Ginger Nuts of Horror
Okay, horror folks - it's that time of the year again. On Saturday the 10th October, 2015, I attended what is rapidly becoming one of my favourite events, and something I hope to attend every time it takes place - the splendour of what is called All Night Horror Madness! Five classic horror films, many on their original 35mm prints, a bunch of classic, 'lost' trailers and a raffle with some excellent prizes, with a showing in both Glasgow and Edinburgh on different nights. Usually happening every six months, this was the big one, number 10, taking place in the horror month of October.
Due to a desire to go to another horror event - Bristol Horror Con - on the 17th, I couldn't make the Edinburgh event but as I didn't want to miss out, I made the journey over to Glasgow. Hosting the event was The Grosvenor cinema, a small but lovely little theatre which I hadn't been to in many years. All 100 seats had been sold out and this promised to be a great night.
As I stood outside, killing a bit of time, I bumped into organiser Matthew Palmer and had a quick chat, whetting my appetite for what was to come. And then, it was into the cinema for the showings. Matt gave a wee talk about the event and why the films that made the cut were chosen. And then it was on to the main event...
11.30 pm. First up was a showing of absolute classic, The Evil Dead, directed by Sam Raimi and starring a very young Bruce Campbell. What can be said about this film that hasn't already been said? If you've never seen this film, if you don't even know what it's about, I'd have to question your credentials as a true horror fan. It's one of those films that became infamous, in part because of the whole 'video nasty' controversy, but also because of a wide promotional campaign that saw it lauded by the likes of Stephen King. Having not seen this film in a number of years, it was a joy to revisit on what was an exceptionally clear and clean 35mm print. The violence, the humour (which would be more to the fore in the excellent sequel), the distinctive directorial style that Raimi would refine and hone over the years, and the astonishing and bonkers practical and stop-motion effects, belie the films ultra low-budget origins. Great choice and great opening to the night.
1.10am. This was followed by the first round of 'Old School Trailers', which comprised Grizzly, the absolutely bonkers looking exploitation flick Dr Black & Mr Hyde (narrated in 70s jive-poet style and looking like a cross between Super Fly and The Incredible Hulk), and The Devil's Rain, a film that boasts William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Anton LaVey and Ernest Borgnine as some kind of goat-man!
1.20am. Next up was the second film, which was a super secret - prior to both the Glasgow and the Edinburgh showings - movie and was the only non-35mm print on the bill. It was, in fact, a remastered, restored version of David Cronenberg's Shivers, and was a wonderful example of his early talent. Taking place in a 'futuristic' (for the 70s), self-sufficient tower block, located on an island, it follows the tragic results of an almost typical mad scientist experiment to create a parasite which instils an uncontrollable sexual violence in its host. Taking the Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers aesthetic to disturbing and visceral levels, Cronenberg showcases his early obsessions with body-horror and sexual violence in a film which is full of creeping dread. Sure, the fashions have dated badly, and some of the acting leaves a lot to be desired - some moments eliciting unintentional laughs - it still manages to be an effective and disturbing feature. Great looking print, too.
3.05am. Next was the free raffle, with each member of the audience having been given a ticket prior to entry to the cinema. Some great prizes were a ticket to the next ANHM event, an original commissioned poster for The Thing and an original commissioned poster for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Great stuff, and at this point Matt wished us all a great night as he bowed out.
3.15am. The third film of the evening was one I'd never seen before. This was The Hidden, an 80s slice of alien action starring Kyle McLachlan and Michael Nouri, with an early role for Claudia Christian of Babylon 5 fame. If, like me, you've never seen it, be prepared for one of the most 80s films you've ever seen. It feels like a pastiche of every 80s action movie cliché, yet filmed in the very era it's paying homage to. Super fast car chases? Check. Couple of random workers carrying plate glass to get smashed into? Check. Blaring, pounding hard rock music? Check. Guns that blow their targets back in the air by a few feet? Check. But it's all done with style and wit. It really revels in its excesses and has a cool little story to boot. McLachlan and Nouri make for a great mismatched buddy cop team and the bit players who take on the persona of the bad guy all have fun with it - Chris Mulkey, William Boyet and the aforementioned Claudia Christian, who is fantastically bad-ass as the alien reprobate and really should have had more screen time. Great film and great print that only suffered a tiny bit for having the picture drop out for a minute early on. Oh, and it was preceded by a trailer for Burnt Offerings, a mad looking film with Oliver Reed.
5.05am. Old School Trailers 2. A wee theme here, which got a great laugh when we realised what was going on. First trailer - Don't Look In The Basement, an amusing film that looked to be set in a mental asylum. Next one - Don't Go Near The Park, a terrible looking flick with bad zombie/monster masks. But it was each reference to the title which got the laughs going. Third film - Don't Answer The Phone. And now we're in hysterics. The next trailer was for The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, which had me thinking the theme was finished. Not so. Apparently, it's also known as Don't Open The Window, and probably got the biggest laugh, certainly form yours truly. The short set was rounded out by a super-quick trailer for the next film, but more on that in a mo...
5.15am. After a slight delay, came the film that I was most anticipating. Having seen the trailer for it at a previous ANHM event, where we were told the film was 'exactly what you think it is!', I had been hoping this would be shown. The film is, of course, Pieces, and again, this was my first viewing of it. How to describe? Basically, if you took an episode of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, added copious amounts of semi-naked women, a sleazy tone of misogyny and Porky's-like sex obsessed teens, some Giallo overtones and graphic chainsaw killings, you'd almost be there. Except you forgot to add in the awful dialogue, terrible acting, a random kung-fu scene, completely ludicrous set-pieces and plot-holes you could drive a jumbo jet through. It's one of those films that truly lives up to the accolade, 'so bad it's good', yet...part of me feels that it's all intentional and is actually the product of keen, comedic minds. This belief was reinforced when I found out the director also did the adaptation of Slugs, another ludicrous yet hilarious film. So what did I think of Pieces? I fucking loved it. Hands down, one of the most entertaining - sometimes in spite of itself - films I've ever seen, and certainly managed to keep me awake at this early slot, not least because I was busting a gut throughout. Highlights are sending in a 'world famous' tennis player - who is also a police officer - undercover at the college campus the murders are taking place at, the killer wandering around looking like a bad guy in a Pink Panther movie (he even manages to somehow sneak a chainsaw into a lift with one of his intended victims and she is utterly oblivious to this thing badly hidden behind his back!) and committing offences in broad daylight, yet without detection or notice, and the truly insane and bizarre end scene which had me shouting "what the fuck!!??" Loved it, a truly mental piece of work that just has to be seen to be believed, and a great print of the film. I think this one went down particularly well with those who remained in the cinema.
6.50am. Zombie (Flesh Eaters). I had to dip out at this point due in part to my parking ticket running out, and also because I was really flagging by now. However, I'm sure that the film looked great on screen and I had seen it a few times before.
So, all in all, another successful ANHM event, and some really inspired choices, especially for the third and fourth slots. Next year, the event is skipping the spring showing, so next one will be October 2016. I'll definitely be going and I'm going to try and get some of my horror writer friends to go too, making it a wee mini-convention. Hope to see you there, you have no excuses now...
PAUL M. FEENEY
THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR