Arts and Culture

With Halloween fast approaching, let’s take a moment to acknowledge a universally recognized truth: the plot threads with which most horror flicks are woven together are laughable at best.

Here’s the classic example: You hear the buzz of a chainsaw coming from the basement of a purportedly haunted house — what do you do? The average, sane person would run away from the sound. The average horror flick character will trepidatiously walk toward the top of the basement stairs and unsteadily call out: “Anyone there?”

For that reason, among others, while most Halloween movies can be described as any number of things — terror-inducing, campy, gory, scary — “smart” is not typically one of the go-to adjectives.

That is until now.

Starting Friday, Speed Cinema is presenting “Scared Smart.” It’s a weekend of three horror classics, which will be complemented with introductions and post-screening discussions by faculty from the University of Louisville.

“I wanted to do something different — not the slasher films you see,” Dean Otto, the Speed’s curator of film, says. “I wanted to also draw on the resources at U of L that we’re surrounded by to provide discussion.”

Up first is director David Lynch’s “Eraserhead.” The 1977 surrealist film tells the story of Henry Spencer, who is left to care for his grossly deformed child in a desolate industrial landscape. Throughout the film, Spencer experiences dreams or hallucinations, featuring his child and the “Lady in the Radiator.”

It was released to mixed reception.”Variety” gave it a thumbs-down, calling it “a sickening bad-taste exercise,” while “The Atlantic” said Lynch was  “one of the most unalloyed surrealists ever to work in the movies.” 21st century opinion, however, has looked back on “Eraserhead” — with its detailed visuals and creepy score — positively.

“Eraserhead” will play Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 p.m. and Oct. 29 at 3:00 p.m.

Then comes the 1962 indie horror film “Carnival of Souls.” Directed by Herk Harvey, the film is a cult classic that influenced the work of Lynch, especially in its reliance on ambiance, rather than special effects, to sustain an ominous mood.

“Carnival of Souls” follows a young woman who is the sole survivor of a car crash. She subsequently travels cross-country to accept a job as a church organist, but all along the way comes into contact with a pale, ghoulish figure simply identified in conversation as “The Man.” He replaces her reflection, appears on street corners, and occupies her dreams — finally luring her to an old carnival.

It will play on Oct. 29 at 7:00 p.m.

Finally, there’s “Eyes Without a Face” or “Les yeux sans visage,” which was directed by Georges Franju. The 1960 French-Italian film is similar to “Eraserhead” in its mixed initial reception; some critics were mildly enthusiastic, while one said it was “the sickest film since (she) started film criticism.”

Without giving too much away, in “Eyes Without a Face,” viewers watch the lengths a mad scientist father will go to repair his daughter’s disfigured face.

It will show Oct. 30 at 3:00 p.m.

More information about the “Scared Smart” series can be found here.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.