There must be something in the water in South Florida, seeping into folks’ houses and making them long for one thing. No, not brains, but...well, maybe some blood and guts. It’s all about the cult classics and the horror here, and Morbid Movies is here to dish it out once a month with their Palm Beach County Grindhouse series.
“The whole reason for starting this was to bring horror and cult classics back to Palm Beach County. The old Carefree Theater with it's weekly Rocky Horror was a huge inspiration,” says Michael Favata, creator & curator of the series. “It's a shame that when they closed nobody was really taking chances on the more obscure, older films. With the help of my staff and best friends - Erik Johnson and Rhian Shultz - we used a Kickstarter-like service called Tugg to screen Battle Royale at the Movies of Lake Worth back in April of last year. We ended up pre-selling 90 tickets to make the screening happen.”
And with that single event, the series became a reality.
“The theater manager Rochelle was so impressed with what we did that they started letting us do this on a regular basis directly through the theater. I can't stress enough how this couldn't be possible without the amazing support of the theater. After Battle Royale we started calling it the PBC Grindhouse Series and have been doing it pretty much monthly since.”
Through the series, Morbid Movies has screened seven features so far, with Evil Dead 2, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Gojira, Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead, and Gremlins, all coming after their debut. With the new year upon us though, the next screening will be A Nightmare on Elm Street on February 19th - the original, of course.
“Honestly, I tend to pick a lot of my favorite films, I definitely think about what i'd want to see on the big screen,” he explains of the selection process. “I’ll pretty much come up with a choice, talk to my staff and see what they think. Then it's just a matter of finding out if there's any problems with the film rights.”
Trying to get the film rights can sometimes be a struggle. Return of the Living Dead was their original plan for a first screening but it fell through when they couldn't sort out the rights, only to become available later. Choosing a subtitled, uncut feature like Battle Royale as a starter was a bold, and ultimately smart, move for them, though they sometimes worry about choosing some deeper cuts.
“It's a really tough call to pick a film that's not so obscure that I can't get people to show up. I really wanted to do Black Christmas or Silent Night, Deadly Night in December but I just didn't think it would be a big enough draw yet,” he admits. But the decision to go another route, again, worked out well for them.
“We ended up going with Gremlins which was one of our biggest screenings. It was actually a vote we did when we had a booth at the Palmcon Convention. That was our first time letting the fans pick the film.”
And, the bigger they get, the more risks he wants to take with selection.
“As much as I love horror, I'd love to do a screening of Smokey and the Bandit and invite local legend Burt Reynolds,” Favata says and jokes, “A guy has to have a dream, right?”
With South Florida’s recent surge in classic and cult showings, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Palm Beach County Grindhouse continued to grow. Michael Favata even adds that the cinephiles at Secret Celluloid Society and Popcorn Nights have both been very supportive of what he’s doing.
“Marc [Ferman] from Popcorn Nights told me what I needed to get started and Nayib [Estefan] from SCS showed me and my staff a great time when we went down there for their screening of Hausu.”
That familiarity between individuals who share the same tastes and hope for the same progress in Miami’s film world is exactly what makes Morbid Movies and company tick. As Favata says, “It's a definite renaissance for cult films in South Florida, with our crowds getting bigger with every screening. I'm starting to see a lot of the same faces every month. There's something fun about seeing these films in a theater full of like-minded folks. We laugh together, we cringe together. We love these films. I wouldn't be able to keep doing this if the fans didn't keep showing up.”