Saturday, September 06, 2008

When the Moon is Red the Dead Shall Rise

When I was going to school in Philadelphia back in the latter half of the 1980s, there was a five or six block stretch of Chestnut Street that was home to a handful of great theaters. And when I say "great" I mean dank, smelly shoeboxes that regularly offered up whatever horror, action or sexploitation was being released by Cannon, Empire or New World during that last, great gasp of cinematic trash.

I still recall going to see stuff like TRUE BLOOD, an oddball thriller starring Jeff Fahey and Sherilyn Fenn, while the decidedly urban audience playfully hurled insults at my friends and me. There was the night we were in one of the strip's classier theaters for a preview screening of some horror flick and found out that Keenan Ivory Wayans was in the theater next door screening I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA! (we quickly ducked over and gave him a copy of Exploitation Retrospect, the drive-in movie newsletter I was publishing at the time).

But one theater in the neighborhood still holds my fondest memories of afternoons when I should have been in class or Saturday nights when we'd catch a flick before heading to a club to see whatever punk/garage band was in town. The Budco Midtown (now the Prince Theater) was home to two screens that regularly acted as a one-week-only home away from home to such trash as WITCHBOARD, BREEDERS, CREEPAZOIDS, NO MAN'S LAND, BURIAL GROUND and more. But it was the films of Italian splatter legend Lucio Fulci that regularly made me stop in my tracks and plunk down $5 for three hours of joy.

One of the films that I was lucky enough to catch on some insane double-bill was Fulci's GATES OF HELL, a non-stop mix of splatter and Lovecraftian jibber-jabber that isn't so much a film as it is a highlight reel of the master's trademark moments of mayhem and gore. Christopher George stars as a grizzled reporter (not to be confused with his frequent roles as a grizzled cop in other 80s trash fare like THE EXTERMINATOR and the equally brilliant PIECES) who who gets roped into stopping the armies of the dead from taking over the earth. Featuring some of Fulci's most notorious moments – a heart-stopping cemetery rescue, a surprisingly realistic drill to the head, vomited-up intestinal tracts, bleeding eyes, dead priests and more – GATES never disappoints.

So what the heck does that have to do with our trip to Georgia? Well, parts of GATES were shot in the sleepy Southern town of Savannah, GA, which inexplicably is supposed to double for the New England locale of Dunwich, Massachusetts.... a town that doesn't even exist. So who's to say it doesn't look like a distinctly Southern slice of Gothic architecture and lots of iron work? (One reviewer suggests that the film is so inept it's actually good, a claim I have a hard time arguing with.)

Knowing we were headed to GA in the coming months we made plans to hook up with Curt, an old pal, horror blogger and fellow member of the Eurotrash Paradise. We usually get to see Curt once a year or so during our ETP get-togethers but he wasn't able to make this year's Seattle trip so a mini-ETP get-together in Savannah seemed like a must.

Though Hanna was doing her best to dampen our day with clouds, rain and the occasionally whipping wind, we still had a great time walking around town and seeing such sites as the infamous house where the MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL murder took place.

After a quick walk through town we made our way to the Moon River Brewing Company, a decidedly non-touristy brew pub where we felt it was unlikely to run into fans of Paula Deene or her spawn.

Driving and walking had brought on a mighty hunger and we worked our way through the restaurant's menu which succeeds in being familiar without offering the same old bar food. Fried Green Tomatoes (a favorite of Chris's since her days in her family's restaurant) were juicy and tasty, despite a slightly overcooked crust. Leek & Goat Cheese Cakes (shown at right) were a unique and great combination of flavors, though the leeks should have been chopped more to eliminate the stringiness and a sauce of some type would have taken them to another level; an accompanying scoop of lentils were dry to the point of dessication and seemed woefully out of place.

The Bayou Shrimp (right) fared much better, featuring shrimp stuffed with smoked kielbasa, baked and served in a sauce I didn't even need. (Side note... I really like the South's obsession with shrimp and sausage.) Curt and I both decided on the Lowcountry Crab Melt, which wasn't so much a sandwich as it was a baking dish filled with toast, crab salad, cheese and, um, cheese.

A couple Belgian-style wheat ales (Curt) and some Swamp Fox IPA (yours truly) topped off an excellent lunch that gave us the strength and courage to check out some of the Savannah-based GATES locales that Curt had scoped out.

While he wasn't able to pin down the location of the cemetery used in the film's opening (and even hardcore Savannahites were of no help) Curt did lead us to the staircase that John-John runs down when trying to escape from his now-zombified (?) sister Emily. (Forgive me if my recollections of GATES are rusty... it has been about a year since I saw it and my DVD is at home.) We also took video (which I'll post at a later date) of what we believe is the catwalk that one of the zombies jumps off during the film's whacked out running time.

After walking the streets that the grandfather of Italian splatter had walked, it was time to head out. The rains were whipping their way through the streets of Savannah and one could almost hear Fulci shouting for the effects gurus to bring in more sheep intestines for the next gruesome effect.



Hi there...This you are going to get a kick out of, fo sho: I read your travelogue of your trip to Savannah but I have to say honestly that I skimmed the first couple of paragraphs. I saw 'film', 'Midnight in the Garden..' and few other words. I was anxious to get to the food porn. I really like looking at pictures of food, as long as they aren't billboard-sized pictures of
hot Wawa sandwiches. The meat chunks don't enlarge well and look like glistening Pedigree Choice Cuts in Sauce on a roll to me.

You probably recall Frank's parents lived in Savannah and I knew he had seen 'MITGOGAE', I remembered him saying it was boring, and I remember that being everyone's general sentiment when it came out. So, off and on all day yesterday I've been saying that I didn't realize it was a gruesome zombie movie. I would have thought more people would have said it was disgusting or gratuitously violent, but not boring. I just felt like I would have just KNOWN...yeah, it's that zombie movie set in Savannah. On second read, I now realize why it's best to start at the top and read to the bottom. The goat cheese cake picture will still be there when I get there the right way. :)

Glad to hear you are having such a great time. Your Wookie is enjoying her vacation, too!


Dan said...

LOL, that's our Lehigh! I probably would have been more interested in MIDNIGHT if it *were* a gory zombie movie!

Not sure how much driving you've done in the Deep South but talk about some billboards with unseemly food porn!