Studio 35, the last remaining, totally independent movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, held their annual 24-hour horror movie marathon last weekend (October 19-20). Fans of the marathons (affectionately calling themselves “marathoids”) enjoyed not just 12 thrillers on the big screen, but also had a chance to see short films, cartoons and rare movie trailers (like the original red-card “Scanners” trailer in which Michael Ironside makes a man’s head explode).
The marathons in Columbus started back in 1987 by the Drexel Theaters, inspired by a Boston marathon that had been around since 1976. The Columbus run began with an annual science fiction marathon in the spring, and a horror marathon was added in the fall of 1988. When the Drexel North (an 800-seat neighborhood theatre that hosted the events) was turned into a Revco, the sci-fi marathon floated around the city to various venues and eventually settled in the new Arena Grand Theatre across from the Columbus Blue Jackets’ hockey arena.
Unfortunately, during those years, the horror marathon withered on the vine. Long-time marathoid Joe Neff resurrected the old Drexel marathons at Studio 35 in 1999, and this tradition has been going strong ever since. Neff is the new Master of Scareamonies who ushers the audience through 24 hours of caffeine-induced hallucinations and gives them the strength to survive in a theatre of 300+ fans who haven’t bathed in (at least) 24 hours.
In the past, guests have come in to introduce their films and answer audience questions. Past Drexel guests included Stuart Gordon (director of “Re-Animator”), Brian Yuzna (producer of “Re-Animator” and director of “Bride of Re-Animator”) and Patty Mullen (former Penthouse Pet starring in “Frankenhooker”). Last year, Studio 35 brought in renowned drive-in reviewer Joe Bob Briggs.
This year, Studio 35 brought in B-movie legend Bruce Campbell as the special guest of honor. Campbell worked the crowd with stories of set antics from the Evil Dead films, including his personal theory as to why Sam Raimi always put him through so much pain: Apparently while sledding in high school, Campbell plowed over Raimi at the bottom of the hill, making the future Spider-Man director flip more than 360 degrees in the air and land on his ass.
The highlight of Campbell’s talk was his response to the ever-present “When is ‘Evil Dead 4′ coming out?” question: “I’ll tell you what. You call up Sam Raimi and convince him to make ‘Evil Dead 4′ instead of ‘Spider-Man 2′.”
Three movies were billed as premieres: Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, Dog Soldiers, and the Japanese surreal horror masterpiece Uzumaki. (Be aware: the term “premiere” is used somewhat loosely. Dagon has been available on DVD for several months and Dog Soldiers already showed nationally on the Sci-Fi Channel this summer.)
Dagon is Stuart Gordon’s return to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft after several years of science fiction and comedy (his last real horror film was “Castle Freak” for Full Moon in 1995.) Loosely based on Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Dagon tells the story of a couple stranded in a storm off the coast of Spain. They seek refuge in a quiet seaport town to discover it populated by fish-people that are ruled by an ancient tentacled beast named Dagon. At the marathon, Neff assured the audience they would appreciate Gordon’s return to his horror roots with scenes of gore and sex. I’ll have to admit, the nudity was nice, but there wasn’t quite the punch of the classic scene from “Re-Animator” in which Barbara Crampton’s naked body is molested by David Gale’s decapitated head.
Dog Soldiers was the clear hit of the marathon, eliciting visceral cheers and screams from the audience not seen since Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive” premiered in 1992. The film tells the story of werewolves stalking a Scottish special forces team on a training mission. The squad is cornered in a farmhouse with an injured general (who eventually turns into a werewolf himself) and a mysterious zoologist. Producers David E. Allen and Brian O’Toole were on hand to talk about the feature, sharing their unapologetic views of the studios that passed on the film (with the reason given that it was “too British”).
My personal favorite was the Japanese thriller Uzumaki. This film, a video blow-up, tells of an invasion of a small Japanese town by a mysterious visitor – an uzumaki, or spiral. Taking the form of any spiral shape– from a design in fish cakes to a snail’s shell – the uzumaki invades the mind of a local man, until he is so consumed that he commits suicide by twisting himself into a spiral. Meanwhile, schoolkids are being transformed into giant snails as a dark cloud swirls over the city. Refusing to explain itself, “Uzumaki” creeps under your skin, sending a perpetual chill in your bones. It becomes the “2001: A Space Odyssey” of horror films with the unnamable threat. Unfortunately, while Uzumaki is getting play in festivals in the U.S., it’ll never catch on with mainstream audiences and will probably disappear from America’s mind like so many quality Japanese films have in the past.
Other films screened included a restored print of the 1962 classic “Carnival of Souls” (the original, not the Larry Miller disastrous remake), “The Haunting” (1963), The Evil Dead, “The Fearless Vampire Killers (or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck),” Evil Dead 2, “2000 Maniacs,” “Squirm,” “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave” and Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes.”
For more information on upcoming Studio 35 events, including next year’s marathon, visit www.studio35.com. For the lightweights who would rather deal with only science fiction, watch www.drexel.net for information on next year’s Ohio Science Fiction marathon in the spring.
Posted on October 31, 2002 in Festivals by Kevin Carr
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