Homicidal Handymen & Twisted Souls: A Hudson Horror Double Feature at The Alamo

hudson horror show toolbox murders and spookies flyerI love Hudson Horror Show. Truly. Madly. Deeply. I look forward to it twice every year, and it has truly become a family reunion of sorts for myself, and many of the frequent attendees. Chris Alo, and his posse of horror-loving cohorts, have turned this small event into something so popular that tickets sell out every single time! And not just at their usual stomping grounds: They’re selling out at The Alamo Drafthouse too!

This past weekend, I attended the sold out Hudson Horror double feature at The Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY. This show consisted of 1978’s THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, and the 1986 supernatural creature feature, SPOOKIES. As an added bonus, a trio of guests involved with the making of SPOOKIES were on hand to do a Q&A after the screening of the film!

After a nearly three-hour trip from Vault HQ to Yonkers, NY, I arrived at The Drafthouse with my fiancee in tow. The first order of business was to get a refund on two unused tickets, and grab a refreshing brewski. I chose a Brooklyn Pumpkin Ale that was pretty damned tasty, while my other half decided on a 1911 Hard Cider that was also quite good.

Drinks in hand, we hung out in the lobby with the likes of James Harris (DocTerror.com and HorrorSexy.com) and Chris Beaumont (The Critical Outcast) until the all-clear was given to enter the theater. Once we found our seats, Tara and I ordered bottomless sodas and popcorn, and also got an order of Thai chili wings that were out of this world!

Eventually 8:00 PM rolled around, and things kicked-off! Chris Alo did the opening intro, welcoming us to this Hudson Horror event, which was followed by one of the Drafthouse’s awesome “NO TALKING! NO TEXTING!” PSAs. This one featured footage from SAMURAI COP, and promised that anyone caught talking or texting will have their head chopped off and placed on a piano by Robert Z’Dar!

The PSA was followed by a few 35mm trailers, and the night’s first film…

What he does to your nerves is almost as frightening as what he does to his victims!

What he does to your nerves is almost as frightening as what he does to his victims!

MOVIE #1: THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (1978)
There has been an ongoing tradition at most of these Hudson Horror events, where there will be at least one film I have never seen before. Thanks to Chris Alo and company, I’ve been able to see such classics as WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN, MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE, GONE WITH THE POPE, BLACK CHRISTMAS, THE SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, HORROR EXPRESS, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, MANIAC, NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR for the first time, all in their original format!

This tradition continued with my first ever viewing of THE TOOLBOX MURDERS. Set in an apartment complex in California, various women are murdered by a tool-toting maniac in a ski mask. In a bizarre move, the film switches gears halfway through, and morphs from a slasher flick, into a psychological thriller. This leads to a crazy final act that involves immolation, murder, rape, and revenge!

I enjoyed my first viewing of THE TOOLBOX MURDERS. It’s just so delightfully sleazy (which earned it a spot on Britain’s “Video Nasty” list back in the day), and veteran actor Cameron Mitchell proves to be a compelling presence on the screen. Though slow in some spots, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS held my attention, and kept me entertained right up until it’s ludicrous climax.

At the very end of the film, a chunk of text claims that its events were based on actual events. Dubious, I did of bit of research, and came up empty. The only thing even remotely similar happened a year after the release of the film, when two serial rapists/murderers tortured five young female victims with various tools. It’s a rather chilling case, and would probably make for a disturbing exploitation flick, if anyone had the guts to do it. Read more about the awful misadventures of Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker HERE if you dare.

With the first movie of the night out of the way, we all got a quick ten minute break before the second film was fired up. During that break, fans swamped the vendors’ tables up in front of the theater, and I got to hand out some prizes, including my haul of six SPOOKIES DVD-Rs (courtesy of the fine folks at VHSPS.com), two copies of THE TOOLBOX MURDERS on Blu-ray, and a “mystery box” full of mini-posters, pins, stickers, Blu-rays, and other goodies!

Also given away was an awesome SPOOKIES theatrical one-sheet (featuring artwork by the legendary Richard Corben) and a toolbox filled to the brim with horror flicks! Once all of the prizes were all handed out, the evening’s special guests briefly took center stage to introduce the film, and prepare the uninitiated for what was to come…

A night of unrelenting terror!

A night of unrelenting terror!

MOVIE #2: SPOOKIES (1986)
I remember watching SPOOKIES on USA Network repeatedly when I was a kid. I loved it! I didn’t quite understand it, but that didn’t matter because there were zombies, a Grim Reaper, weird monsters, and muckmen! Years later, I managed to procure a VHS tape of this film and in a fit of nostalgic ecstasy, I hurriedly popped it into my VCR. The joy quickly gave way to mixed emotions, because the monsters were still super cool, but the movie itself didn’t make a lick of sense.

It wasn’t until October 2014, when I read The Dissolve’s THE STRANGE SAGA OF SPOOKIES, that I finally knew why I had found the film so confusing: SPOOKIES was basically two different films edited together! Originally called TWISTED SOULS and intended to be a straight-up supernatural horror tale, the film’s creators were fired before post-production was completed.

The main backer for the film, VIPCO‘s infamous Michael Lee, hired a new cast and crew to shoot different footage in order to “improve” the movie. The end result is something that Godfrey Ho would be proud of.

SPOOKIES focuses on a group of “teens” who decide to party at a seemingly deserted mansion, only to come under attack from the monstrous minions of a wizard named Kreon (played by a rapey, Jewy, Dario Argento clone named Felix Ward)! Kreon wants to bring his beloved Isabelle back to life, and secure their unbreakable bond by sacrificing the victims who have entered his spooky mansion.

Using a hook-handed cat/human hybrid and various other creatures, Kreon thins out the cast and tries to make Isabelle understand just how much he loves her. It doesn’t go as planned, and Kreon ends up with a headache, while his intended bride flees an army of flannel-wearing zombies.

SPOOKIES has a definite fever dream feel to it, and could almost pass for an Italian Horror flick. (It’d definitely make a great double feature with GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE, and/or any of the PHANTASM films.) It’s a cinematic oddity that will leave you scratching your head during most of its running time, but it has a charm all it’s own.

While I can’t be certain that the film picked up any new fans, we all certainly had a blast watching it on the big screen. The farting muckmen scene had us all cracking up, and a good chunk of the crowd began to clap along to the beat of the finale’s soundtrack. It was surely a great communal experience!

SPOOKIES is severely flawed, but is still a lot of fun. And admittedly, the story of this film’s troubled production is so much more interesting than the movie itself. Nearly thirty years after its release, there are still hard feelings among those that worked on the original film in any capacity. This became evident once our trio of guests began to field questions from the audience.

From left to right: Anthony Valbiro (Dave), comic artist Thomas Sciacca, and Peter Iasillo Jr. (Rich).

From left to right: Anthony Valbiro (Dave), comic book writer Thomas Sciacca, and Peter Iasillo Jr. (Rich).

Here are just a few things we learned from Anthony, Peter, and Thomas:

  • They had no idea at the extent of the changes that had been made by Michael Lee, and editor/”co-director” Eugenie Joseph. They were unpleasantly shocked when they saw the film during it’s theatrical debut.
  • The farting sound effects during the muckmen sequence was made final by producer Michael Lee, much to the chagrin of Thomas Doran, who wrote and directed that scene.
  • Cinematographer Ken Kelsch’s son died of “crib death” (a.k.a. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) during the shoot. Ironically, prior to this tragedy,  there was a fake tombstone on the set that said “Life is Short” and featured Death holding a swaddled infant. Said tombstone does not appear in the film.
  • The house they filmed in (the now historic Peter Augustus Jay Estate) had a haunting atmosphere. The actors recall hearing footsteps on upper floors even though no one was actually upstairs.
  • They announced that a sci-fi zombie film they worked on in back in the 80s called THE KILLER DEAD (a.k.a. NON-VEGETARIAN ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE) would possibly be coming out on DVD next year. The film only had a small VHS release in Argentina, and several other countries in 1992, but never in the United States!
  • Peter Iasillo Jr. is still working in films, typically as a “Homeless Guy.” I laughed at this, but it is absolutely true. Just scope out his filmography here.

After the Q&A was over, I made sure to corner Peter Iasillo for a moment to shake his hand, chat it up, and grab a few photos. (Sadly Anthony and Thomas escaped before I could get a photo with them.) Peter was extremely friendly, and it was a pleasure to meet the man that I’ve seen sucked dry by a spider-woman so many times in my youth.

Peter Iasillo Jr. and your friendly neighborhood Vault Master.

Peter Iasillo Jr. and your friendly neighborhood Vault Master.

After bidding farewell to Peter, Chris Alo, and anyone else I could find, I hit the road with Tara for a three hour drive on pitch-black highways and byways. We nearly ran out of gas (since rural gas stations close early!), and dodged a rotting deer carcass that was in the middle of Route 17-East. The guy ahead of us wasn’t so lucky: He nailed it, and sprayed our car with awful-smelling deer gore!

But we made it home safe and sound, and the lengthy trip was totally worth it. Tara and I had a great time at this latest Hudson Horror Show event, and can’t wait until they team up again with, what some would call “the greatest movie theater in the world!”

So you may be wondering what the Hudson Horror Show crew has in store for us all next. Well, hold onto your butts, because the next show is going to rock your world!

HUDSON HORROR SHOW XII will take place at The Empire Hills 8 Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY on December 12th, from noon to midnight! (Grab tickets HERE when they become available, because they WILL SELL OUT!) There will be vendors, 35mm trailer reels, and six, count ’em SIX, feature-length films in glorious 35mm!

Though the order has yet to be determined, here’s what you can expect:
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 – Sponsored by yours truly, this slasher sequel is one of the most important films of the franchise (and sub-genre) as it introduces us to Jason Voorhees! Donning a burlap sack for a mask, the monstrous son of Pamela Voorhees starts building his impressive career-long body count, and lays the foundation for his rise as a horror icon!

HALLOWEEN II – Taking place right after the events of the first film, the unstoppable Michael Myers makes a beeline for Haddonfield’s hospital, in order to kill Laurie Strode. Why is he drawn to her? Why must she die?! Can Dr. Loomis stop his former patient from fulfilling his terrible purpose?! All this and more will be answered in the best HALLOWEEN sequel of them all!

DEMONOID – The gents from Vinegar Syndrome are sponsoring this one! When a mine is reopened, an ancient curse is unleashed and soon a demonic force is possessing people’s left hands, and forcing them to commit atrocities! The only way to get rid of the demon is to chop the hand off, but then it scurries off to possess another! This must be seen to be believed!

THE WARRIORS – Walter Hill’s classic gang-flick! During a massive meeting, Cyrus, the leader of the largest gang in NYC is killed, and The Warriors are blamed for it. Now they must “bop” their way all the way back to Coney Island to the safety of their own turf. This is easier said than done, because every gang in the city is out for their blood! As an added bonus, this is the original theatrical cut; not the bullsh*t Director’s Cut!

STUNT ROCK – I’ve never seen this one before, so color me excited! Australian stuntman Grant Page comes to Los Angeles to create a TV series, do some stuntwork and pyrotechnics for a rock group called SORCERY (who you’d be familiar with if you’ve ever seen ROCKTOBER BLOOD), and finds love along the way, in this action-packed musical Drama! This movie sounds IN-SANE!

THE MYSTERY MOVIE – The enigmatic “mystery film” has become a staple of Hudson Horror Show. To answer your question about this particular film, yes, I know what it is. Can I tell you anything else about it? No. Rest assured, it is a great movie, with an amazing cast, and cool creature effects. And, if everything goes as planned, you’ll be meeting and greeting one of this film’s lead actors in person!

So save the date, start squirreling away some money, and prepare yourself for the best Hudson Horror Show yet! See you in December gang!