OCTOBER 1, 2011
When Phil and the New Bev parted ways earlier this year I assumed that the all nighter would go with him, as it was his baby. But in his intro, in which Phil was thanked (and loudly applauded) first and foremost, Grindhouse night guru Brian Quinn explained that the staff of the theater convinced Michael (the owner) to keep it going, and thus after spending a day at Shriekfest I found myself plopped in my favorite seat (which has a broken armrest - I will kill that sunofabitch!), ready to spend 12 more hours at the movies. First up: Beyond The Door (Italian: Chi sei?, or "Who Are You?").
While past festivals have included a top tier Italian horror title (Gates of Hell, Zombie, etc), the decision was made to make this year's lineup entirely "rare", in that none of the movies have shown theatrically in the area for the past 4-5 years (as opposed to something like Zombie, which shows quite a bit - and for good reason). In fact I had never even heard of Beyond The Door, and knew nothing about it other than the fact that it was an Exorcist ripoff.
It didn't take long for me to fall in love with the movie. After a strange opening involving a bearded dude and a car crash, we cut to a family on a shopping trip in San Francisco. Now, normally this would not be very interesting to anyone, let alone me, but this being an Italian horror movie from the 70s, there's actually a lot to love. For starters, the children of the family both swear without much concern from the parents, even though they seem to be about 5-8 years old. Also, the little boy drinks pea soup from a can with a straw poked into it, and gleefully litters when he is done. Perfect.
Obviously the pea soup thing is just a direct reference to Exorcist, but director Ovidio G. Assonitis really goes the extra mile to prove it's more than that. In addition to using it for what it's for (possessed women to spit at concerned friends), the kid constantly has cans of it around, even apparently putting one on his nightstand the way most folks place a glass of water down there. He even has a giant painting of it above his bed! The obsession is never explained or even mentioned, I think, making it all the more charmingly ridiculous.
I also enjoyed that the mean-spirited profanity apparently came from their dad. At one point the little girl mutters "Christ, what now..." when he knocks at their bedroom door, and after he comes in and addresses the issue (the little boy has a bruise), he asks his daughter why she is such an idiot. Later the mom slaps her around a bit, shortly before kissing the boy full on the mouth (I think she's possessed by this point so it's kind of OK). I'm so used to seeing movies where just one person in the family is messed up; it's quite refreshing to see one where I couldn't even tell which one was possessed at first because they were all so goddamn awful (read: awesome).
Then of course there are the usual silly moments, like when the mom asks the dad about baby names and suggests "Steve" (not "Steven"), to which the dad asks why it matters. Or when the little girl asks the dad to promise not to leave them alone with the mom anymore, a request that is immediately followed by a cut to the next scene, in which the dad is outside, sans the kids. Plus numerous other instances where they swear for no reason. I just hope that their dialogue was what was intended; as with most Italian productions, it features a mix of English and Italian speaking actors, all of whom use their native tongue. So while the parents were speaking English, the kids were clearly dubbed from Italian, which makes me wonder if some producer didn't see the value in foul mouthed children and change it from originally normal sweet-natured dialogue.
And thus it's a shame when they exit the film (sent off to be safe), as it loses much of its comedic value. It's not a particularly exciting film, with a low body count and, as with Exorcist, a slow build toward the full on possession sequences. But it's also needlessly convoluted, as the whole movie is just a long term ploy between the Antichrist and some guy who made a deal with the devil in order to extend his life, or something. I even went home and read the Wikipedia entry trying to make sense of the final five minutes or so, and while I get the gist, there were still some things I don't comprehend at all, such as the old fortune teller lady who lives on a boat.
Also, I watched another 8-9 movies in between seeing it and writing my review. I think the brain can only retain specific information about 2-3 movies before it makes room for the next one, so maybe it would make total sense if I thought about it for a bit while it was still fresh in my brain, but alas. Luckily I've already HMADed all but one of the other films from the all nighter, so for my thoughts on Creature From The Black Lagoon (which showed in 3D! Very cool, even if I went a bit cross eyed), Brain Damage (the secret movie, which went over quite well), Pit And The Pendulum (which I slept through), and Inseminoid (a crowd pleaser, but the place was only about half full by then, with lots of sleepers), just check out those reviews. The only other one was Hell Night, which I had seen in high school but couldn't remember much about it. They also had several trailer reels, tied to the theme of the movie that played after (so for this, we got a lot of Exorcist/Rosemary's Baby wannabes), a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and a very weird interview with Bela Lugosi which ends when he out of nowhere tells the reporter "I'm coming." and then makes a weird face until she runs away. I haven't the slightest clue if it was a skit of some sort, or a legit interview that went astray, and I don't want to know. It was glorious as is.
All in all, I think they did a great job of carrying on Phil's tradition, and the sell out crowd means that it will probably continue. And I'll be there, with my little cooler of cold coffee drinks, trail mix and a Papa John's pizza, plus a bottle of eye drops for my contacts, dried from all of the occasional dozing (I didn't remain awake for the entirety of any movie, but for this I was only out for a brief period in the early part of the film and thus didn't miss much).
What say you?