I Spit On Your Death Race: Hudson Horror Show XIV

2016 was a pretty rough year gang, there’s no way to deny it. Besides witnessing a completely insane Presidential election, we also watched helplessly as the Angel of Death reaped the souls of dozens of beloved celebrities. 2016 will always be known as the year we lost Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Angus Scrimm, George Kennedy, Don Calfa, Carrie Fisher, and a multitude of others.

But it wasn’t all total doom and gloom Vault Dwellers, as good things did occur in 2016, such as another successful Hudson Horror Show! This bi-annual event has cemented itself as a necessity in my life: It’s a much-needed escape from the daily grind and all of my worries, both big and small. For an entire day, I get to sit in a theater, turn off the outside world, and travel back to an era where filmmakers took chances, and tried to show audiences something they’d never seen before. (And would not soon forget!)

Hudson Horror Show is a family reunion of sorts, where I get to hang out with hundreds of like-minded fans. Friendships have been forged there with people I may only see a handful of times each year. And there’s a positive energy that surrounds the entire event, which I largely attribute to Hudson Horror face man and co-founder Chris Alo. Aided by a team of faithful friends and volunteers, Chris tirelessly continues to put on two all-day fests (and two smaller Alamo Drafthouse shows) each year, out of a love for the shared audience experience that Hudson Horror Show provides.

On the morning of December 5th, 2016, I was out of bed and ready to hit the road by 7:00 AM. (Something that many who know me may find hard to believe!) Hours later, after fueling up on food and coffee, I arrived in Poughkeepsie with The Vault Mistress and small army of Hudson Horror-loving friends. We strolled through the doors about twenty minutes later than we anticipated, secured our seats in Theater #1, then returned to the lobby to shop around at all the vendors.

Grey Matter Art setting up shop before the show!

The usual suspects were there including Inked Up Merch, Grey Matter Art, VHSPS, and Vinegar Syndrome, but there were also a lot of new faces. Though I didn’t have much in the way of spending money, I still managed to walk away with some cool stuff including: A U.S. Outpost 31 trapper hat (from Inked Up Merch) for my podcasting partner “Silent” Steve (Merry Christmas dude!), a few Vinegar Syndrome titles (JACK FROST with lenticular cover, and HOBGOBLINS!), and the latest CD release from Symphonic Fury: The Music of Japanese Monster Movies!

After catching up with a few folks I haven’t seen since the last Hudson Horror event, I ushered the Vault Mistress and company into our theater for the reading of the sacred rules. This year Chris Alo added a new rule to the growing list, asking attendees to not pull out their phones and take photos of the screen during trailers and/or opening titles. (I’m thinking this was inspired by a similar rule announced at Exhumed Films’ 24-Hour Film Fest back in October 2016.) With that out of the way, the projector fired up with some trailers before the first feature film began.

MOVIE #1: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978)

When this Meir Zarchi exploitation classic was added to the the event’s roster, I was admittedly disappointed. Up until this show, there has always been at least one movie in the lineup that I had never seen before. Luckily, we got this movie out of the way first (unlike Theater #6 who had it as number three on their roster) because I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is not a pleasant film.

The movie features Camille Keaton as Jennifer, a pretty blonde that is looking to get away from it all, so she can concentrate on writing a novel. She rents a secluded Summer cabin by a lake, and begins working on her manuscript. Unfortunately she doesn’t escape the notice of four locals who take it upon themselves to gang-rape her in an uncomfortably long sequence. They leave her for dead, which proves to be a major mistake as Jennifer gets her bloody revenge on them, one by one.

Throughout the entirety of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, the audience was almost completely silent, especially when the raping began. (Except for the Vault Mistress, who disturbingly began giggling because of the “f*ck faces” actor Gunter Kleeman was making.) But once the film’s second half kicked in, the audience began to come out of its shock, and was eagerly anticipating the comeuppance of the four rapists.

The scene that elicited the largest reaction was the punishment rendered to Johnny (Eren Tabor). Jennifer draws him a nice hot bath, then slides a butcher knife into the water while he’s ahm… distracted. With a quick slicing motion (“That’s so sweet, it’s painful.”) Jennifer’s work is done, and she leaves a screaming and bleeding Johnny locked in the bathroom. This moment elicited a loud “OOOOOOOooooooooooooohhh!” from every guy in the theater, while every woman cheered!

The print of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was in decent shape, but there were a few issues with it during the screening. (The projector’s kill switch was engaged twice.) And the audio issue that cropped up during Hudson Horror Show XII last year, reared its ugly head once again. Phantom music crept in during I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and actually brought a little levity to the proceedings. Though it would continue to be an issue throughout the rest of the film fest, it was pretty much only noticeable during this particular movie, because I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE doesn’t have a soundtrack!

After the movie ended, everyone took a much-needed twenty-minute breather before the projector would fire up again.

 

MOVIE #2: DEATH RACE 2000 (1975)

After I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, we desperately needed a palate cleanser, and I can think of nothing better than a vintage Roger Corman flick! DEATH RACE 2000 is a great little piece of cinematic insanity that takes place in a futuristic America. The national sport is the annual “Death Race” which pits gimmicky drivers against one another in a cross-country sprint. They have to go from coast to coast, and run down as many civilians they can for points.

The cast for this film is insane! You’ve got David Carradine as America’s favorite driver, “Frankenstein,” Sylvester Stallone as the mentally imbalanced “Machine Gun Joe Viterbo,” Mary Woronov as “Calamity Jane,” and the KARATE KID’s Martin Cove as “Nero the Hero!” Along with “Matilda the Hun,” the drivers must outwit each other, commit vehicular manslaughter, and evade freedom fighters who are taking a stand against the government!

DEATH RACE 2000 is enjoyably goofy, and pokes fun at politics, sports, and America’s love affair with violence in entertainment. The leads are all great, with Stallone really chewing the scenery every chance he gets. And as an added bonus, there’s plenty of gore and nudity for exploitation fans! The one thing that kept cracking me up was actor Carle Bensen’s turn as Death Race commentator Harold, who is clearly parodying the late Howard Cosell.

As the battered, Danish-subtitled print of DEATH RACE 2000 sped to a close, everyone was definitely feeling more energized, and ready to take on the day’s next film.

 

MOVIE #3: MYSTERY MOVIE (19??)

I KNOW that dozens of jaws dropped when the opening titles for this film came up. No one expected this highly requested movie to ever make the cut, and sadly that’s all I’m allowed to say on the subject. It’s a great Horror classic and it was a privilege to see it on the big screen in 35mm! Hudson Horror Show truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

 

MOVIE #4: THE HOWLING (1981)

Months prior to the show, Chris Alo contacted me about sponsoring another film, and naturally I said “Hell yes!” I know how much it costs to put this event on, so I do everything I can on my end to keep Hudson Horror Show alive! THE HOWLING has been on my personal 35mm wishlist for some time, and I was eager to throw down some coin and make sure it got played to a crowd that would truly appreciate it! This was a total win-win situation for yours truly!

Before the film, I strolled up front and did some quick trivia giveaways, and I gotta say, as always, the Hudson Horror attendees are really hard to stump. (Seriously, this is the only show I frequent, where I leave with less stuff than I brought with me!) Once all the goodies were handed out, I dedicated the film to my friend James Harris (aka Doc Terror), then assured the theater that they were about to experience one of the best werewolf films ever committed to celluloid.

THE HOWLING begins with news reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) wandering the seedy streets of NYC to meet up with a vicious serial killer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). Eventually she finds him hiding in a peepshow booth in a porn shop, and is luckily rescued by a trigger happy rookie cop. However, something strange happened in that dark booth, and Karen can’t bring herself to recall anything about her traumatizing experience. On the suggestion of Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), Karen and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) head to “The Colony” for some therapy and relaxation.

Yup! Good ole rest and relaxation is where it’s at!

The secluded resort seems idyllic at first, but at night Karen hears strange sounds in the forest outside of her cabin. Then shortly after their arrival, her hubby is attacked by a wolf, and begins going through some major mood swings. At first she just thinks that he’s simply having an affair with the local “slut” named Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), but eventually it turns out that something even worse if happening: Bill is turning into a werewolf and banging Marsha! (Probably doggystyle.)

You see, The Colony is actual a safe haven for werewolves who, led by Dr. Waggner, are (mostly) trying to keep their animalistic alter-egos in check. Eventually things begin to spiral out of control when the lycanthropes decide that they’d rather give in to their wild sides. Karen is taken captive until rescued by a friend that is packing silver ammo in his gun. They manage to escape and attempt to reveal to the world that werewolves exist, and are living among us!

THE HOWLING is definitely one of the best werewolf films ever made, (I doubt you’ll ever see a “Top Ten Werewolf Movies” that doesn’t mention it) and was directed by the great Joe Dante (PIRANHA, GREMLINS). It’s a little headier than most films in its subgenre as it focuses on whether or not a person (or in this case, a werewolf) should act against their nature in order to fit into society. It also has a werewolf sex scene, a ridiculous number of cameos (Roger Corman, Dick Miller, Forrest J. Ackerman, John Sayles, Kenneth Tobey, et al.), and some early effects work by Rob Bottin (ROBOCOP, THE THING)!

After the film ended, I kind of sensed that it had a lukewarm reception from the crowd in Theater #1. (Maybe because the werewolf sex scene was truncated on this print?) I didn’t hear anyone really complain about it, but I didn’t feel like it had worked the crowd up into a frenzy like INFRA-MAN and LADY TERMINATOR did at previous shows. Regardless, I think the film was enjoyed by mostly everyone, and definitely picked up a few new fans. With the fourth movie out of the way, it was time for another break and eventually more awesome trailers!

 

MOVIE #5: THE HITCHER (1986)

It seems like THE HITCHER is playing everywhere these days, and I’m perfectly OK with that! Along with making an appearance at The Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY (courtesy of Rue Morgue’s Michael Gingold), the film also showed up in the roster at Exhumed Films’ 24-Hour Horror-Thon last October. I was kind of in a mental fog during that particular screening, so it was good to see this Rutger Hauer classic again with a clear head.

THE HITCHER follows the hapless Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell), who picks up a psychotic hitchhiker as he drives out to California to drop off a car. Though he manages to eject the creepy “John Ryder” (Rutger Hauer) from the vehicle, Jim soon finds that the nightmare isn’t over. Ryder seems to pop up everywhere with fresh blood on his hands, both figuratively and literally. What’s worse is that Ryder has framed poor Jim Halsey for a string of murders up and down the Texas interstate.

Jim now finds himself hunted by Ryder, and the law, and both seem to want him dead. Why has Ryder selected Jim to be an unwilling participant in this bizarre game of cat and mouse? Will Halsey be able to finally convince the authorities that he’s not a serial killer? And will he man up and take down the seemingly unstoppable John Ryder before he can kill again?! Most of this will be answered when you watch, THE HITCHER!

Written by Eric Red (BAD MOON), and directed by Robert Harmon, THE HITCHER is a simplistic, and sometimes over-the-top thriller that delivers the goods. Rutger Hauer is great as the enigmatic, and awesomely sadistic John Ryder, and C. Thomas Howell works well as the madman’s foil. You feel bad for Jim Halsey who can’t ever seem to catch a break, and it’s cool when he finally decides to take a stand at the end.

Since I had already seen this (beautiful) print a month earlier, I wasn’t too upset when I had to sneak out of the theater and miss the end of the film. I ducked out early to pay a visit across the hall, to introduce THE HOWLING to a theater full of old school Hudson Horror fans. I did a bunch of quick giveaways, and as always, their trivia knowledge was spot-on. (Though I did stump everyone with “What is the name of the band that performs the theme song to “THE HOWLING II?” The answer? Babel!)

After I wrapped up my introduction, I sprinted back out to the concession stand to refill my soda, then took my seat and prepared for the day’s final film.

 

MOVIE #6: ROBOCOP (1987)

I’ve already covered ROBOCOP and its sequels, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The movie tells the sad tale of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a Detroit police officer who is brutally gunned down in the line of duty. After dying, Murphy’s remains become OCP property, and are encased within the bulletproof body of RoboCop: Crime Prevention Unit. With his memory wiped, Robo-Murphy is set loose on the Motor City, and begins cleaning up the streets.

But eventually Murphy’s memories slowly begin creeping back into his reprogrammed mind, and it creates a terrible sense of loss. He had a life and a family, and now he’s a technological terror that has all the criminals in “Old Detroit” on the run. Thirsting for vengeance, the police cyborg goes on a quest to avenge his death (and ultimately the death of his creator), leading to one of the most satisfying conclusions in cinematic history!

I love ROBOCOP (it’s easily in my top five films of all time) and it was a great way to cap off an all day film festival. Paul Verhoeven (who initially didn’t want to direct it) crafted a brilliant, action-packed tale of Christ-like resurrection (through technology and science), revenge, and redemption. The cast is amazing, the score by Basil Poledouris is timeless, and the vast majority of the practical effects still hold up amazingly well!

When ROBOCOP ended, those that still remained applauded and cheered before gathering up their trash and/or treasures. The show was finally over, and it was once again to make the long trek home. I always feel a series of mixed emotions once Hudson Horror Show has run its course: I feel exhaustion and triumph from once again sitting through twelve hours of 35mm trailers and films, but I also feel a bit sad. It hits me when I exit the theater and see empty halls where dozens of vendor tables once stood, and even more so when I realize that I won’t see many of my friends until the next event.

After saying my goodbyes to everyone, The Vault Mistress and I drove back home, which turned into a harrowing game of “how long can I stay awake behind the wheel.” A few energy drinks, and dozens of rumble strips later, we made it to our final destination, and collapsed into bed until the following afternoon.

Hudson Horror Show XIV was another grand success for Chris Alo and company. It was the first time that both screens completely sold out, and for the most part, everything went smoothly. It was another stellar lineup, and it’ll be really hard for them to top it. But somehow I know they’ll manage to do just that when May rolls around!

Again a huge thanks to Chris and all his awesome friends who donate their time to put on this first-rate show. You guys are keeping the torch burning for 35mm film, and are doing a great job of passing that torch to newer generations of Horror and exploitation film fans! Keep doing what you’re doing guys because I don’t want this party to end!

Thanks for reading Vault Dwellers! I hope I’ve piqued your interest in perhaps attending this show! The next Hudson Horror event will be a crazy 35mm triple feature at The Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY on March 25th! The titles have yet to be announced, but rest assured that I’ll share that info once I obtain it! Hopefully I’ll see some of you there! To keep up on all things Hudson Horror, visit their official site, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter! For a different take on Hudson Horror Show XIV, read what The Critical Outcast and Good Bad Taste had to say about it!

Addendum: I never remember all of the trailers that play at each show, but luckily someone made the effort to jot them all down for posterity. (A huge thanks to Darryl Rabideau!) Here’s the incredible list of trailers that played at Hudson Horror Show XIV (which you can watch below in a handy YouTube playlist I put together):

FEAR NO EVIL (1981)
THE SILENT SCREAM (1979)
STIR CRAZY (1980)
BLAZING SADDLES (1974)
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)
DARKMAN (1990)
BODY PARTS (1991)
DR. GIGGLES (1992)
SHADOW OF THE HAWK (1976)
STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)
PARASITE (1982)
THEY CAME FROM WITHIN (aka SHIVERS, 1975)
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011)
VENOM (1981)
BLACKOUT (1978)
WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE (1987)
DEAD HEAT (1988)
THE PERFECT WEAPON (1991)
SHOOT TO KILL (1988)
BLACK RAIN (1989)
THE DEAD POOL (1988)





  • Chuck Rogers

    Don’t be silly vault master, the howling was one of my favorites of the night! I think your hot streak is alive and well! It’s now my favorite werewolf movie edging out an American werewolf in london! I had never seen the howling before and always just kind of assumed it was crap due to the number of sequels it had when browsing my local video rental store, and I couldn’t have been more wrong!