Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shock Around the Clock 2011

Earlier this month, the third annual Shock Around the Clock 24 hour horror marathon was held at the Grandview Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. Now that he has recuperated, Cody is ready to share an account of his experience.
This was the third annual Shock Around the Clock marathon, but as you can see from the Archives section of their website, various incarnations of the Columbus horror marathon have been around for over twenty years. I've been attending them since the third annual Nightmare at Studio 35 in 2001 and intend to continue going for as long as they or I exist.

This year, I have to admit, the lineup was overall the least appealing to my personal tastes in the ten years that I've been going. The announced films were:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell (1968), Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), The Beyond (1981), The Hitcher (1986), Hellraiser (1987), The House of the Devil (2009), Slither (2006), and the Ohio/midwest theatrical premieres of A Serbian Film (2010) and Midnight Son (2011).

Which looks good in theory, there are several highly regarded films on that list, but seeing them all bunched together, all I could think was that I was going to have a really hard time staying awake this year. I always struggle with staying awake through marathons, the closest I've come to zero minutes of sleep was at the 2003 Nightmare at Studio 35, and with this year being heavy on older, slow-building movies, it wasn't looking good that this would be the year that I finally make it through the night with nary a nod.

Aside from the premieres, I had seen all of the movies that were booked, and I was so certain that I'd be snoozing through a lot of this marathon that in September, I rewatched all of the non-premieres and made a cheat sheet breaking down each of them scene-by-scene with note of how long each scene lasted. I figured that I could look at this sheet at any point during a movie, see what scenes were ahead, know how many minutes I had to go, and use this information to power through. This did come in handy a few times.

Eventually the marathon's schedule was posted online and it did make the challenge look a little easier:

5:30 3rd Annual COSTUME CONTEST
9:15 The Ohio Theatrical Premiere of A SERBIAN FILM
11:15 3rd Annual SCREAM CONTEST
11:30 The Ohio Premiere of MIDNIGHT SON

I went to bed at midnight the night before the marathon... and proceeded to have a horrible time trying to get to sleep. I was in bed for eight and a half hours before my alarm went off, and in that time I slept maybe four hours. Now I knew I was doomed.

I got up, made the trip to Columbus, and arrived at the theatre at about 11:45, right around the time the doors opened.

I entered the Grandview, got my ticket stamped by a long-time marathon attendee dressed as Dr. Caligari, was handed the program and a coupon to a store called Halloween Express, bought a shirt, then went to find a seat. I prefer to sit in the seats along the side of the theatre instead of the middle, and I need an aisle seat because I'm going to be making a lot of trips in and out of the room. The best side seat I could find at this point was in the front row.

Anyone who has attended the marathon knows that the schedule gets the order right, but the times are often way off. We were already running a little late when marathon hosts Joe Neff and Bruce Bartoo officially kicked things off with their intro and segued into 


The main draw of this screening was not Caligari itself for me, but the fact that the silent film would be accompanied by the performance of a live score by local musician Sue Harshe. She had played at a marathon a couple years ago, when she provided a score for a short made up of clips from trailers.

The film itself is an important classic that's worth watching if just to check out the amazing set design and examine the patterns painted on the sets... But watching at 2x speed would work better for me, as I find sitting through the film to be pretty tedious and it feels like it runs forty or fifty minutes longer than it actually does. The live musical performance gave it a welcome boost of energy.

Where I was sitting, I was just a few feet back and to the left of Harshe and her keyboard as she played. Her Caligari score was great, and I think it would totally be worth looking into to see if she's interested in composing scores for indie filmmakers.


The screening of Pit and the Pendulum was bookended by a trailer retrospective of Vincent Price's career, in celebration of what would've been his 100th year.

I enjoy seeing the old trailers, but some of these trailer blocks can get a bit long for me. The post-Pit block was forty minutes long. So I spent quite a bit of trailer time hanging out in the lobby. During this particular lobby break, I got my $7 large drink with unlimited free refills, which was put to great use over the next twenty-some hours.

Around this time, I see a local news reporter and his cameraman come in and mill around for a while. The cameraman filmed the decorations that were put up around the lobby, which are always impressive. I don't know if the news ever interviewed the marathon hosts, but the reporter did come over to ask me and another guy if we were interested in being interviewed. The other guy accepted before I could get my declination out, so I watched him get questioned on camera.

I went in and sat through most of Pit, which is a pretty good movie, slow and strange spookiness building to twists, violence and insanity.

The intention had been to get a pristine new print of Pit, but things hit a snag and the marathon ended up with an old, scratched, red-tinted print that may have even played at another marathon in 1989. Some were disappointed by this, but I liked the beat-up grindhouse look of it.

I was about ready for supper at this point, so as the movie neared its conclusion I went out to the lobby and put in a pizza order - the Grandview has a set-up with nearby pizza place Cowtown Pizza - so I'd get my food in time for the next movie. Then I went back into the screening room for the end of Pit.


We're fans of this movie around here, Jay even wrote an Appreciation for it back in March, so this was one that I was most looking forward to.

The pizza orders were a bit backed up, so my food came in right at the end of the forty minutes of Price trailers, just in time for the beginning of House. Perfect. One of the reasons I put in my order to get the food to eat during this movie is because pizza plays a very important role in the film. Although I got a stromboli instead of a pizza. But still.

It was very cool to see this on the big screen and to hear the crowd's great response to the interaction between A.J. Bowen and Greta Gerwig.

The 3rd Annual COSTUME CONTEST followed House of the Devil. Costumes included zombie Gumby, a Gumby from Monty Python, the Bride of Frankenstein, Laura Palmer, Indiana Jones, and the winner - Dr. Caligari.

Caligari won so many prizes that it would've taken two trips to carry it all away. The marathon hosts asked for someone to help him, so as Caligari made his way past me I stood up and offered to carry something. He said I could carry the pile of stuff that was still at the front of the theatre. I walked up to get it, but just as I reached it the pile was picked up by another helpful person.

Host Bruce was putting the boxes of remaining prizes off to the side at this point, and noticing that I was standing beside him he said, "Scream contest." The prizes were being saved for the next contest and I think he might've thought that I had come up to pilfer through things. I may have had a misunderstanding in front of two hundred and fifty people. A new experience for me.


While waiting for Bride to start, I stepped out into the lobby and started texting Jay about movie ideas that we had discussed before.

I was disappointed that Bride was in the lineup, only because I had just seen the movie theatrically back in July, at the screening hosted by Fritz the Nite Owl. So I've seen it theatrically twice this year, but it is a great film and lately I can really relate to the Monster in it. "Alone bad. Friend good." "Woman... Friend..." And it goes about as well for me as it does for him.

Some kind of mail snafu caused the film print of this one to be returned to sender rather than delivered to the theatre, so they had to resort to projecting a DVD copy, but the picture still really looked great.


The second movie in the Frankenstein double feature was one that I'm not really a fan of, and this was a movie that I was not looking forward to sitting through at all. There was good and bad news about this particular screening.

The bad news was, this movie was rated X, but the X prints are only in 3D. This was a 2D print, and so this was a heavily censored version of the film. Pretty much any moment of physical violence or gore was cut. Not subtly, but with very noticeable, jarring jump cuts. The most well known scene was cut almost completely, but at least Udo Kier's famous line that caps it remained.

The good news: the crowd reactions made this movie tolerable for me to sit through and it actually turned out to be a hilarious viewing.


Having read up on this one, I skipped it completely. Extreme films aren't for me, I'm done with testing my limits like I would have ten years ago, back in my "I have to see Cannibal Holocaust" days. (And recall that earlier this year I also skipped a screening of Cannibal Holocaust, at the Spring Cinema Wasteland.) Where this movie goes specifically is too far for me. There are things I don't need to see and don't need in my head.

The movie was scheduled for 9:15 because the hosts, knowing that there would be walkouts, wanted to show it early enough that people could take a walk down the street and stop by any number of businesses that would still be open... But the movie didn't start until 12:09, when most of the businesses were already closed.

So I walked around outside the theatre and then stood in the lobby during most of the movie's hour and forty minute running time, with the dozen or so people who were also skipping it completely and around a couple dozen more who ended up walking out before the end. There were so many people waiting in the lobby that one of the concession stand workers, a member of the Midnight Shift shadowcast group, said that he felt like he should be putting on a show for us.

The lobby wasn't even far enough away from the movie at a point, I could hear The Baby start crying from the screening room so I walked further out to the theatre doors to get out of range... This is one I won't ever be watching.

The 3rd Annual SCREAM CONTEST followed, with a newcomer winning over a veteran scream queen.


I was very interested in checking out this premiere, an indie about a night security guard who starts to go through some strange changes as his twenty-fifth birthday approaches. Changes like... he might be a vampire.

Midnight Son is a slowly paced movie and the producers had asked that it play before midnight, thus why it was scheduled for 11:30. It ended up starting at 2:30... and so, at a certain point, I passed out. I woke up a while later and didn't know what was going on, just that Arlen Escarpeta from Friday the 13th '09 and Final Destination 5 kept going around pointing a gun at people.

I did enjoy what I saw of it. I look forward to staying awake through the whole movie someday.


I was briefly reinvigorated by my Midnight Son nap and ready for something else to snack on. I considered holding off on snacks until The Hitcher, to give it the full and proper "popcorn and movie" treatment, but my stomach was more powerful than my patience.

I usually get Twizzlers and Raisinets as snacks, but I was in the mood for popcorn and a bucket of popcorn with a free refill was available for the same price as my usuals.

So there I was, wide awake and munching on popcorn from a bucket that was much larger than a person should have to themself, but this was not going on at the ideal time, because Goke is another that doesn't appeal to me. A weird Japanese movie is never my choice of something to watch. I was so disinterested in Goke that, I admit, I pulled the same trick that I did during the screening of The Collapsed at the Fall Cinema Wasteland: I put in my single earbud and played the latest episode of the Tell 'Em Steve-Dave podcast from my phone. Again I promise that no one else knew, it could not be heard outside of my ear.

Even so, I passed out again near the end of Goke and this time when I woke up the movie was over and there was a different podcast playing in my ear, so rather than not knowing what was going on in a movie I didn't even know what was going on in my life for a moment.

Around this time, I discovered that a DVD copy of the movie Clue was lodged in my seat, stood up on a ledge beneath the arm rest. I'm sure this wasn't just put there at any point when I was out of my seat during the marathon, this thing was so perfectly hidden that it had probably been there for quite a while. I know that the Midnight Shift did a shadow cast of Clue and wonder if maybe this was a giveaway from that night, but that was two months ago... I would believe that no one had seen this for two months, though. The idea of taking home a free copy of Clue did appeal to me, but I couldn't bring myself to do it, in case its rightful owner might miss it. I took the DVD out of my seat and put it on top of some equipment that was in front of me.


This is the movie that I was most excited for. Rutger Hauer is fantastic in this film as the psychotic hitchhiker on a killing spree, who just wants C. Thomas Howell to stop him.

This one had my full attention. No podcasts, no trips out to the lobby... Unfortunately, I was tired as hell at this point and nodded out roughly twenty times. They were quick nods, I saw all the great moments and big action shots, but it was a struggle. Aside from my eyes' annoying reluctance to stay open, it was great to get to see this movie on the big screen.

By the time The Hitcher ends, I am freezing. Dr. Caligari is taking a walk around the room and notices me, shivering, hands in pockets, hood up. He says that I act cold and he doesn't understand why I would be. I'm just a cold person in general, I have a heater blasting directly on me even as I type this. Dr. Caligari snaps a picture of me and continues on his way. Freezing and sleep deprived, I'm sure that picture's a doozy.


The movie I most wanted to see was followed by one that I was least interested in sitting through. Full of gross-outs and weirdness and absent of logic, this is a very popular film among the horror crowd and it's horror blasphemy to say, but I just cannot get into this movie, or into Lucio Fulci's style in general.

But sit through it I did and welcomed my nod outs whenever they happened, for much longer periods than during The Hitcher.

SLITHER (2006) was scheduled to play after The Beyond, but the same postal mistake that got the Bride of Frankenstein print sent back instead of delivered also kept Slither away from the theatre. But it worked out, because with the marathon running three hours behind schedule earlier in the night, a film was going to have to be dropped regardless.

This was the third time that Slither has been booked for a marathon and not been shown. It was booked for a sci-fi marathon and something went wrong, it was booked for last year's horror marathon and was dropped for time, and now this year both kind of happened - something went wrong and it was sort of dropped for time. Maybe it will be booked again next year... At some point down the line it might even be possible to schedule an entire marathon with all of the movies that have been dropped over the years. I'm still waiting for Q, The Winged Serpent to be re-booked after it was dropped two years ago.

So, without Slither, we were ready for the last film.


Before it began, we were shown a short called The Legend of Beaver Dam, a musical slasher which may have been the most amazing thing that I saw during the entire twenty-four+ hours.

Hellraiser is one of the great horror films of the '80s, but one that I hardly ever feel like watching due to its grotty, off-putting tone. To add to it, as a kid something felt very strange to me about the setting and characters. It's clearly England, where it was filmed, but it's supposed to be America, with most English accents badly dubbed over with terrible American voices.

It's interesting watching this one now that Pinhead has become a horror icon who some people for some reason think is a sort of Freddy Krueger madman killer who we should see more and more of. Pinhead and his Cenobite pals are barely in this movie, the real villains are an adulterous wife on a quest to provide victims for her skinless Hell-escapee lover, who needs to kill to regenerate. When the Cenobites do appear in this movie and part 2, they're actually sort of good guys, aside from a moment or two, and Pinhead is a rather reasonable fellow.

As the credits rolled on Hellraiser, I think only around forty-five minutes to an hour late at this point, I made my way out, carrying the bucket of popcorn that I never got refilled because it still had a good amount of popcorn in it. I stopped by a table covered with the hundreds of Final Destination 5 lanyard prizes that were still left over to grab a few for myself. Host Bruce is sitting nearby and hands me my Shock certificate, proof that I made it through the entire event. I thank him and step out of the theatre into sunlight.

I went home, sat around for a couple hours, and then made up for lack of sleep the two previous nights by taking a 15 hour nap. I finally finished my bucket of popcorn as Monday's breakfast.

The marathons are a highlight of my year, something I look forward to for the 364 or so days in between. Even if there are movies that I don't care about or don't want to sit through, it doesn't matter. The marathons are always a great time, and this one was no exception. They feel like a home to me, the crowd and familiar faces feel like family, even if my social anxieties keep me from doing much interacting with them.

Thanks to Joe and Bruce for organizing and hosting every year, thanks to the Grandview owners and staff for obliging us, and thanks to the marathon crowds for being the best audiences that I've ever been a part of.

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