Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media

For those of you who aren't familiar with ER's history (especially the pre-on-line daze), the print version of the zine started back in that grand summer of 1986. It was the sort of time that couldn't last forever, but what the hell did we know?

You see, each and every week we had a choice of not one, not two, but at least three or four horror, sci-fi, action/adventure, exploitation, sexploitation, or z-grade comedies. Friday afternoons were spent pouring over the Inquirer's Weekend section, debating the merits of BLOODY BIRTHDAY vs. DEMONS. THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO vs. THE TOXIC AVENGER? AVENGING FORCE or RE-ANIMATOR?

And this doesn't even take into consideration the triple-features of classics from yesteryear playing at the Super 130 or Atco Drive-Ins, or the thinly veiled rereleases of Italian chunkblowers playing at the sleazy Budco Midtown in the city.


Things had changed dramatically by the time ER celebrated its first anniversary in the summer of 1987. Big-budget exploitation flicks had become the rage, leaving little room for things like JAKE SPEED or VAMP. Instead, studios were pouring cash into franchises, remakes, and rip-offs.

By the summer of 1988 the drive-ins were showing the same fare clogging up the multiplexes and there was little room for a group of drunk college grads packed into a Honda Quaalude. Times had changed, but we hadn't.

Pretty soon video became the only outlet for hardened gorehounds looking for a quick fix, and even then the serious cineaste had to plow through an immense pile of horseshit before they uncovered a sparkling gem like NAKED OBSESSION or THE UNBORN.

Until last weekend. I don't know if it was a full moon. I don't know if the planets were aligned. Hell, I don't even know if I imagined the whole damn thing! But, if memory serves me correctly -- and unlike the old days, I can vouch that I was clean and sober throughout the entire process -- I actually sat in a grindhouse for a double of CANNIBAL FEROX and BURIAL GROUND Friday night, then plunked my lawn chair down at the drive-in for a double of HALLOWEEN 20 and DISTURBING BEHAVIOR on Saturday. Could I please get some independent verification, please...

Friday's festivities took place at The Harwin, one of the few remaining movie houses in the Delaware Valley. A classic old building -- there's still a smoking lounge upstairs and the screen has a sizable stage in front of it -- The Harwin is the locale for silver scream presentations by Exhumed Films.

Run by a group of horror fanatics from the area, Exhumed started out by screening flicks last Halloween. The response was so great -- thanks to teenage gorehounds and goth freaks who weren't even alive when the first HALLOWEEN was released in 1978 -- that classics like EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN and Bob Clark's underrated DEATHDREAM have recently been unspooled for fans.

Friday saw the aforementioned CANNIBAL FEROX (aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY)/BURIAL GROUND double, and it was an all-around winner. Sure, I'd just seen the uncut laser of CF and BURIAL GROUND was hardly one of the outstanding zombie flicks of the post-DAWN OF THE DEAD years, but what the hell?! The chance to see a double bill with fellow fans was too great an opportunity to pass up! (Be sure to check out the Exhumed site for details on their incredible trio of double coming this October!)

High on the smell of stale urine and musty seat cushions, the drive-in beckoned on Saturday evening. Especially since a developer just purchased the land next to the Bucks County Drive-In and it may be forced to bring down its screens at the end of this season. (The topic was being put to a vote in the township where the di resides and we're waiting for details on the outcome.)

We stopped for hoagies and soda on the way (man, I must be getting old...what happened to Chinese food and a case of Natty Boh?!) and then sat under the stars for the last horror double I might ever get to enjoy in the comfort of a lawn chair. Which is a horrible thought.

What shocked me most -- more than any scene in the films -- was the number of small children, toddlers that were sitting on blankets watching a fairly violent, sorta bloody flick about an unstoppable, malevolent force that tries to kill the children of Janet Leigh and Alan Arkin! Of course, this did lead to the evening's finest moment as a young boy (maybe, maybe 8!) got the crap scared out of him by an older brother who bounded out of the shadows on the path to the restrooms. Ah, maybe cinema still has that raw, visceral power that attracted me in the first place!

As for the flicks, H20 (or HALLOWEEN WATER as it's come to be known in the circle) was a thoroughly by-the-numbers horror flick with no reason to exist other than box office potential. Forget Jamie Lee Curtis' bullshit about wanting to revisit the character. She wanted to revisit the Box Office Top 10. We're talking about a woman who hasn't been seen in the vicinity of a hit since TRUE LIES...and that was, what, 1995?! That's what you get for making flicks with Kevin Pollack.

To sum it up: a story that could've been grafted from any early 80s slasher flick, plus a mean streak running through that made the flick not much fun to watch.

DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, on the other hand, was definitely the evening's revelation! Directed by David Nutter (TRANCERS 4 and 5, various 'X-Files' episodes including "Ice," and the 'Millennium' pilot), DB has a murky, high-paranoia feel that comes across like THE STEPFORD KIDS MEET THE PARALLAX VIEW.

It's also a flick that, despite its flaws, could provide some pointers for up and coming filmmakers: forget all that plot stuff, roll credits, start the story and don't let up until 90 minutes are up. Oh yeah, and toss in a hot chick with her top unbuttoned every now and then.

Though our summer viewing hasn't exactly been the stuff of legend (these two flicks, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO and THE OPPOSITE OF SEX pretty well sum it up), DISTURBING BEHAVIOR is the cream of the crop.

That's it for this week...

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