WHAT IS EXHUMED FILMS?
Formed in 1997, Exhumed Films was created to provide a theatrical venue for a much beloved art form that had all but disappeared in the 1990s and is in further decline in the early 21st Century: the B-grade horror movie. From the late-1960s through the mid-1980s, low-budget horror films prospered by playing drive-in movie theaters and single-screen movie houses across the country. In these days before video, genre fans could see newly released “grindhouse” films at almost any local theater, often on double- or triple-bills with other horror movies from years past. Some of these movies – such as Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Evil Dead – are now thought by many critics to be minor classics. As well, several of today’s most respected filmmakers cut their teeth on low budget horror. Had it not been for B-grade movies, “auteurs” such as Jonathan Demme, Francis Ford Coppola, Alan Rudolph and John Sayles may have never received their big break.
Sadly, in a time of video/DVD, cable television and satellite dishes, the theatrical experience of watching horror movies has all but disappeared. The only fright flicks a film buff has any chance of seeing in the theaters are the slick, homogenized “teen” movies released by the major studios. 99% of the small, low-budget genre films being produced go straight to cable, video or pay-per-view television. In fact, the entire theatrical experience in general has been altered: the family owned theatres and drive-ins are being bulldozed in order to make way for smaller screened multiplexes that can run three or more prints of the latest Hollywood “blockbuster” simultaneously. The rationale is simple: smaller screens means more screens and more screens means more ticket sales. Gone are the days of local theaters like the Atco Drive-In (now a 14-screen multiplex) and the Cornet Theater (now a warehouse), not to mention old Philadelphia movie houses like Sam’s Place and the Duke and Duchess. It’s as if Hollywood mediocrity and corporate greed have doomed classic horror movies to the limbo of dusty video store shelves and occasional late night cable programs. Until now, that is. Exhumed Films has worked diligently to re-capture the aura and atmosphere of the bygone horror double-feature.
Exhumed Films was originally based out of the Harwan Theatre, a then 70-year-old family-owned movie house in Southern New Jersey. After three years of successful screenings, they moved to the Hoyts Theatre (a more contemporary theatre) after the Harwan closed its doors for the last time. Two years later, the Hoyts too shut down and Exhumed Films took its show on the road, using various theatres such as the Broadway Theatre in Pitman, NJ and what now appears to be Exhumed’s new home: the International House in Philadelphia.
Exhumed Films has been proud to host many of the stars and creative minds behind the films they love so much. Exhumed brought out beloved actor Bruce Campbell, who hosted Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn in August, 1999 to a sold-out crowd of well over 650 people. In March, 2000, New York-based film makers Todd Morris and Deborah Twiss screening their acclaimed indie thriller A Gun for Jennifer. Special make-up effects artist and director Tom Savini hosted his re-make of Night of the Living Dead in June, 2000. The East Coast premier of 1999 indie-horror sensation The Convent was an Exhumed screening. They hosted the world premier of the newly-restored print of Cannibal Holocaust to a very enthusiastic crowd in June, 2001. Most recently, actor and director Larry Fessenden hosted a double-feature of his socially and politically scathing horror films No Telling and Wendigo. This show was a benefit for Wissahickon Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia.It must be mentioned that the most integral component in the Exhumed Films experience is the sense of community fostered at the events. Most film screenings are impersonal in nature. The audience member pays his or her money, takes a seat, consumes the films, then leaves. The end. From the beginning, Exhumed Films set out to create events that forged a sense of a welcoming community to film fans and made what is often a passive form of entertainment into an ebullient night of prize give-aways, wacked-out trailers, contests and the chance to meet old friends and make new friends. This sense of community building amongst film fans of highly varying ages, both sexes and wildly different interests and lifestyles outside of a mutual interest in the cinema fantastique has its origins in one of Exhumed Films predecessors: Philadelphia’s Cabbage Collective.
The Cabbage Collective was group founded by Exhumed Films member Joseph A. Gervasi along with his brother Bull and a few others. They brought grassroots-level DIY (do-it-yourself) hardcore punk concerts to Philadelphia. By organizing shows by active enthusiasts, for active enthusiasts, the Cabbage Collective circumvented the staid, for-profit local music circuit and created an alternative project in keeping with the politics of punk. The Cabbage Collective used non-traditional venues such as church halls and warehouses; operated smoke-, alcohol- and drug-free all-ages events; kept door prices low; and encouraged attendees to bring vegetarian/vegan food to events, set up information tables and sell records and fanzines. From the early-‘90s – late-‘90s, the Cabbage Collective defined the true face of DIY hardcore punk in Philly and established the locations for much of the underground operations of the late-‘90s – present.
Exhumed Films took many of the same principles
and applied them to the repertory film world. Fans (some of whom came
from the punk scene) responded to this “by us, for us” vibe and helped
to create the community feeling that draws fans out again and again,
often from great distances. The screenings are correctly perceived by
the fans as not just the only such events happening on a regular basis
in this country, but a celebration of the vitality of film and the
importance of a shared experience in a time of home video isolation.
Exhumed Films screenings have been responsible for inspiring many
friendships, more than a few romantic relationships and at least one
marriage!After nearly six years of monthly double-features (and huge
multi-film all-night blow-outs each October), Exhumed Films retains its
dedication to bringing the most obscure and the most beloved genre
films to the big screen and the fans who eat them up. Over the years,
Exhumed has expanded its scope to encompass such cult film oddities as The Phantom of the Paradise, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Beyond
the Valley of the Dolls, Heavy Metal,
Shogun Assassin, Master
of the Flying Guillotine, Joysticks
and many others. As the boys Exhumed always reply when asked if they’ll
continue to do shows: If you keep turning up, we’ll keep showing ‘em.
The History of Exhumed
Exhumed Films is the brainchild of four friends from the New Jersey/Philadelphia area: Dan Fraga, Joseph A. Gervasi, Harry Guerro and Jesse Nelson. The quartet, all of whom are now in their late-twenties or early-thirties, used to bemoan the fact that monster movies had all but disappeared from the big screen. They dreamt of a local theatre that would hold a midnight showing of their favorite horror films; since no one in the area seemed to be organizing such an event, they decided to take it upon themselves.In the summer of 1997, the friends began to investigate the possibility of holding their own horror screening. Once they found a distributor who possessed some films they were willing to rent out to a bunch of newcomers, Jesse, Dan, Harry and Joseph knew exactly where to turn when deciding upon a venue: The Harwan Theater.
The Harwan was a bit of a local legend, being one of the only surviving single screen movie houses in South Jersey. Joseph had had some experience booking the Harwan in the late 1980s and early 1990s to host hardcore punk acts such as Neurosis, Rorschach, Born Against and Bug-Out Society. The look of the theatre had not been altered since the 1970s, so it seemed the perfect spot to hold a retro movie screening. Soon, the films were rented, a deal was struck with The Harwan and everything was in place.The first show was set for October 24, the Friday before Halloween. The four friends would screen two movies by the infamous Italian horror director Lucio Fulci: Zombie and The Gates of Hell. For weeks before the show, the group members did everything they could to publicize the films. They flooded internet newsgroups with postings about the double-feature; they littered Philadelphia and New Jersey with home made handbills; they contacted local newspapers about covering the event. Each member of the group had invested his own money in the undertaking. It was a gamble, and there was no guarantee that it would pay off. As the date approached, nervousness and self-doubt set in. Was there enough advertising? Did anyone else in the area want to watch a couple of sleazy, obscure horror movies? Would people show up at all?
Fortunately, people did show up. In fact, they showed up in droves. From as far away as Massachusetts and Ohio, fans came out to support the event. The show was a great success and the profits that the four friends made from the double feature afforded them the possibility to plan another screening. What had been envisioned as a one-time happening was soon parlayed into a welcome side project for the group. By the time they held their second successful show that February, the group had come up with an appropriate name for their organization: Exhumed Films.
Since its conception in October, 1997, Exhumed Films has hosted over 70 film screenings in seven different theatres across New Jersey and Philadelphia. Exhumed has worked with both the prestigious Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema and the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and has hosted screenings to benefit a South Jersey rape crisis center and an animal rehabilitation clinic based out of Philadelphia. Please check out the clippings for some press articles about Exhumed and some of their events.
We made the Headlines again. Check out this article from NJ local paper the Courier Post!
Check out the July 9, 1998 Article in the Philadelphia City Paper.
If you are looking for quality copies of hard to find videos, please e-mail Joseph A. Gervasi for his list of over 1500 rare and unusual tapes. Make sure you tell him that the Hostile Critic sent you. Check out an article in the Philadelphia City Paper about Joseph here.
COMING SOON TO EXHUMED FILMS!
Exhumed Films Crew
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Exhumed Films is an
organization devoted to showing horror movies for the benefit of their
fans. Exhumed Films does not own the rights, nor do they imply they own
the rights to any films they are showing or have shown; however,
Exhumed Films has made every effort to contact the original distributor
of these films for their permission to show these movies. Please e-mail them through this
website should you have any questions.