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Celebrate Halloween Early with Drexel’s Cronenbergathon

Hope Madden Hope Madden Celebrate Halloween Early with Drexel’s CronenbergathonPhoto of promotional poster for "Rabid" (1977), via IMDb.
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Halloween just too damn far away? Jonesing for a sleepless night, hours on end spent in the dark with strangers keen on seeing something gruesome? How do you feel about Oliver Reed?

If you answered “yes,” “yes,” and “can’t get enough,” then the Drexel Theatre has just the cure for your pre-horror holiday blues.

The fifth annual Shock-O-Rama takes over the historic Bexley cinema this Saturday, August 10, bringing with it a lot of slug-beasts, some puffy coated maniacs and, scariest of all, James Woods.

This year’s program celebrates Canadian filmmaker and madman David Cronenberg, screening five of his iconic genre works throughout the night.

Why Cronenberg? Co-programmer Joe Neff explains.

“For a few years now, we’ve been mulling over the potential for a dusk to dawn tribute to a single director,” he says.

According to Neff, Cronenberg felt like the perfect blend of sensibilities between Drexel Theatre’s two yearly movie marathons: October’s horror marathon and the SciFi program in March.

“As Bruce [Bartoo, co-programmer with Neff of all three series] so aptly put it many years ago, ‘Science Fiction is more cerebral. Horror is more visceral, and a lot sexier,’” Neff says. “And few directors have bridged the gap and twisted the link between the mind and the body, between the intellectual and the visceral, like Cronenberg. In a way, he embodies a lot of the approach we’ve taken with the event programming over the years: a mixture of the sacred and the profane, the grindhouse and the arthouse.”

Among the films in the lineup is Cronenberg’s breakout 1975 horror Shivers (They Came from Within), a movie with a long history for Bartoo and his marathons.

“It’s 1978 and the third annual Science Fiction Marathon at the Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge, [Massachusetts],” Bartoo recalls. “The second or maybe the third feature in Cinema 1 is introduced as something from an unknown Canadian director. In the opening scene, a middle-aged man chases a teenage schoolgirl into a high-rise apartment. He catches her, strangles her on the couch, then lays her on a table, rips her blouse open, takes a bottle and a scalpel from his medical bag, slices her belly open, pours acid into the wound, and then slices his own throat.” 


“And remember, this is 1978,” he says. “You’d be hard pressed to find anything like that on even the grindhouse screens in those days. About 150 of the 400 get up and walk out. It was a Marathon Moment that lives in infamy, wherever one stands on the film’s merits.”

Nostalgia may have played a role in choosing Shivers, but Cronenberg’s 1977 effort Rabid has a more current reason for excitement, with its reboot by Canadian directors Jen and Sylvia Soska set to be released later this year.

“It’s a really fascinating film,” Neff says. “One that doesn’t get revived as much as it should. And screening it with Shivers provides an interesting historical perspective of how a director can take one concept and present two takes on it that are structurally similar, yet much different in tone.”

The program also boasts The Dead Zone, “One of the best Stephen King adaptations, and one of the best Christopher Walken performances,” says Neff. They’re also screening The Brood, starring Samantha Eggers and Oliver Reed, which Neff refers to as Kramer Vs. Kramer Goes to Hell.

“And can you ever get enough Oliver Reed at a Marathon?”

Filling out the lineup is Cronenberg’s prescient Videodrome.

“It’s arguably his most prophetic and nightmarish film,” says Neff. “A dark fantasia of a media-drenched society and the fusing of television and the body. Plus, it has absolutely stellar performances from James Woods and Debbie Harry.”

Along with the films, Neff says to expect to find the traditional Shock-O-Rama fun, including 35mm trailers and shorts from Bartoo’s archives and the lineup announcement for the October horror marathon.

“We’ve always intended for Shock-O-Rama to be a kickoff to Horror Marathon and Halloween season, but also a way for potential newcomers to dip their toes in the bloody waters of the Nightmarathon experience,” says Neff. “And, of course, those attendees who got hooked through Shock-O-Rama and are now diehards.” 

Long live the new flesh.

Drop in on the 5th annual Shock-O-Rama this Saturday, August 10 at 10 p.m. and stay until sometime on the 11th.

Full lineup:

Shivers (They Came From Within) (1976): in 35mm

Rabid (1977)

The Brood (1979)

Videodrome (1983)

The Dead Zone (1983)

Tickets are $20 and are available at Laughing Ogre Comics (4258 N. High St.) and at the Drexel Theatre (2254 E. Main St.). For more information, visit Shock Around the Clock’s website.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

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