Film Society x The Student: “Horror Rewind” Series

After the conclusion of Amherst College Film Society’s “Horror Rewind” series, Contributing Writer Mila Missaki Gomes ’27 compares each film and the haunting effects that they had on the audience.

Throughout October, Amherst College Film Society (ACFS) held a weekly screening series of 70s and 80s horror movies titled “Horror Rewind” in Fayerweather’s Pruyne Lecture Hall. The series, which included “Child’s Play,” “Pet Sematary,” “Black Christmas,” and “The Exorcist,”  set an eerie, spooky, and occasionally comedic vibe for Halloween.

The screenings started with the classic Chucky franchise movie, “Child’s Play” (1988). Although the toy is a fan-favorite horror character, the room was filled with laughter as audience members basked in the absurdity of the little villain. From defenestrating grown adults to coercing a little boy to commit murder, the origin story of the killer doll provided a refreshing reminder that the spooky season can also welcome comedy and laughter.

The 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” was the second Horror Rewind screening and shifted the mood away from the comical air of “Child’s Play.” Based on a traumatic event from the author’s life, “Pet Sematary” explores themes of death, loss, and a second chance in the world of the living through (less than holy) resurrection methods. As we helplessly watched the protagonist Louis Creed repeatedly fall for the Pet Sematary’s curse, the movie inspired a familiar feeling for horror movie fans, something I call the “why would you do that?” moment. Though the screening would’ve been plenty satisfying and unsettling thanks to the undead-horror-classic atmosphere set by the movie, Film Society made the night complete by distributing original and aesthetically pleasing Horror Rewind posters and ACFS stickers for the moviegoers.

“Black Christmas,” the classic film starring Olivia Hussey (famous for playing Juliet in 1968’s “Romeo and Juliet”), turned the groovy and whimsical atmosphere of the 70s into a mess of horrifying phone calls, lots of alcohol, and bloody murder in Film Society’s third screening. Perfectly in tune with the chilling weather of the night, the classic filled many of the viewers, including myself, with angst and frustration as we watched a group of sorority girls face a gruesome and obsessed murderer during the holiday season. As Film Society screening coordinator Caden Stockwell ’25 put it before the opening credits rolled on the screen, this movie is terrifying because “it could really be a story about you.”

The Horror Rewind series ended this past Thursday with a screening of perhaps the most famous horror movie of all time, “The Exorcist” (1973). If you’ve ever heard any adult talk about how disturbing and, quite frankly, horrifying this movie is, don’t be too quick to assume that the old-school special effects won’t unsettle you. After The Student spoke with some of the students at the screening, a surprising number of them reported having trouble recovering from the gory and vile images used to depict the story of a demonically possessed young girl.

Film Society’s president, Managing Arts & Living Editor Sophie Durbin ’25, explained the club’s programming choices to The Student. Durbin said the club “wanted to focus on the 70s and 80s as the heyday of horror and specifically chose classics that many people in our generation haven't seen.” While we love to talk, dress up, and reference iconic characters like Chucky and scenes like Regan McNeil’s horrific possession in “The Exorcist,” many of us modern horror fans tend to drift toward more recent iterations of horror franchises, like the ongoing “Scream” series and “The Conjuring.” Film Society’s Halloween marathon was the perfect window into the past and revealed the origins of much-adored horror movies today.