October Chicago marathon of marathons

A Halloween Massacre Box?798375-250

Last weekend I was in a packed house at the Music Box Theater for their annual Music Box of Horrors event, a 24-hour marathon of horror films. The parade of terrors was spiced with personal appearances by directors (Gary Sherman, Jim Muro) accompanying screenings of their films (Deathline and Street Trash, respectively), along with a variety of vendors in the lobby and lounge, and food trucks set up outside.

Next weekend, October 22-23, I’ll find myself in similar circumstances at The Massacre, another 24-hour horror movie marathon presented by Terror in the Aisles at the Patio Theater. In addition to an excellent program of films, there will be a great collection of vendors, food, live music, giveaways and personal appearances.

Both events are built on the filmfest/convention hybrid pioneered by Flashback Weekend (who held their own 12-hour Horrorfest in nearby Rosemont on October 8), merging the offerings of a horror convention with film screenings. The two events have their own tweaks, but are so much alike that they could be the same. And in fact, they were. A few years ago, after several years of hosting the Music Box Massacre in association with the theater, TitA split off for the Patio, while the Music Box continued with their own event.

The purpose of this piece is not to delve into whatever politics are behind the split, but to comment on what it created. If the two marathons were in direct competition on the same weekend, they would only end up splitting the audience and angering fans. In scheduling them only six days apart, the two successful events have proven that the target market – especially in October – will support 48 hours of such shenanigans within nine days, forming one giant accidental film festival. The way they’re set up, fans are able to come and go to pick out whatever offerings they prefer, or gorge themselves on the entire experience.

I imagine that the parties involved could coordinate, partnering with sponsoring hotels and shuttle services, bringing local movie premieres and screenings into the mix (i.e., Ouija: Origin of Evil premieres October 18), along with local haunted houses and other horror film events.

Or maybe creating one giant event would ruin it, detracting from the neighborhood atmosphere and creating a commercial feeding frenzy. The two theaters in question are already full for most of each marathon. Bigger is not always better, and while I wish all involved continued success, I’d hate to see the charm drowned in misguided ambitions.

The way things are now, I’m content to sit back and savor the show, complete with a bag of popcorn and a big goofy grin on my face.

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