Wednesday, December 5, 2012


My favorite theater in the world is doing a kickstarter campaign to get a DCP projector, sound system, better seats, a new marquee and a slew of other upgrades. If you have ever frequented the space I highly recommend donating. The video for their kickstarter project is one of the best kickstarter videos I have ever seen! Shadoe Stevens does the voice over. Very well edited. Funny as shit. Check it out:


I would go on to describe what the Cinefamily does, but I think the video paints the perfect picture of what the Cinefamily is all about, so I will spare you the words.

I use to dream of a place like the Cinefamily. No, literally. I mean, I literally had reoccurring dreams that a local cinema (or drive-in theater depending on the dream) would show double and triple features of rare cinema. Films that nobody had seen before. People lived in the space. There were reoccurring characters in the dream.  It was like a big cinema family, everyone with one common obsession and love. I haven't had this dream since I moved to Los Angeles because I am literally living inside the dream now. I grew up and lived in Ohio until I was 29 years old. We didn't get a lot of this type of programming and for some reason I would dream about the perfect space and perfect programming for cinema. I have found it in my waking life. It's the Cinefamily.

Friday, November 30, 2012

American Hippie In Israel / Hallucination Strip

Hey all! Caught a double feature at the New Beverly Cinema with my friend Anthony DiSalvo. He did a write up for the show. Check it out.


                                                       New Beverly Cinema Nov. 27, 2012
                                                                   by Anthony DiSalvo

 The New Beverly Cinema in Hollywood has been L.A.'s premiere revival house for three plus decades. But, even there, Tuesday's double feature may have showcased two of the most obscure double features they have ever shown - AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (1972) and HALLUCINATION STRIP (1975). These are films so rarely shown that little exists in print or online about them in English. It was part of the New Beverly's Grindhouse series, but these are more Arthouse films, than true 42nd Street type pics. Recently, Grindhouse Releasing has acquired prints and they are making the rounds of revival houses, with a DVD of HIPPIE in the works (apparently, Grindhouse does not own the rights to HALLUCINATION and the music rights would probably be prohibitive in any case). HIPPIE has also gone on to become a midnight movie hit in Israel:

Asher Tzarfati and Lily Avidan - Right On!
First up was AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (aka THE HITCH-HIKER aka RIGHT ON!). A bearded dude named Mike (Asher Tzarfati) from NYC arrives in Israel without any real plans or friends to stay with. He hitches a ride with a free-spirited Israeli theater actress (Lily Avidan). Mike says that he is travelling the world after having served in the evil Vietnam war with all of it's "Button pushers!" They immediately make love and then set out to find other free spirits. In the course of an afternoon they pick up another hippie couple (Tzila Karney and Shmuel Wolf) who, in turn, hook them up with a larger band of free spirits (the male, Wolf, speaks only Hebrew). They go to an abandoned building to sing some folk songs, smoke weed, drink a lot and start screwing - in other words, an idyllic hippie gathering! Now, it must be noted here that a pair of mysterious white-faced mimes with machine guns are following Mike around. They first appear right as he is picked up hitch-hiking. Now, they show up in the abandoned building and gun down and kill everybody except for Mike, the actress and the first couple they hooked up with. 

Toke it up!
Bummer. But, this little massacre isn't going to stop Mike. The quartet are now off to a desolate island where they will show the world that you can just be free and happy all day in a commune-like atmosphere. Along the way to the coast-line they pick up a goat at a market and Mike drifts off to nap and daydream (he calls it a "flake out"). His daydream turns into a nightmare as he swings a giant hammer to destroy giant reel-to-reel "computers" in slow motion. Only, the camera that the film's director (Amos Sefer) uses was apparently not able to properly achieve the slow motion effect he wanted. So, Mike "acts" in slow motion as well! That's amusing, but, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait until they get to the island!

The slow-motion nightmare

After stopping to pick up an inflatable raft and some food and booze, the quartet (and the goat!) paddle out to the island, leaving their car on the shore. That night it's a grand party of food, drink, sex and loud proclamations to the world that they are "FREE! FREE! FREE!" They pass out and wake up the next morning only to find that their raft is missing. Frantically, they search the island, but the boat is gone - and so is the goat! Mike says he can swim well, so he'll just swim to shore and get help. Wouldn't you know it, but, there are sharks in the water! The two big plastic sharks are amusing as they re-appear a few times and always at the same depth in the water and the same distance from each other. 

Trapped! The island has no vegetation and apparently the water has no fish save for a few crustaceons (and the sharks), so the quartet immediately switches from nirvana heaven mode to outright panic. Soon, it's "Lord of the Flies" time and the four are at each other's throats. And, when I say "soon", I mean in a matter of minutes! Not hours or days! The guys literally turn into cavemen, reduced to grunts and groans and they even grab the women by the hair and jerk them around. Then, the goat shows up. Instead, of joining forces to trap the goat for them all to eat, they bash each other with fists and rocks until they are left in a big heaping pile of humanity. Meanwhile, back at the shore, the two Mimes show up, jump into the quartet's car and drive away. 

 The End. 

Now, if all of that seems like a fairly orderly and scripted film, let me assure you it's not. Save for the last 10 or 15 minutes on the island, everything in the film seems only vaguely written. The actual dialogue seems mainly improvised and the scenes of walking around and driving shamble on and on with a folky muzak backing score. There's a scene where Mike argues with his Hebrew speaking friend.  They speak different languages and don't understand what the other is saying, but, they yell at each other for about 5 to 7 minutes. One take. One two-shot. It's as if Sefer just let them improvise, and left in the entire take!

Still, I kind of enjoyed the hippie vibe to a certain extent. It plays out somewhat realistically like it would in life with Mike drifting from place to place (he mentions he had been in Europe, including Rome just before coming to Israel). Of course, nobody really enjoys watching someone else's home movies! The bigger issue is just what message Director Sefer is trying to convey. The movie doesn't make Mike a very sympathetic character, but, the movie does seem to be in accord with his Anti-Vietnam and free spirit attitudes. Mike's daydream about raging against the machine ("Button-Pushers!") is also echoed in the two Mimes (Robots, perhaps?), who could be interrpreted as representing "The Man". But, the whole 'Lord of the Flies' ending, uh, flies in the face of those themes. Heavy, man. 

But, if you want an even heavier dose of morality, there's HALLUCINATION STRIP (on screen title, HALLUCINATING STRIP). This is a very odd, but, interesting half-breed between a police procedural (it's original Italian title is: ROMA DROGATA: LA POLIZIA NON PUO INTERVENIRE) and post 60's youth drug film. It's an odd hybrid and you can see why it's drifted into obscurity despite having had a full English track translation, a cult actor (Bud Cort) and a decent 70s Italian Rock score ( Alberto Verrecchia) with accompanying RCA soundtrack release (ironically, that well-done score actually works against the film ever getting a proper USA DVD release with all the song rights issues). 

 Influenced by films like BLOW UP and EASY RIDER on one side, and THE FRENCH CONNECTION and HIGH CRIME (aka LA POLIZIA INCRIMINA LA LEGGE ASSOLVE) on the other, HALLUCINATION starts off slowly. We are introduced to Massimo (Cort) and his rich girlfriend Cinzia (Annarita Grapputo). Massimo steals an antique box from the house, which brings in the police to the situation, including rogue but honorable cop De Stefani (Marcel Bozzuffi).

Massimo and his youthful friends (supposedly high school students) are involved in drugs (and revolutionary politics). One of his friends is a spoiled pampered rich kid named Rudy. In one perverse scene, he is bathed by his mother and a maid. Rudy is planning a "happening" and needs drugs for his party so he gives money to Massimo to buy them. But, Massimo uses the cash to hide away a pair of his co-revolutionary comrades. So, his only collateral is the antique box he stole and he fences it to a drug dealer, code-named "The Sicilian". At the "Happening", drugs (including acid) are freely taken and Rudy has a long trip which gives the film it's American title. Being a policier (or the Italian equivalent, a Poliziotteschi) you can probably guess the morally "justified" ending.

But, it isn't plot that makes HALLUCINATION interesting. It's the vibe. Cort was probably lured to Italy not just because he could have a paid vacation in Rome, but, because of the political and social milieu the film takes place in. The 1968 student protests are explicitly referenced as are the beginnings of the pro-worker and communist movements in Italy. What hurts here is the script's insistence that they are High School students. Cort was 27 when this came out. There's a scene where he tells Cinzia about an experience with a hooker when he was 15 - he's supposed to be around 17, but, he talks about this experience like it happened closer to ten years earlier, not TWO. Perhaps, the Italian version has them as University students?

The acid trip sequence is both visually interesting to look at (and Verrecchia's music is solid) as well as amusing. Let's face it, it's pretty difficult to accurately depict what is in one's mind on screen. The writhing naked body-painted bodies reminds me of those 70s Playboy pictorials where they would hire someone like Salvador Dali to "imagine" his sexual fantasies into an "artistic" porn spread.   


HALLUCINATING STRIP is an interesting relic of the 70s, but, you can see why it is so little seen. As a cop film, it's just ok. And, young people attracted to the nudity, drugs and music are, in the end, beaten over the head with a downbeat finale a la EASY RIDER, JOE or PSYCH-OUT. Even, the rare Pro-Drug experience film like Corman's THE TRIP had a shock ending imposed upon it. Can't a hippie just have a Hallucination in peace?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 28: Claudio Simonetti, Tenebrae and Cannibal Ferox

There is no time to write. It's tough writing every day. Soon as October ends, BAM --  AFI Fest begins. Life of Pi, Lincoln, Hitchcock, John Dies At The End, Antiviral, Wrong, Here Comes the Devil, and many more. Not that I will be able to get into all those. I am guessing unless you are related or know Stephen Spielberg or maybe clean his toilets, then you won't be able to get into Lincoln. Hell, I worked on Life of Pi and I doubt I can get into that. Besides, I prefer checking out the smaller films like Brandon Cronenberg's, Antiviral or Quintin Dupieux's, Wrong or Don Cascorelli's, John Dies At The End.  So I guess you all know what I am doing the beginning of November. More movies. Yay!

Well, almost to the end of my October adventure. Day 28. Today I would get to meet a legend in the horror genre. Not a director or actor, but a composer, Claudio Simonetti, the man behind the keyboards for Suspiria, Dawn of the Dead, Tenebrae, Patrick, and Contamination to name a few. Behind Moricone, Claudio's band, Goblin is probably the most known Italian horror film composers.

The first time I became conscious of his music was the first time I saw Suspiria on Laser Disc. When the Goblin soundtrack kicked into high gear with the technicolor red/green/blue nightmare pallet to complement, I think my jaw dropped to chest and my eyes pealed wide open. I instantly fell in love. Fell in love with everything, the music, the lighting, the camera angles, Jessica Harper. This was no ordinary run of the mill horror film. This was like watching a ballet of horror. There was something so striking about it that it swept me up into its nightmarish river. The movie flowed and felt like a dream or nightmare -- all to the pulsing rock rhythms of Goblin. I immediately chased down all the Argento films I could get my hands on as well as Goblin's music. I actually had heard Goblin before as they were on the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack, but at the time I wasn't aware of who Goblin was. I just knew it then as the creepy music behind Romero's classic. Suspiria is when I really took notice.

The day before he performed solo for 30 minutes or so at the Cinefamily Theater Halloween party, but I was at the Aero's all night horrorthon, so I missed it. I may regret it, but I think I will get the chance to see him play again and hopefully with the full new Goblin band.

I arrived later than I wanted to. I was aiming for 5:30. The Q&A with him started at 7:30, but there was a pot luck dinner at the theater beforehand at 6:30. I knew the line would be huge. The night before when he played there were around 300 people there and the theater only seats 180!!! Since it was a party and they were using the outdoor patio and the upstairs psychedelic black poster space, they could legally let in more than the 180 seats. I was prepared for the worst. I had to get some wine for the pot luck, couldn't show up empty handed.

Anyway, when I arrived, much to my surprise there was hardly anyone in line. In fact, by the time the Q&A started there was only about 50 or so people there. What! I simply couldn't understand it. I thought it would be packed. Man, I can never tell what will do well and what won't. Hell, later that night the screening of Cannibal Ferox had more people and ON A SUNDAY MIDNIGHT! This was a 90 minute Q&A in a primetime slot with one of the most seminal rock composers for film and a screening of Tenebrae, a Dario Argento cult hit. Wow! Cannibal Ferox is a horrible low budget Italian Cannibal movie. How could that get more people than Tenebrae with Claudio Simonetti. Wow! I'm truly puzzled.

In some respect, I am glad it wasn't crowded. I got to spend a good amount of time talking with him. He had a table on the patio in the back of the theater where he was selling his music. A DC superhero T-shirt covered his portly frame. He had salt/pepper short spiky hair that was laying a little flat and he wore glasses. Apparently, speaking with Hadrian, the head programer at Cinefamily, his first request when he landed was to know where the nearest record store was. He bought some Emerson, Lake, and Palmer records and some soundtracks. Awesome! He's pretty much a geek like me. We chatted about his films. We talked a little about Rome. I bought some of his CD's which he gladly signed for me. Such a nice guy!

The Q&A is all a blur now. I wish I had written this right afterward. My memory ain't what it use to be. I remember one interesting question. His first sound track album, Profundo Rosso (Deep Red) sold so many copies in its time that it seemed almost everyone in Italy had a copy of the album. Yes, a soundtrack album. Can you imagine! A horror film soundtrack selling millions of copies today. Wow! The host asked him what that was like...were like, teen girls putting on makeup for prom rocking out to Profondo Rosso? I'm not sure Claudio knew how to respond. I guess he just sorta laughed.

The Q&A covered his entire career from beginning to end. His influences, the directors he has worked with, everything.

The screening afterward was Tenebrae. If you haven't seen it. I highly recommend you do. It's one of Argento's best and the soundtrack is amazing. It's different than Simonetti's early work in that it is more disco inspired.

I stuck around for the midnight show of Cannibal Ferox. Funny, Simonetti's Agent was there and went about how he hated the director of Cannibal Ferox. Pretty much everyone in Italy thinks he's an asshole. I talked with him early and he warned me that the film was a piece of shit. He was right. Terrible! I mean, it's gross. It has blood and guts and horrific imagery. Unfortunately they filmed some scenes of reel animal deaths. Yes, animals died for the making of this crappy exploitation movie, this is partially the reason I have avoided seeing it. Such a waste of time. He was right.

Lincoln and Skyfall

OK….so I think I will continue my blog past October. Don't know where it will take me. Right now I just plan on reviewing movies. I still have yet to post for the last 2 days of October horror film watching. Soon….soon…in the meantime, here are my reviews of Lincoln and the Skyfall.


Spielberg hasn't had a good track record with me lately. Warhorse I passed on because it didn't even look like a reel film, it seemed like a caricature of a Spielberg movie. Seriously, when I saw the trailer for Warhorse I thought it was one of those movie snipes that are designed to ask you to not talk during the movie. You know, you think it's a movie trailer and then a cell phone goes off and the actors in the trailer react to it and realized it's the audience, then turn to address the audience in the theater and ask them to turn off their phones. I seriously thought this was a fake movie. When the title came up and it was a new Spielberg film, I laughed. Anyway,  I also disliked The Adventures of Tintin. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was pretty good, but Munich I couldn't even finish. I use to love his movies. Now, I am to the point where I kinda avoid them. I couldn't pass on Lincoln though because I was dying to see Daniel Day Lewis in the role. Plus the film has been getting a lot of positive buzz.

Lincoln is pretty much a bunch of gray haired, bearded men sitting around board room meetings, court rooms and offices bickering over the law. Sure it's one of the most important points in history, but I have never been so bored by it all. 
Typical scene from Lincoln
The story takes place during the final months of Lincoln's office and it focuses on the fight to pass the 13th amendment of the constitution to abolish slavery. The film never managed to engage me. I was never drawn in to Lincoln's story, probably because the movie focused more on the fight to get the amendment passed and not on any personal aspects of Lincoln. I was really hoping Daniel Day Lewis would get to shine. Don't get me wrong, he's good in the role. Its just not that exciting….it's not really a character piece even though the title of the movie is Lincoln. Go figure. There were bits and pieces about his relationship with his wife and his son who wants to fight in the war much to his parents disapproval, but not really too much about Lincoln. I think the film should have been titled The 13th Amendment. 
A more appropriate title and poster for Spielberg's 

The lighting is beautiful. They obviously studied up on their Rembrandt. Backgrounds fall off to darkness. Everyone is backlit - especially Lincoln. The classic Rembrandt lighting with the triangle of light on the shadow side of the face. Dusty halls and shafts of light. All accompanied by John William's score. It's very over the top. 
Classic Rembrandt Lighting
I don't know what I expected. Maybe a story about Lincoln. Maybe I thought there would be some contrast to the courtroom battles with the battles on the field. Maybe I thought you would get to see the horrible effects of slavery on society. What you get is Lincoln trying to motivate and get the 13th Amendment passed. You get lobbyist trying to cajole/motiviate/manipulate congressmen into passing it. You get another Amastad from Spielberg, incidentally I disliked that film as well.

What makes a good bond movie. What's the formula. You know there is a formula right? If you have seen more than 3 bond films, by now you realize there are restrictions that the filmmakers must stick to. There are plenty of good bonds films and plenty of bad ones and some in-between, but what makes a good one. Casino Royale was a good one --- no correction, a great one. Quantum of Solace was one of the worst. Sure everyone will have different opinions, but generally Quantum was not reviewed as well as Casino. Why wasn't it as good?  Is it the Villian? Is it the bond girls? Is it the plot? Is it the Actor? It was the same actor, so we can rule that out.  Well, whatever it is, Skyfall did it right. 

The new younger Q.
It's never easy to reboot a franchise and it's taken MGM 3 bond movies to do it. The first one introduced us to the new Daniel Craig Bond. Then Quantum…well, lets try to forget that one happened. Now  Skyfall continues to develop the franchise. If you have seen the trailers, you already know there is a new Q. He is a much younger and more of a computer geek/hacker than a mad scientist like many of the past Q's, in fact, the movie jokes about that. His new high tech weapons --- simply just a gun that is palm print activated and a radio transmitter. That's it.  It's trying to update Bond for a new audience. Daniel Craig has signed on for 2 more Bond movies. So apparently they are trying to shape a new Bond and a new Bond audience.

The film starts with a shadowy out of focus figure at the end of a hallway. The figure slowly walks to the foreground gradually coming into focus. It's Bond, now in a close up, with light only striking his eyes, the rest is in shadow. Right away the film hits us with a nicely choreographed stylistic image.  It's not just going to be an ABC thriller that foregoes the visual storytelling aspects. Well, it is directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead) so I would expect no less.

It's also one of the better looking bond films, shot by Roger Deakins (Shawshank Redemption, Big Lewbowski, Revolutionary Road) who is on for his first Bond film. From the beautiful neon reflections of the Shanghai location to the fiery orange silhouettes in Scottland, this film never ceased to please the cinematographer in me.
The Neon Glow of Shanghai
Bond is looking for a lost hard drive. It's not there. Agent is down. Bond could possibly help, but he is urged to leave the agent and pursue the hard drive. We now begin one of the better opening Bond chase scenes. We get a rooftop motorcycle chase, a train top chase, and bulldozer vs gunman fight. Bond uses a bulldozer that is part of the cargo on the train to try and stop our escapee. It's pretty awesome. I think I must have yelled out loud in excitement more than a few times.

The Villian is top notch. Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) plays an effeminate Psychopath. He makes some interesting choices that I am sure weren't in the script. Wether it was his choice or Sam Mendes', it was brilliant. 

If you like Bond movies you must see it. If you like action films you should see it. If you like thrillers you should see it. If subdued costume dramas is your bag and you don't like explosions, then well…you probably weren't even thinking about seeing the new Bond. So if you were thinking about it, just do it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 27 - The Aero Dusk To Dawn Horrorthon

If you haven't read my other post regarding the New Beverly Cinemas All Night Horror Show, feel free to read the intro to that post to get an idea for the flavor of these all night events:

Arrived at the Aero Theater at approximately 6:30PM, one hour before showtime.  The event was 7:30AM to 7:30PM - 12 hours of movies and oddities. About 75 people were already in line.  There was a chatty young college-aged guy in a leprechaun costume, a young couple, and a Santa Monica College reporter next to me and my friend in line. Another all night horror marathon! This time I had a buddy. It was his first all nighter.

An announcement was made to all those in line --- apparently they have been working on the projectors all day, but should have them back up and running in time for the show. Oh no! I started having flash backs of last year's cancelation. Last year the event was cut short due to the power on the block being shut down. They closed the event down after the first two films. Chatting up another person in line, I apparently left too early that year. According to him, after half the crowd left, the power was restored and the show went on. I'm a little bummed I left now. Hopefully this would not happen again. Is the Aero cursed!

The delay resulted in the line growing to epic proportions. They didn't start letting people in until about 45 minutes or an hour after the show was suppose to start. The line wrapped around the block all the way into the residential area.  More than 400 people crowding the sidewalk waiting to get in armed with blankets and pillows for comfort. This gave us plenty of time to get to know the folks around us. One of the interesting aspects of these all night events is that you start to feel a kinship with the crowd. You see the same faces year after year. It's like spending the night with a group of like-minded folk. Everyone, or most, are all there because they love to watch scary movies at Halloween.

Once inside we grabbed a couple isle seats about 8 or 10 rows from the front. My friend had to hit the caffein early. I settled into my space. Sitting in front of us was a guy I recognized from the Nightmare City Video Nasty series, so we chatted about that for a bit. See, it's like a community. Even at different theaters you start to see the same faces. We're all one happy group of Halloween misfits.

Grant, the horrorthon host, looking a little like a David Yow clone, casually walks down front in a plane white T-shirt holding a paper bag full of candy and prizes. The moment he picks up the microphone his demeanor changes. "Welcome to the 7th annual HORRORTHON!!!" He screams so loud the microphone crackles. The crowds attention is snapped up.

"We got prizes!" His face is turning red from screaming at the top of his lungs.

"We got saaaandwhiches!" Veins popping out on his forehead.

"We got coffee!" The audience is cheering loudly but are drowned out by the deafening introduction.

"We got FREE Toilet use!" My friend laughs next to me. I forgot to prepare him for the insanity of the horrorthon host.

"We got candy!"

I yell out, "What about Soup."

In a completely normal tone of voice he abruptly replies, "No soup." They use to have soup at the odd choice, but haven't had it for the past two years.

"I'm gonna order some Piiiiiizza!" You see here is the thing. All these things Grant is screaming is FREE! Yes they give away free sandwiches, free cookies, free coffee, free candy, free pizza, free prizes, and free toilet use. Free, Free, Free. I'm puzzled how they make money on this event. Either everything is donated or they are losing money as the event is only $20.

Grant then begins hurling candy into the crowd. Screaming, "Who wants candy!" He tosses in some posters and dvd's in for good measure. The crowd  is all holding their hands up begging for a prize to come their way. He empties his bag of goodies.

Time to start the show. A bionic man episode starts. Steve Austin VS Sasquatch. Intertitles with made up stars flash across Lee Majors' and the ridiculous looking Sasquatch's image. The sequence plays on for well over 5 minutes with dozens and dozens of made up characters and star titles appearing on screen. If you are new to this event, I'm sure you are very confused. This starts the show every year. I believe the made up names are actually the names of people who bought tickets early or perhaps it's volunteers and prize donors or it could be both. One year I need to test my theory and get a ticket weeks in advance.

Words on white appear on screen. Some are in Indian and some in English. A malady is listed at the bottom of the screen. A meditative voice with an Indian accent, "I command your bones to go back into alignment." Very soft, very soothing. "I command your body and spirit to align." Then flashes of the lizard creature from Star Trek, Gorn, superimposed on the screen. The voice continues to hypnotize the audience. This is new. The audience doesn't know how to react.

Now for something familiar from years past, a cute little groundhog appears on screen. It opens its mouth and in an English accent yells, "Alan! Alan!" The crowd loves it. They chant along, "Alan, Alan." This is a pretty known internet meme taken from the BBC program Walk On The Wild Side.

Some marathons play shorts and trailers. The Aero plays bizarre video clips and often repeats them over and over. The best clips get repeated in future years. The groundhog has been there since the first annual event in 2006. The repeat audience members are familiar with the clips and often chant and interact with what's on screen. So its a lot like Rocky Horror in that regard.

Once the movies start, the crowd settles in and becomes 100% reverent. I love this crowd. Total respect for the films. They know when to yell and have fun and when to be quiet and watch. I have been to a lot of different all night or even all day 24 hour events like this and trust me, the crowds vary. Sometimes during events similar to this it can be so disruptive that you cannot even hear what is on screen. The Cleveland 30 hour, yes 30 hour marathons being the most rowdy with people literally yelling every few seconds with some attendees spouting stream of conscious jokes one after the other in an attempt to be funny. Most of the people in Cleveland are there to have a rowdy time with their friends and not as interested in "watching" the films. This event is the polar opposite, but you still get that "Rocky Horror - Like" atmosphere during the in-between video madness thrown up on the screen.

They always start the event with a bang. In 2010 it was Fright Night, last year it was Pet Cemetery, this year it was Hellraiser. What a start indeed. Hellraiser is one of my favorite horror films and still packs a punch today. It's amazing how little Pinhead is in the actual film. Eventually with all the sequels he would become the icon of the series. Here he plays a small role, with Frank being the main villain. The film print was in perfect condition. I hadn't seen this on film since it's initial release so it was nice seeing it in such great shape.

I know I said this crowd was one of the most reverent, but this year there was one exception. There was a group of teenage girls to the right of me on the other side of the isle that chatted through most of the film. Thankfully they were whispering so it really wasn't that bad especially when you compare it to Cleveland's marathon.

My favorite part watching Hellraiser with this crowd was when the statue of Jesus falls creating a loud jump-in-you-seat jolt and of course the entire audience screams, thus getting the be-Jesus scared out of them (Pun intended).

Break time. Sandwiches are served. Enough for all. The line wraps out of the lobby, into the theater, all the way down to the screen.

The host walks up front holding his head in pain. "I'm soooo tired! What was I thinking!" He pulls at his hair. "Oh my god! I can't take it anymore!" Spittle flies. He breaths like he just ran a marathon. "Oh my god, the pain! I'm too tired. WHY! Why do I do this. What time is it!!!"

Off stage, "Grant, it's only 10pm....."

Grant's demeanor snaps to normal. "Oh, it's only 10." He does this joke every year. Done with the joke he treats the audience to more candy and prizes. It's time to bring out Randy. "Who wants candy from Randy?! I said, WHO WANTS CANDY FROM RANDY!" Randy comes out from behind the screen wearing a mask and....well...he gives out candy. Candy from Randy.

"Who wants corn from Gorn?! If you chant for Gorn he will come." Ok...this was new. The crowd begins chanting, "Gorn! Gorn! Gorn!" Finally a guy in a trench coat and a Gorn mask comes out and starts handing out...well...he starts handing out ears of corn. I shit you not. He has a trench coat full of corn. He walks like a zombie and slowly hands ears of corn to the crowd. My friend scores an ear of corn. He looks at me laughing in total confusion. He doesn't know what to think. The whole event is rather surreal.

Screen lights up. We get to watch a most ridiculous mustachioed man in a silver lamay suite sing a disco song. I looked it up later. It was Dennis Parker singing "Like an Eagle". Google it to watch it on youtube. Wow!

Then an old audience favorite. The Red Roof Inn commercial. It's this awful commercial that tries to be funny and you can't help but watch it and groan at the humor. It's one of those commercials that are torturous to watch. So of course they subject the audience to it over and over again. The audience knows the monologue and shouts along with the commercial. This years horrorthon T-shirt is the redroof inn guy as a zombie.

Next film up at approximately 10:20pm, Motel Hell. This 80's tongue in cheek horror film never really stayed with the horror cult fans as much as you would think. I mean, not that it's not known or liked. It's just not as popular of a cult hit as you would think. This of course is just my own personal observation. This crowd however seem to really like it. Rory Calhoun, Nancy Parson, and especially Wolfman Jack, all got a huge applause when their credit came up.

Farmer Vincent has the best smoked meats in town. What's in the's a horror film, so I think you can guess. His motto: "It takes all kinds of critters to make farmer Vincent's fritters." Some of those critters just happen to be innocent travelers.

Another absolute pristine 35mm print. Looks as good as it probably did on its first run. I really got into it. It's funny, gory, has solid acting, good comic book like cinematography. I'm surprised it's not more popular. I really remember being freaked out by the film as an adolescent. I think I was too scared to get the humor of it all. A guy in a pig head mask with a bloody chainsaw. That's scary as shit to a 12 year old kid. I assume that was my age because I didn't see it until it went to video. Wow, pretty graphic for a kid...hell even for some adults, though it is all treated in a humorous tone. This was one of the highlights for my friend. I gotta say, I think it was one of mine too. Nice to rediscover this one.

Break time. Next up. Pizza. Boxes and boxes and boxes of Pizza. Can you imagine the order. It's for like over 400 people! Hell, for $20 you get 6 movies and dinner!

More Candy, DVD's and prizes. More Candy from Randy. More Corn From Gorn.

Screen lights up. Words on white. The meditative voice with the Indian accent. "Liver fluke worms I command you to die." After the liver fluke worms are expunged from the collective audience, the voice proceeds to cure us of Diarrhea. Flashes of Gorn on the screen. Each time Gorn appears the audience now shouts, "GORN!" The soothing accented voice says, "I command you scabies and mites to leave the body." Good thing we are getting that taken care of.

Time to go back a little further to 1975 for Devil's Rain starring Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, William Shatner, and even a guest appearance from John Travolta. All get a big applause. I'm not a huge fan of this film, but it does have a lot of face melting. I mean, if you like face melting you gotta see this film. I think there's like a whole reel worth of face melting in the film. It's like the director fell in love with the effect and decided to put in a 20 minute sequence of faces melting in the rain.

I do like some things about the film. I mean the face melting is cool, just not worth a whole reel. I also like Ernest Borgnine as the cult leader. How can you not like Ernest Borgnine. He's always so likable so it's cool to see him play a villain. Also on display are the awesome acting talents of William Shatner. If you like oddly placed pauses and off beat alliteration in your acting, then you love William Shatner. I can't help but think of Gorn when I see Shatner on screen.

The print was in OK shape. A little faded. Probably the worse print up until now that they have shown. Still worthy of being seen on the big screen. Anytime you get to see Shatner bigger than life, it's worth it.

Breaktime! More Candy from Randy. Corn From Gorn.  Prizes.

Lost about 20% of the crowd at this point.

Time to announce the new Mr/Mrs Horrorthon. Randy, at least I think it was Randy and not Gorn, randomly choses someone from the audience to be the new Mr. Horrorthon. The lucky young man or woman is addorned with the horrorthon costume which is a cardboard box covered with stuck on candy and dvd boxes. He dons the costume and then the Corn Gorn dances with Mr. Horrorthon as Grant and the audience sing the Mr. Horrorthon song. Hell...I can't believe I am typing this. It's truly surreal. You have to see it to believe it. Grant even breaks character laughing at one point.

Hemorroids -- "I command the blood vessels to shrink."
Anal Fissures -- "I command the anal fisure to close. Body and mind align. Pelvis rotate into place"

A bearded guy in his late 20's that's 2 seats down from us starts to freak out. He looks at me, "What is going on! Just play the movie. What the fuck is the Corn Gorn? What is all this shit." This is clearly his first time. I think he is tired and just wants the next movie to start. Even though he complained he still shouted along with everyone as the video madness played. Maybe he was starting to lose his mind. Maybe we were all hypnotized by the on screen visuals and he was the only sane person left.

This is not the best of Carpenter, but still worthy. It feels like a John Carpenter for hire film. It still has his touches, but feels more Stephen King that Carpenter. Not necessarily a bad thing. King's credit got one of the loudest applauses of all. After Devil's Rain this is a nice pick me up for pacing. One of the nice things about the Aero's programming is their sense of pacing. Playing films at all the right times.

Keith Gordon plays Arnie, the bespectacled nerdy teen who becomes obsessed/possessed by the 1957 Plymouth Fury he buys from an old man. It's a fixer-upper. Gordon's performance is one of the strong points of the movie. His turn from nervous geek to confident dark possessed youth is impressive. He would later go on to direct -- The Chocolate War, The Singing Detective, and now a lot of TV stuff like episodes of Dexter and House M.D. and the Killing.

Yeah it's a killer car movie. The premise is ridiculous and I love that the movie never really tries to explain it all. The car is evil. Period. No explanation. The real time is spent on character and how Arnie transforms. Not Carpenter's best, but certainly not his worse. I still enjoyed this film even though I have seen it twice on the big screen and several times on video. Oh, and the print was perfect.

Candy...Prizes...Dvd hurling...Grant tosses DVD's on the ground and asks audience members to fight to the death for them.

"Bunions I command you to fall off and not return. Pelvis align with the body..."

Lost a good portion of the crowd. Probably a 3/4 had left.

The Spanish/Italian flick, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, also known as The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue was up next. My buddy is starting to fade. Me too. More coffee.

I warned my buddy that this film may be the one that kills me. It's not fast paced. I decide to stand in the back of the theater for a good portion of this film so I can keep my blood flowing. Neither of us had slept yet, and I wasn't about to start. It was about 5AM or so. Most of the West Coast was sound asleep and we were starting our 5th film of the night.

Fully expecting a faded print I was instead treated to a restored digital print. It didn't look like Blu-Ray, but for the life of me I don't see any news about a DCP maybe it was Blu-Ray. I didn't see any compression. The greens were too vibrant and video-like, but other than that the print looked really nice.

The strength of this film is the set-up, the situations, and the characters. The plot isn't anything special. Basically ---  The dead are coming to life caused from a machine that was designed to kill insects. The machine does more than kill insects, it also causes the living dead to rise up and eat the living. What's good about the film are all the little extra color added and the set pieces. Well worth checking out if you are a zombie fan.

No candy, prizes, or video between the last film. Going straight through. Only about 75 people left.

Holy Shit. This is one Holy Fucking Shit movie. The kind of movie you watch and just can't believe its a real movie. A medicine man is growing on the back of a woman like a fetus. Soon she will give birth to a midget medicine man from her tumor like growth. This movie has Tony Curtis in it. I mean, he's a A-list actor. It has Susan Strasberg who just came off of shooting Rollercoaster. This is a real movie. It's hard to believe it exists.

The acting is solid. The movie has a real plot. It's just weird and eventually goes off the rails of the crazy train. The film has it's moments early on, but it is the final 15 or so minutes which are the truly Holy Fucking Shit moments.

I literally was laughing so hard I was crying during the last minutes of the film. My friend could not believe what he was seeing. I don't think he had ever seen anything quite like it. Hell, I don't think many people have. If there is ever a way to watch this film, it is here, with this crowd, in this atmosphere. Watch it at home on video alone and you may be a little disappointed. Watch it with a crowd and it changes everything. The first time I saw this was on video with about 4 or 5 of my friends and it was enjoyable then, but man, it was a blast this time. Only if this had played when there was a full crowd.

Tired, but scored a victory. Neither of us slept a wink. We had endured! I have gone every year but one. I missed the 4th annual event. This was the 7th annual. The lineups have always been solid (see below) and it always proves to be a unique experience. I'll be back again next year.

Night of the Living Dead
House by the Cemetery
Castle of Blood
Burial Ground

Return of the Living Dead
From Beyond
The Beyond
Last House On the Left
The Children
Gates of Hell

Night of the Creeps
Texas Chainsaw 2
Dead Alive
Lets Scare Jessica to Death

People Under the Stairs
Day of the Dead
The Brood
Mainiac (Will Lustig in person)

Fright Night
Don't Look In The Basement
Bloody Birthday
Cemetery Man

Pet Cemetery
Tourist Trap
The Pit
Alice Sweet Alice
Just Before Dawn

Motel Hell
Devil's Rain
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 17 - 26

Wow, so many days off. My brother has been visiting from out of town and much fun was had. Went to Napa Valley and drank our way through several wineries, ate lots of good food, walked the Golden Gate bridge, drank with Giant's fans at Peet's bar across from AT&T park and watched them clinch the Championship, partied with the animals at the San Diego zoo. It's been fun, but only saw one movie, Looper, which I had seen before. Time for some more nasty stuff.

I actually saw 4 films before I took my hiatus. I will catch up here quickly, otherwise I will never get caught up in writing.

DAY 17

The last film that I saw at Screamfest this year was Thale, a Norwegian horror film about a tailed creature known as a Huldra. Our two heroes find her in a basement they are hired to clean out. Overall, I found the film to be pretty mediocre. It's not that anything is wrong with it. The film just kinda exists. It's the kinda film that you may watch if you run across it on cable, but not something you should or would seek out to watch in a theater.

I think I missed the good ones at Screamfest this year. American Mary and The Factory were the two films I missed that had potential. I'll have to catch up with them upon release. I suspect American Mary would have been THAT Screamfest film. The film that stands out. Nothing I saw this year really stood out. Last year standouts were Innkeepers and Some Guy Who Kills People. The year before was Black Death. The year before that was Human Centipede and House of the Devil. This

Driller Killer
I'd never seen this before, but have known about it for years. I like Abel Ferrara's other work, so it was nice to catch up with this. He directs and acts, in fact he's the lead character. He actually gives a really good performance. Love the band in the movie. This is a very New York, very punk/NewWave film, very 42nd street. The cast seem like authentic New Yorkers, even the homeless seem like authentic NY homeless.

DAY 18

Guilty of Romance
I loved Suicide Club, the first film I saw from Sion Sono. Since then I thought Hair Extension was just OK and Cold Fish and Guilty of Romance were not my cup of tea. Cold Fish I got frustrated with the main character and his spineless behavior. Guilty of Romance the lead character was also frustrating to watch as she continually gets in deeper with pimps and prostitutes. Don't listen to me though. People are crazy about his films.

Mardi Gras Massacre
I hate the term "So bad it's good". I hate it because if the movie is fun, then its good, right. Never, ever put yourself above the movie. I think a lot of people like to watch "bad" films so they can make fun of them and laugh at them. If a movie is bad I don't want to watch it. You can laugh at a film, but never put yourself above it.

Without a doubt I think people will generally consider this a bad film, but man is it interesting and charming in it's own neon blood-soaked way. It was made by Jack Weis who simply wanted to remake Blood Feast, the Hershal Gordon Lewis film. He gathered up a bunch of locals and set off to make the movie. The actors are all amateur but not without their own quirkiness. Some of the dialogue is pretty outrageous and yes, I did laugh at it. See this film, but ONLY SEE IT WITH A CROWD. It was a lot of fun.

DAY 19 -24
This was my hiatus.

DAY 25
Nightmares In A Damaged Brain
I had seen this before and it was the closest I have ever come to a grindhouse experience. It was on a triple bill with Pieces and Don't Go In The House. The theater was the theater on Vine in Hollywood. A run down 2nd run theater that occasionally would show something off the wall and out of the ordinary. It was dark, the seats were filthy, in fact later an acquaintance said they were there that night too and they had to move from their original seats because one of them was wet. It's the kinda place you might find a homeless person passing time watching movies. Anyway, the last film was Nightmares and mid-way into the film a guy in a leather gimp suit complete with mask sits down in front of us. He's all by himself. Nobody joins him. He doesn't take the mask off. He watches the rest of the movie mask on. When the film lets out at like 3 or so in the morning, my buddy and I nervously walk through Hollywood to our car. This was back when Hollywood was more run down and dirty than it is now, so we were a little uneasy.

That's the kinda film this is. Of course someone in a gimp mask who is a massocist would want to watch this film. Of course it would play in this shitty dirtbag theater. I actually like the film a lot. Maybe it's because of my first experience watching it.

DAY 26
Faces of Death
I avoided this film my whole life. Had no interest in seeing it. It's a documentary on death that uses real footage of death. Some are real and some are faked.  It was legendary amongst high school kids.  Kids sought it out knowing it was banned in 46 countries. It was taboo. It was like a badge of honor, "You saw faces of death!"

I have never been a fan of films that just want to show you disgusting images with nothing else behind them. I's all a matter of opinion. I like Hostel which a lot of people accuse that film of being just that. This film however has no plot. It's just death after death. Meant to disturb you, disgust you, and freak you out. Well, if I was ever going to see this legendary cult film this was the venue to see it, so I went and it was exactly what I thought it was going to be.

One of the interesting draws for this screening was the director was there to introduce the film. John Swartz had long stringy hair and a stooped posture. He reminded me of a hippy stoner. He even spoke in that slow stoner tone like he wasn't necessarily rushed to get his sentences out. He even had a bizarre dark and dry sense of humor. He jokes, (paraphrased) "Famous Murderers wanted to meet me. Dahmer wanted to meet me and invited me to dinner, but I was nervous that I would be late and he would give me the cold shoulder." Ouch!

According to Swartz, The film was made on Japanese money. Some Japanese funders commissioned him to make a film about death. For Influence he drew upon the film Hellstrom Chronicle, a mockumentary film made in 1971. Up until this film he had worked as an editor on the series "In Search of..."

The most interesting question for him was, "What was real that everyone thought was fake and what was fake that everyone thought was real." The answer --- The monkey scene was faked and the morgue scenes were all real. They filmed 7 autopsies at once. He said "the place smelled like a bad deli."

He said he is still actually haunted by the images he put on the screen. Today he and his wife review films on their website The tag line: Tearing Apart Their Marriage One Film At A Time.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Day 16: Resolution and The Toolbox Murders

Another Day of Screamfest and Cinefamily. I seriously see the same people every day. It's like we are this dysfunctional family. Again, sorry to be so brief, just need to catch up.


A screamfest premiere. The filmmakers were there to introduce the film, though I didn't have time to stay for the post Q&A. They were incredibly energetic. They invited everyone over to the Figuerroa Hotel bar for drinks and more Q&A. Nice. Too bad I had to dash afterward to catch Toolbox Murders.

The film has a great premise. Two friends in a semi remote location on an Indian reservation. One is a crack addicted junkie who is squating in an abandoned house on the reservation. The other is his best friend and upstanding citizen who is going to hand cuff his buddy to the house pipes and force him to kick his habit. Well, some bad shit happens.

The premise is what sold me on attending. The performances proved to be good too. As I watched the film, I was absorbed and curious as to what was going to happen next. The guys keep finding old VHS tapes and old super 8 films around. Eventually they turn up on the films. Is someone taping them? What's going on....

I was glued throughout most of the film. By the end of it all, upon reflection I was a little disappointed, but the trip was a lot of fun. I don't want to spoil anything so I will keep it as that.

The Toolbox Murders
Brief....must be brief. The Toolbox Murders. Phil Blankenship, one of the Cinefamily bookers said it well, "If you like Violence, you are going to love the first 20 minutes of this film. If you like talking, you are going to love the next 60 minutes." Ha! OK, its not really that boring, I actually find all the middle stuff interesting. But yes, there is a lot of Violence to kick it off. Sorry...gotta be brief. I recommend The Toolbox Murders. You'll love Cameron Mitchell's performance.