Special Report: The Haunted Halloween Horror Fest – By Jordan Garren

Doc Zombie and the lovely Carrie.Always one to up the ante, Doctor Zombie MD err… I mean The Reverend Doctor Zombie MD, has truly outdone himself this time! I’ve always pined to be in the audience of a film festival or movie marathon ever since I first learned of B-Fest. On October 23rd, the good “doctor” granted my wish with the Haunted Halloween Horror Fest! Now as you constant readers know, I usually have some sort of bad luck before I make it to these events. This time out I nearly couldn’t get the day off from work, even though I had requested the day off at least a month in advance. While I managed to fix this problem, a worse one soon presented itself in the form of a cold. Fearing the worst, I decided to pack some clothes and get my digital camera ready for the next day.

Once morning came I felt like complete and utter crap, but I rose above it and managed to crawl to the shower. (Ok, ok, I didn’t actually crawl to the shower, but I didn’t feel much like moving to tell you the absolute truth.) Once I got cleaned up and dressed, I gathered my things (including a Halloween costume that I never bothered putting on) and headed to work. Wait what?! Yes I went out to the video store I work at, but only to treat my boss to breakfast at a nearby diner as recompense for giving me the day off (Had things fully panned out, he would’ve been at Hershey Park with his son during the theme park’s Halloween celebration. Yes folks, this was merely a gesture of guilt!). After eating I helped him get the store up then soon departed for Scranton.

I arrived in town around 11:00 AM so I went to Wal-Mart to kill some time. Though I fought temptation and didn’t buy a single DVD (for those of you who know me at all, I can already hear your jaws dropping to the floor), I did pick up “Empire Earth” for my PC! Fans of real-time strategy games should definitely buy this title as it is light years ahead of Microsoft’s “Age of Empires” series (For now.). After facing further temptation, I left “Wally-World” and got the theater where I picked up my complementary tickets. Once I walked through the doors I nearly panicked because I didn’t see a single soul! It turns out that the venue was slightly changed for this event. While most Mondo Movie Night events are held within Theater 1 which is right by the front doors, the Horror Fest was moved deeper within the renovated building to Theater 6. (One of the advantages of this was that Theater 6 had a stage!)

Once I figured this out (Sherlock Holmes I’m not), I went over and greeted Doc Zombie and his main squeeze Carrie (and no she wasn’t wearing a prom dress doused in pig’s blood!). They were still setting up shop and seemed a little nervous, but I couldn’t blame them. Showcasing six feature films for an all day event is a huge step up from the previous Mondo Movie Nights which only featured one horror film! After securing some snacks and purchasing a quality DVD-R of “Monster Dog,” I took my seat in the theater at noon with about a dozen other hardcore moviegoers! To kick things off, the first thing featured was a DVD that contained a number of Halloween-themed cartoons, hosted by Al Lewis (better known as Grampa Munster)! This was sheer torture my friends and it softened up some of us tougher bad movie lovers. In between each cartoon, good ole Grampa would pop up on the big screen and [probably] ad-lib a skit before introducing the next cartoon. The years have not been kind to Al Lewis and it truly showed. I felt a sincere pity for him as he poorly interacted with third-rate animation and an unseen bat named Igor. (Somebody read my mind when they yelled out, “Looks like Grampa forgot to take his meds this morning!”). Thankfully, to keep on schedule the cartoons were shut off and the first feature film of the day was introduced.

Garden of the Dead

I’ve never seen “Garden of the Dead” before, so this was a definite treat. In this odd little zombie film, a group of inmates at a prison camp get high on formaldehyde on a daily basis. They plan on leaving the camp late one night via an escape tunnel and have nearly every detail worked out. Unfortunately, their escape attempt goes awry and all of the convicts are shot dead. Later, as they’re corpses are being buried in some rather shallow graves, they come back to life (a benefit of sniffing and bathing in formaldehyde I suppose). The zombie convicts then make a murderous trek back to the prison camp, where they seek bloody revenge. Now this may sound like a it’s a great, suspenseful horror film, but it’s not. It’s a b-movie burger dripping with extra cheese and fun as hell to watch! This flick turned out to be a real crowd pleaser and had all of us damn near rolling in the aisles. What’s truly amazing about this movie is that the zombies are so damned useless! A shotgun blast to the chest or a nice hot spotlight will easily finish off these marauding undead, and yet they manage to kill quite a few people! I think I have to go out and buy this one!

After the film was over, Doc Zombie put in a trailer reel of some really crazy flicks. The audience was treated to trailers for Versus, GAPPA, Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, Zombi 3, Cannibal Apocalypse, and more! Doc Zombie followed this up with the premiere of Resurrection, his 16MM short film. It was done totally film noir and had a very unsettling atmosphere that was heightened by the creepy music. It’s quite hard to fully describe the story told by this independent short, but believe when I say it’s definitely well done and sure to send a chill up your spine. Afterwards, Doc Zombie and his film making partner got up on stage and gave us some more background about the making of “Resurrection” and a humorous anecdote on how hard it is to get calf brains for a movie! Since we were actually ahead of schedule with the film festival, Doc Zombie held a quick trivia contest in which yours truly…. lost! I was stumped by the following question: “Besides the ‘Hellraiser’ movies, what other Clive Barker film has Doug Bradley starred in?!” Going for broke I uttered, “Lord of Illusions” and was dismayed to hear I was incorrect. The correct answer of course was “Nightbreed!” (Damn it, I knew that one!) At this point in the day, the theater was still relatively empty (the number of people doubled at this point) and everyone was feeling good. However, that would soon change after…..

Carnival of Souls

Egads! What the hell is this cinematic piece of crap?! While many may refer to this as a classic, I dare not say the same. This movie completely drained me of my energy and it took all of my willpower just to stay awake. This film begins with a pretty lame drag race in which a car full of young girls goes off of a bridge and into a river. Hours later, police and rescue crews are on the scene and dragging the bottom of the river for the car. Suddenly, one of the girls walks out of the water in a daze and so begins “Carnival of Souls.” The entire film is supposed to have a sort of nightmarish quality to it, but more or less fails to achieve that purpose. It’s attempts at creating a sense of dread and fear fall short and the movie quickly becomes a chore to sit through. Thankfully there was heckling aplenty and that made the going easier. In one of the key scenes at a department store, the main character is waited on by a rather masculine woman. This led to a variety of transvestite jokes and some “Rocky Horror Picture Show” references. However, I can say one good thing about “Carnival of Souls:” It’s slightly better than “Dementia 13!”

Once this movie was over, my aches and pains quickly gained ground and I had to walk around for a bit. Unfortunately, I had a full half hour until the next movie started! This was probably the main problem that plagued the horror festival thus far. There were far too many big time lapses of fifteen to thirty minutes in between some of the films. Doc Zombie tried to keep things moving but unfortunately he wasn’t 100% successful. I’m not complaining about that too much though as this event is still the first of it’s kind in the area, but it’s definitely something to work for future marathons. After a dose of Tylenol and a few chugs of soda, I sat back in the theater and eagerly awaited the next film on the schedule.

Count Dracula and His Vampire Brides

While I’m not a huge Hammer horror movie fan, I do enjoy a good number of their films (Including “Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires” and “Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter!”). However, I didn’t quite care for this film (Billed as “Count Dracula and his Vampire Brides” on promotional materials, only because Doc Zombie needed to rent the DVD projector from a church group. He didn’t think it’d sit well with them if they knew he was playing “Satanic Rites of Dracula” on their projector! Hahaha!). The addition of espionage and deadly germ warfare to the horror plot was interesting but the pace of the film was way too slow. About a quarter of the way into the movie I remembered that Tara would be arriving soon so I quickly went out to the lobby. It turns out she had been waiting outside, in her Aunt’s car for over a half-hour. Whoops!

Once she got her ticket, we went back into the theater and now I had a new ally in my quest for cinematic survival! If you haven’t seen this particular Dracula film, you may want to, if only to see the onscreen chemistry between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The two actors have appeared side-by-side in many films and definitely work well with each other. This is one of the film’s major successes! One thing about “Satanic Rites…” umm…. I mean “Count Dracula and His Vampire Brides” that really gave me a laugh was how Dracula’s brides were killed by water. It wasn’t holy water running from the fire sprinklers in that scene, and I don’t recall seeing a priest bless the pipes, so what gives?! Also I have to note that a tiny silver bullet made from a crucifix, will kill a vampire, even if delivered from an insanely tiny pistol! Once the film ended, we had all reached the halfway point, and thankfully the next film is something I could easily sit through.

Night of the Living Dead

I’ve seen this movie so many times and I own two copies of it on DVD, the remake, it’s sequels, knock-offs, etc! No one movie has created as much inspiration or a genuine sense of dread as George A. Romero’s classic, “Night of the Living Dead.” Filmed on a meager budget in Pittsburgh, PA, “NOTLD” is an often slow paced, but fantastically made horror film. The recently deceased are suddenly coming back to life (so to speak) and are devouring the flesh of the living. A group of people barricade themselves within an old farmhouse and keep the undead at bay until help arrives. Can they survive the entire Night… of the Living Dead?! Well they would have if they all worked together and didn’t make so many foolish mistakes. Word to the wise, do not, I repeat, do not wield a torch near the nozzle of a gas pump! Amazingly, the entire audience was extremely quiet during the viewing of this film, and believe it or not, this was Tara’s first time seeing this movie! She actually jumped during a few scenes and I ended up having more fun watching her reactions to the movie than watching the movie itself! Finally the movie ended and the audience was given a half hour break. After two movies in a row, this was definitely a welcome break!

Winner of the costume contest.At 8:30 P.M., the “Mondo Movie Night” portion of this Horror Fest kicked into gear with some pretty fun contests. First up, the Halloween Costume Contest! Doc Zombie hammed it up on stage in his luchadores mask and the audience voted on their favorite costume. Our choices on costume were: Recently created Vampiress (her complexion just wasn’t white enough for the audience’s taste), the Undead Tom Jones, Michael Myers, A Drunken Pirate, and A Dirty Old Man Dressed as a Cheerleader. Hahaha. It was definitely a tough call and pretty much everyone on stage walked away with a prize. However, a creepy theater patron a few rows ahead of me also won some prizes for coming dresses as Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho!” I sincerely hope that the axe he had in his grasp wasn’t real! After the costumed contestants took their seats, the Scream Queen Contest was held and surprisingly, my beloved girlfriend Tara won! As usual all items won went to yours truly since Tara doubted that she’d enjoy “Monster Crashes the Pajama Party!” The final contest came up and I got my camera ready to snap some shots. I was begged to enter this “Movie-aoke” contest, but I refused because I hadn’t been feeling too well and because I really didn’t know what the hell it was.

Imagine my surprise when my name was called on the roster! (“Bwahahaha! That’s right Jordan, we volunteered you! Get up here!”) The entire idea of this fun contest was to act out a scene from one of the night’s films, as the scene played out on the screen behind us. Naturally we had to act out the opening cemetery scene from “Night of the Living Dead” in which an annoying older brother, Johnny, defends his sister Barbara from a touchy-feely zombie! The first team paired up and did their own version of the scene with a well-done fight sequence that looked like it was choreographed beforehand. (Which was an impossibility I assure you.) Next up was my team: I was Johnny (probably because I was the only one with glasses), another guy was Barbara (since we lacked one more girl for the role), and the third teammate was The Zombie! Now, I’m not the best actor but I do know the lines from that scene perfectly and I had fun as Johnny (while “Barbara” kept cursing at me and strutting away). The highlight of this was the zombie attack. I ran onto the stage and grappled with my teammate and then we fell to the stage and … well one thing led to another and… we really went overboard and turned the fight into a homosexual hugfest. (Which reached it’s height when my glasses flew off my face and onto the stage!) Hahahaha! During all of this, there were two judges on the sidelines (though the audience made the final decision) and my team’s performance was described as “boisterous” and as a “gay porno!” However, the audience chose our team as the clear winner and the three of us walked away with some cool prizes. (I got the complete soundtrack to “Suspiria” and “Deep Red!) With the contests out of the way, it was time to finish up the night.

Suspiria

Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of giallo films and I’ve only seen Dario Argento’s “Deep Red” (a.k.a. Profondo Rosso), so I had high expectations for “Suspiria.” Billed as been “extremely scary and full of odd, loud noises,” the film only managed to live up half of that claim. I didn’t find it particularly scary, just amazingly odd and a bit predictable. This twisted tale of murder and intrigue at a coed ballet academy focuses on a young American girl who finds herself thrust into a mystery of supernatural proportions. The film’s creepy soundtrack was created by Goblin whose music has been used in countless horror films. I hate to brag, but I came up with probably one of the best jokes during the film. One of the musical tracks has a guitar riff that sounds like it was lifted from the main theme song of “Footloose.” So naturally I made the connection and started singing “Footloose” in the theater and damn it to hell, several people started to join in! (“Got to get footloose! Whoooaaaooooaa!”) While the movie didn’t meet my expectations, it was still a fun one to watch and the audience had a lot of fun heckling it. (Remember, we make fun of these movies out of love, not hate… well except for “Carnival of Souls.”)

As the movie ended and Goblin’s haunting “Suspiria Theme” began playing the lights came on and everyone exited the theater. I was feeling pretty ragged at this point but I decided I should go to the after party across the highway at Fresno’s Southwest Restaurant & Bar. I attended the after party for about fifteen minutes and had to leave; I was just too rundown and sick to continue onward. Tara and I said our goodbyes to Doc Zombie and Carrie and retreated for the night to get some much needed sleep. Drats! I did forget to mention one important thing earlier in the article (mostly because I can’t quite remember when it was shown). Another short film was shown during the night called “Fallen Angels.” It was a hilarious, gun-ho “Behind the Music” type movie about a death/punk/rock metal band called “Fallen Angels.” I can only describe this fun short as a mixture of Christopher Guest’s “This is Spinal Tap” and a zombie film. At the end of the mockumentary, the band members are all devoured during a sudden attack by the flesh-eating undead!

I’m going to have some great memories of this event for days to come and I can’t wait until next October for the Second Annual Haunted Halloween Horror Fest! Though there were some very boring time lapses in between films and the audience size and participation was less than stellar, Doctor Zombie and the gang still managed to keep things fun. As I’ve said, this was their first attempt at such a monumental task and they did well enough. Next time I’m more than sure that they’ll keep things more lively and show more short films and trailers during intermissions. The important thing here was that I had a blast and I’ll keep coming back for more as long as Mondo Movie Night lives on! Speaking of which, Mondo Movie Night is now going monthly and the next film being shown is Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond.” Fans of Italian horror/zombie flicks will love this surreal and nightmarish film! The event kicks off at 10 P.M. on November 20th and tickets will soon be available for pre-order over at www.spookydudes.com! Please come out and help make this Mondo Movie Night yet another success!