The Massacre 2013

The 2013 Movieside Massacre took place October 12-13 at the Patio Theater in Chicago, IL. The Patio is the third home for the Massacre in the last three years after Movieside parted ways with the Music Box Theatre following the 2011 event. Last year’s Massacre was held at the beloved Portage Theater which has since shut down due to reasons so sad I don’t want to rehash them.

The Patio is a beautiful theater that has been lovingly restored and will hopefully serve as a home for Movieside events for years to come. I only have two complaints when it comes to the theater: there is a serious lack of leg room—especially for a long-legged person like myself—and the seats are not built for long periods of sitting unless you enjoy the feel of springs pushing at your backside. I quickly realized this and started taking walks in between films to stretch out. Because I was taking walks, I missed parts of the Q&A’s with Gary Sherman, Fred Walton, and Mark Patton. Since I don’t want to misrepresent anything they had to say, I won’t be discussing the parts of their Q&A’s that I did get to see.

But enough talk about my comfort level and what I didn’t see; on to the movies.

There was an odd, accidental theme to this year’s films. Disturbingly enough, it was a rough year for animals on film. The Tomb of Ligeia (cats), Martin (chickens), The Gate (dogs), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (birds), Deep Red (birds again), Slither (dogs, cats, coyotes, deer, cattle), and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (I’m counting the Wolf Man) all featured animals biting the dust, either as villains getting their comeuppance or as innocent bystanders. I’m a big softie when it comes to violence against animals, so it was difficult for me to watch Vincent Price try to strangle a cat in Ligeia or find humor in the dead dog subplot in The Gate. Call me a wimp, because I probably am.

It was a good night for Zoran Gvojic. His fake trailer for Schrödinger’s Mummy crushed the competition in the fake Roger Corman trailer contest and his new short The Fourth Rule of Gremlins was hilarious and a huge hit with the crowd. You can watch both below, but be warned, the Gremlins short might destroy the last remnants of your childhood innocence.

Trailers for four Chicago-based independent films were also shown to positive response. Three of the films—StillGray Matter, and Restoration—are from Jason Coffman, Red Clark and Ryan Oliver, directors who have shown their shorts at past Massacre and Terror in the Aisles events. You can view the trailer for Still here and the trailer for Restoration here. The trailer for Gray Matter is below.

There were the usual short films, vintage trailers, and fake trailers scattered through the event, but none of the others stuck in my mind.


Note: I’ve written about a few of the films in the lineup for my 31 Days of Horror challenge. When applicable, I will link to these reviews instead of rehashing them here.

Frankenstein (1910)

Thankfully, like last year, the silent film was a short. Produced by Thomas Edison, Frankenstein is a 16-minute film that is of historical importance as the first film version of Mary Shelley’s novel. While the Monster is given a unique appearance, the film suffers from the limitations of many early silent films: a locked down camera, excruciatingly long takes, and hammy acting. Is it technically a film I should see as a genre fan? I suppose, but it had trouble holding my interest.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

See my review for this film as part of my 31 Days of Horror.

The Tomb of Ligeia (1963)

See my review for this film as part of my 31 Days of Horror.

Martin (1976)

Martin might be my favorite George Romero film and was probably the highlight of this year’s event for me. John Amplas’ performance is a masterpiece of quiet intensity. The lived-in locations, supporting cast (Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Tom Savini, and Romero in a finely-tuned comedic cameo), and bitterly ironic and tragic story combine for one of the most satisfying movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Martin might be the finest American independent film ever made.

Dead & Buried (1981)

I’d only seen this film once before and that was nearly twenty years ago. While I had fond memories of it, I was unsure of how well it would hold up. Turns out, it’s getting better with time. The tone is pitched at such an odd level with its alternating scenes of brutal violence, dark humor, domestic melodrama, and police procedural, it’s hard to get a handle on what kind of a film that director Gary Sherman is trying to make. It’s not until the lunacy of the third act that it becomes clear he wants the film to be all those genres in one. It’s an ambitious movie and not every tonal shift works, but it’s memorable and entertaining. It also features one of the best needle-into-an-eye scenes committed to film.

April Fool’s Day (1986)

See my review for this film as part of my 31 Days of Horror.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

For the second year in a row, an Elm Street sequel was part of the Massacre. I know I’m probably alone in saying this, but I actually prefer Freddy’s Revenge to Dream Warriors. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a good film, but it does an interesting thing by bringing Freddy (the singular Robert Englund) into the waking world and provides such a strange protagonist in the person of Jesse (Mark Patton), that it’s easy to overlook the numerous flaws. Of course, there are also the numerous unsubtle homo-erotic references sprinkled through the film to supply a lot of unintentional laughter and give an extra dose of tragedy to the already confused and frightened Jesse.

The Gate (1987)

See my review for this film as part of my 31 Days of Horror.

Hellbound (1994)

Hellbound: Hellraiser II was supposed to follow The Gate. But when the projector started, there was a pristine 35 mm print of the Chuck Norris supernatural action flick Hellbound. In case you were unaware, this is not the same movie. There was about two minutes of confusion before the film was turned off and the explanation was made that the distributor sent the wrong film. Personally, I was ready to settle in for some Chuck Norris against demon action (or whatever the hell that movie is about), but it was not to be. Deep Red was moved up and Hellraiser II was projected from Blu-ray after that. I still think they should have shown Hellbound, but I’m just a spectator at these events.

Deed Red (1975)

Some consider this film to be Dario Argento’s masterpiece. I don’t argue against that claim, even though I feel Suspiria is his greatest film. To compare the two is splitting hairs. The cut shown was unfortunately the shorter American cut titled The Hatchet Murders. It’s still a fine film, but it excises some of the more entertaining scenes between Daria Nicolodi and David Hemmings that add some needed humor and humanity to the bloody proceedings. Still, even in this shortened form, the film contains some of Argento’s best set-pieces and is a crowd-pleaser, even at 2:00 in the morning when several people were falling asleep or giving up entirely.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Like Dead and Buried, it had been almost twenty years since I last watched Hellraiser II. From what I remembered, it was a good sequel—not as good as the classic first film in the series—but still a bloody good time. Maybe it was my sleep-deprived brain refusing to make all the connections in the plot, but this time around, it seemed like kind of a mess. The plot was just one damn thing after another happening with the character of Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) being the common thread sort of holding it all together. It’s a strange film full of incidence, but no drama. There are the occasional strong moments—most of them involving the resurrected Julia (Clare Higgins, looking like she’s having a blast)—but it feels like director Tony Randel and writer Peter Atkins (working from a Clive Barker story) just throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Too many characters are brought back unnecessarily from the first film to mingle with too many new characters. Despite the lack of dramatic tension in the film, I found myself tired out by the whole thing.

Wild Zero (1999)

See my review for this film as part of my 31 Days of Horror.

Slither (2006)

I love this film. It’s beyond derivative, swiping from Night of the Living Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Creeps, and bits from most of the old Universal Monster movies. But writer/director James Gunn takes these separate elements and turns it into an ensemble character comedy. The always reliable Nathan Fillion anchors the film with a laid-back performance that allows scene-stealers like Gregg Henry, Don Thompson, Michael Rooker, and Elizabeth Banks to go over-the-top in entertaining fashion while the gooey and bloody effects simultaneously repel and amuse. It will also always hold a special place in my heart for finding the darkness behind the ballads of Air Supply. A perfect film to wake up the audience.

Army of Darkness (1992)

There is almost nothing left to say about any of the Evil Dead films. This series has been written about so extensively over the years, that anything I write about it will just be redundant at this point. This obviously was the American theatrical cut with the “upbeat” ending, but the plot of the film and its outcome doesn’t matter. It was fun to see a younger Bruce Campbell again playing something other than a self-referential asshole version of himself. Spouting one-liners, mumbling insults about the villagers, and throwing his body around in bouts of goofy slapstick, Campbell is always a kick to watch. And it’s hard not to feel nostalgia for a time when a Sam Raimi film was something to truly get excited about.

With the end of Army of Darkness came the end of this year’s Massacre—surprisingly, ahead of schedule. Since I made the horrible decision to ride my bike to the theater, I wearily pedaled home for a few hours rest before that evening’s Goblin concert. It was a beautiful, sunny day but all I could think about was sleep and how much I looked forward to next year’s event.

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