In honor and remembrance of the arthouse theaters across the globe that have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which were known to host all-nighter horror movie marathons during the Halloween season, us folks at Merry-Go-Round Magazine reached out to friends, filmmakers, and programmers to build a lineup together, one by one.
Happy Halloween! And don’t go to a fucking party, you weirdo hog.
Interviews have been edited for content and length.
8 PM – 10 PM | Trevor Dillon (Programmer, The Frida Cinema; Director, Ghost Party Pictures)
SPOOKIES (Dir. Brendan Faulkner, Thomas Doran, Eugenie Joseph, 1986)
What makes a horror movie all-nighter special?
Trevor Dillon: This year’s gonna be my fourth time doing it. I have to preface this conversation by saying that the horror all-nighter I do (Camp Frida) at my theater, The Frida Cinema, I have never programmed a single film at. I have always put volunteers in charge of it. I’ve always put a team together that essentially then takes over. It’s the one time of year I can turn a big project over to volunteers and they just take total control over it. So I’m going to give you what I think it should be, not what I think it has been in the past. A horror all-nighter is inherently going to appeal to basically just horror fans. If you don’t like horror movies, you’re not going to go to a horror all-nighter, so I think that the idea is to play movies that people either haven’t seen or haven’t seen in a long time. Easy programming, easy horror movie slam-dunks have no business being in a horror all-nighter. Who wants to come see a movie they’ve seen a million times when it’s 4 AM? A horror all-nighter should be challenging. Obviously, it should be fun, and every movie needs to be short. It’s a huge community building thing; everyone is there for the same reason. Camp Frida in the past has had a really good energy to it, because I think mixing up actually scary movies with fun movies is very important.
The way you guys do it with volunteer programming really meshes with the communal group love that an all-nighter brings.
TD: I hand over the event to 10 volunteers because it’s just going to get them more enthused about doing the event, as if they really needed to up the enthusiasm, they don’t, but if they feel like they have literally programmed the films and put on the event themselves, it translates really well to the energy of the event.
What is your ideal 8 – 10 PM, opening slot choice for an all-nighter?
TD: I went back and forth on this a million times. The first slot is the slot where you have everybody’s attention. So, you can basically get away with whatever you want to play first, which is the cool thing about that slot. You can’t bullshit at like 3 AM – 4 AM, because you do run the risk of pissing people off or people going home, like “I’m not going to sit through this 90-minute thing.” My first pick would be, and maybe you’ve seen it: have you seen the movie SPOOKIES?
No! But I know AGFA just put out a new restoration of it, right?
TD: Right, and Vinegar Syndrome just released it. So this is my pick! A lot of people would book TRICK ’R TREAT, something that gets everyone in the Halloween spirit, it’s an anthology that’s got a lot of different monsters in it. SPOOKIES is like that. First of all, I couldn’t tell you who directed SPOOKIES, because I think there’s three or four different directors on it, it was an absolute disaster of a production, but it’s about these people who get trapped in a mysterious house and find a Necronomicon book and read from it, and the rest of the movie is every type of creature attacking the house. You’re starting the marathon with everything. A lot of people might go “Well, that should be the last movie,” but no, people are going to riot if this is the last movie. When you have everyone’s attention and they’re ready to have fun, SPOOKIES is the perfect movie to put on. It’s not a so-bad-it’s-good movie, per say, but it is bad.
Yeah, I heard about this movie years ago because Red Letter Media reviewed it, so it got a cult weirdo fanbase coming to it when it was just a VHS staple. Now it’s getting a bit more well-known with this new Blu-Ray.
TD: I was born in 1990 and it was already kind of lost by that time, but if you look at the poster for SPOOKIES, even being younger than I am, you might recognize it. It’s one of those VHS covers that people are like “Oh, I know this movie and I might’ve seen it when I was unconscious,” but people need to revisit it. TAMMY AND THE T-REX was the big repertory discovery of 2019 and I think the big repertory discovery of this season is gonna be SPOOKIES. I mean, if the world was normal right now and Vinegar Syndrome and AGFA were able to give it a push, it would be the big repertory discovery. So get ahead of the curve and start your marathon with SPOOKIES!
The Frida Cinema is a non-profit arthouse theater in Santa Ana, California that’s been hosting pop-up drive-in screenings since the pandemic began. You can find showtimes and links to their social media or donate at https://thefridacinema.org/
You can find Trevor Dillon on Twitter.
10 PM – 12 AM | Jed Shepherd (Executive Producer/Writer, HOST)
NIGHT OF THE COMET (Dir. Thom Eberhardt, 1984)
Jed, you’re across the pond in the UK, how has the transition been in terms of theaters re-opening?
Jed Shepherd: Theaters were closed a good four-to-five months during lockdown and then slowly reopened. It was Cineworld who was one of the first to open, but they are one of the first to close now until next year. Luckily, most of the independent cinemas in the UK, especially London, are remaining open, because if they didn’t then they’d probably close forever. The good thing with independent cinemas is they don’t rely on the big blockbusters: they show classics, cult films… HOST haha. It’s pretty cool. At the Prince Charles Cinema, we’re in between ALIENS and 2001 and BLADE RUNNER and then HOST.
It must be a trip.
JS: It really is. When we made HOST, we had such low expectations for it, because we knew it was going to go on Shudder, which is a streaming platform mostly just for horror fans. We didn’t think it’d get into the public consciousness at all. We just thought, cool, it could be for us and some of our friends, but it just completely blew up and went mainstream. It’s got such attention, it’s crazy. We’re British filmmakers from the UK and British horror doesn’t ever transcend worldwide, it just never happens, and for it to happen to us is bizarre. It’s like a dream come true.
It must be how it felt in the ‘60s when THE INNOCENTS broke through, you know, it’s this new sort of wave.
JS: Wow, yeah, and THE INNOCENTS is such a big influence for myself and Rob Savage, the director, THE INNOCENTS is incredible. It’s been the most surreal time of my entire life these past couple of months since HOST’s been out; in the UK, I’ve been on television a few times. BBC Breakfast when people are eating their porridge, me and Rob are there talking about horror and killing our friends on film, and then ITV News on the 6 PM time slot being interviewed, it’s insane, it’s ridiculous.
Do you have any close, personal, lovey-dovey experiences with the horror all-nighter?
JS: The UK is a very different animal to the US. We just can’t have fun here really. The British film industry is in the toilet, basically, and one thing that many people who work in film in the UK hate the most is horror. They hate it. They hate it being popular, they hate it because they feel like British film should be costume dramas, kitchen sink dramas, boring stuff for a very small group of people who just think they run things, whereas the popular films that people actually want to watch are the American films that come over, because the Americans make these bombastic blockbusters, these bombastic high-concept horror movies that we just lap up over here. The box office proves that horror and genre films are always right at the top, but for some reason, horror films in the UK are not funded. That’s why all the stuff that me and Rob are doing are funded by Americans because they get it, they get us, whereas here we struggle to make a short film. It is ridiculous. Hopefully HOST is one of the movies that gets people to change their minds and see that horror is viable, but to answer your question, we don’t really have horror all-nighters here, only the Prince Charles Cinema does—they do John Carpenter all-nighters, modern horror all-nighters, classic horror all-nighters, so I’ve had some good times there, but personally, if I was going to run a horror all-nighter, it would be very different from the films people usually show. I would show underrated classics. My favorite film in the entire world, and one that you guys are doing with HOST via word-of-mouth, is one I tend to tell everyone about, is the 1984 film NIGHT OF THE COMET.
Of course, radical!
JS: It’s directed by Thom Eberhardt, it stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart as the last girls left alive on Earth, and instead of a big zombie fight, they just loot places and dance around to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve become friends with Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart just because I’m such a massive NIGHT OF THE COMET fan. I would create a whole marathon around this one film.
It’s such a tremendous pick because it’s that right tinge of pure bleakness, but then also the pop ebullience of the 1980s.
JS: Exactly. Soundtrack’s awesome, performances are awesome, dialogue is incredible: it doesn’t get enough credit because people don’t realize how good it is.
One of the things I find so fascinating about HOST is that it reads like this supernatural punishment for irony poisoning for the doomer-millennials who think “meme first, policy second,” and how that lack of earnestness can be your downfall. It also might just be my psycho reading of your movie, but does that popular youth mindset affect your approach as a filmmaker and what you show people nowadays? Are people more jaded?
JS: For me, the main thing with HOST is that I just wanted it to be scary. I wanted to prove that in the UK, we could do horror films, too. Although it’s about a group of people in lockdown, it’s not a coronavirus movie. It’s a lockdown movie, really. I think a good film is a good film, and if a filmmaker goes out to please a certain type of audience, they’re going about it the wrong way. You should always start with what entertains you first. Me and Rob basically made HOST for ourselves—very, very selfishly, we just made a film we’d want to see ourselves that isn’t being made right now, and that’s why there’s so many in-jokes and references to our favorite films, because we thought, well, no one’s going to see this, so we can do whatever we want, really. I get people saying it’s their 25th time rewatching it and, it’s crazy, I’ve never known a film like it ever to be this rewatchable. I thought maybe previously to HOST people were jaded, especially about something that’s about this particular time, because we were told no one was going to want watch a film set in a pandemic when they want escapism, but doing something like this and using a format like Zoom, which we’re using right now, just taps into the zeitgeist so well. Always make a film aimed at yourself, and if other people want it, then that’s great.
12 AM – 2 AM | Robert Franco (Influencer, Film Twitter™️)
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (Dir. Tobe Hooper, 1984)
Rob, how would you describe your presence on Film Twitter? Does it feel weird that you’re even a presence? What kind of weight does being a programmer on the biggest social media site in the world carry?
Robert Franco: Well, first of all, the title “programmer” is a little—
You’re an influencer, baby! You put out movies and people watch ‘em!
RF: I definitely have a level of influence that I am still shocked by. I guess I could be considered a programmer, that’s a nice way to put it, something to put on my resumé. I don’t love it, to be honest. The thing with Twitter is there is something I get from it, a certain vanity; I have in the pit of my stomach this void that needs an outlet. My career in the entertainment industry is not necessarily what I would like it to be, I don’t have a podcast and I don’t have any writing gigs or whatever, so this need to be seen and need for attention to have people respond to me gives me this instant release of validation. I need that for sure and it’s very satisfying to get good metrics on a Tweet. That being said, it’s definitely draining and has done its fair share of damage to my brain. As much as I get out of it, because I do get a lot out of it, to the point where I will never log off, but –
Not to inflate your ego any more, but you have reached that mystical zone of “your comic’s favorite comic,” except it’s like “a film critic’s favorite Film Twitter troll.”
RF: I’m the poster’s poster. Exactly. The problem with Twitter is there’s so many opinions and they’re just all there, and it’s to the point where I can’t be earnest at all anymore, I just fucking shipost and whatever.
How has movie watching been during corona times? Do you miss a movie theater or are you embracing the marathons at home?
RF: Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do the thing that I’m not supposed to do.
Oh no. What’d you do, Rob?
RF: You know what I did. I had to get that big screen for TENET, baby, I had to do it, I had to cross the picket line, I’m a fucking scab, baby.
Did you buy out a theater or did you see it with other gross fucks?
RF: No, you know what, they did a pretty good job of keeping it cool, and you know, it was over two weeks ago so I think I’m good. I think I’m good. Wow, I can’t believe I’m being out in the open, I was going to lie and say I saw it at a drive-in, but I outed myself. Whatever. Tom Cruise did it. He’s right about these things. I do miss theaters and I don’t plan on going again anytime soon. Movie watching at the beginning of COVID-19 started off super strong, like for the first two months I was banging them out, but then this weird depression hit me and I could not watch movies. I started reading more, doing other shit, I just could not watch movies and that kind of stayed that way for almost all of the summer.
Pre-COVID, did you go to any of the New Beverly, Aero, or Frida horror all-nighter events?
RF: No, unfortunately I did not, because I was late to the horror game. I used to not enjoy horror films, but by the time I started thinking “I can do this, I like these movies,” I started exploring them more.
What was the switch?
RF: I don’t know if there was a switch, but it was more a fear. Me not seeing them was out of me being afraid of them, but I started to realize that there are really good horror movies and then I also realized what horror movies I don’t like. It’s an aesthetic thing for me, there’s a particular horror movie aesthetic I can only describe as a rusty-looking movie. Does that make sense? I can’t do fucking THE CONJURING, I can’t do that shit. Slashers? I’ll see just about any slasher, but anything like THE CONJURING or SILENT HILL are just aesthetically insulting. I just don’t like it, don’t like looking at them. So when I started getting into horror films, I also started going to college, and at that point, on Halloween, I’m not thinking about movies, you know what I mean? I’m trying to get drunk and get laid. Gotta keep my priorities in check.
The all-nighter horrorthon you can do any other time of the year, but on Halloween, you get down.
RF: My life is an all-nighter horrorthon: the constant thoughts!
What would you pick as your ideal midnight movie for a 12-hour marathon? What movie brings the house down?
RF: For the direction this lineup seems to be going in, my pick is THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 because it’s not TEXAS CHAINSAW 1, so it’s not as canon. It used to be considered awful, and now it’s getting a reappraisal. It’s sick, it’s so awesome. The first TEXAS CHAINSAW is pure cinema, it is a perfect horror movie. It is the film that made me realize that the horror genre is the most purely cinematic genre out there. What you can do in a horror film you can’t do in a horror novel. I’ve never been scared reading a book, I’ve never been like [pretends to be scared] “Ohh!” It’s a book. Horror and film complement each other so well and TEXAS CHAINSAW 1 is the perfect example of that, however, I would not choose that for this lineup because it’s almost too arty. You don’t have Dennis Hopper practicing with different chainsaws. It’s goofy, it’s scary, it’s funny, it’s sexy… I think it’s sexy. Yeah, it probably is. There’s probably some nudity in there. It’s just a bonkers movie.
It’s a crazy choice.
RF: Is it really that crazy in 2020?
I mean, you’re right, Tobe Hooper used to only have THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and then POLTERGEIST if people were feeling generous, since it’s mostly seen as a Spielberg movie.
RF: And then the Hooper-heads were like “No, it’s all cinema.”
The last few years, the Hooper-heads came in full-fucking-force, in large part due to Letterboxd, and they completely bolstered this dude’s career. TEXAS CHAINSAW 2 has become a classic very recently. It’s a good choice, you’re on that vulgar auteurist train.
RF: You love to see it.
2 AM – 4 AM | Maggie Mackay (Executive Director, Vidiots)
SERIAL MOM (Dir. John Waters, 1994)
I was wondering if you had any experiences with late-night movie screening communities, whether they’re horror or something else. I think for a lot of people, ROCKY HORROR is probably their first experience with that, but if you had any memories to share, I would love to hear.
Maggie Mackay: Oh, of my own?
MM: Oh, my God. I mean, I would bore you to death endlessly! My career before Vidiots was as a film festival programmer, so some of my favorite experiences are attending midnight screenings at film festivals in particular. My favorite has always been the Toronto International Film Festival, and just, when you go to a film festival as someone who’s part of the industry, you’re often sort of in theaters with industry people who are, you know, at eight o’clock in the morning, not always the most enthusiastic audiences. You go through a full festival and then at midnight, you walk into a theater full of a mix of people who are there specifically to be at the festival and this incredibly insatiable crowd from Toronto, and it’s just the most––I have goosebumps talking about it––it’s the most fun, community-feeling experience. I have been going to that festival for more than 15 years, so I really miss that. That was something that I was really, really sad not to be part of. And as far as movies in particular, I was a little girl in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I grew up in Manhattan, so of course there was a lot of ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW activity, but some of my favorite experiences were actually staying up really, really late on nights like Halloween or Friday the 13th and watching movies on a little black and white TV all night long. So yeah, I mean, I could spend three hours talking about all of the horror movie events that I’ve been to. I don’t do a ton of marathons. Like I don’t stay up all night in movie theaters that often, maybe because I have kids now. At some point, you know, I start to fall asleep, but it’s definitely something we’ll do at The Eagle. The Eagle has its own programming history that I love so much and have so much respect for, and we have so many people in the neighborhood who have come out and told us all about their childhood memories of seeing things at The Eagle. There was a lot of genre stuff at The Eagle, and there were a lot of double bills that were totally inexplicable and I cannot wait to replicate some of them.
The whiplash is good for people.
MM: So good. My favorite one I’ve heard was THE BURBS and THE FLY 2 as a double.
I’ve never heard of THE FLY 2!
MM: Yeah, THE FLY 2. Oh yeah. So that’s something we want to do. We really want to work really closely with the community and with Los Angeles to hear what they want to see and what they want to do. We have this really passionate community of advisors and friends and family who will definitely come in and pinch hit and program with us. Just dream up the weirdest shit you can imagine. So we’re really excited about it.
I’m glad you shared that Toronto memory, because I’ve had a similar experience at Sundance for their midnight screenings. There’s an interesting energy, I dunno, you get loopy at the end of the day. It’s also high altitude, some combination of all of those things. You’re perfectly primed to enjoy what you’re going to watch.
MM: Ah, the GET OUT screening at Sundance and THE GUEST.
MM: THE GUEST is one of my favorite new horror movies. I’m downright obsessed with THE GUEST.
I rewatched that recently. It’s excellent.
MM: Really, truly a brilliant movie. I would say, GET OUT and THE GUEST were probably two of my favorite midnight screenings I’ve ever been to. Nobody knew necessarily what they were going to see at the GET OUT screening. I mean, we had been hearing little bits here and there, but you didn’t know. And when that first scene starts, I mean, again: goosebumps.
If you had to choose a movie to screen at 2 AM, specifically a hazy 2 AM, what would you pick?
MM: Hey, I think for 2 AM you actually have to go with something that people know and love. From my programming perspective, if you throw something at people at 2 AM that they’re unfamiliar with, you stand a very good chance of losing them. I would say go with a perennial favorite. I also would say something that goes well with, you know, like a little substance help. Programmers may go like, “Oh, you’re so predictable”, but for me, I can’t do anything without NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on the list. To me, it’s the ultimate horror movie, especially living in these times. It’s one that I can’t stop thinking about. I would also say for a 2 AM screening, you gotta have something that clips along at a really good pace. Now that I think about the 2 AM thing, I’m just like, my brain is going, I would say THE GUEST would be a really fun 2 AM because it’s filled with a lot of music.
It would get the energy up again.
MM: Yeah, you got to get the energy up. And, I always think, hot sex will wake up a crowd. Those ‘80s movies where hot sex usually led to extreme dismemberment. Or maybe, maybe like some, just hot sex and then move on. I need to think more about this, but I would say good and loud, lots of music. Yeah, can’t go wrong.
That’s great! I mean, if you think of other examples, you have our contact information, so–
MM: Okay, 2 AM. I’m going to think more about that. ‘Cause this’ll be a fun project for me. I was thinking an all-nighter, but I didn’t think about the time slot, which as, you know, as a programmer is–
It adds a wrinkle.
MM: Oh! SERIAL MOM is what I would show at 2 AM. It’s like big, I don’t know. It’s John Waters. But I might send you one other, okay? I can’t help myself now. I want to only program 2 AM movies. Okay. You’re awesome.
Vidiots’ new location at The Eagle is set for a grand opening in 2021. For any and all Vidiots info, including social media links and donations toward the relaunch of a Los Angeles staple, check out https://www.vidiotsfoundation.org/
4 AM – 6 AM | SLIMEHOUSE: A Podcast of Crude Humor, Outrageous Hijinks and Mild Language (H. Nelson Tracey, Jasper Bernbaum, Jared Anderson, and Max Morris)
THE MONSTER SQUAD (Dir. Fred Dekker, 1987)
What is all of your relationships to the horror all-nighter?
H. Nelson Tracey: It’s a New Bev Cinema bucket list item for me. I’ve done many movie marathons, and even saw the eight-hour epic WAR & PEACE in theaters, but have yet to do an all-night horror edition. Have been doing Hooptober this year for the first time, which has been harder than I thought to keep up, but on track to finish!
Jared Anderson: I started doing that three Halloweens ago. That had a lineup including KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, JEEPERS CREEPERS, and GREMLINS 2. And there was a lot of candy to keep us in spirits. This was my first year for Hooptober as well.
Jasper Bernbaum: I think the only horror all-nighter I’ve done was Halloween senior year of high school. Great time with the old homies watching SLITHER— I think—DØD SNØ, and some others including JASON X, which is one of my favorite film-watching experiences. That was self-curated by me and my friends.
Max Morris: I attended college in Chicago and many of my fondest memories of the city were of the Halloween tradition of attending 24-hour horror marathons, especially Music Box of Horrors at The Music Box Theater. For a few years now, I was trying to get our local theater here in Lexington to do one but to no avail, so I just try and hold my own with friends at home!
I think most people’s familiarity with it is more as a self-curated, at-home activity, but it really is such a fun theater-going experience that I hope when quarantine ends and we inevitably try and spend as much time in theaters as we can, the act of attending all-night movie festivals picks up in full force. The Music Box one sounds great.
MM: Yeah, I have pretty limited experience with movie theaters in general but it’s by far my favorite! I agree it’s a really amazing communal experience to have with an entire theater full of horror fanatics going crazy for all the set pieces and insane kills and such.
You guys have a tricky time slot. 4 AM to 6 AM is prime snoozing hours if you’re watching six movies in a 12-hour period. Speaking from personal experience, I know from 2 AM leading up to that final film is hard to program, and as a viewer you appreciate the thought that goes into that section especially. What was the thought process for that time?
JB: We wanted to treat it like dessert: light, sugary, not too bloody, but fun.
HNT: It’s also 82 minutes give or take, so no time wasted. At that hour anything remotely slow is going to knock you out. THE MONSTER SQUAD wastes no time, action-packed from the first minute.
MM: I think it was very important to go with something fun and fast-paced. I remember one night at Music Box of Horrors, GANJA AND HESS was programmed for the same time slot, which is an incredible movie, but is very slow and contemplative and I don’t think a single person was still awake by the time it ended! We definitely thought it best to show something bright and funny!
JB: Just watched GANJA AND HESS for Hooptober! Definitely not a movie I’d want to be watching at 4 AM, I fell asleep watching it at 12 AM. But what’s so fun about THE MONSTER SQUAD is that it’s a movie about a group of horror film buffs who end up, in a sense, starring in their own monster movie mash-up. It has the giddy respect for all these classics that had come before it, so it’s a perfect film for these kinds of marathons.
HNT: I see it as a gateway drug for scarier and older monster movies. You watch it and it makes you want to then see all the other movies it’s inspired by that came before it.
JA: It was lost in the sands of time for quite a while. It was released in 1987 and didn’t get a DVD release until 2007. I hadn’t heard of this movie until a couple months ago, so perhaps it will be an exciting discovery for viewers. I love how movies can be these messages in a bottle that can be unearthed by newer audiences much later on in time.
JA: We recently recorded an interview with the film’s lead actor, André Gower, who made a documentary about the movie’s aforementioned cult following.
JB: Yeah, André mentioned how raucous a screening of THE MONSTER SQUAD can get. The fans show up and know how to have a good time.
THE MONSTER SQUAD, in lots of ways, is an ideal 4 AM because it’s supposed to be kind of funny, it’s very light, especially after you’ve had something like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 come before it. This is some levity to the night. The thing I appreciate most about “slimehouse” is what a kind of specific aesthetic it is, it’s more a feeling than a set of qualifiers like other genres. A lot of films you’ve tackled on the podcast would’ve nailed the 4 AM spot. Where in the canonization of “slimehouse” as a genre would THE MONSTER SQUAD fit?
HNT: THE MONSTER SQUAD is what we lovingly refer to as “proto-slime.”
JB: It’s ahead of its time in many ways. “Slimehouse” didn’t really begin to take full form until the ‘90s, but THE MONSTER SQUAD is definitely one of the slimier movies of the ‘80s “proto-slime” pack. It features a lot of the hallmarks: kid-driven plot, crude boyish humor, small town setting, DIY gadgets…
HNT: Actually, our guest Jake Collins nailed that concept in our recent HOCUS POCUS episode. “Slimehouse,” as defined by Max, has parallels to exploitation movies in that there are lots of subgenres of “slime.” So it’s a genre, yes, but within it are all kinds of categories. It’s more about aesthetics, which allows for lots of variety within. Many are listed on the tropes page of our website, but you can think of ones like talking animals, sports movies, spy movies, and of course the Halloween fare, “pumpkin slime.”
MM: In our episode on the film, we decided that THE MONSTER SQUAD fell in what we refer to as the “proto-slime” era, in that many of the genre hallmarks are present, but it’s still sort of more rooted in the ‘80s family adventure sub-genre of something like THE GOONIES than some of the more over-the-top “slime” of movies like BIG FAT LIAR or MAX KEEBLE’S BIG MOVE. As Nelson alluded to, when I created the term “slimehouse,” I based it on the term “grindhouse.” I sort of envisioned it as a children’s version of exploitation movies in that they sort of tap into the id of preteen viewers, and THE MONSTER SQUAD definitely fits into that description quite well.
HNT: If we were to break it down like the whiteboard in SCHOOL OF ROCK, THE MONSTER SQUAD would be both “proto-slime” and “pumpkin slime.” And tropes like “band of misfits,” “scary neighbor who becomes an ally,” “lame teacher trying to use hip lingo,” etc., all show up. Speaking for myself, I love seeing the tropes and recurring themes and devices this set of movies has.
In the spirit of grindhouse, what would each of you double feature THE MONSTER SQUAD with in the larger “slime” genre?
JA: My first “pumpkin slime” movie was ERNEST SCARED STUPID, and I was legitimately freaked out by it as a kid, so I would choose that one.
MM: I gotta go with the 2018 GOOSEBUMPS sequel, HAUNTED HALLOWEEN—one of the slimiest films of the “slime” revival paired with one of “proto-slime’s” slimiest!
JB: My gut would be THE GOONIES or the 2015 adaptation of GOOSEBUMPS, both of which are great, but those have clear narrative similarities to THE MONSTER SQUAD, so I’ll go throw a curveball with MONSTER HOUSE. Another underrated monster mash-up is SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED, a surprisingly deep and self-aware look at Mystery, Inc.!
HNT: I’m going to take a slight step away from “slimehouse” and go with what I think is a good 6 AM horror movie, the comedy EXTRA ORDINARY, which has many similarities in its loving, tongue-in-cheek genre nature except toward ghosts not monsters. It’s R-rated and more modern in its sensibilities, to mix it up after “slime”!
Listen to SLIMEHOUSE on any of your preferred podcast services.
6 AM – 8 AM | Cinemonster (Inventor, “Hooptober”)
MOTEL HELL (Dir. Kevin Connor, 1980)
What’s your relationship with the horror all-nighter, either in the theater or at home? I know I’ve had a number of mini horror marathons during my few years of doing Hooptober and any time you go deep into the night watching horror movies you’re gonna have a good time. Do you view them as comparable or more that one is a marathon and the other a sprint?
Cinemonster: I attended quite a few when I lived in Austin and have done a couple at the house, over the years. Procrastination can lead to Hooptober all-nighters, for sure.
When you think about past horror all-nighters you’ve done, or even about making one in a theoretical capacity, what are the key beats and moments you think need to be hit? You mention a bit of lunacy as that final film, but how do you navigate that middle 2 AM to 6 AM section?
CM: Start with something that takes advantage of the fact people are fresh. Keep the middle films to an hour-forty and under, and ones that move. Noisy and rousing helps. For the closer, you need something that isn’t conventional and ends big. A bit of lunacy helps, too.
So what film did you land on?
CM: 1980’s MOTEL HELL.
MOTEL HELL is kind of a parody of the slasher film right? Does it lean more comedy or horror?
CM: It’s horror. There is some humor—parody doesn’t really suit it. A little satire, maybe.
Just reading your review on Letterboxd and looking at the plot—chainsaw battles, smoked meats that are actually human flesh… This is really a nice companion maybe to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 which maybe has a similar level of strange humor?
CM: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 plays for more comedy, and does it more frequently. Bigger budget, too. Gives it some scale. MOTEL HELL is a smaller story. They can definitely be complementary in some ways, especially programmed together.
It’s interesting, Robert Franco, another noted Film Twitter luminary like yourself, was the person who picked TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (see: above), and our conversation with him kinda led to talking about how much Hooper’s larger legacy has really been re-evaluated and re-canonized by Letterboxd. I have to think you, more than just about anyone else, are largely responsible for that. Has it been rewarding to see Hooper’s movies reassessed as classics over recent years?
CM: Very much so. He was just the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE guy and the guy who didn’t direct POLTERGEIST. His work for Cannon, SALEM’S LOT and THE FUNHOUSE in particular, are great. A lot of his other work has both fans and value. He’s earned his place on the horror Mt. Rushmore of his generation.
What’s the response to this year’s Hooptober been like? Can you feel it growing year to year?
CM: Yeah, there were well over 900 participants this year on Letterboxd alone across 19 countries. It’s been amazing to see this many people. One of the extra credit films had a massive spike in viewings in Letterboxd. Made me smile.
Does MOTEL HELL fit any qualifiers for this year’s Hooptober outside of the kinda standard ones?
CM: Not this year, although it would have in some past years.
Do any of the films on this slate? Obviously TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 does for Hooper. NIGHT OF THE COMET is a zombie thing, right? Or I suppose it depends on the nature of the zombie outbreak.
CM: Probably not NIGHT OF THE COMET. It’s not really a disease, and some people were outright disintegrated as opposed to becoming zombies.
Any final thoughts?
CM: Please support the George A. Romero Foundation on their new Patreon and keep an eye out for an announcement about December 13th. Stay Scared.