Words: Wendy Cook
Late night screenings have long been a fixture at the Picture House as at many a traditional repertory cinema. These post watershed slots have generally been perfect for showcasing genre films, including horror and science fiction, alongside classic bits of noir and cult favourites with a few music docs thrown in for good measure.
We started using the name Creatures of the Night around 2011 for our regular late night strand as a way of trying to build a bit of a community around a programme that can sometimes be a bit disparate. When the films on the surface can look a world apart a name like this can be a way of telling audiences that if they dig a little deeper we feel there are connections here.
After lots of unsuccessful spit balling of ideas the name Creatures of the Night came up and right away it felt like a natural fit, bringing to mind the classic creature features of the 1950s, all strange swamp monsters and shadowy figures. The kinds of characters it’s fun to entertain in the relative safety of the cinema auditorium only to let your imagination play a few tricks on the walk home.
Creatures of the Night also worked because it felt like it started to say something about the community of filmgoers who come to these shows. No, I’m not saying they’re monstrous, far from it. This is going to feel like a bold statement but the folks who come to late night shows are the nicest cinema goers you will ever meet. I’m willing to extend this opinion to horror fans as a whole in fact. This is an unavoidable truth I arrived to, in large part, through many a long night spent serving coffee and sweets on the Fanomenon Night of the Dead as part of Leeds International Film Festival.
Midnight til 7am, 8am, 9am…whenever the last person leaves. 250 or so people in one big old room being collectively afraid, disgusted, amused and sleepy. After a few years on the graveyard shift I learnt that film audiences who venture out past midnight are the greatest. Open minded and good humoured, always up for a chat with a random stranger. Some years on I still don’t understand it fully but it’s there in the Creatures of the Night audiences and it’s why it’s a pleasure to keep programming for these folks.
And what does that programming look like, what makes a great late night film? For us it’s fun to dart around. Coming up we’ve got a double bill of classic noir Gun Crazy and Detour programmed by She’s A Rebel (the banner name for local programmer Alice Miller). We’re pitting that alongside some newer titles like Oldboy and the really recent Midsommar. It won’t be long before John Carpenter is back in our schedule and we’ll revisit The Rocky Horror Picture Show before 2019 is over because 47 years on that one still keeps giving.
Some of these things will work and some won’t because that’s also part of the fun; but whatever happens, keeping these late night slots going is so important because it maintains this magical space where guards can be dropped and cinema going feels a little closer to the communal experience at its most beautiful.