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The Retrofantasma Experience


Quick succession post Number Three in preparation for my new Celebrity Interview series “11 Questions with…” Who’s debut will be on Monday March 5th 2012! We’ve got Elm Street 4′s Tuesday Knight, Action Queen Sybil Danning, Elvira Mistress of the Dark Cassandra Petersen, Oscar winner Lee Grant, Master of Horror John Carpenter and many more coming soon! Be there or be square!

Now on to the Retro!

I am normally not one to advertise things, but in this case I must make an exception (also this article will be a bit more serious fare than I am typically known for)…

On or about the 3rd Friday each month, for 14 years, Jim Carl Senior Director of the Historic Carolina Theater in Durham North Carolina, has hosted an event called Retrofantasma.

At this groovily titled affair the audience is treated to a double feature of Horror/Sci-fi/Thriller films usually from the 70’s and 80’s.

Most of the time they’ll do an “A-Film” followed by a “B-Film,” drawn together by a common “theme” of some amusing type. Case in point a few months back we had 1978’s The Eyes of Laura Mars followed by 1982’s Visiting Hours (the theme for the evening being “Oscar Winners in Peril“,) and at the most recent we had 1988’s Child’s Play followed by 1974’s It’s Alive (the theme being “The Kids are NOT Alright.”)

Sometimes however, like at the upcoming March 23rd show we’ll get two “respectable” movies (in this case David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out) or two pieces of deliriously wonderful trash (April 20th look out for the batshit crazy Curtains from 1983 and the equally fucking nuts The Beast Within from 1982!)

Before the show starts proper we’re treated to vintage Looney Tunes, ridiculous commercials, film clips from obscure movies, or various trailers. In between the two films Jim goes out of his way to make you feel like you’re at the evening’s star attractions on the opening night of their release by, first, telling us that we are in fact there on whatever date, then, by detailing us with trivia from the film’s production and preceding the picture by trailers from the time of it’s unleashing.

The mood is usually jovial, with people shouting the occasional MST3Kesque line (myself included there; during the screening of Friday the 13th and Halloween 2 some time ago I had a lot of fun every time Dr. Loomis shouted “I shot him six times!” when in fact, due to re-filming the end of the first Halloween for the sequel, he shoots Michael Myers 7 times.)

The prints are typically flawless (and among the last surviving of their 35mm gloriousness.) But, once and a blue moon there will be an issue with the film print (other than mild scratches and pops,) like at Silent Night Deadly Night/Black Christmas when the sound was at ear splitting, Earth shattering volume for the entire screening of the latter film, but usually not.

Then, some nights, you get complete weirdness; like at the previously mentioned Laura Mars/Visiting Hours showing; the theater was closing up for some renovation for the season, so they sold all booze at like 50 cents a cup/bottle…

Needless to say by the time we got to Visiting Hours everyone in the audience was rat ass drunk and laughing their brains out at the mere SIGHT of William Shatner on screen (despite his giving a typically un-Shatneerian performance in said film.) And, such as at the recent Child’s Play/It’s Alive Retro, we’ll get a couple of bad apples in the bunch (seriously some idiots about got in a fist fight during It’s Alive. I mean, who gets THAT worked up over a movie about mutant killer babies?)

But all of that just builds up the charm of the evening. It really does feel like you step back in time for 3-4 hours. It’s as close as you can get to the Grindhouse sensation in this glossy, “perfect” day and age. It’s escapism at it’s prime for the cinema lover. Plus the Carolina Theater is a gorgeous place, Jim is a boisterous and self-effacing host and there are cheesy/chintzy door prizes handed out every time (some donated by yours truly, when the mood hits me and I have something fitting for the occasion)! AND you can bring the whole family, if of course you are a family that slays together to stay together.

For a man like me Retrofantasma is an utterly wonderful experience and it has been one I’ve repeatedly enjoyed for more than half of my life. It is a true testament to the (sadly) dying craft of presenting films on film as they were originally intended. Retro is an evening of innocent indulgence and pure cinephilic bliss for the less serious film connoisseur.

Visit them online anytime at or add them on Facebook

And, if you happen to find yourself in the area the 3rd Friday of the month stop by and pony up $8. If you see me you can ask me to autograph one of my articles or nude photos or something!

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