Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Marathon

Inspired by the AV Club's 24 hour horror movie marathon, as programmed by Eli Roth, I thought I'd concoct my own marathon for this Halloween.

I guess I'll adhere to the schedule Roth lays down for his marathon: noon-to-noon. And yes, it does make a difference. Some of these movies need to be watched at night. Viewing times are approximate, with a few minutes laid aside here and there for bathroom breaks and shots of caffeine and/or Jack Daniels.

The Devil's Rejects
Noon - 2 PM
Boy, the next word out of your mouth better be some brilliant fuckin' Mark Twain shit, 'cause it's definitely getting chiseled on your tombstone.

I love The Devil's Rejects. I raved about it when I first saw it; I even called it my favorite movie of 2005. If I go through with this marathon, I'll be watching it with buddies who saw Rejects in the theater with me; this film actually became a genuine bonding experience between us. What better way to start off this marathon than with the film that solidified our friendship? What better way to start than with one of my favorite films -- horror or otherwise -- of the new millennium? (Answer: none. None better way.)

The Omen
2 PM - 4 PM
Look at me, Damien! It's all for you.

Next, we throttle back a bit, with a classic that's a little more thoughtful and suspenseful, that demands a bit more patience than the all-out assault of Rejects. I love The Omen, but it's probably best to front-load it in the marathon, as the mood and tension the film creates require a certain amount of attention, which will probably be lacking in the small hours of the morning. The last time I watched it, a few years back, I was pleased to find that the few gory, shocking moments, though slightly cheesy by today's standards, still pack quite a punch if you allow yourself to become absorbed in the narrative.

Friday the 13th Part II
4 PM - 5:30 PM
You're all doomed. You're all doomed!

I had to include at least one entry from the three biggest franchises in horror -- A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. For some reason, I'm not much in a Halloween mood this Halloween. (Maybe if Rob Zombie's remake were out on DVD... but it's not.) And if it comes down to Freddy vs. Jason (which it has), I'll go with Jason every time. I've always been a fan of the Friday series, going way back to my pre-teen years, when Part II became the very first gory horror movie I ever saw. And childhood trauma aside, this probably is the very best of the series, with Jason taking center stage for the first time, and a finale that ranks among the most disturbing of the '80s teen horror boom.

Near Dark
5:30 PM - 7 PM
Normal folks, they don't spit out bullets when you shoot 'em, no sir.

Near Dark, I think, is a fine choice to watch as the day actually turns to night outside. I've only seen this film once, a long, long time ago. I'm looking forward to rewatching it, whether as part of this marathon or just renting it on its own sometime, for the heck of it. I love the way director Kathryn Bigelow mixes the vampire and Western genres (which I think Tarantino and Rodriguez did to lesser success with From Dusk Till Dawn). And the reunion of Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen, from the previous year's Aliens, is worth the ticket price in and of itself.

Evil Dead 2
7 PM - 8:30 PM

In the AV Club feature, Eli Roth selected the original Evil Dead. I prefer Evil Dead 2, the half remake, half sequel. It may not have quite the same unsettling low budget immediacy of the original. But in the intervening years, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell had become true professionals, rather than inspired amateurs. This second film is slicker, funnier, and much, much bloodier. It's been 15 years now since Army of Darkness. A remake of the original is in the works (with someone other than Raimi directing), but that's not what we want. Dammit, where's Part 4, guys?

The Thing
8:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Somebody in this camp ain't what he appears to be.

Roth, who uses The Thing to open his marathon, calls it "one of the best horror films of all time," and he's not wrong. It's still absolutely shocking in its groundbreaking, astoundingly original and grisly special effects. And the gore is enhanced by the layers of paranoia, dread, and isolation director John Carpenter blankets the action with. A landmark in horror.

10:30 PM - Midnight
Who's going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow.

I'm trying to alternate between the darker, longer, more straightforward of the marathon entries with lighter, shorter, more humorous fare. And while Re-Animator is tremendously gross and disturbing, a swift punch to the gut, it's also very, very funny. Genre great Jeffrey Combs is a riot as the disturbed Dr. Herbert West, and the horror is so extreme, it quickly becomes necessary to laugh in order to preserve your sanity: oh, no, what is that man doing to that woman with his own severed head??? It's awful, awful, awful -- and sickly hilarious.

The Fly
Midnight - 1:30 AM
I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake.

Last year, I praised this movie in detail. Go read what I said there. Along with, and even moreso than, The Thing, this is a strong contender for best horror movie ever made (both films remakes, oddly enough), and absolutely essential in this marathon.

An American Werewolf in London
1:30 AM - 3:15 AM
I was murdered, an unnatural death, and now I walk the earth in limbo until the werewolf's curse is lifted.

Another gear-shift film, from the profoundly affecting psychological horror of David Cronenberg to the lighter, though lavishly bloody and scary, work of John Landis. Rick Baker's Oscar-winning FX are still remarkably convincing, with the bloody mess Griffin Dunne deteriorates into being a particular highlight. The shock moments peppered throughout never fail to make me jump, and the comedy never fails to make me laugh (as when the very dead Dunne complains to werewolf David Naughton, "Have you ever tried talking to a corpse? It's boring!")

3:15 AM - 5:15 AM
I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.

Much like The Thing, or Evil Dead, Alien is another horror classic built on isolation and paranoia. This one just happens to take place in outer space (where no one can hear you scream). John Hurt's legendary indigestion scene, and the iconic alien, remain horrifying nearly thirty years (!!!) after the film's release.

Dead Alive
5:15 AM - 6:45 AM
Stand back, boy! This calls for divine intervention!

Switching again to comedy-horror, we have Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (aka Braindead, outside of the U.S.), which is quite possibly the goriest movie ever filmed. Non-stop buckets of blood, bile, pus, slime, and assorted other viscous substances ooze out of every frame of this no-holds-barred splatterfest. You practically need an umbrella to watch this thing. And the comedy is as hilarious as the violence is nauseating: who doesn't cheer on hearing Father McGruder's "I kick arse for the Lord!"

6:45 AM - 8:45 AM
If they had told me it was going to be fifteen years, would it have been easier to endure?

I named this harrowing experience my eighth favorite movie of 2005; I said what little I could about it here, after being brutalized by its terrible power. This is a film that haunts you. And it's the one film I most look forward to introducing to my horror movie-loving friends. Even if we can't commit to an entire 24 hour marathon, this has to be one of the movies we watch on Halloween.

8:45 AM - 10:15 AM

As morning creeps in, and our minds buckle under the strain of the marathon, this brisk jolt of nostalgia from my misspent youth should be enough to wake us up for the home stretch. One of my fondest grade school memories is of spending the night at my friend Kevin's house, staying up way, way too late, and watching Phantasm on Showtime. Then having Mountain Dew-fueled nightmares starring Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man.

Shaun of the Dead
10:15 AM - Noon
You know, I don't think I've got it in me to shoot my flatmate, my mum, and my girlfriend all in the same night.

Perhaps the perfect film to conclude a horror marathon. I called it my seventh favorite film of 2004; going solely by how many times I've seen it compared to the other films in that top ten, it's now number one by a country mile. It should've been on my Most Rewatchable List; even though I own it on DVD, whenever I run across it on TV I have to watch it (as I did just last Saturday on Comedy Central). This zombie comedy should be an attention-keeper, even at the very end of a rough 24 hours of horror film overload, and should serve as a painless transition back into the real world (or restless, haunted sleep).

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