Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days of Fright!: 5th Annual Exhumed Horrorthon Roundup

Here's a list of the flicks shown at this weekend's Fifth Annual Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horrorthon (otherwise known as My Favorite Weekend of the Year). Taking their cues from this past spring's successful eXFest, the Horrorthon featured 13 films that had never been shown by Exhumed at any of their regular screenings or marathons as well as an uncut UK print of a film they had shown before.

Personally, I think that made this year's lineup tougher for them to put together because without having screened a lot of these with a crowd you just never know how they'll play with a large group of fans with diverse tastes. The complete list is below (sans trailers and shorts shown between films) along with some brief thoughts and a rating on a scale of 1 to 10.

I'd never seen this trippy 1973 British motorcycle zombie flick until it came out on DVD a year or so ago. (Read full review here.) Not your typical living dead, these re-animated bikers pretty much look the same as they did when alive but they can't be killed. Every time I watch it I can't help but think it's like what the gang at Monty Python would have done had they made a horror flick instead of their take on Camelot.

RODAN (6/10)
It's probably been 35 or more years since I last saw this 1956 giant reptiles attack monster flick. Was hoping for more of a giant monster/Godzilla stomp-a-thon but to RODAN's credit it zips along and never drags.

Not to be confused with Peter Walker's 1974 film that's often found under this name (and I recently picked received on DVD), this version is all 80s all the time, complete with skinny ties, new wave haircuts and future RE-ANIMATOR star Jeffrey Combs as a member of a horror film society that steals the body of a recently-deceased, homicidal faded horror film icon so they can party with him. When the vengeful film star is brought back to life he sets about dispatching his one time fans. Reminded me a bit of CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS.

I thought this one an odd choice for a group Halloween horrorthon, but HENRY proved to be the perfect opportunity to go to Wawa and grab a bite for dinner. I'd seen HENRY once before and its depressing, nihilism wasn't something I was in a big rush to experience again. We sat back down just in time for the home invasion "screening" and finale and even from watching that portion you're reminded of the flick's powerful punch and the captivating performance by Michael Rooker.

THE DEAD (7/10)
The fest's only digital projection due to a last minute decision by the distributor to not send a 35mm print, this was also the only flick we knew was playing ahead of time. An upscale version of the "zombies have overrun Africa" flicks that I've enjoyed for so long from the likes of Fulci, Mattei and even the RESIDENT EVIL makers. This one certainly has a more polished feel to it but the way the film is structured makes it more predictable than I'd hoped and the ending is telegraphed early in the film. Still, I'm always happy to see a tense, well acted zombie flick on the big screen.

Last (and initially) saw this film 25 years ago when visiting a friend at University of Dayton during our college days. I recall thinking it was sorta "meh" at the time but the years have been good to the flick and the irony with which its tale of metal misfits, backward masking and Satanic imagery can now be viewed only enriches the experience. Plus, it plays great with a crowd! The most pleasant surprise of the event.

Dear Meryl Streep: Please return the Oscar you took home in 1982 for your role in SOPHIE'S CHOICE. You know, the one you stole from Susan Tyrell for her fearless, amazing turn as a homicidal, horny, incest-driven maniac out to protect Jimmy McNichol from sluts like the girl who played Stephanie on 'Newhart'. One of the single most un-PC flicks I've ever seen (thanks to Bo Svenson's turn as the world's most neanderthal, homophobic cop) this was the flick that blew my mind a la TEENAGE MOTHER, RAW FORCE, WICKED WICKED and BOARDING HOUSE from Horrorthons past. Amazing and an immediate buy when the DVD comes out.

Another trash classic I hadn't seen since the last gasp exploitation age of the early 90s, this one totally holds up thanks to a completely whacked out plotline, James Lorinz's inspired turn as Jeffrey Franken, exploding hookers, super crack and Patty Mullen as the post-surgery titular Frankenhooker. I probably jinxed myself at this point by texting that the event was going great and I couldn't wait to see what else was coming...

I'm not a huge blaxploitation fan so a middle of the night screening of this slooooooww 1976 riff on the Jekyll and Hyde tale may not have been the ideal viewing experience for me. Bernie Casey stars as a rich doc who grew up in a whorehouse. When he attempts to create a serum that regenerates dying liver cells he tests it out on himself... with unfortunate and murderous results.

A woman has recurring visions that she is a werewolf (and the photo of her lycanthropic ancestor that looks just like her doesn't help) so she has sex with men then rips their throats out. After escaping from a mental institution she finds happiness with a stuntman but the lovers are assaulted by a gang of thugs who kill him and rape her. After that it shifts gears into a revenge tale as she tracks down the men responsible. Might give this one another go some time but only because I have a soft spot for European werewolf flicks.

I hate BLOOD DINER. I've hated BLOOD DINER since I first saw it in the late 80s and, if possible, hate it even more now. Have never understood the appeal of its imbecilic, infantile sense of humor, horrible acting and wretched directing. When the best thing about your movie is a naked kung-fu scene I think it's safe to say your movie blows.

I loves me some slasher flicks but I've never been able to get a handle on the love for this boring, tension-free 1981 genre entry. It's your typical tale of Cropsey, a creepy caretaker who gets burned to a crisp by some asswipe campers who play a prank on the dude. When Cropsey's well enough to rejoin society he sets about killing a bunch of people who had absolutely nothing to do with his misfortune. Multiple viewings over the years have left me unimpressed by this one and this weekend's screening didn't do much to change my mind. Packed with a lot of familiar faces like Jason Alexander (who appears to be wearing a horrible toupee from the Jeremy Piven Collection despite the fact that he's 22), Fisher Stevens, Brian Backer, Leah Ayres, and a "really-she-was-in-this?" Holly Hunter.

Tedious doesn't even begin to describe this directorial effort (and I do mean "effort") from Stephen King. Based on his short story "Trucks", the gaping-plot-hole-packed sci-fi/action/horror smodgepodge centers around a group of workers, travelers, truckers and locals trapped at a NC truck stop when the machines start acting independently. Well, not all the machines, just the ones convenient to the stupid plot. Emilio Estevez and Yeardley Smith lead a cast that will have you cheering for the trucks. The longest 97 minutes I've spent in a long, long time.

When you're holding out hope that the "jaw-droppingly ridiculous/gory/offensive/just-plain-wrong" cult flick set to conclude the event is going to be BLOODSUCKING FREAKS and it turns out to be MEET THE FEEBLES, well, you can probably understand why my enthusiasm for watching Peter Jackson's 1989 "adult" puppet show may not have been at its highest. I remember when videos of this flick were making the rounds back in the heyday of ER. I didn't like it then and the first 30 minutes of this viewing didn't sway me so with a long drive back home to Baltimore staring me in the face (after nearly 30 hours of being awake) we decided to ditch and hope for a visit from Ralphus and Sardu (perhaps) next time.

Kudos to the Exhumed Films guys who manage to pull off a show that runs smoothly and attempts to satisfy an audience with a very wide range of tastes!

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