February 13, 2022, a day defined by two words, Super Bowl. For most Americans, this means celebrating football, food, and other frivolities. At the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, a couple hundred people traded these vestiges for madness, mustaches, and the macabre. And with that, the day was met with a simple request. Thrill me. Two words that would become a mantra and vibe of the day for the Theatre’s special event, Horror Bowl II: Total Tom Atkins.
Every year, the Colonial’s Director of Programming, Bob Trate was faced with a dilemma, poor attendance on Super Bowl Sunday. Having a sense of the horror community from the Theatre’s monthly Fright Night event, Bob pitched the idea of giving horror fans their own “Big Game”, a horror movie triple feature and thus in 2020, Horror Bowl was born. That first year the Theatre screened John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy”, ie: Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness, and The Thing.
This year’s event celebrated one of the horror community’s most beloved figures, Tom Atkins. But what is it about this actor that is so deserving of the spotlight? Bob thinks it’s the positivity that comes with his heroic roles. When real life interactions such as Monster Mania occurred, Bob walked away with a smile, “Wow, what a really genuine guy. And that’s the impression I’ve gotten from everyone who’s ever interacted with him.” And after the past couple years, maybe this really was the ray of sunshine we all needed?
So, Bob and the Theatre’s film committee set about crafting an event befitting such a person. Not only did they get together a wonderful lineup of films, but they also had special extras such as raffles, some fantastic event merch from Quiltface Studios, and my personal favorite, fans expressing their love of horror through cosplay. From a gentleman in the iconic skull mask from H3to the person who went above and beyond and dressed up as Michael Myers from Halloween (’78) but on the TV screen in the movie, it was just wonderful to see. With a Baltimore Club remix of the “Silver Shamrock Theme” playing over the Theatre PA, the seats began to fill up. At 1:30 PM, the film committee introduced the event and gave away a series of raffles with some truly wonderful prizes.
After the opening revelry, the crowd was given a surprise notice, instead of closing out the evening with 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it was going to kick things off. It turns out the projectionist is a Bengals fan and wanted to catch the game (sorry, my dude). It was immediately apparent that the crowd was all in on the day’s theme with swells of excitement as the man of the hour’s name came across the opening credits. In fact, there was wonderful crowd reactions anytime Tom Atkins did anything remotely horny. A clear indication I was amongst my people.
The next feature was the beloved college set horror comedy 1986’s Night of the Creeps. In my opinion, placing a silly and fun movie that would go on to inspire the likes of Slither as the second feature was just pitch perfect. Not only did the movie provide the day’s mantra, “thrill me”, but Atkins’ line delivery had me smiling from ear to ear. I imagine I was not the only one cracking a grin, though it was impossible to tell as the crowd remained masked up throughout the entire event. In fact, I think Night of the Creeps got the loudest crowd reaction when Atkins dropped the film’s tag line “The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is…they’re dead”.
Last up, was a personal nemesis of mine, 1980’s The Fog. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing with the movie itself that should stoke such harsh language, but I’ve never met a movie that has presented such a challenge for me. Including the day’s festivities, I have seen The Fog three times in theaters, all three times in fact, being at this very theatre. And The Fog remains undefeated in lulling me into various lengths of sleep. I don’t find it boring, in fact it may be one of the most comforting films I’ve ever seen. A perfect blend of sleepy town atmosphere and the dulcet tones of Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), it does me in every time. Unlike myself, the crowd was 3/3 and completely locked into the movie with the man of the hour getting his usual fanfare.
If this event is any indication, the Colonial is set to host a forray of memorable moments to come. In fact, the theater is welcoming two film legends in May. Firstly, it’s another evening with Joe Bob Briggs and his How Rednecks Saved Hollywood show and then one week later a two-day John Waters Festival with the man himself in attendance. In June, the newfound partnership with Exhumed Films continues with ex-Fest Part X, a 7 movie 12-hour long dive into exploitation nastiness (all on 35mm!!!). And last but certainly not least, in July and back in person is BlobFest. A 3-day festival celebrating the 1958’s sci-fi classic, The Blob and the Theatre itself. The future of the Colonial Theatre looks bright and I’m excited to see where this annual tradition goes. Maybe if we are lucky, we will get a day full of the devilishly delightful, Adrienne Barbeau.