Halloween is more than a month away, but tonight, they’ll be doing the Monster Mash in Gulfport and Madeira Beach.
Weather permitting – always a dicey proposition this time of year – there are free outdoor movies on the menu, both engineered to scare you in the best imaginable ways.
On tap for 7:30 p.m. at Archibald Memorial Beach Park, 15100 Gulf Blvd. in Madeira Beach, is the all-time champion of beach monster movies, the 1975 blockbuster Jaws.
Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough film was one of those rare instances where the movie was better than the source material (in this case, a poorly-written novel by Peter Benchley). The story of a New York island town terrorized by the presence of a 25-foot great white shark, Jaws is especially terrifying because, although it’s improbable, in theory it could actually happen.
Jaws is funny, too, with stellar performances from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw. The second half of the film, in which our three anti-heroes take to the water and attempt to track and destroy the shark, is not only the stuff of great adventure, it’s a buddy flick and a fascinating character study.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the 1993 comedy Matinee, screening on the lawn behind the Gulfport Historical Society, 5301 28th Ave S., also at 7:30.
Featuring one of John Goodman’s finest and funniest performances, Matinee is a sweet homage to 1950s and early ‘60s “scare” pictures, the low-budget sort turned out by gimmicky cheese-slingers like director William Castle (on whom Goodman’s character, Lawrence Woolsey, is based).
Woolsey has chosen Key West for the premiere of his latest horror opus, Mant! (“Half man, half ant!” the posters scream).
It’s set in October, 1963, against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the local kids are obsessed with two things: The frightening fact that they’re just 90 miles away from Khrushchev’s missiles … and the upcoming premiere of Mant!
Directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins), Matinee was filmed almost entirely on location in Florida.
Admission to either screening is free; visitors are advised, in both cases, to bring lawn chairs or blankets, and coolers if they so desire.
In Madeira Beach: No tents in the viewing area. No glass on the beach please. Parking is available at the park, until full. Additional free parking at City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive. Call 727-392-0665 for additional information.
In Gulfport: “Bring your own chairs or blankets, BYOB, food available but bring your own if you prefer – and yes, dogs are welcome.”
Umbrellas, at each location, are optional.