Michael Favata is one of those movie buffs who will give you a run for your money when it comes to discussing slasher flicks. Five minutes into our conversation, he says the cult-classic movie Godzilla isn't even the technical name of the film. Apparently, the movie and beast are referred to as Gojira in Japanese culture.
And that's just for starters. According to Favata, Dawn of the Dead is as much about consumerism as it is zombies, while Night of the Living Dead is about race (gasp!). A lifelong resident of Palm Beach County, Favata is a connoisseur of the horror-film genre, so much so that he's slated to bring Gojira to West Palm Beach this month in the form of a one-night-only screening at Movies of Lake Worth. Just in time for the film's 60th anniversary, the screening features revised and improved English subtitles. The self-professed "one-man show" behind Palm Beach County's horror-film revival that began in 2014, Favata promotes and hosts exclusive screenings of the fear variety through his Palm Beach County Grindhouse series, Morbid Movies.
Unlike your typical film aficionado, it's not the gore or the macabre that gets Favata's blood racing (although he's the first to mention "it's fun getting scared"). No, his fascination for the genre goes a bit deeper than that.
"I've always been a big fan of horror movies, but Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero piqued my interest not just for its gore and slasher elements but because of its social commentary," Favata says by phone. "I hope attendees of the PBC Grindhouse series pick up on the allegorical aspect of the films."
For a man who's big on allegorical tales, it's not surprising Favata would choose to show Gojira, scheduled for Friday. "How can you not love a giant monster smashing towns?" he says when asked why he chose the Japanese film. To the average movie viewer, Godzilla is the stuff of goofy, childhood parodies: a large, sea-creature-like monster terrorizing a city and destroying towering buildings. But to Favata, the film goes harder than that — way harder, with a dark origin story that time seemingly forgot.
"Godzilla is an allegory for nuclear war," says Favata. "When you see Godzilla attacking the people of Tokyo, it's a representation of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The film is a way Japan coped with the fallout and dealt with it."
Although Gojira is referred to as Godzilla in American culture, the term is a portmanteau of the Japanese words gorira ("gorilla") and kujira ("whale"). In its original inception, Gojira is shown as a massive, prehistoric sea creature awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. Even his strength is activated by this radiation, as seen in his signature weapon: his atomic breath released in the form of radioactive heat rays.
When Favata's not working his many day jobs as a web designer, buttonmaker, and writer, he's discussing scream classics such as Dawn of the Dead and the Evil Dead trilogy. But like most locals, Favata found it frustrating that his own city didn't have a niche group to host screenings of cult classics, in the vein of Popcorn Nights at the O Cinema Wynwood or Secret Celluloid Society at Coral Gables Art Cinema. That's when the idea hit him to bring something similar to West Palm Beach.
"I met the promoter of Popcorn Nights, Marc Ferman in Miami, and he told me what I needed to do to get started," explains Favata. He selected the first Morbid Movies film, Battle Royale, through Tugg, a Kickstarter-like website that brings screenings to a theater near you based on the number of tickets sold in presale. "In its first installment, the PBC Grindhouse series sold 70 tickets for $12 each," shares Favata. By the second installment, Morbid Movies had steadily built its following on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, attracting an average of 100 guests per showing, a feat he attributes to "engaging with audiences every day until the screening."
And like anything that attracts fans of horror films, comics, and cartoons, you get a hefty dose of cosplay from guests. "On the day of our screening for Battle Royale, attendees dressed up as the students — even going as far as wearing explosive collars around their necks," Favata says between laughs. (Due to the theater massacre in Colorado, guests are prohibited from wearing face coverings or masks.) Favata says the first 100 Gojira attendees will get an exclusive button, and a raffle will follow the screening.
Gojira is the fourth film shown through Morbid Movies in the Palm Beach Grindhouse series, following Battle Royale, Evil Dead 2, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In celebration of its 30th anniversary in November, Favata will screen Return of the Living Dead, while the '80s classic Re-Animator is slated for October. As for 2016, Favata already has plans to expand Morbid Movies' reach.
"It's a balance between showing movies people haven't seen in theaters and my personal preferences," says Favata. "If I go too obscure, I risk the possibility of people not knowing it." Or, in my case, of knowing it but not necessarily knowing its actual name or cultural significance.
Part of the Palm Beach County Grindhouse series. 9:30 p.m. Friday, September 25, at Movies of Lake Worth, 7380 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth. Tickets cost $10. Call 561-968-4545, or visit moviesofdelray.com.