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INT: Horror-Thon!

10.20.2009by: 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 deadstare4life@hotmail.com.

JOSEPH GERVASI INTERVIEW

As far as the Horron-Thon, you’ve 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 before…Since 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 it’s better to get the tickets in advance.

How many tickets do you have at the box office [for those that didn‘t 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 we’ll 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 don’t want to turn anyone away. But the physical fact is, there’s a finite number of seats, so as much as we want to let everyone in, we don’t want someone who bought tickets months ago not to find a place to sit…There’s a really good chance that you should be able to go and get tickets as long as you’re there at least an hour early.

You mentioned people coming from D.C. and other areas. What’s the farthest distance anyone’s 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 dad…I don’t 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 isn’t 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 that’s 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 it’s not something particularly nasty, so if anybody happened to bring their kids, it wouldn’t be some total gross-out [movie].

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

This year we’ve 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 he’s a graphic designer, he knew a lot of people who were doing…hip 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 don’t 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, they’re not gonna know what we screen. The people who stick around are probably gonna be hardcore fans, so we don’t want to show the movies that they’ve 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 who’s a collector [Harry Guerro]. A lot of the titles are so obscure, they haven’t been released on VHS or DVD. If we did a double feature with those movies, we’d get very few people coming out because they haven’t heard of them…But they’re worth seeing.

You only show 35mm and 16mm. You don’t 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 I’d imagine.

And it would be really lame, because I could watch a DVD at my house and I’ve got a comfy couch and I’ve got some cats and a really nice sound setup and a cool TV…what the hell would I want to see a DVD projected for? It’s easy. Who the hell can’t 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. There’s 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 it’s very fragile. Every time you’re playing it, it’s getting a little worse. Oftentimes, the films that we’re showing is different than what’s on video--there’s a little bit missing here, there’s a little bit added there--so we felt like film from the beginning and we want to stick with film until the end.

There’s 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, that’s 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 weren’t complete. I think it’s 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, they’ll 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 it’s 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, they’ve got an Akira Kurosawa box set coming out in December…Do 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. I’m 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, you’re just interweaving trailers and short subjects…and then you want to make sure you end with something big, because if people are running out of steam and it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, you want something that’s gonna wake them up…I 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 that’s throwaway, and there’s no reason we’d have to do that. It’s not like we’re 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 you’re 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 we’re 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 wouldn’t want to bury it in the 24 hours if we thought that it could stand on its own. It’s usually the beginning of summer we’ll get together and have a huge list.

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

It’s kind of a split and it’s hard to determine exactly how. So many people come and many of them don’t come to the regular screenings. They’re gonna come [to the Horror-Thon] because it’s a big event.

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

He doesn’t see the list until…he’s in the booth with the prints. But he doesn’t really care...Really it’s just the core group.

I still have the booklet from the first year. You don’t tell people the list of films, but you give hints…{I pull out the folded and mangled booklet}--

You’ll have a much better book this year, too, by the way. We’re getting a beautifully printed book, so it won’t be like that piece of crap there.

For example: “Gruesome favorite that doesn’t easily fall into any particular genre” (HELLRAISER, 1987)…

Dan [Fraga, cofounder] writes those things and I don’t 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 don’t feel morally right.

THE SMURFS AND THE MAGICAL FLUTE (1976)…Uh, morally, I don’t know that there’s anything necessarily. Certain members of the group have certain sensitivities to issues…We did a series of benefit shows…The way that it was supposed to work was that each member of the group was gonna pick a movie that we normally wouldn’t 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 don’t like to see animals killed or tortured for real in films, which unfortunately turns up from time to time, like in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.

There’s nothing we really haven’t shown because of content in the past. There’ve been things that people have reacted to very negatively…We 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 who’s read even the shortest synopsis of the film would know that’s 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 back…it 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 we’re 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 don’t do it. We’ve gotten prints before that had missing reels. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983) was missing the last two reels.

What hasn’t Exhumed Films screened that you’re dying to, but haven’t 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 doesn’t sell the rights to screenings. It’s one of the few A[-list] films we’ve never screened before.

What’s planned for after the Horror-Thon?

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

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

People appreciate the thrills that you’re gonna get with the horror film. There’s 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 it’s 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.

GET ALL THE HORRORTHON INFO YA NEED HERE!

Source: AITH

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