Dispatches from the 11th Annual “Shock Around the Clock” 24-hour Horror Marathon

Drexel Theater, Columbus, OH – October 12-13, 2019

“I may seem scary, but I have the heart of a small child…I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

-Robert Bloch, as quoted by Stephen King

There is always something cool going on in this town. 

After several years of unproductive hemming and hawing, including missed opportunities beyond my reckoning, 2019 marked my maiden voyage as an attendee of the annual “Shock Around The Clock” horror movie marathon. I couldn’t be happier I finally decided to take the plunge. Celebrating its eleventh year at Columbus, Ohio’s historic Drexel Theater, SATC takes place each October in a single, continuous session starting at noon on the Saturday of Ohio State football’s bye week and ending at or around noon of the next day. Well over 200 bores, ghouls, and children of the night piled into the Drexel and peacefully cohabitated for a festive day of sights, sounds, smells, and screams fit to thrill the living and wake the dead (if we weren’t already at capacity). Continue reading “Dispatches from the 11th Annual “Shock Around the Clock” 24-hour Horror Marathon”

Ranking, dissecting the “Halloween” series

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“It’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”

John Carpenter’s Halloween is no easy (or advisable) act to follow. Heaven knows many have tried. Over forty years, all manner of reverent pretenders, well-intentioned imitators, and outright thieves have approached the throne, even a couple bearing Carpenter’s own tacit seal of approval. The now-eleven official Halloween films feed into a self-writing narrative concerning the blight and bloat of horror’s most lucrative, long-running franchises, and Halloween sits comfortably alongside Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street at the top of any list of genre royalty, whether as the target of praise or scorn. Though, outside of scattered moments in the first movie and its 2018 “sequel”, Halloween has always taken itself with the utmost seriousness, the franchise’s chronic issues with continuity, motivations, and common sense have become something of a running joke. Continue reading “Ranking, dissecting the “Halloween” series”

Movie review: “Hell Fest” (2018)

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“Sorry about the screaming girl. She’s my best friend’s best friend. She doesn’t really get horror.”

Consider for a moment the underappreciated plight of the horror slasher villain. He or she has a finite amount of time in which to make the biggest, bloodiest impression possible. This, despite the fact that movie maniacs are not hydrogen bombs, laying waste indiscriminately, and must generally both pick and pick off their targets with some degree of thought. Though blessed with the improvisational skill necessary to turn almost any found implement into a weapon of destruction, this is still grueling and, one imagines, often tedious work, far less glamorous than it might appear on screen. Continue reading “Movie review: “Hell Fest” (2018)”

Live-blogging* the “Friday the 13th” Marathon, Ep. I – “Friday the 13th” (1980)

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Gateway Film Center, Columbus, Ohio – Friday, October 13, 2017*

Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center is a nationally recognized bastion of chameleonic quality cinema independent in origin, intention, and execution, run by grateful, energized movie lovers for grateful, energized movie lovers. Art house fare, draft house fare, and grind house fare all coexist here in surprising harmony with standard but still carefully selected multiplex fodder. Add into the mix a dizzying number of Ohio premieres and classic film revivals with the accent equally on “classic” and “film” (as in 35 millimeter film, the format in which I saw “Creepshow” earlier this year, or 70mm, in which I saw an exclusive engagement of Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” a year and a half ago). Continue reading “Live-blogging* the “Friday the 13th” Marathon, Ep. I – “Friday the 13th” (1980)”

Movie review: “Halloween” (1978)

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“Does anyone live here?”

“Not since ‘63, when it happened. Every kid in Haddonfield thinks this place is haunted.”

“They may be right.”

The first glimpse of daylight, a commodity that will prove both precious and fleeting, comes at the 11-minute mark of Halloween, as director John Carpenter finally sets his scene in the sleepy town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Leaves rustle and blow down the tree-lined, kid-dotted sidewalks of suburbia. The sky is seriously overcast, but still can’t help feeling like an improvement, or an oasis. This comforting and innocuous first look comes on the heels of three consecutive sequences – an ominous, slow developing close-up, a shocking murder, and a nerve-rattling escape – justly famous in the annals of horror history, and though the differences that separate Halloween from the many progeny it would either directly spawn or spiritually inspire are both myriad and blinding, even in pitch darkness, its images linger longest and make the most impact, so it is there that almost any straight analysis should begin. Continue reading “Movie review: “Halloween” (1978)”

Movie review: “It Follows” (2015)

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“It’s been suggested that, when confronted with the inevitable – like a building collapsing on top of you to kill you – most people are strangely content to sit back…and just let it happen.”

Unlike other horror films dealing with the overt supernatural – and most seem to at least dabble in it anymore, whatever their pretenses to brutal reality might be otherwise – the lean, effective indie thriller It Follows has the good sense to stick strictly to the narrow parameters it has established rather than using them as a jumping off point for increasingly bizarre and frenetic action. The movie is piano wire taut, clinical, and devoid of filler, with an uncluttered story and uncomplicated twin character motivations: friendship and survival. There are also tinges of sexual lust present amongst the interpersonal relationships and the standard pleas for calm in the face of the terrifying unknown, but neither detracts whatsoever from the story’s straight line momentum, or even proves much of a speed bump. Continue reading “Movie review: “It Follows” (2015)”

Ranking, dissecting the “Friday the 13th” series

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“He neglected to mention that, downtown, they call this place ‘Camp Blood’…”

John Carpenter’s Halloween is, without question, my favorite horror movie of all time, but its rough-hewn demon spawn, Friday the 13th, actually qualifies as my favorite horror series. I’ve been thinking a lot lately, in fact, about what a surprising little swath of my adolescence and teenage years was given over to fuzzy but fond memories of watching an unstoppable killer stalk nubile teenagers around the grounds of a New Jersey summer camp. For heaven’s sake, why, might you ask? I don’t rightly know. I have always felt an instinctive attraction to things “other”, of course, and have, as a result, found myself on the defensive side of more arguments about “harmful” art and censorship and selective morality than I can properly recount (or care to). Funnily enough, I have a memory of milling about, at (approximately) the age of nine, in the upstairs of my grandparents’ grand, gothic house with two beloved cousins, ten and eight respectively, when one of them announced, “we should play Friday the 13th!” I was nonplussed. Continue reading “Ranking, dissecting the “Friday the 13th” series”