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Slasher Cinema ’80s: Nightmare on Elm Street

Street Food Cinema’s Halloween presentation puts classic slasher cinema back on the big screen, along with cocktails, quizzes, and costumes, plus a Ghost Tour through the haunted basement of the Million Dollar Theatre, where you might encounter characters from the films being screened.

Our favorite Halloween movie-going experience 0f 2019 was Street Food Cinema’s Cinema Phantasmagoria, which transformed the Million Dollar Theatre into an immersive haunt attraction: ghostly characters from the past lurked in the lobby; “missing” posters hinted at a tragic past; and a behind-the-scenes tour revealed the secret behind the haunting. Unfortunately, the 2020 pandemic lockdown put concept on hiatus, but now it is back in revised form as Slasher Cinema, two themed screenings celebrating slasher films from decades past. The ’80s version took place on October 22, screening the 1984 cult classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. The ’90s edition arrives on October 29, featuring 1996’s Scream.

Once again the Million Dollar Theatre is decked in seasonal decorations on both floors, and there is a spooky tour through the basement. However, there are no costumed characters in the lobby or performing on stage before the film. Instead, guests are encouraged to dress according to each night’s theme, and a host conducts a quiz and a contest in the theatre prior to the screenings. The result feels a little scaled back from Cinema Phantasmagoria, but Slasher Cinema is still a step beyond most other Halloween screenings, which tend to rely on simply decorating the lobby.

Slasher Cinema ’80s: Entrance and Lobby

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For ’80s Slasher Cinema Night, there was no doubt that Freddy Kruger was in the house. Just past oversized arachnids and spiderwebs near the entrance, the lobby was loaded with hilarious posters from 1980s movies, all with Freddy’s familiar scarred face inserted. It was a clever idea – the sort of surreal image that could have appeared in a dream from one of the Elm Street movies. As if that were not enough, there was also a recreation of the infamous Freddy Phone from the first film.

Of course several guests were wearing Freddy costumes. Expanding beyond the Elm Street Franchise, others dressed as characters from other ’80s horror classics, including the spooky twins from 1980’s The Shining.

Slasher Cinema ’80s: Entrance and Lobby: Creepy Cocktails

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The concession stand in the main lobby has been turned into a bar with themed cocktails served up by bartenders who look like victims from a slasher movie. For ’80s Slasher Cinema, the options included “Back to the ’80s” (rum, vodka, curacao, lemonade) and “Freddy’s Coming for You” (tequila, cranberry juice, sweet and sour, lime juice). Everything we sampled was delicious.

Also on the menu are beer, wine, soda, and mocktails, and the bartenders will prepare conventional cocktails if you prefer. There is another bar on second floor, serving only beer and wine; if that is what you want, head upstairs, because the main bar can get crowded.

Slasher Cinema ’80s: Entrance and Lobby: Second Floor

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On ’80s night, the second floor of the Million Dollar Theatre was also decorated with posters, themed toward the decade rather than the night’s movie. Besides the beer and wine bar, there is a nice photo op with a skeleton, and there is supposedly a haunted barber shop.

The latter was a disappointment. There is a display window which for some reason contains two barbershop chairs (was this a thing at classic movie palaces in bygone days?). Unfortunately, no lights were on, so guests could only dimly make out a skeleton in one chair. Hopefully, more decorations will be in place for Slasher Cinema: That’s So ’90s.

Slasher Cinema ’80s: Entrance and Lobby: Ghost Tour

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A highlight of Cinema Phantasmagoria was the guided tour revealing the tragedy behind the haunting of the Million Dollar Theatre. Slasher Cinema doesn’t really have a haunting to explain, so this season the tour is self-guided, with no story to tell. A sign off the main lobby leads to the alley next to the theatre, where a staff member provides brief background (apparently spiders have gotten out of control), then turns you loose.

A steep, rickety staircase leads down to the basement, which you explore at your own pace. Not much happens, but with its abandoned dressing rooms, dark passages, and cold concrete floors, the basement of the Million Dollar Theatre is creepy in and of itself, especially when bathed in garish shades of red and blue as if it were a setting in an Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava or Dario Argento.

As you move through the liminal spaces, any sense of fear arises mostly from anticipation; spiderwebs abound, but no animatronic arachnids are present. Eventually, however, you do encounter a few cellar-dwellers. On ’80s night, the theme was well represented by Jason wearing his hockey mask – lurking more than menacing. Farther along, Jack Torrance form The Shining delivered a solid jump-scare and then pursued victims down a long corridor, spouting lines from the movie. And near the end, while explorers were distracted by the blood-scrawled message, “Freddy’s coming for you,” Kruger himself made a surprise attack, then posed for a photo op with his adoring fans, some dressed as him.

Overall, this walkthrough would not stand on its own, but it works fine as a value-added attraction. Unlike the Cinema Phantasmagoria version, Slasher Cinema‘s Ghost Tour is not a separately ticketed event; it is included with general admission.

Slasher Cinema ’80s: Entrance and Lobby: Theatre Quiz and Costume Contest

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On screen, trailers for Street Food Cinema’s Halloween schedule played on a loop. Besides Slasher Cinema, the organization has outdoor screenings in parks and recreation centers, including Psycho (1960) at LA State Historic Park on October 29.

As the start time for A Nightmare on Elm Street neared, there was an onscreen quiz which audience members could participate in by logging on with their cell phones. The questions were geared toward ’80s horror films – some easy, some hard, and some tricky. (For example, “How many people did Jason Voorhees kill in the first Friday the 13th?”)

Next there was a costume contest with several imaginative contestants. However, the result was a foregone conclusion. On ’80s night, with his debut movie cued up to begin any minute, only Freddy Kruger could be the winner.

Afterwards, the audience settled in for the evening’s feature presentation. Most seemed to have viewed A Nightmare on Elm Street before even if they were not old enough to have attended the R-rated movie during its theatrical release. Now that we all know the story, the pace moves a bit slowly as Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her high school friends try to figure out who Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) is. Fortunately, the horror set pieces still pack a wallop, particularly the deaths of Tina (Amanda Wyss) and Glen (Johnny Depp, making his debut). Perhaps surprisingly, character interaction elicited some of the biggest responses, particularly Nancy’s growing frustration with her alcoholic mother (Ronee Blakley), who descent into a drunken stupor becomes a darkly comic recurring motif in the final act.

All in all, it was great to see A Nightmare on Elm Street back on the big screen, since it is our favorite slasher movie of the 1980s (even though Robert Englund told us in an interview that the word “slasher” was not allowed on the set, because the franchise emphasized surreal dream scenes and featured a verbal, vengeful supernatural character far removed from the silent, faceless masked killers of rival franchises, Halloween and Friday the 13th). Movies should be seen on the big screen, preferably with an appreciative audience. That was certainly the case on Slasher Cinema‘s ’80s night.

Our rating of Slasher Cinema '80s: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Slasher Cinema That's So 90sAny reason is a good reason to see a great film in a theatre, and Slasher Cinema offers a very good reason. We were disappointed that it abandoned the immersive haunted theatre experience of Cinema Phantasmagoria, but it still provided enough value-added fun and games to make it more than just another revival screening in a theatre decorated for Halloween. The cocktails were great. The quiz was challenging. The Ghost Tour was spooky (if a little underpopulated). And A Nightmare on Elm Street looked fabulous on the big screen.

Also of note: Street Food Cinema allows audience members to bring food from next door’s Grand Central Market into the Million Dollar Theatre, so you can turn Slasher Cinema into a dinner-and-a-movie experience.

Slasher Cinema: That’s So ’90s screens Scream at the Million Dollar Theatre on October 29, first at 6:30pm, then at 9:30pm. Arrive an hour early in order to take the Ghost Tour, play the quiz, and take part in the costume contest. The address is 307 S Broadway, Los Angeles, 90013. Advance tickets are $32 for general admission and $42 for the Reserved Section in front of the screen; prices at the door are $5 higher. Street Food Cinema also screens Psycho at LA State Historic Park on October 29. Doors open at 5:30pm; film starts at 8pm. Get more information at streetfoodcinema.com/schedule.

Slasher Cinema ’80s: Nightmare on Elm Street: Photo Gallery

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.