Paul Allen’s Little Shop of Horrors
by Quin Benzel
filmmaker Roger Corman has been called "America's oldest established rebel" for his prolific career of making low-budget B movies. Credit: Author Sebastian Grünwald
Horror-curious visitors to EMP’s, "Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film," descend into the basement via a spiral staircase through soundtracked screams and blood-red light — evoking a feeling much like what Clarice Starling must have experienced when she took her fateful trip into the insanity ward to match wits with Dr. Lecter.
At the bottom of the stairs though, instead of horror house gushing blood, you’re met with an exhibit that tries to determine what drives us to watch someone vomit pea soup or to keep our eyes glued to the screen while pretty blonde girls are stalked relentlessly by masked men. Fear, as it turns out, is a primary factor. It’s a compelling emotion, something we want to conquer and can’t resist.
EMP benefactor, founder and movie buff Paul Allen has provided movie memorabilia from his own personal collection for "Can't Look Away": The six-foot-tall gut-busting alien from the film of the same name, that despicable Facehugger from the sequel, even the video camera from The Blair Witch Project is there. Less notable may be the Flying “Sentinel” Sphere from Phantasm II. Never seen that one? Don’t worry, the Sphere — a metallic ball with sharp protruding knives — doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
Directors John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) and Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors) have helped pick other set pieces, film clips, posters and notes on the genre’s history. Early on, the horror picture wasn't much more than a cash grab without any real star power to speak of. Go ahead — try to name one actor in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Night of the Living Dead. Given an innocuous PG-13 rating (for the kids), "Can’t Look Away" is more than a time capsule for horror flick junkies. It’s a screenplay on the genre’s sometimes complex social themes and the primal forces that drive us to the theater.
The Frank Gehry-designed EMP is never a minimal experience. Throughout the small basement exhibit, miniature screening rooms are designed into shadowy thickets. Inside short documentaries feature Roth, Landis and Corman discussing what makes their favorite films tick. On the ceiling hangs a topiary of Hannibal Lecter masks (This writer is fairly certain he wore the same one last Halloween). And along one wall is the list, “100 Horror Movies to See Before You Die,” tracing Horror’s roots from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Paranormal Activity. Horror, it turns out, has more to impart than blood and guts.
If you go: Can’t Look Away, EMP, 325 5th Ave N., daily, $20.
StandWithUs NW. International human-rights attorney Irwin Cotler has been referred to as the “counsel for the oppressed.” At Town Hall Seattle, Cotler will lead a human rights perspective about Muslim journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who has been charged with treason for advocating peace with Israel.
If you go: StandWithUs NW, Town Hall, 1119 8th Ave, Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., $36
Loaded:The Promise, the Curse, and the Language of Money. East Coast artist Annie Bisset’s Japanese woodblock prints use common English clichés set against images on the U.S. dollar bill. Her goal? To “look at our ambivalence about money’s power to both redeem and destroy.”
If you go: Loaded, Collum Gallery, 603 Main St, Oct. 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m, free.