Presented by the Music Box and Movieside Film Festival, this 24-hour marathon of horror movies begins at noon on Saturday, October 15, in the Music Box’s main theater, 3733 N. Southport. Tickets for the whole marathon are $24, and ticket holders may leave and reenter the theater. Showtimes are approximate; for more information call 773-871-6604 or visit www.musicboxtheatre.com.
A masterpiece of the German silent cinema and easily the most effective version of Dracula on record. F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film follows the Stoker novel fairly closely, although he neglected to purchase the screen rights–hence, the title change. But the key elements are all Murnau’s own: the eerie intrusions of expressionist style on natural settings, the strong sexual subtext, and the daring use of fast-motion and negative photography. 84 min. (DK) Mark Noller will provide live organ accompaniment. (Noon)
Recent Japanese horror movies (Ringu, Ju-on) have been praised for emphasizing mood over monsters, but this 2001 feature by Kiyoshi Kurosawa carries the aesthetic to a tedious extreme. The sluggish story has something to do with ghosts taking up residence on the Internet, where they peer silently from the dim recesses of webcam shots. More charitable writers have called this a contemplation of loneliness in the computer age, a thesis enhanced by Kurosawa’s handsome long shots of large, sterile rooms. But there’s more drama to be found on a surveillance monitor at a parking garage. In Japanese with subtitles. 118 min. (JJ) (1:45)
Creature From the Black Lagoon
Archetypal 50s science fiction–light on brains and heavy on sexual innuendo (1954). But director Jack Arnold has a flair for this sort of thing, and if there really is anything frightening about a man dressed up in a rubber suit with zippers where the gills ought to be, Arnold comes close to finding it. All in all, somewhat better than The Mole People. 79 min. (DK) Screening in 3-D. (4:00)
Short works by Chicago filmmakers. 59 min. (5:45)
Almost as gruesome as the title implies, this 1972 British feature about the search for a colony of cannibals in the London underground lets a good idea go sour under Gary Sherman’s languid direction. Yet amid the schlock there’s a sensational performance by the always superior Donald Pleasence, as a seedy, sarcastic, vain police inspector, that shouldn’t be missed. Also known as Deathline. R, 87 min. (DD) Sherman will attend the screening. (7:00)
R The Crazies
A little-seen film by George Romero, whose excellent work combines intense, fleshy horror with elements of fierce satire and surprisingly appropriate socioeconomic analysis–all of which is pretty impressive for a shoestring producer from Pittsburgh. In this 1973 effort the residents of a small town in Pennsylvania turn homicidal when a tankload of government nerve gas is accidentally unleashed. White-suited SWAT teams from the Department of Defense are sent in to mop up the hapless locals, including a little old lady who impales her victims on knitting needles. R, 103 min. (DK) (9:30)
Costume contest and burlesque show
A competition for best getup, followed by “an erotic horror burlesque show.” (11:30)
Shot in a hospital morgue, this notorious 1994 Spanish short by Nacho Cerda graphically details a forensic surgeon’s autopsy of a young woman; the sense of unpleasant routine becomes almost lulling, but then the surgeon reveals himself as a necrophiliac. Beauty and repulsion go hand in hand as Christopher Baffa’s rich 35-millimeter photography registers both pristine morgue fixtures and gory human remains. Cerda forces us to reexamine our notions of mortality, expressing concern for the dead woman’s memory over what becomes of her physical remains. Because of its realistic effects the 1994 film has reportedly been banned in 20 countries, and its makers became leading suspects in the case of the so-called “alien autopsy” footage. 32 min. (Brian Thomas) (12:15)
One of the most technically proficient of David Cronenberg’s early gnawing, Canadian-made horror movies (1981), though it lacks both the logic and the queasy sexual subtext that made his still earlier work (Rabid, They Came From Within) so memorably revolting. The premise–warring factions of telekinetic killers are sent out by two mysterious corporations–is vague but suggestive, and it’s developed with a creepy psychological resonance, though the film loses some force through the needlessly complicated, indifferently presented plotting. Like Tod Browning, Cronenberg lacked the stylistic resources to match the forcefulness of his ideas, but his movies remain in the mind for the pull of their private obsessions. With Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, and Jennifer O’Neill. R, 102 min. (DK) (1:00)
Return of the Living Dead
Not to be confused with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead cycle, this 1985 horror parody represents the directorial debut of scenarist Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Lifeforce). It’s pretty funny, if memory serves, but nothing special. R, 90 min. (JR) (3:05)
Years before Wes Craven’s Scream was hailed as a postmodern horror movie, producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava were playing around with the conventions of the genre in this 1985 Italian feature. Two young women visit a nightclub/movie palace to watch a sneak preview of a zombie movie, but during the show the audience members are serially stalked and killed by real zombies. The interplay of two- and three-dimensional space is a natural for Bava, a movie brat whose father, Mario, directed such Italian horror classics as Black Sunday and Lisa and the Devil. But once the audience members have barricaded themselves inside the theater, this devolves into a Night of the Living Dead knockoff, enlivened only by the voluptuous gore. Dubbed in English. 88 min. (JJ) (4:55)
Two Thousand Maniacs!
This early splatter film by exploitation legend Herschell Gordon Lewis nauseated people in 1964, but now the fakey mutilations are less interesting than the outrageous Johnny Reb baiting. Six misdirected Yankees (including Playboy centerfold Connie Mason) stumble on the remote town of Pleasant Valley, Georgia, whose citizens are celebrating its centennial (and the 100th anniversary of the Confederate defeat) with a few days of hootin’, hollerin’, and hackin’ up northerners. This is a real odd duck–inspired by Brigadoon, of all things, with a score that alternates between cheesy midnight-movie organ and high-spirited bluegrass–but its bloodthirsty hicks have become a genre standard. 87 min. (JJ) (6:45)
R The Howling
Director Joe Dante and screenwriter John Sayles, who worked together previously on the exuberant exploitationer Piranha, reteam for a crack at modern-day werewolves (1981). The film slides into its situation in a clever, fresh way, and the balance of wit and horror is well maintained throughout, though Sayles’s decision to divide up the protagonist’s chores among four main characters costs him something in the intensity of audience identification. Dante, a former cutter, gets some wonderful things going in the editing, though he tends to emphasize rhythm over sense. Visually, the film is very handsome, with a bold, expressionist use of color and sinuous camera movements. Homage crazed, the film features walk-ons by Roger Corman, Dick Miller, Jonathan Kaplan, and Sayles himself, as well as good work from the official cast–Dee Wallace, Dennis Dugan, and Patrick Macnee. R, 91 min.
R Near Dark
Beautifully shot by Adam Greenberg, this alternately grisly and poetic horror picture (1987) begins as a love story, with its hero (Adrian Pasdar) meeting a sexy and spaced-out creature of the night (Jenny Wright) who travels with an extended family of bloodsucking weirdos. Kidnapped by this entourage, he becomes a sort of half vampire himself, hooked on the blood supplied to him by his vampire girlfriend but unwilling to commit carnage, while his father and kid sister try to track him down. One regrets the pounding Muzak of Tangerine Dream, but on the whole this solo directorial debut by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) is scary and erotic, with lots of sidelong touches in the casting, direction, and script. R, 95 min. (JR) (10:15)