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Courtesy Janus Films

Movies to Die for: The Best of Beyond Fest 2018

Beyond Fest at the Egyptian Theatre has truly gone beyond expectations this year, showcasing its most impressive and subversive selections ever. The festival has taken advantage of its relationship with the American Cinematheque to access top-notch talent, not to mention the best projection facilities for its 35mm screenings and programming teams with the ability to source prints from all over the world. As the festival gears up this week, Beyond Fest founders/programmers Christian Parkes and Grant Moninger are so excited that their heads just might explode — just like in David Cronenberg's Scanners, which will be shown as part of an epic retrospective of the legendary filmmaker's work.

"It's a strange dynamic in that every year it gets both harder and easier to program Beyond Fest. We're our hardest critics in that we want to top ourselves with every iteration of the festival. However, that just heaps more pressure on us to deliver something special for film fans here in L.A.," Parkes says. "We were the first to bring Goblin here, to live score with RZA, and now we get to bring David Cronenberg for a retrospective that we've been trying to bring to life for five years. On the flip side, pushing the rock up the hill has definitely paid off in that partners, like Hulu and Shudder, and studios are supporting us like never before."

The festival has grown to be the highest-attended genre film fest in the United States, and it's projected to entertain more than15,000 guests over the next two weeks. According to the organizers, no one attached to Beyond Fest takes any compensation, either — all ticket sales go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit American Cinematheque. "We recognize how difficult it is to keep movie theaters like the Egyptian and Aero alive, and we want to do all we can to contribute," Moninger says.

"More than anything, we're most excited about exposing these films and filmmakers to the best fans out there," Parkes adds. "We've screened films all over the world, and the audience responses here are unlike anything else out there. L.A. is a fragmented city — we want to bring as many people together to experience progressive cinema and just let loose."

The duo clearly are doing something right, as many of this year's screenings are already sold out. With an emphasis on horror — both campy and disturbing — and weirdo thrillers new and old, for many in L.A., Beyond Fest signals Halloween season and the creepy thrills and chills of fall. Check out the website for the full schedule of screenings (many of which are free), plus guest speakers and other amusements, starting today and running through Oct. 9. (Also on the docket: special engagements of the new Suspiria movie at the Cinerama Dome). Read on for our recommendations of the can't-miss movies at Beyond Fest 2018.

Lords of Chaos
Lords of Chaos
Courtesy Gunpowder & Sky

Lords of Chaos
Director Jonas Åkerlund's latest is the story of Mayhem, the Norwegian black metal band formed in the late '80s, known for wearing corpse face paint, burning down churches and murder. Based on the book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, written by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind, this theatrical black comedy received raves at Sundance but it has not been without controversy — some members of the band have denounced the film. Still, the band's music and story is all here and it's as brutal and extreme as you'd expect. Discussion following with director Jonas Åkerlund. Thu., Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are besties for life.
Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are besties for life.
Courtesy Sestero Pictures

Best F(r)iends Vol. 2 (world premiere)
The Room's Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are back in this buddy-flick sequel that picks up where the first installment left off. If you love them, you'll love it ... or hate it so much you'll love it. Who knows if this is another cinematic disaster turned cult classic? Just sit through it. The screening's really about the chance to see, hear and be in the presence of these now-famous filmic antiheroes. Discussion following with Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero. Fri., Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.

Liquid Sky
Liquid Sky
Courtesy Z Films Inc.

Liquid Sky (4K restoration)
This sci-fi New Wave sex romp influenced music and fashion (for better or worse) for an entire generation, well, us X-ers anyway. Flock of Seagull hair or makeup that makes Gary Numan's guyliner basic, androgyny, alien se x... this one had it all. Set in 1980s New York City, Anne Carlisle stars in dual roles as Margaret and Jimmy, promiscuous, drugged-out models who become the obsession of freaky little aliens. The extraterrestrials latch onto their bodies and discover that getting off is just as pleasurable as getting high. Dire consequences ensue. Discussion following with director Slava Tsukerman, director of photography Yuri Neyman, production and costume designer Marina Levikova and editor Sharyn L. Ross, moderated by Jonah Ray. Fri., Sept. 28, 10:15 p.m.

James Woods in Videodrome
James Woods in Videodrome
Courtesy Universal Pictures

The Shaping of Rage: David Cronenberg marathon
The Cronenberg creep-fest starts chronologically, with a marathon on Saturday, Sept. 29, featuring Shivers (a film about sexually transmitted aphrodisiac parasites out to destroy mankind), Rabid (starring porn queen Marilyn Chambers as a woman who undergoes experimental surgery only to wake up with rabies and a new organ that sucks blood), The Brood (with the wonderful Oliver Reed as a doctor whose new patient's pregnancy holds bloody surprises) and Scanners (one of Cronenberg’s most popular films and the first R-rated film this writer ever saw in the theaters). The story — about people with mind-reading/manipulating "scanner" abilities, derived from mothers who took an experimental drug before their birth — ends up being a convoluted world-domination plot, but the effects, especially for the time, were mind-blowing. Sat., Sept. 29, 10 a.m. 

Also don't miss the Dead Ringers Anniversary (with Cronenberg and Howard Shore in person) screening on Sat., Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m., or the dread-fully delightful double-headers of The Fly and Naked Lunch (Cronenberg, Howard Shore and Geena Davis in person) on Sun., Sept. 30, 7 p.m.; Videodrome and Existenz (with Cronenberg, Howard Shore, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Debbie Harry in person) on Mon., Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m.; and Crash and Spider on Thu., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.

Eli Roth
Eli Roth
Courtesy AMC

AMC Visionaries: Eli Roth’s History of Horror (world premiere)/Maniac (4K RESTORATION)
Director-writer-producer Eli Roth's (Cabin Fever, Hostel) new one-hour AMC documentary series features the untold stories and histories of groundbreaking horror masters, exploring inspirations and struggles behind the scenes of their macabre masterpieces. First episode to be screened features slasher flicks, past and present. It will be followed by the premiere of the 4K restoration of Maniac, the ultra-violent and disturbing '80s serial killer portrait, which received an X rating when it first came out. Standards have changed since then, but this one remains a grisly and real depiction not for the faint of heart. Discussion between screenings with Eli Roth and Maniac director William Lustig. Tue., Oct. 2, 8:30 p.m.

Jamie Lee Curtis and her old pal Mike in Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis and her old pal Mike in Halloween
Courtesy Universal Pictures

"Halloween Day" with the new Halloween, the original Halloween and Black Christmas
Horror fans and critics who've seen it have been bleeding praise for the new Halloween movie, which is encouraging to hear considering the franchise put out some stinkers over the years. This one chucks everything that came after the first one like a rotting pumpkin. Jamie Lee Curtis is back as Laurie Strode and she will have her final showdown with Michael Myers, the masked killer who never got her but has haunted her dreams for four decades. John Carpenter joined forces with Jason Blum (The Purge, Paranormal Activity) on this one, so it's just gotta be killer.

The "Halloween Day" triple feature, as they're calling it, kicks off with the Canadian cult fave Black Christmas, about sorority girls at Christmas time stalked and trapped in their house by a taunting psychopath. According to Beyond Fest's creators, this film was personally requested by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (who wrote the new Halloween) to acknowledge its inspiration of their film. That's followed by John Carpenter's original Halloween, which raised the bar for teen slasher movies by making carnage only one component — the tension and fear in this one comes from a combination of the creepiest, slowest-moving villain of all time, strong acting all around and its spine-chilling score. Sat., Oct. 6, starts at 2:30 p.m. New Halloween screens at 8 p.m.

For more information and tickets, go to Beyondfest.com.

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