This is an interesting annual event at the Mahoning. It's kind of an open-ended horror weekend with the films being loosely tied together by an overall theme. Last year's theme was horror flicks based on cars and other vehicles, and the year before was crazed psycho killers. This year's theme was demonic possession.
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Friday night was dedicated to films with characters who were actually possessed while Saturday's focus was on characters who were accused of possession (among other things) and victimized by instruments of the church. I've only ever been to one night of a Weekend Of Terror before back in 2021, so I decided to make a full weekend out of it this season with both nights.
This is Front Row Cat, or Tortellini, as our friend Donnie calls him. We've seen him on the lot quite a bit over the past few weeks. He won't come right up to anyone to be pet, but he's not shy either. He spends most of the night marching back and forth the lawn under the screen, just a few feet in front of where we were sitting, with occasional breaks to eat food that gets set out for him. I'm pretty sure he lives under the blue digital projection booth because we saw him crawl under there a few times.
These are some of the slides that Dave made for Weekend Of Terror VIII. They were on the screen during the pre-show after it got dark enough for them to be visible.
The first night had a much higher attendance than the second. It's pretty easy to see why - it kicked off with one of the most well-known horror flicks ever made and, at one time, the highest grossing Rated R movie of all time.
The first movie of Weekend Of Terror VIII was a movie that is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time and a true icon of the horror genre, the 1973 William Friedkin classic: The Exorcist.
This movie has an amazing story, it's beautifully filmed, and it has some of the most memorable performances and scenes in the history of horror cinema, and I'm very glad to have gotten a chance to experience it on the big screen. Having said that, I think that the storytelling is so choppy and disjointed that it's a heavily flawed film that succeeds in spite of itself.
My main problem with The Exorcist is that you barely get to see Regan before the demonic possession begins, so I didn't get too much of a sense of who this girl was. I felt bad for the character because she was a child in distress, but the character development was so shallow that it could have been any old random kid and I would have felt the same way. That's not at all Linda Blair's fault. In fact, she gives probably the greatest performance I've ever seen from a child actor, but the vast majority of that performance is her in a state of demonic possession so I don't really have much of a sense of the loss of her personality because there really wasn't much of one in the first place. There also isn't too much of a story being told on the screen that shows you the transition of a regular 12 year old girl to a vessel of the devil. She goes from a normal girl who barely has any screen time at all, to a girl with a sleep disorder who barely has any screen time at all, to a demon in a girl's body who gets most of the screen time. There's so little suspense built into this that they might as well have just started the film with her already possessed.
Regan isn't the only one that gets short-changed in this film. The character of Burke Dennings is so underdeveloped that he could be cut out of the movie altogether if not for the fact that his death leads to Detective Kinderman's involvement with Regan and her mother.
I'm not generally a fan of remakes, but I think this is a movie that could really benefit from a fresh set of eyes to write a screenplay from the novel with better pacing. That'll probably never happen because the original is held in such high regard, and that's a shame. I know that this is coming across as me tearing a classic film apart, but I don't mean to. I like The Exorcist, but there's a much better story to be told here than the one that we got in 1973.
Next up was the 1990 film: The Exorcist III, which is a personal milestone for me as it's the 300th movie that I've watched at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.
This movie ignores that Exorcist II: The Heretic ever happened (which is for the best) and picks up with the lives of Father Dyer and Lieutenant Kinderman fifteen years after the events of the first film. I've watched a few times before and I've enjoyed it each time, but I'm still not entirely sure that I understand everything that's going on. If I have any criticism at all, it's that there are too many scenes where the characters aren't having a conversation, but are instead delivering long speeches to each other.
I'd give The Exorcist a B and The Exorcist III a solid C+. Although it probably seems like I do, I swear that I don't dislike either of these films, but I don't really love them either. Maybe this franchise just isn't my cup of tea.
Ruby is an ex-mobster who owns an operates a drive-in theater in 1951. Her boyfriend, Nicky, was murdered 16 years earlier on the same night that she gave birth to their daughter, Leslie. Leslie is mute and traumatized from the knowledge that her mother is thinking of institutionalizing her, and this trauma allows the spirit of Nicky to not only possess his daughter, but to take vengeance on the rest of the gang who had him killed. It's a cheesy movie to say the least, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. It's also pretty cool to see a movie that's set at a drive-in theater at an actual drive-in.
The first movie of Saturday night was the horror classic Witchfinder General (also known as The Conqueror Worm). It's a British film from 1968 and was directed and co-written by Michael Reeves, who died of a drug overdose at the age of 25 just nine months after this film premiered in theaters.
The story takes place during the English Civil War and is loosely based on the life of a witch hunter named Matthew Hopkins (played by Vincent Price) who is said to have been directly responsible for the death of over 300 innocent people from 1644 to 1646. The ending is a bit abrupt, but it's a great film and a must-watch for any fan of horror flicks.
We saw another Starlink Satellite Train in the sky about halfway through Witchfinder General. Mike and I spotted the first one on the last night of Camp Blood IX. This one wasn't quite as spread out as the one on September 3rd, but it was pretty awesome to see.
This time, I managed to catch a quick video of it. It may not look all that impressive here, but it's very noticeable when you see it up in the sky.
The second movie of the night was the 1970 West German movie: Mark Of The Devil. I had never watched this movie before last night, but I felt like I had because I've seen the trailer for it at least a dozen times this season at the Mahoning. It's one of those trailers that gives away way too much of the movie, including the scene at the end that reveals the fate of one of the main characters. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I was going in without having seen the trailer, but it was still a damn good movie and I'm glad that I got to see it on 35mm.
It definitely lives up to its reputation for violence, especially for the time in which it was released, but I don't think the brutality ever goes past what you'd see in a movie like Hostel or one of the Saw films. I think that Witchfinder General is the better of the two films overall, but Mark Of The Devil has a better ending and stands on its own as a classic horror film. This isn't gore for the sake of gore. It tells a story that's more interesting to me than an average horror movie because the kinds of things that you're seeing on the screen actually happened.
Mark Of The Devil was called the most horrifying movie ever made, and it was marketed with a gimmick that they would not allow anyone in to see it without taking a free vomit bag so that the theater owners could be assured of keeping the place clean. Harry had a big pile new ones specially created for Weekend Of Terror VIII at the Exhumed Films table for fans in attendance.
The second intermission featured a cartoon instead of a trailer reel, and I think this may be the first time that they showed one that I had never seen before. It was a 1954 MGM / Tex Avery cartoon called Billy Boy. It stars The Southern Wolf, who was voiced by Daws Butler doing the voice that would go on to become the one associated with Huckleberry Hound. The character is pretty similar too, with the main differences being his appearance and that the Wolf had an odd stutter at the end of some of his lines. It wasn't a stutter like Porky Pig had, or like anything you'd ever hear from a person who stutters. The last word of some of his sentences repeated four or five times, but the voice actor wasn't reading the lines like that. They took the audio recording of the last line and just repeated it, so it had the identical sound and inflection. It was kind of jarring the first time I heard it, and I thought that there might have been something wrong with the 35mm reel or something, but no... the cartoon was produced that way.
The cartoon itself is pretty cute. The Wolf finds a baby goat in a bassinet on his doorstep along with a note that reads "Please take care of my little Billy goat. PS: You will have no trouble feeding him - He eats anything." The adorable little goat proceeds to do just that, consuming everything in sight up to and including the moon.
I was going to include a video here, but I couldn't find the full cartoon on YouTube - just the intro and a few clips. I'm guessing this is one of the many properties that gets flagged for copyright and taken down, because god knows that a billion dollar movie studio hasn't squeezed enough money out of a six minute cartoon that was produced nearly 70 years ago.
The final movie of Weekend Of Terror VIII was the 1973 "sequel" of the previous movie, Mark Of The Devil: Part II. It's widely regarded as a sequel in name only and a lame attempt to piggyback off of the success of the original film that borders on being boring. It's a rare print, but the fact that something is rare doesn't really make it worth watching, especially after two movies that are superior in every day. I decided to head home after the second intermission cartoon and make this night a double feature of two of the most iconic witch trial flicks of all-time. Sometimes less is more, ya know?