A Preview of July’s Midnight Movies at the Baxter
Good Evening, friends and fellow horror movie fanatics. This is the Phantom of the Ville coming to you from the dark, mysterious projection room inside Louisville’s own Baxter Avenue Theater. The smell of buttered popcorn is in the air and the sound of flickering 35 MM projectors are like the cinema’s children of the night. What music they make!
This July the Baxter will chill your scorched bones with an entire lineup of horrifying shockers almost every Saturday night at the witching hour! You’ll witness three 35 MM prints of some of the best Midnight Movie Madness Hollywood has to offer made by two of the genre’s greatest masters, John Carpenter and Sam Raimi.
Although “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) wasn’t truly the first Midnight Movie, it was certainly the film that started the Midnight Movie cultural phenomenon. John Waters‘ “Pink Flamingos” (1972) and the propaganda marijuana scare film, “Reefer Madness” (1936), had played successfully in big cities and on college campuses previous to “Rocky Horror,” whose original theatrical release was somewhat of a bust.
However, two years later in 1977 the film was re-released to theaters on the Midnight circuit where audiences were a little more “lubricated” and talkative. It began in New York City and Austin, TX. People began shouting back at the screen and quoting dialog out loud. Soon enough entire scenes were being reenacted in front of the screen, toast and toilet paper were being thrown and motorcycles were being driven up and down the theater aisles. All of this led to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” becoming the longest running theatrical release in history, still in limited theatrical release almost 40 years later.
This week I spoke with the Baxter’s Midnight Movies Master of Ceremonies, Beau Kaelin, who has been programming the series since it began in 2003 with “Donnie Darko,” after the long lamented closure of The Vogue in Saint Matthews. Kaelin seems the perfect man for this job. Like a character right out of a Marvel comic book, Kaelin is a mild mannered public school Biology teacher by day who at night becomes a mad movie programmer of some of the wildest and woolliest cinema imaginable.
“We had picked up showing ‘Rocky Horror’ after the Vogue Theater closed,” Kaelin said, “and we realized that we had eight other empty theaters after Midnight while ‘Rocky’ was playing.The staff couldn’t leave anyway, so we decided to try playing another film.”
“To our surprise, ‘Donnie Darko’ completely sold out.” Kaelin continues, “The audience for ‘Rocky Horror’ was getting younger and younger. There were thirty or so regulars, but most of the audience were just kids who had heard it was a party, but weren’t familiar with the film at all. The oddest thing I’ve ever experienced was walking into the screening and the theater just being quiet!”
Kaelin says the most successful Midnight Movies at the Baxter have included “Labyrinth,” “Theater of Blood,” “Ground Hog Day,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Room,” “Zardoz” and “Amelie.” Seriously, “Amelie”? Kaelin says “Amelie” was the fastest sellout in Baxter Midnight Movie history.
The Midnight Movie Series has now played over 200 films and shows no signs of slowing down. There’s something magical that happens when sitting in a dark theater after Midnight with a full audience experiencing strange cinema together. The movie, even if you’ve seen it before, takes on a new life and there is a heightened experience that can not be replicated at home on the best home theater system. Without further ado, here is the horror you can share with Louisville’s greatest horror fans this July.
“THEY LIVE” Saturday July 7 MIDNIGHT: John Carpenter presents this paranoid vision of a world under secret alien control starring Roddy Piper as a struggling blue collar labor slave who discovers the truth about the enslavement of the human race through a mysterious pair of sunglasses. This searing satire of the Reagan era includes the longest, funniest fight scene in sci-fi cinema history. In related news, Roddy Piper will also be appearing in person this same weekend at the Days of the Dead Horror Convention in Indianapolis ( see http://www.daysofthedead.net/indianapolis/ ).
“ARMY OF DARKNESS” Saturday July 14 MIDNIGHT: Sam Raimi’s third and final entry in the “Evil Dead” saga finds S-Mart housewares clerk, Ash (Bruce Campbell), magically transported to the Dark Ages where he must find the Necronomicon to save himself (if not the world) from an army of evil deadites. Campbell’s recent appearance at Louisville’s Fright Night Film Fest generated lines that were hours long and stretched for miles through the hallways of the Galt House, so there’s no doubt this cult horror film has a ‘Rocky Horror” sized following and should prove to be a lively Midnight Movie.
“DARKMAN” Saturday July 28 MIDNIGHT: Another Sam Raimi shocker, “Darkman” is a Gothic comic book style horror film that follows the adventures of tragic hero, Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), as he seeks revenge against the gangsters who destroyed his life and his own human skin! Working on a formula for synthetic skin to benefit humanity, he uses his skin compound to create lifelike masks and becomes a master of disguise to infiltrate the criminal underground and destroy his enemies. Will his quest for revenge make him a hero or a monster? This film ultimately became Raimi’s trial run as a comic book director which led to his directing job on the blockbuster “Spider-man” franchise.
The Baxter Avenue Theaters are located in the Highlands at 1250 Bardstown Road in the Mid-City Mall. Beau Kaelin and his crew tell me the the grounds at the Mid-City Mall are haunted, and one theater in particular is the scene of multiple sightings of a little ghost boy who appears playing in the aisles on a reoccurring basis. So the spooks on the screen this July may not be the only ones with you in the theater in the dark after Midnight. You have been so warned!
Kaelin and his crew’s successful Halloween marathon of Vincent Price films last October will be followed by another Midnight Horror Series this Fall. It’s still in the planning stages, but Kaelin says that Universal Studios has recently struck new 35 MM prints of several of their classic horror films, and he has an idea about programming each week’s feature as a spotlight on a different classic horror star from Bela Lugosi to Boris Karloff to Christopher Lee to Barbara Steele.
Keep watching this space for details! See you at the Midnight Movies!