It’s Always Scary in Philadelphia: 25 Hours of Horror
Last weekend I took a bus to Philadelphia and sat in a movie theater next to Popten’s Matt Lambert and Choice Grinds’ Mike Jada for 25 straight hours. The occasion? Exhumed Films’ annual 24-hour horrorfest (with added daylight-savings bonus hour). That’s 14 horror movies in a row, punctuated by trailers and a few shorts.
I brought a bunch of notecards with the intention of scrawling my sleep-deprived thoughts so that I’d be able to write a comprehensive blog post. I was really looking forward to crafting a piece of hard-hitting, visceral reportage; a sort of gonzo-journalism summary of my experience.
Here’s what I wrote on the first notecard:
1. The Fog
1/2 bag goldfish
pre-made fiesta wrap
1/2 bad hummus sandwich
And the second:
2. Destroy All Monsters
After that I stopped taking notes. Anyway, we made it all the way through the marathon – 12pm Saturday to 12pm Sunday – without sleeping or skipping any movies. Mini-reviews after the jump.
12:15pm: The Fog
John Carpenter’s classic film about slimy undead lepers who emerge from a thick, iridescent fog to terrorize a coastal town. Despite some logistical issues with the fog-tracking capabilities of the heroine (pointed out to me by Mike), this was an exciting and atmospheric beginning to the marathon.
2:00pm: Destroy All Monsters
If you ever wondered what would happen if all the monsters in the Godzilla universe were confined to an island for research purposes under the auspices of the United Nations, then this movie is for you. It’s like Weird Al says: I admit it’s kind of eerie, but this proves my chaos theory.
3:40pm: Wicked, Wicked
This obscure 1973 slasher mystery was the only film that seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere for the audience of seasoned horror buffs. The plot is simple enough – a security guard at a resort hotel hunts a psycho who’s murdering female guests – but there’s a big stylistic twist: the movie is presented in DUOVISION!!!
That means the entire movie is shown in split-screen. It’s borderline-schlocky but really genuinely funny.
There’s also a few musical numbers performed by the lead actress (Tiffany Bolling) and her backing band, the immortal Kirk Bates and the Leaves of Grass.
Highly recommended, if you can find it anywhere.
5:20pm: The Incredible Shrinking Man
Richard Matheson wrote a ton of great sci-fi and horror stories, many of which were turned into movies (Duel, I am Legend, the Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) including this one about a man who shrinks gradually down to the size of a small bug.
We all agreed that the ending was cool and ballsy. SPOILER ALERT: The incredible shrinking man accepts his fate and embraces his role in the infinite universe. Or something.
7:45pm: Phantasm II
I don’t know anything about the other installments in the Phantasm series, but this one rocks. It’s got plenty of low-budget, homespun Evil Dead-style action (one character rigs two shotguns to form one four-barrel gun) and a really unsettling villain (the Tall Man) who harvests souls for his army of misshapen dwarves.
Check out the Tall Man’s weapon of choice:
This crazy metal sphere chases you around and drills into your brain!
9:40pm: A Nightmare on Elm Street
What can I say about this? The dream sequence where Freddy’s arms stretch like Dhalsim’s always freaked me out. And Johnny Depp’s halter top jersey shirt has to be seen to be believed.
11:30pm: Fright Night
This 1985 horror comedy stars Chris Sarandon as a decadent, lustful vampire who moves to the suburbs and proceeds to seduce and charm basically everyone except his next-door neighbor, who uncovers the truth. It’s funny and kind of poignant, with great performances from Sarandon and Roddy McDowall as a washed-up movie star.
Also, the female lead is Marcy Darcy from Married With Children.
1:15am: Dead and Buried
A Wicker Man-esque movie about a town with a deadly secret. The print was grainy and sepia-toned to the point of unwatchability. The only thing I remember about it is the appearance of a young Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger).
Daylight Savings Time Warp.
2:00am: The Boogeyman
Weak slasher movie about a vengeful spirit that inhabits an evil mirror and causes deadly “accidents” to happen. There’s one genuinely funny part when a little kid gets his neck crushed beneath a falling window. Haha!
**Important Note: The heroine in this film (Suzanna Love) is a foxy redhead. IMDB says she’s a brunette. Maybe that’s true. I was going on hour 15 so my memory probably can’t be trusted. It is telling that I remember the heroines of almost all the subsequent movies as redheads, too.
3:30am: Island of the Damned
Basically, Children of the Corn set on a beautiful Spanish island. This movie had the greatest final 20 minutes of any movie in the festival. I don’t want to spoil it, because knowing the ending will ruin the viewing experience. Still, I feel like it’s such a selling point that I should write something about it. As a compromise, I’ll just type a jumble of keywords that have to do with the final 20 minutes:
Machine gun possessed fetus child massacre jeep crash pregnant woman boat police.
An insanely low-budget MST3K-fodder type movie from 1970. Pretty cool claymation monster effects and a really weird park ranger/demon character.
7:00am: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
This movie informed Rob Zombie’s entire aesthetic: gleeful white-trash mass-murderers at play in their cozy dens of overstuffed knick-knacks and body parts. It was WAY too over-the-top and shrill and manic for my tastes. I took an extended bathroom break and missed the ending.
8:30am: The Food of the Gods
Probably my second-favorite movie of the festival. The “Food of the Gods” is a viscous substance that oozes from the ground in (what looks like) western Canada and acts as a growth hormone to anything that consumes it.
All you need to know is this: Army of giant rats vs. pretty-boy NFL player. Also, this movie’s 3.2 rating on IMDB is a massive injustice.
10:30am: Return of the Living Dead
Intentionally (and successfully) hilarious punk rock zombie movie. A fun, rousing ending to a great festival.
12:00pm: Bleary-eyed stagger to nearby bar for celebratory Guinness and pizza.
Anybody in for next year?