Chicago to host two more marathons . . . of horror

by

comment

Dr. Terrors House of Horrors screens Saturday afternoon at the Music Box.
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors screens Saturday afternoon at the Music Box
Now that the city's most famous marathon has taken place, the Music Box and the Portage Theater will respond with marathons of their own. Music Box of Horrors, which begins this Saturday at noon, and the Portage's Massacre, which kicks off next Saturday, October 20, are 24-hour celebrations of horror, suspense, and otherwise spooky movies, each with its own dedicated programmers and fans. It's hard to say which one is the better event—the folks behind both marathons have really topped themselves this year. Each one contains an impressive mix of classics (The Golem and The Invisible Man at the Music Box versus The Black Cat and Hitchcock's Frenzy at the Portage), cult favorites (Evil Dead 2 and Lucio Fulci's The Beyond versus Return of the Living Dead and John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness), and rarities (a beguiling-sounding 60s scare comedy called Dr. Terror's House of Horrors versus an early David Cronenberg short called From the Drain). And both marathons will be projected almost exclusively from film—which is inherently scarier than video, as the upcoming horror flick Sinister informs us.

This commitment to film history (in both selection and presentation) may be the most winning quality of both events. In the case of Music Box of Horrors, it was longtime attendees, rather than the programmers, who insisted on seeing more classics in the lineup. "When we released our initial batch of titles this year, several folks commented that our program was too 80s-heavy," Music Box programmer and projectionist Doug McLaren told me in a recent e-mail, "and they were absolutely right. This forced us to work harder on refining the program . . . [and] going through that process led us to this gorgeous Technicolor print of Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. I don't know if we would have come across that print if we weren't searching high and low to satisfy audience demand."

Mary Wolfe, an organizer of the Massacre and other Movieside events like the Sci-Fi Spectacular, expressed similar gratitude for audiences when I corresponded with her. "People have come from all over North America for our shows [at the Portage]. If they're going to put the effort and energy into coming, that means we have to put as much energy as possible into giving them a good show." This year their efforts resulted in a guest appearance from Jack Hill, director of such exploitation classics as The Big Bird Cage, Foxy Brown, and Switchblade Sisters. He'll introduce his Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told (1965) and sign autographs in the lobby. In one of the more exciting legs of the Portage marathon, Spider Baby will play after the Vincent Price vehicle The Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm) and the Cronenberg short.

Vincent Price in The Witchfinder General
  • Vincent Price in The Witchfinder General

Find out how you can help

Add a comment