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INT: Horror-Thon!

Oct. 20, 2009by: Mathew Plale

Earlier this month, I sat down with Joseph Gervasi, co-owner of Diabolik DVD and cofounder of Exhumed Films, an exhibitor that focuses almost exclusively on horror and cult cinema. Since 1997, Exhumed Films has held over 100 screenings, including two 24-hour Horror-Thons. On Saturday October 24th-25th, the International House in Philadelphia will host the third Horror-Thon, an event I highly recommend you attend. For full details, click HERE. To contact Joseph Gervasi directly, you can e-mail him at


As far as the Horron-Thon, youve sold out tickets with almost three weeks to spare. How does that compare to last year?

It sold out a lot quicker, but we offered the tickets later in the previous years. We had to go through Ticket Tron or Ticketmaster through International House beforeSince we were running it this time with PayPal, we got to open it sooner. But I think that the word has gotten around now about the [Horron-Thon] and its better to get the tickets in advance.

How many tickets do you have at the box office [for those that didnt purchase in advance]?

We probably have about 50 or 60...Certainly there are going to be a core group of people who are gonna stay for the full 24 hours. But certain people are gonna come and go and well find that some seats are open. We try to get everybody in, especially if someone comes up and says, Look, I drove up from [Washington] D.C., and you know that they came from hours, you dont want to turn anyone away. But the physical fact is, theres a finite number of seats, so as much as we want to let everyone in, we dont want someone who bought tickets months ago not to find a place to sitTheres a really good chance that you should be able to go and get tickets as long as youre there at least an hour early.

You mentioned people coming from D.C. and other areas. Whats the farthest distance anyones traveled that you know of?

One guy came in from Colorado. He made the movie and he wanted to see it. When we did the CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST show, there was such an excitement for people to see that because you could only see it as a bootleg, that I know people were coming from the Midwest area. We started polling people at random and it turned out that we found someone who came from like way far out. It was a kid and his dadI dont know what they actually thought they were going to see {laughs}.

HALLOWEEN was your first film of your first Horror-Thon. THE FOG kicked off the second. Why John Carpenter? Is that planned?

We try to work some parallels in with the screenings, so that people can work with the clues [provided in the free booklet every year] better. I can say that there isnt going to be a John Carpenter movie opening this time. But we try to open with an A-list film that everybody knows, a kind of general interest film thats seasonally appropriate and a fan favorite. Usually the second film is a giant monster movie. It may well be that this year is the same way. The idea is that its not something particularly nasty, so if anybody happened to bring their kids, it wouldnt be some total gross-out [movie].

How does this Horror-Thon differ from the past two?

This year weve got the art show, which I think was a big plus. One of the guys who does a lot of artwork for us [Justin Miller] came up with this idea--because hes a graphic designer, he knew a lot of people who were doinghip or edgy [art], who would have an interest in cult films. We thought it would be neat to do this kind of thing independently from the screenings, so people can come in and go to the art show, they dont need tickets and they can buy these prints.

We wanted to have [the Horror-Thon] be a bit more obscure this year, because people are trapped there anyway, theyre not gonna know what we screen. The people who stick around are probably gonna be hardcore fans, so we dont want to show the movies that theyve watched on DVD a thousand times before. We want to work in some really weird stuff, because we have a library of literally hundreds of films between the group or one particular member whos a collector [Harry Guerro]. A lot of the titles are so obscure, they havent been released on VHS or DVD. If we did a double feature with those movies, wed get very few people coming out because they havent heard of themBut theyre worth seeing.

You only show 35mm and 16mm. You dont project DVDs--

In the past, if a reel of a film is lost, we have to put the DVD on the reel. But generally, no video.

Is there a reason behind that? DVD would be much cheaper Id imagine.

And it would be really lame, because I could watch a DVD at my house and Ive got a comfy couch and Ive got some cats and a really nice sound setup and a cool TVwhat the hell would I want to see a DVD projected for? Its easy. Who the hell cant put a goddamn DVD in a player and hit the play button? I mean, people are considered film programmers because they hit a play button. Theres no element of trying to track [the film print] down. The look, the texture, of film is really important. What makes it unique is that its very fragile. Every time youre playing it, its getting a little worse. Oftentimes, the films that were showing is different than whats on video--theres a little bit missing here, theres a little bit added there--so we felt like film from the beginning and we want to stick with film until the end.

Theres something about film and horror. A lot of old-school horror movies are being put out on Blu-ray now: FRIDAY THE 13TH, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, even FACES OF DEATH. Is that any way to see a horror movie?

I would say Yes, thats fine, because the alternative is either a bootleg or a VHS, where it looks horrible: the aspect ratio is bad, the number of lines is pathetic. It looks dupey or washed-out, often the prints werent complete. I think its great these movies look better, but the experience of seeing it projected is certainly lost because something about that grain, which they often remove, is so much of the beautiful texture of film.

If you watch a Criterion [Collection] disc, theyll keep the texture that should be there, so it has a filmic look on video. Why you want to watch FACES OF DEATH on Blu-ray may be beyond my personal interest, and I have no comprehension of that, but I think its valid.

You brought up Criterion. EQUINOX (1970), which you screened at the first Horror-Thon, is on the label. Just an example of what Criterion is known for: Fellini, theyve got an Akira Kurosawa box set coming out in DecemberDo you think EQUINOX belongs in the Criterion Collection?

Yeah! Absolutely! I think it was a really seminal film. A lot of people saw it when they were young and it inspired them [to make films]. Certainly you can see echoes through the EVIL DEAD films. As a kid I used to see that on TV all the time and it was really important to me. So does it have the weight of [Ingmar] Bergman? Intellectually, no. But creatively, all of the elements are there and to give it such a lavish treatment is something it deserves. Im glad to see when they put these oddball titles in there.

What is the selection process for picking the films in the Horror-Thon? You usually have 13 or 14 films--

Generally, you want to start off with a big bang, then go into the obligatory giant monster movie. From there, youre just interweaving trailers and short subjectsand then you want to make sure you end with something big, because if people are running out of steam and its 10 oclock in the morning, you want something thats gonna wake them upI think that this year, none of the movies are slow in any way, so they should keep a constant momentum. The idea is to keep everyone awake and have nothing thats throwaway, and theres no reason wed have to do that. Its not like were lacking in films and we have to throw in some dud because we ran out of movies.

How long does making the list, from start to finish, take? Is it a year-round thing where youre always discussing, What are we gonna show at the Horror-Thon this year?

We kind of keep it in the back of our heads when were figuring out the individual screenings through the year. We think, Is this something we want to use for the Horror-Thon or do we want an actual screening under its own title? If we got a really cool print, we wouldnt want to bury it in the 24 hours if we thought that it could stand on its own. Its usually the beginning of summer well get together and have a huge list.

Youve played HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but youve also played TEENAGE MOTHER and EQUINOX. Which gets a bigger rise out of the audience?

Its kind of a split and its hard to determine exactly how. So many people come and many of them dont come to the regular screenings. Theyre gonna come [to the Horror-Thon] because its a big event.

How many people know the list? Is it just the four guys and the projectionist?

He doesnt see the list untilhes in the booth with the prints. But he doesnt really care...Really its just the core group.

I still have the booklet from the first year. You dont tell people the list of films, but you give hints{I pull out the folded and mangled booklet}--

Youll have a much better book this year, too, by the way. Were getting a beautifully printed book, so it wont be like that piece of crap there.

For example: Gruesome favorite that doesnt easily fall into any particular genre (HELLRAISER, 1987)

Dan [Fraga, cofounder] writes those things and I dont know how anyone could ever figure out what anything is based on those. I think they should be more clue-oriented, so that [people] could actually try to figure it out.

You mentioned that some people will bring their kids--

Always a bad idea.

I was going to ask, what are some films you will never, ever show? You just dont feel morally right.

THE SMURFS AND THE MAGICAL FLUTE (1976)Uh, morally, I dont know that theres anything necessarily. Certain members of the group have certain sensitivities to issuesWe did a series of benefit showsThe way that it was supposed to work was that each member of the group was gonna pick a movie that we normally wouldnt screen to an audience and that whatever profits the show made would benefit some particular cause. Mine [at a Larry Fessenden double feature] was to benefit [the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilition Center] because I dont like to see animals killed or tortured for real in films, which unfortunately turns up from time to time, like in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

Theres nothing we really havent shown because of content in the past. Thereve been things that people have reacted to very negativelyWe showed HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980), the Ruggero Deodato film and there was a woman that came out of the screening. The film is known as being a really nasty piece of work and it has pretty graphic rape scenes. Anyone whos read even the shortest synopsis of the film would know thats what the film deals with. It kind of works like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972). This woman was offended by what she saw and wanted her money backit became quite a thing.

Are there any major problems you run into holding these screenings?

There are always issues involved[For example] if somebody sends us something from Europe and it was supposed to cost $200 and it [actually] costs us $900. Then were like, Well there goes the money from that show because that asshole sent it that way. Or if someone agrees to send us a print and they just dont do it. Weve gotten prints before that had missing reels. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983) was missing the last two reels.

What hasnt Exhumed Films screened that youre dying to, but havent been able to get a print of?

Well, the one thing that everybody always asks for is DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). The problem is, the producer Richard [P.] Rubenstein has a stranglehold over the movie and even if you manage to get a print from somewhere--which is not impossible--he would sue you. He doesnt sell the rights to screenings. Its one of the few A[-list] films weve never screened before.

Whats planned for after the Horror-Thon?

The next double feature is SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980) and a Shaw Brothers kung fu classic.

Horror has this built-in audience. Its critic-proof. Why do you think that is?

People appreciate the thrills that youre gonna get with the horror film. Theres a love of the bad. I think if you really love horror films, you accept that many of them are artistically deficient in many ways. But its that kind of funkiness that people like sometimes. The thought is that the critic, in theory, is going to be high-minded and to view these [movies] as trash. But the people who are lurking at the bottom of the trashcan are going to view it as their art. So if [the critics] hate it, then we love it.


Source: AITH

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