The Plain Dealer’s “Friday” magazine gave me a heads up about this movie marathon, and being who I am and seeing the rather sweet ticket price of $25 for 7 movies shown on a big screen I was compelled to attend. I’m glad I did, since almost everything was worth it. Here’s just some tiny capsule reviews of the movies that kept me in the theater from 10 PM until 10 AM this year. If I ever get around to reviewing some of these movies on their own, I totally reserve the right to change my opinion based on the fact that I had several beers and was somewhat sleep-deprived during the whole event.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): 3.5/5
Believe it or not, I’m walking on aiiirrrr . . . errr, sorry about that. I meant to say believe it or not I had previously never seen the movie that turned Freddy into a pop-culture sensation back in the ’80s. I saw some of the rather sorry sequels that came later, and even when I was a wussy little kid I never found them remotely scary. Maybe that was the point, but either way the original is still a pretty good movie. I was inclined to only give it a 3 out of 5 for being effective enough but not particularly innovative. Then I realized that the super-saturation of the market with Freddy Krueger paraphernalia is probably what made me figure this movie wasn’t innovative, so I grant it an extra half star for being the originator of the classic ’80s boogeyman. And plus, the scene where that kid basically gets eaten by his bed and sooooooo much blood spews out of it onto the ceiling and everywhere is definitely worth seeing, and the booby-trapping that our heroine does of her room and house make you pull for her and led to one of the only funny thing I heard the goons sitting behind me say all night: “Oh, so it’s like Home Alone.” Of course, those guys sucked so I moved seats after the movie. I did want to hit them for never shutting up though, but that’s got nothing to do with A Nightmare on Elm Street so I’ll leave off at that.
The Dead Matter (2010): 2/5
I don’t know if it was the beer mellowing me out, or the fact that this was a low-budget local (filmed mostly in and around Mansfield, OH with relatively famous Chardon “Halloween music” band Midnight Syndicate providing the soundtrack) movie made with a lot of love put into it, but I rather enjoyed this movie. Its meandering plot has something to do with a vampire relic that can bring back the dead as zombies–I think the implication is that this relic can control any “dead matter” since a character who controls this thing near the end of the movie does really weird shit, like making people’s fingernails shoot off and trying to kill another character with her own hair (“did you know that the only part of human hair that’s still living is the roots?!”). Yeah, maybe it’s stupid, but the movie wasn’t even really taking itself that seriously, and got some legitimate laughs out of me during its runtime. As a couple examples, there was a crack one of the characters made along the lines of “Zombies? I think they prefer the term postmortem Americans;” and a ludicrous montage of the main heroine of the film who’s going slightly nuts because of this relic taking her zombie out shopping for clothes, riding a merry-go-round with her, and having a picnic with some ice cream–her sole concession to his rotting-ness is hanging a couple car air fresheners (you know, the pine tree ones) around his neck. And hey, it also features that one-eyed Russian from Lost as the main bad guy, and Tom Savini in a small-but-not-cameo role. Can’t argue with that!
Primal (2009): 3.5/5
This was the “surprise screening” alluded to in the article I read and on the marathon’s main website. I was under the impression that the “surprise” was going to be an already cult classic movie (I was betting on either the original Dawn of the Dead or Return of the Living Dead) so I was a little disappointed at first since I’d never heard of this movie before. Good thing for me that this turned out to be unexpectedly awesome and grody, although I’m not sure my ears are going to recover anytime soon. The movie has to deal with a group of mid-to-late twentysomethings who are going far out into the wilderness to check out some cave paintings that no one’s seen in about a hundred and fifty years. It’s a very secluded part of the world, but it’ll really help Dace (leader of the current expedition) get his Ph.D in anthropology since this would definitely count as “new knowledge.” I’m not sure why everyone else came along (with the exception of our heroine Anja, whose great-x-grandfather’s notes, journal, and a hand-drawn map led to this place), but they’ll have more than enough cause to regret coming soon enough. It’s not bad enough that there are insects that eat their way through their Jeeps tires, not bad enough that there are leeches in the nearby water, and not bad enough that Anja is a claustrophobe (which makes cave-spelunking understandably difficult)–nope, it gets worse. One of the girls decides to go skinny-dipping in the nearby leech-infested watering hole, takes ill, starts losing her teeth (soon to be replaced with really nasty sharp ones), and then pretty much mentally degenerates into a, well, primal creature no longer human. She does a lot of killing, screaming, and eating her friends, eventually leading Anja to decide that even the claustrophobic confines of the cave (which her savage ex-friend avoids) are probably better than being killed and eaten. Of course, she’s wrong, since about halfway through the cave friggin’ tentacles pop out of the walls, hold her down, and prepare her to get raped by a giant icky slug monster. The movie is mighty intense, and was a huge rush—one of the true highlights of the evening. I could’ve done with less of the quick cut camera spazmo-ing shots (this is a horror movie, not 300 for fuck’s sake) during the attacks, but I almost never like that kind of thing anyway. I’d definitely see this bad boy again, though.
Night of the Creeps (1986): 4/5
Oh man, I forgot how awesome this movie is. I saw it a few times years back either on USA’s Up All Night or Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs, and I always thought it was cool. I’m really glad to report that it hasn’t lost it’s win factor in the intervening years. The movie’s got alien worms that reanimate the dead, a couple geeks trying to fit in to the fraternity lifestyle so that one of them can get laid, a crazy burnt out detective (played by none other than Tom Atkins who is, by the way, maybe the best character in this movie—proving that no matter what Fu Schnickens says, Halloween 3 is a bad movie that he should feel bad for liking), a lawnmower kill scene that predates Dead Alive by six years (sure it’s only one zombie, but still man!). Oh, and did I mention it’s also a good satire? On purpose, even! Yes, I usually deduct some points for having characters named Romero and Raimi in movies, but first off, this came out YEARS before any of those more recent movies that use it as a shortcut to show that they know something about horror movies. Secondly, the name-dropping doesn’t stop at Romero and Raimi, going all the way into Landis, Carpenter, Cronenberg, and Hooper. Now that’s referencing I can believe in!
Honestly, if you haven’t seen this classic yet, you really should.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005): 1/5
Fuck Rob Zombie. I heard a lot of people claiming that this movie was better than his House of 1000 Corpses, but since I distinctly hated that movie, I was going to be skeptical of this one no matter what. Sure, I was going to be skeptical, but I promised I wouldn’t dismiss the movie out of hand and I’d at least give it a shot since one of the emcees of the event said this was probably the best horror movie to come out in the last decade, and you could tell the guy really loved the genre. However, he was pretty much completely wrong here. I almost feel like it was even worse than House of 1000 Corpses because it was basically a remake of that movie, only the killers are on a road trip instead of in one grungy-ass house. Watching this movie, you could tell that Rob Zombie had seen a lot of sicko serial killer movies (such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre) since he copy and pasted so much of his from others—the problem is that he never seems to have quite figured out what made those other movies work. He’s like a hack Quentin Tarantino, only he also never managed to figure out what makes a Tarantino flick work. When I watch The Devil’s Rejects, I’m just watching mindless violence and the word fuck used 50 times a minute, with some supposedly cool film grain and stop-cuts to . . . I’m not sure what they’re supposed to do, actually. This is the one movie all night long that almost put my ass to sleep. I survived this movie, and it was a good thing too, because next up came
Splinter (2008): 4/5
This is a strong contender for best movie of the night, in my opinion. It’s a low-budget intense horror about two couples trapped in a gas station while a horrible spiky plant/zombie/parasite thing made of stitched together bodies lies in wait outside, waiting to infect them, rip the shit out of them, and add them to its nasty mass. There’s really only six people in the cast, one of whom dies in the opening sequence and one who’s not around long enough to merit more than passing mention, and that works in the movie’s favor. You get to know more of who these characters are and thus develop a more vested interest in what happens to them. It’s a very cool, intense movie that didn’t disappoint me in any way. It’s got some nasty gore and the creature itself is just fucked-up looking (when you can see it, since most of the time when it’s onscreen there’s crazy angles and constant camera motion—I’m guessing the low budget means that seeing the monster in its full glory and close up might take away the creepiness factor of the thing, which beats the hell out of Super Yeti Brothers‘ monster). My heart was pounding pretty heavy during this flick, but I’m not sure if it was on account of the movie being so intense or my heart threatening to explode from all the caffeine I’d put into my system by this point.
And then finally, there was
Child’s Play (1988): 2/5
Wow. I hadn’t seen this movie since I was in probably 6th grade or so. I now remember why: it’s pretty silly, to say the least. I think you could kind of tell by this point that Hollywood was running out of steam when it came to slashers, so sure, why not have a killer’s soul inhabiting a doll and making life hell for people? Chucky is the least scary thing I can think of, and every time they tried to scare me with the killer doll I just thought “well, why not just fucking punt him out a window?” There was some garbage about voodoo and whatnot, and the first couple kills Chucky was responsible for he seemingly devised to look like accidents, so that was a neat idea for a minute. Then boom, killer doll. I’ll tell you what though, only Brad Dourif could’ve voiced Chucky—he’s got the best pissed off, psychotic, evil, filthy mouth ever, and you know it’s hilarious when he starts cussing out Andy’s mom by screaming “You bitch! You stupid fucking bitch!” when she threatens to throw him into the fireplace. The movie is funny, but outside of Brad Dourif’s legendary cussing I’m not sure it was supposed to be. Still and all, Child’s Play was a fun little way to end the marathon.
Overall, I had a great time, and I’d definitely do it again. I liked the selection of movies (mostly—Rob Zombie can still go choke on a dreadlock) and the fact that the people running the show really knew what was up in the horror genre. I wouldn’t have wasted my time with this at all if it was just the standard glut of shitty Hollywood slashers that lack imagination, passion, and just serve as a paycheck for some people who probably have no right working in movies in the first place. It sounded like the Capitol Theater staff and the people running the event were pretty happy with the turnout, and are already considering bringing it back next year. As long as it stays this good, they can count me in.