While hundreds of us Horror and Exploitation fans eagerly await Hudson Horror Show’s all day film festival in May (get tickets HERE), our 35mm craving was partially sated on Saturday, March 25th. This is all thanks to the third annual Hudson Horror March Madness Triple Feature at The Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY!
While it is a long drive, and a little on the pricey side, I always make the journey to the Drafthouse to support Chris Alo’s efforts in keeping the Hudson Horror legacy alive. I also go because I absolutely love the venue! While the service is hit and miss, I’ve never had a bad meal at The Alamo Drafthouse, and I applaud their efforts to make sure no one’s moviegoing experience is ruined by talkers and texters.
For 2017’s inaugural Hudson Horror event, a diverse trio of films were screened to a sold out theater! After a brief introduction by Chris Alo, the projector fired up and the evening’s first film began to unspool before our eyes…
MOVIE #1: THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)
I’ve owned Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of this American International Pictures and Hammer Films co-production for years, but I have never watched it. So it was a real treat being introduced to THE VAMPIRE LOVERS with a beautiful 35mm screening of the film! In 18th Century Germany, the bloodsucking Karnstein clan was thought to have been eradicated. However, it turns out that at least one of the vampires, Carmilla (portrayed by buxom beauty Ingrid Pitt) is still lurking about in search of young, virginal female victims.
Despite using several aliases, the bosom-biting lesbian vampire is eventually outed. With her cover blown, Carmilla (aka Marcillla, aka Mircalla) flees back to her coffin at Karnstein castle, with a small group of vengeful vampire hunters in hot pursuit. Led by Peter Cushing’s General von Spielsdorf, the brave heroes seek out the resting place of the carpet-munching vampiress, hoping to end the Karnstein line once and for all!
While everything is played straight, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS wanders into the realm of unintended cheesiness, and I loved it! This film is a fun period piece that’s light on scares, but heavy on titilation. The main storyline is kind of dull, but is helped along by an able cast, a generous amount of cleavage, and healthy dose of bare flesh. The film definitely won over the crowd and earned a healthy applause as the end credits began to roll.
Once the lights came up, we all had a brief break before Chris Alo came back to do some giveaways and introduce the next film. I joined him and dished out three DVD copies of CANDYMAN, a Blu-ray of THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, plus a “mystery box” full of goodies. As per usual, everything was handed out quickly because Hudson Horror fans are insanely knowledgeable. (One of them knew Ingrid Pitt’s bust size!) Once the prizes were all given out, the evening’s next film began.
MOVIE #2: WITHOUT WARNING (1980)
Time for a confession Vault Dwellers: Up until this 35mm screening, I had only watched WITHOUT WARNING once, and I absolutely hated it! Even though it is directed by Greydon Clark (the man responsible for UNINVITED, FINAL JUSTICE, and well over a dozen other cult favorites), features both Jack Palance and Martin Landau, and is a precursor to John McTiernan’s PREDATOR, I did not have an ounce of love for this movie. And yet, I was prepared to give WITHOUT WARNING a second chance.
You see, there have been several instances during past screenings where I’ve had a change of heart towards films I originally disliked. (e.g. SLITHIS and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2) Sometimes seeing a film with a crowd changes your perspective on things. As you sit there and get swept up in the audience’s reactions to the movie, sometimes it results in an “Aha!” moment where you suddenly realize “Hey, I actually like this!” And that’s what happened as I sat there and watched WITHOUT WARNING in a packed theater.
The film revolves around an alien (portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall, who would go on to play The Predator seven years later) that is hunting humans in a backwoods town. But instead of lasers or other traditional weapons, the creatures uses throwing star… fish(?) to kill its prey. These living discs latch onto people, embed themselves, and then slowly poison the intended target. Hunters, vacationing “teenagers,” a Scoutmaster, and others fall victim to the otherworldly trophy hunter.
As the unwelcome visitor from outer space thins out the cast, eventually its up to a “final girl” and Jack Palance’s Joe Taylor to set a trap for the bulbous-headed blue meanie. This all leads up to a hilarious climactic scene where Palance charges towards the creature screaming “ALIIIIEEEEEEEEN!” before both meet their end in a huge explosion. It easily became the most talked-about (and quoted) moment out of the three films that were screened, and it seems like everybody typically got a kick out of the film.
So now that I’ve given WITHOUT WARNING a second go, has my opinion changed on it? Surprisingly, yes! While love is far too strong a word for how I feel towards it, I suppose that, yes, I now like this movie, or at least look upon it with kinder eyes. I think my initial disappointment with the film was that the alien doesn’t see much screen time, but that’s because it’s a throwback to all the classic ’50s Sci-Fi fare that always built up to the star attraction. Thankfully though, the third act of the movie really raises the bar!
Palance and Landau are great (as is Cameron Mitchell, last seen around these parts in THE TOOLBOX MURDERS), and the alien’s method of hunting is original to say the least. While the film could have used a little more action to liven things up, I don’t think I’d change it for the world.
After WITHOUT WARNING ended, the audience got one more break before Chris Alo did the final round of giveaways and introduced the night’s third film!
MOVIE #3: CANDYMAN (1992)
I first saw CANDYMAN when I was on the cusp of becoming a teenager. I recall renting it on VHS from a convenience store, choosing it over everything else because I recognized Tony Todd on the cover. (Prior to CANDYMAN, I had seen him in Savini’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake.) Hours later, I laid wide-eyed in the pitch-black living room of my sister’s apartment. I was totally spooked, and extremely wary of the bathroom mirror when I finally got up the courage to empty my bladder.
But that was nearly twenty-give years ago: Surely this film wouldn’t have the same effect on me as it did when I was a kid… would it?
CANDYMAN follows a grad student named Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), who is working on a university thesis on urban legends, focusing her efforts exclusively on “The Candyman.” This hook-handed apparition supposedly appears and murders anyone that says his name in the mirror five times. Naturally Helen, being a “Candyman-denier,” does just that. But instead of instantly appearing and murdering her, the titular killer doesn’t show up until Helen unwittingly threatens his existence.
After a gang leader using the Candyman’s name (and modus operandi) is arrested for assaulting Helen, some of the more superstitious residents of Cabrini-Green begin to have doubts about their legendary boogeyman. This is bad news for the murderous Candyman, because if enough people stop believing in him, he ceases to exist. Therefore “innocent blood must be shed” in order for his legacy to continue, and Helen is his victim of choice. Naturally she refuses, so the bee-filled pimp with a hook for a hand systematically destroys her life and sanity.
The evil supernatural being frames Helen for murder and kidnapping, ruins her marriage (which was on its last leg anyway), and ultimately tries to bamboozle her into becoming a willing sacrifice. In the final act of the film, Helen must confront The Candyman on his home turf in order to save an innocent baby, and end her long nightmare.
CANDYMAN is a great urban Horror tale, with a fantastic cast, and a unique antagonist. In a sub-genre populated by Caucasian killers, Tony Todd’s Candyman is (to my knowledge) the first (and last) African-American slasher in cinema history. The film has an eerie score by Philip Glass, a Ted Raimi cameo, some well-done gore, and an interesting mythology. And while it didn’t have the same effect on me as it did during my initial viewing, there’s still no way in hell you will ever get me to say his name in the mirror five times!
This triple feature was a total blast and I can’t thank Chris Alo and The Alamo Drafthouse’s Justin LaLiberty enough for putting it on. It is a welcome respite from the daily grind, allows me to catch up with friends, and gets me psyched up for the next Hudson Horror Show! Speaking of which….
HUDSON HORROR SHOW XV returns to Poughkeepsie, NY on Saturday, May 20th! This show will have a bunch of cool vendors and boasts one of the best 35mm lineups yet! The films being screened are: A Mystery Movie, FRANKENHOOKER, THE HIDDEN (sponsored by yours truly!), Joe Dante’s PIRANHA, SLAUGHTERHOUSE (sponsored by Vinegar Syndrome), and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM. ST 3: DREAM WARRIORS! CLICK HERE to order your tickets, and hopefully I’ll see you there!