Last month, the fourth annual Shock Around the Clock 24 hour horror marathon was held at the Grandview Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. Now that he has finally recuperated, Cody is ready to share an account of his experience.
I've been going to the Columbus horror marathons since 2001. Over the past eleven years they've gone through fluctuations of length and changes of venues and names, and I've been there through it all. But as the fourth Shock Around the Clock iteration of the marathon neared, I was feeling conflicted. The marathon was being held at the Grandview Theatre from noon on Saturday, October 20th to noon on the 21st, and while I was at Cinema Wasteland over the first weekend of October, I had discovered that there was another horror marathon being held on the 20th - 21st, this one in Cleveland.
Called 12 Hours of Terror 2012, this "rival" marathon had a rather enticing line-up of films booked: Fright Night (1985), Slither (2006), Shaun of the Dead, Terror Train, Jaws 3D in 3D, a "surprise secret screening"... and a movie that almost tempted me to ditch eleven years of tradition and faithful support and go to Cleveland instead of Columbus. A movie that I've been hoping would screen at any one of the marathons that I've gone to over the years but never has (it was shown at a marathon a year or two before I found out about them.) The movie that is at the top of my "I must see this on the big screen with a horror-loving audience" list, one of my all-time favorite films: the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
It hurt me to know that TCM was going to be showing in a theatre in Ohio within my usual travelling circles but I wouldn't be able to see it. I had my ticket for the Columbus marathon, I had a social situation set up in the area to bookend my marathon experience, I stuck with the marathon I had pledged my allegiance to, and some time late on the 20th or early on the 21st, Leatherface did his chainsaw dance on the big screen in front of an audience that did not include me.
I don't regret choosing Columbus, but still really need to see TCM '74 in a theatre or at a drive-in someday.
This year, I was able to go to Columbus the day before the marathon and stay at a friend's house near the theatre, saving myself from the usual 90 minute commute to the Grandview on the morning of the marathon. I arrived at my friend's house Friday evening, we went and saw Sinister, I got a good night's sleep and was able to sleep later than I would have if I was leaving from my own house, went out for breakfast, arrived at the Grandview and got in line around 11 o'clock.
As I joined the line, a marathon volunteer, the one who was dressed as Dr. Caligari last year, handed me a piece of paper with a trivia quiz on it. Fill out the quiz and the winner would get a prize later on. The theatre doors opened and the line began shuffling into the building about ten minutes after I got there. Some people show up at the theatre and get in line as early as 6am, but I much prefer sleeping in a bed for as long as possible over waiting in a line for any period of time. Entering the theatre, I got my ticket stamped by a volunteer and picked up a program/schedule with a ballot for the marathon Horror Hall of Fame tucked inside it. Marathoners would be able to order items from the nearby pizza place Cowtown through the concession stand, so a Cowtown menu was in the program as well. Making my way through the lobby, I stopped by the merchandise table to buy an event T-shirt.
As announced on the website and printed within the program, the marathon's schedule was:
NOON - THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES
1:50 - WHITE ZOMBIE
3:30 - SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES
5:30 - The 4th Annual Costume Contest
5:45 - PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
7:40 - KILL LIST
9:30 - POSSESSION (1981)
11:45 - The 4th Annual Scream Contest
MIDNIGHT - THE DEVILS
2:15 - DEAD ALIVE
4:40 - VIDEODROME
6:30 - THE LAST CIRCUS
8:45 - WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS
10:30 - AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
Anyone who had gone to a marathon before would know, and the new attendees would soon find out, that trusting a schedule to remain accurate for very long is not a safe bet. The order of events is correct, but the times are just a hope.
Program in hand and Shock Around the Clock T-shirt thrown over my shoulder, I pushed through the doors and entered the room where I'd be spending most of the next twenty-six hours or so. The auditorium. There I found that the exact seat that I was hoping to get was still available, and so that's the one I took.
It wasn't long after noon when marathon hosts Joe Neff and Bruce Bartoo stood below the screen to welcome the crowd and start the show. When Joe and Bruce finished talking, there was a countdown from thirteen to a group scream, then the lights dimmed and the first movie began.
THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)
Phibes was preceded by a twenty minute block of trailers, and I have to mention that I really enjoyed the fact that this year's selection of trailers tended to lean toward exploitation and schlock. The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant, Eyeball, Hercules in the Haunted World, The Funhouse... A triple feature of The Corpse Grinders, The Undertaker and His Pals, and The Embalmer? Sounds like a hell of a night. Squirm? Love it.
Phibes is a great film itself, starring Vincent Price as a man who uses the Biblical plagues to wipe out the group of medical professionals he blames for his wife's death on the operating table. His late wife is played by The Spy Who Loved Me henchwoman Caroline Munro, so it's totally understandable that losing her would set a man off on a murderous rampage.
Late in the film, I took a trip out to the lobby, during which I bought a large drink with free unlimited refills, which would come in handy over the next day. When I returned to the auditorium, I found that my seat had been taken by a couple who had arrived late. The auditorium was so dark to their outside eyes that the man hadn't even realized that he was sitting on top of my Shock shirt and my coat. When I asked to get my stuff out from under him, the couple apologized for taking my seat and rose to go find somewhere else to sit, but the auditorium was pretty full, tickets for this marathon had sold better than several years previous, so I told them to come back if they couldn't find two seats together. They couldn't, and when they got back they had decided that the guy would take the seat beside me and the girl would sit beside the guy in the row behind. (There are only two seats in each side row.) Instead, I let them have the two seats together and I moved back a row. So I lost my perfect seat after an hour or so, but I couldn't let a couple sit apart.
That wasn't the only trouble during Phibes. The marathon got off to a rough start, as the projector broke twice during the movie. Not the film, the projector itself. If the issue couldn't be fixed, we would've been up a creek. Fortunately, the broken part was successfully replaced and things ran smoothly for the rest of the event, but by the end of Phibes we were already an hour and a half behind schedule.
During the brief break between movies, the guy who I moved back and sat beside relocated, so I ended up having a side row to myself again. Joe and Bruce soon introduced the second film, the movie whose title a musician named Robert Cummings built a career on:
WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
A young American woman arrives in Haiti and is targeted by a voodoo-practicing, zombie-creating Bela Lugosi, playing the awesomely named character Murder Legendre and sporting bushy and styled eyebrows, to become the titular white zombie.
White Zombie is an atmospheric classic, but it's not one that has a lot of rewatchability for me, I'm not often in the mindset or mood necessary to be in to watch it, and I wasn't really excited about sitting through it on this day. So, to pass the time I cheated in the same way that was established at both last year's marathon and last fall's Cinema Wasteland - I hooked a single earbud to my phone and listened to the latest episode of the Tell 'Em Steve-Dave podcast in one ear while watching the screen. As I promised last year, no one notices when I do this, the podcast can only be heard in my ear.
The podcast and movie both came to an end, and then it was time for one of the movies I was most looking forward to:
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)
When a carnival comes rolling into his small town, a young boy finds out that the supernatural carnies have evil intentions for the townspeople.
This may be a kid-friendly Disney production, but that doesn't stop it from being a great movie, and it features fantastic performances by Jason Robards as the main character's aging father and Jonathan Pryce as the carnival's proprietor. Pryce is much more menacing as this film's Mr. Dark than he was as the over-the-top villain in Tomorrow Never Dies. The awe-inspiring, standout moment of the film for me is a confrontation between Pryce and Robards in the library.
With its October setting, marathon day was the perfect time to be watching this movie, a viewing that was only my second time seeing it. I just watched it for the first time within the last year, and while it still totally works for me in my late twenties, it also makes me wish this had been a film I had grown up watching. If I ever have a kid of my own, this is definitely a movie that I'm going to include in their viewing rotation.
Ray Bradbury wrote the screenplay, based on his own novel, and Joe introduced the film with a reading of Bradbury's last published work, Take Me Home, from the pages of The New Yorker.
Following Something Wicked, it was time for
The 4th Annual Costume Contest
Overcoming competition from the likes of Mario, Vera Cosgrove, an out-of-shape Bane, and a man with an eyeball head, the winner was a kilt-wearing ape playing bagpipes.
Having witnessed the costume contest, I then went out to the lobby and put in a pizza order as the next movie began. I was told that the orders were backed up an hour and a half to two hours, so I would be able to watch the entire movie before I would have to check and see if my food had arrived. So I went back into the auditorium for another of the movies that I was most looking forward to:
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
Faust and Phantom of the Opera collide in Brian De Palma's wonderfully '70s oddball musical.
This movie is very strange and unique, and it's sort of amazing that this wasn't a dream project that De Palma was only able to get funded after the box office success of Carrie, it's something he made while he was working his way up, a couple years before Carrie. I don't know how this movie got made, but I'm very glad that it did. It was a lot of fun watching it with the crowd and it went over well with them, particularly Gerrit Graham's performance as glam rocker Beef. Beef even got a couple write-in votes for the Horror Hall of Fame.
The tunes provided by Paul Williams are fantastic and were stuck in my head for days afterward.
When Paradise ended, I went out to the lobby to check and see if my pepperoni stromboli had been delivered yet. It wasn't on the pizza order table, but I heard that marathon minions had been sent out to pick up another order, so I waited around in the lobby. After several minutes, the pizza order still hadn't arrived, so I headed back in the auditorium to be in the room for Joe and Bruce's talk before the next movie, intending to go back to the lobby as soon as they were done. Joe and Bruce took their spots below the screen not long after I returned to my seat, and they gave an intro for Kill List. Just as the intro was wrapping up, Caligari joined the hosts at the front of the auditorium and - I could hear him from where I was sitting - that Mike, Chris, and Cody had pizza orders that had been sitting in the lobby for ten minutes. My stromboli must have arrived just as I was going back into the auditorium. Joe then said into his microphone, "I guess we're shaming these people. Mike, Chris, and Cody have had pizza orders waiting for ten minutes."
What happened then was probably inconsequential and instantly forgettable for everyone else in the room, but it was a breakthrough for me in regards to my social anxiety. In previous years, I would've just remained in my seat and not reacted to Joe's announcement, especially given the fact that he just said I was being "shamed". I would've waited for the lights to go down and the movie to begin before I got up and went out to the lobby to retrieve my stromboli. But I am making progress in the fight against my social problems, so when my name was thrown out, I stood up and headed for the lobby. When I was halfway to the door, Joe stopped me by asking, "Are you Mike, Chris, or Cody?" I stopped, looked back at him, and with 300 people watching the scene, I said my name. And somehow my voice projected all the way to the front of the auditorium and he heard me, even though people often have trouble hearing me when they're just a few feet away and I often feel like I don't have control over the volume of my voice. He replied, "It's OK, Cody, we still like you." And I went out to the lobby, where Caligari soon joined me to give me my stromboli.
KILL LIST (2011)
Food in hand, I returned to the auditorium to stuff my face and watch this movie, which tells the story of a hitman whose latest job turns his life into a living hell.
I had seen this movie before and am not really a fan of it. In fact, the most enjoyment I got out of it came after I had finished my first viewing and read someone online suggest "A Bad Man Wins A Hat" as an alternate title. Fits perfectly.
I sat through most of the movie this time, though after I finished my stromboli I did loiter in the lobby for a little while after throwing the box away.
Kill List does feature some intense screaming matches between a husband and wife, making it a fitting companion to the next film in the line-up.
The breakup of a marriage takes some strange turns and may lead to the end of the world in writer/director Andrzej Zulawski's arthouse horror film.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Possession in the build-up to the marathon, and I was very much looking forward to watching it with the crowd. I had seen the film before, I gave it a positive write-up for the SHOCKtober event last month, but I knew that it wasn't going to be for everyone. People would be frustrated, brains would be melted. And that's exactly how it turned out.
Thankfully, it was still early enough in the night that most of the audience would be awake for the movie and would be able to tolerate its slower pace. Showing an arty, slow movie too late can be disastrous, stirring up some very negative reactions to some great movies. For example, due to playing in an early morning time slot, Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now was one of the most hated movies shown during the marathon's Nightmare at Studio 35 days.
The crowd seemed to lean toward positive on Possession, but some members of the audience did absolutely hate it. I know because two of the haters were the couple sitting in front of me. The strange existential dialogue seemed to make the guy very angry, as he would make comments at the screen and root for the movie to end. When it did end, the girl told me she wanted those two hours of her life back. I just responded with a nod and smile. I like the movie and enjoyed seeing it on the big screen with the marathon crowd.
During the post-Possession break, it was time for
The 4th Annual Scream Contest
which came down to a girl with a movie-worthy shriek and a guy with a comedic approach and an impressively womanly scream. The guy won out, but I have to say that my favorite competitor was actually the girl who came in third place. The people further back in the auditorium probably couldn't see it, but she would get so into belting out her screams that her legs would shake.
After the screams, there was a brief guest appearance at the front of the auditorium by Eric Hayden, the writer/director of a science fiction movie that apparently went over very well at the 24 hour sci-fi marathon in May. Hayden hadn't been able to attend the sci-fi marathon, but was able to make it to the horror as an audience member. He thanked the members of the crowd who were at the sci-fi show for their support and was open to answering any questions anyone might have, but no questions were asked. I'm not totally sure, but I don't think the overlap in the sci-fi and horror marathon audiences is exceptionally large. I know I would find 24 hours of sci-fi very rough to sit through, I need to take my sci-fi in more moderate doses. I will be checking out Hayden's movie when it's available, it stars Lance Henriksen and is called The Last Push.
THE DEVILS (1971)
As The Devils began, the marathon was running way behind schedule, and I was thinking that a movie was going to get cut from the line-up. The bumpy start The Devils got off to made it seem even more likely. With no film prints available, The Devils was being projected from a disc provided by Warner Bros., and the first couple minutes played out three or four times as they had to keep restarting the disc to work out picture issues.
Set in France in the 1600s, The Devils is a story of madness, sexual repression, false accusations of witchcraft, strange exorcisms, and torture, kicked off when the hunky priest the nuns at a collapsing city's convent are obsessed with decides to get married.
Not really wanting to fully concentrate on the movie's weirdness and freak-outs, I decided it was time to put another podcast in one ear. Since I had seen Sinister the night before, I listened to the second half of Kevin Smith's SMovieMakers interview with Sinister's writer/director Scott Derrickson.
Even with my attention divided, the time of night was starting to wear on me, and I did end up nodding off for a while.
Post-Devils, it was time for the marathon, now about three hours behind schedule, to enter a "last push" phase itself. A decision had to be made whether or not to drop a full movie or barrel through, drop most of the trailers, and go a little past the noon deadline. The choice was made to try to fit in all of the movies that were booked.
The sleepiness that hit me during The Devils continued through the next two movies.
DEAD ALIVE (1992)
This is another movie I wrote about for SHOCKtober, but as awesome as Peter Jackson's take on the zombie genre is, it was no match for how tired I was at this point in the night. By the time Vera Cosgrove was having her encounter with the Sumatran Rat-Monkey, I was passing out. I slept through pretty much the entire movie from then on, my eyes just opening to catch random seconds here and there - the end of the funeral scene, "I kick ass for the Lord!", bits of zombie mayhem.
I had even worse luck staying awake during David Cronenberg's prescient "horrors of television" movie. I got to see almost nothing of this one.
I was awake for the breaks between the movies, and after Videodrome the winner of the Horror Hall of Fame was announced. The new inductee: Christopher Lee. I think it was during this break that Caligari also announced the winners of the trivia contest. Since only two people of the three hundred or so in attendance had turned in their trivia papers, and both scored highly, both of them got prizes.
THE LAST CIRCUS (2010)
I made an attempt to sit through The Last Circus, but it quickly became apparent that this story of the violent competition two clowns have over a beautiful trapeze artist, a film in Spanish with English subtitles, was not going to end my sleeping streak. I didn't want to just keep sleeping through movies, so I spent most of this one standing around out in the lobby.
My time in the lobby did successfully reinvigorate me for the last two movies, a werewolf double feature.
WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971)
Werewolves on Wheels has been a presence at almost every Columbus marathon I've attended over the last eleven years, because its trailer has been shown at most of them. I see it as a tradition, at some point during the show we will be told about "the first horror motorcycle film ever made". It's an awesome trailer that always gets a good reaction from the crowd, and I was so blown away by it when I saw it at my first marathon in 2001 that one of the first things I did when I got back home was buy a copy of the movie on VHS off eBay. WOW actually being booked in line-up was a long time coming. This year, at a marathon that started off with the WOW trailer in the first trailer block, the crowd got to find out what I found out in 2001: the full movie does not live up to the greatness of its trailer.
Still, while the movie's slow pace and padding can be a letdown compared to the 96 second marketing piece that was cut together for it, this film about a group of bikers being torn apart by a curse of lycanthropy put on them by Satanic monks does have its own enjoyable, drive-in style charm.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
Following an obscure entry in the werewolf subgenre, the marathon was capped off with a true classic, possibly the most beloved werewolf movie ever made. And if it hasn't achieved that title, it's at least the most beloved werewolf movie that doesn't star Lon Chaney Jr.
AWIL isn't one of my personal top favorites, aside from the Nazi mutant nightmare I think the second act drags a bit, but it is a fun movie with some very funny moments and unquestionably the most impressive werewolf transformation ever put on film, thanks to special effects genius Rick Baker.
As the end credits of AWIL scrolled on the screen and the sound of "Blue Moon" filled the air, I made my way out of the auditorium for the last time at this Shock Around the Clock. Joe and Bruce were standing near the door as marathoners filed by, and I gave them an appreciative nod as I passed. When I pushed the doors and was smacked in the face by the light of the outside world, it was almost 1:30. The marathon had basically run an entire move overtime, but at least we were able to fit everything in somehow.
As always, I very much enjoyed my time in the marathon world, as I said in my write-up of the previous one, these events are always a highlight of my year.
Thanks to Joe and Bruce for organizing and hosting, thanks to the Grandview owners for continuing to give the marathon a home, to the staff for obliging us for 24+ hours straight, and thanks to the marathon crowds for being the best cinema audiences that I've ever been a part of.