BRATTLEBORO—This year, Epsilon Spiers will celebrate Halloween with three first horror films, complete with live soundtracks performed by some of the best silent film accompanists in the country.
On Saturday, October 22, the iconic vampire film Nosferatus will be screened with a score performed on the organ by Dennis James, followed the following weekend by The Office of Dr. Caligari on October 29 with the music of the Anvil Orchestra. The following Monday, Halloween night, will feature a special presentation for a discerning audience of the cult classic Haxanwritten by cellist Lori Goldston and trumpeter Greg Kelley.
All films will be screened in the sanctuary of the gothic cathedral which houses Epsilon Spiers.
Nosferatus, which turns 100 this year, is the world’s first vampire film. The story is largely based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula – for which the filmmakers were sued by Stoker’s heirs – and is filmed in a German expressionist style inspired in part by The Office of Dr. Caligari.
The late film critic Roger Ebert wrote that he admired Nosferatus for “its artistry and its ideas, its atmosphere and its images”, adding that for modern audiences, the beautifully crafted film “doesn’t scare us, but it haunts us”.
The soundtrack of Nosferatus will be played on Epsilon Spiers’ 1906 Estey Pipe Organ by Dennis James, who has reconstructed organ music for classic films using archival scores and historically informed approaches to composition since 1969.
The Office of Dr. Caligari is considered the first horror film ever made, with scenes that would have had women screaming and fainting when it was first shown in theaters, but the film remained popular for over a century due to its set design and its stunning cinematography.
“We guarantee our live score will be as spooky as the movie and perfect for the Halloween season,” said Roger Miller of the Anvil Orchestra, who will perform a soundtrack during the screening.
Released in 1922, Haxan combines live action sequences with early special effects to dramatize the satanic acts of witchcraft individuals accused of committing. The film is ostensibly an argument for revising our understanding of witchcraft through the prism of 20th century mental health diagnostic criteria, but its salacious depictions of nudity, torture and blasphemous acts have resulted in censorship or ban of the film in several countries.
“The director’s intent and finished work is breathtaking in its continued relevance and subversive investigation of systemic oppression,” said Jamie Mohr, executive director of Epsilon Spiers, in a press release.
She explains that the film was banned not only for its shocking visual content, but for revealing that “the real horror really existed in the institution of the church, which committed horrible and evil brutality when persecuting people. accused of ‘witchcraft’ – often women and other outsiders – and how these institutions have used public ignorance, fear and superstition to aid them in their violent efforts to gain and retain political power and control.
Cellist Lori Goldston says that “Haxan is a genuinely bizarre film that swings recklessly between fact and fiction, scholarly documentary and trashy horror flick. She adds, “Such a weird film demands an equally weird score. With ours, we aim to work with the film’s sections and dynamics while framing its ideas with uneasy skepticism and irony.
Tickets for the screenings of Nosferatus and The Office of Dr. Caligari cost $20 for adults and $10 for children under 14. The tickets for Haxan are $20 per person. There is a sliding scale for those in financial difficulty. All tickets can be purchased in advance at epsilonspires.org.
Moviegoers should plan to arrive between 8:00 p.m. door opening time and 8:30 p.m. to enjoy refreshments and choose their seat without disrupting the schedule. Those who come in disguise to the screening of Haxan can participate in a raffle. For more information, contact Mohr at [email protected].