A few months back I, a horror-lovin' film fan sequestered in the Mile High City, was lucky enough to attend Fantastic Fest in Austin, an eight-day event filled with nothing but crazy horror films, tense thrillers, and all manner of obscure something or others designed to confuse, confound and, of course, entertain. Sadly, Fantastic Fest is a once-a-year event, so for those who live outside the realm of the mecca of film that is Austin, us Denver-ites have to seek our dose of obscure indie thrillers and cult classics from other avenues.

Enter Keith Garcia and The Watching Hour.

The Watching Hour, which had its start at the 29th Starz Denver Film Festival in 2006 with films such as Pan's Labyrinth and The Host, is a block of programming devoted to showcasing "films that other theaters are too afraid to show." With first showings airing at midnight and subsequent showings cropping up throughout the festival, recent showings included the horror comedy The Revenant, esoteric sci-fi thriller Truffles, and the fantastic documentaries Cropsey and Best Worst Movie (review). This small block of programming serves as a wonderful way to introduce the masses, especially those who wouldn't otherwise see a horror film, to unique films from across the world.

Although beginning in 2006, Keith has been promoting horror and other obscure films for years before The Watching Hour became a regular fixture of the Starz Denver Film Festival. Getting his start in the local scene at the Landmark Mayan Theater, he began a program during the summer of 1997 aptly titled 'Midnights at the Mayan.' A dual summer series, appropriately titled 'The Terror Train' and 'The Orient Express,' brought classic horror and Asian films to the masses, allowing fans to watch on the big screen films they could once only enjoy from home. A year later the program expanded and became a year-long fare, branching out from these two genres and hosting thematic series' every month, ranging from blaxploitation films to comic-book adaptations and everything in between.

In 2001, however, Keith decided to pursue other interests, including a career in film-making, and the new host of the midnight program became the Landmark Esquire. Keith now serves as the Programming Manager for the Denver Film Society, and not content with only offering horror once a year, he has brought The Watching Hour to the Starz Film Center in Denver as a weekly event, showcasing all manner of independent genre films and classics, such as Hausu, the 1977 Japanese horror comedy described by Keith as "the most insane thing you'll ever see." In the past he has also brought to the Watching Hour classics such as Black Christmas and Turkey Shoot, the latter of which he aired for Thanksgiving weekend, and an archival, Technicolor UK of Suspiria.

Given the ongoing success of the zombie genre, it's only natural to think that some emphasis would be placed on the shuffling hordes of undead eager to eat our brains. Keith and The Watching Hour thus host "The Dead of Summer," and event held during the summer months (naturally) that showcases zombie films old and new. This was extended, however tenuously, to the most recent Starz Denver Film Festival with screenings of indie horror-comedy The Revenant and one of the upcoming After Dark selections, Zombies of Mass Destruction (review).

"I've always wanted Denver audiences to experience a hotbed of genre film from the newest stuff that pops up in NY & LA and then never makes it out here to the great genre and grindhouse classics that are hard to find and essential to the film-going canon," says Keith. "Providing a home on the big screen for films, both new and old, that otherwise become Netflix-only options is what I want to provide. There will always be someone playing the 'safe' cult classics for audiences but I like things a little more dangerous. I like exposing folks to films they can talk about like Deadgirl and Grace and making them take a chance on films from places like Australia or Japan that they can't find easily on DVD and presenting it to them in the way it was meant to be seen, on the big screen, with other people, and, hopefully via a really great archival 35mm print complete with a few scratches and splices and knowing that the audiences is feeling giddy at the opportunity to do so."

Beyond introducing Denver locals and those who brave the cold to travel to the Mile High City, The Watching Hour serves as a wonderful treat for those Denver locals who enjoy a little madness and mayhem in their movies. Amidst the genre festivals such as Fantastic Fest, Scream Fest and the like, and despite being confined to the Denver area, we, as horror fans, should be thankful for Keith and The Watching Hour and his continued dedication to the preservation of horror, both old and new.

If you're close to Denver or happen to reside in this lovely city, i strongly suggest you check out one of the many Watching Hour screenings. A list, along with other information concerning Denver Film and the Denver Film Festival, can be found at denverfilm.org. Look for reviews here of upcoming indie thrillers and other horror-related odds and ends that creep up as part of the Watching Hour.