Collins’ Crypt: Report From The 2016 New Beverly All Nighter
Among the many things I hated about moving recently was that I would be even further from the New Beverly, making my rare visits even rarer - even if I had the energy on those nights, the space/time continuum also plays a part (they sure picked a shitty time to get more on the ball when it comes to the movies' posted start times - I NEED that 15-20 minute delay now, dammit!). I actually managed to get there on Thursday for a triple bill of Tourist Trap, Slithis, and The Dark, and I swear it took as much planning as an airplane flight to ensure I got there on time. But there was no way in hell I would miss the annual All Night Horror festival, as I've attended all but one of them (I was out of town), and after a brief affair with Friday last year, it was back on Saturday (where it had traditionally been since the beginning), which meant I didn't have to worry about work either. I was in for the long haul - my eyes may not be open the entire time, but I was determined to get whatever victory prize they had for the people who stayed until the very end.
So as I've done in the past, I thought it'd be fun to "recreate" the night for all you folks who couldn't be there (it sold out in 45 seconds) and give a taste of the madness that occurs. All times rounded off to the nearest five minutes.
5:25pm - I leave my house. "Where are my sunglasses?" I think (or perhaps say aloud) as I turn the corner out of my street. A whipping/clacking sound that occurs almost simultaneously with my question answers it - they were left on top of the car and were now in three pieces on a busy road in Canoga Park. Off to a good start!
5:45pm - I stop at Dunkin Donuts, both to stay on brand and also to grab a box of Munchkins for myself and my seatmates, as they offer the joy of a donut without the guaranteed mess of trying to eat one in the dark.
6:15pm - I finally arrive at the New Bev!
6:25pm - I finally find a place to park!
6:35pm - I get in line, which has already started moving. Since the tickets all sold out, there's no taboo about "cutting" (as if you didn't join your friend in line he'd just be saving that seat anyway), but I still bypass most of it to make my way to the end. I find my good friend and predetermined seatmate Elric Kane ALMOST at the end and risk a dirty look from the 4-5 people behind him. I make him hold the Munchkins.
6:40pm - Elric and I enter the theater and take our seats in the 2nd row, as our friend Jared Rivet is always kind enough to get to the theater very early and secure good seats for "the group". In exchange, we... well we really don't do much for the poor bastard after he sat outside for like three hours on an unusually hot October day. I let him have some Munchkins though.
For most of the next hour we all just shoot the shit and offer theories as to what the lineup might offer. As usual, the entire six-film selection, chosen by hosts Phil Blankenship and Brian Quinn, is entirely secret, so there is literally no way in hell anyone could possibly guess what they'd be showing as the hosts barely offer any hints before the movie starts, let alone in advance. Unless you're a savant at distributor logos, you only find out what the movie is when specific images from it start unspooling in glorious 35mm. However, if you figure out the theme from the traditional collection of trailers that plays before each film, you can make an educated guess. All we know for sure is they will be films that haven't been shown in a while, which, considering we have like five repertory theaters in the area, actually does kind of narrow down the options. I'm proud to say I figured out or at least considered all six of the films once its respective trailer reel's theme had been identified, which I believe is a first.
7:30pm - It begins! Phil and Brian take the stage to offer their usual intro, reminder about cell phones, cleaning up your mess, etc. Phil jokes that there are six films and six Police Academy films, the most damning insult lobbied at Mission to Moscow that I've ever heard.
7:35pm - The first trailer reel kicks off with Rosemary's Baby, followed by Lucifer's Women (aka Doctor Dracula) and Satan's Cheerleaders. I joke that all three films have two word possessive titles and thus the movie will obviously be Cathy's Curse. But I knew Satanism was the real theme (To the Devil A Daughter was the next one, ruining my joke), and zeroed in on Devil's Rain out of hope (I've never seen it), but realized it was probably too obscure for what was usually the biggest title of the night. My only other guess was Race With The Devil, knowing it's a QT favorite (for those unfamiliar, he owns the New Beverly)...
7:50pm - ...and it was indeed RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975). I hadn't seen the film since I first watched for Horror Movie A Day back in 2009, and it was a total blast to see on the big screen. When Warren Oates and Peter Fonda's shared billing came up on screen (giving away what it was), the audience offered the loudest cheer of the night, and rightfully so. The action/horror hybrid was a perfect way to kick off the marathonm, offering plenty of scary bits (and that ending!) but just as many (more?) applause-worthy action beats, like when a car explodes the second it is knocked off the road during the big Road Warrior-esque chase in the 3rd act. Also, I didn't pick up on it the first time, but Oates says "We're self-contained!" regarding his RV - a line Quentin reprised for From Dusk Till Dawn. If you haven't seen this movie yet, it's on Blu-ray and also Amazon streaming, so it's thankfully not hard to find - enjoy! P.S. If you're a Texas Chain Saw Massacre fan, keep an eye out for Paul "Franklin" Partain as one of Fonda's racing crew in the film's opening sequence.
9:20pm - After the movie ends, I sigh and walk across the street to Papa John's to order pizza for the group. As I've said in the past, Papa John's sucks, but it's the closest option and their dessert pizza is actually pretty yummy, so whatever. It's part of the tradition at this point, even if I don't like it (to be fair, it tasted better than it did in years' past - maybe they got a new cook or recipe or I was just really hungry).
9:35pm - Raffle time! They always have a pretty great selection of prizes, but I rarely win. Tonight proved to be no exception, but Jared won a Blu-ray of the notorious Don't Go In The Woods Alone, a slasher from the golden era that I've never seen, so he promises to let me borrow it after he watches. Pretty good consolation prize, I think - and when the raffle concludes I walk back out to get the pizza (missing a Popeye cartoon as a result, apparently).
9:45pm - I walk back into the theater and am momentarily terrified to see The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies?!? on the screen, only to quickly realize it was just Trailer Reel #2 kicking off. As an MST3k fan, I don't know if I could ever suffer through that one without Mike and the bots to help me, and as it was the first trailer it was obviously impossible to make any guesses about the movie it was hinting about. However, the 2nd trailer wasn't even horror at all - it was Beach Party, with Frankie Avalon, at which point I made a guess that turned out to be right, not coming up with any other options as the rest of the trailers (all beach related) continued. The MST3k connection was seemingly not just coincidence, as movie #2 was also episode 817, or...
10:00pm - THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964). The second film of the night is traditionally a black and white film, sometimes going all the way back to the Universal Monsters era (Dracula'a Daughter played in this slot a few years back), and also usually when I let myself take a nap if I have seen it. But I had only seen the film with the MST3k crew, which means it was probably cut down a bit in order to make room for their skits and intros, so I stayed awake and watched this goofy as fuck slice of nonsense "for the first time". Interestingly, one of my favorite gags from the MST3k version was how they kept yelling "SODIUM!" at the characters who were seemingly trying to figure out how to kill the monsters when they had already done that earlier in the film, but without their interruptions I now know the 3rd act science-y stuff was about how to FIND the monsters, not kill them. Play fair, Tom Servo. Their version also cut one of the most ridiculous parts out, when a man seemingly encourages his daughter into making a move on a guy she likes now that his girlfriend had been killed. Not a good movie by any means, but it was kind of fun to see it with a crowd, proving that it didn't need endless quips from a couple of robots in order to be funny.
11:20pm - The movie ends, and a second (final) raffle kicks off. I still don't win anything. But as I literally have an entire rack of unwatched movies that I've won (at trivia and such) or gotten from distributors hoping I'd review them, I can't really say I need any more dust-collectors. Pro-tip: if you want to actually WATCH your movie collection, don't have a kid. Or a commute.
11:40pm - Trailer Reel #3 kicks off with Hellraiser II, and then various other Clive Barker adaptations. It's basically a process of elimination game here; the bulk of the other Hellraiser sequels wouldn't be on 35mm, so they're out, and by the end there are only two real options - the original Hellraiser or...
11:55pm - RAWHEAD REX (1986), which I had never seen and was hoping for on that level, but was also kind of rooting for Hellraiser so I could let myself get the long nap I hadn't yet taken and usually would have. I did end up dozing off here and there, but never for long, and didn't seem to miss anything important. I will be writing up a full review for Horror Movie A Day so I won't say too much about it here in order to keep from repeating myself, except to say it was the only movie of the night I hadn't seen at all (not uncommon, there's never more than two I think) and I can't help but wonder if it could benefit greatly from a remake. With a monster that actually looks scary (Rex looks like something the Ninja Turtles might fight) and perhaps a pair of actors who act naturally at the brutal death of their young son (the dad seems more annoyed than devastated, and the mom just looks worried) this could be a good horror flick. It's not as bad as Clive Barker will tell you it is, and the Irish scenery is nice, but it's a good thing he quickly righted the ship with Hellraiser the following year, or the Barker brand as far as cinema goes would be a very dire one indeed.
1:25am - Rex ends. We're at the halfway point, and I'm getting mighty tired. I walk back to my car for a stretch and drop off my cooler, which had two waters and a cold coffee drink that have since been consumed, and when I get back to the theater I buy a hot coffee (they offer free refills all night) in what I know will be a vain attempt to keep awake. If you're unfamiliar with me - I have what I call "cinesomnia", in that I can very rarely stay awake while watching anything in succession, regardless of whether or not I'm enjoying the film. The fact that I made it this far with only a bit of nodding off was very troubling - if there was another movie I hadn't seen before, I'd be at risk of still never seeing it.
1:45am - A Laurel & Hardy short about a ghost ship. I'm not a fan of slapstick comedy all that much, so these things aren't my cup of tea, but it's still a nice diversion and added bonus for our ticket price.
2:00am - Trailer Reel #4 kicks off with Black Sabbath. Could it be an anthology? Well, the 2nd trailer was for Baron Blood, so that killed the theory but cemented the fact that we were about to get some Mario Bava. I've seen all of his horror films, as far as I know, but have been meaning to revisit them as many I found myself underwhelmed with, and chalked it up to watching them at home instead of the big screen where I could enjoy his vivid colors and impressive production design. In fact, I only ever found time to revisit one of his films, and so my heart sunk a tiny bit when the Bava trailers ended and Friday the 13th parts 1 and 2 showed up, because now it was certainly...
2:10am - BAY OF BLOOD (1971), aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, aka the one I had most recently seen. At least I knew I could get my nap in, and without trying to fight it I go out almost instantly, waking up for the big murder setpiece in the middle (including the kill that was stolen directly for Friday the 13th Part 2) and then going out again. A shame, though - what little I saw of the print was IMMACULATE, a complete 180 from the horrendous DVD that I had when I first saw the film (which I didn't even like much then, primarily because the AV quality kept me from focusing on it). In fact, ALL of the prints were pretty great; the only faded ones we saw were trailers, and nothing was beaten up or anything (Party Beach had a few blemishes, but even that was superior to the three prints I had seen the other night). I've come to accept digital projection as long as it's set up properly, but nothing will ever top a good 35mm print, and I was happy to see that the format's detractors (yes, there are some) couldn't possibly find fault with the presentations we were offered during the marathon.
3:35am - DONUTS! Dozens of boxes of donuts, seemingly more than would be needed even if everyone took one, are brought in for our consumption. I take one with bacon on it. It is delicious.
3:50am - Trailer Reel #5 offers slashers! Graduation Day (which would have been a worthy selection, really), Dorm That Dripped Blood, Final Exam... these were all school ones! I guess at three titles: Cutting Class, Splatter University, and...
4:00am - SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986). Not one of my favorites, thanks to some baffling casting (it's a bunch of 30+ year olds playing 23 year olds - with a "five years earlier" prologue making it even harder to buy) and a very poor attempt to pass England off as America, not to mention an awful twist ending that barely makes sense. But it's got a great killer mask (the "Jester"), a terrific final chase, and some decent kills, making it perfectly suited for 4 am (and, as a slasher fanatic, I liked basically getting two of them in a row). Harry Manfredini's score, lifted wholesale from his Friday the 13th movies, buzzed me awake during the couple times I dozed off in the middle (having seen the film a couple times, I know what I missed and it wasn't much), and I refill my coffee just to take advantage of the refill offer, knowing at this point nothing beyond a speculum would keep me fully awake. Interestingly, the crowd hasn't thinned out much - it's usually only about 2/3s full (less?) by this point, but I swear only like 10-15 people have bowed out. Thankfully, one of them was the guy in front of me, so I no longer had his head blocking a little chunk at the bottom right of the screen.
(at this point I stopped taking notes, so the times are VERY approximate. If your first reply to this is "Hey it was more like 4:10 when that started", seek help.)
5:30am - As always, there is no real break between the last two movies, though we still get trailers. Trailer Reel #6 was all 1993 releases: Jason Goes To Hell, The Crush, Leprechaun, etc. Phil informed us earlier that the movie was "the most Phil choice" of the night, so I racked my brain for B-movies from 1993 that weren't already in the trailer lineup (if it was Leprechaun, I might have to rescind my promise to stay for the whole thing). Two such titles kept coming to mind, curiously both with Ami Dolenz: one was Witchboard 2, and the other was...
5:45am - TICKS (1993)! I had seen the movie when it came to cable back in 1994 or 1995, which basically means I had zero memory of it other than a vague recollection of a fiery climax. I chug my coffee in hopes that the caffeine burst gets me through it, and it mostly does - I missed maybe five minutes in the middle somewhere, but no death scenes. Not that there were a lot of them; for an R-rated monster movie, there were a shocking number of people left standing at the end, including Ms. Dolenz, who was given 1st or 2nd billing despite not really DOING anything in the movie. Seth Green is the real hero of the piece, which should have gotten a theatrical release back in its day - it's quite fun and the occasional string didn't take away from the otherwise solid effects work. I dunno why they didn't have the heart to kill off more of its characters (even a guy who is kind of a dick and is attacked during the climax manages to survive), but that approach gives it a kind of Tremors feel, where it's more about the escapes than the kills. I was also charmed that a low budget independent horror movie didn't have four or five production logos and an endless list of executive producers listed like they do nowadays - it's a shame that these sorts of things have so many cooks in the kitchen that they very rarely turn out as enjoyable.
After the movie we are treated to a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he meets Shakespeare (?) and then, YES!, the National Anthem, signifying the end of the broadcast day. This was something they did at the first All Nighter but haven't brought back in recent years, so I was happy to see its return (I legit get sad that I never got to see one in action on TV, as every channel just runs 24 hours now). The lights come up and everyone in the still packed theater rises to their groggy feet to make their way out to the lobby, squinting at the sun after 12+ hours in the dark.
Now, remember at the top of the article when I mentioned breaking my sunglasses? That wasn't just me filling space - it was setting up the incredibly well-timed gift for the "survivors" - a pair of sunglasses! I couldn't believe it! If there was ever any doubt that the New Beverly is my jam, it would have been wiped away by almost inexplicably offering me a pair of sunglasses 12 hours after I broke mine. I put them on and take this pic with my seatmates/fellow survivors, only half-joking about my "sleeping on Elric's shoulder" stance.
After that I run back in to use the restroom, not wanting to risk it since I have a 40 minute drive back home. Everyone leaves in the meantime, so I don't get to say goodbye to anyone properly, alas. I am quite sleepy, but Alice Cooper (Along Came A Spider, for the record - underrated!) and a couple more Munchkins make the long drive relatively easy all things considered. I get home at 8:30am and see that my son is already awake, but thankfully my wife lets me crash instead of helping her do the parent thing (her mom is in town and gets there shortly after, so I don't feel too guilty).
All in all, it was probably the best lineup in recent memory, both in presentation (again, all nearly flawless prints) and in selection - Satanists, monsters, and slashers were the order of the day, and there's nothing wrong with that in my book (not a goddamn ghost in sight, thankfully - I've gotten pretty tired of paranormal horror for the time being). Every movie (well, except Horror of Party Beach) was one I would have made it out to the Bev for had it been playing on its own (yes, even Slaughter High, which in fact played better with the crowd than on my less enthused home viewings), and the crowd was respectful - I didn't mind being "stuck" with these people for more than half of a day. It's a shame I can never overcome my sleep problems (Jared, sitting right next to me, stays awake the entire time, and I don't know how he does it - everyone else nods off at least once), but it's still a highlight of this movie-heavy season and something I look forward to for weeks (months) in advance. Next year will make the 10th installment and I do not doubt they'll make it a special one - if you're in LA and have never been to one, I hope you'll be one of the people I'm fighting for tickets when they go on sale next year.