by Marc McCloud
For those that don’t know, local critic Ken Hanke passed away Tuesday evening.
“Are you allowed to smoke up here?” I asked. Ken Hanke shrugged and continued to walk the upstairs of the movie theater where he worked. I was a manager of a Blockbuster and quickly sought him out after realizing that his movie reviews were peppered with obscure horror references. I had to meet him, and if I was lucky, befriend him. We clicked and commiserated about our corporate overlords and talked hours and hours about film.
Turns out that I had met Ken a decade before, in book form. The Modern Horror Film was an indispensable reference for me and my friends in college. Amongst the titles that you would expect, were full chapters making the case that Ken Russell was our time’s greatest horror directors, in particular, The Devils. Ken Hanke authored many of those chapters, influencing me greatly. I still make the case for other directors, but I never would have devoured Ken Russell’s films if it were not for him. The Devils remains in my top three to this day.
It was hard to argue your point against him. I tried. Multiple times. But he was smarter, wittier and much more knowledgeable about film than I was. You couldn’t win. I never saw anyone that could. Even if you think that he is 100 percent wrong, you can clearly see his point of view.
So I sought revenge. How? By giving him the worst movies ever to review for screenings that I held around town. Even those didn’t phase him. He approached every Deadly Prey or The Apple as if it were the new Coen Brothers movie. He never complained, never bickered. Ken took his job as a reviewer seriously.
Ken loved film, but more in particular, the movie theater. That was his preferred method for viewing. I think with failing health that he only recently (and begrudgingly) signed up for Netflix.
I saw Ken a few weeks ago at his new haunt, The Grail Moviehouse. I have been preparing myself for this week for awhile, but even in good spirits, Ken did not look good, and it rattled me. The inevitable has come true. Film in Asheville has lost its titan, and I wonder if we can ever recover from it.
Goodbye, friend. Thank you again for Zardoz when we first opened, and I regret never scheduling a screening where you claim that you can out-riff MST3K. Oh, you hated MST3K so much, damn you.
Marc McCloud owns Orbit DVD.