291 – The All-Night Horror Show

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October is for horror movies. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. And I’ve probably seen more horror movies this month than I’ve seen in the last few years. Why not? They are really quite fun once you get past your initial nerves. Especially the older ones. The increased reliance on jump scares by modern horror directors has desensitized many moviegoers to the more cerebral horror from decades ago. So it’s nice to put away all the fancy new stuff, sit down, and watch one of two. Or six.

The All-Night Horror Show is an event that has been taking place in various iterations for the last 6 years. I was lucky enough to participate in the 12 hour marathon for the first time this year. I’m no stranger to endurance viewing; I attend the Pardcast-a-thon – a twelve hour podcasting session hosted by Jimmy Pardo every Black Friday – semi-regularly. But a movie marathon is significantly less participatory. You’re really just sitting and watching, with very little audience interaction. Oh well, let’s take a deep breath and dive in.

The programmers for the event strove to select films most of us would never have seen on the big screen before. They were six-for-six in my case; in fact, I had only ever even heard of one of the films before the evening began.

The night started with Peter Jackson’s debut feature, Bad Taste. Jackson is best known for the Lord of the Rings films, and rightly so, but the earlier days of his career are weirder and arguably more interesting. Bad Taste brings us the story of four Kiwis (Jackson being one of them) tasked with defending New Zealand against an alien threat. The movie is knowingly silly and goofily violent, evoking an Evil Dead 2-esque vibe that really kicked the night off well.

The 10 to midnight slot was reserved for a movie from the “classic era” – in this case it was The Monster of Piedras Blancas, a creature-feature from 1959 about an evolutionary beast terrorizing a small town. It’s a fun little movie, that holds up pretty well. A little risqué, as well, considering the times. But it is right around here that I start to feel sleep encroaching.

My original plan for the day was to take a significant nap earlier in the day to be well-rested for the long night ahead. That nap never actually materialized, so when the third feature, Cathy’s Curse, began I was already concerned about staying awaken. This third slot was saved for “creepy children” movies, and this one certainly fits the bill. The titular cursed child is possessed by the spirit of her deceased child-aunt, and turns into a real jerk – abusing the adults around her both physically and verbally. The print we watched was old and yellowing, but still enjoyable.

Now we’re at the halfway mark – the point at which I wonder what the hell I’m doing. Had I been alone I probably would have left at this point (we’re talking 2 am here), but my companion convinced me to stay. So I popped another Red Bull and settled in for movie number four, declared “the best horror movie ever,” by one of the programmers. I had never seen Geroge Romero’s Dawn of the Dead before, but that man may be on to something. I had of course heard of the film, but the movie – about a group of survivors waiting out the zombie apocalypse in a shopping mall – is really a must-see. The characters are distinct and likable, and the commentary on consumerism, while quite overt, still has merit. I had to leave momentarily to move my car, so Dawn of the Dead (the original of course) may already have rewatch potential.

The 4 am to 6 am slot is where the programming begins to slip. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (besides, ya know, the quality), and it pairs pretty well with Romero’s film, but the 80’s nostalgia wears off quickly, especially for someone who didn’t really experience the 80’s. The movie is notable for featuring a pre-Weasel Pauly Shore, though. That alone is worth it.

Phantom of the Mall suffers even more, however, when taken in sequence with the final movie of the night: fantasy-horror film Conquest. I fell asleep the most during Conquest, but I still got the gist; a fabled warrior must overcome some sort of inadequacy to free a land from and evil sorceress. That’s all fine, but it’s not a super high note to end your marathon on. The most interesting part of the movie is that the sorceress is topless the entire time. Otherwise, so what?

So may The All-Night Horror Show stumbled a little at the finish line, but I still enjoyed my time. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up there again next year. I’ll need a buddy though. Otherwise I’ll be gone by 2.

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