Welcome to the grindhouse! The Grand Rapids Comic-Con will be hosting a thrilling horror/sci-fi shorts film festival
The Grand Rapids Comic-Con is pleased to be hosting a showcase of student and independent grindhouse film shorts at the event on Friday evening, November 8. This festival will be part of the show and no additional tickets or expenses will be expected of fans to attend the event.
Film Festival Winner
Grand Rapids Comic-Con Grindhouse Film Festival
November 9, 2018
Best Animated Short
“Tranh and Nowak” by Godefroy Rychewaert
What Is Grindhouse?
The term “grindhouse” refers to a bygone era of movie theaters that mostly specialized in B-pictures of all kinds of “nerdy” genres (horror, sci-fi, superhero films, kung-fu/action, etc.) and foreign films long before these genres were mainstream. These theaters starting popping up in the late 1920’s in mostly closed Vaudevillian theaters in more undesirable downtown neighborhoods. When mainstream movie theaters began moving out to the suburbs in the 1950’s the now-irrelevent downtown palace-style theaters gravitated toward more grindhouse-style cinema in an effort to stay open.
These were the kind of places where one would go see the following kinds of movies: the dubbed works of international film makers such as Akira Kurosawa and Federico Fellini; Godzilla and other giant monster films from Japan; low budget gumshoe detective stories and other film noir; blaxploitation movies like Dolemite and Black Belt Jones; Mexican superhero wrestling films featuring Santo; “spaghetti westerns” (American-style westerns made by Italian directors); early slasher flicks such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dementia 13; downright strange (by mainstream standard) productions such as Eraserhead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show; the numerous tough guy comedies featuring The Bowery Boys; early comic book-inspired fare such as Superman And The Mole-Men, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, and Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze; and the controversial works of less conventional horror masters like Herschel Gordon Lewis, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento.
“Poverty row” studios such as Monogram Pictures and American International Pictures as well as famed producers Roger Corman, William Castle, and Ed Wood made a living in keeping these theaters stocked with B-rated cinematic schlock to entertain the underground masses.
These theaters had a faithful, hardcore following that diminished in the 1980’s for several reasons. Science fiction and horror films started to enter the mainstream lexicon as well thanks to the success of films such as Jaws, Friday The 13th, and the Star Wars and Star Trek sagas which created a demand for these movies to be shown more in the suburban multiplexes and drive-in theaters. Video rental stores also developed around this time, which allowed these kind of movies to enter one’s home at a reasonable cost. Cable TV also filled late night slots with B-movie fare, and networks such as HBO and Cinemax brought the more risque titles into America’s living rooms. The need and demand for these theaters diminished over time until grindhouse theaters all but vanished by 1990.
Very few traditional “grindhouse” theaters exist today, mostly in large cities and centering attention on independent horror and sci-fi fare as well as foreign titles.
The Wealthy Theater in Grand Rapids at one point was a “grindhouse” theater showing mostly foreign films in the 1960s until the late 70s. Their “Meanwhile Film Series” to an extent is a celebration of that unique aspect of their past.
The high budget “nerdy” cinema such as the DC and Marvel Universe films as well as the $200 million blockbusters that fill metroplexes weekly owe their existence to these old school theaters in more seedy neighborhoods that paved the way for the interest in giant monsters, zombies, psycho killers, outer space, and superheroes, and this shorts film festival is a celebration of that unique aspect of the history of the movies we love today.