Saturday, May 20, 2017

24 HOUR HORROR MOVIE MARATHON (FIRST INSTANCE)

ON MAY 19-20, SWEET CHEEKS, DENISE AND I CONDUCTED OUR VERY FIRST 24 HOUR HORROR MOVIE MARATHON!  
Armed with a bevy of snacks, my traditional hogleg (a large bottle of Diet Pepsi, that is) and plans for pizza later, we had our 13 movies chosen; each from a specific horror movie category.  And we were off - starting around 2 in the afternoon.  Yeah, a bit of a late start.

I first got the bug for doing this after seeing Moodz616's youtuber video and Cheeks quickly agreed to my suggestion that we do one too.  As a kickstarter, we decided to use the same horror movie categories as Moodz since they seemed to cover a nice variety of film possibilities.  So for our 24 hour Horror Movie Marathon, we chose to pick a film from the following categories:  a vampire film, a zombie film, a slasher film, a werewolf film, a demon/possession/exorcism film, a foreign film, a creature feature, a cannibal film, a black and white film, an anthology film, a Video Nasty, a low-budget Indy film and a film none of us had seen before.  Once we had this solid basis to work from, we went about scientifically choosing one film for each category.  So, with my bag of Bugles in hand, I watched history being made as our first 24 hour horror movie marathon was underway.


First up was our vampire film:  LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS (2009) starring James Corden (GAVIN & STACY, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN and some sort of American talk show), Mathew Horne (THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW), Paul McGann (DOCTOR WHO: THE MOVIE) and MyAnna Buring (THE DESCENT, THE KILL LIST).  For some reason, the dim, panty-waist, puritanical Americans decided to release the film entitled simply VAMPIRE KILLERS but we all know what it's really called.  This is a pretty good horror comedy that uses most of the tried-and-true vampire movie tropes with especially-noticeable callbacks to BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA and VAN (*hak*) HELSING.  Not wildly-hilarious but still entertaining with Corden the likeable but sleazy oaf and Horne the inhibited introvert.  Basically if Cheeks and I were British and in a vampire film.  It was an especial treat to see McGann as a foul-mouthed priest.  A light and peppy way to start off our marathon.


Our second film would be our slasher film and this time it was a favourite of mine:  THE BURNING (1981).  The cast is nominally headed by Brian Matthews and Leah Ayres but you'll be looking for other soon-to-be-famous cast members like a young and still-hair-endowed Jason Alexander (SEINFELD), an impossibly-young Fisher Stevens (LOST, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL) and, in a role that gives her one single line of dialogue, future Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter (THE PIANO).  Often dismissed as a FRIDAY THE 13TH ripoff, THE BURNING is a film I much prefer to watch compared to that greater-known blockbuster.  In the opening flashback, a group of kids at camp play a joke that goes horribly wrong resulting in the full-on head-to-toe burning of a camp caretaker named Cropsy (Lou David).  Of course, years later Cropsy returns (with his trusty garden shears) to take his revenge on the newest "crop" of campers.  Of course, THE BURNING is famous for the epic "raft scene" showcasing the effects work of Tom Savini; which led to the film being placed on the "video nasties" list in Britain.  


The third film in our marathon was our werewolf film:  WER (2013).  This was a first viewing for all of us.  Directed by William Brent Bell (THE BOY, THE DEVIL INSIDE), this is more of a police-procedural than a werewolf film but it does have a few good werewolf scenes in it.  Starring A.J. Cooke (THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) and Sebastian Roche (SUPERNATURAL), the film concerns a lawyer hired to defend a man accused of murdering a vacationing family; it's more accurate to say the family was ripped apart and partially eaten.  Our suspect is quite a large bloke who is quite hirsute with grotty fingernails and it doesn't take much of a leap to think that he might be a werewolf.  A little slow but still an OK attempt at depicting a more realistic scenario of what would happen if there were werewolves in real life.


Film number four was our demon/possession/exorcism film and our choice was POSSESSION (1981).  Oh, my brave, brave little marathoners -- they had no idea what they were in for!  DirkH on letterboxd.com gives a very simple but accurate review:  "Fascinating Unrelenting Chaotic Kinetic Evil Deranged  Uneasy Perverted" and that's a review I really like.  (Check out the first letters of each word for an even deeper insight).  Polish director Andrzej Zulawski went to England to make this art-house horror film because there was absolutely no way he would be allowed to make it behind the iron curtain.  The movie begins as what appears to be the depiction of a marriage falling apart but inexorably slides into horrific delirium.  More bewildering still is the fact that Britain chose the film as it's entry for that year's Cannes film festival; making POSSESSION the only film I know of that is a Cannes award-winning movie AS WELL AS a Video Nasty!!!  Sam Neill (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, JURASSIC PARK) and Isabel Adjani (NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE, THE TENANT, DIABOLIQUE) both give stunning performances; particularly Adjani who won the Best Actress award at Cannes for this role.  And then there's that stunning "subway scene"!  There's really no amount of summarizing that can explain this film; it has to be seen -- and more than once -- the first time to experience the shock of it and the second time to try to make some sense of what you've just experienced.  I can only say that it is definitely a horror movie but it also deals with issues including the damage we do to one another when we try to create our "perfect mate" out of another person.

Back to more traditional material with our fifth film:  THE BABADOOK (2014).  This was our creature feature.  Starring Essie Davis (THE MATRIX RELOADED {!}) as a single mother trying to raise her rather-disturbed young son (Noah Wiseman), this film was understandably one of the most talked-about horror films in recent years.  Tremendously effective and suitably creepy, the concept of the Babadook utilizes the well-worn tradition of "Bloody Mary" or "Candyman" combined with an evil storybook which performs a similar function as the videotape in RINGU.  The Babadook himself has a terrifying appearance which will guarantee he becomes one of the iconic horror figures of the Teenies (the 2010's, if you prefer) and his voice sends shivers up the spine every time it's heard.  Davis' performance really sells the picture as she slowly changes from a worried, protective mother to a harridan from Hell!

I think it was around this point, between POSSESSION and THE BABADOOK that we ordered our Boffo Pizzageddon Special!  In the Moodz and Goddilla marathon video, the boys had a bizarre cheeseburger pizza so we thought why not!  Delivery of some cheeseburger pizzas and some cheezybread would fortify us for the horrors to come. . . .

Film number six was our cannibal film:  FRIGHTMARE (1974).  Perhaps very appropriate while chomping on our pizza!  Directed by sleazemeister Pete Walker (HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW), FRIGHTMARE stars the delightful Sheila Keith (HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS) and Rupert Davies (WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE) as a nice couple who were committed to an insane asylum in 1957 because . . . well . . . she kinda killed and ate people and he covered up for it.  By 1974, the pair are deemed perfectly sane and released (why do I hear you scoff?) and . . . well . . . what do you THINK happens?!?!?!  This was my first Pete Walker film and it was a little more sedate than I expected; I thought I was in for flesh flying out of the windows incommoding the passers-by!  All in all, I am not a fan of the jungle-based cannibal films like CANNIBAL FEROX et. al. -- and in fact we had originally settled on MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD for our cannibal film but nixed it because of the actual animal cruelty found in that and most other cannibal movies.  FRIGHTMARE on the other hand was mercifully free of such things and was a fun horror romp.


Well, it looks like we're about at our halfway point and so far no sleep-deprived fatalities.  But now we're heading into the wee small hours of the morning with our seventh film:  the absolute classic anthology film DEAD OF NIGHT (1945).  This has been a favourite of mine since I was a wee nipper.  Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) shows up for a job at a country house feeling like he's been there before - even though he knows he has not.  He knows details about the inside of the house he couldn't possibly know and recognizes the people there from a recurring dream.  All the house guests relate their own personal tales of the uncanny.  This is the film that jumpstarted the horror anthology film in the sound era.  Some of Britain's best directors helm each different story (Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer) and the cast features a veritable who's who of British character actors:  Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Miles Malleson, Sally Ann Howes . . .  They don't get much better than this!  I suggested we all vote for our favourite segment (not counting the wraparound story).  Hilariously, while the vast majority opinion usually votes for "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" segment as the best, my favourite has always been "The Haunted Mirror" (and Denise agreed with me) while Cheeks went (as is his wont) waaaaaaaaaay into left field by choosing "The Golf Story" as his favourite.


Time now for our eighth film and as our zombie movie we chose LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE aka THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974).  Another old favourite of mine, this is really the first colour zombie film (in the George A. Romero mode) made after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968).  I've always loved the premise of this one:  government has a new pest control device which uses sonic waves to drive vermin bonkers and then kill one another -- which also has the added effect of bringing the dead back to live as flesh-eating zombies!  I love the big, round red machines of the pest controllers which is actually paid homage to at the beginning of SHAUN OF THE DEAD if you look quick!  Director Jorge Grau makes beautiful use of the rain-soaking green English countryside and the film looks just gorgeous. I enjoy too the look of the zombies with their red, bloodshot eyes.  Another winner -- and also on the Video Nasties list if we're keeping count.  As a kid,  I saw several stills from this film in the Alan Frank book MONSTERS & VAMPIRES and was fascinated particularly by the "zipper-chest zombie" as I always called him (whom you can see in the background of that photo up there)  It took me years and years to finally track down the film but I succeeded about 10-15 years ago.


Film number nine is our black-and-white film:  NIGHT OF THE HUNTER  (1955).  Yeah, I know, I think "black and white film" is a silly category but we're following a template here so whattayagonnadoo.  Famously Charles Laughton's one and only film as director, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER may be considered only tangentially a horror film but I think it qualifies; Robert Mitchum's character is a looney serial killer, after all.  Here we have one of the greatest films ever made with masterful performances by Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and the glorious Lillian Gish.  Stanley Cortez's absolutely beautiful cinematography combined with Laughton's dream-like fairy tale atmosphere (with all the terror that evokes) make for a perfect picture.  There's really not much more I can say about this film that hasn't been said dozens of times already.  It's a must-not-miss movie!


The tenth film in our marathon is the film we have never seen before:  Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979) also known as ZOMBI 2 or ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS as it appears on the Video Nasties list.  Just look at that iconic cover zombie!  In Italy, it was called ZOMBI 2 because it was marketed as a sequel to George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (it wasn't).  However, it is certainly one of the most influential zombie movies ever made.  As with most Italian movies, it's filmed in New York (what's up with that???), as the boat carrying naughty munching zombies sails into port.  Another favourite is the first appearance of a zombie in the film:  the fat zombie.  You just KNOW he gobbled up all the passengers on the boat!  And, of course, the maggot-covered zombie clawing its way out of the ground has become justly famous as well as hugely influential.  Then, of course, there's the infamous "eye-gouge scene".  The cast features Tisa Farrow (ANTHROPOPHAGOUS, WINTER KILLS . . . and yes, Mia's sister), Ian McCulloch  (ALIEN CONTAMINATION, THE GHOUL, IT) and the marvelous Richard Johnson (THE HAUNTING, THE MONSTER CLUB).


For our eleventh film, we have our Video Nasty:  NIGHTMARE MAKER (1982) aka BUTCHER BAKER NIGHTMARE MAKER aka NIGHT WARNING.  This is a rather new favourite of mine in the last year or so and is definitely my favourite Jimmy McNichol movie.  OK, it's the ONLY Jimmy McNichol movie I've ever seen.  Another oddity on the Video Nasties list as it was fairly critically-acclaimed at the time and even won an award.  Susan Tyrrell (FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, ROCKULA) plays Aunt Cheryl; who has to raise her nephew Billy (Jimmy McNichol) after his parents are killed in a horrific car crash.  This opening car crash is hilariously over-the-top as the parents are not only pulverized by a huge log falling off a logging truck right through their windshield but also then has the car plummet down a cliff to crash at the bottom. . . .and THEN blow up in a huge fireball!!!!  Aunt Cheryl is quite lonely and soon starts to take a rather uncomfortable interest in her teenage nephew.  While Billy is having some sexual identity issues of his own to deal with (in a homosexual/heterosexual subtext which is surprising yet thoughtfully done for the time), Aunt Cheryl's frustration leads her into more and more shall we say "unhinged" behaviour until she goes off the deep end.  Susan Tyrell's performance is an explosion of insanity while Jimmy McNichol does a fine acting job as well.  A very young Julia Duffy (NEWHART) does a nice job as Billy's girlfriend while Bo Svenson (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, SNOWBEAST) is great in his usual dickhead role. For a Video Nasty, this is top notch.


We're slouching towards our home stretch, bleary-eyed and exhausted, with our twelfth film:  THE BATTERY (2012).  This is our low budget indy flick and features director/star Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim as professional baseball players (a pitcher and a catcher -- a combination which is called "the battery" in baseball lingo, I'm informed by Cheeks) who are trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse.  This is a really terrific film which rightly got a lot of buzz for such a small picture.  The focus is on the day-to-day life struggles of the two men rather than on the zombie apocalypse as zombies float in and out of the storyline.  Among the zillions of zombie films out there, this is indeed a fresh approach.  While the film is not a horror comedy, it is however very, very funny; but the humour arrives from the situation and the characters' interactions.  There is also an impressively bold loooooooooooooooooong single take shot towards the end of the picture.  Great soundtrack too.  Great film!


Can it be!?!?  Can we at last be at our final movie of the marathon?!?!?!?!  Can we hope to survive?!?!?!?!  The lucky thirteenth and final film of our 24 hour horror movie marathon is our foreign film:  TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016).  What are we nuts, scheduling a film with subtitles at the bleary-eyed end of 24 hours?!?!?!?!  This South Korean film features a zombie apocalypse (WOW!  Another one?!?!?!  We've had a LOT of zombies in this marathon. . . next time maybe we'll lighten up on the zombies a little) in which a zombie outbreak takes place inside a speeding train.  But these are the really fast, running zombies this time.  Widely touted as the best zombie movie in many years, TRAIN TO BUSAN really does live up to that hype.  However, that should not be surprising since South Korea has been making some mighty fine films over the last decade or so.  TRAIN TO BUSAN features finely-constructed character studies combined with breakneck zombie ack-shon!  And how many movies can claim that?!?

So here we are -- tattered and bedraggled, stumbling dazed into to morning sun searching for coffee and some much-needed shut-eye.  All in all, I think our first 24 Hour Horror Movie Marathon went very well.  It IS a marathon in the true sense of the word as it's truly exhausting and a test of stamina.  However, I can't think of a better way to deprive yourself of sleep by staying up for over 24 hours than to watch some great horror movies with your friends. Maybe we'll do this again sometime . . .

1 comment:

Dis Guy said...

Oh, you can bet your sweeet bippy (I know cause I've tasted your bippy a time or two) we will be doing it again. Although I do have to correct you on one thing. You said at the end we stumbled out bleary eyed into the morning sun after the marathon was over but it wasn't the morning son it was almost 1:30 in the afternoon. Remember we finished the 24 hour marathon with something like 23 minutes to go. I also have to agree with you on the "Black and White Movie" category. It's kind of a needless category as we are old souls and some of the future choices would/will be B&W regardless of it being a category. Maybe it is something to keep in the back of our minds when choosing films just to make sure we do have one (which as I said won't be a difficult chore for us) in order to pay homage to not only horror roots but to the roots of film in general. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of animal cruelty scenes even if it is obviously fake our heavily inferred. Hell, I'm cool with everybody dying in a horror movie as long as the dog gets to live! Maybe for one or two marathons we will go a little lighter on the zombie themes. Wait, wait, one or two marathons? I wanna do one in July, you with me?