By Paula Ann Solis
Horror film enthusiasts, with scalpel in hand, will dissect the deeper meaning behind all the blood and gore that is the horror genre during the fourth annual Dark Mirror horror film festival.
The screenings will begin at 1 p.m. Friday in the McLennan Community College Lecture Hall Building and horror movie experts will introduce each picture.
Free of charge, the Waco community is invited to the screenings of four horror films in line with this year’s theme – monsters. The films include 1987 vampire cult classic “Near Dark,” 1931 “Frankenstein,” 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein” and 1982 alien film “The Thing.”
The festival’s title, Dark Mirror, is symbolic of the greater role horror movies play in culture by reflecting society’s true fears, said Matt Cardin, an adjunct professor at McLennan Community College and the creator of MCC’s annual horror film festival.
“The horror genre functions as a dark reflection of society and explores the underside of culture and the psyche,” Cardin said. “Horror is the one genre that is named after the reaction it is supposed to inspire in the audience, and after the inner emotion that drives and inspires the genre’s creators.”
Cardin, who has written several books and essays exploring the horror genre, will introduce the Frankenstein double feature alongside Dr. Jim Kendrick, an associate professor at Baylor University and fellow horror film aficionado.
Kendrick has also published books analyzing the darker side of film and has been involved with the film festival since its inception in 2010. This particular festival, Kendrick said, is designed to displace the notion that the horror genre is meaningless and simply for entertainment value.
“The goal is certainly to entertain,” Kendrick said. “But Matt and I hope it helps people take the genre seriously. That’s why we don’t just show films but introduce them to contextualize them so people can see them in a different light.”
Kendrick’s introduction to the Frankenstein double feature, titled “It’s Alive! Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to Hollywood,” will touch on the transformation of the literary tale to the cinematic legend it has become. Kendrick said the tale of Dr. Frankenstein is a classic echo of society’s anxiety that scientific advancements may subvert natural law.
Kendrick will not be the only Baylor professor in attendance Friday afternoon. Dr. J. Gordon Melton, distinguished professor of American Religious History at Baylor’s Institute for Studies in Religion, will introduce the festival’s vampire-centered film “Near Dark,” which was co-written and directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow.
Melton has written several books on the subject of vampires including “The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead” and will offer his opinion as a vampire expert during his lecture titled “The Best Vampire Movies You’ve Never Seen.”
“I’m thrilled to be having Gordon introduce our film festival with his talk,” Cardin said. “He is truly the greatest living authority on vampires along with being an internationally renowned scholar of religion. There is no one better to put vampires in context with our culture.”
“Near Dark” follows the story of a traveling family of vampires (though the film never uses the term vampire) that encounters trouble when someone who is turned into a vampire refuses to kill to survive. Like the other pictures, Cardin said this film is an opportunity to analyze real human fears and emotions.
“You are in a better place if you reflect on why you are watching what you are and why you are attracted to it,” Cardin said. “What if you were the one that became the monster but you still had your conscious? What would you do? Could you kill?”
“Near Dark” and “The Thing” are rated “R,” and any unattended minors will not be admitted.