by Patrick Bromley
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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