Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shock Around the Clock 2013

Last month, the fifth annual Shock Around the Clock 24 hour horror marathon was held at the Drexel Theater in Columbus, Ohio. Cody was in attendance and is now ready to share an account of his experience.

Having gone to the annual horror marathons in Columbus every October since 2001, I've seen them go through many changes over the years - change of name, change of venue, change of running time, going back and forth between 24 hours and 12 hour all-nighters. While the previous four iterations of the 24 hour Shock Around the Clock marathon had all been held in the Grandview Theatre, this year was another time of change. For reasons unclear to me, Shock Around the Clock and the Grandview parted ways, and when the marathon finally came together this year much later than usual, it was set to be held in a venue I had followed the marathon into once before - the Drexel Theater, where the fifth edition of the all-night Incredible Two Headed Marathon was held in October of 2008 (it was at that particular marathon where I first saw the film that I consider to be the Best Film of 2008, Let the Right One In).

There was also a personal change this year in that I have a girlfriend and she and I like to stay in contact as much as possible, but she wouldn't be able to attend the marathon with me. A full day during which we could only text during the brief break between movies just wasn't going to cut it... So even though I've said that I'll be going to these marathons for as long as they exist, this year I was seriously considering skipping it. It all depended on the film lineup. If the movies didn't appeal all that much to me, as the lineups of some recent marathons truthfully haven't (for example, I was open about the fact that the 2011 marathon lineup really wasn't for me), then I would sit this one out.

Then the lineup was announced -

Noon: FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
2:15pm: THE WOLF MAN (1941)
4pm: THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)
5:45pm: The 5th Annual Costume Contest
6pm: THE EXORCIST (1973)
8:30pm: THE NIGHT OF 1000 CATS (1972)
10:30pm: SUSPIRIA (1977)
12:15am: The 5th Annual Scream Contest
12:30am: THIRST (2009)
2:55am: PHANTASM (1979)
4:45am: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
6:30am: TRICK OR TREAT (1986)
8:20am: Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)
10:10am: CANDYMAN (1992)
Noon: Presentation of SHOCK certificates

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Attendees of the marathons know that the times given on the schedule don't mean much, the marathons run late, so late in fact that whole movies have had to be dropped some years, but the movies themselves were very enticing. This lineup was more appealing to my personal taste than a marathon lineup had been for years. I certainly couldn't miss out on theatrical screenings of Phantasm and Trick or Treat '86. I had to go to this one.

Now, y'all without sin can cast the first stone, to quote Raising Arizona, but this meant that I would also be texting my girlfriend throughout the event. Yes, even during movies. But going into the marathon, I had plans on how to ensure that I would not inconvenience my fellow marathoids. Luckily, the auditorium the marathon would be held in at the Drexel has a wall between the entrance and the back row of seats, a wall which I could sometimes duck behind to do some texting. I also brought along a blanket, thick enough to block the glow of my phone screen (which was set as dim as possible), which I could periodically stick my head under to do some texting as well. Plus, to keep my phone and contact with my girlfriend alive, a portable battery charger and my regular charger in hopes that I'd be able to find a handy outlet.

All those precautions taken and with my ticket secured, I was ready to go... Just not ready to go early enough, because I finally arrived at the Drexel nearly 30 minutes after the marathon was set to begin. But as I expected, although I had missed the show opening introduction by marathon hosts Joe Neff and Bruce Bartoo and the first block of trailers were already in progress, Fright Night itself had still not started as of 12:30. I took my seat, and the first movie soon began.


Presented with a pristine DCP projection, Fright Night was a very enjoyable way to kick off the marathon. A vampiric take on Hitchcock's Rear Window, it has a wonderfully '80s sense of style, memorable characters and performances, and awesome practical effects... in fact, there's one sequence that I feel goes on too long just to show off how cool the effects are. Riding along on a great score by Brad Fiedel (The Terminator, Just Before Dawn), Fright Night is a really fun movie.

Following the brief intermission between movies and Neff and Bartoo's intro for the second film, I hit up the concession stand during the trailer block to buy a large bag of popcorn (good for one refill) and an endlessly refillable large drink, with which I returned to the auditorium in time to watch -


The digital projection of this black and white Universal monster classic looked absolutely beautiful on the big screen, and I munched on my popcorn like a ravenous beast as I enjoyed watching Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, and Claude Rains bring to life the story of an unfortunate fellow named Larry Talbot and his experience with the curse of lycanthropy.


Next up, also DCP, was the latest divisive movie from divisive writer/director Rob Zombie, who I'm even divided on personally. Centering on a radio DJ in Salem, Massachussetts and a mysterious record with musical ties back to the witch trials, The Lords of Salem is a departure from the trash and sleaze of Zombie's previous films and is really his attempt to do a Ken Russell-esque arthouse horror movie infused with rock video visuals. It's surrealistic and rather nonsensical, but very interesting to watch, and if nothing else the cinematography by Brandon Trost makes it great to look at.

The 5th Annual Costume Contest followed The Lords of Salem, with contestants including the team of a man in a diaper and a man in a penis costume referencing an infamous scene from A Serbian Film, a dapper undertaker with pantyhose over his face for unknown reasons, a kissing nun and bishop, a 3D girl, a zombie, a man with a head wound, and the winner - a man dressed as Father Merrin from The Exorcist, performing an exorcism on a puppet version of possessed little Linda Blair, the puppet operated by a cohort who was hidden under a bed sheet. Beneath the sheet, the puppeteer was able to make it appear like that puppet was levitating to recreate a famous moment from the film, and in another round of the contest the pea soup vomit scene was recreated with green silly string. It was very clever and entertaining.


Since Father Merrin and puppet Regan won the costume contest, it was very appropriate that a DCP presentation of The Exorcist followed directly after. The Exorcist is a great classic, I've written a Film Club article on it previously, but since I have seen it on the big screen twice before (projected on 35mm in those cases), I was content to spend most of the movie sitting behind that aforementioned dividing wall, listening to the audio while texting my girlfriend with my phone plugged into a very handy outlet.

THE NIGHT OF 1000 CATS (1972)

The first film to be projected on 35mm during the marathon was this horrendous Mexican grindhouse exploitation flick that stars Hugo Stiglitz as a wealthy man who prowls around in his helicopter looking for attractive women to take back to his mansion, kill, keep their heads as trophies, and grind up the bodies to feed the meat to the army of cats he keeps caged up. I don't recommend that cat lovers watch this movie, I was not comfortable with how some of those real cats were treated. There were so many shots of the helicopter flying around that marathoids began suggesting the alternate title "Hugo Stiglitz and His Amazing Flying Machine".

I took a break from the Cats to get my popcorn refill and then, since my girlfriend didn't seem to like the idea that I'd only be getting by on two bags of popcorn for the day, began to ponder what else I could eat. The theatre had a set-up where you could put in sandwich orders from a nearby place during the day, but since the marathon was running over an hour behind schedule, during Cats it was already past the 10pm deadline for those. I thought I had missed my chance for food... but then I enquired about putting in a pizza order from a nearby place. Success: pizza orders wouldn't end until 1am. So I wrote down my name for a pizza and waited.


The screening of this was notable because of this 35mm mono print's sound levels - the dialogue was soft, but the music by Goblin was so loud that it hurt my ears. It was mildly torturous.

Dario Argento's colorfully lit, nightmare logic story of dancers and witches is a horror masterpiece in the eyes of many, marathon host Joe Neff loves it, but it doesn't do all that much for me. I didn't pay much attention to it - my pizza had arrived when the movie began, so I spent several minutes standing out in the lobby and chowing down. After eating my fill, I settled into my new spot in the auditorium, which seemed to be perfect for me. I camped out on the floor against the wall behind the back row of seats, out of anyone's view but still with a view of the screen myself. I was free to openly text as much I wanted, plus I could stretch out and relax.

The 5th Annual Scream Contest came after Suspiria. A handful of contestants belted out their best. Some screams were quite good, some people just used a mediocre scream as the opportunity to pick up some consoltation prizes. It came down to two females against the man who won the contest last year, and in the end one of the females won out.

THIRST (2009)

My Remake Comparison Project collaborator Priscilla has made a valiant effort to get me more into Asian horror, showing me the likes of Apartment 1303 and Shutter, but while I liked those movies, this 2 hour and 13 minute South Korean movie was about the last thing I felt like sitting through at 2 in the morning. My girlfriend went to bed soon after Thirst began, so I took this one's lengthy running time as an opportunity to get in a good nap. Stretched out on the floor and using my blanket as a pillow, I slept really well, too.


Sleeping during Thirst had me completely refreshed and ready to sit through one of my most anticipated screenings of the marathon. Phantasm is one of my favorite all-time horror movies, I wrote about it in the early days of the blog as my "favorite science fiction horror film", so I was very excited to get the chance to see it on the big screen, projected on 35mm. The experience did not disappoint.

A scary situation, in fact a medical emergency, arose within the auditorium late in the showing of Phantasm. A long, loud cry went up from somewhere in the audience, and within a couple minutes it was clear that this sound had come from a man who was suffering from what Joe Neff later informed us was a diabetic seizure. A friend of the man and some others tended to him, calling for an ambulance and carrying him out a back exit. It was quite unnerving, but handled very well and I hope the man is doing well now.


Sandwiched between two movies I love came this one which I cannot stand. I've seen it once previously, and though it's mildly enjoyable up to a point, there's a choice made in the final moments by a character I despise that ruins the whole thing for me and I have no interest in ever sitting through this movie again. So I went back to my blanket pillow and had another good snooze.


That nap got me rested in time for another of my most anticipated movies in the lineup, another of my favorites, this Fastway-fuelled rock 'n roll horror '80s classic. Made in the heyday of Satanic Panic over backmasked messages on rock records, which some believed could drive teenage fans into the arms of Satan and/or to commit suicide (witness this dead serious examination of what Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" sounds like backwards), Trick or Treat follows a bullied teenage loner who communes with the spirit of his dearly departed rock idol Sammi Curr by playing his latest album backwards. At first, Curr helps his number one fan get revenge on those who have mistreated him, but as things get darker and more violent, it becomes apparent that the evil soul of Sammi Curr is planning to raise some hell on Halloween night. Trick or Treat is awesome, and it was great to get to see it in a theatre on 35mm.


Larry Cohen's story of the ancient Aztec serpent god Quetzalcoatl laying siege to New York City and going up against the awesome cast of David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, Richard Roundtree, and Candy Clark then also unspooled on 35mm. Despite the presence of a flying monster, the movie is really a showcase for Carradine and Moriarty, and Joe Neff suggested the alternate title of "The David Carradine/Michael Moriarty Improv Hour". I kicked back and relaxed on my blanket during this one, not asleep but very zoned out. My girlfriend woke up during the screening of Q and we resumed texting, so that kept me going.

After Q ended, hosts Joe Neff and Bruce Bartoo made their appearance in front of the remaining audience members for the last time, thanking us for another great marathon, leading applause for the staff of the Drexel and the workers in the projection booth that kept things going for 24+ hours, and giving a positive outlook for the future and next year's marathon.


The marathon ended with a 35mm presentation of one of the few true horror classics of the '90s, writer/director Bernard Rose's film based on a short story by Clive Barker, featuring a great performance by leading lady Virginia Madsen, who goes up against Tony Todd in the titular role of a terrifying urban legend that cemented his status as a horror icon.

The marathon gained time by dropping the trailer blocks out from in front of most of the movies shown in the latter half, but was still running just over an hour late as it concluded. With family matters to attend to back at home (and I don't mean watching episodes of the Urkel show), I ended my marathon experience around 20 minutes before the end of Candyman and made my way out of the theatre, picking up my SHOCK certificate, proof that I survived the 24 hours, on my way through the lobby.

I was uncertain about going to the marathon this year, but the movies pulled me in. At the end of the day, I enjoyed myself as I always do - I got to stay in contact with the girl I love (who will hopefully be able to attend marathons with me in the future) while spending 24 hours in a theatre with one of the best audiences you could ever be a part of, watching some awesome movies and reveling in the inherent madness of the whole concept.

Thanks to Joe and Bruce for continuing to carry on the marathon tradition, thanks to the Drexel for giving we marathoids a new home, and thanks to the staff that obliged us during the 24 hours... actually over 25.

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