Matt Palmer on bringing horror classics to Scottish cinemas

Despite the belief of many people, myself included, that the market for regular all night cinema entertainment was dead, Matt Palmer took it upon himself to programme a session of all night horror films at the Cameo Cinema in November 2010.

The massive success of this night has led to his programming further all night horror sessions at the Cameo and the Grosvenor in Glasgow, these events now screen regularly with a large fan base.

Matt's no stranger to programming having already established his Psychotronic Cinema happenings and he's now branching out into Bad Movie all nighters as well. This seemed like a particularly good time to have a word with him about his thinking behind it all and to try and get a taster of forthcoming attractions.

Ian Hoey: So Matt, where did you get the belief that horror all nighters were still a viable piece of cinema and the good sense to ignore the likes of me?

Matt Palmer: When I finally got the go ahead to do one, after five years, I was 100% certain for about half an hour and then thought, what if I'm completely wrong on this and it totally fails? But I don't think, deep down, I ever really thought it would fail. That belief came particularly from when I was in my teens and early twenties, the whole idea of sitting in a cinema watching movies all night was such an exciting concept and, regardless of the way cinema has changed, I couldn't see any reason why the essential excitement of that sort of experience would have gone away.

I mean it's great to have the all nighters in the Cameo and the Grosvenor, the old-school cinemas, but when I was younger, even all nighters in the multiplexes like the Odeon or the UGC were amazing. I was in crowds of between 500 and 1,000 people at these things so it obviously wasn't just me that was enjoying them and I couldn't see any reason why people wouldn't still be excited.

Even with the mass availability of stuff via downloads, cable, DVD, you still thought people would turn out?

Yeah. The experience of watching something in the cinema, particularly with a full audience is not really comparable with watching something at home. The best moment in the process of getting the all nighters back in cinemas for me was the screening of Basket Case at the first one and Flesh For Frankenstein at the second one. You got a really clear sense that something special was happening.

Basket Case had different responses from all over the audience with people laughing, sighing at the sad bits and getting into the gore. With Flesh For Frankenstein, the audience went absolutely wild for that and it had the best moment in any of the all night horror madness experiences for me so far when it got about a fifteen second round of applause for Udo Kier's dying speech. You're not going to get that on your own. To be fair Adele [Hartley] has been doing all nighters for past last ten years with Dead By Dawn, though that's geared more toward a very core horror audience.

Do you have a favourite memory of all nighters you've been to in the past?

Jeff Lieberman's Blue Sunshine is set to return

I guess the first one would have been the most exciting. I was 17 and so underage which made it extra special. It was a five-film line up of Nightbreed, Hardware, Maniac Cop II...

What, Maniac Cop II!?

Yeah, Communion which nobody remembers, starring Christopher Walken, about Whitley Strieber who thought he had been abducted by aliens and then wrote a book about it, an awful movie. And Re-Animator 2.

Forgive me for saying this but that does not sound like a good line-up in any way.

You know I'm a big fan of Hardware and Re-Animator II plays a lot better on the big screen than it does on DVD.

I love Re-Animator but I don't think the sequels work at all.

That's one thing I have to remember when I programme all night horrors and agonise as to whether the line-up's as good as it can be. The fact is that simply going to watch all night horror movies in a cinema is a great experience. I mean, I went to Black Sunday, which was a ten movie all nighter when I was 18 or 19 and aside from the Tom Savini remake of Night of the Living Dead, which is passable, all the other nine movies were completely shit.

There were a couple of awful Fangoria produced movies, they used to do that and then there was stuff like Class of Nuke ˜Em High Part II. It was just an atrocious line-up, but I still had a good time because it was ten movies in a row. It's the experience.

What would you say are the essentials of your programming? When you're putting together an all nighter, what do you think you must have in it?

I tend to try and show movies that are 100% great movies, that don't have any weak points. You know in your heart whether a film is a classic, in that it sustains excitement from start to finish and those are the kind that I look for. Then, after that, it's case of balancing the style of the movies. Staying up all night is quite a big undertaking and I think shifting the tones and types of movie really helps to keep people alert. If you move from a slower, darker, more horror based movie into something that's quite trashy, it rejuvenates the audience and if you keep varying it, that's the key. I'm not saying I've got it 100% right.

And what about other elements aside from the films? What adds to the event?

The raffle and the trailers have been built in from the start. They add to the experience and show that the whole thing hasn't just been thrown together. Trailers are a whole art form in themselves and this time all the trailers we're screening will be from 35mm.

Superb! Would you like my 35mm Theatre of Blood trailer for it?

Yep, totally.

Great. I can't wait to see that on the big screen again. It's different and works better than the one people will have seen on DVD.

The trailers will be from more classic horrors than previously but they'll look great. And one of the two sections of trailers will be in scope, 2:35.

Watch The Evil Dead at the All Night Horror Madness events

Impressive. Can't wait to see them. On the subject of 35mm, you make a massive effort to have a lot of the films screened from prints.

That's true. It's primarily the case because digital, in my opinion, and I don't only mean DVDs here, just doesn't deliver the quality of 35mm. I'll show stuff from digital or even DVD if there's no other way of doing that title but if you can get a 35mm print I feel it's superior to any digital format. The fact that the film stock ages adds to these kinds of movies.

I've got the feeling that Halloween will look so much creepier from this print than if I showed a shiny DVD. Wherever possible, I'll show from a 35mm print. There's a film I intended for the upcoming all nighter that I've subsequently discovered there's a print of in the States, so I've delayed it until the next one to arrange to have it sent over.

I think anyone that hasn't seen the original Halloween in a cinema is in for a real treat. Regarding the age of prints, I remember the Basket Case screening had, what, three false starts? But the audience got behind it and the atmosphere was great.

That was a bizarre moment. I was really worried about that, even though the audience was loving it, but the print was one of the few left in the world and I thought the print was snapping in half. But it was actually the same leader at the beginning that was snapping before the film started. Maybe I'm biased, but there's something quite charming about a film breaking down while there's nothing charming about a DVD breaking down with some technical glitch.

You've just announced that you've cut the Edinburgh night from five films to four and received a mixed reaction to the news. What's behind this decision?

When I was younger it was always five so that's what I started with but maybe five is more suited to the hardcore horror fans, the elite as I call them. I felt a bit bad that people were coming to this for the event and, if they could only really manage three movies, they were missing out on the last two. Half the audience remaining for the final film in a five film line up is excellent, but it also means that half the audience is missing one of the best films of the night. Of course, four films is still an all nighter (the Glasgow line-up has always been four). You're still in a cinema for nine hours.

That's always been my thinking. You have single features, double bills, triple bills and four onwards is an all nighter. I see you've got a Bad Movie all nighter planned now as well. How did this come about?

Blood for Dracula

After the all night horror was successful, there were quite a few ideas thrown at me from all over about the possibilities for other all night events. But I think only certain types of movies or genres will work with this. It can work with individual directors like the Cameo did in the past with David Lynch, The Coen Brothers, etc but there's a limitation to what will work.

One of the things I use in the horror all nighters in order to wake people up is to insert incredibly strange and demented movies and, when there's weirdness in every direction, it can really wake you up. It makes the marriage of all nighters and bad movies immediately seem to fit. It was also kind of inspired by a screening of The Room at the Cameo about seven months ago. I was sceptical going in because it's been a while since a genuine cult movie has arrived but I was absolutely blown away by it.

Do you have the Bad Movie line-up sorted?

Yes, I'm not telling yet though. After three months of research, watching dreadful, terrible movies the only problem is picking four because there're some absolute crackers.

Will you do that outside of Edinburgh as well?

There's the possibility that it will go on at Glasgow too and it's playing in Nottingham at the Broadway Cinema.

Can you see yourself hitting more venues?

I think Scotland feels quite separate from most of the UK. England maybe takes its cue from London or thinks that things in London might not work elsewhere but I think any place with a big enough population, all sorts of places, is somewhere an all nighter could work. I've had some talks on taking the all night horror to Aberdeen so we'll see where it goes.

You're on Facebook of course, would you welcome venue requests or suggestions?

It's quite pleasing that it just happens in Scotland just now but I'm open to suggestions. You'd have to say, with the All Night Horrors, the Bad Movie plans and Psychotronic Cinema, there's nowhere in the UK getting such consistent alternate cinema programming. I was about to say outside of London but I think it's better than London. Obviously the more midnight shows there are around the UK the better. You hear a lot about how London is the centre of everything but I think it's kind of nice that Scotland has more cult movies screening on a regular basis than London.

I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about the All Night Horror line-ups. You haven't finalised the line-up yet for Glasgow have you?

Yeah, I have.

Do you want to talk about the Glasgow one or shall we just discuss Edinburgh?

Well I guess it will be nice for anyone that reads this article to find out. The running order is to be confirmed but the films are Halloween, Flesh For Frankenstein, Pieces and Evil Dead. Essentially three of the next Edinburgh line-up plus arguably the big hit from the last one there, Flesh For Frankenstein.

That's a great night of entertainment.

And, as already announced, Edinburgh is Blue Sunshine, Halloween, Pieces and Evil Dead. I should say that after the success of Flesh For Frankenstein I had a lot of people requesting Blood For Dracula.

I heard people say that myself. I doubt they'd be disappointed.

I thought about it, but that's a slower movie I think, so what I've done is programme Blood For Dracula into both the Edinburgh and Glasgow Psychotronic Cinema line-up. There're different line-ups for the Psychotronic events in Glasgow and Edinburgh but Blood For Dracula will be screening at both.

A lesson I've learned with the all nighters is that you have to be really cautious about showing a film that can slow the pace as, at that time of night, you can feel the energy draining from the audience. Psychotronic Cinema is a more suitable place for titles like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Ninth Configuration.

Pieces will be shown in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Wow, you sure can pick them. Since we're discussing all this just around the corner from the Cameo, would you like to say anything more about Edinburgh's next All Night Horror Madness?

I've tried to balance this one between established classics that people want to see on the big screen mixed up with a couple of movies that they definitely won't have seen on the big screen and possibly won't have seen on DVD. With Halloween, it took an awful long time to locate and clear the rights and I did it with only a few days to spare. And Evil Dead is the other classic.

Then the two rarer films. Blue Sunshine is a real underground, independent American movie from Jeff Lieberman who made Squirm and Just Before Dawn. He's carved out a niche for himself in the drive-in independent market. It's such a strange horror movie “ a kind of LSD, bald, psycho-maniac odyssey and there aren't many other examples of that. Pieces is a movie that I only saw for the first time about four months ago and it's frankly astonishing. Possibly the goriest thing this side of Lucio Fulci's A Cat In The Brain.

Really? Hearing a man like you talk of the level of gore in something is bound to get people excited.

I'm not saying gore is everything but gore is generally better than no gore. Pieces constantly takes things further than you would expect. I think even within five minutes of the running time you've seen more gore than you might see in your typical slasher movie. It's utterly demented. It's one of those movies that you say Who the f**k has made this? because it's so not of this planet. I can't really think of a film that I've been more excited to show to the All Night Horror Madness crowd.

A lot of people on the Facebook page are very clued up and have seen this but it's going to be something extra special to see it from 35mm. And a lot of people haven't heard of it and won't have seen it, so I can't wait to let them see it.

I do think it's incredible to get to see films such as this on 35mm. You deserve the massive round of applause you get on these nights for going those extra miles and making the effort to deliver something you clearly care a lot about. I'm looking forward to it. Do you still get excited on the night?

Yes. The biggest problem for me is getting over-excited. I can get...a little carried away. It's a bit like when you organise a party at your house and you get really nervous because lots of people are going to come and you drink too much.

Ah yes. Talking about excited, do you know what the raffle prizes will be yet?

As usual, there will be free Cameo or Grosvenor tickets depending on the location. Some of the extremely limited edition posters that James R Davis did for the past All Night Horrors will be up for grabs.

I like it! People are desperate for those.

Yes, The Evil Dead II and Suspiria ones. There'll also be a Robocop one he's done for a Psychotronic night and some Hobo With A Shotgun ones.

All obscenely collectable then. Thanks for the rundown. I'm sure this info has got a lot of people in the mood for another night of All Night Horror Madness. As always, I'll see you there.

All Night Horror Madness returns to the Cameo Cinema on Saturday 15th October 2011 and the Grosvenor Cinema on Saturday 12th November 2011.

You can contact Matt, keep up to date with what's going and communicate with similarly minded people via Facebook at Allnight Horrormadness and Psychotronic Cinema.