Weird Elephant brings back gory cult classics to the big screen

Most of us who want to catch the latest movie make a point to head to the local multiplex to take part in the action. Little did you know, if you crave the unique film style of older films, it’s worth it to catch a remastered version on the big screen at an independently owned cinema located in the heart of Tacoma.

The Grand Cinema, on the corner of Fawcett and 6th Avenue, has the luxury of providing both new and old movies. However, one of their events that has everyone talking is the Weird Elephant series — a weekly showing of old films that you wouldn’t typically see in a theatrical setting.

Taking place every Saturday at 11 p.m., Weird Elephant provides something different for every movie fan. Old classics, obscure horror gems, and sometimes venturing into the avant garde, it’s safe to expect the unexpected. In addition to the film shown, the venue serves alcoholic beverages and frequently offers extra goodies such as contests, prizes, giveaways, karaoke nights and more. 

Being February, also known as Black History month, Weird Elephant is producing a Black History program to celebrate and is highlighting important films that broke racial barriers by having black directors, protagonists or antagonists.

Earlier in the month, the series began with Jordan Peele’s smash hit from 2019, “Us.” When the Ledger visited on February 8, we were treated to a screening of the classic cult horror flick “Candyman.” Starring Tony Todd as the titular slasher, “Candyman” is the only film in mainstream horror to feature a black villain. 

Based on the Clive Barker short story “The Forbidden,” “Candyman” transfers the original setting of the book — which resides in England — to the projects of Chicago in the early nineties. Taking inspiration from the schoolyard tale of Bloody Mary, the Candyman is a ghostly figure that can be summoned by standing in front of a mirror in the dark and repeating his name five times out loud. He’s been relegated to folklore by the local college students, but when a series of murders mirror his legend, grad student Helen — played by Virginia Madsen — intends to dig into the myth and get to the bottom of these killings.

The film is a haunting experience and highlights the social inequalities between races in inner-city Chicago. Candyman is the ghost of a slave’s son who fell in love and had a child with a white woman. His painful death at the hands of a lynch mob included a swarm of bees, which factor into his eerie appearances throughout the story. As the narrative progresses, Candyman’s victims begin appearing around Helen, and it becomes a race for her to finish him off before she is held accountable for his evil deeds.

Socially conscious, tense, and visually memorable, “Candyman” was a mild success at the box office when released, but has over the years gained fame on home video. Two sequels followed, and star Tony Todd went on to act in such hits as “The Crow,” “The Rock,” and the “Final Destination” franchise.

Next week, Weird Elephant continues the series with the classic zombie film “Night of the Living Dead,” and the program will finish with the horror anthology “Tales from the Hood” at the end of the month.

In addition to putting the spotlight on lesser known old films, Weird Elephant tries to highlight local filmmakers, too. The feature was preceded by Tacoma writer/director TJ Walker introducing a short trailer for “Supreme,” the first part of an upcoming series called “Green Fiction.” In this unique sci-fi/thriller anthology, each episode focuses on characters who consume marijuana and acquire superpowers.
The Grand Cinema is Tacoma’s premiere home for independent cinema and is a champion of smaller budgeted movies by giving them a home where they belong, on the big screen. Additionally, they show older classics on Tuesdays in their Classic Film Series, and new releases flow in regularly as well. Check out their schedule at https://www.grandcinema.com/.

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