Friday, 17 September 2004

like your films with a little more aaargggh!!!??? acmi presents the horror for halloween

The Horror: It just won't die...

As the limp remakes of Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit the big time at the US box office, the highly derivative House of 1000 Corpses and 28 Days Later enjoy huge success and the soon-to-be released zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead settles in for a long run at multiplexes everywhere, ACMI invites you to revisit the times and the films that inspired a thousand sequels, rip-offs and remakes - the 1970s American indie horror boom.

1970s USA was a fertile breeding ground for some of the most bone-chilling nightmarish visions ever committed to screen. It was a time when a group of young maverick directors - including Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, George Romero and John Carpenter - produced a series of films that were unparalleled in their uncompromising shock value, grunge aesthetics and daring experiments in style.

Their films are now among the most copied and referenced films ever.

But while these films continue to inspire later generations of filmmakers, the imitators often surface diluted or devoid of the potent cultural references that inspired the originals.

Mainly low budget, independent productions made outside of the Hollywood system, films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter's Halloween, Last house on the Left and Dawn of the Dead reflected the American populace's mood of unease and increasing distrust of their fellow man. It was a time of increasing disenchantment with the government in the wake of Watergate and when the Vietnam War produced some of the most horrific images ever seen in the mass media.

'In the 1970s, horror films were at their peak because America was itself a horror show,' says Bradley P. Guillory in his essay, Stained Lens: Style as a Cultural Signifier in Seventies Horror Films. 

'The Vietnam War was in full force; police were shooting Kent State students for exercising their constitutional rights; technology was replacing factory workers, but gasoline was still running low. The American hero of World War II had vanished, and the horror directors of the seventies were compelled to comment on this disappearance. In Last House on the Left (1972), Wes Craven uses a family of criminals symbolically and juxtaposes them with a straight-laced family that tries to escape the new, post-Vietnam America, but the straight-laced family finds that the stain of war and atrocity affects their lives as well. Tobe Hooper created a family of economic degenerates who have resorted to cannibalism in order to survive the technological encroachment into their rural homeland of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And just when Americans thought they were safe from the seventies, John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) appeared with a physical form of evil that reminds us that light cannot exist without darkness.'

Coinciding with Halloween, The Horror will give audiences a rare opportunity to experience the original, unforgettable and highly influential horror movies from this period on the big screen in ACMI's state-of-the-art cinemas. 

Films to be screened in The Horror include the original (and the best) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); George Romero's The Crazies (1973) and his later work Dawn of the Dead (1978), a seminal film which merges zombies with a commentary on the darker side of consumerism; The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Last House on the Left (1972), two visions of a decaying rural America from horror master Wes Craven; It's Alive (1974) and God Told Me To (1976) by B movie maestro Larry Cohen; Bob Clark's Dead of Night (1974) and John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), the precursor to the modern 'slasher' genre and one of the most profitable independent films ever made.

Coinciding its forthcoming release on DVD in Australia (through Umbrella Entertainment), ACMI is proud to screen The American Nightmare (2000), an incisive documentary that takes a serious look at the potent social and political contexts that informed American horror films of the late 1960s and 1970s.

The Horror will also showcase a sample of newer nightmares that have gone their own way in tapping into the collective unconscious to explore some of the fears and anxieties of contemporary society. Among them: the Australian premieres of Rojo Sangre, from Spanish director Christian Molina, and London Voodoo, an independently made psychological thiller-cum-zombie-flick from first-time British writer/director Robert Pratten, as well as the Victorian premiere of Lost Things, a supernatural thriller set in the world of Poe and Lovecraft where death isn't the ultimate horror.

Reflecting today's obsession with celebrity, Rojo Sangre features cult star Paul Naschy, as frustrated, ignored and increasingly psychotic actor Pablo Thevenet who embarks on a grisly killing spree to rid the Spanish film world of talentless pop icons!

London Voodoo tells the story of an American family that emigrates to England whose whole lives are infected by dark vengeful forces. The film stars Sara Stewart who is set to appear in the forth-coming Batman Begins and features an original soundtrack written by Siouxsie & The Banshees' Steven Severin.

As part of The Horror ACMI is proud to present two special meet-the-filmmaker sessions:

Screening of American Nightmare, introduced by director Adam Simon (US)

For his documentary, American Nightmare, Adam Simon spoke to some of the most famous horror directors of all time including John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George A. Romero and Tobe Hooper, and also interviewed the 'The Godfather of Gore', famous make-up and effects artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, Dead of Night, Dawn of the Dead) who reveals the inspiration for his gory effects was his first-hand experience of the gruesome carnage he encountered both as a photographer and soldier in Vietnam. Coinciding with American Nightmare's screening as part of The Horror program, director Adam Simon will be in Melbourne to introduce his film.

Popcorn Taxi presents the Victorian premiere screening of Lost Things, followed by Q & A with director Martin Murphy (Aust)

Featuring a script written by acclaimed playwright Stephen Sewell, AFI-winning script writer of The Boys and 2004 Green Room Award winner for Myth, Propoganda & Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America (Playbbox, 2003), Lost Things follows the story of four teenagers who go away to a secluded beach for a weekend of adventure and discovery, only to find that they are not the only ones their and their dreams are turning into nightmares. ACMI is proud to welcome Lost Things director Martin Murphy, who will be in Melbourne to present the film's Cup Eve screening (1 November) and do a question and answer session.

Dawn of the Dead, Last House on the Left and American Nightmare are presented with the kind assistance of Umbrella Entertainment

Further information

Please contact Danielle Poulos, ACMI Communications Coordinator

PH: (03) 8663 2415 or

Please click here to be taken to the Horror page on acmi website





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