Trent Film Society presents: Joe Dante’s Matinee

A still from Joe Dante’s Matinee

Peterborough cinephiles! The Trent Film Society would love to present to you the final film in our November series on movies about the world of filmmaking. To cap off the month for you all, we are going to screen the severely overlooked 1993 comedy film Matinee, starring the one and only John Goodman.

In Matinee (1993), John Goodman stars as Lawrence Woolsey, a gimmicky horror film director and producer who decides to screen his latest horror film in Key West, Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s.

While in Florida, Woolsey meets a young boy who is a huge fan of his films and he takes the young boy under his guidance and introduces him to the world of spectacle horror filmmaking.

Along with Goodman (The Big Lebowski), the film also stars Simon Fenton (Band of Brothers), Omri Katz (Hocus Pocus), Lisa Jakub (Mrs. Doubtfire), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager), and Kellie Martin (A Goofy Movie).

The film was written by Charles S. Haas and is directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, and Small Soldiers).

Like last week’s Singin’ in the Rain (year) and the week before it’s Ed Wood (year), this film looks at a specific time period in Hollywood history and pays tribute to an era where the mainstream films were, for the most part, a bit more on the optimistic end of the escapist spectrum.

Whereas our last screening focused more on the silent film era of the 1920s, Joe Dante’s Matinee is more in line with the film we screened two weeks prior (Burton’s Ed Wood), in that it primarily focuses on the horror genre of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

This is back when horror focused primarily on the spectacular and thrilling aspect of terror as opposed to the more psychological and complex stuff we see in the genre nowadays.

One of the leading innovators of this style of thrilling B-Movie horror was director William Castle, off whom John Goodman’s Lawrence Woolsey is heavily based.

William Castle was a horror film director who was known for the theatre gimmicks he would use during film screenings.

Buzzers in the seats, costumed actors running up and down the aisles, loud sound effects, whatever Castle believed would make the theatre experience more terrifying, he would do it; and this film pays homage to his admiration for the spectacle of cinema.

In order to fully encapsulate the atmosphere of those William Castle horror films of the era, director Joe Dante goes a step further and sets the actions of the film to the backdrop of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

With all of the tension that is in the air during this time in America, and the constant fear of imminent death coming at any moment, Goodman’s Woolsey sees this opportunity as the perfect chance to unleash his new horror film Matinee to the public as a way to capitalize on the public’s fear.

Through this, Dante is able to draw parallels between the fear people felt from the anticipation of actual war, and the fear that is felt from horror cinema.

He sees a relationship between nuclear war and monster flicks, and makes a strong claim that the tensions felt by the war scares of the crisis were beneficial to the success of William Castle’s horror films.

Through this analysis, Dante crafts a beautiful film that is not only an intelligent observation of old-school horror, but also a love letter to the escapist and sensational nature of this era in Hollywood.

I could talk for a long time about this film, but that would give away much of the fun that it generates, so, with that in mind, we at the TFS would love for you to join us at Artspace on Wednesday, November 25 at 8:00PM for our screening of this immensely entertaining film.

Like all of our other screenings, there is absolutely no admission charge for the film and all are welcome.

There is not much mature content in the film, so for those Peterborough residents out there who would like to do something fun with their children this upcoming Wednesday night, don’t be afraid to swing by and check out the flick!

It is a film that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Hope to see you on Wednesday!