Like many pop culture fans, while in Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con this past week, I made a plan to visit the Museum of Pop Culture in town, located very nearby to perhaps the most visited tourist spot in Seattle, the Space Needle. I had seen the wildly sci-fi looking exterior before, and based on their website, thought it looked like an intelligent venue with a lot to offer visitors.
This is really what it looks like, and yes, the monorail runs right through it:
While at the museum, I visited several exhibits, all of which exceeded my expectations in a massive way. In fact, I now feel a little frustrated that there aren’t more museums like this and I also feel that many of the museums I’ve visited could benefit from such a dedicated attention to design and layout, which in this case made the venue a treat for visitors.
But today I want to talk about the horror film exhibit, “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of the Horror Film“.
Even the entryway to the exhibit was amazing, with colored glass and cut out designs to establish atmosphere. Going down a concrete spiral staircase, it would have been impossible not to notice the wall collage of hundreds of faces screaming in horror and tinted red. You felt like you were moving down a spiral of terror. Well played, designers. And that staircase went on for quite awhile.
The presentation of the exhibit, as seen above, was really solid in terms of documenting how it was made and who participated, many of them notable filmmakers and industry professionals. Their involvement showed. It was possible to really glean new information about the film genre by visiting, rather than just encountering recycled ideas.
Wall spots like those pictured above presented visitors with ideas they might not have encountered before in an educative and clear way. While I’ve been a fan of horror my whole life, so I do tend to ask “Why do I like horror films? What is the appeal?”, many people might not have confronted this question before in a pointed way. And while as a comics editor (mainly of horror) and reader as well as viewer, I tend to think in terms of archetypes of monsters, villains, and even heroes, this amazing wall of tropes and types even held a few new thoughts for me to process.
And then there were the real-life prop exhibits of items from notable films. Really notable films. This exhibit had some extraordinary items on display.
And that included prop-monsters and creatures. The dead-eye stare from that Mogwai Gizmo may haunt me forever, now.
And then the axes, and all manner of terrifying weaponry. Or, if you like, a necklace of ears. This whole exhibit opened up some questions about classifying horror in film and beyond. Do you think of The Walking Dead as horror? Well, the curators do. And they have plenty of reason to do so.
This gigantic wall display mapped out “100 films to see before you die”, including thumbnail movie posters to give you a sense of their aesthetics, too. This alone was evidence of how significant the exhibit is in being both celebratory and educational. Documentation is key in helping us study and appreciate any art form.
There were also monsters hanging from the ceilings and interactive exhibits to catch your attention. The large center of the room was divided into lattice-work booths, each containing a movie screen, chairs, and documentary footage with clips from significant horror films.
Surprising myself not at all, I chose The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, and really enjoyed the guided view of the film clips providing info on the cultural significance of the film at the time of its creation.
Here seen above, you gotta love an exhibit that even brings its broom closet into full-design harmony. Yes, that’s a pool of blood coming out under the door toward the visitor.
The space in which this exhibit was displayed was fairly large, but not enormous, and I mention that because it really shows what the designers could do to create a dark, labyrinthine feel that complemented the subject matter. The exhibit was stuffed with information and options for thought and discussion, but none of it was presented in an overwhelming way, and especially important was the fact that it spoke to a wide range of age groups and knowledge levels. They made sure in this exhibit to show that horror is for everyone.
What could be more pop culture appropriate than that attitude?
I’ll be writing more about the other exhibits at the museum, but for now, let me highly recommend the horror film exhibit at the Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle.