It’s fall in Telluride. The trees are dying, some already stripped down to bare branches, and the cold is creeping into the canyon. Halloween and the beginning of Samhain is still three weeks away, but this weekend marks the most frightening time of the year, as the 10th annual Telluride Horror Show has a full schedule of films and special events centered around the genre most associated with this season.
Horror Show founder Ted Wilson was busy finalizing last minute details at his Gargoyle’s Gift Shop — the festival’s headquarters — Monday afternoon. For the first time this year, the festivities will start Thursday night with special screenings of “Spider Baby” and “Tammy and the T-Rex” at the Nugget Theatre, he explained. Both showings — at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively — are $15 cash at the door. All proceeds will benefit Scares That Care, an all-volunteer organization that benefits children battling illness, people affected by breast cancer and burn victims. The “Spider Baby” screening is also in honor of late actor Sid Haig, who passed away Sept. 21 at the age of 80. The 1968 film, which also features an elder Lon Chaney Jr., was one of Haig’s first, and most well known, horror roles.
“It’s right up there with his work with Rob Zombie,” Wilson said of Haig, who more recently played the deranged clown killer Captain Spaulding in Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” (2003), “The Devil’s Rejects” (2005) and “3 From Hell” (2019) films.
“Sid Haig is definitely a heavy blow to the horror world. He was beloved for sure.”
The official trailer for the Jack Hill-directed movie exclaims that it will “give you nightmares forever.” So there’s that.
“We decided to do ‘Spider Baby’ because it may be one not everyone has seen, but if you want to be a die-hard horror fan, it should be in your library. It was one of the first films that dealt with the crazy family,” Wilson said.
The second Thursday night screening is a campy tale of love gone prehistoric. “Tammy and the T-Rex” stars a young Denise Richards as Tammy and Paul Walker as Michael, as their relationship takes an unexpected turn when Walker’s character dies and a mad scientist transplants his brain into an animatronic T-Rex. Yeah, that’s actually the gist of the movie.
“The premise is just absurd,” Wilson said. “It’s an easy way to get primed for the weekend.”
This year’s slate is a mixture of studio-backed releases and independent films with little-to-no distribution; there’s something for everyone.
Horror Show programmers Brady Richards and Erik Cooper were responsible for sifting through the nearly 1,000 entries this year. The U.S. premiere of the monster movie “Sator” is one both agree is a must-see.
“It’s one of my favorite movies this year,” Richards said.
“I don’t even know how you would describe ‘Sator,’” Cooper added.
According to its official Horror Show blurb, “Secluded in a desolate forest, a broken family is observed by Sator, a supernatural entity who is attempting to claim them.” K. Enough said.
“Sator” screens Friday at 1:45 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Nugget Theatre. A Q&A with director Jordan Graham will follow both screenings.
If wood-dwelling demons aren’t your thing, horror-comedy “Extra Ordinary” may be. Starring Will Forte (“Saturday Night Live,” “The Last Man on Earth”), Wilson believes “Extra Ordinary” will be a hit.
“It’s a hilarious horror-comedy. I think it’s going to walk away as one of the hits of the weekend,” he said. “The rest of the cast is actually funnier than Forte. That’s how good the movie is.”
“Extra Ordinary” screens Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at the Sheridan Opera House.
The Saturday night screening of “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” (2011) with director Eli Craig and Horror Show special guest Joe Bob Briggs at 7:30 p.m. is going to be another romp. Plus, the Palm Theatre will become the Pabst Theatre, as the iconic, cheap beer is sponsoring the screening because, well, the redneck protagonists love them some PBR.
On the darker, more gruesome side, “The Golden Glove,” “Eli” and “Wounds” are films with some serious punching power.
Wilson warns that “The Golden Glove,” which is about real-life German serial killer Fritz Honka, is “brutal.”
“That’s the one that’s going to test people’s mettle,” he said. “ … The opening scene tells you what you’re in for. It’s the serial killer dealing with one of his victims and the camera does not shy away.
“What I love about the movie is that underneath all of the brutality is a really powerful screenplay and very well-done film. It gives you a lot to think about afterwards. Was this serial killer a product of his time and upbringing, or was he just a monster?”
“The Golden Glove” screens Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the opera house.
“Wounds,” a Hulu original, is another unsettling movie about a New Orleans bartender who discovers something sinister in a cellphone left behind in his establishment.
“It’s a really twisty story of a guy discovering these very strange images and videos on someone’s cellphone,” Wilson said. “As a result, his life unravels. All kinds of strange and crazy things happen to him.”
“Wounds” screens Friday night at 8:15 p.m. at the Palm Theatre.
Netflix’s “Eli” is a different take on pint-sized horror, as the main character, Eli, suffers from a rare autoimmune disease that requires rigorous treatment, but is it helping or hurting him?
“Eli” screens Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. at the Palm Theatre.
And that’s just a small sample of the films in this year’s lineup. As of press time Tuesday afternoon, there were still several TBA slots. For a full list of films, including shorts, tickets and schedule, visit telluridehorrorshow.com.
Telluride Horror Show is more than just movies. There’s also an ice cream social Friday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the opera house SHOW Bar, Creepy Campfire Tales with guest author Kelly Link (more on the Pulitzer Prize finalist in Friday’s Daily Planet) Friday night from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Elks Park, Killer Karaoke Party Friday night from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at the SHOW Bar, meet and greet with guest artist Joshua Hoffine Saturday morning from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the SHOW Bar, and pig roast from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Oak, among other horrific events.