Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Jumpcut Junkies 24 Hour Horror Marathon


For seven years now I’ve been attending Exhumed Films’ absolutely delightful 24 Hour Horror-Thon, a horror onslaught that carries over for one full day. They screen original prints of older films, usually derived from the seventies and eighties, peppered with film trailers. But the best part about it is that Exhumed Films reaches deep, adding a couple of genre classics to a collection of films that run from obscure to borderline non-existent. There are films that even diehards will have never heard of, and each year they begin the festivities by distributing a list of clues for each of the 14 pictures being shown. The person who guesses the most titles correctly wins a prize, but the number of correct guesses rarely reaches past three.

They’ll usually pepper the lineup to add a number of colorful shorts and some brief breaks in the action, and stunningly are still able to cram 14 or so films in their schedule. But I thought, what if you were being hardcore and wanted to skip the breakfast breaks and momentary interludes? What if you just wanted 24 hours of straight horror, with a nice mix of familiar and unfamiliar? I wracked my brain to come up with a lineup that, while it doesn’t match the best Exhumed Films’ has to offer still runs the gamut from funny to scary, sexy to illicit. I tried to limit myself to older films you’d be tickled to see on the big screen – no one’s really clamoring for the opportunity to screen something from 2002 with an affectionately scratchy print – and I tried to mind showtimes and subject matter. Give or take, this lineup should take you from noon to noon.

MOVIE #1: PRINCE OF DARKNESS
Perhaps I am influenced by the good folks at Exhumed, who began the first two years of the marathon with “Halloween” and “The Fog.” My first inclination was to begin with “John Carpenter’s The Thing,” but while that is undoubtedly a classic, instead I opted for one that doesn’t get as much love (and one that wasn’t likely to overshadow the rest of the fest). This 1987 chiller focuses on an unlikely battle between a group of academics and the forces of the Antichrist, here re-imagined as the results of an alien visit some millennia ago. The movie’s got a number of awesome set-pieces, but the best is a found-footage moment that outdoes any number of “Paranormal Activity” entries in recent years, a tachyon transmission from the future that I suspect will stick with me for years.


MOVIE #2: HARDWARE
 Little-appreciated are the films of Richard Stanley, who had his own “Apocalypse Now” moment when he was fired from “The Island Of Dr. Moreau,” only to covertly re-appear as an extra underneath thick makeup for replacement John Frankenheimer. Stanley moved into documentary filmmaking, and I hope his following films have the swerve and nastiness of this punk cyber-thriller, which imagines a wasteland future world where the government programs machines to perform population control. More than twenty years old, “Hardware” unsurprisingly features an appearance by Gwar, suggesting what we’ve all known for decades, that they will outlive us all.

MOVIE #3: THE STUFF
I really hope I’m not taking too many cues from Exhumed Films, who featured “Q: The Winged Serpent” as their third film at last year’s Horror-Thon. This hilarious thriller, also from writer-director Larry Cohen, depicts a world gone mad thanks to the mass-marketing of a mysterious yogurt-like goop that controls the mind and ultimately kills. The magic of prosthetics: this movie features completely bizarre, completely unreal mutations that turn the human characters into puppets, and somehow that’s more horrifying than if they were turned into something more recognizably human.

MOVIE #4: SOCIETY
 Crossbreed “The O.C.” with “Re-Animator” and you’ll be close to where this film is pitched. A teenager from a wealthy family soon begins to suspect that his family is not like him for a very specific reason. And that reason involves the most horrifying orgy that you can ever imagine. It sounds like I’ve spoiled it: trust me, you’ve GOT to sit through “Society.”

MOVIE #5: MIRACLE MILE
The end of the world, as real as it gets: at first it’s not going to stop Anthony Edwards from his date with dreamgirl Mare Winningham. Oh, but guess what? It TOTALLY IS. An absolutely non-stop barrage of apocalyptic horror, a film that deserves a much stronger reputation than it currently has.


MOVIE #6: NO TELLING
 Larry Fessenden’s modern Frankenstein story is a morality tale about cloning and animal experimentation. It’s extremely raw and real and not for the squeamish animal-lovers: I’m pretty certain some of the animal stuff is animatronic or prop work, but the unreality that comes with that technology just makes the end result that much more horrifying.


MOVIE #7: NIGHT OF 1000 CATS
Okay, I’m totally cheating here, but so what? The good folks at Exhumed turned us all onto this Rene Cordona Jr. film last year, and damn if it didn’t stick with all of us. A rich playboy travels in his swanky helicopter, bagging beauties and taking him to his castle, where he can romance them, then feed them to his wild cats with dungeon buddy Dorgo. It’s relatively short, and completely brilliant, a slice of magic you just can’t deny.

MOVIE #8: A CAT ON THE BRAIN
 Staying with the cat theme, this is one of the final Lucio Fulci movies before he passed on in the 90’s. It’s a TV movie, but in Italy, TV movies have very different standards: this one finds Fulci playing a thinly-veiled version of himself, a horror filmmaker no longer able to tell the difference between his work and his real life.


MOVIE #9: THE NINTH CONFIGURATION
Now we’re getting weird. Directed by “The Exorcist” writer William Peter Blatty, this bleak drama deals with a castle being used as an insane asylum for government employees who either lost their bearings or obeyed the wrong order. Lot of strange 70’s-style ambiguity in this, and a third-act barfight that feels like it’s happening in outer space.

MOVIE #10: RAWHEAD REX
Clive Barker really tried to make this Irish folklore monster happen, and the results are a monster-slasher who just runs at his victims and tears them apart with his hands. This was mocked by some, but for some reason I felt the idea of a man-sized beast charging at you in broad daylight and killing you with his bare hands was, and remains, under-utilized.


MOVIE #11: TETSUO THE IRON MAN
Wake up! A nice middle-of-the-night kick-in-the-pants oddity, this high energy confrontational body horror nightmare is a classic that all genre films should see. It’s also extremely easy to schedule, running barely over an hour!

MOVIE #12: THE BABY
They showed a trailer for this during this year’s Horror-Thon and consider me surprised that actually undersells how insane the film really is. Story concerns a man who has been raised since birth by his mother as a baby, and remains subverbal and clad in diapers, despite the actions of a concerned social worker with her own mommy issues.

MOVIE #13: HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP
A more contemporary Roger Corman production, this beach-set chiller is exactly what I was talking about with “Rawhead Rex” in that it features man-sized beasts who run towards people (usually topless women) and rip them to shreds.


MOVIE #14: HELL HOUSE
 A change-of-pace as breakfast time approaches, this documentary details a seasonal attraction in Texas dedicated towards swaying kids away from “sin” and into Christianity, through performed skits and plays utilizing severely upsetting horror imagery.

MOVIE #15: RIKI-O: THE STORY OF RIKI
 Propulsive and insane, this kung fu masterpiece is one of the goriest films ever made, an influential gore flick that takes battle carnage to new extremes. The closest thing to live-action manga we’ll ever see.


MOVIE #16: FREAKS
Ending this on a more classical note with Tod Browning’s classic, because if you just sat through sixteen straight horror films, you’re guaranteed to be some sort of freak.

MOVIES I TRIED TO INCLUDE BUT COULDN’T: “Strip Nude For Your Killer,” “Raising Cain,” “The Dark Backward,” “Street Trash,” “In My Skin,” “Tenebre” (too long! Next time, Dario), “Communion,” “The Boston Strangler,” “Maniac,” “The Night Of The Hunted,” “In A Glass Cage,” “Seven Women For Satan,” “Don’t Deliver Us From Evil,” “Cut and Run,” “God Told Me To,” “Perfect Blue,” “Clean, Shaven,” “Of Unknown Origin” and “Phase IV.”

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