Movie Maniac

Warren Old Town’s October horror film festival goes national (+trailer)

George A. Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead.”
George A. Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead.” File photo

Wichita’s Leif Jonker has been organizing the annual October at the Old Town Horror Film Festival for years, lovingly curating creepy classics that cinephiles have devoured.

But when Regal Cinemas took over the Warren theaters earlier this year, he wasn’t sure if he would be allowed to continue the festival.

What happened was a nice surprise – he was not only allowed to have the festival again at the Warren Old Town, but the corporate execs he had been connecting with liked his idea and work so much that they are now taking it to a national level. Jonker’s once-local film festival will now be shown in 48 theaters across the country in 24 states.

It also has a new name: HorrorFest, and Jonker says that going national “was a complete and total surprise. Not just a surprise, it was a genuine shock.”

People as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, are going to be watching the festival, which he says is “just surreal.”

“It doesn’t really change things here for us in Wichita” other than the name, Jonker said. “But it is very vindicating that all my hard work and long hours over the years has bloomed into something bigger. Very exciting.”

All titles that he has curated this year will be shown in all the Regal theaters – except one, and that is a pretty exclusive deal: A 4K digital restoration of George A. Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead.” The restoration was overseen by the Museum of Modern art and Martin Scorcese’s Film Foundation, and is only going to be shown in about 50 theaters across the country.

“And we’re one of them,” Jonker says proudly. “It is so limited, we couldn’t even keep it for the national rollout of the fest, so the rest of the country will get ‘The Shining’ in its slot. Aside from that change, the national and Wichita schedules are identical.”

The local HorrorFest is again a fundraiser for the LAPP Animal Shelter, as in years past.

Here’s the schedule for HorrorFest: All showings will take place at Warren Old Town at 353 N. Mead. Admission to all films will be $5 or $10 for double-feature bills.

▪  “Suspiria” (1977) – Dario Argento’s creepy classic celebrates its 40th anniversary with a 4K restoration by Synapse Films. The film follows a newcomer to a prestigious ballet academy who stumbles onto a series of grisly murders. Showing at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2.

▪  “Fright Night” (1985) – A teenager learns that his next door neighbor is a vampire, but no one will believe him. 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3.

▪  Stephen King double feature: “The Dead Zone” (1983) and “Pet Sematary” (1989) – Christopher Walken stars in “Zone” as a man who awakens from a coma to discover he has psychic abilities, while “Sematary” follows a family that moves to the Maine countryside next to a cemetery that has special powers. 7 p.m. Oct. 9.

▪  “The Monster Squad” (1987) – A group of young monster fanatics try to save their town from Count Dracula. 7 and 10 p.m. Oct. 10.

▪  Giant monster double feature with “King Kong” (1933) and “Them!” (1954) – The original oversized ape and ant flicks. 7 p.m. Oct. 16.

▪  “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) – The one that started it all and unleashed cruel serial killer Freddy Krueger upon the world. 7 and 10 p.m. Oct. 17.

▪  Sexy/scary/adult double feature with “Cat People” (1982) and “Videodrome” (1983) – The former is Paul Schrader’s tale of a woman who discovers that her sexual urges transform her into a monstrous black leopard, while the latter is David Cronenberg’s lurid tale of a cable-TV programmer who airs a show dedicated to torture and punishment. 7 p.m. Oct. 23.

▪ “Jaws” (1975) – Stephen Spielberg’s masterpiece is about a giant great white shark that wreaks havoc on a New England beach resort town. 7 and 10 p.m. Oct. 24.

▪  “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) – George A. Romero’s classic celebrates its 50th anniversary with this 4K restoration, about a group of people who seek shelter from flesh-eating creatures. 7 and 10 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/groups/wichitabigscreen.

Rod Pocowatchit: 316-268-6638, @rawd

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