Mortals: if you haven’t been to a Hudson Horror Show, let the recriminations commence! Geography is no excuse. Sickness? Merely your neglected will asserting its place in your frail, sniveling body. As a kindness, here are the films you missed at Hudson Horror Show XV. Thanks are owed to our friends at HHS for putting on the event, to Empire South Hills 8 for renting out two screens, to the vendors for reserving space, and to Jordan at the B-Movie Film Vault for sponsoring the print of The Hidden.
Dir. Rick Roessler
A late-era slasher entry likely inspired by the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, there’s enough weirdness here to get by, from the former slaughterhouse owner’s bitter accusations of “30 percent fat…clogging young people’s arteries!” levied at his mechanized successor, to his pig-hugging son’s snorts of derision at the hapless townies doomed by his cleaver. The skewed take on a workingman’s hands lament is culled directly from Tobe Hooper, but the real gem here is the opening credits. Panning along to some inappropriately bouncy ragtime, the camera follows pigs through a real slaughterhouse, from the pen to the grading (turning away from the kill, but not the tasing beforehand or the butchery after), all the while prodding the viewer to feel something about how an industry operates. More of that anger would have stood the film on its feet. Don’t promise to reach for the stars if you’re going to settle for pasting some on the ceiling.
As is traditional with Hudson Horror Show, the mystery films remain unrevealed to outsiders. All I can say is that it’s a revenge classic, a favorite of mine, and provides a mic-dropped explanation every time I ask myself why I love revenge films so much. So many movies grapple with the meaning and direction that vengeance offers, for good or ill, but this film is a reminder that the threat of it, forcing a hand with sword-edged grief, matters just as much. It’s not always the blood. It’s the fear. It’s the acknowledgement.
Dir. Frank Henenlotter
A movie with a lot to answer for, but one that doesn’t deserve to drag around the subgenre still feeding on it. Streaming services overflow with horror-comedy sewage. The Attack of the Digested Memes: Historical Figure Fights Monsters! Mundane Object Kills! Any cynical young hack could’ve compounded the word Frankenhooker, but try to find one that wouldn’t have submerged Frank Henenlotter’s sly humor under fathoms of irony. And none of them would have access to Patty Mullen’s loopy brilliance. Genius is effortless, you can see that every time her face twists into an electric grimace. But concept-jockeying laziness? Muscles strain with self-regard.
Dir. Jack Sholder
Jack Sholder’s finest, The Hidden does more with recklessness than most films do with care. It crashes genres to get at their machinery and rips out the worn parts, the procedurals and conspiracies that made boredom nod before pen scratched paper. (If only the 90s would have listened!) Here instead we have a proto-GTA villain, a force of pure impulse driven by the immediacy of its wants, grabbing at everything from boomboxes to the Presidency with the same glassy, violent fixation. Sometimes you’re up against someone less interested in the burning world than the crackling in his singed hands.
Deconstruction only takes you so far, anyway. What makes The Hidden exceptional is that Sholder reveals a compassionate core under all those scrapped gears. It’s embodied in Kyle MacLachlan’s unearthly calm as he lapses toward a faltering, quiet openness, proceeding as the film does, from roaring engines to a last, lasting shot of two grasping hands. The stock market crashed the week The Hidden opened. The rest of us carried on.
Dir. Joe Dante
“There’ll be other wars, Mr. Grogan.” That’s the difference between showing the wound and revealing the hand holding the knife, and there’s rarely been a more bitterly knowing hand than Barbara Steele in this Joe Dante/John Sayles collaboration. Riffing on Jaws’ corrupt, get-‘em-into-the-water authorities by way of the military-industrial science monsters of 50s sci-fi, it’s fun on the surface, sneering beneath, and longtime viewers can make a game of figuring out which touches belong to Dante and which to Sayles. That general forcing panicked swimmers off his boat and back into the water by his bootheel? Classic Dante. Paul Bartel’s haughty, officious camp counselor letting piranha gnaw at him while pulling kids to shore? Surprising depths are Sayles’ waters. But “There’ll be other wars”? No matter who wrote it, Steele owns it. Stand beneath her banner. Welcome to the Motherland.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Dir. Chuck Russell
A film I’ve lived with for so long that remembering life beforehand is like asking grandma about the plague year: who cares and everyone’s dead. The first Elm Street said that staring down the shortsighted past makes you less blinded to yourself. Dream Warriors takes it further: Your fears and strengths are inseparable, and what’s been done to you becomes what you do to yourself.
You probably know all of this, if Dream Warriors got you here. This film was the streetlight before your house, the scratch of leaves on asphalt, the chill soaked into your skin as you tossed off another disappointing night alongside your sneakers on the wet lawn. You knew then that your friends would splinter away, some to trudge through the desert in armor you were glad to refuse. The grass brushed icily along your feet.
This is the icon to brandish every time some varicose sweatrag passes a kidney stone about what the kids are up to these days, with their snowflake entitlement and refusal to lick slime off the bathroom floor of their birth gender. Because if all you’re going to do with your dreams is build a smaller cell for the next inmate, the knives can’t come out soon enough.
Joel La Puma