Tuesday, October 4, 2016

24 Hours of Movies: Shudder!

by Patrick Bromley
This Scary Movie Month, you can do a 24-hour marathon from the comfort of your laptop!

One of the best parts of Scary Movie Month is programming marathons, and the 24-hour horror marathons several of us have been attending/programming over the last 10 years have been a highlight of my #SMM experience. I thought it would be fun this year to try to program one of these hypothetical marathons (read: I will not actually be watching all of these) exclusively with movies available on Shudder.com, the horror streaming service about which I cannot say enough positive things. I have been a subscriber since its inception and have only seen it get better as it continues to grow, technical difficulties notwithstanding.

Real talk: I won't pretend to have seen every movie offered on Shudder, which is a big part of what makes it great -- as someone who has seen a LOT of horror movies, I'm impressed at their ability to keep finding titles with which I'm unfamiliar. I could easily program this 24-hour marathon three different ways. That's how much stuff is on there. This is the lineup I chose based on what I would want to watch and the way I want the marathon to flow.

Realer talk: don't actually watch a horror marathon on your laptop. Shudder is available on a number of platforms that will allow you to stream content to your TV.

Noon - The Golem (1920, dir. Paul Wegener) Back when I was attending the 24-hour horror festivals in Chicago ever year, the tradition was always to start with a silent film. I like that tradition. Not only did it provide an opportunity to see a film in a cool way (always with live organ accompaniment), but putting it early assured that the audience would still have the energy and the patience to see it through; programming it much later would be a surefire recipe for a mass nap -- not a comment on the quality of the film, just on the conditions under which it's being viewed. It also offers a bit of horror history early on, so that we can watch the remaining 22+ hours of movies in relation to its silent movie roots. I've seen The Golem only once and it was several years ago, so it makes sense to start here rather than watch Caligari or the John Barrymore Jekyll & Hyde again. I also just finished a novel by Edward Lee about golems, so I've got them on the brain.
1:30 p.m. - White Zombie (1932, dir. Victor Halperin) This is often the spot where a Universal classic would go, but Shudder doesn't have access to that library. Instead, let's go with a Bela Lugosi classic that's lesser known (if not for the band taking the name of the movie, I'm not sure it would even be as popular as it is). It's mostly just an excuse to watch Bela Lugosi for 70 minutes and be comforted by that hiss that appears across the sound tracks of many classic movies. I love the hiss.

2:45 p.m. - Eaten Alive (1976, dir. Tobe Hooper) With the "silent" and the "classic" entries out of the way, anything goes. Eaten Alive is a very enjoyable, anything goes kind of horror movie. Not only do I get to program a Tobe Hooper film into the lineup, but it's one that I've seen way fewer times than most of his other work. I'm happy to see him represented somewhere on Shudder, just as I'm happy to revisit this lunatic bit of sleaze in which Neville Brand plays the maniacal proprietor of a hotel out in the swamp who murders his tenants and feeds them to a giant alligator. If you felt yourself dragging at all during the first two movies, Eaten Alive will wake you the fuck up. It's the kind of movie in which everything is cranked way past 11.
4:30 - The Battery (2012, dir. Jeremy Gardner) Not only does Shudder offer a bunch of classic titles and older obscurities, but they're also shining a light on some of the most interesting voices in contemporary horror. That perfectly describes the debut movie from Jeremy Gardner, one of the best modern micro-budget ($6,000!) indies and one of the best zombie movies of the 2000s. Understanding full well that the zombie genre is played the fuck out, Gardner finds a totally new way to tell a story of friendship and survival as two guys hang out in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. This movie is so goddamn good.

6:30 p.m. - An American Werewolf in London (1981, dir. John Landis) I will often reserve the primetime dinner (pizza) spot in these 24-hour marathons for something popular and commercial, thinking that if anyone was going to drop by and join in for a movie, this is when he or she is most likely to do it. The bad news is that Shudder doesn't offer a ton of really popular, commercial horror movies. The good news is that Shudder doesn't offer a ton of really popular, commercial horror movies, instead focusing on smaller, more niche titles for those of us who have already seen most of the traditional classics. They do, however, stream John Landis' brilliant horror comedy An American Werewolf in London, which is about as good as '80s horror gets. Often imitated, never repeated, this is still the best werewolf movie ever made.

8 p.m. - Deathdream (1974, dir. Bob Clark) This was one of the hardest time slots to program for some reason; it's too early for things to get weird but too late for them to remain at all tame. Enter Deathdream, aka Dead of Night, director Bob Clark's zombie horror tragedy about a family whose son is killed in Vietnam but comes home anyway as something...different. Political, angry, sad, creepy and altogether brilliant, I maintain that Deathdream is one of the best horror films of the 1970s. I hope its placement on Shudder allows more people to see it.
9:45 p.m. - WNUF Halloween Special (2013, dir. Chris LaMartina et. al.) Having just seen this for the first time (on Shudder!), I think it will make a perfect break in the lineup and make a great palate cleanser going into the weirdness of the overnight stretch. An astounding piece of mimicry and recreation, WNUF presents itself as a VHS recording of a local TV broadcast from the '80s in which a newsman goes into a house that's supposedly haunted on Halloween night. That stuff is fun, but what makes WNUF so entertaining is the fake commercials that break up the program, all of which feel totally accurate. I like that I can program a completely different kind of viewing experience while still sticking to the rules of only watching what's available on Shudder.

11:30 - Tourist Trap (1979, dir. David Schmoeller) There's a bit of crossover between what's available to watch on Shudder and what's available to watch on Full Moon Streaming, the other horror streaming service that I've been subscribed to for a few years now. I don't think I could realistically program a 24-hour marathon I'd want to sit through using Full Moon Streaming, but I like that some of the best titles from that service are also showing on Shudder. Tourist Trap is one of them. A movie born out of the great '70s horror tradition, it's about a group of young people who get stranded in the middle of nowhere and are attacked and killed by giant mannequins. Yes, it's terrifying. It's also PG for some reason. I'm guessing it's because it doesn't show a ton of violence, because it's certainly scary and intense enough to earn an R.
1 a.m. - Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975, dir. Andrea Bianchi) And...we're off. If you have even a passing interest in Italian horror and want to explore the genre further, you'd be crazy not to subscribe to Shudder. They offer everything from the best and most "highbrow" (Deep Red) to batshit trash like this giallo from Andrea Bianchi. The title alone should tell you what you're in for: one of the sleaziest horror films this side of The New York Ripper. It offers fashion models, tons of naked women, violent slashings, icky rape stuff (and some of that is offered as a romantic moment in what is one of the craziest final scenes you will ever see in a movie) and, best of all, Edwige Fenech. If you have to watch trash like this in your 13th hour of the marathon, you should at least have Edwige Fenech to get you through.

2:45 a.m. - House by the Cemetery (1981, dir. Lucio Fulci) I went through a version of this marathon that didn't have any Fulci, but that just didn't seem right -- especially not when Shudder offers most of his best work (except you, Murder Rock). I don't think I like this one as much as City of the Living Dead, but I've seen it fewer times and just want the excuse to rewatch it in the time slot that Fulci rightfully owns. This movie served as the biggest inspiration on We Are Still Here, my favorite horror movie of last year and a title that's also streaming on Shudder. I came very close to programming it in this lineup but ultimately decided it's too similar to House by the Cemetery.

4:15 a.m. - Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973, dir. Christopher Speeth) Here's a weird one: it's a super low-budget effort from the early '70s that would probably have been totally forgotten had it not resurfaced as part of Arrow Video's American Horror Project Vol. 1 boxed set earlier this year. The movie is crudely made and probably not objectively "good," but I find it incredibly effective in a way that would later influence the work of both Tobe Hooper and Rob Zombie. All three of the American Horror Project titles are available on Shudder, which is nice because it means you don't have to shell out the money to buy the box and can sample the films first to see if they're for you. Malatesta is probably the least technically well made in the bunch, but also the one I find most effective and lasting. This is truly perfect 4 a.m. viewing.
5:30 a.m. - Wishing Stairs (2003, dir. Jay Yeon Yoon) I could easily build a whole 24-hour lineup of non-English titles on Shudder, as they have a huge selection of Asian and European horror films. I didn't for a handful of reasons, chief among them because I haven't seen them all. I'm going with Wishing Stairs here -- a mix of a kind of ghost story and a reworking of The Monkey's Paw -- because it has the right energy for this early in the morning. I don't want to program something like The Machine Girl or Dream Home in this spot because they're just too violent and/or intense. It's too early in the morning for that shit. Wishing Stairs is a good mix of teenage fantasy and scary stuff, plus it's creepy and offbeat in the way that's specific to many of my favorite Korean horror films.

7:30 a.m. - Kill Baby Kill (1966, dir. Mario Bava) There's so much Mario Bava available on Shudder that I wanted him to be represented somewhere. I also knew that I wanted it to be this movie that we watch, because it's both one of my favorites of his (having still not seen them all, full disclosure) and because it's not readily available on Blu-ray the way most of his others are. Gothic Bava is my favorite Bava -- the sets, the production design, the atmosphere. Kill Baby Kill is one of the very best of the "haunted castle" subgenre that sprang up in the 1960s. It's so good.

8:45 a.m. - My Sucky Teen Romance (2012, dir. Emily Hagins) The thing about trying to program a 24-hour horror marathon is finding variety -- you don't want every movie to have the same emotional effect or the whole thing will become oppressive and exhausting. This is even more challenging when your options are limited only to what's available on a certain platform (as opposed to the old "any horror movie ever made"), which is not to complain about any lack of variety on Shudder as much as explain why certain choices are being made. The 2012 teenage romcom My Sucky Teen Romance, about a teen girl who finds a relationship with a vampire during a fan convention, was written and directed by then-18-year old Emily Hagins (she of Zombie Girl! The Movie fame) and often feels like a movie made by a teenager. But that's a huge part of its charm, too; it's a horror comedy for young people that feels like it's made for them without pandering. After 20 or so hours of darkness, something light and sweet will go great with breakfast.
10 a.m. - I Am a Ghost (2014, dir. H.P. Mendoza) Credit to Chaybee for turning me on to this one, another micro-budget indie that basically features one woman stuck in a house for the entire running time. I love so many of the aesthetic choices director H.P. Mendoza makes, from the font of the credits to the masking that appears around the frame. There's a middle section that drags a little for me, but the opening and closing sequences are so strong (the latter of which is genuinely very scary) that it will be make for a fun way to work whatever nerve we have remaining. At 76 minutes, it's also very short, which allows us to sneak in one more movie before we have to wrap things up.

11:15 a.m. - Day of the Dead (1985, dir. George A. Romero) Picking the last movie was a challenge because you want to go out with a bang but not a downer. Like I mentioned, I thought about We Are Still Here because I love it and it has a gonzo climax, but it's too similar to the Fulci movie we watched just a few hours ago. Instead, let's go with the final chapter in George Romero's original Dead trilogy, a brave and bleak look at humanity's last stand after being driven underground by the zombie plague and ceding total control to the military. This film has what are still the best zombie gore effects ever put to screen, and the insane carnage of the final act will be the perfect reward for for making our way through 24+ hours of horror.

You can sign up for Shudder here.


  1. "don't actually watch a horror marathon on your laptop." OR PHONE, EVER.

    Great line-up Patrick and thanks for the shout out. Glad you dug "I Am Ghost" and it definitely has one of my fav Title cards and openings in the last 20 years.

    "Eaten Alive" is one of my favorite "new to me" movies this year. It's got such momentum and such a manic pace and performance from Neville Brand not to mention that truly bizarre performance from De Palma fav (and your's)- William Finley. It's the kind of Horror film that made me feel like taking a shower as Hooper uses that swampy hotel location to the maximum. It was 1000 better than I anticipated.

    I don't think I could deal with ol' Bob at 2:45am, btw :)

  2. This is such a great line-up. Starting with the silent/classic stuff is the right move and I like the palette cleansers you've found among Shudder's roster.

    I actually watched WNUF Halloween Special back in August (or as I call it, pre-Halloween season) and wondered what you'd think of it. I'm gonna try to seek out Call Girl of Cthulhu based on the strength of WNUF (unfortunately it is not currently on Shudder).

    Also, Tourist Trap remains one of the top three Charles Band productions ever created. David Schmoeller is such an underrated filmmaker it's ridiculous.

    1. Temper expectations for Cthulhu. It's nothing like WNUF and I personally didn't really like it.

  3. Man, looks like a great lineup - very little I've seen and a few I really want to see. I've signed up for an early invite to Shudder when it comes to Canada but if they don't make it happen in October I might not sign up out of incredulous spite! Or spiteful incredulity even! Don't they know it's Scary Movie Month VII?

    And goddamn I love The Battery - would recommend the blu-ray if you don't already have it (you do) for a pretty good "making of" doc.

    1. Try again to sign up on their site! I'm in Canada as well and was able to sign up a few weeks ago. It's been pretty amazing so far but unfortunately they have yet to release any apps for TV streaming. Definitely worth the $5!

  4. I actually just watched The Golem today and thought it was really good. I think you meant 1920 for it, though.

  5. I am a Ghost and The Battery are a couple of the best horror movies of the decade. Great lineup, Tourist Trap tonight!

  6. Nice to see Fulci making his 2am appearance, its the best time to see Giallo,

  7. Shudder is one of the sponsors of Nitehawk Cinema's annual all-night Halloween 'Nite to Dismember,' which this year is heavy on 35mm screenings (four of five screened movies will be 35mm). Every year they give free subscriptions to Shudder as random prizes between movies. Click link to see what Brooklyn's most intrepid repertory programmers have scheduled for a 12AM to approx. 8-9AM marathon. I'd say Patrick has them beat at their own game. :-)

    1. $60 for an overnight marathon seems crazy (it's that cost of living in NYC!). The one around here go for 24 hours and charge between $20 and $30, typically.

    2. But does it include complementary breakfast, a free ride on an Uber-type transportation provider, free movies (everybody gets to stick their hand in a grab bag and get two free DVD/Blu-rays... last year I got "Pumkpkinhead 2" :-P) and free drinks?

      And yep, that's the outrageous cost of living... in Brooklyn. If this took place in Manhattan, where I live, it'd probably cost about $85-100. Gotham... gotta love it, especially when we get quirky Tobe Hooper fan tributes and/or Q&A's with celebrated movie auteurs for regular ticket prices ($12-15).

  8. Deathdream is great, but a quite sad movie. It more effectively comments on the troubles that post-war vets had, than most war movies out their. For a small Canadian horror movie, on a tiny budget, it's really impressive.

  9. Would love to see Patrick's version of a marathon if he could pick any horror films that exist...