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Keep Watching The Screen! The Music Box Massacre Returns.

by Peter Sobczynski

Do you wanna see something really scary? Well, you best better get to Chicago's Music Box Theatre for a 24-hour orgy of mutant babies, killer technologies and monsters of all shapes and sizes.

Quality horror films have been in short supply these days but for fans of the genre, Halloween comes early to Chicago this year, thanks to the efforts of local independent filmmaker Rusty Nails (“Acne”). Once again, he will be presenting “The Music Box Massacre,” a joint venture between his Movieside Film Festival and the landmark Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport, Chicago) that will unspool, appropriately, 13 classic films (plus one short) in one grand 24-hour orgy of fearsome fun starting at 12:00 noon on October 13th and ending at noon on the 14th . And that’s not all–there will also be a midnight costume contest, some live bands, plenty of vintage horror trailers, a lobby full of memorabilia dealers in the lobby and appearances from director Fred Dekker, who will be screening his 1987 cult classic “The Monster Squad” and Italian actress Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who will be appearing with the 1986 zombie gorefest “Demons 2.” All of this for the bargain-basement price of only $24–you’d have to be dead or insane to pass up such a deal. (Of course, you could well be dead or insane by the end of the marathon but that is something you’ll have to deal with on your own.)

Tickets can be purchased in advance through Ticketweb , either by calling them at (866) 468-3401 or going online at, or at the Music Box box office at 3733 N. Southport in Chicago (only a few blocks away from that other famous site of Chicago-based horror–Wrigley Field). Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the event at the theater for $29. For further information, go to the Movieside web site at or contact the Music Box at (773)871-6604 or at

THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927): The festival starts off quietly with this silent classic of the “old dark house” subgenre in which a group of mostly greedy relatives of a dead millionaire turn up 20 years after his passing (as per his instructions) for the reading of the will–no sooner is the sole heir announced (the lone nice girl, naturally) than mysterious incidents begin to occur involving secret passageways, missing diamonds and the like. (12:10 PM)

FREAKS (1932): A short strange morality play set amongst the denizens of a run-down circus sideshow (and cast with genuine people whose lack of polished acting skills lends the film a documentary-like feel), Browning was condemned by many people for allegedly exploiting his cast for the purposes of entertainment. As anyone who has actually seen the film can attest, this is anything but the case. Browning clearly has a lot of love and affection for those characters. Instead, it is the "normal" people-chiefly the slutty trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) who treats them cruelly-who receive most of his scorn; they are the ones who behave like monsters, despite their superficially pretty surfaces. Fret not-they get their comeuppance in a finale that is still one of the creepiest and most effectively frightening sequences ever put on film.(1:45 PM)

ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948):Many people have tried over the years to blend horror and comedy together with varying results but few films have pulled off the combination as beautifully as this classic in which Dracula (Bela Lugosi, in his second and last official on-screen performance in his most famous role), Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr) mix it up with the comedic duo when a comely mad scientist requires Lou’s brain for a fiendish experiment. The comedy, though admittedly corny, is hilarious and there are even a few moments of genuine tension to be had here and there. The best A&C film by far as well as one of the best monster mashes ever made. (3:00 PM)

EQUINOX (1970): This micro-budgeted classic from neophyte filmmaker future special-effects wizard Dennis Muren tells the story of four young dopes as they venture off into some remote woods to find the cabin of a professor who has discovered a copy of the Necronomicon–a demonic tome bound in human flesh that can summon monsters, raise the dead and other such fun stuff. Needless to say, the power of the book is unleashed and the quartet is besieged by such things as a blue-skinned giant, an enormous gorilla and a mysterious park ranger (Jack Woods) who wants the book for himself. This creature feature is as silly as all gets out but it is a good kind of silliness and the effects, while clearly done on a shoestring, remain fairly impressive to watch today. (4:30 PM)

PEEPING TOM (1960): Having been subjected to a number of twisted experiments in fear response by his scientist father as a child, a young man (Carl Boehm) takes up the family trade years later by killing women while filming them in order to capture their final expressions of pure terror. One of the darkest psychological thrillers ever made, this British film so horrified viewers when it was originally released that it nearly derailed the career of its director, the acclaimed Michael Powell, but thanks to a revival two decades later (spearheaded by Martin Scorsese), its reputation has grown to the point where it is now one of the few films of the genre considered to be the equal of Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” (6:00 PM)

THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987): Although I can’t say I revere this goofy 1987 horror comedy–a goofy romp in which Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy and the Gill-Man reunite to take over the world with only a group of creature-obsessed kids stand in their way–to the extent that others do, it is an undeniably entertaining work that contains a lot of charm, a lot of humor and even a couple of surprisingly creepy and intense moments to boot. Director Fred Dekker will appear at a post-screening Q&A (8:00 PM)

DEMONS 2 (1986): Director Lamberto Bava and writer/producer Dario Argento reteamed for this quickie sequel to their 1985 hit about zombies attacking the audience at a preview of a mysterious horror film–outside of resetting the action within the confines of a hi-tech apartment building (which allowed them to rip off David Cronenberg’s “Shivers” to boot), this is pretty much the exact same thing as the earlier film and that wasn’t exactly anything to write home about. Arguably the weakest film of this year’s festival, this is notable only for featuring the young and already striking Asia Argento in her first screen performance. Co-star Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, whose other appearances include the Argento films “Opera” and the upcoming “The Mother Of Tears,” will appear at a post-screening Q&A. (10:00 PM)

VIDEODROME (1983): While scouring the airwaves for shows from across the globe to pirate, the programmer for a sleazy cable channel (James Woods) across a broadcast of something called Videodrome—a plotless "show" consisting entirely of sadistic torture. Instantly obsessed with show, he tries to track down its producer and becomes caught in a web of self-styled prophets, a kinky media personality (Deborah Harry—whose character is first glimpsed on a video screen and who never quite leaves it), and a series of increasingly bizarre hallucinations. Although this wild effort from David Cronenberg was drubbed by many critics and ignored by audiences when it first came out, it quickly garnered a reputation as his masterpiece and its observations about man’s uneasy relationship with technology and mass media remain as potent and relevant as ever. (12:15 AM)

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982): Originally designed as a stand-alone title named “Season of the Witch” that would kick of a series of stand-alone horror films that would appear under the “Halloween” banner, this film was retitled at the last second by nervous producers looking for a big opening weekend audience of gorehounds looking for the kind of slasher film that it most decidedly wasn’t. Needless to say, said gorehounds (the only people who would rush out sight unseen to catch a film entitled “Halloween III”) were massively disappointed and caused a backlash that caused the film to be quickly yanked from theaters and earned it a reputation as one of the worst horror films ever made. This is a shame because the film is a hugely entertaining guilty pleasure that might have actually caught on if it hadn’t been burdened with the onus of being a perceived follow-up. A strange riff on "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", it takes a genuinely lunatic premise and runs with it in ways that will give even the most hard-core genre fans pause. As the evil mask-maker who is behind the monstrous plan, Dan O’Herlihy is suitably over-the-top and even though the film never makes a lick of sense (not only do we never quite figure out what the bad guy hopes to accomplish, we never even figure out how he managed to get the stolen Stonehenge rock shipped to his home base in Northern California in the first place), it moves quickly enough, has some agreeably nasty bits of business (such as the fate of a loathsome family unwittingly recruited to be guinea pigs for the killer masks) and a nicely downbeat ending. Plus, I promise you that once you hear the omnipresent commercial jingle for the masks that is heard incessantly, you will never be able to dislodge it from your brain. (2:00 AM)

THE RAVEN (1963): Outside of one line quoted by star Vincent Price and the presence of a character named Lenore, this Roger Corman quickie has absolutely nothing to do with the Edgar Allan Poe poem. Instead, it is a silly and hugely entertaining romp that plays more like a spoof of Corman’s other Poe adaptations and which features a dream cast (which also includes Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Hazel Court and an up-and-comer by the name of Jack Nicholson) clearly having a blast. (3:50 AM)

IT’S ALIVE (1974): Perhaps the best-known film from genre provocateur Larry Cohen (whose other works include “God Told Me To,” “Q–The Winged Serpent” and “The Stuff”), this one tells the story of an expecting couple whose dreams of a perfect family are shattered when the woman gives birth to a hideously mutated baby that slaughters everyone in the delivery room before going on a citywide rampage. It sounds like exploitative horror junk but, like most of Cohen’s other films, it is actually an ambitious and audacious blend of satire, social commentary and genuine scares that plays far more effectively than it sounds. Trivia fans will note that this film marked one of the first screen efforts of acclaimed monster maker Rick Baker (though the baby is mostly kept in the shadows throughout the film, his work does provide a jolt when we finally get a glimpse of it in the finale) and one of the last from legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. (5:30 AM)

DEATH DREAM (1974): Although best-known for such nostalgic comedies as “Porky’s” and “A Christmas Story,” the late director Bob Clark actually first made a name for himself with a pair of grisly and grueling horror films–the original “Black Christmas” and the fascinating variation on the classic short story “The Monkey’s Paw” in which a young man returns home after fighting in Vietnam with a few changes that can’t be attributed entirely to post-traumatic stress syndrome. (7:20 AM)

DEMONOLOGY OF DESIRE (2007): As I have not seen this Canadian short (nor, I presume, will have most of the people in the audience), I will leave the description to IMDB: “Late one night, Ramona makes a powerful wish. The following day, her prayer is miraculously answered when she meets Eric, a boy with no idea of the dark, fantastical depths that a boyhood crush can lead him.” (9:00 AM)

THE SHINING (1980): This year’s marathon concludes on a high note with what I consider to be the greatest horror film ever made as well as Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, an endlessly fascinating adaptation of the Stephen King best-seller about a failed author (Jack Nicholson in one of his most mesmerizing turns) who slowly disintegrates while spending the winter as the caretaker of an isolated and possibly haunted hotel along with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd). (9:30 AM)

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originally posted: 10/12/07 02:17:15
last updated: 10/12/07 02:46:33
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