The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Staying awake for 12 hours straight at FilmScene’s annual movie marathon

A screening of six films and surprise shorts and trailer reels made up the nightly festivities as audience members fought to stay awake during the seventh annual FilmScream horror movie marathon at FilmScene’s Chauncey location, spanning from last Friday night to Saturday morning.
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Cody Blissett
A FilmScene at the Chauncey sign is seen in Iowa City on July 13, 2023.

Staying up all night to watch six strange and scary horror movies may sound like an incomprehensible idea to some people, but for one sold-out theater of eager fans, FilmScene’s 12-hour movie marathon was the perfect way to celebrate Halloween weekend.

The seventh annual “FilmScream” movie marathon took place from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

As a big fan of horror films, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend 12 hours than with the folks from FilmScene’s weekly event series, “Late Shift at the Grindhouse.” Head Projectionist and Facilities Director Ross Meyer was the audience’s host and guide throughout the nightly festivities.

I was surprised to learn throughout the night how many people in the crowd were “Late Shift at the Grindhouse” regulars.

“We’ve been doing this for seven years and we couldn’t be happier with this kind of turnout,” Meyer said.

As names were called out for the pre-screening raffle and people cheered and clapped for film-themed prizes, it became clear that this community of B-film lovers was tight-knit.

When the lights dimmed for the first film, I was determined to make it through the entire marathon.

A compilation of old cinema advertisements and vintage movie trailers preceded the first film of the night, giving the audience a chance to stretch their legs and relax in the lobby before the real festivities began.

As I would soon learn, these stretch breaks were essential to surviving the night. FilmScream veterans described a routine of stretching, spacing out caffeine breaks, and not feeling ashamed to doze off during a movie to survive the night.

However, being stubborn and unwilling to change my movie-watching ways, I vowed not to fall asleep even once — a goal that seemed attainable after the first film, “Eight Eyes.”

Director Austin Jennings’ “Eight Eyes” is a 2023 film about a dysfunctional couple on their honeymoon in Serbia. The couple meets a local man named Saint Peter who offers to take them on a sightseeing tour that takes a terrifying turn.

It was an intense film to start the marathon. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and as recorded in my live posting of the event on X, formerly Twitter, I only yawned once. With one film down and six to go, I was feeling confident in reaching my goal of completing the movie marathon.

The next film, though, would prove to be the first obstacle. Terence Fisher’s 1958 classic “Dracula” was the second film of the night. Very loosely following the events of the novel, this goofy British film was a great pick to watch with a big crowd.

There were many moments of overacting, strange pauses between dialogue, and some fantastic line deliveries. “Eight Eyes” had everyone in the audience silent and tense, but “Dracula” had everyone laughing the entire runtime.

Following the literary classic was a film many audience members were most curious about. “Bathtub Shark Attack” is a cheesy, Indiegogo-funded film that captured the ridiculously funny spirit of low-budget cinema.

“Bathtub Shark Attack” director Madeline Deering was present for the screening, delivering to the audience one piece of advice before the film started.

“Laugh, be loud, shout at the screen and have fun,” Deering said to the full theater. “That’s what [the movie] was really made for.”

I took Deering’s advice, and so did the rest of the audience. “Bathtub Shark Attack” was as ridiculous as the title suggests and a viewing experience unlike anything I’ve ever had. It was as violent and nonsensical as it possibly could have been — a truly inspiring piece of cinema that celebrates creativity and ingenuity in filmmaking.

By the time the third film ended, and the marathon was halfway over, it was Saturday morning. I haven’t pulled an all-nighter since high school, so I started drinking coffee like I never had before.

The fourth film of the night was “Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight.” It could’ve been several cups of coffee and an unholy amount of popcorn in my system clouding my judgment, but I think this was the greatest film I have ever seen.

Watching a movie like this at 1:30 a.m. is the only way to watch it. Directed by Ernest Dickerson, “Demon Knight” follows an immortal demon hunter fending off supernatural threats while in a motel in the middle of nowhere.

It was the perfect film to jumpstart my brain for the second half of the marathon. The crowd seemed to be losing energy along with me, though.

One “Late Shift at the Grindhouse” regular explained that a surprising majority of the audience stuck through the entire marathon. In fact, at the halfway point, one employee told me only six people had left early.

The communal struggle to stay awake made me more comfortable with my excessive coffee drinking and popcorn eating.

“We’re all in this together,” Meyer continued to remind the audience.

After the rollercoaster of action and horror of “Demon King,” I found it very hard to keep it together during the quiet thriller film, “Hands That Bind.”

Directed by Kyle Armstrong, this film was the longest in the marathon as well as the most strategically paced. It takes its time telling the story of a Canadian farmer struggling to support his family as strange extraterrestrial visions haunt him.

However, I felt I was starting to lose it throughout the movie’s two-hour run time. It’s a more eerie and thought-provoking film than some of the others shown but watching it at 4:30 a.m. was a large hurdle in my quest to stay awake.

By the time the credits rolled on the fifth film, I bolted out of the theater to gauge audience reactions. But on the way out, I realized just how many smart FilmScream veterans had brought pillows and pajamas.

Many people took naps throughout the night, making it much easier to make it through the marathon, but I was still determined to stay awake through sheer will — a will that was dwindling more and more every minute.

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Just before the final film of the marathon began, I contemplated leaving. I thought about how comfortable my bed would be and how warm I would be wrapping myself in every blanket I could find in my apartment.

But I couldn’t. I had survived for 11 hours, and I couldn’t throw in the towel — I could not let FilmScream win.

I walked up those carpeted FilmScene theater stairs, imagining I was Rocky running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, before reclaiming my seat and chugging one final cup of coffee.

Director Andrew Fleming’s “The Craft” was the final film of 2023’s FilmScream, and it was a blast. A collage of 1990’s grunge rock, cheesy horror, and high school comedy, “The Craft” felt like the perfect way to end the marathon.

The story follows Sarah, a new student at a Los Angeles high school, as she discovers her witch powers alongside a group of strange girls she meets in class. It was a thrilling and heartfelt story, but the twists and turns along the way kept me wide awake.

When the film ended and the lights came up for the last time, I let out the deepest sigh of my entire life.

Running for close to 13 hours, FilmScream 2023 was over, and I could finally get some rest.

As I walked through windy, freezing Iowa City at 9 a.m. on Saturday, I couldn’t be more thankful for the employees at FilmScene who somehow stayed the whole night alongside us. An event like FilmScream couldn’t be possible without the fantastic folks at FilmScene keeping the coffee pouring and the popcorn popping.

A 12-hour movie marathon may seem like an unorthodox way to celebrate Halloween, but it feels like a tradition I would be happy to participate in again each time the spooky season rolls around.

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About the Contributors
Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter
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Charlie Hickman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. He is majoring in English on the Pre-Law track with minors in Political Science and Cinema.
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
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Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.