Matinee: Collector’s Edition

| January 10, 2018

Joe Dante knows monster movies. I mean, the man made the seminal 80’s creature features Gremlins (1984) and The Howling (1981), not to mention the stellar Jaws­ knock-off Piranha (1979). And there’s no doubting the man loves cinema too. His web series Trailers From Hell stands as perhaps the most ambitious, extended, star-studded love letters to cinema ever produced. And Dante’s always clearly made his monster movies with the very same outward adoration for cinema past that Trailers from Hell embodies. Just look at all the references to old werewolf tucked away in The Howling!

Once, though, Dante directed a film specifically about the love of monster movies in Matinee (1993). It’s a coming-of-age story that speaks to the multitude of reasons we turn to horror movies, not the least of which is the need to seek refuge from the horrors of the real world around us in a darkened movie theater where the horrors are really, truly only make-believe. In short, it’s a celebration of catharsis.

This all makes Matinee sound highly theoretical and inaccessible though, and in that I no doubt do the film a great disservice. Superficially, the film is a heartfelt comedy about teenagers living in Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis, each day filled with the threat of nuclear war. Yet as the conflict heightens, they go to school, fall in love, and plan for a future they know may never come. How do you go about your life with your own nuclear annihilation sitting a mere 90 miles away? You go to the movies, of course! The beauty of Matinee is that, though the time and place are terribly specific, it speaks to anybody who’s ever been afraid and loved a monster movie too.

At the heart of the story then is 15-year-old horror hound Gene, his brother, and his friends. Together they make plans to attend a sneak preview in their town of Lawrence Woolsey’s latest monster movie: Mant! Clearly based on real-life cinematic showman William Castle, Woolsey turns up in Key West with his leading lady and main squeeze Ruth (Cathy Moriarty) to rig the theater with seat buzzers and a host of other gimmicks to bring the scares out of the screen and into the house. And Matinee climaxes with the audiences’ real world and filmic fears coming together in a way that only a filmmaker of Woolsey’s caliber is clever enough to handle.

The tragedy of Matinee is that it’s long been something of a secret masterpiece, a film anyone I knew who’d seen it loved… only very few had seen it. It was arguably ahead of its time, or perhaps it was made during a lull in people’s appetite for nostalgic media. Then again, maybe it took Matinee to help us realize just how important film is in our lives, and only after ruminating on it for a while could we look back and see just how prescient Dante’s Matinee had truly always been.

I sincerely hope that the new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Matinee from Shout Select (available January 16, 2018 but shipping now from helps people find Matinee so it can at last find the widespread admiration it deserves. It’s a terrific release, packed with interviews and featurettes old and new. Most notable among the features is that the Blu-ray includes the entire 20 minutes of the fictional film Mant! that Dante filmed for Matinee packaged as single narrative feature. In the film proper, they show only snippets of Mant! so it’s a treat to at last see every single bit of it there is.

Other special features on the Shout Select Blu-ray Collector’s Edition include:

-New interviews with Joe Dante, Cathy Moriarty, actress Lisa Jakub, production designer Steven Legler, editor Marshall Harvey, and director of photography John Hora

-A new discussion with Joe Dante about the making of the film

-A vintage making-of featurette

-Behind-the-scenes footage courtesy of Joe Dante

-Deleted and extended scenes sourced from Joe Dante’s workprint

-Still Galleries

-Theatrical Trailer

-And reversible cover art featuring both the newly-commissioned artwork and the original poster art

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).

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