Horror Films Around Town

It is pretty hard to find a kid who does not love dressing up on Halloween and getting candy. It is even harden to find a college student who does not love Halloween too, but for very different reasons. Besides dressing quite scandalously and drinking alcoholic beverages, Halloween generates a lot of hype around the films that get people most excited for the Halloween season.

There is no doubt that horror movies bring in the young crowd. However, on college campuses it may be rather difficult to find those horror movies on the big screen, unless a new one is released in one of the few theaters around town. Fortunately for students at the University of Iowa, they have easy means of accessing the films that make them jump.


The Bijou Theater Poster -- Located in the IMU. Screenings every week. (Photo by Megan Elsen)

The Bijou Theater, located in the Iowa Memorial Union on campus, is a non-profit, student run theater known for screening art house and foreign films. However, they surely are not oblivious to the mass appeal horror films have generated over the past decades.

Just beginning this year, the Bijou started their New Classic Series, which began with the “Horror October” theme.

“We’ve made an effort to delve into late night screenings this year, inspired by similar late night screenings at indie theaters in bigger cities and the best way we thought of to introduce the consistency of the screenings was to align each month with a genre,” commented Zane Umsted, the current programming director at the Bijou.

The Stanley Kubrick classic The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, kicked off the horror themed month. It was shown for two days only at a 11 o’clock time slot, convenient for college students looking for something to do on the weekend nights.

Going along with the midnight screenings mentioned by Umstead, the Bijou also screened The Rocky Horror Picture Show during the Halloween weekend. Known for its zany cast and singalongs, Rocky Horror is a must see when getting into the Halloween spirit, even though it is not really considered a horror film.

Along with the Bijou, The Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City also does a midnight showing of Rocky Horror. But instead of showing the 1975 classic, after a ten year hiatus, in 2008 the Riff Raff Theater put on a live reenactment of the over-the-top story. Since 2008, they have put on a performance every Halloween night to a packed house.

“Having some of the most classic horror films throughout October was just a no-brainer because that’s when people are most in the mood to watch them,” stated Umsted. “In addition to classics, we love to show modern horror films whenever something comes out that we find interesting–and scary, of course.”

Some past screenings have included the foreign vampire film Let the Right One In, the slasher film The House of the Devil and the critically acclaimed Antichrist. But like Umsted stated, horror films aren’t just strictly shown in October. For an entire week in December, the Bijou will screen the 1977 Japanese horror film Hausu (House).


The Campus Activities Board is a student run organization that specializes in bringing entertainment to the masses on the University of Iowa campus. They hold comedy events, casino nights and film screenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.

CAB receives their films for a company named Swank, which specializes in producing licenses for colleges to show films that have not made it to video stores just yet. Although they do get several movies that appeal to the masses at Iowa, the amount of horror films provided are quite slim.

“We do try to show movies that appeal to college students. I’d say our most popular genres are comedies and romantic comedies,” stated Ariel Avila, the current film director for CAB.

This past Halloween season, CAB did not screen one horror film. This could be because no new horror films have been released, or it could be just that horror films do not bring in as big of a crowd as the romantic comedies most people enjoy seeing.

“I feel like with horror movies they usually come out in waves so there tends to be off and on seasons. Ideally we try to show horror movies around Halloween, because we feel like we would get more of a crowd,” commented Avila. “However, we had the option of showing Going the Distance or The Last Exorcism and the CAB committee voted on Going the Distance.”

Just like the Bijou, it is obvious that CAB understands the appeal horror films have on young college students. Although most people associate horror films with Halloween, that does not stop CAB (or the Bijou) from screening horror films out of season.

“However, this coming spring semester we are expected to be showing more horror films like Paranormal Activity 2, Case 39, Saw VII, or My Soul to Take,” stated Avila.


So it seems pretty simple. Horror films are a big deal, especially in Iowa City.Without the Bijou, The Englert or CAB, horror films would be reserved for your living room only. Here is a recap of the good and bad things about The Bijou and CAB screenings. Now this is not supposed to be a competition, just a way of seeing which screening may be more appropriate to your tastes!

The Bijou

  • + More variety
  • + Horror shown all year long
  • +Bigger screen
  • Less mainstream
  • -Costs $ for non-UI students


  • +Mainstream horror films
  • +Romantic Comedies
  • -Less variety
  • -Smaller screen

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