My expectations for awesomeness were somewhat lowered, since the programmer for the last two events was now the programmer for the Brooklyn location and wouldn't be involved. But it turns out I needn't have worried. As usual, they didn't announce the titles, letting us find out what we were seeing only when the title appeared on screen.
Before the first film, some trailers:
House (1986) - Lots of laughs at "This ... is a house."
Monster Squad (1987)
And then Film #1 - The Gate (1987)
Not particularly scary, and much more geared toward kids. Like Monster Squad, only I like this more than Monster Squad. Yeah, I said it. It stars a wee Stephen Dorff, six years before most people would know him as Alicia Silverstone's boyfriend in the Aerosmith "Cryin'" video and 11 years before Blade. He joins the pantheon of smartass kids in horror movies, alongside Andre Gower's Sean Crenshaw, but again, I think I like Dorff's character Glen even more. His deadpan "No, we're all dead. Welcome to heaven." still has me giggling a day later.
The story begins with the removal of a tree from Glen's family's backyard, which uncovers a mysterious hole in the ground. A hole that turns out to be a gateway to hell! Glen's parents are away for the weekend and have left his older sister in charge, and most of the story focuses on them, along with Glen's friend who lives next door and is the most amazing combination of metal fan and geek that I have ever seen. Seriously, red hair and glasses, black jacket with studs, listens to death metal. Adorable.
Anyway, the gate opens up and the instructions to close it (found by listening to the metal kid's favorite album played backwards) burn up instantly, along with the album. They try to read the Bible into it (though, as someone points out, this thing and whatever is in it are older than the Bible), but it doesn't help. The creatures that come out of the gate are these tiny claymation creatures, but if they get their requisite two human sacrifices, they join up Voltron-style and become a much bigger and scarier monster.
I liked this movie a lot. As I said, it's not especially scary, but it could be scary for a kid, and I could see where this would be a childhood favorite for many a horror fan.
After the first break was a costume contest, and there were some good ones. There was a Joyce and Christmas Light Wall from Stranger Things, which I've seen a few times on social media but this one was well done. I wish I could do costumes, but I get apopleptic just trying to do BNAT photos every year and those only have to work long enough to get one good shot.
The next movie was the only pick from the 1970s this year, and we saw trailers for Black Christmas (lol that James Mason voice gets me every time) and Alone in the Dark before slapping eyes on...
Film #2 - Dead of Night (aka Deathdream) (1972)
I was bummed the audience didn't seem to like this movie much. My seat neighbors immediately decried it as "terrible" when the credits rolled. It's certainly low-budget, and maybe that shows -- and I guess it's not a *fun* movie -- but it's still an effective story. I'd seen this at the Nitehawk a few years ago, and I find it a really sad and powerful story about the effects of war.
The main character, Andy, is killed in the first scene in what is supposed to be Vietnam but looks nothing like it. We then meet his parents, who are waiting for him to come home, and his mother in particular is extremely invested in his return ... to the point that it's almost creepy. They get the dreaded letter, telling them he's died, but later that night he returns home, very much alive (or so it seems). They're too happy to see him to wonder about the discrepancy, and they just assume the army made a mistake. He's acting strangely, not at all like his former self, but that's hardly unusual for a soldier returning from war.
I won't deny that this movie was a comedown from the more fun first movie. And, being so low-fi, there are some unintentionally funny things about it (gotta love the Scooby-Doo lightswitch cover in Andy's room). But it's still a solid movie. Maybe not the best pick for an event like this, but not worthy of being dismissed.
At the end of the third break, we found out the results of the costume contest. Joyce and the Christmas Wall got third place. Second place went to my seat neighbors, who were dressed as Jack Torrance and Danny from The Shining. And first place also went to a Shining-related costume -- two girls dressed as the Grady twins.
We were told our next movie was a rare print -- in fact, the only uncut print in the world -- and after trailers for TerrorVision and Maximum Overdrive (!), we saw the AMAZING 1989 crackfest, Death Spa (aka Witch Bitch!
(Not even kidding, an actual screenshot from the movie. The erotic asparagus brought the HP fandom memories rushing back.)
Oh my God, this movie is incredible. There were actually a few horror movies in the 80s set in exercise studios -- exercise being kind of a Thing in the 80s. Before this there was Killer Workout, which is terrible and awesome and I love it, but this movie takes things up several notches. The setting is not just any old health spa; it's a health spa OF THE FUTURE. Where everything is computer automated and tailored to individual user -- just swipe your membership card and the machine knows exactly how much weight to put on the bench press, etc. Seems like a cool idea, until you think about how horribly things could go wrong if there's a glitch.
So terrible things start happening -- a woman is exposed to poisoned gas in the sauna, a loose screw on the diving board nearly causes an injury, tiles start flying off the wall in the shower, a man is torn to pieces in the shoulder press. There's the classic trope of "A Party/Parade/Dance is Coming Up and These Shenanigans Had Better Not Interfere" -- in this case, it's an annual Mardi Gras party, which was a bit weird because the movie isn't set in New Orleans. BUT WHATEVER. There's also a Scooby-Doo type plot connected with it -- someone's trying to scare people away from the place so they can reap some kind of financial benefit.
This movie is SO UNRELENTINGLY 80s, y'all. The hair, the spandex, the music, the neon. It made me so happy I could hardly stand it. The movie might seem like it has an identity crisis -- is it a slasher? a ghost story? a possession story? -- but it smartly makes its identity part of a mystery to be solved. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is some brilliant movie; it's still pretty dumb. But it knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything else. It is EXCEEDINGLY entertaining, if nothing else. My favorite of the night, by far.
After the last break, we saw a couple more trailers -- for Hellraiser: Bloodline and Alien 3 -- before a video introduction by Paul W.S. Anderson, the director of our final movie -- Event Horizon.
I'd seen this before, but not since literally the time it came out. So both times I've seen this have been on the big screen, which I love. This is, without a doubt, Anderson's best film (which I know isn't saying much, but still). It didn't do as well as his previous film, Mortal Kombat, at the box office, but I strongly suspect they just didn't know how to market it. It's definitely a film that gets a lot of juice out of you *not* knowing what kind of movie it is at first, and those movies are very hard to sell without giving things away that really should not be given away.
This is a haunted house movie in space, and like Alien before it, it benefits from the fact that there is literally nowhere for these characters to go when shit hits the fan. Loads of great actors in this -- Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan fresh off an Oscar nomination, Jason Isaacs (who appears briefly in some speedos *fans self*) and Joely Richardson. I was genuinely scared by it the first time I saw it, and that was one reason I hadn't seen it since 1997. (Thank you, brief shot of what actually happened to the crew, for the many nightmares.)
Another great year, and I wonder if the Brooklyn location will join the fun next October.