August 25, 2015

Screening Report: Exhumed Films Guilty Pleasures II (8/22/15, Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY)

Exhumed Films is a group based out of the Philadelphia area that put on genre film marathons and other special events on an annual basis. Last year they started a new tradition, the Guilty Pleasures Marathon. They take five films that had positive play at one of their prior shows and put them together in a marathon of their own. Last year's event included such films as 1990: The Bronx Warriors, No Mercy Man, and Night of a Thousand Cats. It is all held within the friendly confines of the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY. Having such a good time last year, it was a given that I was going to be at this year's event!

I arrived at the theater about an hour before show time. I wanted to linger a bit see who was there and prepare myself for a long day at the movies. There really is nothing like watching crazy old movies in a theater with a full house of like minded nuts. Of course, the movies have to be projected from 35mm film and include at least one movie I have never seen before (or in this case all five!). So, after meeting up with some friends, I made my way inside to check out the menu (full menu with waitress service, every theater should be like that) and watch some movies!

The day began with an introduction by Dan from Exhumed. He told us a little bit about the Exhumed collective, what they are about, what they do, and some of their upcoming shows (including a cool sounding Camp Blood event at a drive-in, sadly I cannot make it). They are also behind the upcoming Fabio Frizzi performance at Underground Arts in Philadelphia. You all should look into that, Frizzi is one of my favorite composers. Anyway, there were a couple of t-shirt and DVD giveaways and then the lights went out and the show began.

The first film was an old school post apocalyptic oddity from 1985, Radioactive Dreams. Never heard of it? Me neither, although it seems like a bunch of people there had. The movie was directed by Albert Pyun, who arrived on the scene three years prior with Sword and the Sorcerer. This one stars American Ninja's Michael Dudikoff and John Stockwell, they play brothers who were locked in a bomb shelter when the world went to hell outside. They get out just in time to get wrapped up in a fight for the keys to the world's last nuclear bomb.

The gimmick? The due fancy themselves private dicks, based on all the spy novels they pored over while locked in the shelter. Now, it is not that it is really a bad movie, but it isn't all that good either. It is a weird movie that just doesn't get weird enough. A little more weirdness could have put this over the top as a winner. Still, the print was in nice shape and I can check it off as another weird one seen in a theater.

The second flick was one that a lot of my friends were looking forward to. It was none other than Gang Wars, also known as The Devil's Express. After watching it play out on the screen, I know why they were looking forward to it. The movie is a trip, a mix of Kung fu, blaxploitation, and martial arts.

A stolen medallion, during a trip to Hong Kong leads to the awakening of a demon guardian who possesses a Chinese man on his way to New York. The man, now set with eyes straight out of Sugar Hill, wreaks some havoc and ignites a war between a black and a Chinese gang, it all leads to our hero, Luke Curtis (with the great real name of Warhawk Tanzania) has a showdown with the demon. The movie is really crazy, there is some crazy stuff going on between its credit reels

Moving right along, the show has a brisk pace, with a strict ten minute break between each flick. It is unlike the leisurely breaks during Hudson Horror, just as a between movie conversation gets going, it gets chopped off at the knees. Small price to pay to get to watch these movies.

The third movie is the somewhat deceptively titled Redneck Miller. Now, prior to the show, I did not look up or read the descriptions of any of the movies. As a matter of fact, I had forgotten the names of the movies as well. So, when I saw this one start up, I had an image in my head that I thought matched the title, I was wrong.

Redneck Miller is something of a mistaken identity movie. A local dealer, named Supermack, has his delivery intercepted by a helmeted man on a motorcycle. The bike is tracked back to local DJ, Redneck Miller. Now, Miller has to juggle his ladies and find out how he managed to be the target in this scheme. It also has one of the best lines of the night when Miller seems more than willing to let the bad guys take one of his ladies. Certainly a fun movie and probably the one that falls right in the middle in terms of ranking the day.

Keeping things going, the fourth movie is my favorite of the day. It is not the most original, but it plays to my sensibilities and gets pretty bonkers towards the end. The movie is called Nightmare at Shadow Wood, it is also my understanding there is a different cut called Blood Rage and it is more than just an extended cut, I believe it changes the story. I would certainly be interested in seeing that version. Anyway, this is certainly a good slasher film and it certainly is quirky.

It opens with twins in the back of mom's car while she is on a date at a drive in. They get out and they catch an amorous couple in another car, ending with a murder. We jump ahead ten years and learn that one of the brothers went nuts and recently escaped a mental facility. It is not a well hidden secret that the wrong brother was locked up. It is fun watching everyone else run around and try to figure out what is happening.

This was a fun slasher and the ending is flat out nuts. I hear that Arrow is releasing this in September, so I will need to look out for this one. This one also had a great line: "that's not cranberry sauce!"

The final film of the night is a feather in the cap for Exhumed Films. It was far from my favorite of the night, but it was entertaining enough and has a great story. Harry from Exhumed flew to California to check out an unearthed (exhumed?) storehouse that was home to a few hundred film prints. Among them was a movie called Ninja Busters. Nobody knew what it was and there was no information online. Still, it was a cool title, so he bought it and drove the lot back to New Jersey.

To their estimation, this was only the second audience to ever see the film. It never had a theatrical release, it never had a home video release, nothing. What may be even cooler is that they found the director, who lives in Japan, and was able to get a video introduction from him. He told of how the film was shot in 1984 and when it was finished, the distributor disappeared with any prints that had been struck. He spoke of the martial artists in the film and how it is being prepared for a Blu-Ray release by a distributor being firmed by the Exhumed Films group.

The film itself centers on a couple of friends who join a martial arts school in order to meet women. Of course, this does not go well for them and in the latter half of the movie they become the target of a highly trained, yet rather inept, ninja army. I enjoyed it enough, but I kept thinking "it's no Miami Connection."

As a bonus, there were trailers before each film. Now, I do not remember them all. But I know they played Friday the 13th parts 1, 2, and 4 to promote their Camp Blood event, and some Shaw Brothers stuff before Ninja Busters. Also recall the Road Warrior, The Sword and the Sorcerer, and none are coming to mind.

Overall, this was a great day of fun movies, all new to me, hanging with friends, and eating too much food. Seriously, if you can go to an Exhumed event or the Alamo Drafthouse, you should do it.

Ranking the five:
1. Nightmare at Shadow Wood
2. Gang Wars
3. Redneck Miller
4. Radioactive Dreams
5. Ninja Busters

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