This past weekend was ex-Fest III, a 12-hour exploitation film marathon run by our friends at Exhumed Films. As with their fantastic 24-hour Horrorthon, there is no film list provided and the audience finds out what films are playing as they appear on the screen. We attended last year’s ex-Fest and I had a good time even though exploitation is not my favorite subgenre.
Unlike many folks who care about social issues and real-world violence, though, it’s easy for me to get into the right mindset to enjoy them. Many stories and dialogue that would usually offend me become hilarious or entertaining because of the context; the bizarre over-the-top place where all of these films live, and the fascinating history behind them. Depictions of sexual assault, violence and hate bothered me most last night when they DIDN’T fit into the classification of an exploitation film, when they were fit into the framework of “the real world.” I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re interested in what we saw yesterday, here’s my official report.
1. Sunday in the Country (1974)
AKA Ernest Borgnine tortures and kills some dudes. This film was a wee bit dull at times, but fairly amusing. Seeing Borgnine, a devout church-goer and doting grandfather, turn sinister when dangerous criminals visit his farm was shocking and fun.
StayFrosty: I was expecting your basic rape/revenge, but this movie takes a very sharp turn away from all that. I mean, there’s still revenge, but it came from an unexpected source. Namely, Borgnine. I loved that this was sort of an Amish version of Saw (minus the weird little puppet guy). A good, offbeat, violent beginning to our day.
Oh my god. A very 80s post-apocalyptic adventure following Phillip and Marlowe (GET IT?), two 40s-obsessed young men exiting the bunker they inhabited alone for 15 years to explore what’s left of the world after a nuclear attack. It was a little slow to start, but it soon became my favorite of the marathon. There are roving gangs of thugs, all styled after a particular decade’s film and music culture (I suspect the folks behind Six-String Samurai found some inspiration here), hilarious musical interludes, silly sci-fi tech, and fabulous monsters. It even ends with a dance sequence. It’s not perfect, but I think I have to own it.
PS: I understand I’m in the minority on this one!
StayFrosty: If JennyD and I are in the minority about this movie, I don’t know why. It doesn’t fit into what most people would define as “exploitation”, so maybe that’s the problem. This would fit perfectly in with films like Miami Connection – in fact, that would be a hell of a double feature. In this case, I’ll happily stay in the minority, thank you.
3. The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)
I missed the very beginning of this film because we had a date with some gigantic hot dogs. I kind of wish I had caught it. The film’s title and poster are not representative at all of this film. It’s a bizarre psychosexual thriller about a woman remembering childhood abuse in pieces and killing television personalities she’s attracted to. Her dialogue and behavior is jaw-dropping. I hardly know how to describe it. Random, lewd, terrifying, non-sensical? And the film moves at a quick and disjointed pace. I don’t know what I think of the film, but I’ll tell you one thing. I was never bored.
4. Vigilante (1983)
A film from William Lustig, known for the dubious classic Maniac. It was fine. I was a bit bored, but it had good moments. Honestly, I hardly remember it. Woops.
(Frosty and I missed the beginning of this one because we were finding someone who was trapped in part of the building via Twitter and saving them! True story! No regrets!)
5. Lightning Swords of Death (AKA Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972)
These movies are classics and I know I’m a jerk when I say I was super bored and falling asleep. The setup was fun and it was worth hanging in there for the last act when the violence and bloodshed got crazy, but the squishy middle bits had me snoozing. Also? Surprisingly rapey. Not a fan.
6. Get Down & Boogie (1975)
This is the craziest, silliest, most fun Blaxploitation film I’ve ever seen. After this colorful, energetic, slap-sticky marvel, all is forgiven. There’s a lot of material in here that would otherwise be offensive and uncomfortable, but I was charmed by its super positive attitude and message. I would watch it again. No question. My 2nd favorite of the day.
A teen sex comedy from Canada. I don’t even know where to begin when I tell you how much I HATED this movie. We’re following two boys who enjoy pranks and chasing girls and we’re supposed to like them, but I WANTED THEM TO DIE. I suppose it’s a different time, but these protagonists we’re cheering for are committing sexual assault, invasion of privacy, vandalism, and bullying throughout most of the film, and we’re supposed to laugh with them and enjoy their whacky antics. I would have had these fuckers arrested… or maybe gotten myself arrested for murdering them. Like I mentioned at the beginning of my report, this stuff is much more irritating to me in this context… “boys will be boys, summer, woooooo!”… than the over-the-top disrespect and violence found in the cartoony wastelands of true exploitation cinema. Fuck this movie.
8. Gums (1976)
An explicit oddball porn parody of the Spielberg classic Jaws. Whoa. They warned us, but this is crazy-pants. Well, without the pants. In this case, the threat is a love-sick mermaid who uh… um… sucks poor men to death. If the last movie hadn’t drained our very will to live, this would have been a lot of fun. Certainly a memorable way to end the marathon for sure. Not uh… not for everyone!
That’s it! I think I had more fun last year… my personal hits to misses ratio was more favorable… but it’s always fun to see what bizzare films they’ll have on offer and it’s a pleasure to meet fellow film freaks and catch up with friends. The Horrorthon is more my speed, but I’ll be back for ex-Fest IV. Wild mermaids can’t keep me away.