Every other weekend, the Belcourt Theatre holds its Midnight Movies series, a program dedicated to the stranger side of cinema. When the clock strikes 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, the theater screens two loosely related left-field films. Past films include Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Alien, Pink Flamingos, The Evil Dead, Creep Show, The Room and Pet Sematary.

Midnight Movies provides an entirely different movie-going experience. While the average blockbuster demands a silent theater, screenings like last month’s Pet Sematary encourage laughs, cheers, boos and screams. While the lobby may be empty, the theater itself is filled with rowdy movie-goers. Free buckets of popcorn sit on the counter after the machine has been emptied, and  screenings are occasionally accompanied by contests, pre-show video mixes and themed drinks. The experience becomes less about watching the movie and more about being a part of the audience.

Midnight Movies first originated from a film series founded by Belcourt staff Josh Hayes and Kirk Futtrell called The Late Show, but became a Hillsboro staple starting in 2006.The theater began to throw themed events around screenings of lesser-known cult films that Hayes and Futtrell believed needed more attention. For example, a Truffle Shuffle contest was thrown before screening The Goonies, and The Princes Bride was accompanied by a live fencing match. This series eventually transitioned into the more structured biweekly series it is today.

“Their passion and excitement for the films would always draw a really fun crowd,” Zach Hall, the Belcourt’s Programming and Education coordinator, said.

The series strives to find a balance between underrated gems, cult sensations and nostalgic classics. To Hall, the goal of the series is to “lean into that joy that comes from seeing a film with an excited audience and a shared passion for these oddball movies.” The program has seen great success in films of many genres, ranging from Jurassic Park to The Evil Dead. Hall pointed out that many films that were historically midnight classics such as Pink Flamingos and The Holy Mountain are very hit-or-miss for the Belcourt, while more accessible films like Space Jam and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles draw the best crowds.

“It’s led us to really reconsider what a ‘midnight movie’ is these days,” Hall said.

The latest screening on March 24 was Return of the Living Dead, a 1985 horror comedy tribute to George A. Romero’s Living Dead series. The film follows two bumbling warehouse employees who accidentally unleash a chemical upon a neighboring cemetery, reanimating every corpse inside. The living dead wreak havoc on a group of teen punk-heads who decided to party amongst the tombstones. What follows is a hilarious thrill ride of over-the-top gore and brilliantly awful acting set to an iconic soundtrack of ‘80s punk and pop. This movie is a delightful work of horror comedy, and is a must-see for any fan of the living dead.

Next weekend’s screenings on April 6 include two Wes Anderson films, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, in anticipation of his new animated film Isle of Dogs. The Midnight Movies schedule can be found here. Tickets can be bought at the door.

Photo from the Belcourt Theatre’s Facebook.

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