF THE COMET, and 90s fright favorite, SCREAM. Can you tell us about some of the special events you have lined up with a few of the screenings, including a special appearance by Catherine Mary Stewart?

While we are super excited just to be screening these upcoming horror films, we really want to offer more to our true film lovers out there with interactive movie experiences. The first couple that we have planned are going to be a lot of fun. It’s hard to find a more classic horror film than NOSFERATU, which turned 100 years old this year. The Invincible Czars out of Austin, TX have been making and performing their own soundtracks or scores to classic silent films for years, and they’re touring the US over the next several weeks doing NOSFERATU at film festivals and arthouse and indie cinemas like ours. They’ll be live and on stage in front of our screen on Friday, October 7th, accompanying the film as they rock their score with a five-member ensemble using violin, flute, bass clarinet, electric guitar, bass, piano, organ, glockenspiel, music box, drums, percussion, samples and loops. It will be a fun experience to see this movie in a whole new way.

We are also excited that Catherine Mary Stewart will be visiting us on October 14th and 15th for our screenings of NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) and THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984). Those are two iconic 80s films, and it will be a lot of fun to have her there to engage with her fans with photos and autographs as well as do some Q&A after the screenings.

Were there any films you wanted to include but couldn’t?

We originally had Felissa Rose scheduled for a live appearance for a screening of SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983), but she ended up having a filming conflict and will plan on visiting us in January or February 2023.

Can you tell our readers what it takes to put on this type of film series and what makes Fright Nights different from others around the Atlanta area?

Doing a curated series or unique screenings is a lot of work, which is why most theaters don’t do it. Our industry has gotten a bit lazy in recent years and just tends to rely on whatever Hollywood spoon feeds us to pass along to the customers. We saw what can happen with that strategy over the past couple of years when film production was halted and new releases were delayed, so we are committed to doing the work and providing cinema lovers with product we like and believe they will as well. Our goal is to make this an ongoing series, where we have enough demand to offer a weekly horror screening. In this first ‘spooky season’ installment, we are trying a little bit of everything ranging from a 1920s silent film classic up through 80s and 90s favorites and even a couple of offerings for kids. We are even mixing in different types of movie experiences in this series with traditional screenings, a live music experience with The Invincible Czars performing their score alongside NOSFERATU, a double feature at our Springs Drive-In where we set up a 50’ screen in our parking lot, and capped off with a Halloween night screening of BEETLEJUICE in our interactive film style concept that we call Movie Parties. We are throwing a lot of different things at our customers during this series to see what they like so that they can help guide us with future offerings. Since the day we opened our theater 5 years ago, it’s always been important to me to specifically tailor the experience at The Springs to our community and customers, whether it’s the film programming, the kitchen menu, or the offerings at our bar. We think listening to our customers is key to our success, and this Fright Night series is no exception.

Like indie films, indie theatres are the hidden gems in cities across the country. What are the main differences when it comes to movie-going experiences, etc. compared to your larger corporate competitors?

I like to tell our Springs team that we need to show our customers that we are trying harder than our local competitors. We definitely are, but it’s important that the customers see the result of that extra effort. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would choose a local restaurant or bar all day vs. a national chain, as long as it’s done well. I don’t think cinemas should be any different. We went to great lengths when we renovated our place and how we operate it to make sure people know we are different than the others. Even with the design, I wanted a new customer to walk in the doors and immediately see that we aren’t a chain and that this place was built and run with them specifically in mind. Our bar is a great example of this. Plenty of movie theaters have a bar these days, but it’s usually an afterthought where some corporate office across the country decided that every one of its locations should feature the same 8 beverages to meet all customer needs. I couldn’t disagree more, and we spend a ton of time listening to customers and throwing options at them and now have 18 lines of craft beer, over 60 bourbons and 20+ wines. We started with something way smaller than that but continue to evolve to make sure we are providing an ideal experience for our customers.

It’s every movie kid’s dream to own their own theatre. Is there a secret origin story on how you got hooked on movies, making you want to run your own movie house? And how were you able to make this dream come true?

I’ve been a movie lover my entire life and have so many memories from my local childhood cinema, whether it was the first movie I saw with my dad, or sneaking in to see my first rated R movie (which we don’t encourage!!!) or my first date at the movies (TOP GUN). With that being said, I can’t say that it was my dream to own and operate a place, but things have a way of working out. My entire career has been in the finance world, but in and around movies. I’ve been in thousands of theaters over my 25+ year career, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I decided to make a drastic career move and buy this place. It’s a random journey and story, but it primarily revolves around my family. My oldest of 3 daughters was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and spent most of the next 18 months in the children’s hospital fighting a terminal diagnosis. While at the hospital, I was surrounded by so many people that made my life better on a daily basis by doing their jobs with passion. That was a huge part of helping my daughter defy the odds and be a healthy young lady today, and I realized at that point that I needed to rethink my career and find something where I could get involved with the community. It’s too late to become a doctor or nurse like them and I’d be a terrible fireman or policeman, so I determined that the closest thing to what I knew was the movie business. While I won’t pretend to have the same impact as those that saved my daughter’s life, I do have the opportunity on a daily basis to be plugged into the community and help people escape the outside world for 2-3 hours and be entertained. We also do a lot of work with local schools, charities, and businesses, and it’s been a complete joy to play a small part in brightening up our community.

The Springs has been described as “fun” and “innovative.” Can you tell our readers why they should make their way to Sandy Springs to check you all out?

We will always try new things to see what gives our customers a great experience. You’ll be hard pressed to find a theater that has more diverse content; just this past month we showed films in 3 different languages, a silent film, screenings of locally made indie films, live sporting events on the big screen, retro movies at our parking lot drive-in, numerous indie studio selections, and of course the Hollywood blockbusters. If you pair that with the fact that we have a full kitchen menu, a bar with over 150 adult beverages to choose from, live music on our patio on weekends, and a host of private parties and events weekly, you’ll see that we have something for everyone.

I’m sure you watch an astounding number of films annually. What trends and directors are pushing the envelope now, in your opinion? A few film recommendations for our readers?

That’s a tough one, as I do get to see so many. I happen to love most genres, but I tend to get most excited about a lot of the indie releases that don’t get a ton of press. Certainly, the blockbusters pay most of the bills, but I always look forward to releases from some of the top indie distributors like A24 and Neon. They rarely miss in my opinion. This year’s upcoming films I’m most excited about would probably be Damian Chazelle’s BABYLON and Spielberg’s THE FABELMANS, as those guys never miss and both center around the film industry. As for overall trends with the industry, I know there is a lot of fatigue over so many comic book movies. I think some of that criticism is fair, as Hollywood does tend to milk concepts as long as they can. But I think Hollywood also does a good job of adapting based on what sells, and the success of TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2022) sent a very loud message in my opinion. People of all ages absolutely loved that movie because it was well done, had Hollywood stars, had zero social or political agenda, and was simply a fun experience that can’t be replicated at home on a small TV or on a tablet. There are consistently great films with great performances being made, but I do think we need more fun and mindless films as well similar to what we grew up on.

Film and nostalgia go hand in hand, and we see that The Springs hosts many retro film series as well as drawing crowds during your retro drive-in screenings, which of course is right down our alley. What is it about the classics that keep folks coming back for more?

People sometimes just want to escape and have fun while watching a film. We don’t always have to explore complex issues or stories presented by filmmakers, as sometimes it’s enough to just laugh or scream or tear up. There are so many retro films that elicit those emotions, and people also enjoy reconnecting with these films where they may have great memories.

 

All photos courtesy of Brandt Gully and used with permission.

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Nightmare in Downtown Atlanta: Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Attend Days of the Dead 2016!

Posted on: Feb 3rd, 2016 By:

elviraIt’s crazy how time flies and also totally terrifyingly awesome that the Days of the Dead will be celebrating its fifth frightening year at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, this Friday-Sunday Feb. 5-7. Our favorite part is that this horror media convention celebrates not just contemporary cinema but retro classics. In other words, there’s plenty to please both the gore-fan and the Famous Monsters Kid. Here are 10 of our top things to do this year.

bdwms1) ELVIRA. Need me say more than that the Mistress of the Dark will be gracing our presence. You can catch the beautiful Cassandra Peterson on all three days but she’ll only be onstage Q&A’g Friday night at 9 p.m. and only in her full dark costumed regalia on Saturday.

2) BILLY DEE WILLIAMS. The original Star Wars trilogy gangster, Lando Calrissian, will be in the house on Saturday (Q&A at noon) and Sunday, as well as Jeremy Bulloch the man behind the mask of Boba Fett, the ultimate bounty hunter.

3) SID HAIG AND BILL MOSELEY. Returning once more are two of the sweetest sinister guys in show businesses. Sid Haig, one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic, creepy Captain Spaulding. Quite frankly you and Bill Moseley scared the sh-t out of us in THE DEVIL’s REJECTS, and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you both!

raimi4) TED RAIMI, i.e. Sam’s zany acting brother, is also on this year’s guest list. Horror fans will always love him for EVIL DEAD II, but his acting resume is long and full of fun including recurring roles on such TV series as SEAQUEST 2032 and playing Joxer on HERCULES and XENA:WARRIOR PRINCESS.

5) HEATHER LANGENKAMP & PJ SOLES. These ladies won horror hearts as two of 70s/80s swellest scream queens for their turns in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HALLOWEEN, but to us, PJ will always be Riff Randell eating pizza with the Ramones and toppling Principal Togar in one of our favorite cult movies ever, Roger Corman‘s unparalleled ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

sidhaig6) KANE HODDER & TONY TODD, the actors behind two of the most iconic 80s monsters, JASON VOORHES and CANDYMAN, will be lurking. Be sure to stop by and blow them kisses, then duck and run!

7) TOO MANY TO NAME THEM ALL! Check the Website for more stars from such horror/splatter classics as POLTERGEIST, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, CHILD’S PLAY, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HITCHER and more!

8) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING  Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories.

9) MACABRE MAKE-UP, CREEPY COSTUMES AND PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES!! Check the schedule and on-site flyers, but highlights include Friday night CELEBRITY SCARYEE-OKEE at 11 p.m. and Saturday FX MAKEUP CHALLENGE (4:30 p.m.), THAT DAMN TATTOO CONTEST (6:30 p.m.) VIP PARTY (8:45 p.m.), costume contest (10 p.m.) and CARNAGE dance party (11 p.m.)

costume10) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The JABB 48-hour film festival featuring new and classic indie horror shorts (both US and international), animation, features and con exclusives. One special treat, or maybe trick, is DEVIL DOGS OF KILO COMPANY, a Marines vs. Nazis thriller performed with toy soldiers and tanks, introduced by voice actors/stars John Dugan (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and Kane Hodder, Sat. at 5 p.m.! And we admit nothing says creepy to us so much as a clown costume contest–catch that right after at 7 p.m. during the pre-release party of CIRCUS OF THE DEAD introduced by DOLL BOY director Billy Pon.

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 5 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 7 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. Kids under 10 and military free. For more info, visit https://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

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Retro Review: Comparing Corpses: Two EVIL DEAD Go Head-To-Blood-and-Gory-Head!

Posted on: Apr 24th, 2013 By:

THE EVIL DEAD (1981); Dir. Sam Raimi; Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker and Sarah York; Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

There’s such a hue and cry over the seemingly unending parade of remakes coming out of the Hollywood horror entertainment complex. It’s increasingly hard to approach one on its own terms without feeling like you’re betraying all that is good and true in this world. And when it comes to a beloved horror classic like Sam Raimi’s 1981 gorefest THE EVIL DEAD, the stakes are raised even higher.

But here’s the complication: THE EVIL DEAD has already been remade. Not once, but twice. The film’s plot was summarized and streamlined into the first quarter hour or so of 1987’s EVIL DEAD II, which was then subsequently summarized and streamlined into the opening segment of the series’ third film, 1992’s ARMY OF DARKNESS. Further complicating matters is the fact that THE EVIL DEAD is itself a remake. Raimi’s 1978 short film WITHIN THE WOODS was developed as a prototype horror film to draw investors, and it successfully led to Raimi raising the nearly $100,000 needed to develop a feature-length version of the short.

To be clear: THE EVIL DEAD is far from being some sacred, untouchable text. Not even Raimi sees it as being one, as he’s been futzing around with the same story since 1978. And even then it wasn’t that original an idea: though Raimi denies having seen the film prior to production, the storyline of THE EVIL DEAD is relatively close to that of the 1967-70 drive-in classic EQUINOX. Both involve scientists who have unwittingly opened a portal between this world and a demonic realm, a mysterious occult text and a handful of early-20s youths who visit the scientist’s cabin and wind up fighting off demons. It’s become such an archetypal setup that the “five kids in a cabin” trope is the basis for Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s ultimate meta horror-comedy, 2012’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.

That being said, how does Fede Alvarez’s 2013 version compare with the 1981 model? Let’s take a look.

Both stories are superficially similar: a group of five kids in their 20s visit a remote cabin, wherein they stumble upon a mysterious tome, the NATURON DEMONTO, which contains passages intended to open a portal and summon demons to this realm. The spells are read aloud (in the original, played via a scientist’s tape recording; in the 2013 version, directly read from the book), and said demons are summoned. One by one, the five are picked off and controlled by the ancient evil called forth by the book.

The first thing you’ll notice as different is the film’s immediate stylization. In the original, there’s a sense of everything being normal until we get to the cabin. In the remake, a pre-credit sequence of sacrifice casts a shadow over the proceedings, and to reflect that, there’s a consistent color desaturation which gives everything a sickly pallor and darkens the tone of the film. While I miss the gradual move away from “reality” that the original possesses, the point stands that the remake is, well, a remake. We know that bad stuff is about to go down and we know where it’s located (and if you didn’t know, the establishing sacrifice informs you).

The second thing is a deviation from the original’s storyline that affects the audience’s relationship with the characters: in the original, Bruce Campbell’s Ash is part of an ensemble and emerges as the film’s lead over time. In the remake, Jane Levy’s Mia (a recovering drug addict who has chosen the isolated cabin as a place to detox) is quickly established as the film’s focal character. By announcing right out of the gate who the film’s protagonist is, the sensation at the original’s outset that anybody could die at any time is somewhat lessened. We already know which character is established as the hero, but the question remains: how long will our hero last? Both films take their own path to establishing that question, but the original’s route creates more audience empathy. The remake’s approach results in a decrease in the sense of danger, meaning that no matter how many times the film pulls this rug out from under the viewer, the viewer is still inclined to think, “well, sure, but they can’t kill her; she’s the star!”

One thing in which both films succeed is the application of gore. Though budget kept the original’s prosthetic appliances looking like anything but prosthetic appliances, they made up for any shortcomings with a shocking amount of blood. And not just blood spurting from wounds, but from everywhere. And Raimi’s bravura direction pulled maximum shock out of every instance. Alvarez’s higher budget has resulted in more successful practical effects (he boasts that every effect was done on-set using practical effects, with CGI only used for touch-ups and more general uses such as manipulating the film’s color palette), and his insistence on not backing down from the original’s bloody reputation has resulted in this being quite probably the most gore-filled major studio film I’ve ever seen.

Bruce Campbell in the original EVIL DEAD. New Line Cinema, 1981. Available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Meanwhile, let me address something that I’ve seen crop up elsewhere in comparing the two: criticism that the 2013 film lacks the comedy of the original. The original film IS. NOT. FUNNY. Sure, there are one or two intentionally comedic moments in the first few minutes of the film as we follow our gang to the cabin. But the “splatstick” comedy that so many people associate with the EVIL DEAD franchise was something that popped up in the sequel, EVIL DEAD II. The first EVIL DEAD movie is every bit as serious about what’s going on as the remake. Got it? Good.

The main question, though, is this: does the film stand on its own two legs? I’d argue that it does, unequivocally. It does lack some of the sense of fun that the original had, particularly in its first half. But when the possession starts going and the blood starts flowing, it’s too easy to get caught up in the unbridled enthusiasm of the movie to not enjoy it from that point onward. Sure, there are plot holes and contrivances that might bring down any attempt to reason with the film, but in a movie like this, reason is the last thing you want to bring into the theater with you. The entire point of either film is to show what happens when reason can no longer be applied. And both films succeed and fail at showing that in probably equal amounts. And the remake might lack some of the bizarro flourishes that made Raimi’s film stand out that much more in that regard. But you can walk into this film not knowing of Bruce Campbell’s existence (I can’t imagine living such a life, but to each their own) and come away happy.

And I—knowing and loving the original, which I’ve probably owned more copies of in my life than any other film—walked away having enjoyed myself thoroughly. It’s a nice complement to the original, which it references enough to question whether it might be some kind of sequel: not only are the superficial elements in place (the cabin and the book, though the book has been redesigned due to copyright problems), but Ash’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale is still present outside the cabin. (Nerds like myself might chime in with “…but Ash’s car was transported through the portal to ancient Sumeria in 1300 at the end of EVIL DEAD II!” To which I award you the coveted No-Prize, and direct you to the lobby to collect it.)

The new EVIL DEAD equals the original in blood and gore. Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2013.

It’s certainly the best of the recent crop of horror movie remakes. And while that might sound like damning with faint praise, it’s not intended to be. It works as both a celebration of the original and a successful horror film on its own. It doesn’t shy away from its visceral roots in order to deliver a PG-13 rating, or preemptively compromise itself so as to not invoke the MPAA’s wrath. Surprisingly, something this brutal made it through unscathed.

Five kids in a cabin. Deceptively easy to screw up. Thankfully, Fede Alvarez has kept things simple.

Blood simple.

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

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