SCREEN TIME: Fright fests and arterial anniversaries

See special horror films on the big screen — if you dare

HEAD GAMES: Matt Servitto (left) and Henry Zebrowski represent different faces of showbiz in ‘Good Head’ at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival

Film history is filled with taglines meant to strike dread in audiences’ hearts. Now, to the likes of “The night he came home” and “In space, no one can hear you scream,” we can add, “All screenings subject to change due to the delta variant.” Disruptions in film showings can seem trivial compared to a massive health crisis, but seeing freaky, frightening films ahead of Halloween is a long-missed sign of normalcy.

So, all of the following horror (and horror-adjacent) movie showings are slated for October as of this writing but may be rescheduled if things take a turn for the worse. The Plaza Theatre, already the home of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, practically becomes a center for scary movies this month, while Fathom Events presents a series of horrific screenings at area theaters like the Regal Hollywood 24. Check for the one nearest you.

Dune (Oct. 7, The Plaza) The Plazadrome — a partnership of Videodrome video rental store and The Plaza — presents the original 1984 adaptation of the sci-fi epic Dune ahead of Denis Villeneuve’s new version coming out on October 22. It’s technically not a horror movie, but it’s a David Lynch film with giant worms and the music of Toto, so close enough.

The Evil Dead (Oct. 7, Fathom Events) In 1981, director Sam Raimi cut his teeth — and drew blood elsewhere — with this low-budget, high-energy getaway to a cabin in the woods. The 40th anniversary screening showcases the franchise’s dark, inventive roots ahead of a fifth entry, Evil Dead Rise, due in 2022.

The Atlanta Horror Film Festival (Oct. 8-10) This year the celebration of scary cinema will screen more than 100 short films with some indoors at RoleCall Theater and others outdoors at Ammazza on Edgewood. Georgia-made shorts include Oya Babaoglu’s eerie medical history Counting Down, Tucker Clement’s surreal Bad Dreams, and John Stevenson’s COVID-era revenge story Jane.

A local short that deserves special attention is Good Head, written and directed by Matt Servitto. Servitto plays an arrogant action movie star — giving a passable impression of Robert Downey Jr. — required to have a mold of his head made by an obsessed special effects artist (Henry Zebrowski) clearly inspired by Atlanta horror host and SFX guru Shane Morton.

Good Head sets up a fairly pointed contrast between the culture of old-school practical effects versus the computer-generated imagery that dominates contemporary Hollywood, particularly the many locally-shot superhero films. Servitto equally spoofs both corporate entertainment and small-scale labors of love. But Good Head doesn’t demand deep interpretations (no pun intended), playing like a throwback to HBO’s Tales of the Crypt, only even more raunchy.

The festival will also screen 25 feature films online through October 18, including A Savannah Haunting, writer-director William Mark McCullough’s ghost story filmed in a Savannah house genuinely believed to be haunted.

Monsterama: The Tomb of Monsterama (Oct. 8-10, Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta) Atlanta’s retro-oriented gathering for horror and sci-fi fans includes nonstop screenings of vintage films. The highlight will be a special 50th anniversary presentation of Escape From the Planet of the Apes, preceded by a performance from Shane Morton’s Silver Scream Spook Show.

Scream (Oct. 10-11, Fathom Events) Over 25 years, Wes Craven’s cunning commentary on slasher franchises has itself become a slasher franchise, folding the meta-textual joke in on itself. A fifth feature film is due in January of 2022, but the 1996 original still holds up.

Possession (Oct. 15, The Plaza) This feverish, underseen, European psychodrama stars Isabelle Adjani in an award-winning performance as a woman whose marriage (to Sam Neill) and sanity seem to be falling apart. This 40th anniversary screening ahead of the film’s 4K restoration may be the must-see event for genre and art house fans alike.

Halloween Kills (Oct. 15, in theaters and streaming on Peacock) Halloween began as one of the most successful independent films of all time but then became a formulaic series and fodder for Scream’s satire. Halloween Kills is the 12th film in the series and director David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to his 2018 installment, which wasn’t bad but makes you long for new ideas.

The Silence of the Lambs (Oct. 17 and 20, Fathom Events) TCM presents a 30th anniversary screening of arguably Hollywood’s most celebrated, Oscar-winning horror movie. Its treatment of trans topics can be problematic, but it’s a masterclass of acting and directing.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Oct. 21, The Plaza) In another copresentation with Videodrome, the 1987 release sees dream-boogeyman Freddie Krueger become more quippy and the surreal set-pieces more fun and elaborate.

The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man (Oct. 30, Fathom Events) This double feature presents two of Universal’s most entertaining chillers from 1933 and 1944, respectively, and makes a great introduction to black and white classics for kids and young people.

Finally, two recent movies are must-sees in their own ways. David Prior’s The Empty Man (now on VOD) was overlooked in its theatrical release during the pandemic but became a word-of-mouth hit on social media. A missing person investigation takes increasingly eerie turns in a film that’s more than two hours long but with the ambition and artistic control to make its ideas pay off. The 20-minute prologue could stand alone as a terrifying short film.

Meanwhile, James Wan’s insane Malignant leaves HBO Max on Oct. 10 but remains in theaters. The director, having made billion-dollar blockbusters like Aquaman and Furious 7, returns to his horror roots with this depiction of a woman who has murderous visions. Wan takes a seemingly conventional premise and, in its second hour, sends it in absolutely berserk directions. Grisly and occasionally goofy, Malignant breaks with tired horror franchises to deliver images like nothing you’ve ever seen in its last act. You won’t know whether to laugh or scream.

Screen Time is a monthly column about film and video from the big screen to streaming services.