October 13th & 14th – 2007
“I can feel the visions coalesce and become flesh. Uncontrollable flesh. But when they removed the tumor, it was called Videodrome.”
I peddled the candy apple red vintage thrift store Schwinn from my studio apartment in Lakeview East over to Southport Corridor. After lunch at Potbelly, with sustenance, I double checked the lock on my bike. Looking north, I had a full on commitment to tend to.
Twenty-four hours of horror films from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday.
The Music Box Massacre. (1)
I met Dave at the Music Box Theatre, which by that point in my life – my mid-twenties, I had established as not only the best movie theatre in the entire Chicagoland area, but also one of the coolest gems the city has to offer.
Like most vintage concert and movie venues in Chicago, it started in the 1920s. Art house and repertory cinema since the early 1980s, after a seven-year stint as an adult theatre. Cinemascope aspect ratios embracing the format of the double feature revival. Science fiction, midnight creature features. Genre film.
Atmospheric ornamentation, towers and faux marble loggia. Ogee arched chambers around the old fashioned pipe organ. Nave ceiling, cove-lit with shifting clouds and stars twinkling above an open air palazzo feel. The first time I ever visited was for a midnight showing of Gremlins.
The attached, seventy-five seat mini theatre, which took over a little storefront in 1991, has been the showcase of some of the best films I’ve ever seen. An intimate moment of viewing pivotal brilliancy with strangers-turned-moviemates.
By this point I would have definitely considered myself a horror fan. But these festivalgoers deep in the city, and the merch tables of terror laserdiscs, poster prints, and horror vinyl soundtracks – it all sparked something anew. With the sheer excitement around films and directors I had never even heard of, I knew at that point I had just scratched the surface. Sure I had seen and analyzed every film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. But lets face it. This was a new level. It was pretty much the same era and sentiment of being super in to Blue Moon, the moment before someone hands you a Gumball Head.
Hosted by Rusty Nails at the time, The Music Box Massacre became a staple for me every Halloween season. Even if I attended alone – which I’ve done a few times. The truth is, within a conglomerate of fans as rabid and as passionate as any group of hardcore sports club followers, we are all one by The Dark Night of the Scarecrow. You’re never truly alone sitting with a crowd intentional on viewing premiers like Midnight Meat Train or The Devil’s Candy.
Grainy and pure, deep tones and warmth of vintage 16mm film and surround sound growls and screeches. Dozing off at the witching hour only to be awoken by cheers of blood to something atrocious. Severed prosthetics and puppets of 1980s carnage. Cannibal babies and mischievous mayhem. Sitting in an early morning daze while witnessing demons and warlocks and monsters of all colors. This is the way true grindhouse was intended.
Old school horror trailers and independent shorts interspliced the guest interview Q&As and feature length gore. My first viewing of multiple staples and life changing film spinning by from reel-to-reel. Monster Squad, the horror version of The Goonies. Demons 2 – my personal introduction to Giallo, pure and beautiful. Discolored pulp novels inspiring the intense and extreme Italian horror genre.
My first experience of David Cronenberg happened that year and I couldn’t have orchestrated a better encounter than getting to soak in the body horror of Videodrome on the big screen. People cheered at the materialization of just Cronenberg’s name at the onset as if he were a rock star walking on stage.
A full theatre of chorus clapping and singing along to the Silver Shamrock commercial theme song all the way through the crazy, nonsequitor Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. It was like a concert and I’d never seen anything like it at the movies in all my days.
Uproars when corny characters get machete hacked, and loud applause when annoying dramatis personae get impaled. I wanted to be a part of it for the rest of time.
2007 was the one and only year I did the entire 24-hour festival. I never went that extreme again.
Dave and I throwing down Twizzlers and 7-11 coffee with Stok, and Sour Patch Kids and Cherry Coke. Uncomfortable old theatre chairs with no legroom, shifting about all night. Buttered popcorn Jelly Bellies lending the stimulus to jettison through, well past the sunrise. It was a time of no accountability. No responsibility for at least one full day following.
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was the anchor film and it was prodigious to see it in a sleepless caffeine and sugar induced buzz before stumbling out in to the contrast of bright October noon waves of sunrays. Nicolson’s demented Jack Torrance sits even less-well after zero sleep and Pizza Combos and Pepsi for breakfast.
Like twin Draculas we seethed in pain from the natural light. Burning and morphing to a wolf and a bat we scrambled to our respective caverns to slumber in victory after our defeat of the 24-hour gauntlet of horror.
Lineup of Films for Music Box Massacre 3 (2007):
Cat and the Canary (1927 silent film with live pipe organ accompaniment)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Monster Squad (1987) – With Fred Dekker for Q&A (Also directed Robocop 3, mind you)
Demons 2 (1986) – With actress Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni (worked with Dario Argento)
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
The Raven (1963)
It’s Alive (1974)
Deathdream (1974, by A Christmas Story director Bob Clark)
The Demonology of Desire (2007 short film)
The Shining (1980)
(1) The name of the event was changed from Musicbox Massacre to Musicbox of Horrors after the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, a tragedy that took place inside of a movie theatre.