By: Heather Seebach
This past weekend, cult-film enthusiasts Exhumed Films held their annual 24-Hour Horror-thon at the International House Philadelphia. This event runs from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday, screening non-stop 35mm horror films and trailers! This is only my second-time attending the event, but the first time I was able to stay from beginning to end (thanks to my late arrival last year). I'm proud to say I stayed awake for all FIFTEEEN films, save for the occasional nodding off for a few minutes. And what an impressive line-up it was!
As always with the Horror-thon, the titles are kept secret until they show up on-screen. We were given hints, however, which I will list below with each blurb. Overall, this was another stellar Horror-thon with a diverse blend of cult favorites and little-seen gems, all in glorious 35mm!
The Clue: "Stylish, star-studded cosmic horror film worthy of rediscovery."
The Answer: The Keep (1983, d: Michael Mann)
My best guess based on that clue was The Visitor but I kinda figured that one has been played to death elsewhere already. Fortunately, it was actually this visually-pleasing treat from Michael Mann. Set in 1941 in the Carpathian Mountains, Jürgen Prochnow leads a squad of German soldiers who set up camp in an abandoned citadel. Some thieving soldiers inadvertently unleash an ancient being that was being held there. The creature seeks the help of Ian McKellan, a dying Jewish man. This movie is so deliciously Mann - the colors, music, smoke, and slow-motion - and the creature itself look amazing (in multiple stages)! The cast is great, though Scott Glenn in the "lead" is worthless and probably could have been written out entirely except that mysterious, intergalactic travelers are a staple of films such as this. Still, his wannabe Lance Henriksen face creeped me out.
The Clue: "Influential Asian horror movie that created its own subgenre."
The Movie: Black Magic (1975, d: Meng Hua Ho)
This Shaw Brothers production, also called Jiang tou, kicked off the trend of "black magic" Hong Kong films that includes titles like The Boxer's Omen and Devil Fetus. This one is about dark magic magician and his series of idiotic customers who each want to make someone fall in love with them. It starts to turn into a weird episode of Three's Company about brainwashing. It's a wacky slice of entertainment for fans of HK cinema though bad movie enthusiasts will also find plenty to chuckle at. This one is full of unintentionally hilarious moments, like a reference to how a woman has 'got milk' or the scene-stealing German shepherd who is way happier than any guard dog should be.
The Clue: "Quite possibly the dumbest giant monster movie ever made."
The Movie: Godzilla's Revenge (1969, d: Ishirô Honda)
That clue was pretty damn accurate. This one is technically a Godzilla film but it's actually a shitty after-school special disguised as a kaiju movie. In it, the fat little kid from Pixar's Up daydreams about visiting Monster Island, where he meets Godzilla's creepy, pedophilic-looking "son" named Minya (see photo above). We are also introduced to Gabara, who is probably the most obnoxious Godzilla enemy ever. By watching Godzilla & son take on monsters, the little boy learns how to face his own bullies at school. Terrible as it is, the film is worth a few laughs so long as you remember there is very little Godzilla and absolutely no revenge.
The Clue: "Earnest entry in an iconic horror movie series that doesn't live up to its predecessors but is still superior to the terrible sequels and do-overs that followed."
The Movie: Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990, d: Jeff Burr)
This is a fantastic sequel, and an interesting one because it's surprisingly light on gore. Instead, it boasts some genuinely creepy moments like our introduction to the Sawyers in this film. The little girl with the doll in that creepy room of bones is terrifying. What could have been a cheap splatterfest actually builds a lot of tension and makes its characters - both the heroes and villains - likeable! It also pays subtle tribute to its predecessors (like the photographs at the mass grave). Earnest though it may be, TCM3 is not without a sense of humor. Leatherface playing with the electronic child's toy is still hilarious. The film also has a solid cast, notably the insanely sexy Viggo Mortensen.
The Clue: "Fun, rarely screened sci-fi horror inspired by 1950s atomic monster movies."
The Movie: Blue Monkey (1987, d: William Fruet)
Who the fuck thought Blue Monkey was a good name for this film about a giant, mutated bug attacking a hospital?! Steve Railsback stars as a police detective who is stuck in the hospital when a parasite breaks out and puts the whole place into quarantine. It's not a very good film but it's amusing, especially if you like creature features. It shamelessly apes Alien but the creature FX are good and the occasional gore moment delivers.
The Clue: "Creepy 'living dead' fan favorite"
The Movie: Pet Sematary (1989, Mary Lambert)
This movie was my opportunity to go get dinner and take a piss but of course I can tell you from previous experience that it's one of the better Stephen King adaptations that still instills fear to this day. The last third in particular - Zelda; the achilles tendon slice; reanimated Gage - is horrifying stuff. This one always delivers and what a treat to see it on 35mm!
The Clue: "Silly, low-budget horror sequel to the silly, low-budget original which played at a recent Horror-thon."
The Movie: The Gate 2: The Trespassers (1990, d: Tibor Takacs)
Not gonna lie - I took a few short naps during this one. Not for lack of interest, but moreso because it was around midnight and I haven't seen The Gate since I was a kid. The original minions - not those stupid yellow things - are back, along with Terry (Louis Tripp) who messes with dark magic again and pays the price. It's the movie that begs the question, "Who needs chicks when you have demons?"
STAYED TUNE FOR PART 2....