by Jim Ridley
Remember The Flesh Eaters? The Jet Black Berries? The Cramps' "Surfin' Dead?" Roky Erickson's "Burn the Flames?" If so, you probably owned the soundtrack to that milestone of ’80s horror The Return of the Living Dead — a splatter-packed 1985 thrill ride pitting a gang of grave-defiling punks against legions of reactivated ghouls.
It's the capper to the first-ever Hellcourt Halloween Spectacular — 12 solid hours of gut-munching, bone-crunching, flesh-ripping, blood-dripping terror, starting noon Sunday, Oct. 30 at The Belcourt. With horror host Dr. Gangrene as master of cemeteries, er, ceremonies, this spookshow co-presented by the Scene offers a seven-film smorgasbord of cult faves, gruesome rediscoveries and jaw-dropping obscurities — all for just one $15 ticket (with one bottomless tub of popcorn for any individual in full costume).
Below, we've got the entire lineup. Above, watch all hell literally break loose to 45 Grave's "Partytime," a nugget from the days when some of us used to buy anything that appeared on Enigma Records.
Dir. William Girdler, USA, 1974, 89min, R, 16mm
From William Girdler, director of Three on a Meathook, Grizzly and the immortal The Manitou, comes the movie that tells the world, “Never rub a well-endowed African burial idol, lest a Nigerian sex demon fly to Louisville and possess a newlywed marriage counselor.” Warner Bros. lowered the boom on Girdler’s blaxploitation Exorcist rip-off faster than you can say “copyright infringement,” but this insane 1974 spectacle rises from its crypt for a riot of shower scenes, sick shocks, and the cinema’s most erotic chicken-fixing scene. See William “Blacula” Marshall perform a disco exorcism!
Dir. Bigas Luna, Spain, 1987, 89min, R, 35mm
A hypnotic spiral into madness, this meta-nightmare offers up a boxed narrative of murder and mayhem at the movies. He wants eyes — the man on the screen. He wants eyes — the man sitting behind you. “If for any reason you lose control or feel that your mind is leaving your body...” The horror doesn't stop at the screen in sleazemeister turned arthouse auteur Luna’s inventive masterpiece. With Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist) and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink).
ZOMBIE (Zombi 2/The Dead Are Among Us/Zombie: We Are Going To Eat You)
Dir. Lucio Fulci, Italy, 1979, 91min, Unrated, 35mm
Who'd win in a fight between a zombie and a shark? Who'd win in a fight between the eyes of Prince's mom from Purple Rain and big, splintery pieces of wood? Why are the dead trying to eat the living? Find out this and more in this splatterpiece from Lucio "I Bet You've Never Seen This Before" Fulci, palmed off in Italy as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead but now justifiably infamous on its own.
Special thanks to Blue Underground, whose new digital restoration of Zombie hits home video this month.
Dir. Jeff Lieberman, USA, 1976, 92min, PG, 35mm
The Citizen Kane of electrified worm movies! Count Stephen King and Diamanda Galas among the fans of this unheralded gross-out classic (which MST3K sabotaged by cutting it all to hell). When a power line falls in a Georgia swamp, it turns millions of ugly, hungry sandworms into slimy man-eaters — and you only wish they were CGI! Squeamish about worms in your bathtub? Even (ulp!) worms in your egg cream? Oh yeah — director Lieberman (Blue Sunshine) goes there and beyond, dishing some of the Seventies’ most memorably disgusting scares. Not to mention the classic catchphrase: “You gonna be the worm face!”
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
Dir. Dan O'Bannon, USA, 1985, 91min, R, 35mm
"Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying?" Writer/director Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Lifeforce) sure has. O’Bannon takes the George A. Romero milieu and gives it a punk rock makeover in this ’80s favorite. With an unfortunate collision between some teens out for kicks, a military accident, and a slow night at the medical supply warehouse, we’ve got a ravenous bunch of the living dead overrunning Louisville on the hunt for brains.
...Special bonus screening on Halloween Night...
Mon, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. (separate ticket):
Dir. John Carpenter, USA, 1978, 91min, 35mm
Possibly the most influential horror film ever made, this masterpiece of visual unease remains the textbook example of how you do it right. The terror is all in foreground/background shifts, and it's simply impossible to conceive of a world without it (or, to lesser extents, the seven sequels and reboot/sequel that followed). Jamie Lee Curtis became immortal with this role, and Donald Pleasence and PJ Soles bring their A-Game in this classic tale of The Shape versus The Babysitter. As archetypal as a Greek tragedy in modern culture, with a relentless (and enduring) score and a gleeful willingness to mess with your sense of safety. Halloween is the night Michael Myers came home to Haddonfield, Illinois, and streets will run red...