Sunday, 16 October 2011

Horror Movie Marathon

Last night I was at an All-Night Horror Movie Marathon in a local movie theatre. With these events the experience itself is nearly as important as the movies themselves and so I decided to do a post encompassing all four of the films on offer. It kicked off at about 11:30PM with


Year: 1978

Director: Jeff Lieberman

Screenplay: Jeff Lieberman

Starring: Zalman King, Deborah Winters

This movie blends horror and action thriller elements. "Blue Sunshine" is a lethal strain of homemade LSD which was popular among Stranford college students in the late 1960s. However, it has an unexpected side-effect in that ten years later, users lose all their hair and go on a murderous rampage killing anyone in sight.

The film is pretty badly made and loaded with unintentional humour (for example one bald maniac is subdued by 1970s disco music which does briefly cause him to try to bust a move Travolta-style and a key clue is provided by a pet parrot). Zalman King (who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Sean Penn) gives an earnest performance in the lead role. There is an interesting subtext here about respectable yuppies finding their youthful indiscretions catching up with them, but it's not really developed. The production values are fairly strong and some of the action scenes are well-handled.

At 1:30AM it was time for:


Year: 1978

Director: John Carpenter

Screenplay: John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis

This film is one of the most influential horror movies ever made as well as being one of the most profitable independent films of all time. In 1963, in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, six year old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) brutally stabs his teenage sister to death on Halloween night. Fifteen years later, Myers (now played by Nick Castle), escapes from the asylum and returns home to Haddonfield for some more Halloween fun. Myers' doctor, Loomis (Pleasance), who has come to believe that Myers is pure evil incarnate follows him to Haddonfield determined to stop him by any means necessary. Meanwhile Myers takes to stalking a group of teenage babysitters, including Laurie Strode (Curtis).

Even if you would sooner have your eyes gouged out (by a maniac in a mask, natch) than sit down and watch a "stalk and slash" movie, Halloween is still worth checking out. Here, gore and violence are kept to the bare minimum while suspense is tuned up to the max. Billed as "The Shape" in the credits, Michael Myers with his blank white mask (in reality a painted Star Trek Captain Kirk mask) became a horror icon. Pleasance adds class and dignity to proceedings as the terrified but determined doctor, and Curtis makes a strong and affecting heroine. Interestingly, the film works much better at the cinema than it does on TV, due to Carpenter electing to shoot in widescreen, creating plenty of empty spaces around his characters for evil to lurk. In the early part of the film, before things really kick off, Myers appears as a half glimpsed figure standing watching in the distance or driving cars and trucks, making it feel like he could literally be anywhere.

Another important element to the film's success is it's creepy, memorable score which was composed by Carpenter.

At 3:30AM everything went to


Year: 1981

Director: Juan Piquer Simon

Screenplay: Joe D'Amato and Dick Randall

Starring: Christopher George, Edmund Purdom, Lynda Day George, Frank Brana, Paul L. Smith

In Boston, 1942, a young boy messily dismembers his domineering mother when she tries to throw out his pornographic jigsaw puzzle. Forty years later, a Boston college campus is plagued by a spate of gruesome murders in which female students are found cut to pieces with portions of the body missing. The police officer in charge of the investigation, Lieutenant Bracken (George), decides to send in a female police officer, Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), undercover in the college to catch the killer.
This film, which has become something of a cult classic now, is basically "Z" Grade trash which if it was better made, would be shockingly offensive on just about every level in the end it is impossible to take seriously. The movie is extremely gruesome with limbs being lopped off left, right and centre and it is loaded with unintentional laughs. Watched on it's own, and judged soberly on it's own merits this is pretty much unwatchable, but seen in the early hours of morning in a cinema packed with braying horror fans it becomes unmissable.

To be honest I probably laughed more at Pieces than I have at any other movie I have seen in theatres this year, with the possible exception of The Inbetweeners Movie.

Finally, at 5:30AM we came to


Year: 1983

Director: Sam Raimi

Screenplay: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich, Sarah York

This is one of the all-time classic cult movies. When Ash (Campbell) and his four friends decide to take a vacation in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods, they discover a copy of the legendary Sumerian Book of the Dead along with tapes of various incantations from the book. When the kids play the tapes they inadvertently summon demonic forces lurking in the woods, which proceed to violently attack and possess the visitors, changing them into giggling, gruesome, murderous ghouls.

On it’s original release, the film was heavily criticised for it’s violence and gore. In Britain it fell afoul of the “Video Nasties” witch-hunt of the early 1980s. Seen today, the violence and gore are still extreme but also played for laughs. This has it’s severed tongue lodged firmly in it’s rotting cheek, although the film’s two sequels played the material more directly for laughs. Here, the square-jawed Bruce Campbell plays the role that would make him a cult movie icon and director Raimi works wonders with a low-budget. The film is loaded with energy and Raimi displays the talent that would go into his more mainstream work such as Spider-Man (2002) and it’s sequels.

It is a must-see for all horror fans.

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