It's usually my favorite time of the year, but man, Halloween 2018 for me was one of the worst I can recall - financial issues, pet issues, health issues... you name it, I had to deal with it when I wanted nothing more than to be sitting down with a pumpkin ale and watching Vincent Price movies. And it certainly didn't help that the New Beverly was closed for the entire month (and beyond) due to renovations, as not only did that rob the area of a key place to enjoy repertory horror programming, but it also meant that the annual All Night Horror Show wouldn't be happening. Since 2008, myself and 200 or so other local horror nerds pack ourselves into the theater for 12 straight hours (730pm to 730am) of films, cartoons, trailers, and shorts, and while I never manage to stay awake the entire time, it's always one of the highlights of the year for me.
So while the (now reopened!) theater has been doing great traditional screenings all month (I finally got to see Deadly Friend on 35!), the only thing that really mattered to me was whether or not the marathon would be returning. I had feared that due to the various other changes in the theater's traditions (they are open for matinees several times a week now instead of just weekends) and the ongoing presentation of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, there might not be any room for a marathon of obscure genre films. Luckily it wasn't the case, and even luckier, I managed to get tickets for myself and three friends when they went on sale and promptly sold out within seconds - clearly, there were other fans around who missed it as much as I did.
For the first few years, the lineup was mostly announced, with only one secret film in the middle somewhere. At one point, they decided to make the entire lineup a mystery, without as much of a hint as to what we'd be seeing. The only clues were delivered immediately before the film, via a trailer reel that would give you a few hints as to what you're about to see. So if the trailers were (this is a fake example) The Fog, Halloween, Halloween II, and Terror Train, an astute horror fan (or a Jamie Lee Curtis biographer) could reasonably assume that Road Games was about to start. But that'd be too easy. Programmers Phil Blankenship and Brian Quinn have no interest in showing the same obvious choices that play around town all month, and have a cutoff of about ten years - if it has shown in LA within the past decade, it wouldn't be in the mix.
So part of the fun is trying to solve what movie we're about to see just from the trailers, using process of elimination when necessary ("It can't be The Thing, they showed it here in 2017!"). In years' past I've done pretty good at this, usually guessing 2-3 of them just from about as many of the accompanying trailers (there are usually five per film), but they stumped me this year - out of six films I only successfully guessed one of them, and not until the final trailer gave me the missing piece I needed to solve the mystery (I also finally figured out another one just from the company logo at the top, as the trailers left me with too many options). Luckily, it's not too much of my own failing memory to blame for the others - three of the films they showed I had never really heard of, and quite honestly I'd rather be introduced to a new film than wield my otherwise useless knowledge of the genre in order to guess a movie four minutes before it began.
And for me personally, part of the fun is documenting the entire experience for a Collins' Crypt, and "new to me" films mean I fight harder to stay awake! So without further ado:
4:30 pm - I head out three hours before showtime so I can go get in line with everyone before the doors even open. You might find this excessive, but keep in mind that some people start lining up a full TWELVE hours early, so waiting outside for an hour or so is comparatively nothing. Also, when you're going to be in the theater for that long you want an ideal seat, preferably on an aisle so you can make bathroom/stretch/snack run exits as quickly as possible.
5:15 pm - Thanks to LA traffic, I arrive at the theater, 12 miles away from where I started, a full 45 minutes later.
6:30 pm (or so) - The doors open! Since the event was pre-sold out, getting inside is a relatively quick process, since no one has to wait for credit card machines or change to be counted. You just wave your ID, your name is checked against the list, and in you go. My friend Jared Rivet (staff writer on Are You Afraid of the Dark revival - have you watched yet?) got there at around 1030am to best ensure we got our usual seats, and we did, so now my only concern was whether or not I stayed awake through ANY of it, having only slept a few hours the night before, and if my phone battery would last the night so I could keep notes.
7:30 pm - Phil and Brian come to the stage at 7:30 on the dot - after nearly a dozen incarnations, they got this down to a science, I suspect. They run through the rules (no phones, no smelly food, no talking) and joke that we're about to watch all six Paranormal Activity movies, which I don't find funny because I just rewatched them all for a project and I have no desire to do so again anytime soon (even the original, which I otherwise love, really doesn't hold up to multiple viewings). They have the thankless job of tracking down the clearance for all the movies we are about to see while being yelled at about the show being sold out too quickly, so I consider them true heroes. I wouldn't have the patience.
7:36 pm - The lights dim for the first time and we are treated to a Mighty Mouse cartoon called "The Witch's Cat", where the title character terrorizes some mice until they call our hero halfway through, at which point he shows up and smacks the cat and witch around a bit. I personally have little affinity for these old cartoons, but I love that they are included as they allow me to go grab a snack or something without missing anything from the movie (or waiting in an endless line during the actual intermissions).
7:43 pm - The first trailer reel kicks off! We are treated to Silent Scream, Meat Cleaver Massacre, Deadly Games, He Knows You're Alone, and The Final Terror, which actually showed at a previous all-nighter. My only guess was Prom Night; as like Silent Scream it was an early post-Halloween slasher, like He Knows You're Alone it came out in 1980, like Deadly Games it had a ski-masked slasher, and like Final Terror it was painfully dull (I haven't seen Meat Cleaver, so I didn't and still don't know the connection to the actual movie). And the first film of the night is usually the most famous, so it seemed more reasonable than anything else I could come up with. But then the film began sans any logo, and I didn't recognize any of the footage, so it wasn't until the title came up that I learned it was:
7:55 pm - EDGE OF THE AXE (1988)
The title seemed vaguely familiar, but I otherwise never heard of this Spanish slasher that - per Wiki - was actually made for television! If that's true it's kind of insane; while nudity wasn't a factor the axe murders were surprisingly vicious as the killer uses the axe more like a hammer and bashes people over and over with it, often several times in a single shot (hidden blood packs doing the work as opposed to wound prosthetics). It's a perfect crowd movie; it's not particularly GOOD on its own but the weird dialogue, occasionally struggling actors (one of whom flubs a line in a scene and just corrects himself - a second take wasn't allowed, I guess), and completely gibberish final twist make it a delight. I particularly loved when the killer offed someone he/she knew, as he was able to approach her without his mask on. We see a pretty tall, normal-looking man in his 30s, making the actual killer reveal a real surprise since they fit absolutely none of those descriptions (including the "man" part).
9:25 pm - The movie ends and we are treated to our first intermission, which runs about 15 minutes. We spend most of it laughing at various bits of dialogue from Axe, including/especially one actor's pronunciation of "Macabre" (Mah-kaah-BER), and looking in awe at the one guy in our vicinity who had actually seen it before. I believe this was only the second time in All Nighter history that the first film had totally escaped my attention, and the other (Beyond the Door) I was at least familiar with as an Exorcist ripoff. If this was the standard "big draw", how obscure was the rest of the night going to be?
9:40 pm - Trailer Reel #2 quickly establishes itself as a Hammer-fied one, as we get Frankenstein Created Women, The Mummy's Shroud, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. This had me thinking it was perhaps Brides of Dracula, since Cushing showed up in several of the spots and most of them were for sequels (plus Dinosaurs focused on a trio of women), but it was in fact:
9:55 pm - QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967)
An absolutely beautiful print... at least from what I saw of it. Having just rewatched it thanks to Scream Factory's Blu-ray, I figured I should purposely nap and hopefully stay awake for the rest of the evening, a strategy I often employ but has never actually worked 100%. I come back to consciousness a few times (including during the model-driven "vision" scene) but I'd say I saw less than ten minutes of it overall, which is a bummer for my desire to see it on film - especially when it looks this good, as it was a rare Technicolor print - but a "greater good" decision I stand by.
11:32 pm - Quatermass ends and I head outside for a little fresh air, and I think this when I took the accompanying pics of the lobby, including this gorgeous Terror Train poster I wish I had room for in my own home. I contemplate a coffee, but hold off for a bit knowing it usually barely helps anyway and if the next film was also something I recently revisited, it'd be a waste of alertness that could be spent on more goal-oriented sleeping.
11:53 pm - The lights dim again and we are "treated" to a Beatles cartoon from the 1960's TV series, which has never been released on disc or digitally, from what I understand. For Beatlemaniacs in the crowd, I'm happy they were able to see it in glorious big-screen fashion, but I found it insufferable and wished I existed in the world of Yesterday, where they would never have to deal with things like this. It runs for seven full hours I believe, though my watch swears it's only 20 or so.
12:15 am - They break their ten-year cutoff rule for an encore from 2011's incarnation: an amazing interview with Bela Lugosi that ends in a fashion no one could predict. I remembered that it ended in a very hilarious manner, but not the specifics, so I was happy to have the reminder (I'll never forget it now!). You can watch it here, but I implore you not to skip ahead to see what it is. Just enjoy the old-school blather for a bit and then... well, you'll see.
12:23 am - A trailer reel that was so all over the place I couldn't even begin to try to guess what it might be hinting about. The original Little Shop of Horrors, Attack of the Giant Leeches, White Zombie... something from Roger Corman? A well-known budget pack movie?
12:33 am - THE MAD GHOUL (1943)
None of those things! Universal films have popped up in the fest before - Dracula's Daughter, for example - but not this obscure. Again, I never even heard of it, but I found it to be a pretty entertaining old-school "zombie" film, one that actually came closer to what we think of zombies than the voodoo driven style of the day. Our tragic hero is Ted, a normal (read: kinda boring) guy whose fiance is a famous singer - one his professor/buddy Dr. Morris wants for himself. So the older man does what anyone would do: turns Ted into a zombie using some kind of poison gas, one that leaves Ted normal during the day and having no memory of his nighttime activities, which now include cutting out people's hearts as that's what keeps him alive. Morris' plan to get the girl for himself is thwarted when she begins a relationship with the guy who plays piano while she sings, however, so he tries to get Ted to kill him too. Then that doesn't work either - it's kind of funny to see a movie built entirely around a guy trying to just murder everyone else in a woman's life rather than just ask her out. 1940s horror (outside of the obvious big guns like The Wolfman, of course) tends to be pretty lame, but I had fun with this one - and at a mere 65 minutes, it earned my undying love.
1:38 am - The Mad Ghoul ends and I finally get a coffee. They have pumpkin spice creamer!
(NOTE - at this point, my note-taking became very intermittent as my phone was down to 20%, which I later discovered was likely due to a) leaving the wi-fi on at a place with no wi-fi and b) forgetting to close down all my apps, which were still draining a bit of power even though I wasn't actually using them. So the times will become approximate from here on out.)
1:55 am - Trailer Reel #4 kicks off with I Know What You Did Last Summer, followed by Scream 2 - which are both from 1997. Phil had told us earlier that the film was being shown as a repertory screening for the first time, so during Scream 2 I start thinking of 1997 horror films that wouldn't have been revived by anyone, zeroing in on Wishmaster. As I am not a fan of that one, I dread the idea, but thankfully the next two throw off the "1997" theory anyway as they are 1998's Disturbing Behavior and 2000's Urban Legends: Final Cut. So this was clearly a post-Scream teen horror, but which one? The next trailer was Don't Say A Word, and I immediately made my sole correct prediction of the evening:
2:05 am - CHERRY FALLS (1999)
Thank you, Brittany Murphy (RIP), for providing the final clue! But her early starring role (her first lead I think?) isn't the most notable thing about this slasher; it's the fact that it never really got released in the US. Thanks to the MPAA mangling and its subject matter (a killer targeting virgins encourages all of the kids in the high school to have sex to stay alive), the distributor opted to forego its theatrical release and send it directly to cable, making it the most expensive "made for TV" movie of all time. I saw it a while back and had been meaning to give it another look since I was mixed on it, and I'm glad I did - it played better a second time around, with the film's humorous touches coming to life with a crowd (even a half-asleep one such as ours). The mystery is still a total non-starter since there's a dearth of suspects and the script inexplicably sends all but one adult to a town meeting when a murder occurs anyway, but it still provides the obligatory fun of a teen slasher of the era, and thankfully free of Scream-style meta-humor.
3:35 am - Cherry ends, as does what will likely be my last fully awake screening of the evening, as whether I've seen them or not I tend to never keep my eyes open for much of the final two movies. Why didn't we have events like this in Massachusetts, when I'd stay up til sunrise playing video games on the regular? Luckily, this is when the traditional donuts arrive! For the past few years anyway (if it's been longer, apologies - my memory is bad) they've been supplying free donuts for one last sugar rush to get us through the final two movies. Someday I'll try to see if it helps or not by skipping it, but not this year - I got a delicious vanilla frosted.
4:00 am - Trailer Reel #5 treated us to various Exorcist wannabes like The Devil Within Her and witch films like Simon, King of the Witches, suggesting it could be one of the eleven thousand or so supernaturally charged Satan/demon-y movies from the 1970s. It ended with Exorcist itself, momentarily terrifying me that we were about to be assaulted by The Heretic, but instead it was:
4:10 am - DEMON WITCH CHILD (1975)
Another one I never heard of, from Tombs of the Blind Dead auteur Amando de Ossorio and released in the US as The Possessed. The print was a bit beat up (all the other prints of the evening were immaculate, making it stand out) but it was a delightfully mean-spirited take on the "possessed little girl" movie that was so prevalent in the decade. Little Susan here was just as foul-mouthed as my beloved Cathy, which helped me stay awake through most of it - I missed a chunk of the middle, being woken up by yet another big burst of laughter from the crowd, as the movie had more than its fair share of nonsensical moments and dubbing errors (including another mispronunciation of "macabre"). Again, I never even heard of this one, but I will be tracking it down to a. see what I missed and b. add it to my growing collection of post Exorcist films that are, let's say "less" classic, so that Cathy has some company.
5:40 am - No more intermissions - they always play the last two movies straight through. Trailer Reel #6 offers up a series of sci-fi/horror remakes from the 1980s, including The Fly and The Blob, so everyone kept zeroing in on other 1980s remakes for their guesses. For some reason I kept hoping the 1980s thing was a fake-out and it was Village of the Damned, but when the Warner Bros logo came up I knew it was...
5:50 am - BODY SNATCHERS (1993)
And later, realized that while all the trailers were from the 1980s, they were even more specifically remakes of sci-fi/horror movies that came out in the 1950s, so it's just that Body Snatchers came a little later (probably since it had already been redone in the 1970s). But that's fitting, since the film itself came out later than expected - it was due for release in the fall of 1992 only to be bounced around the schedule and finally dumped into a handful of theaters in January of 1994. It had been a while since I had seen it, but alas my donut, second coffee (we get free refills all night, but I only took advantage once), and willpower were not enough - I only ended up seeing about 15-20 minutes of it. Luckily one of those minutes was Meg Tilly's (relatively) iconic "Where are you gonna go?" speech, but still - I'm bummed I couldn't see more of this underrated take on the material. I also noticed that the last three lineups have ended on early 90s films that barely got released (Ticks and The Vagrant being the others) so maybe this is a new tradition?
7:20 am - Body Snatchers ends and we are treated to a Donald Duck cartoon where he inexplicably gives his own nephews firecrackers when they come by for trick 'r treating, only for a witch to take notice and help them get revenge. This was followed by the National Anthem, concluding our broadcast day and sending us spilling out into the harsh daylight. Those of us who stayed (a hefty percentage, as has often been the case since they switched to an all secret lineup) got a nice coaster for our service, which I will place under the pint glass we got in 2017!
Lineup-wise I think it was one of the strongest on record; all of the movies were good and fun to watch, there was a nice blend of sub-genres (with my beloved slasher being the only one to get a second dose of representation), and all but one of the prints was in pristine shape. And it was a memorable one for me personally, as not only did I stay awake for more of it than usual (I'm amazed I saw as much of Demon Witch Child as I did, not to mention all of Cherry Falls since I had seen it before and that usually means I don't put up much of a fight), but it was evenly balanced between films I had seen before (the 2nd, 4th, and 6th films) and films I never even heard of (1st, 3rd, and 5th), which is ideal. I remain jealous of my friends who can stay awake the entire evening, but I'd rather snooze a few times than miss out entirely. Maybe when my kid gets older I can nap during the day and buy myself a little alertness? Given how quickly it sold out (and how they could double up by selling tickets to standby folks, filling seats that were vacated by COWARDS who left early) I have to assume it is a successful endeavor for the theater, so I doubt it will go away any time soon. If you can get tickets, join me when it returns in 2020!