Gone are the days of the grindhouse, those urban-centric celluloid spitting fleapits where miscreants of every persuasion gathered to watch films that gleefully defied both the mainstream and good taste, offering more daring and depraved viewers the sweetest of big screen, B-movie shocks.
That art of exhibiting these sorts of sleazy counterculture gems is still championed by a select few, among them is Toronto film collector Dion Conflict. Together with the folks behind Toronto’s legendary Fox Theatre in the Beach, Conflict is presenting the third instalment of his popular Shock and Awe all night film festival.
Starting at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night and running ceaselessly until 10 a.m. Sunday morning, Shock and Awe contains a mind blowing array of vintage sexploitation, exploitation and horror cult favorites, screened in all their 16 and 35mm projected glory, including such mouth-watering fare as the ’70s softcore gem Mona and the classic ’80s shocker Return of the Living Dead.
But as Conflict reveals, the films themselves aren’t Shock and Awe’s only draw.
“When I came up with the idea I though it would be like a party.” says the unabashed weird movie buff.
“This is not only a film screening. It’s an event, with prize giveaways and an in-theatre marketplace. People think they can get everything on DVD or just download it but some of this stuff is not available at all. In fact, some of these prints are the last ones in existence.”
In the best tradition of the grindhouse, Shock and Awe’s prints (whose titles also include the early Jack Nicholson biker flick Hells Angels on Wheels) are suitably battered, having seen the spin of hundreds of projectors over the years. But in the context of these kinds of films, the splicier they are, the more hairs stuck to the frame, the more trippy and otherworldly they are.
“I have no shame when it comes to the presentation.” Says Conflict.
Basically, if it has sprockets I’m going to run it. It’s all part of the experience.”
• For more information on Shock and Awe go to www.foxtheatre.ca