Modern Monster Mash: MoPOP's “Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film” Exhibition

Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007)

October 24, 2018 — It was a great Halloween party. Michael Myers was there. The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers. An original Alien fresh from outer space. A real monster mash. Except that it wasn’t a party. It was the Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film section of the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle, Washington. But still a monster mash.

MoPOP sets itself a formidable task…to be a museum dedicated to pop culture. In reality, it’s mostly dedicated to certain slices of pop culture: music, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with those latter three being focused really on the movie and television genres. Which isn’t really a limitation. It means that the museum has extremely cool props and costumes set up throughout the entire place. Since it’s October, I’m focusing on the Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film wing—which is all about props from horror movies and shows.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon , 1954

The first thing that struck me about the exhibit was its ambiance: dark with red lighting. It felt like the interior of a derelict spaceship or an abandoned refinery. A horror set, basically, perfect for viewing these macabre treasures. It was also partitioned well, so you had to wander to see it all, even though it was in a relatively small space.

There were some genuinely astonishing items on display, like a switch board from the 1931 Universal Studios Frankenstein. The head of Pamela Voorhees. One of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Mr. Pointy stakes from Buffy. A stick man from The Blair Witch Project. So a good cross-section of horror history on the screen. Some of the props were disturbing—the Governor’s severed zombie head aquariums from Season 3 of The Walking Dead. The dead cat form Pet Sematary (displayed alongside the lacerated Achilles tendon of Jud Crandall). Gizmo from Gremlins (disturbing because it looked as dead as the Pet Sematary cat, its eyes staring glassily at the ceiling of its light box and its mouth parted in horror at the terrifying biological parameters is creator had designed it with). I even ran across a bronze bust of Bram Stoker created by Bryan Moore, an artist whose busts I keep crossing in life (for instance, here and here and here and here).

But I’m just listing stuff now. This isn’t the type of oddity that needs too many words. Check these photos out. It's one of those places I had to really exercise some discipline to not post photos of every single exhibit.

The Walking Dead, Season 3

Bram Stoker, by Bryan Moore

Frankenstein, 1931, and Bride of Frankenstein, 1935

Critters 2, 1988

The Blair Witch Project, 1999

Pet Sematary, 1989

Friday the 13th, 1980

Gremlins, 1984

Phantasm II, 1988

Jeepers Creepers, 2001

A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984