The good people at Exhumed Films have been a force in Philadelphia’s movie scene for over fifteen years now, each month delivering vintage horror/cult classics on the big screen. Five years ago, they introduced the now legendary 24-hour Horrorthon. That’s right, 24 hours of horror films. The marathon was custom-tailored to the masochists in attendance, and each year since, it’s served as a Superbowl for horror fans. Last year was the first Ex-Fest, only half the length of the Horrorthon, but what it lacks in running time, it makes up for in the sheer audacity of the films shown. In the darkness of the Ibrahim Theater, fans are subjected to twelve hours of exploitation. Scheduled a little over six months after the Horrorthon, Ex-Fest is another hallmark date for viewers to look forward to. Read my recap of the first event right here.
The second annual Ex-Fest truly lived up to the infamy of the first. The lineup consisted of films that were certainly darker in tone than the previous year’s.
It kicked things off with The No Mercy Man, a Vietnam-era action thriller. While most exploitation films pick one specific thing to abuse, this film is an equal opportunity exploitation film. There’s blaxpoitation, hicksploitation, war, etc. It kicks ass! The hero gets his very own country/folk theme song, there are stunts that are quite impressive given the film’s obvious low-budget, a charismatic villain, and Sid fucking Haig. All-around, this is a film I’d probably watch in my spare time, not just in a movie theater with a bunch of sweaty Ex-Heads. Bit of trivia: it boasts cinematography from the legendary Dean Cundey (Halloween, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and a LOT more). This was definitely one of my favorite films of the night.
Fear is the Key moved things right along. It didn’t really carry much of an exploitation vibe, but still served as a fun 1970s crime film. As a special treat, we got Ben Kingsley in an early role and one of my favorite actors John (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Outlaw Josey Wales) Vernon as the lead villains. The true highlight of the movie though is a beast of a car chase that takes up the first 20 minutes of the film. Shot well and not afraid to fuck shit up.
At the beginning of the show, we were given hints as to what the lineup would consist of, but were overall kept in the dark. Movie number 3 was called a mix between kung-fu and Ozploitation (Autralian exploitation) and some in the audience knew what it was immediately (I was not one of them). Movie number 3 was none other than the favorite The Man from Hong Kong. Since I didn’t get into kung fu movies until later (I was always a horror/scifi guy growing up), I hadn’t seen this one before. After Sunday, I am infinitely glad that I was there to experience it. It was chock full of great fight scenes, dialogue spoken with a mouthful of cheese, and genuinely funny. This was another highlight of the evening.
Death Weekend brought a healthy serving of rape/revenge to the table. Woman goes off to the wilderness. Woman is raped by rednecks. Woman gets revenge. That’s the formula, and a lot of movies have built success on this formula. The revenge in this one is satisfying, but not quite on the level of I Spit on Your Grave. That being said, Ivan Reitman (yeah, the Ghostbusters guy) produced it!
The night went on with Wipeout!, an Italian crime film. Boasting the mighty Henry Silva in the lead, this one delivers the goods. It’s filled with classic dialogue and a great opener in which Silva breaks up an adult movie viewing party with a rocket launcher. At times, it feels like a poor man’s Godfather, but overall, the viewer’s apt to be too swept up in the fun to notice. Even if they do notice, it’s probably part of the film’s charm. Great soundtrack, too!
Vice Squad, starring Wings Hauser, was movie number 6. This cult classic has a sleazy Troma-esque atmosphere and tells the story of a detective investigating a prostitution ring in Hollywood. This is a pretty mean film( mostly courtesy of Wings Hauser as the violent pimp, Ramrod). In a lot of ways, the film really embodies what these types of films are about. It perfectly walks that line between nihilistic and being genuinely fun. It’s not for everyone, but a dream come true for the audience of Ex-Fest.
Now, movie number 7… There are some movies that make you a die a little inside every time you see them, and therefore should only be watched once. I think most of us can agree that Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS probably falls into that category. This vile piece of celluloid filth makes modern horror films’ shallow attempts at transgression look like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Though it’s bad for you, it does have to be experienced once (you won’t believe it otherwise). I couldn’t imagine a better close to the show, and I’m sure the rest of those in attendance would agree.
Big thanks again to Exhumed Films for bringing us another epic night.