By Kevin Redding
Equipped with a pillow, blanket and a well-balanced diet of coffee and buttered popcorn, I sat among 140 strangers last Saturday night, Aug. 26, and watched people scream and die for 12 hours.
Some met their bloody fate at the hands of a killer doll by the name of Chucky, others at the hands of a pint-sized corpse named Gage. Satanic hippies and academics infected by otherworldly slime showed up to wreak havoc and a scientist named Seth Brundle shed some body parts before fully transforming into a big, bad, disgusting insect.
All this was applauded, cheered and laughed at by a horror-loving crowd during the 13th annual Pay-to-Get-Out Horror Movie Marathon at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, presented by Retro Picture Show, which ran from 10 p.m. Saturday until about 10 a.m. Sunday.
An endurance test for the eyes — How much terror can they behold? How long can they stay open? — this year’s fright-film fest packed a punch, a bite and a lot of blood in its seven-movie lineup, all shown in their original, crackly 35mm format.
The audience was made up of folks of all ages and from all across Long Island. To get us through the night, we had blankets, refreshments from the Sky Room Cafe and a unifying love for all things scary.
“I’ve been a horror movie fan since I was a kid and love watching these movies among fans of the same genre,” Lloyd Zare of Coram said before the marathon. “I’m excited and just hope I don’t doze off in the middle of any of them.”
“I love horror movies,” said Jenna Mannino from Amityville, who had survived the marathon once before several years ago and wanted to see if she could do it again. She was most excited to see “Pet Sematary.”
“When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies because I’d have really bad nightmares so now it’s just kind of a thrill. And I love the commentary during the marathon.”
Huntington resident Phillip Griffin said of the event, “Oh, I love it. … It’s my second year here. It’s a lot of fun, it’s better than being at home trying to do a movie marathon. There’s a camaraderie, everyone’s here for the same reason, they’re all horror movie fans and it’s great seeing them on actual film rather than digital. It’s definitely a trek making it through [the night] but it’s worth it.”
Kicking things off was “Child’s Play 2,” a perfect opener for the audience, which howled at every one of Chucky’s one-liners; followed by “Pet Sematary,” a truly creepy adaptation of the Stephen King novel that made some people hide their heads in their blankets; and “Grindhouse Releasing’s Trailer Apocalypse!” — an insane assortment of trailers ranging from “Orca” to “Werewolves on Wheels” to “The Gruesome Twosome” to “The Exorcist” with some old Vick’s VapoRub and Clearasil commercials thrown in for good measure. At the end of most of the clips, those around me wondered aloud, “What did I just watch?”
Admittedly, the rest of the night was a bit of a blur as I started drifting in the middle of John Carpenter’s “Prince of Darkness,” completely slept through “Blackenstein,” and then woke up to those satanic hippies foaming at the mouth in search of human flesh in “I Drink Your Blood.”
At just about 8:20 a.m., with the theater still packed with sleep-deprived vampires waiting for the final, mystery film, the room erupted at the sight of the opening title of “The Fly” filling up the screen — David Cronenberg’s classic 1986 body-horror masterpiece starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.
With another marathon wrapped up, Retro Picture Show founder Michael Ciani, who began the night giving out vinyl soundtracks and memorabilia to lucky raffle winners, deemed the night a success. “It went well, we had a good crowd, even bigger than last year,” Ciani said. “I’m happy, tired but happy.”
Photos by Kevin Redding