Horror film triple-features were staples of the grindhouses and drive-ins of yore. For the price of one ticket, theater-goers could experience a triple helping of low-budget horror flicks. With the grindhouses, this was usually a way for low-rent humans to get out of the elements for a while or hide out from the cops after engaging in some illegal activity.
In this day and age of mall megaplexes and major theater chains, the triple-feature has all but vanished, only surfacing once in a while when a film company decides to rent a theater to specifically showcase such an event. American Cinematheque is one such company. It is a Southern California-based, non-profit organization that specializes in presenting various films (the past and present) on big screens. Camp Void is part of the American Cinematheque that specializes in presenting oddball and cult films on the big screen during the summer. With the arrival of Severin’s 10th anniversary, Camp Void and Severin joined forces to present a delicious triple-feature at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA on July 9th, 2016. On the bill: Drive-In Massacre, Bag Boy Lover Boy; and Joe D’Amato’s sleaze classic, Beyond the Darkness. And I was there.
The Egyptian Theater is located on Hollywood Blvd. and, like its moniker implies, is Egyptian-themed. Hieroglyphics adorn the walls of the courtyard, the walls are painted tan, and the whole structure looks like a building straight outta Egypt. Sandwiching the theater are a pub called the Pig ‘n Whistle and a health food restaurant. Near the box office they have glass displays featuring announcements of upcoming screenings as well as poster art. Inside the main lobby, you have a concession stand on the left. In the center, the entrance to the Lloyd E. Rigler theater (where they were screening the Back to the Future trilogy).
To the right, a ramp leading down to the Spielberg theater where the triple-feature was to happen. Severin Films was on hand with a table offering up a selection of their wares. While I’d received two free movies in my goodie bag (Dead Kids and Joy and Joan), I decided I just had to have Sledgehammer (the first shot-on-tape slasher flick for the home video market), House on Straw Hill (a controversial thriller from the UK), and Last House on the Beach (a depraved slice of Eurosleaze). Purchases and freebies in tow, I entered the Spielberg Theater.
The Spielberg Theater is located a bit beneath ground-level and can seat (I’m guessing) 60-70 people. The place was already filled and smelt of B.O. with a hint of marijuana. I wound up having to take a seat at the extreme right of the front row. At least the seats were comfortable and I had a wooden border to put my feet up on.
First up was a goofy public safety skit featuring Safety Sue. It concerned swimming and the possible dangers thereof. Then, the first movie started.
Drive-In Massacre (1977)
A bunch of horny people are being sliced and diced at a drive-in. Enter two stupid detectives, Mike Leary and John Koch (writer John Goff and Michael Alden), to solve the case. To give you an idea of how stupid they are, neither of them figures out that you can leave a projection booth between reel changes. When they disclosed that bit of info I said aloud, “They’re just now figuring that out!?” However, it is their stupidity – and one jack-in-the-box death scene – that provides what little entertainment Drive-In Massacre has. The flick is mostly talk, talk, talk. No tension or suspense here, folks. The gore isn’t bad, though. Portions of it were filmed in Simi Valley, where I was born. So that was kind of cool.
Writer John Goff attended the screening. There was a Q&A after the flick which I ducked out for because a) I had to use the bathroom, b) I wanted a cigarette after damn-near falling asleep during that boring rubble heap, and c) I didn’t care enough about the flick to wanna hear any info about the flick.
While smoking, a dude with a stuffed badger, part of the Camp Void crew, was outside talking to the badger. I’m not sure is he was performing for my benefit, if he was drunk/high, or if he was completely bonkers. Given that this was Hollywood, all three are plausible answers.
The Contract (short film)
Before Bag Boy Lover Boy, we were shown a short film from an upcoming anthology flick to be released by Severin. I can’t get into detail here, but let’s just say this short would make John Waters ice his panties and is highly-indebted to his early work. I loved this.
Bag Boy Lover Boy (2014)
First, an introduction by director Andres Torres and some trailers for older movies. The size of the crowd revealed that most people were here to catch this flick. Bag Boy Lover Boy concerns Albert (John Wachter), a lowly hotdog vendor who begins modeling for Ivan (Theodore Bouloukos), a prestigious photographer who photographs macabre scenes. Albert wants Ivan to teach him photography. Ivan agrees and gives Albert an old Polaroid camera. Albert begins taking pictures but soon begins going bonkers – because he is obviously rife with mental deficiencies – and begins killing his models.
The synopsis promises truckloads of sleaze and nudity and perversions and fails to deliver. A little bit of nudity, a very tame scene of necrophilia, and some blood. That’s it, folks. Not enough sleaze to make it titillating, not enough perversions to make it disgusting, not enough blood to make it satisfying, not enough psychology to make it engaging, not enough entertainment to make it worth watching. Though a horror/comedy, there isn’t enough of either to make it anything other than D.O.A. Not to mention the main character is pretty fucking annoying.
Another Q&A session with Torres and Bouloukos followed. Once again, I ducked out to use the restroom and feed my nicotine habit. In the restroom, a locked stall and atrocious smell made me think someone had OD’ed on heroin. Outside, once again, Badger Boy was talking to his badger. Police sirens and drunken people walking to the next club filled the streets. Ah, the soundtrack of Hollywood.
Beyond the Darkness (1979)
Closing out the triple feature was Joe D’Amato’s masterpiece of sleaze, Beyond the Darkness. The theater was half-empty by this point. I guess most people preferred the mediocrity that proceeded this.
Trailers for an older flick and some old ads for the concession stand preceded the flick. Widely hailed as D’Amato’s masterpiece (I still prefer Porno Holocaust), Beyond the Darkness centers around Frank (Kieran Canter), who taxidermies his dead wife and slaughters innocent young women – all while trying to fend off the advances of his housekeeper, Iris (Franca Stoppi) and trying to preserve his sanity. Most people know D’Amato’s work via Anthropophagous, but this is the superior work. An excellent score by Goblin helps preserve the mood as we are subjected to Frank’s downward spiral into insanity. Stoppi is excellent as the scheming Iris. You really do wind-up despising her and hope she gets her comeuppance. D’Amato, an accomplished cinematographer who often shot his own films under his real name, Aristide Massaccesi, gives the film an eerie atmosphere that suits the film perfectly.
I’d seen this film before. My desire to see it on the big screen was the chief reason I attended this event. I was not disappointed. The only thing that slightly hampered my enjoyment of this flick was the audience. A character walks across a room. Laughter. A character runs their hand through their hair. Laughter. A character rubs lotion on the leg of another. laughter. And I’m not talking mild chuckles. I’m talkin’ full-on laughter. Sure, some of the scenes merited a chuckle or two, but these people were laughing as though it were the funniest thing they’d seen all day. And they were annoying as hell.
At the end of the movie, however, everyone applauded which I thought was awesome. Seeing a D’Amato film receive applause – he’s one of my favorite directors – it definitely put a smile on my face. Afterward, many patrons headed over to the Pig ‘n Whistle for drinks and conversation. It was after one in the morning so I decided to head home. En route to my car, I stumbled across Boris Karloff’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Despite two lackluster films, Severin’s 10th Anniversary Party was a fun experience and one I’m likely to repeat. The triple-feature experience made me feel like I was in a 42nd Street grindhouse catching a flick with all the flotsam and jetsam of the area, albeit more well-behaved. If you ever have a chance to experience something of this caliber, do not pass on it. Money and time well-spent.