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Drexel’s Shock-o-Rama Celebrates 1988 Horror

Hope Madden Hope Madden Drexel’s Shock-o-Rama Celebrates 1988 HorrorMovie still from The Serpent and the Rainbow, via IMDb.
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It’s been 30 years since Poison hit big with Every Rose has its Thorn and Bill Cosby had the #1 TV show. But there are reasons to look back on 1988 without cringing.

This year’s Shock-o-Rama, the horror allnighter at the Drexel Theatre, showcases five of the finest horror gems of ’88. Why do the 30th anniversary tour?

It won a vote.

“We included a tribute to the horror films of 1988 as an option on an audience survey for possible Shock-o-Rama themes,” explains program co-curator Joe Neff. “It won by a wide margin. Let it never be said that we don’t give our loyal audience what they want!”

Neff says the category has other merits.

“From an aesthetic standpoint, 1988 was a fascinating year of transition for horror films in general. Some of the masters of the ’70s and ’80s — Romero, Craven, Cronenberg, Hooper, etc. — were beginning to see their indie avenues of production dry up, MPAA censorship was beginning to restrict more graphic content, and the increasing dominance of the Hollywood blockbuster was beginning to edge out smaller, more eclectic fare,” explains Neff, who included George Romero’s Monkey Shines and Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow in the program.

“The progression of Craven’s career, in particular, has always interested me. There are some hardcore fans who only want The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left and A Nightmare on Elm Street from him, who want to dismiss many of his mid-period films until Scream. But looking back, his late-’80s to early-’90s period produced a few of his more intellectually and viscerally stimulating films. Today, The Serpent and the Rainbow plays like a wonderful mutant amalgam of Val Lewton and Clive Barker, both chillingly atmospheric and graphically disturbing.”

Did narrowing down the potential lineup to films from one year make selection easier?

“There’s a bumper crop of interesting-to-great horror films from 1988, and it’s always nice to have to narrow things down to five films rather than not have enough to choose from,” he says. “Cost of film rentals for mini-marathons like these is always a factor, so trying to fit five films into our projected budget while keeping tickets affordable was probably the biggest challenge. We also strive for tonal balance in the lineup, so choosing a few more serious films with a few goofier ones — especially for an all-nighter — is always important.”

Neff admits that, surprisingly enough, he hasn’t seen even one of the five selections on a big screen himself.

“I know, I know,” he laughs. “Time to turn in my horror fan card. But hey, I was 11 years old in 1988, and my parents wouldn’t allow me to see R-rated films yet.”

But he’s already seeing a lot of buzz from marathon and mini-marathon regulars around several of the films in the program.

“We’ve already seen strong enthusiasm online for the Monkey Shines screening,” he says. “The Serpent and the Rainbow should be a really cool rediscovery. And The Blob is always boffo with an audience like this!”

Shock-o-Rama offers more than just five late-’80s scares, though.

“Building in the exclusive announcement of the Shock Around the Clock (Drexel’s annual 24-hour horror marathon) lineup in trailer reel form has proven to be a great hook,” Neff says. “In the weeks leading up to Shock-o-Rama, people get really excited about what the films will be, and in being the only ones to know about the lineup until we roll out to the public later on that Sunday evening.”

Neff and co-conspirator Bruce Bartoo also plan to share trailers, prizes and swag, as well as the opportunity to purchase advanced tickets to the full 24-hour marathon. Two Drexel passes go to anyone who stays for the whole event, too.

Shock-o-Rama begins at 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 18 and runs until all five movies are done.

Full lineup:
The Blob
Monkey Shines (35mm)
The Serpent and the Rainbow
Waxwork
Brain Damage

Tickets are $20 and available at Laughing Ogre Comics (4258 N. High St.) and Drexel Theatre (2254 E. Main St.) or at the marathon website.

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

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