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Every year since 2005, we had been going to the Music Box Theatre for their 24-hour marathon called the Music Box Massacre.  And each year we always had a great time.  But this year something had changed.  Movieside, who had pretty much run the show all those years, had moved the Massacre to the Portage Theater, while the Music Box held their own 24-hour marathon.  So just a week after the Music Box of Horrors, as they were calling it now, Dawn and I headed to the Portage Theater for The Massacre, and another 24 hours of madness and movies.

Even before getting into the theater, we were seeing familiar faces already in line, not only our fellow Chicago horror friends, but even our good friend Ken Johnson, who had made the trek all the way from Indiana to participate in the fun!  We met Ken a few years ago at a HorrorHound show and always have a great time talking about films.  Anytime we meet someone who is as diehard about movies as we are, we’re going to connect.  So we chatted with Ken and a few other people outside in line before they opened the doors.  The minute you walked into the theater, you could tell the difference from the other marathon.  It felt more like a community of fans here, getting together to have fun.  The lobby was packed with a plethora of dealers, selling everything from DVDs to t-shirts to artwork to toys to posters and everything in between.  We quickly made our way over to the Reel Art table, where we always seem to find some great deals.  And this time was no different as we picked up a few 22x28 posters for a mere $10 each.  We also picked up a Blind Dead t-shirt from our favorite t-shirt dealer, Jill from Lix!  Can never have too many Blind Dead shirts, right?

The one bad thing about these types of shows is that since it is such a big community, it would be very easy to just sit the whole day and chat with all the different friends and acquaintances that we see there.  The Chicago horror community really came out for this event, seeing a ton of our friends wandering about the lobby of the theater.  It is just a damn shame that we all have to go watch the movies!

But before the movies started up, the guests for the event, director Jack Hill and Scream Queen Linnea Quigley were already there, sitting at some tables in the lobby.  Now here is the BIG difference at this show: the autographs were FREE.  Not free with a purchase, not free with a donation, but FREE.  Both guests had merchandise they were selling if people were interested, but they were not selling their autograph.  That is the one thing that Movieside has always stressed at their events.  Not just making them fan friendly, but easy on the fan’s pocketbook.  Such as the $20 ticket price for the event.  Compared to the other marathon, which was doubled the price, it makes you scratch your head on why the need for the high price.  I mean, if one can do it that cheap…

After we got a couple of items signed by both Hill and Quigley, we quickly headed into the theater because it was time for the movies!  The first feature playing was THE BLACK CAT, starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.  We had seen this before on the big screen, but it is amazing to see this picture each time because it is such a strange one.  Surprising that it actually got made with the bizarre subject matter within.  From murder, revenge, hints of necrophilia, and torture, Karloff and Lugosi play off of each other to see which one really is crazier!  A great classic Universal film that really needs to be seen by all.

The next film was one that we were really excited about once they announced it.  Always a sucker for a Hammer film, having the chance to see CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF on the big screen would have gotten me out there on that title alone.  After some issues with the projector, the film played on.  Seeing this on film, in that amazing color that had made Hammer famous, was just beautiful.  When Roy Ashton created the make up for Oliver Reed here, he made one of the best looking werewolves ever committed to celluloid.  A top notch job that is just as effective today as it was all those years ago.

Our next film was another British one, Michael Reeves’ WITCHFINDER GENERAL.  Released here in the states in an edited version under the title CONQUEROR WORM (to try and tie with the famous Poe series from AIP), it is a brutal story of a witchfinder and the devious deeds that they did, all in the name of God.  Starring Vincent Price as the title character, he gives the performance of his career, letting go of his campy and ‘hammy’ acting and playing this character completely straight…and oh so mean.  If you’ve never seen this film, then you’ve never seen Price in a role like this.  While the film is so dark in tone, it really is a must see.  Not only for Price’s performance, but also because of the cruel times that we once lived under, where innocent people were tortured and murdered because they didn’t believe the same way as others.  Now that is scary.

Before the next feature, a rare short film called From the Drain by a young David Cronenberg was played.  We had seen some of his other early work and this one fit right in with them too.  There were a couple of other short films that we caught through the day.  One of them, The Secret Cinema, was made by our friend Jason Coffman, and was a follow up to his other short film Tape.  This continues the strange story of the mysterious Mr. Lake.  It is going to be interesting to see what Coffman does next with this character.  The last short we got to see was The Captured Bird, which was directed by Jovanka Vuckovic.  While we did miss the opening, I’m assuming that was the reason that we had no clue as to what this was about or what was going on.  Looked great, but artsy as hell and that was about it.

But let us get to our next film, one that is one of my favorites, Jack Hill’s SPIDER BABY.  Filled with campy dark humor, this is just a great film to watch.  Lon Chaney Jr. gives an incredible performance here as the old caretaker of a family riddled with a rare disease that causes them to regress both mentally and physically as they get older.  While at face value, the film may look pretty silly comedy.  But there is plenty of murder and craziness here that you will be entertained.  Not to mention the fact that you might see some strong similarities to Tobe Hooper’s movie about a family down in Texas, even though SPIDER BABY was made a few years earlier.

Right after the film, Jack Hill came up on stage and was interviewed by our good friend Brian Kirst.  With the amount of exploitation films that Hill worked on, plus working with Roger Corman, he had plenty of stories.  He worked with Boris Karloff on his last 4 films, as well as making quite the impact in the blaxploitation film market and making Pam Grier a big star with films like COFFEY and FOXY BROWN.  Hill is one of these directors that more people should know him and his work since he was a very important part in the exploitation market in the ‘60s & ’70, not to mention making some damn entertaining movies.  If you’re not familiar with his work…look into them.

The next film was RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and as much as I love this movie, we really needed to find some food before everything started to close down for the night.  So Dawn, myself and our buddy Ken went to get some Mexican food.  And after hitting too places that were both closed, we found a third one that was still open and served “Typical Mexican Cuisine”.   That was actually on their sign in front of the restaurant.  True Story.  But we got back in time for the lively Q&A with Linnea Quigley, once again hosted by Mr. Kirst.  We’ve known Brian for a few years and just love his passion for the movies, and am always amazed at some of the obscure stuff he pulls out of his head.

PHANTASM II was the next feature, which was kind of cool since we had just watched the first one at the marathon last week.  So we were ready for the sequel.  It had been a while since I’d seen this one, especially on the big screen.  I have always enjoyed this sequel too, that still had that same feeling of W-T-F is going on, something that director Coscarelli does so well.  Plus, it is always great when we get to see Reggie Bannister on the big screen kicking ass!

After the feature, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS was lined up.  Now while I do like this entry in the NIGHTMARE series, I have seen it quite a few times over the years.  And I know I wanted to get to some of the other movies coming up later on in the wee hours of the morning.  So we snuck out to the van to take a quick nap while Freddy was slaughtering the Elm Street children.

I got back in the theater in time to catch most of the next feature, which was the demented HAUSU (aka HOUSE), which was being presented by the Chicago Cinema Society, and hosted by our friend Neil Calderone.  This movie is one that will simply blow your mind.  Very bizarre, very trippy, and just plain fucked up.  But what is even more amazing are the special effects that you see, in a film that was made in the late ‘70s.  Words can’t describe this film.  I mean…when is the last time you seen a piano eat a young girl?  Seriously.

After HAUSU, we came to the mid ‘80s for an anthology film that I haven’t seen in years.  It was NIGHTMARES and has an all-star cast throughout the 4 stories.  From escaped maniacal killers, to killer video games, demonic pickup trucks, to giant rats, this movie has it all!  It was great seeing these all again, especially on the big screen.  Our favorite story of the movie is the one where Lance Henriksen plays a priest who has lost his faith.  But when he tries to leave his parish, an unexpected vehicle starts to torment him on the road, making him question his beliefs again.

Now the next film is one that I remember just hating when I first seen it in the theater when it first came out.  It was John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS.  But over the years, that hatred lessened and I actually started to come around and like parts of it.  I still think the film has some issues, but there are some things in there that I think are just brilliant.  Good cast, excellent music, and some wonderful sequences that really make me think this movie could have been just amazing with a little tweeking or maybe some extra time and money.  Who knows.  But I do know that it is definitely worth watching and giving it a little appreciation for at least parts of the movie.

The next film showing was DEAD SNOW.  The sun was just starting to come out.  While the little nap I took earlier really helped, I was still getting a little drowsy.  As much as I wanted to really stay and see FRENZY on the big screen, not to mention HALLOWEEN II that followed, I think I would have been sleeping through most of them.  So we decided to call it a night and head home.  Having to drive about an hour after staying awake for almost 24 hours can be a bit tough.  Even brutal at times.  But with Dawn there to make sure I was still awake, we made it home in no time.

Going to these marathons are always a bittersweet event.  We love the idea of staying awake all night long and watching great horror movies.  But the reality of it is that it really is tough to make it through and becomes an endurance test.  No matter how comfortable those theater seats might be, sitting there for over 12 hours is painful enough, not to mention trying to go longer than that.  But one thing is for certain, we will be back next year to partake in all the fun once again!