Monday, October 19, 2015

Like You Were There: My Final Massacre

by Adam Riske
It’s been a good run but now it’s time to say goodbye.

Note: I’m going to complain a lot in this column. If you don’t want to read a buzzkill, you might want to skip this one. Sorry in advance, but I have to be honest -- otherwise, what’s the point?

This is actually a painful column for me to write. I’ve been going to most Massacres (Chicago’s original 24-hour horror movie marathon every October now at the Patio Theater) since their inception back in 2005, but something just doesn’t feel right about them anymore. Or maybe I’ve changed. In any event, I’m pretty sure I went to my last Massacre this past weekend and next weekend very well may be my last Music Box of Horrors (the cross-town 24-hour horror movie marathon that runs every October at the Music Box Theatre). I don’t want to say I’m too old for them, because age has nothing to do with it but maybe I’m just a different movie watcher than I was 10 years ago – i.e. more rigid, more of a homebody, etc. Something’s different and I’m trying to figure out what. I will say, though, that this year’s Massacre was especially well-attended, which is great for the hard-working people that put on this event.

10:30am: The day started out rough as I was driving down Irving Park road on my way to the Patio Theater. Suddenly, at a stop light, I saw a car hit a dog crossing the street at a pedestrian crosswalk. The dog seemed fine but the driver sped off. I couldn’t see his plates in time, otherwise I would have called the police and reported him because he’s an asshole. Not a good omen for things to come.

11:00am: Doors were supposed to open at 11am, but instead opened about 20 minutes later. I got to chatting with the guy in line in front of me. He was a total weirdo. He told me that he was eating meat for breakfast and having the “hair of the dog that bit me” as he took a swig of his Belgian beer can wrapped in a plastic bag. He was also rolling his own cigarettes. When I told him that I just went to the diner across the street for breakfast he said “I bet they saw you coming a mile away!” WHAT..THE..FUCK..DOES..THAT..MEAN???? As I write this I’m thinking that maybe I’m being an asshole or intolerant and the guy was fine. But now I remember he told the giant skeleton outside greeting people in line that it was doing a “Heil Hitler” when it waved at someone’s camera. So, yeah, he was a weirdo.

11:30am: As I was out in the lobby picking up some cheap DVDs, one of our listeners came up and introduced himself. I will leave his name out just in case he doesn’t want me to say who he is, but it was great to meet him and he was a super nice guy. I hope he had a great time at the Massacre and I look forward to reading his 7-word reviews of the movies at the event!

11:35am: This was usually when the folks hosting the Massacre would run a trailer block but that has since seemingly been retired. A major bummer. Instead, we saw about 30 minutes of shorts directed by local filmmakers. The usual mixed bag. Some really good and some not so much. There are some really talented people out there and it was good to see some of their work. But honestly (especially since there were more shorts played later in the day), I would have loved to have seen some classic trailers. I’ve been spoiled by the previous tradition.

12:00-12:30pm: Fall of the House of Usher and The House of Ghosts

Instead of showing a silent feature (played to live organ accompaniment), this year’s Massacre played two short silent features, each running about 10 minutes a piece. I’m going to sound like an asshole but that’s fine by me, as I usually space out during this portion of the program anyways...which is exactly what I did for Fall of the House of Usher. The House of Ghosts, though, was kind of amazing with some neat early special effects.

12:30pm: Dead of Night (1945)

This was the movie I was looking forward to seeing the most at the Massacre for a couple of reasons: a) the DVD is out-of-print, so opportunities to see Dead of Night are rare and b) I get to see it in a theater with an audience which is awesome because I wanted to see how they would react to the final five minutes of the movie, which are a doozy. To my chagrin, the sound was really bad during Dead of Night, so much so that I couldn’t make out what the characters were saying on screen most of the time. Additionally, they were playing a DVD (more on that later; no 35mm prints or digital this year it seems) which was a bummer because I was hoping we were going to see Dead of Night on film. Lastly, the final 30 seconds or so of Dead of Night is a big twist and that part of the movie was obstructed by people moving around or emcees talking, etc., so I don’t think half the people (most of whom cheered beforehand that they’d never seen it) even got what the closing images of the movie signify. Sigh.

2:15pm: In between movies, the folks at the Patio Theater did not turn on the lights in the auditorium, which was a continued annoyance throughout the rest of the day. I talked to JB later in the evening and he was probably right – I don’t think they knew how. Also, at this time, there was a brief Q&A with Deanna Dunagan, who played Nana in The Visit. I’m not sure why they had a Q&A with her (none of her movies were playing) but she seemed nice and she was out in the lobby signing autographs for free, which is cool. The interviewer was more of a hype man than an actual interviewer but his heart seemed to be in the right place, so good on him I suppose. The acoustics for this Q&A (and the later ones) sucked ass so I could barely hear what anyone was saying most of the time. Before the next movie I went out to the concessions stand and got a bag of stale popcorn and a can of Coke. It cost me $10. At a revival theater. Fuck the Patio Theater. I’m a grump.
2:30: Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)

The Massacre turned around a little bit beginning with Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. I’m woefully behind on Hammer movies so it was nice notching another one on my belt. To my surprise, I really liked this one. I’m probably in the minority here but I think I like this entry more than Horror of Dracula. The movie looked beautiful on the big screen. Like a Blu-Ray should (snark). I’ll say it here and drop it for the rest of the column: it’s an insult to charge people to come to a movie theater and then play them a Blu-ray instead of an actual print of the movie. The Massacre used to pride themselves on showing prints. Now I might as well stay home and watch things on my television. There. I said my piece.

4:20pm: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

This was probably the high point of the Massacre for me. Gremlins 2 PLAYED for an audience, especially the sequence where the print of the movie breaks due to Gremlins on the loose. The audience reaction to that scene was priceless and great to see again in a movie theater. It had been a long while since I’d seen Gremlins 2 and I think I liked it more than I ever have. It’s such a creative, fun, lively and vibrant movie. Joe Dante is a genius.

6:15pm:  Shorts Program

I got to see F This Movie! follower Luke Ciancio’s movie. Great job Luke! My previous comment on the shorts remain. Some were great, some not so much but I’m happy to have seen them all.
7:10pm:   Dawn of the Dead (1978)

It had been a long while since I’d seen Dawn of the Dead as well, so I was very much looking forward to it. The screening at the Massacre didn’t disappoint. Much like Gremlins 2, Dawn of the Dead really plays for an audience. Halfway through the movie, our own JB texted me that he was in the house. I joined him after Dawn of the Dead was over (and following another botched/awkward/AV disaster Q&A with DotD star Scott Reiniger) and we caught up about how each other was doing, the Massacre itself and recent movies like The Martian (we both liked it) and Crimson Peak (JB enjoyed it, I have not yet seen it). This was the time my eyes began burning and I realized that I was getting too tired to see the entire 24-hour marathon through (my original plan since I was writing a column on it). I would have preferred to continue talking to JB (which is always fun) but instead Demons was starting with star Geretta Geretta in person (not a typo, that’s her name).

9:45pm:  Demons (1985)

I’ll admit that a movie like Demons is not my kind of horror, so the wind went out of my Massacre sail completely at this point. It was cool that, before the movie, the Massacre put on a Looney Toons Halloween-themed cartoon. I liked that but then having to watch Demons was a drag, especially because me and JB were sitting in front of the MOST ANNOYING GUY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. He would loudly laugh at random things (and yell out at the screen) a la Max Cady in Cape Fear, he would carry on full conversations with his wife/girlfriend and he got up and out of his seat (no bullshit) maybe six times over the course of a 90 minute movie. I wanted to kill him. He made my skin crawl and he is single-handedly the element most responsible for me leaving the Massacre early. It’s not like the guy was 16 years old (which I could understand if not condone). He was probably in his late 30s/early 40s. Un-fucking-acceptable! Demons was followed by another Q&A, this one with Geretta Geretta, but at that point they could have been talking to Jesus Christ and I wouldn’t have cared. I was in that bad of a mood.

12:00am:  End of the Massacre for Adam and JB

Since JB was leaving anyways I decided to take off too. This year was not a complete disaster but it was close. I’m too set in my ways and intolerant for a public 24-hour horror marathon anymore I think. I’m more on the film festival speed than the Marathon speed these days. I would much rather sit at my place with a select group of friends and lounge in my pajamas, watching horror movies of my choice, with better food, classic movie trailers and comfy seats. I used to look forward to going to the Massacre quite a bit, but like most other hobbies in my life (collecting baseball cards, improv etc.), this one is drawing to a close.
Thank you, The Massacre, for the memories. You were where I saw movies such as The Thing (1982), Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Deathdream, The Old Dark House, Eyes Without a Face, May, Bucket of Blood, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and more for the first time. For that I am forever grateful. Now it’s time to go our separate ways but I wish you the best. From my home. In my pajamas.


  1. I like grumpy Adam, and think he should write more grumpy articles.
    They speak to me!

    1. I don't aim to write grumpy articles but I'm sure you'll see more of them from time to time.

    2. I'm glad to hear it :)

      I genuinely enjoy a little justified grouchiness.

      ...especially to that special kind of D-bag who goes to a public setting where strangers have joined together to enjoy something (movies and stand-up in particular) and decide that, no, they have to be the centre of attention.

      The guy who has to say out loud every line of the movie just before it happens is the absolute worst. Why, Adam? Why does he do this? What is he trying to achieve?

    3. The worst is when you're at a comedy and someone repeats a line that was just said in the movie as if them repeating it makes them funny by association.

    4. What about the guy who's trying to impress everyone with his movie knowledge, even though he clearly doesn't know anything?

      I went to the midnight screening of The Simpsons Movie. A guy in front of me, trying to impress his date, piped up every time he saw a new character -

      'Oh! That's Mr Burns!'

      and so on. Except, this guy had obviously only seen about 5 Simpsons characters. He got half of the names wrong.

      The cognitive dissonance of seeing one character and being told we were seeing a completely different one by this guy made me want to poke out my own eardrums with my car keys.

    5. More satisfactory would be to poke out HIS eardrums with your car key. ;-)

  2. I was also disappointed at the complete lack of prints. That was lame. But personally, I so love old horror movies and the movie theater experience. I very rarely get those things together, so I'm thankful that the Massacre gives me that. I wish it was better run, but I know those guys are working hard and trying to do the beat they can. I got annoyed at the audience laughing at EVERYTHING in the movies. Not everything is a joke. Dawn of the Dead is not a comedy, its often very sad. And it bummed me out when people booed the final shot of Dracula. I get that they're not religious, but that shot completes the characters arch and to boo it is crazy disrespectful to the filmmakers. But still, I was thankful to see this on a huge screen and thankful for the experience.

  3. There's a big fair in my home town. It's always full of drunken rednecks, smells of alcohol and horse feces, and the weather is always too damn hot. Every year I tell myself that I'll never go to it again, yet I always do. I have a feeling, Adam, that you'll be back again next year. Sorry you had such a shitty experience, though.

  4. I love going to the theater in theory, but it's almost always a stressful experience for me. It only takes one asshole to completely ruin a movie, and there are ton of fucking assholes out there. My wife and I have sworn off seeing horror movies in theaters. It's a vow I've forgotten on several occasions. I have paid dearly for that forgetfulness.

  5. My biggest problem this year was the sound and picture. I could hardly hear dialogue and the screen just seemed too dim. It was really a strain on my eyes. I'm glad you stuck around for my short film although again, I had complaints about the sound; it should have been louder. But oh well.

    Other than that, I'm glad I got to see They Live on the big screen for my first viewing of it.

    1. The sound was awful. Did you like They Live? That movie's the best.

    2. I loved it! It was everything I thought it would be. And that fight scene definitely lived up to the hype.

  6. Sorry to hear about the jerk in the theater Adam. I find that there's a lot of people like that who show up to repretory screenings, and I find that I'll only seen old screening that I REALLY want to see. The last straw for me was a screening of Jaws over the summer, featuring the rudest person I've ever met. Announcing trivia to people around him at full volume, constantly laughing loudly (except at the jokes, he'd wait til laughter died down before he laughed), and loudly quoting lines before the character would say them. Some people just want everyone to know how much they like a movie and how well they know it, as if we're all supposed to be impressed. You need a theater who's really on top of it and prepared to kick anyone out who are bothering others (I did see a screening of American Psycho last month that was just delightful.)

  7. Look, I'm sorry. Demons is my favorite movie. I was so excited to see it on a big screen that I drank a little too much Surge...and I have a tiny bladder...and a little weiner. I also have a syndrome known as Bavurrets. I have to blur out stupidities whenever I see a movie by Lamberto. I'm a huge douche and very inconsiderate. If you come back to the massacre, I'll give you a lap dance.

  8. It was worse than Adam described.

  9. This is a bummer, especially since I continue to ponder driving up to go to one of these things because they've been such a big part of the podcast over the years. I probably never will, and will just program my own marathons, where (like you) I can chill on comfy furniture, pee whenever (and wherever, woo hoo!) I want to and eat goodies for no extra charge. I know we get more and more inflexible as we get older, but things are also getting really crappy, right? And by things, I mean people.

  10. always loved listening to your podcasts after the massacre. it was like listening to two guys who just ran a marathon. and I couldn't imagine doing it myself for the many reasons listed above.

    p.s. On more than one podcast you have declared "this is my last one", but somehow(like childbirth), there you are next October pushing out that next kid. So I will take a wait and see attitude at the present time.

  11. Adam, there is no issue with moving on from unpleasant experiences. The older I get the less tolerant I become of bullshit, insincerity, sarcasm, ego, et cetera.

    By the way, have you seen Sicario yet? I think you will like it.

    1. Yeah I saw Sicario last night actually. Really good.

  12. Mr. Riske
    I generally disagree with most of your reviews. I believe it stems from you generally being much more discerning and intelligent than I. On that note, whenever we do see eye to eye I've consider myself to have stumbled into culture and it gives me a sense of progress. That being said, I find myself saddened by your article. While I absolutely love horror movies there is no way I'd do a public 24 hour horror movie marathon. So ask yourself, do you want to be as lame as MD? I only point this out to hopefully inspire you to hold on to your tenacity to watch insane amounts of movies in a public forum. Someone has to be the embassy of awesome (JB you are also an inspiration). Perhaps maybe next weeks marathon will rekindle your enjoyment? They don't even offer such experiences in my neck of the woods so maybe I shouldn't speak about that which I don't understand. However, if you join the dark side (comfy side) and need a recommendation on a huge screen TV, projector or sound system don't be afraid to reach out. Good luck and thanks for all the entertainment.

    P.S. your rendition of American Sniper, from the perspective of a Raptor, had me busting out laughing in seriously inappropriate places, Mahalo. Enjoy the rest of your SMM and keep insight coming.

  13. Thanks Adam for the column, I always gave big Big respect to anyone who survived a massacre, I dont think I could do it, I have the will but not the ability, 24 hrs in a dark room without the lights coming on in between films and 6 or 7 and sleep would come,

    I also have very little patience for bad movie watchers, especially in public where you are not only disrespecting the film but also having a lack of respect for your fellow participants, I would probably of moved if that was possible?

    It really is a shame that things were all on Dvd, it's not the same as you know, I can watch Dvds at home

    1. I've made it the entire 24 hours only once and for some reason it was actually easy that year. Not sure why.

  14. Retraction to my column: Turns out there were DCP presentations at the Massacre this year. My apologies for saying otherwise in the article.

    1. Hey Adam! Who gave you the correction that some of the presentations were of DCPs rather than Blu-Rays or DVDs?

      I just ask because if you got a comment because you said that it didn't appear the massacre was projecting anything on film or digital, I guess that's a fair correction --

      But if your point was that what was on display looked like a DVD or looked identical to the Blu Ray, then whatever format the Patio Theatre was using to project doesn't really matter. A crappy Digital Cinema Package with bad sound and half or quarter -res video isn't in any way superior to a normally mastered DVD, and no format should be used as an excuse for a poor audio/visual screening experience.

      Oh. I just sounded like a nerd, didn't I?

    2. You don't sound like a nerd, because it's true.

  15. You can say my name--at your own risk!
    I'm sorry you had such a bad time. There was something that didn't feel quite right, but it wasn't as terrible for me. However, I went to the Music Box of Horrors last weekend and it is gonna be difficult to choose which one I'm going to next year. I'm not ready to declare that I'm finished with the Massacre, but we'll see. If they keep making weird decisions (like putting the Drive-in Massacre in goddamn Indianapolis...), I'm not sure how much longer I can support them.
    I hope the remaining days of your month have been much better!

    1. Thanks Michael. I hope your month is going well too! It was great to meet you.

      I'm so bummed I missed the MBOH (got sick) but I've been watching a number of good "new to me" movies in the latter half of this month so it's been a strong finish :-)