Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Like You Were There: Adam Whiffs on a 24-Hour Scary Movie Marathon

 by Adam Riske

I set out to watch 13 horror movies in 24 hours. Here’s how it went!

I used to go to 24-hour horror movie marathons every October in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre. Obviously, that wasn’t an option this year, but encouraged by Patrick and Erika’s success at running 24-hour marathons at their home, I thought it would be fun to program my own. During October I planned out my lineup (there were multiple iterations) and finally settled on one a couple days prior to the big day. Here’s what I had planned:

12:00pm – Black Friday
1:20pm – Mr. Sardonicus
3:00pm – My Demon Lover
4:40pm – Theater of Blood
6:35pm – Misery
8:35pm – The Mortuary Collection
10:35pm – Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
12:15am – Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
2:20am – Session 9
4:10am – FeardotCom
6:00am – The Devil’s Rain
7:35am – Vamp
9:20am – Doctor Sleep: Director’s Cut

So, finally I got to the big day and woke up in excited anticipation. I had a nice breakfast and went to the grocery store to buy food for the marathon including fruit snacks, chocolate, popcorn, energy drinks, soda, water, and rum. I was going to skip lunch and order a pizza in the late afternoon, which would last me throughout the night. After shopping, I was back home around 9:00am and thought “Why not pre-game a little before starting at noon?” So (un)officially my marathon started at 9:40am with a collection of shorts and TV episodes.
9:40am – Cinemassacre “The Head Incident” short film
10:00am – Tales from the Crypt episode “Split Personality” – the one with Joe Pesci dating identical twins
10:30am – Masters of Horror episode “The Black Cat” – the amazing Edgar Allen Poe one with Jeffrey Combs, directed by Stuart Gordon

Watching a bunch of shorts before the marathon proper was both a good and bad idea. It was good for setting a mood, which was the desired effect. The bad was I was starting prematurely and either a) extending it to a 26+ hour marathon or b) making it so I would have to cut one of the films in my lineup later to end at close to 24 hours.

After taking a break from 11:30am-12:00pm (I had the Tales from the Hood soundtrack on in the background), I started just before noon watching Black Friday, which is a gangster/brain transplant drama starring Boris Karloff as a surgeon and Bela Lugosi as a crime kingpin. It’s barely a horror movie except for the fact that two horror legends figure prominently in the film. I really enjoyed it though (it’s fun and well-acted) and at 70 minutes, a perfect movie to kick off a marathon. I should also note I had a rum & coke during movie. This will factor in later.

After taking a 5-minute break (including pouring myself another drink), I watched Mr. Sardonicus for the first time. One of my favorite things about the movie was they left in the in-theater gimmick where the audience decides the fate of the film’s villain in the final 5 minutes. I voted to show the character mercy, but the audience chose otherwise. The movie itself was a blast and I’m looking forward to diving into more William Castle movies soon. Things were moving along smoothly. I was ahead of schedule and feeling good heading into movie #3!

The third movie was a bit of a wild card choice on my part, the Scott Valentine (Family Ties) headlined horror comedy My Demon Lover. This had all the earmarks of being either a hidden gem or a chore to get through. It somehow was a bit of both. For the longest time, the Scott Valentine character was wearing dirty clothes (to fit his character) and it was driving me crazier than when Emelia Clarke was dragging a roller suitcase around for the first 40 minutes of Last Christmas. In both cases I couldn’t relax until he changed clothes, or she stored her suitcase somewhere off-screen. I was not vibing with My Demon Lover until the last 30 minutes when it goes completely off-the-rails and climaxes (a pun since this movie is about how Scott Valentine can’t have sex with his girlfriend or else he’ll become a demon) with a demon-on-demon showdown at a castle. This movie goes for it, for better or worse. I was still drinking at this point and it probably benefitted the movie but not myself. I’m a lightweight when it comes to booze these days and my body would soon make me aware of this.
After My Demon Lover, I put on some Halloween music on Pandora and took a breather for 20 minutes to have dinner (I ordered a double dough cheese pizza) before starting Theater of Blood. P.S. If you’re having a marathon at home, don’t eat heavy pizza. Get thin crust! The bread and alcohol were starting to take effect and I was getting super tired. I had seen Theater of Blood before but not for probably 10 years (it played as the penultimate movie at a Music Box Massacre long ago) and distance apart didn’t help or hurt the movie. I’m still a fan even though it’s very repetitive (couldn’t there have been a couple less critics to kill?) and a draggy movie along with a dragging me were a bad mix. In any event, I would recommend the movie especially if you’re a fan, like me, of late-career sleazy Vincent Price movies like The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Monster Club, and From a Whisper to a Scream. After the movie, I was really struggling so I took a shower to wake myself up. This is one of the benefits of watching movies at home. You can’t do that at a movie theater. Before that, going outside for 5 minutes between movies to get some fresh air seemed to do the trick but now even that wasn’t working.

I eased back into the marathon with an old Casper cartoon, “Casper’s Spree Under the Sea,” and it was short and cute. Just the reset I needed before starting the fifth movie, The Mortuary Collection, a new horror anthology that became available on Shudder just recently. I had heard good things about this one (from our own Patrick Bromley) and he was totally right! This is an interestingly structured and beautifully made horror anthology, a cut above most direct-to-streaming horror films and I really dug the segments (one had a great twist I didn’t anticipate) and Clancy Brown as the film’s host. I highly recommend the movie. The experience watching for me, though, could have been better. I was starting to get a hangover from drinking too much rum earlier and The Mortuary Collection (good as it may be) is an aggressive movie both in both sight and sound. I switched to water and took a couple of Tylenols before the movie concluded. After the film I knew I needed a nap, so I closed my eyes for 25 minutes (which is the max I felt appropriate before a break became too long for a marathon) and pressed play on next movie. It was the one that would either give me more energy or completely shut me down.
That movie was my most anticipated watch of the marathon – the Mike Flanagan director’s cut of Doctor Sleep. I had only seen the theatrical cut once in theaters and loved it and was super excited about the new version after hearing it even improves upon the theatrical version. The people who said that were absolutely right! The theatrical cut made my top 10 list of 2019 (at #8) but this cut would have probably been my #4 movie of last year. It unfolds in such a great way and having the extra time to luxuriate in this film’s world makes it more obvious what a classic Doctor Sleep is, which is especially impressive being a sequel to The Shining, an iconic piece of horror. Doctor Sleep was just the right movie to nurse me through a hangover. When Ewan McGregor was talking to people about to die, it felt meta-textual because I was feeling like death myself. After the film ended, it was 12:15am. I was six movies in with seven to go and had to make a decision. Do I keep going or call it a day? I let another nap decide.

I rested my head for 20 minutes and said that depending on how I felt when I woke up, that’s my decision. 20 minutes pass, my alarm goes off and I thought “You know, Doctor Sleep feels like the perfect way to end this.” So that’s what ended up happening. I originally planned to close the 24 hours off with that movie anyways (it would have been a great choice for that) but moved it up 12 hours because it was the one I knew I needed to get to the most for my marathon. So, I had a great time even if I didn’t achieve my goal of making it the full 24 hours.

Looking back, I’m not sure how I ever completed a 24-hour marathon before. I did once at the Music Box Massacre in 2007. In other years I made it 12 hours or even 18 hours before getting what was once called the “Massacre shakes” where your body shuts down. I thought I could avoid that having the marathon at home, but it almost made it more difficult. I didn’t have a theater of people to prop me up energy-wise, a bed was too close by as a temptation and bringing the party to my place (i.e. booze) took the wind out of my sails. I find it oddly appropriate that the marathon I made it through in 2007 closed with The Shining and the one I had yesterday (but didn’t finish) closed with Doctor Sleep. Just like Danny Torrance, I’ve grown up and gotten weary. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must attend to the ghost woman sitting in my bathtub.


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  2. Hmm... I'm not working this weekend, and now this post has me wondering if I could pull off the 24-hour thing.

  3. 24 hours movie marathon at our age is getting difficult to do. Still, 12 hours is pretty good