Welcome, welcome, welcome ghosts and ghouls, chillers and thrillers, stoners and boners, jokers and tokers! It’s me, your friendly neighborhood Chef, Big Cheese Emeritus and now “Operations Manager” of this little online publication that could. Welcome to my six-course meal of tricks and treats as they pertain to a selection of horror delights. Unfortunately, my new schedule and lifestyle leaves little room for consuming anything other than the first four songs of blink-182’s ENEMA OF THE STATE during my commute, but in my heyday I was known to be a bit of a horror junkie and genre aficionado, which means that most people thought my opinions were wrong but I liked to argue them loudly and passionately anyway. A three-tour veteran of Hooptober and a fan of all that goes bump in the night since the early days of high school, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for pop culture’s ugly duckling and have consumed more than my fair share of the wet, wacky, and off-the-beaten-path. It was a treat to make my official return to writing for Merry-Go-Round in order to program these morsels for you.
Sit back, crack open a cold one or several, and I’ll see you on the other side (not really, my work shift starts at 7 AM and I don’t have any days off, but I hope you have fun).
Hors d’oeuvres: 8 PM – 10 PM
GINGER SNAPS (Dir. JOHN FAWCETT, 2000)
Let’s face it: we’re tired of hearing about JENNIFER’S BODY. Absolutely no disrespect is meant, it’s as good as you’ve no doubt heard it is, and if you’re still living under a rock and haven’t seen it yet, get the Hell out from under there! But at this point it feels like we get a new “Did you know that this film is actually good???” thinkpiece about it every other day. For those looking for something a little less popularly touted that smacks of the same tonal menagerie, the buck stops at GINGER SNAPS, easily one of the top five werewolf films ever made. Following two outcast sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, the former is attacked by a fearsome creature on the night of her first period, leaving the latter in the lurch as she struggles to determine what’s eating (figuratively and literally) her only friend in the world. From there, things explode and implode in a tornado of GHOST WORLD-reminiscent snark, barbs that would make Diablo Cody jealous, and a genuinely evocative look at the complicated, frustrating relationship between two sisters upon the well of their camaraderie getting poisoned. As you’ll see, the results may not exactly be Oscar-worthy. The occasionally dated nature of the presentation is all part of the charm, and the surprising amount of emotional depth, coupled with a predilection for gore and a winking self-awareness that perfectly seasons the dish instead of blowing things into the realm of the eyeroll-inducing, makes this the perfect film to start our evening off with. It’s a little taste of comedy, a little taste of horror, and a film with a Hell of a lot of personality. It’s the ideal Hors d’oeuvres.
Soup: 10 PM – 12 AM
CHERRY FALLS (Dir. Geoffrey Wright, 2000)
I’ll be honest, I had the idea for structuring this programming list around the courses of a six-course meal with only Hors d’oeuvres, a main course, and dessert in mind. I’ll keep it real: I have no idea what larger existential purpose “soup” is supposed to serve in the progression of a fine dining meal. I guess that’s why they don’t pay me the big culinary bucks. But what I do know is that when I think of soup, I think of it being warm, ooey, gooey, messy, and nourishing. I’m not sure if that last word necessarily applies to CHERRY FALLS, but the rest certainly do. This is the kind of film that these marathons are made for when we’re not all lorded over by the stern ruling hand of COVID, something genuinely, truly mind-melting in its perversity and insanity, throwing whatever fucks it has to give out the window within the first minutes and never letting off the gas. Focusing on a town struck by a string of virgin slayings, pretty much all you need to know about what you’re getting yourself into is that there’s then a sanction decreed that politely suggests that everyone fuck. If that sounds like your cup of tea (bowl of soup? Yeesh), then boy howdy are you about to have your shit rocked. A film that’s so horny it’s almost impossible to believe, bodily fluids of all sorts leak from every orifice at every possible opportunity as devastating zingers are unleashed and a respectable body count is established all the while. Is the acting the best? No. Is the pace perfectly realized and presented? Nay. But there are so many transcendental moments of piss-poor taste presented over the course of this randy little devil that it’s hard to fault it for any shortcomings in the traditionally meritable sense. We’ve only just begun!
Fish: 12 AM – 2 AM
MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Dir. Patrick Lussier, 2009)
Fish? FISH?? F I S H??? I got no way to tie “fish” together with MY BLOODY VALENTINE, but who the fuck cares when something this unapologetically tasteless is on the screen before you. Reader, when I first saw MY BLOODY VALENTINE, I literally couldn’t perceive the fact that the traditional studio system allowed something this over-the-top to be unleashed on impressionable teens and hapless lovers in multiplexes across the world. Something designed to give MPAA types aneurysms, this is an absolute abattoir, making gleeful use of some of the most gruesome and overexaggerated kills ever committed to celluloid. It’s not even worth attempting to include a line or two of summary, because the damn thing never makes much of an attempt to make sense: something about dangerous mines, work code violations, and Valentine’s Day, yadda, yadda, yadda. You’re here to see a pickaxe brutalize and devastate people in ways you never thought possible, you’re here to clutch your pearls at the constant middle-fingers to politeness and sensitivity, and hopefully you’re at least a bit in your cups at this point, because you’re here to relax, sit back, and let the depravity wash over you. This is completely worthless and nihilistic garbage, and yet, what’s the season really all about? Filmed in what can only be described as “potato vision” and ugly in every possible perception of the word, every part of the aesthetic furthers every ambition of the content: to bring absolutely nothing of intellectual or emotional value to the table. And reader? It’s fucking glorious. THIS is midnight cuisine. THIS is a Halloweekend watch. THIS is… Fish.
Main Course: 2 AM – 4 AM
WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE (Dir. Jimmy ScreamerClauz, 2012)
Apologies in advance for this one, but if I’m given the reins of programming a horror all-nighter, I’ve gotta put one of the most memorable horror viewing experiences I’ve ever had front and center, for the last stretch of the evening the majority of the audience will be awake for (listen, I know how these events go, I’m nothing if not a realist). Hopefully your mores and morals have been steadily worn further and further down by the films that came before WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE, because boy howdy, are you in for a parameter-bender. This is the kind of film that lore is established around, the kind of thing that kids on the playground would whisper that they caught a glimpse of when their older brother was smoking weed and watching it with his rockhead friends, the kind of cultural artifact that my sophomore year roommate literally found in an unmarked DVD case in a bargain bin in a convenience store somewhere along the I-10. Written, directed, composed, edited, and animated by a speed metal freak somewhere in Pennsylvania (though a total sweetheart in real life, shout outs to seeing DJ Skull Vomit with him in Philly in December ‘17!), WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE is a Hellish psychedelic freakout presented in YouTube tutorial-derived Maya animation, featuring some of the most transgressive themes and subjects ever brought to the silver screen. Three vignettes structured around the tykes of a young town getting terrorized by a demonic dog, this cursed tome moves with the acerbic barb of XAVIER: RENEGADE ANGEL albeit rocketed through a thresher of pop culture detritus intimately indebted to the aesthetics of the Satanic Panic and a lifetime of bad trips. Cornerstone segment “Liquid Memories” is probably what to watch for if you’re looking for any semblance of discerning “art,” but “Tainted Milk” and “The Mask That Monsters Wear” are still absolutely among the most skin-crawlingly disturbing things I’ve borne witness to. The fact that there is no real malice present within and that you can tell this is all the work of a whackadoo whose brain is just kind of… Like this… gives a sense of endearment to the proceedings that’s in stark juxtaposition to the brutalizing sensibilities on the screen. Say what you will, it’s certainly not a dish you’ll ever forget being served.
Salad: 4 AM – 6 AM
A PAGE OF MADNESS (Dir. Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926)
Every self-professed horror fan has a little something special they like to keep in their back pocket, a tasty morsel that exists as an example of a “real” film of “value” that comes with the disclaimer of not being scary, but important—bonus points if it’s black and white, silent, comes from a non-Western country, has a tortured production and release history, and was made before WWII. Enter Teinosuke Kinugasa’s A PAGE OF MADNESS, which checks all those boxes and has long been my tips-fedora selection to prove I’m a Chef of taste and culture. Telling the story of a man who takes a job at an “insane asylum” (their words, not mine!) in the hopes of freeing his interned wife, the very opening shots A PAGE OF MADNESS reveal itself as an unsung masterwork of experimental sensibilities, “evoking Soviet techniques of the time” for the heads out there and “blowing your balls off with an intensely kinetic aesthetic and crazy-as-a-shithouse-rat artistic vision” for the layman. To be clear, it’s very, very unsettling: a particular “mirror” effect used to portray the residents of the facility sticks in the mind, as well as the general sense of eeriness lurking in the dark shadows and constantly battering rain. At this point in our meal, we’re in need of a bit of a palate cleanser after Herr ScreamerClauz’s abject auteurism, and nothing will cut through the gory murk like this crisp, clean slice of surrealism; eat your intellectual greens, it’ll be good for you, let’s get that brain Popeye strong after being pummeled into submission these past eight hours. Truly, this is one of the few films I’ve come across that I’ve been genuinely grateful to have written about for a film class, something whose meaty (leafy, for the salad metaphor?) layers are actually worth diving into again and again in an attempt to parse through. You won’t understand everything happening on screen, but you will be blown away with the efficacy of emotional turmoil Kinugasa’s feverish descent into madness is capable of possessing. Also, let’s be real, if you need a wittle nap, you’re picking the silent Japanese film to catch a few Zs during. I wasn’t born yesterday, the Chef has got you covered.
Dessert: 6 AM – 8 AM
SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND (Dir. Jim Stenstrum, 1998)
If you’ve made it this far into the night, you’re well in need of a little sweetie treat, so I thought I’d let you off nice and wholesome with the first “horror” film I ever saw; something I’ve returned to seasonally for a little palate cleanser after slogging through the Hooptober mire. Now look, it’s a Scooby-Doo film! You’re not gonna be scared! But I would argue that SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND holds up surprisingly well for what it is, able to give us the nostalgic serotonin kick of the classic cartoon capers many of us grew up on while incorporating a genuinely dark and thematically present story into the proceedings. Infamous for being an early installment in the long-running franchise that had the antagonists be genuine supernatural creatures instead of hapless buffons in costumes, the story of an ancient curse hanging like a bayou mist over a creaky and leaky Louisiana plantation could be played for straight chills and thrills in the hands of a James Wan type. The fact that it managed to both keep me up at night (as a kid, look, I’m not scared of this film anymore, OK? O-O-OK???) while also balancing the medicine with several of the more notable spoonfuls of sugar the cartoon series at large offered (I swear to God, this is lowkey probably the most underrated food film of all time, the lovingly animated Southern delicacies steadily occupying a corner of my mind across the caverns of time from when I first saw this to now) is an accomplishment in-and-of itself, and it’s a pleasure seeing the gang operate in what is undoubtedly their only feature-length appearance worth revisiting. You’re gonna hear the theme song! You’re gonna hear some classic “Ruh rohs” and “A-hee-hee-hees”! You’re gonna marvel at the clearly present sexual undertones between nearly every member of the cast! What’s not to love as you emerge from the movie theater at 8 AM having to figure out how to “face” the day ahead.