November 7, 2010

Experience: Hudson Horror Show II - Dead by Dawn (11/6/10 in Poughkeepsie, NY)

Believe me when I say experience, as the Hudson Horror Show is definitely an experience. One that you want to have, that is. Perhaps it is my overall lack of festival experience, but the Hudson Horror Show is a phenomenal experience put on by those who love horror and attended by a great group of like minded individuals. We all came together to have an experience that you can only have in this collective environment. It is a show that featured 5 classic horror movies along with a great collection of classic trailers, all 35mm projections.

The first show was in May and featured Lucio Fulci's classic Zombi, the comically surreal Pieces, and Sam Raimi's debut feature Evil Dead. Now, you have to wonder how in they would be able to top that. How about showing five films. How about bringing more Raimi and Fulci? How about adding names like Umberto Lenzi, Dario Argento, and Lamberto Bava? Have I got your attention?

Thought that would do it. This new line up was Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly), Halloween (selected by fan vote), The Gates of Hell (aka City of the Living Dead), Demons, and Evil Dead II. Wow. I had seen all but one of them prior to this show (Ferox being the lone holdout), but it has been awhile since I have watched any of the others, in particular Demons, which I have not seen since the VHS days. And while I may be very familiar with the likes of Halloween and Evil Dead II, there is a huge difference between watching them at home on DVD and seeing them projected on the big screen with a room full of fans. The difference is palpable and I highly recommend that anyone who has the chance to attend a show like this, do it, you will not be disappointed.

I arrived at the Silver Cinema location right around noon and as I was walking towards the entrance, I was greeted (by name, mind you), by show co-founder Chris Alo (great guy, be sure to say hi!). That was great, Chris and all involved are very involved and will talk to anyone they can throughout the day. I mean, these guys are as big, if not bigger, fans of the films they are showing. It is a labor of love and it shows.

Anyway, once inside the theater, you will be confronted with a series of merchandise tables, hard to find movies, local fare, show t-shirts, and Grindhouse Releasing DVDs. Be sure to bring a some cash with you! I know I always want to pick up a couple of things.

There was a strong turnout with a theater that was not sold out but was very much to the full side. Everyone was amped to see some horror. It was a great environment. The theater is not a new one and just feels like the right place for watching these movies.


The show kicked off with a short by director Glenn Baisley called The Cellar. It is a fun cautionary tale about picking up hitchhikers and watching the diet of the creatures you keep in your basement. We all know that not everything is going to agree with them! It was a good short with some solid makeup effects by Bill Diamond. That was followed by another short called The Sound of Silence. This one was pretty interesting. It had a camp factor that worked in its favor. I think it was a good idea and would be interested in seeing it expanded to feature length in a serious fashion.

Before each film a real of classic trailers played and the further the night went, the bigger the advertised films became. These were great to see, I just wish I could remember them all. Ones I do remember include Black Caesar, Raw Force, Galaxy of Terror, Foxy Brown, The Thing, The Exorcist, Escape from New York, Halloween II, Scanners, and... my mind is blank, there were others and they were great.

The first film was Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox. I had picked up the DVD at the first Hudson Horror show but have not yet watched it, so when I saw it was playing here I chose to make this my first experience. I am glad I did. Yes, I find the animal violence in movies like this and Cannibal Holocaust to be a little off-putting, but there is still something about them that makes them a must see. This one has a little more action than Holocaust and is definitely goofier. Watching with a crowd was something else. The random dialogue and weird decisions characters make have to be seen to be believed. As for the print, it was not pristine, it had marks and scratches and the color was worn, but it still looked great. Seeing a print in this shape feels like the appropriate way to see it.

The second film was there as a result of a fan vote on the Hudson Horror website. I never did get around to voting as I never knew which one I wanted the most. The winner was John Carpenter's original slasher Halloween. A movie that I had never seen projected (along with all the movies of the night) and one that is always a treat to see. No matter how familiar you are with it, its effect never feels diminished and when seen on the big screen is actually enhanced. This is the grandfather of slashers, it may not be the first, but it set up the blueprint. The print was the most beat up of any of the five films, but it still looked good.

There was a brief break and we moved on to The Gates of Hell, which I am much more used to calling City of the Living Dead. This is one of Lucio Fulci's more bizarre zombie films and falls in a loose series with other Fulci classics like The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. Before the film began we did get a personalized greeting from star Catriona MacColl and two others whose names have escaped me, still it was great hearing them welcome us to the Hudson Horror Show and intro the film. I understand that there was some drama in that the video file prove to be bad and they had to get another copy of it and burn a new DVD that was ready just a half hour prior to showtime!

The movie itself is a surreal blast of Fulci insanity. It has that classic slow pacing punctuated with moments of gore and violence. This movie takes us into the gates of Hell (haha) and delivers teleporting zombies, innard vomit, a maggot storm, brain rippings, and bloody tears as our heroes seek to stop the apocalypse. Then there is the ending that just makes no sense. All part of the charm.

In between the movies there were giveaways and trivia, all adding to the fun of the day. These along with the breaks were a necessity as my back started to seriously ache from sitting in that seat for so long.

Movie number four took the show into meta-territory. Firstly it is a collaboration between heavyweights Dario Argento (producer. co-writer) and Lamberto Bava (son of another heavyweight, Mario Bava). Secondly, the film is set in a movie theater whose patrons are watching a demon-themed film when those in the theater then turn into demons like those on the screen. Believe me, in a room full of horror fans you will want to look over your shoulder a check for glowing eyes! In any case, this is a lot of fun in an old school kind of way. It has a pulsing rock/metal score that features the likes of Accept and Saxon. It is survival/splatter horror that does not attempt to explain its origin and focuses primarily on a handful of people looking to survive. It has a nice ending that points towards a changing world order. They don't make them like this anymore.

Speaking of not making them like this anymore, the main event of the evening was the classic Sam Raimi sequel/remake Evil Dead II. The movie covers much of the same ground as the first film only with a different supporting cast. Like the first Bruce Campbell's Ash is the central character, only this time he is not as whiny as in the first, he is much more comical and ready with a quip or one-liner. In other words, this is the Ash we have all come to know and love. The battle for survival is a messy one that looked great on the big screen. I have to say now having seen the first two Evil Dead films it is not hard to see just how much Bruce got beat up. The man is thrown all about the cabin and woods and when he is not getting tossed he is having something thrown in his face. He really put up with a lot here. The print was gorgeous, it was in really good shape and was an absolute joy to watch.

Overall, I cannot wait for Hudson Horror Show III, which is rumored to be coming sometime in the Spring of 2011, likely in May. This is a great way to see some of these old films with others just like you. No, the prints will never be pristine, but I don't care it feels right seeing them like this. It is something I would like to see more of and I am so glad that it has come to my hometown.

So, be sure to keep an eye on the official Hudson Horror site, as well as pay a visit to their Facebook page to keep up on what is going on, make movie suggestions, and learn when the next show will be. Also, check out my thoughts on the first event.

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