Few theaters in Chicago are better equipped to explore the full range of horror—a genre characterized by a constant negotiation between classic and kitsch—than the Music Box, a space practically carved into that intersection. So it’s only fitting that this weekend, the historic Music Box Theatre will screen a dozen horror movies in 35mm and digital projection back-to-back for its annual Music Box of Horrors 24-hour movie marathon.
In addition to screening films that run the gamut in obscurity from it-would-be-generous-to-call-this-“cult” to knowing-this-movie-alone-makes-you-a-horror-buff, the Music Box will host giveaways and contests between films. Expect vendors with limited edition merchandise, food trucks parked outside the theater to fuel the true all-nighters, and a couple of special guest appearances. One of these guests, Joseph Maddrey, author of Beyond Fear and Nightmares in Red White and Blue, will help kick off the long slog with a special tribute to Wes Craven: The iconic director’s under seen gem The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), plays at noon on Saturday.
In the hopes that the dinner crowd might see their meals again soon, director William Lustig will present his 1980 slasher Maniac, an innovative film now marred by association with the 2013 Elijah Wood-POV remake, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. It gets really exciting at 10:45 p.m. that evening when musician and composer Paul Buscarello will provide live accompaniment on the Music Box organ to Tod Browning’s 1927 silent horror film, The Unknown. Though horror buffs might know Browning better for Dracula (1931) or Freaks (1932), cinephiles may thrill at seeing Joan Crawford in her breakthrough role as the carnival girl Nanon, pursued by Lon Chaney’s circus freak Alonzo the Armless.
Actor Ethan Embry rounds out the special guest list, presenting the Chicago premiere of The Devil’s Candy (2015) at quarter past midnight on Sunday. The film’s Tasmanian director Sean Byrne—known, if at all, for his adorable 2009 black comedy The Loved Ones—serves as a second-rate contemporary keystone in an arch curving otherwise exclusively through the second-rate twentieth century.
Genuine genre fans will likely appreciate Child’s Play 2 (1990), the last Chucky movie with any legitimate claim to serious horror status, as well as Deep Red (1975), a Dario Argento Giallo(2009) inferior to his Suspiria (1977). Ganja & Hess (1973) comes bafflingly at 4:15 a.m. on Sunday, as if the theater meant to ensure only dedicated connoisseurs would enjoy Bill Gunn’s experimental African/African-American vampire masterpiece, which inspired the Spike Lee remake Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014).
Most years, Halloween lasts longer than Hanukkah on college campuses. Communities work to spread the parties occasioned by the spookiest night of the year over whatever two weekends bookend the 31st. With Halloween sitting squarely on a Saturday this year, students must satisfy themselves with stuffing the celebration into a single 24-hour period. Horror fans have the same opportunity, only a week earlier.
From 12 p.m. Saturday, October 24, through 12 p.m. Sunday, October 25. Marathon passes are $30 through Friday, October 23. Day of passes are $35. Passes can be purchased online.