Exhumed Films Twenty-Four Hour Horror-thon 2015


Another Exhumed Films Horror-Thon has come and gone and I am a better person for having attended. I’ll save you the gushing about why this even is so great, you can check that out in the previous write-ups below. I’ll just say that it is a huge privilege to be able to see 14 35mm classic/obscure/campy films, dozens of trailers and some in the theater in 24 hours.

Here are the line-ups from previous years:

2014 Line-up
2013 Line-up
2012 Line-up
2011 Line-up
2010 Line-up
2009 Line-up
2007 Line-up

We didn’t know what was going to play beforehand. The audience only had access to the clues below. The top guessers won prices. I thought this year I was a shoe-in. I was very happy with my choices. However, only one of those was correct.

In terms of quality, I think this was another consistent year. I enjoyed nearly every film that I could stay awake for!

#1 – Gruesome, insane Hong Kong comedy

This very early film by Tsui Hark shows that even at the start of his career he had a eye for imaginative action and a gleefully insane approach to telling stories. This one is about a secret agent who stumbles upon a village of cannibals with only his martial arts skills, and the help of a sketchy old man, to keep him alive. It’s bizarre and crazy and loads of fun. A must see for fans of martial-arts/horror/action/comedy/gore/spy films.

#2 – Totally awesome Action/Horror/Sci-fi amalgam

This early Chuck Norris film is a solid B-action film. It’s a bit slow on the action, but the dated tone makes it entertaining to watch. Chuck takes his shirt off a lot, kicks some butt, and likes to lift his leg up and man-splay for the audience. Stephen Furst (Flounder from Animal House) adds some fun comic relief.

#3 – Giant monster movie

More Godzilla, except this time… he’s from 1985! I don’t know what else I can write about another Godzilla film. If you like him, you’ll like this one. It’s a solid entry in the franchise. If you are tired of him, well, this was a good time to take a nap.

#4 – Innovative, intellectual horror classic from a genre legend

I realized that I really like the non-zombie Romero films. Knightriders is one of my favorite films ever. This one is great, too. A young man it told by his family, based on a family legend, that he is a vampire. He struggles with that idea, and with the expectations of his family and modern society. Dark, interesting, and enigmatic in a good way.

#5 – Horror anthology featuring works by influential genre filmmakers

This DCP projection was more of an interesting oddity than an entertaining piece. It was a compilation of USC student films from the likes of Dan O’Bannon, John Carpenter, and others. They are what they are: very amateur, a bit boring, but mildly interesting.

#6 – Cool Halloween-themed fan favorite from the 1980’s

A lot of fun. The filmmakers knew the formula and made a solid, entertaining demonic possession flick. A group of teenagers go to a party at a creepy, abandoned, and supposedly haunted funeral parlor. Things go predictably wrong from there, but it is fresh and entertaining and moves quickly.

#7 – Strange, funny, and slightly disturbing monster movie that serves as an allegory for addiction

I really like Frank Henenlotter, and I really wanted to see this one. Unfortunately I fell asleep a bit. But what I saw was classic Henenlotter. Funny, perverse, and full of the unique DIY energy of his films. I’ll have to catch up with the second half at a reasonable hour.

#8 –Surreal, cerebral science fiction film with a dash of good old-fashioned monster movie thrown into the mix

Wow. This one was the highlight of the show in my opinion. A big and bombastic pseudo-scientific examination on the origins of consciousness. The dialog is fast and smart, even if it probably doesn’t mean much after real examination. But it sounds great. And the deliveries, mostly by William Hurt, really work. What happens in the film is crazy, full of great ideas, and builds to a memorable climax. Even if you don’t like it, you probably won’t forget it.

#9 – Bizarro sci-fi satire/schlockfest starring a who’s who of cult movie icons

How the hell did this movie get made? I say that in the most loving way possible. This is the bizarre story of an alien monster who gets stuck in the television of a strange family full of swingers, rockers, and soldiers. It’s purposefully campy in a stagey way. It’s a bit perverted, a bit gory, and more than a bit entertaining. I’m surprised this one doesn’t get more play.

#10 – Stylish, gory, and underseen shocker that feels like a Euro-horror film even though it was produced in the US

I missed it completely. The opening was promising, but I had hit the wall and couldn’t possibly stay awake for it.

#11 – Infamous, goofy 1960’s B-grade monster movie

This film was made by a producer. Meaning, it was made as a money grab only. Now, this is just an educated guess, but it was as if Del Tenney said to himself: “Hey, I know teenagers in bathing suits are a draw in movies, and I know monsters are a draw, and I know kids love rock & roll. And I have $1000 to spend on a movie!” So he put all those things together in a film. I’m sure the finished product made him a giant profit, but watching it now it’s just a goofy, campy product of its time.

#12 – Quite simply one of the best vampire movies of all time

The description is very true! I’ve been in love with this one ever since I saw it at a previous Exhumed Films show many many years ago. A family of vampires travels the midwest, keeping a low profile but a high body count. The introduction of a new member causes things to escalate out of control. The script is tight, the performances are great (Lance Hendrickson and Bill Paxton especially), and the direction is bold. A solid, solid film.

#13 – Non-traditional “Animals Attack” moving filling the traditional Horror-thon “Animals Attack” timeslot

I’m really not sure why this one is considered “non-traditional.” It’s a pretty standard animals attack film, albiet directed by one of the greatest action-directors of all time. This, being his first film, doesn’t show that behind the camera talent. And it definitely isn’t as good as the first one. It’s just… fine I guess. Not bad, but nothing special.

#14 – Wacky horror comedy which, shockingly, we have only screened once over the course of eighteen years

Watching this film again after many years really shows how talented the people behind this movie were. Do you think anyone else could have delivered lines like “This is my BOOM-stick!” and “Groovy” And “Hail to the king, Baby.” in such a way to make it cool and not corny? And who else can direct a whole slapstick battle full of fake skeletons and fill it with that much creative energy?

This was a good film to end the night on. One that invigorated my tired mind and my tired body, igniting my burning love of cinema into a bonfire. It sounds corny, I know, but just watch this movie. Really watch the details and understand the talent that went into making it and you’ll probably feel the same way.


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Crimson Peak

CrimsonPeakGuillermo Del Toro, USA, 2015, 119 min.

Crimson Peak is old school big gothic to its core. It was advertised as a horror film, which isn’t really accurate, and that false-advertising probably caused some its box office issues. But that isn’t to say the film isn’t scary.

It definitely is, but more suspenseful than fear-inducing. Ghosts are a part of the film, that’s not spoiling anything, but they really could have been left out without changing the story. They were more window-dressing than anything else. Another tool for Guillermo Del Toro to use to set the mood.

He uses them too much at the beginning, especially the second time the ghost shows up, which didn’t work for me (jump scares, still?) But after that the film settles into its story and moves smoothly and briskly to its conclusion.

“Settles” isn’t a really the best term to describe it, because the film is big and bold and definitely doesn’t rest on its laurels. The set-design, costumes and atmosphere are amazing. The design of that house is a wonder to behold. Del Toro has always shined in that regard and this really is the perfect subject matter for him.

The story is solid, full of twists and turns and enough drama make good use of the set and the atmosphere. All the actors are game to emote theatrically and do it very well, adding to the overall effect.

But the real joy is being swept up in an old school story full of floating corpses, flowing dresses, iris transitions, and fantastic production values. This is the film that Guillermo Del Toro was born to make.

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grandmaPaul Weitz, USA, 2015, 79 min.

Grandma is a movie good in every way except for being great. This low-key tale of a grandmother attempting to help her granddaughter is simple and sweet but maybe a bit too simple to stick around. Which probably explains it’s short running time.

That is not an outright criticism. There is a place in the film world for pleasant, competent diversions. Grandma is one of these, but made more interesting than your average indie by Lily Tomlin’s fun performance and one stand out sequence.

Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is an aging poet, past her prime in both writing and romance, in the midst of breaking up with a younger woman for reasons yet unknown. Her granddaughter (Julie Garner) arrives, sheepishly requesting money for an abortion. Elle doesn’t have it but knows a few places they might be able to get it.

Off they go on a journey through Elle’s present and past. The requisite lessons are learned during the way, but writer/director Paul Weitz is smart enough to not belabor the points. He largely stays out of the way and lets the actors (mostly Lily Tomlin) carry the film.

But that lack of style and substance is what makes the film feel very straightforward. Everything works well but overall the film is nothing new. Pleasant, but a bit pedestrian.

Lily Tomlin has been praised, and deservedly so. Elle is a great character. Rambunctious and in your face with concealed vulnerability. Without her, and without her stellar scene with Sam Elliot, the film would be forgettable.

That scene is easily the highlight. It stands out among the other simpler scenes and makes them feel paper-thin in comparison. I found myself enjoying the journey, and after seeing that scene, yearning for something more.

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Deadly Friend

DeadlyFriendWes Craven, USA, 1986, 91 min.

Deadly Friend has a tumultuous production history. Wes Craven wanted to make a psychological thriller and the studio wanted to up the horror and gore to capitalize on the Wes Craven brand. What results is some of both and not enough of either.

Based on the novel Friend by Diana Henstell, this is story of wiz-kid Paul who has invented artificial intelligence in the brain of his friendly robot BB. BB looks like a 1980’s robot but can do everything from fighting off a group of thugs to playing basketball.

Paul has moved to a new town with his mother and quickly makes friends with the local paperboy and the girl next door. The latter he also quickly falls in love with. But there is a problem: her father. He’s an abusive drunk who doesn’t even let her leave the house let along visit with friends.

Things get worse and worse for Paul and everyone around him until events occur that cause him to have to perform outrageous scientific feats in order to save the women he loves. Morality be damned!

His mad-doctor plan works, or so it seems. What follows in the third act is a a monster movie of sorts and contains one of best gore effects of the film. You’ll know it when you see it.

The direction of the film is a bit spotty. There are some great sequences but overall it is a bit devoid of style. Probably a result of the behind-the-scenes tug of war. Props to Kristy Swanson in her first role who did a great job with this strange material.

Overall this a fun movie full of potential that was never quite realized. It’s entertaining in a quirky dated way. If the idea of watching an 80’s film that has the above robot in it appeals to you, then you won’t be disappointed.

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Manuel on the Island of Wonders

manoel03Raoul Ruiz, Portugal, 1984, 152 min.

NOTE: This review was written 11 years ago (please forgive the amateur trappings), but the film still sticks with me this day.

This Portuguese mini-series is extremely rare. There was a translated version shown on Australian TV only once. If you can, try to find a copy of this broadcast. It’s worth it.

This three episode series comprises the adventures of a young boy. They each play out like a fairy tale. The mood is very light and dreamy. The stories are great and very unique. The first two episodes are fairly straight forward, but the third is quite hard to understand. It doesn’t really matter though, because the mood and the visuals are what makes the them so good.

Its hard to describe… the series is not action oriented, but it is fast paced. It left me with the feeling that, even though I had just watched it, I had heard these stories as a child and were remembering them years later. This is definitely worthwhile. If you ever get a chance to see Manuel on the Island of Wonders, do it. It’s a shame to let this series fade into oblivion.

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