Interview with Rusty Nails
by Jason Coffman
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Friday, May 21st, The Portage Theater in Chicago will host Terror in the Aisles 4: Undead By Dawn, the latest in Movieside Film Festival’s series of horror triple features. An offshoot of Movieside’s annual Music Box Massacre 24-hour horror marathon, Terror in the Aisles has evolved into a series of triple features showcasing horror film classics and new features. Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat had its Midwest Premiere at Terror in the Aisles 2, and Eduardo Sanchez brought the original Sundance Festival cut of The Blair Witch Project along for Terror in the Aisles 3.
Terror in the Aisles 4 continues the tradition with two certified classics of the zombie film genre (George A. Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead and Lucio Fulci’s Zombie) and the Midwest Premiere of the long-awaited REC 2, along with a personal appearance by Bill Hinzman. Mr. Hinzman played the first zombie to appear on-screen in Night of the Living Dead, guaranteeing his spot in horror film history. In addition, there will be various dealers in horror memorabilia in the lobby and live charity auctions for Vital Bridges between films.
Film Monthly caught up with Movieside founder Rusty Nails during preparation for the show for this quick interview.
Rusty Nails (RN): Funny you should ask. I remember when I was a little kid, growing up in Alabama, and I watched that movie very late at night by myself in the kitchen. I was absolutely terrified beyond belief. It seemed beyond real. It really changed my life. The weird thing is, even though Night is one of my favorite movies, I have probably only seen it about 6 times to my recall. I try to refrain from seeing my favorites too many times so they remain fresh to me.
Night of the Living Dead is the film that changed the world of horror. This was the first time that zombies ate human flesh. This was one of the first times that gore and viscera were ever shown on screen. Night is the film that launched the zombie outbreak that would launch every film from Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things to Return of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later to the massive video game explosion that includes Resident Evil and Left for Dead…. not to mention such popular novels such as Cell and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Night is also in the AFI’s top 100 films. And finally, Night holds the ironic status of being one of the biggest money making films of all time, surely surpassing Paranormal Activity, while none of the producers would make even 1 percent of that profit due to the film’s being in public domain from the outset.
FM: Where did the idea for the Music Box Massacre originate from? Did you have the ideas for the Terror in the Aisles and Sci-Fi Spectacular events around the same time, or did those concepts come later?
RN: I had always liked the idea of doing a movie marathon and I’d been to a couple in different places like Ohio where I lived and while I was going to school at Antioch for a while. I just love the idea of being trapped in a theater with monsters running wild for 24 hours… both on screen and off. The first Massacre was very popular so I thought it would be fun to do a Sci-Fi marathon - hence the Sci-Fi Spectacular was born. Our first guest was Patricia Neal from The Day the Earth Stood Still. That was like starting the beginning of a game at the peak of your form. She was really amazing! She got two standing ovations! She said she’d never had that before… but I can’t believe that’s true! Terror in the Aisles came later after the Massacre had grown to be rather big… we wanted to do more horror events than just the one a year. We’ve done all of those at the Portage Theater to date. We love the Portage Theater! All of the shows are great (to us) in different ways.
FM: Is there less stress involved in putting together smaller events like this in contrast to the Massacre or the Sci-Fi Spectacular?
RN: There is some less stress. But all of the shows are tremendous amounts of work. From working with art designers, to getting flyers out, to contacting press, arranging for film prints, contacting guests and making arrangements with them… I could go on for a while. But we all put a lot of effort into all of the shows.
FM: Every Movieside event has had great guests, and this “Terror in the Aisles” is no different with Bill Hinzman putting in an appearance. How do you line those up?
RN: We meet and contact guests in a variety of ways. Sometimes we meet them at film festivals and conventions, sometimes they’re friends of friends, sometimes they’re our friends and sometimes people suggest guests. We have been extremely lucky in terms of guests though: George Romero, John Waters, Joe Dante, Robert Englund, Clive Barker, Larry Cohen, Stuart Gordon and many other lovely folks. We couldn’t really ask for more… it’s really an embarrassment of riches!!! Bill Hinzman is a fantastic guy and we’re very pleased to have him come. It’s hard to believe that he is the first George Romero zombie and he’s coming to show Night of the Living Dead with us. What a treat!
FM: The “Trailer Trash” block of classic trailers before the Sci-Fi Spectacular was great fun. How did that concept come about? Where did the trailers come from?
RN: The 35mm film trailers come from a mixture of collections. Some are mine, some are the theater’s, some are friends. I love trailers and so do a lot of people at the shows. Sometimes people ask for more trailers so I figured that we should try to show them a block of trailers… and it went over well so it might just become a tradition.
FM: What’s something that you always have wanted to show but haven’t been able to? Maybe something where you haven’t been able to track down a print or other issues have prevented you from showing it?
RN: I haven’t been able to find a print of Wicker Man (Christopher Lee) just yet. I absolutely love that film. Also, Shivers (David Cronenberg) has been a bit of a tough one to track a nice print of. We’ll also have to cross our fingers and hope that Suspiria will be fully restored (the international version) at some point. We pride ourselves on going to great lengths looking for hard to find prints of great films on 35mm. Martin (George Romero) is also pretty tough to find. Rare 35mm film prints of dynamite films are worth the hunt. Nothing beats a big beautiful screen glowing with a fantastic film to an audience of people who love films.
FM: What are the odds that we’ll eventually actually see the film Terror in the Aisles at one of the Terror in the Aisles events?
RN: This is going to sound ridiculous… but I have never seen that film. I should be embarrassed… I just liked the name. Guess it’s time for me to hit play and take a look.
Visit the following sites for full line-up and other information:
- Movieside Film Festival: http://www.myspace.com/moviesidefilmfestival
- Unofficial Massacre Fan Site: http://massacre.rabbitroom.org
Jason Coffman is a film critic living in Chicago.
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