Archive for the ‘Elsen, Megan’ Category

Horror Films: Seasonal or Classic?

Ever since cinema began in the late 1800’s, audiences have been fascinated with the simplest of pictures; let it be a crying baby or an arriving train. As film genres began to form throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, one genre in particular shocked audiences all over the world. That genre is horror.

However, along with these mind numbing narratives, the horror genre faces different troubles than their genre counterparts. Horror films are almost always associated with Halloween time which as we know, only happens once a year. Horror films have to try that much harder in order to generate a mass appeal for a genre overlooked by most audiences.


With the dawn of cinema, came the horror genre. Take a look at this slideshow to get a visual feel for the movies that started it all.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Film Poster (Courtesy of

One of the most famous and earliest horror films of all time is the German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was released in March of 1920. Although this film is silent, the imagery and set design are just a few reasons why many directors find this film so influential.

“I would say the most influential horror film of all time is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho,” commented Alison Wielgus, a graduate student at Iowa, who teaches a horror film class. “Although it’s not even close to being the first horror film, or part of the first cycle of horror films…almost every slasher film made today lives in the shadow of Psycho…”

With the influence from several foreign horror films and the classics, much like Psycho, sub genres of horror began to form. Slasher films, like Wielgus mentioned, became very popular with such films as Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the early to late 1970’s. These films pronounced violence, gore, high body counts and the iconic psycho serial killer.

From then on, horror films continued to build from their predecessors. With slasher films came psychological thrillers like The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project in the 1980’s and 1990’s. These films took a turn from their murderous ancestors and began to toy with their audiences in a more physical and mental way.

Now in the 2000’s, horror films have moved on to the more torturous side of human behavior. The Hostel films as well as the Saw franchise, are the forerunners for the sub genre of “torture porn”. Unlike psychological horror, these films exploit the human body to its fullest. Gore, sex and murder are all present in these films.

So the question is, why do audiences pay money to see these frightening images on the big screen?


The appeal of horror is quite simple, most people loved to be scared. Unlike many other genres, horror films cause a physical reaction in audiences that excites, scares and really affects them. However, the appeal for moviegoers across the globe is different for each person.

For Wielgus, she believes that the stories are the reason for the success of horror films. “…the narratives of horror films are very similar to many traditional narratives throughout civilization: the hero (or heroine) endures a number of trails and tribulations only to emerge triumphant in the end.”

For people go to the movie theater, they usually like to support the good guy, the guy who reminds them of a normal person, maybe even one of their friends or themselves. People enjoy seeing the good guy get their revenge, which happens in almost every horror film to date.

Unlike other genres, horror films are allowed to surpass the standard, realistic plot lines. Horror films have more freedom when it comes to delving into uncharted waters. Part of the appeal of these films is that the world of horror, however frightening they are, is in fact not real.

“We can watch certain things happen onscreen (both violent and sexual) that we can’t/don’t want to in real life, and reassure ourselves that it’s only a film,” stated Wielgus.

Even though for most people horror films are very frightening, there are some horror films that are not scary in the slightest but rather funny in their own regard. Horror films can leave us with two different types of emotions depending on how good or bad the film is. If it is a successful horror film, it can leave us in a state of anxiety. On the other hand if the film is not any good, it can leave us with the ability to mock it.


Whether a horror movie can make it big outside the realm of the popular Halloween season has always been an issue. However, horror films are definitely just as likely to be popular and make money outside of the month of October.

“I absolutely think horror films can be successful when they’re not released around Halloween,” commented Wielgus. “Although there has been the trend of releasing a few horror films at that time, I think the youth market is often game for horror films at any time of the year.”

According to Forbes’ “Top 20 Grossing Horror Movies of All Time” list, only two (The Ring, released on October 18, 2002 and the original Halloween, released on October 25, 1976) of the top 20 were released in the “appropriate” horror movie time release.

"Jaws" - The #1 Highest Grossing Horror Film of All Time (Courtesy of

Nine of the top 20 were actually released in the summer months (June, July and August). It would make more sense to market a horror film in the summer months, for a variety of reasons. Kids are not in school, they tend to be bored and summer releases always seem to make the most money. Some of these films include Jaws (#1, June), Psycho (#5, June) and The Blair Witch Project (#14, July).

However, we cannot forget the other popular high grossing films that did not make the cut. In more recent releases, the Saw films have been released on the same weekend in October for the past six years. Similar to this, by releasing horror films in the October month it allows audiences to get excited about the Halloween traditions present in so many towns.

It’s obvious that the facts don’t lie, horror films can in fact stand on their own with or without the appeal of Halloween. Their appeal relies more on what the films are about rather than what time of the year they were released.


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

Word on the Street: Horror Movie Edition

There is no denying that horror movies are popular among young kids all across the nation. We see it with the success of recent horror films like Paranormal Activity and any one of the Saw movies. However, when it comes down to it: which horror movie takes the cake?

Before you see the results, take a look at a few reasons why people love their favorite horror movies!


“My favorite horror movie is Rear Window,” stated Comparative Literature Major, Alexis Dixon. “Because it has a very intriguing plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat and it’s mysterious and it’s really, really great to watch.”

Alexis Dixon shows off her favorite horror movie -- Rear Window (Photo by Megan Elsen)

Among the others questioned, Dixon was the only one who responded with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window. However, this isn’t the only Hitchcock film to make the list.

Out of all the females asked (ages 20 to 55), the iconic Hitchcock film Psycho was one of the most frequent answers provided. Not only is Psycho one of the most famous horror films of all time, but it is loved by all ages. We all remember the infamous shower scene, don’t we?

The Stanley Kubrick film The Shining was tied with Psycho for having the most votes, according to the ladies.

“I love The Shining because it scares me every single time I watch it,” commented Iowa Junior Lauren Mucker. “Jack Nicholson is just absolutely insane in that movie.”

The psychological thriller Donnie Darko also made its way onto the list. However although this is not generally considered a horror film, it does in fact have elements that would be present in a horror film. The meaning of horror can be different for all types of people.


The zombie thriller 28 Days Later…, directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle, took the cake for the men surveyed. Although 28 Days Later… is one of many zombie horror films, audiences and critics responded very well when it was released back in 2002.

Iowa City resident Dillon Weaver didn’t hesitate with his answer of 28 Days Later… “It’s definitely one of the better zombie films I’ve seen. I like it because it’s a zombie movie, but it doesn’t shove the walking dead into your face like other zombie movies.”

Unlike the ladies, the guys had a bigger variety with their answers. Not including 28 Days Later… or the 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead, there were no other repeated answers. The films chosen also spanned from the 1940’s all the way to the 2000’s.

And for those of you who do not know that Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, also makes horror films! His 1992 film Dead Alive made the list. This film has also been voted on of the goriest horror films of all time, so no wonder it made its way onto the list!

“It’s plain and simple, I love Dead Alive,” stated Max Wright, an avid horror movie watcher. “It’s disgusting, exciting and just awesome.”



Taking into account both the male and female responses, 28 Days Later… takes the cake for the “Word on the Street: Horror Movie Edition” most voted horror film prize!

Dominated by all male answers, 28 Days Later… beat out The Shining, Psycho and The Exorcist, who were all tied for second. Judging by these results, the time period in which the film was released has no baring on the films’ likeability. Each of these films were released in different decades, with Psycho being the only black and white film on top.

But we cannot forget about all the other special films on the list. Here are a few honorable mentions in regards to different aspects of horror films!

*Earliest Horror Film*

The Hitchcock film Shadow of a Doubt, which was released all the back in 1943 is the earliest horror film on the list. Blurring genre definitions, Shadow of a Doubt is undoubtedly a classic horror film. Shadow of a Doubt was the earliest film by a long shot. It wins the earliest horror film honorable mention by a staggering 13 years!

*Foreign Horror Films*

Among the other results, there were very few votes for foreign horror films. The two foreign films chosen were The Orphanage and the French film High Tension. This could just be a result in the lack of foreign horror released in the United States.

*Most Voted Decade*

Not taking in account repeated answers, the 2000’s were the most voted decade for horror film releases. Among the films released in the 2000’s were The Cell (2000), the winner 28 Days Later… (2002), The Strangers (2008) and Saw (2004).

Second place was given to the 1960’s. The films voted for which were released in the 1960’s were Psycho (1960), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Birds (1963).

So there you are! The list of the top horror films, according to mostly students on the University of Iowa campus. But, it is not over yet! It’s your turn to vote…

Iowa City 21 Ordinance: Check Yes or No

It is hard to go anywhere in downtown Iowa City, without seeing anti-21 ordinance signs. It is also just as hard to go anywhere in suburban Iowa City, without seeing pro-21 ordinance signs.

For those who have been living in a hole for the past months, here is the issue. The bars in Iowa City have been reverted to the standard 21 and over only rule, applied to most bars outside of college campuses.

Even though the bars have been 21+ for upwards of four months now, it is up for a re-vote, which will allow registered voters to choose what they want to see happen in the downtown scene.

The issue at hand: is it right for persons under 21 to be in a bar? Many feel that the law should stay at 21, but many (which mainly includes students and bar owners) feel that it should go back to the way things were, by allowing 19-year-olds into the bars.

In order to get a visual of the effect this Ordinance has had on the Downtown seen, take a look at this slideshow.


There are many people who are enjoying the new ‘atmosphere’ in downtown Iowa City. And these people are not just permanent residents. Students too are voting for the law to stay at 21, although there are not very many.

“The only reason for people to be in a bar is to drink,” stated Iowa City resident Dillon Weaver, who does not turn 21 until June. “So there’s no point for a 19-year-old to be in a bar when they’re underage.”

Even though it is hard to find students who are under the age of 21, who think the law should stay at 21, they are still out there, fighting for what they believe in. Along with these students, there are a number of groups standing alongside these young people.

21 Makes Sense is a broad-based community action organization revolved around supporting the 21-only law regulated by the city.  They argue that by having the bars remain at 19, it is not only designating downtown Iowa City as an area for binge drinking, but it is also a public health and safety issue.

21 Makes Sense Sign, courtesy of

According to their website, the “University of Iowa students binge drink at levels more than twice the national average. Blood alcohol concentration for students referred for services at Health Iowa range from .18 to .43 now compared to .12 to .23 just five years ago.”

This elevation in underage drinking, is one of the main reasons why 21 makes sense to people who support the 21 ordinance. With upwards of 600 registered supporters, it is hard to argue with their claims, as well as the facts.

Hawkeye Football coach, Kirk Ferentz, is among the hundreds of other supporters, sporting a co-chair title. As well as Ferentz, University of Iowa President, Sally Mason, also supports the ban on 19-year-olds in a bar after 10 PM.

In a letter to the Iowa City Council, Mason stated, “Our students’ safety and health are profoundly threatened by the relationship some have with alcohol. I am firmly convinced that a minimum bar entry age of 21 will reduce that threat.”

Here’s a look at a TV advertisement provided by the 21 Makes Sense campaign, which relies a lot on facts.


Even though it seems like a lot of people are for the law staying at 21, there are thousands of students who think otherwise. The University of Iowa is known for its downtown scene, and without it, some students argue that the city just is not as fun.

“The bars are fun, there’s no doubt about that,” stated University of Iowa Junior, Stepheny Norasingh, who turns 21 next week. “There’s more excitement when people are all downtown together.”

The group that seems to be in direct competition with the 21 Makes Sense group is the Iowa City Safety Committee. Their main goal is to ensure the safety of Iowa City neighborhoods and children by repealing the 21 ordinance.

Iowa City Safety Sign, courtesy of

The Iowa City Safety Committee finds it beneficial to have the law back at 19 to maintain a close eye on underage drinkers. They argue that by having all the drinkers, underage ones included, in one designated area, it will reduce the amount of sexual assaults, the police will be able to keep a closer eye on patrons disobeying the law and the surrounding neighborhoods will be kept safe.

“I would like the bars to go back to 19, because I really don’t like house parties,” commented Norasingh. “I’d rather go to a bar with a few of my friends, than roam around someone’s house I don’t know.”

The committee also takes notice on the dramatic economic downfall the downtown area has been experiencing since the law changed to 21 only. According to their website, 1,000’s of jobs are in jeopardy as well as revenue made my musicians, bar owners and other business owners in downtown Iowa City.

According to Sergeant Denise Brotherton of the Iowa City Police Department, she has also seen a drastic change in the atmosphere of the downtown culture.

“There’s no doubt that downtown Iowa City’s whole dynamic has changed,” she stated. “Since June, the number of PAULA citations has gone down, but that could also be due to the fact that most students go home for the summer.”

Although 21 Makes Sense is very fact based, and the facts tend to lean in their favor, they have failed to acknowledge when the statistics are generated. It is facts like Sergeant Brotherton’s that make many 19+ supporters argue with many of their opponents claims.

In an effort to convince the Iowa City public, the Iowa City Safety Committee has made a commercial, which they feel best articulates the reasons they want the vote to be overturned.


Although many students feel that the law should go back to 19+, voting for the law is another story. With most of the Universities students from out-of-state, 54% out-of-state, 43% in state, many of them may not be registered to vote in the state of Iowa.

This could have a dramatic affect on the outcome of the voting process, which aside from early-voting, takes place on November 2nd. The only way to know the true outcome of these two debates is to wait and see the final vote. To find your local polling place, visit the Johnson County Auditors website.

So what is your vote on the local issue? Cast it here, and be sure to vote on November 2nd!

City of Writers

Iowa City is a place known for football, drinking and college students. However, underneath the standard college student activities, is a world of young writers, each developing their own voice.

It is no doubt that the University of Iowa is known for its writing programs, Undergraduate and Graduate. With so many strong voices in one town, you would think it would be intimidating; but not for Iowa Junior, Bryn Lovitt.

Bryn Lovitt

Since the age of seven, Lovitt has always had a fascination for writing. She even credits a computer game entitled, “The Secret Writers Society”, for kick starting her love and appeal for writing.

“It’s been my one consistent, creative outlet my entire life,” stated Lovitt. “It’s not so much that I want to do this for a career, more it’s just who I’ve become”.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, like many other aspiring writers, Lovitt found Iowa City and the University the perfect place to further her writing education.

“I wanted to go to a place where writing was appreciated. And I felt that where I was at for the first 18 years of my life, was the not the right place for me”.

In regards to her writing education and really understanding the craft, Lovitt stressed the importance of knowing everything there is to know about writing itself.

She commented that it would be virtually impossible to really be a good writer without reading about writing and writing every single day.

With such a strong devotion and love for writing, it is no wonder that Lovitt is the co-founder of the local group, “Iowa City Writers”.

“It started up just as an idea I had with a friend of mine freshman year, who was also into writing. Then more people got interested at it just became something bigger,” commented Lovitt.

Stemming from the English Department here at the University of Iowa, Iowa City Writers gives anyone the chance to submit a piece of writing and have it critiqued by students such as Lovitt.

“It’s really refreshing to find someone who loves writing as much as I do,” stated Cole Konopka, the other founder of Iowa City Writers. “That’s really hard to find in a city dominated by people who tend to be more concerned with drinking”.

Although the group had a big of a rocky start, the founders have begun to see a very positive reaction from the general public.

“Anyone that falls in love with their first draft is an idiot,” stated Lovitt. “Our goal is to help people with their writing while maintaining a positive and sincere critique”.

At each meeting, the group spends the first 20-30 minutes reading any writing they would feel open to sharing. This really allows each writer to show the others ‘what they’ve got’.

The last 30 minutes of the meeting are set aside for the formal workshop aspect of the group, where two pieces will be critiqued.

These workshops are also opened to any type of writing, long or short. Poems, fiction, non-fiction, anything and everything is welcome.

For Lovitt, reading the submissions and providing feedback are her favorite parts of the entire experience.

“I’m the main contact for people submitting writing to the workshop, so I do a lot of reading,” commented Bryn. “It’s fun and interesting to see what stories people come up with”.

“It’s been a really rewarding process so far. I feel so honored to have been elected such a high position in the group,” stated Lovitt.

Lovitt shared a few words of advice for perspective submitters. Here is a list of just a few,

  1. If you’re hesitant about submitting, always do. It’s hard to get improve if you don’t take criticism and learn from your mistakes.
  2. Don’t be afraid. We maintain a really positive environment that welcomes inexperienced and experienced writers. Everyone’s welcome.
  3. Have fun. It’s all about learning to love writing!

Lovitt plans on continuing on with the Iowa City Writers community until she graduates. After graduation, she foresees graduate school, like many others. The University of Texas at Austin, which was voted one of the best graduate programs for writing, is among the top of her list.

When I asked her if she ever considered the Writer’s Workshop here at Iowa, she noted that it was a really good program, but that she would like to branch out and find somewhere new to spread her craft.

It does not matter if you are 20 or 50, if you find something you are passionate about, grab a hold of it with everything you have, Bryn Lovitt surely has.

For anyone who is interested in submitting a piece for critique, visit the Iowa City Writers Facebook Page. Or visit their page through the English Society website at the University of Iowa.

Eating Healthy

For the past few years, First Lady Michelle Obama has started a campaign to fight against childhood obesity; which goes along with America trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In regards to staying healthy, I would talk to Sarah Walz, President of the local New Pioneer Food Co-Op in Iowa City. She would be a good source because she would provide me with information on the importance of staying healthy, seeing as she runs a Co-Op. I located her online by googling the Iowa City location. I then navigated through their website to find who was in charge and would be able to provide me with the most information.

Then, to maintain with the childhood obesity campaign, I would then contact a local pediatrician, so they could provide me with information about why it’s important to keep kids active and healthy. Alex Galindo, is the Administrator for the Pediatrics Associates of Iowa City. I found him through the official Pediatrics Associates of Iowa City/Cedar Rapids website (which I found through the website Exalead). He seemed like a good choice, because he obviously knows a lot about kids and how they parents can help them stay healthy.

Melissa Gonzalez

Melissa Gonzalez is the General Manager of the restaurant Mia Za’s Italian Cafe in downtown Iowa City.

The restaurant’s website highlights the different reasons Mia Za’s is unique among all the other restaurants in Iowa City. Mia Za’s has also jumped on the “healthy tastes great” bandwagon, with their all new nutritional menu. The different choices and create your own options, gives eaters a variety of choices not found at many restaurants.

There are blogs all over the internet about staying healthy. The Cheap Healthy Good blog highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle by providing good ingredients to use when cooking as well as recipes. Mia Za’s tagline isn’t “Where Healthy Tastes Great” for no reason.

The Mia Za’s Facebook page allows anyone (who is a fan of the page) to write about why they like Mia Za’s. The discussion tab also allows fans to discuss different matters regarding the Mia Za’s restaurant. This is also an easy way to get links to the restaurant’s website as well as information about their new healthy menu. There are currently over 500 fans of this Facebook page, which shows that this restaurant is popular among Iowa City residents.

I selected each of these websites because they highlight what Mia Za’s is all about; giving the public healthy options while eating out. The Mia Za’s official website gives a detailed list of all the calories in each of their dishes, as well as other nutritional facts. And since eating healthy is so popular, providing the public with easy access to a healthy eating blog seemed like a bright idea. Also, the Mia Za’s Facebook page gives the public a chance to discuss what they like about the restaurant and what they could improve upon in the future. These best highlight why running a restaurant with healthy options and choosing what goes into ones body are so important.