Part 1, 12:30PM to 8:30 PM
Everyone has a list of things they want to do before checking out and Exhumed Films’ 24-hour Horrorthon has been high on my bucket list. Last weekend was the 7th one held and, as all the other Exhumed Films presentations I’ve attended, was screened at International House in Philadelphia, just next to the University of Pennsylvania campus. The presenters promised 15 horror films to be shown in one 24-hour period, which would start at noon Saturday and concluded noon Sunday. Since this is a super-popular event with limited seating (it’s in the eloquent IH auditorium), the tickets sell out within minutes. I made sure to get mine when the first batch went on sale last summer. I’ve seen these tickets offered on the Exhumed Films Facebook page at 8:05 PM and be sold by 8:10 PM. As before, the exact list of titles to be shown is kept secret until they are projected. The promoters even give away prizes to whoever came the closest at guessing the titles. It’s not all ESP; on the day of the show Exhumed Films gave out a flyer which listed hints for each of the 15 movies’ titles.
As usual, I was a little late getting to the opening and missed the introduction. Philly traffic is guaranteed to stop anytime you need to go from point A to point B. It gets even worse if you’re trying to get into the City Where The Brothers All Love Each Other from the hinterland (like me). By the time I arrived, The Keep(1983) was starting up on the screen in all of its glorious color. I hadn’t seen the film since I’d first watched it on release and was too busy at the time comparing it to the book. It holds up surprisingly well and was a good indicator of the kind of TV and film Michael Mann would be cranking out in the 80’s. The auditorium was packed to the rafters (sell-out show!), but I was able to find a seat down in front. Which gave me a premium view of the screen, but half of the fun of attending these shows is watching the audience’s reaction. Which you can’t do to well if you are down in front.
One of the many treats was the vendors who were pushing their wares out at the entrance to the show. I had the most delicious pumpkin spice roll from a vendor. If they didn’t sell out of everything they had, I’d be surprised.
The second film to be shown was the Shaw Brother’s Black Magic (1975). Made in Hong Kong, this was from the same studio which gave the world all those karate movies. But this time the battle wasn’t between different Tang dynasty factions, but two sorcerers in modern times. The print was on the red side, but you have to take what you can get when you see an actual 35mm print projected onto a large screen. The can’t all be IB technicolor source prints. The climax of this movie featured a spectral battle on top of a building under construction. The crowd seemed to enjoy it.
The attendees were the diverse crowd of film fanatics, punks, metalheads, and goth kids I’ve come to expect from these shows. Some of them merchant out at the entrance to the auditorium. T-shirts with an obscure horror movie seems to the most favored outer wear. Didn’t see any goth girls, but it’s not an easy thing to sit for 24 hours and wearing a corset would make it harder. Besides, they all want to dance. You can always tell you’re with the right group when you overhear two guys half your age talking about an obscure horror film from the 70’s and know exactly what they’re talking about.
The third film to play was Godzilla’s Revenge(1969), an odd choice for a horror film festival, but what’s a rubber monster among friends? I begged my dad to take me to see this one when it played the USA matinees back in 1970. What I remember from seeing it then was the intense color of the movie and the ticket line for Midnight Cowboy as we left. I didn’t find it all that good when I was 12, but now I can appreciate the story line a little bit better. It’s about a latchkey kid who gets picked on by the local bullies and imagines his friends to be the big rubber goblins on Monster Island. Unfortuantely it was in the worst shape of all the films that day.
After a few more trailers, the audience went wild when Texas Chainsaw 3 (1990) hit the screen. I’d never had the opportunity to see this one, and heard the plot was confusing, so I avoided it. It concerned two reporters who get trapped by the infamous backwoods cannibal family from the other two movies. It was odd seeing Viggo Mortensen as a heavy in this, but this was before he’d hit the big time with Bilbao Baggins. It was a stand-alone movie where you didn’t have to know anything about the first two to watch it.
Blue Monkey(1987) was next. It ‘s a strange title for a movie about a murderous bug running out of control in a regional hospital. The movie was topical because at one point the governor orders the hospital sealed off and quarantined due to fear of infection. And minor star John Vernon got a big round of applause from the audience when his name flashed up on the screen. I’d never seen this one either. Missed a few minutes of the opening when it was announced the ice cream man was in the lobby. Don’t think I was the only one either.
To be continued….