For years now, my good friend James Harris, proprietor of Doc Terror, has urged me to make the trip to Philly for Exhumed Films’ 24 Hour Horror-Thon. It sounded like an amazing time, but Philly is such a long drive for me that it never seemed reasonably possible. My wife and I discussed a way in which we could make it a trip for all of us. So, her and my son, along with her mother, came up and went on the Hershey tour, while I got my horror-thon on. With 4 people in the car, a ton of stops are going to be made. In total, it took us probably 13 and a half hours to make it to the hotel. I had only a few hours to sleep, before I would leave the hotel, en route to the Philly International House, where the event is hosted. There is a line to get in, but it’s really not a big deal. There are friends to meet up with, and wares from both DiabolikDVD.com, as well as design artists with tons of great posters and prints for sale.
Meeting new people, or meeting people you only know from Facebook at the Horror-Thon was easy. I usually keep to myself at things like this, but everybody was really easy to interact with. I’m told there are usually food trucks, serving attendees in between movies, but the only thing I saw was an Indian food truck, which doesn’t mix well with sitting in the same room as 350 other people. A block and a half down the road, there is a WaWa, however, which probably saved many lives that night. A block away from that was a 24-hour Pizza place called Axis Pizza, that serves pizza, cheese steaks and more, the entire 24 hours of the marathon. You have around 15 minutes in between each movie, to smoke, get food or drinks, or mingle. Or, if you find out the movie that is playing next is not something you need to see projected in 35mm, you can take some time to explore your surroundings, and hang out with friends.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 24 Hour Horror-Thon from Exhumed Films, let me tell you a little bit about how it works. 24 hours allows for around 14 films to be shown, with short breaks of trailers on film in-between. The movies that will be screened, are not known by the attendees. A sheet and a ballot are given out before you enter the theater, with clues for each movie. If you fill the ballot out, with your best guess for any given clue, there are prizes given at the end of the marathon, for those that made the most successful guesses. An example from this year’s festival, would be the “clue” for the screening of Pet Sematary. It read, “Creepy, ‘living dead’ fan favorite”. Tricky, right? I wouldn’t think of that film as a “living dead” film, but it technically is. Part of the fun is definitely discussing the list of ambiguous clues with others attending the marathon. I didn’t turn in a ballot, but I did spend a lot of time between films, trying with others to figure out the next film. I guessed exactly zero. So that you’ll have an idea of what we had to work with, as far as guessing each film, I will list the exact clue we were given along with each movie. I will also list the movies that were screened in chronological order, so you get an idea of how the night flowed.
Movie #1 The Keep (Michael Mann)
Clue: “Stylish, star-studded cosmic horror film worthy of rediscovery”.
The first movie of the night was Michael Mann’s The Keep. If you’ve ever seen the film, you know why this is kind of a big deal. I’ve been practically begging for somebody to release this beast on Blu-ray, for years now. The film is available on Netflix, but it is full-frame. It might not have been the ideal film to open the show with, but I was so excited to be given the opportunity to see it in glorious 35mm that I just didn’t care. The print looked great, and most in the audience seemed to have a great time with it. James mentioned to me at the show that, historically, after a film would be shown at Exhumed, shortly thereafter someone would release it on Blu-ray. I hope that trend continues. This movie still has legs, and I think an accessible release of it could turn a whole new generation of horror fans onto this underrated and overlooked classic.
Movie #2 Black Magic (Shaw Brothers Production)
Clue: “Influential Asian horror movie that created its own subgenre”.
I really didn’t know what to make of this one. I spent a lot of time trying to guess what it could be, but I never would have guessed this. Mostly, because I’d never seen it. The crowd seemed to dig it more than I did, but that’s bound to happen from time to time. Admittedly, it’s filled with moments of unintentional laughter, but again, I think its place in the lineup was really the only questionable thing. This is a movie about voodoo curses, but it’s really light, while at the same time being dark, if that makes sense. A bunch of people are going to this practitioner of voodoo, in order to make someone fall in love with them. And like any time you do such a thing, it backfires in the worst way. This isn’t a film that I will revisit anytime soon, but it’s something I’m happy to add to the list of films that I’ve seen projected in 35mm.
Movie #3 Godzilla’s Revenge
Clue: “Quite possibly the dumbest giant monster movie ever made”.
At this point in the marathon, it was time to take a trip to WaWa for refreshments. When we arrived back at the International, we were informed that Godzilla’s Revenge was the next movie. I couldn’t remember which ‘Zilla flick that was from title alone, but as soon as someone mentioned “baby godzilla” I knew this was my opportunity to take a breather, cool down, and mingle with other like-minded people that had also elected to give this one a miss. I will say, based on my previous experience with this film, that this is probably one of the most accurate hints on the entire sheet. The dumbest giant monster movie ever made? Certainly.
Movie #4 Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Clue: “Earnest entry in an iconic horror movie series, that doesn’t live up to its predecessors, but is stsill superior to the terrible sequels, and do-overs that followed”.
It’s hard for me to choose, but this may have been the highlight of the show for me. This movie has a bad reputation among horror fans, which is why I was so surprised at how well it played to this crowd. I have always been a fan of this entry, though admittedly it isn’t my favorite of the series. At this point in the show, I already had no concept of time. Was it night, was it day? I don’t know. All I know is a new friend of mine assisted me in getting my buzz on, and as soon as I sat down in the dark, hot theater, and let my new-found buzz wash over my body, Texas Chainsaw Massacre III began to play, and it no longer mattered to me that I was swimming in ass sweat. This was a terrific experience for a horror fan, and especially a fan of this franchise. The crowd dug it, and laughed and cheered as it moved along. Being that this is being shown on film, the print was cut, just like the theatrical exhibition. This doese take away almost all of the blood and gore from the film, but it didn’t make the experience any less special. I don’t know anywhere else on the planet where you would have seen Leatherface projected in 35mm, other than Exhumed Films’ 24 Hour Horror-Thon. Epic stuff.
Movie #5 Blue Monkey
Clue: “Fun, rarely-screened sci-fi horror, inspired by 1950s atomic monster movies”.
Holy shit, where did this movie come from? Up until this screening, I hadn’t even heard of this obviously-forgotten monster movie. After seeing it, James and I have been trying to locate the rights owner, so that we can motivate someone into giving it some kind of disc release. Currently it isn’t even available on DVD, so it’s ripe for the picking. This movie was released in 1987, but as the clue states, it is a throwback to 50s monster movies. AND, it features Steve Railsback, and his usual smooth self, fighting off a hermaphroditic plant monster, able to spread itself to humans through both contact with the original plant, as well as the regular traits of a communicable disease. This was a whole hell of a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see it again.
Movie #6 Pet Sematary
Clue: “Creepy ‘living dead’ fan favorite”.
Okay, so I’ll admit it, I ended up missing at least half of this film. Never in a million years would I have guessed Pet Sematary based on that clue. I guess it’s technically accurate, because people/things do come back from the dead, but when you see the words “living dead” you assume zombie film, and creepy as it may be, a zombie film Pet Sematary is not. Some of us were outside catching some air, smoking, and trying to cool down. When we heard that Pet Sematary was the next film, we went back into the theater to catch the second half. This was a great experience, seeing one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations projected on film. It’s still just as unnerving as it always has been. Having a child now, the scenes involving Gage are much more disturbing, even though they have always had a similar impact on me. Another solid choice in an overall solid lineup of films.
Movie #7 Gate 2: The Tresspassers
Clue: “Silly, low budget horror sequel, to the silly, how budget original, which played at a recent Horror-thon”.
Rarely do you hear someone mention the sequel to The Gate. I have no idea why, because it’s a really fun sequel, that retains much of what helped the original to obtain its cult movie status. This is another high-point in the marathon for me. It had been a long time since I last watched Gate 2, and to see it projected in 35mm was a real treat. This is a fun little 1990 monster movie, which was clearly leftover from the Eighties. The monster/minion effects were every bit as good as they were in the first film, and the whole thing is just fun to watch. Lots of absurdity, lots of teenage angst, a recurring fan-favorite character, and a whole lot of gross antics. If, like Mr. Doc Terror himself, you have been putting this one off due to your love of the first film, stop it. Watch it. Now. It might not be as good as seeing it on the big screen, but you will have a good time with it, I swear.
Movie #8 Last House on Dead-End Street
Clue: “Infamous and brutal 1970s gore/exploitation film, that lives up (or down) to its reputation as one of the sleaziest, most disturbing films of all time”.
Look, I understand why this film has a following, and I am well aware of the fact that seeing it in 35mm is a treat. However, as many times as I’ve already seen it, I’ve just found it to be boring, and often-times annoying. I took in as much as I could at the marathon, but when I saw a group of people heading down the stairs during the film, I quickly followed, and used this movie as an excuse to hang out outside, take a smoke break, and cool down from the 103 degree section where we were sitting. A ton of people must have had the same idea as me, because there were lots of people out front with me. I’m not annoyed that it was showed, and am glad to have seen what I sat through in a theatrical environment. But all this really did was cement my negative feelings towards the film. It has earned its reputation, it’s just not a film that I personally celebrate.
Movie #9 Guru the Mad Monk
Clue: “Ridiculously inept, anochronistic ‘period piece’ horror film, from a divisive director folks tend to love or hate…or love to hate”.
As we were piling back into the theater after Dead-End Street, one word that someone on their way out uttered let us know that we had at least another hour to kill before going back in was necessary. That word was “Milligan”. Andy Milligan is a filmmaker who has led a life far more interesting than his body of work. I have nothing to say about Guru the Mad Monk, because I didn’t watch a single second of it. Had it not been for the intense heat, I would have at least caught the last half of it, but as it stood, I wasn’t about to endure physical pain and suffering for an hour-long Andy Milligan “period piece”. I have heard from those that braved it that wasn’t too bad, but I’ll never know.
Movie #10 Bog
Clue: “Goofy, absurd, yet strangely charming 1970s creature feature”.
What was this movie? It was like if the creators of Murder She Wrote, also directed a “monster” movie. I don’t think there was a person under 50 in this little movie. Even the love interest/”sex scene” was between two senior citizens, and it was hilarious. She longingly gazed into his eyes… and then she continued to do so… and thens he continued… Yeah. This isn’t a movie I would ever re-watch on my own accord, but it was fun to laugh at with a crowd. it doesn’t have much going for it beyond unintentional laughs, though. You don’t see the monster until the end, and even then the practical effects are terrible. They spend almost the entire duration of the film on either old people sex, or trying to identify the creature. Even after they’ve already captured it, instead of just setting the motherfucker on fire, they let it sit in an unsecured fishnet, while they play guess the giant bug.
Movie #11 Mother’s Day
Clue: “Gruesome, satirical horror/exploitation favorite”
It was pretty cool to see Mother’s Day projected on film, but I had just re-watched it recently on Blu-ray, and I was absolutely dying in my seat. I sat through about half of it, then went outside to smoke and cool down. I came back in towards the last third of the film and watched it from the extra seats along the side of the theater, so I’d say I watched most of it at the marathon. Some would consider Troma’s best film. While it is enjoyable I have always enjoyed several of their movies much more. In any event, it was great to see (partially, at least) on the big screen, and the crowd really seemed to love it.
Movie #12 Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
Clue: “Clever and enjjoyable supernatural ‘sequel-in-name-only” that may actually be a bit better than the original”.
At this point in the night, or was it day already? Who really knows even? I was 4 WaWa ‘Mocha Wake-Ups” heavier, and feeling a second wind. I have always loved Prom Night II, but it had been an extremely long time since I had watched it. I still have the VHS laying around somewhere, and I probably haven’t seen it since. The crowd seemed to be pumped for it, which surprised me, because I never considered this to be a fan favorite. I’m glad to see that it has its fans, though. This is an enjoyable sequel, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the first film. Actually, this could have very easily been a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel script that was written as a Prom Night sequel at the last minute. It shares more with that franchise than it does with Prom Night. Either way, it was a lot of fun, and the crowd cheered, so I’d say this was a big success.
Movie #13 Blood Rage
Clue: “Obscure, gory 1980s slasher film”.
At this point in the night/day, I didn’t even know what planet I was on. I know I watched at least half of Blood Rage from the sideline, but I can’t remember anything about it, other than the fact that there was a baby, and it lived. Other than that, you’re going to have to ask somebody else. It seemed to play well, though, as I do recall cheers and applause at the end. I’ll add this to a list of films that I need to check out as part of a future Slasher project.
Movie #14 Kingdom of the Spiders
Clue: Totally awesome, totally creepy “Animals Attack” movie.
This. Was. AWESOME. I’ve always loved Kingdom of the Spiders, but never in a million years did I think that one day I would see it in a theater. Well, thanks to the crew behind Exhumed Films, that very thing has happened. We laughed, we squirmed, we cheered, and then it was over. Kingdom of the Spiders played very well to the 24 Hour Horror-Thon crowd, despite the fact that it screened after most of us had been awake for something like 28 straight hours. There is a scene where a little girl is trapped on a bed surrounded by spiders, and Shatner “saves” her by picking her up, and tossing her behind his shoulder like a rag doll, into a pile of more spiders on the floor. I’m still laughing about it.
Movie #15 Night of the Creeps
Clue: Zombie movie fan favorite, that should be a fun film to finish the festival”.
And how right they were. I’ve heard rumblings that a 35mm screening of Night of the Creeps is an extremely rare thing, due to the director’s disdain for that version of the film. It makes me feel bad that we had to leave a little early, missing the end of the film, but I just couldn’t take anymore, and I had a very short time to make it back to my hotel room in time to shower before checkout. So begrudgingly we left the building about 3/4ths of the way into the film. I find it amazing that it screened, though, and that should really tell you what Exhumed 24 Hour Horror-Thon is all about. Making things thought to be impossible, possible. Every year you attend you’re likely to cross a potential dozen films off of your bucket list. Night of the Creeps was probably on the list of everyone in attendance, and these guys made it happen.
So that does it for my first year of Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horror-Thon. I saw a ton of amazing films, all on film, and had a good time with friends both old and new. If finances and other things allow it, I will be making this an annual event for myself. I’ve already started planning next year’s trip. If what I had to say has convinced you to attend the marathon, click here for more information. One note is, if you are serious about attending, follow these guys on Facebook. Because when the tickets go up for pre-order, they’re gone within minutes.