For many horror lit junkies, our love of the genre transcends the written medium. If you’re like me, this macabre obsession started with movie marathons featuring B-movie monsters, slashers, and after-hours sleaze. A little over a week ago, I attempted to recreate the excitement of the horror movie all-nighters of my youth at the 3rd Annual Ohio 24-Hour Shock Around the Clock Horror Marathon, an all-day event masterminded by veteran Nightmarathoners Bruce Bartoo and Joe Neff. From noon on October 15th to noon October 16th I put my eyes and bum to the test, along with over two-hundred other film fanatics, at Columbus’ Grandview Theater with a viewing of 11 films in 24-hours. From classic to current and ultra-violent to atmospheric, Shock Around the Clock screened a wide range of horror films that all offered their own unique perspective on a truly diverse genre. As a longtime fan that has never been to a horror convention or really shared this passion with other fans outside of online message boards, Shock Around the Clock was like my own religious pilgrimage, a chance to renew my faith in my oldest and most beloved pastime – watching horror movies!
The 3rd Annual Shock Around the Clock was technically the 15th Annual Marathon. With seven 24-hour marathons at the Drexel Theater, five at Studio 35, and several more 12-hour all-nighters at the Grandview, this annual event has attracted over two-hundred brave souls for more than 20 years. While every year boasts a new lineup of movies and new audience members one thing remains the same; not everything will go according to plan. Movies that were scheduled to show may not; a feature not originally scheduled may make a surprise appearance; and there could be any number of technical difficulties to skew the timeline, but that just adds to the charm of the event. To paraphrase one audience member, the technical problems and hiccups that come with screening 35mm prints at an event like this just add to the warmth of the experience.
If this sounds like your idea of a perfect 24 hours, but you still have questions, here is a rundown of the Marathon from a first time survivor.
Each person requires something different in their Marathon survival kit, but for me a blanket and pillow was absolutely essential for maximum comfort. There I am pictured to the right, pillow and blanket in hand, waiting in line to get in. Of course, no matter who you are you need to stay replenished with food and water. You’re allowed to bring backpacks and they won’t be searched, but I highly recommend snacking on food and drink from the concession stand. By supporting the theater that hosts the event you help ensure that there will be another one the following year. Don’t forget to tip graciously because the Grandview Theater staff and Marathon volunteers work their butts off to keep the audience replenished. And don’t worry, if you need to have a real meal your ticket gives you the freedom to come and go as you please, so there’s an opportunity to dine at any number of establishments nearby. There’s usually a film you’ve seen enough times to miss or a contest you can stand to skip, so that’s the perfect opportunity to dip out for a quick bite.
Good friends may not be a necessity, but they will definitely enhance the experience and increase your chances of survival. I couldn’t talk anyone into taking the challenge, so I went to the event solo. Luckily, as I was waiting in line for snacks before the start of the first movie I bumped into a friend from the Rue Morgue message board and Marathon veteran Owen Garth. The Marathon would not have been as enjoyable without Garth’s hilarious riffs on some of the movies, invaluable tips for survival, and failed attempts to keep me awake. Check out the pic to the left of us outside the venue about the second film in, still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Even if you can’t find someone to join you keep in mind you will be surrounded by fans who are all there for the same reason, to watch a crap ton of horror movies! The patrons are friendly and in good spirits, so no matter what you’re bound to have a good time.
Now for the important part – the movies! This year opened with a 35mm screening of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) with a live score by Columbus’ own Sue Harshe, a founding member of Scrawl. The classic black & white Expressionist film was the perfect opener. It’s precisely this type of dream-like, atmospheric film that can be your undoing if played later in the marathon, but being in the first slot I had no problem soaking it all in.
Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) followed, but what was supposed to be a beautifully restored 35mm color print turned out to be a black & white version that may have even screened back in 1989 at the 12-Hour Marathon Night of the Living Drexel. Still, quality notwithstanding, nothing beats watching a Vincent Price classic with two-hundred of your closest friends! As a consolation, The Pit and the Pendulum was bookended by a number of Vincent Price trailers, which included old favorites and weird rarities, all in chronological order.
The Pit and the Pendulum was followed by a 35mm screening of Ti West’s House of the Devil (2009), a DVD version of one of my favorite monster movies The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – the 35mm print was not delivered to the correct location so the curators had to improvise – and Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), also known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, directed by Paul Morrissey. The latter was supposed to be an uncut version of the highly erotic horror film, but turned out to be quite the opposite in a heavily edited copy. Again, despite missing the more graphic scenes, including one that features Udo Kier “fuck life in zee gallbladder,” this was still a highly entertaining and satisfying experience.
The past three Marathons have featured at least one controversial film. Last year, the feature was Martyrs and the year before that special guest Stuart Gordon chose to screen the devastatingly bleak Gaspar Noe film Irreversible. This year boasted Ohio’s theatrical premiere of Srdan Spasojevic’s uncut and unrated extreme shocker A Serbian Film (2010). The film generated a great amount of buzz at the event and discussion on the event’s forum arguing both for and against its merit to be included in the lineup. This was my most highly anticipated film in the marathon and to see it on 35mm with an audience was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. In an interesting turn, the audience was given about 10 seconds of reprieve during changeovers throughout the film, so to hear people heave sighs of relief in-between the unrelenting scenes of brutality during this movie was truly a unique experience that cannot be recreated with a DVD screening at home. Despite gut-wrenching depictions of sexual violence, necrophilia, and pedophilia, I felt like the movie deserved its place in the Marathon and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it for myself.
After the intense experience of A Serbian Film I was wide awake and ready to take on another Ohio premier, indie film Midnight Son directed by Ohio’s own Scott Leberecht. Although put in a tough slot to follow A Serbian Film, Midnight Son was still a satisfyingly fresh look at the vampire mythos with a heartwarming romantic thread. This film is basically a love story, but still has plenty of bite.
This is where my night starts to get blurry. While I tried desperately to stay awake for the ultra-rare screening of what may be the only English language print of Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968) I became very fidgety and missed a great deal of the bizarre Japanese sci-fi / horror mashup. I paced the lobby, chatted with other patrons, and stretched my legs in hopes that I would be reinvigorated for Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986) featuring horror icon Rutger Hauer.
But alas, I finally succumbed to “sleep, those little slices of death” immediately upon the start of The Hitcher.
Being refreshed after my long nap I was ready to view another film I was looking forward to most of all, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond. I think many audience members had a renewed sense of vigor as they cracked jokes about the actors and poked fun at a couple silly goofs.
James Gunn’s horror-comedy Slither was supposed to play next, but was cancelled in what has become a Marathon tradition. Veterans have even joked that the movie should be listed on the program for every Marathon as the “Annual Cancellation of Slither.” Well, maybe next year!
Just before the last film, the audience was treated to a surprise showing of the horror rock musical short The Legend of Beaver Dam (2010) by Jerome Sable & Eli Batalion. This film festival favorite lived up to the buzz it generated during its run on the circuit last year and had the crowd (what was left of us) roaring with laughter. If you haven’t seen it yet, go now and find it!
To close out this long 24-hour event was a 35mm showing of Clive Barker’s classic Hellraiser (1987). I’ve seen this movie so many times, but it was still great to see it on the big screen with an audience of Clive Barker fans repeating the most iconic lines in unison. At least, the parts that I could stay awake for!
To sum up my first Shock Around the Clock I would have to say this is the best way to spend 24-hours if you love horror movies! At 35 bones a ticket, you could view only a handful of films and still get your moneys worth. I look forward to making the trip to Columbus again next year and hopefully I can recruit some fresh blood for 2012! Maybe I’ll see you there!
If you want to hear more about this year’s Marathon have a listen to the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast interview with part of the brains behind the event, Joe Neff.
To find out more about the Shock Around the Clock check out the website. For you science fiction junkies, there’s even a sci-fi version of the 24-hour Marathon so be sure to check that out too!
Until next year, I will keep this piece of the event with me – the official Shock Around the Clock coffee mug that came with free refills all night long!