It's that convention and film festival time of year in the horror world, and the fun does not stop after Halloween. Because one of the most talked-about festivals will not be happening until the weekend after--Saturday, November 6, to be exact. It's the Hudson Horror Show, and it will be taking place at Silver Cinemas in Poughkeepsie, New York. For a solid 12 hours, splatter freaks will be treated to a veritable cornucopia of gory goodness, including Evil Dead II, The Gates of Hell, Cannibal Ferox, Demons, plus a "viewers' choice" title being voted upon at the festival website as we speak.
The masterminds behind the Hudson Horror Show are Chris Alo and his associate Tad Leger. Alo, a long-time fan who had grown disgruntled with what he had been seeing on the horror festival circuit (namely, DVD projections instead of actual film projections), joined forces with fellow fanatic Leger, who was in a position to acquire certain prints thanks to his employment at distribution company Grindhouse Releasing. That partnership is what brought the Hudson Horror Show to life, and both Chris and Tad were gracious enough to give me some of their time recently to talk more about it...
Vault of Horror: Tell me a little bit about how the Hudson Horror Show got started.
Chris Alo: We’re still in our first year--this is only our second show. Basically, myself and Tad have been long-time horror movie fans, and we had gone to a couple of shows from Exhumed Films in Philly. They're kind of the godfathers of the whole retro horror thing. We were going to all these different festivals, and my girlfriend said, maybe you should try doing your own show. So I talked to Tad, who actually works for Grindhouse Releasing. He does some of the their artwork and design stuff. That was our main connection to start, to do our own show. For our first show, we wanted to incorporate some indie horror, but we didn’t have enough time to do whole films, so basically we did shorts. It was in May, and was a huge success. We were totally blown away, and thought, let’s do it again. That’s where we’re at now.
Tad Leger: I’ve been working as the graphic designer with Grindhouse for about six years now. They're great people. As I was working with them, I started forwarding the list of 35mm prints that they own to other people, because they’re constantly booking prints. I talked to those guys and asked if I can find a place to show movies, could I get some of these prints. They said absolutely, just pay the FedEx and you can have them, otherwise free of charge. So that was a big incentive to get Hudson Horror going, because we already had a connection to get prints.
VOH: I noticed that one of the ways Hudson Horror stands out is the fact that you guys are adamant that only actual 35mm film prints be shown.
Alo: Tad and myself were concerned. We only wanted to show films off 35mm film prints, but once we started to get into this, we started to find out how difficult it is. Finding these prints is not so easy. To me, and to Tad, there’s no point in going to one of these shows and showing a movie off DVD. Everybody has DVD players, surround sound and big-screen TVs now. If it’s not on film, we’re not going to do it.
When I was traveling around, I went to a certain festival that will remain nameless. I flew halfway across the country with my girlfriend to a three-day festival. The promoter told me the films were going to be mostly off 35 mm, and then when I get there, I find out the guy booked the three-day festival, and he didn’t have a single print. Everything was off DVD projections. That’s what really pushed me over the edge to say, I have to do my own thing, because this is horrible.
Leger: Up until the mid 1990s, these titles were really almost impossible to find. You had to pay $35 for a fifth-generation VHS. A lot of people don’t understand a lot of these films were unavailable in brand new, struck-from-original-negative versions. It’s only within the last 10 years that these films have come closer to the surface and become easier to access.
I’d rather see the beat-up 35mm print than a DVD projection, because it’s just not the same. You really get the feeling for how it was when these films wee originally playing in theaters, and also just seeing movies like Demons and Evil Dead II--which are just so much fun--with a crowd, that’s double the entertainment.
VOH: How do you select what gets shown? Is it more about what you want to see, or what you can get a hold of?
Alo: It’s a little bit of both. I know on one hand, Tad and I would both love to show some more obscure films; but at the same time, it’s what we could get our hands on, and also what would people come out to see. We’d love to do something with all Spanish horror, or all giallos, but would enough people come out for that? So it’s a little bit of everything: What we could get our hands on, what we think people will come to see.
Leger: Chris and I do a 50/50 split in terms of how we choose. We look at all the prints that are available, and we try and mix them with films that we really personally love, and films that have more of a draw. Like Evil Dead II, which is a very recognizable name. Chris and I have been horror fans for so long, we've gone down the list and we’re into some pretty obscure titles we’d love to fill the bill with, but nobody will know what the hell these movies are. So we have to just slip them in, here and there.
Alo: That’s why we wanted to show Evil Dead II. We showed the first Evil Dead the first time around, and it was a big hit. So we figured the natural progression would be to show Evil Dead II. Demons is another one that Tad and I really wanted to show, we hoped people would want to see it. Gates of Hell is also pretty popular, maybe more so than Cannibal Ferox. But we think we have a pretty good mix of what we want to see, what we can get our hands on, and what people will want to come out for.
VOH: Are you worried about sustaining interest for 12 hours? Is that an issue at all?
Alo: The last show was just as long, maybe a little bit longer. But this time we didn’t do anything with shorts, just because we figured we did a couple of hours worth of indie stuff last time; so for this show, we're were going to skip it and tie into the whole Halloween thing, and just do all vintage horror films. Some people asked why tickets were $26--but for 12 hours of entertainment, that’s not too bad!
Not surprisingly, for the last show, the most amount of people was for Evil Dead, which was our last film. So most people came and went, and came back again. When Evil Dead came on, I couldn’t believe how many people were in the theater. We were a few seats short of being sold out. For our first show, I was blown away.
VOH: Which film are you most looking forward to showing?
Alo: I think for myself, it would be Demons. I’ve never seen it theatrically and always wanted to. Both Tad and myself are huge heavy metal fans, and Demons has a couple of classic heavy metal songs in there. I’ve been told it’s a pretty nice looking print, and Tad and I both thought it was really cool to show Demons, because it’s the whole horror movie within a horror movie thing. It’s the perfect movie to see in a movie theater.
VOH: It seems like most of the films being shown are Italian horror movies. Was this a conscious decision?
Leger: Yeah, I think that’s just really where our taste in films lies. People like Lucio Fulci were among the greatest horror directors who ever lived, and even though they had much lower budgets to work with, just the imagination that they put into their movies... They just put these set pieces in that had never even occurred to anyone, especially in American film. We really like the Italian stuff, and also a lot of Spanish stuff too. They have this kind of atmosphere that a lot of people in the States didn’t really tap into.
VOH: Are there issues with obtaining quality prints for some of these older films?
Alo: Most of the prints that we deal with are vintage, and they come from various sources. There are distributors out there, you just have to look for them. Knock on wood, everything we’ve screened so far has been in pretty good shape. I’ve seen some pretty rough prints at some of these other festivals, but that kind of comes with the territory.
Leger: The response we’ve gotten has just been way bigger than we thought. We’ve got so many people so excited about every single title. They loved every movie that we had last time, and even if the prints had some washed out points, it didn’t detract.
VOH: What's the most challenging part about making something like this happen?
Leger: We’ve gotten so much support in so much areas. The only thing that’s tough is just literally getting the word out. You can reach so many people on Facebook and through the website, but you really have to go out and go to other film festivals and meet other fans. And a big part is also the conventions. I’ve been to a lot of them like Chiller, and Rock and Shock, and Monster Mania, and that’s where you really meet the people who absolutely live for these movies. Who have watched them probably 50 or so times, but still love them so much they’ll come out for another show to see it on the screen. But that’s probably the most labor-intensive part.
Alo: If people are interested in coming to the show and picking up a ticket, they can save a couple of bucks by buying in advance. Tad and I took the few dollars we made on the first show, and we blew it all on the second show. That’s why we’re doing five 35mm full-length movies for this show. We hope we get another good turnout for show number two, so we can continue to do this in the future.
* * * * * * * * * *
Thanks to Chris and Tad for being generous with their time, and it's my pleasure to help them get the word out for this very worthy festival. I encourage you to come on down--in fact, I will even be there myself, along with my cohort in crime, Captain Cruella. The Captain and myself will be taping a special behind-the-scenes webcast at the event, which we plan to sync up with Miguel Rodriguez' Horrible Imaginings film festival--happening the very same day in San Diego!
Needless to say, if you live near the West Coast, you need to get yourself over to that one. But if you can't make either one, we'll do the best we can to convey the coolness via video. We'll even be talking to acclaimed novelist and zombie fanatic Dr. Kim Paffenroth, who will be on-hand at Hudson Horror as one of the featured author guests. All in all, it should be a most amazing way to spend half a day--so get yourself down there, and come say hi!
"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue
**Find The Vault of Horror on Facebook and Twitter, or download the new mobile app!**
**Check out my other blogs, Standard of the Day, Proof of a Benevolent God and Lots of Pulp!**