Picture this: a large group of humans - an entire city, no less - cowering inside their homes and businesses. They peer cautiously through their blinds, careful to keep their breathing shallow and silent, for fear the hundreds, nay, thousands of ghastly creatures shuffling down their streets and yards will hear and focus what remains of their attention on the petrified observers.
The creatures are disheveled, unkempt, with sagging, sallow skin; their clothes tattered and torn, their hair greasy and matted with twigs, leaves, dirt and insects from the ground where they recently lay dormant.
Aggressive and unpredictable, these relentless ghouls stumble and twitch their way through the town.
Incoherent, there is no reasoning with them. The gurgling and grunting noises that emerge from their gaping maws are more animalistic than conscious.
They have given up any pretense of civilized behavior or order, and now exist solely to search for only one thing: the single form of sustenance which they now crave beyond all else.
Somehow neither living nor dead, they are a grisly, anarchic mob - a leaderless army of the damned.
I'm not speaking of the zombie apocalypse. I'm speaking of St. Patrick's Day in Savannah.
And instead of human flesh and blood, the bedeviled ghouls who've already begun to invade our relatively sleepy coastal city are prowling with ferocity for one thing only: alcohol.
It's time for our annual influx of amateur drunkards. Call it what you will, but this C-grade Mardis Gras is enough to make any seasoned Savannahian (even the ones who have, at some time or another in their lives, truly enjoyed the spectacle) want to lock all their doors and hide inside for days until everything returns to some semblance of normality.
However, while tens of thousands of others are binging on malt beverages, it's the perfect time for cinema lovers to go on a bender of their own.
So, with that in mind, here are my choices for a themed movie marathon of sorts, just in time for the holiday. If you've ever been interested in Irish filmmaking and/or movies about intoxication, here are some acclaimed films (and some unjustly overlooked ones) to buy, rent, download or stream over the next seven days.
Let's start with three films either made in Ireland, or about Irish culture, or just by Irish directors.
You simply can't go wrong with director John Ford's 1952 romantic comedy "The Quiet Man," starring the lovely Maureen O'Hara and the one and only John Wayne. Wayne, cast here against type as ex-boxer Sean Thornton, who returns to reclaim his Irish homestead and winds up falling for a poor maiden (O'Hara), proves that while he certainly could not play Genghis Kahn (see 1956's "The Conqueror," or don't, it's awful), he certainly can pull off gentle, lighthearted fare. This film is a timeless hoot that nabbed Oscars for Best Director and Best Cinematography.
45 years later, comedienne and political commentator Janeane Garofalo starred in another quirky romantic comedy set on the Green Isle, but "The Matchmaker" is far less known than Wayne's unlikely success. In this plucky low-budget sleeper, Garofalo plays an assistant to a beleaguered U.S. senator, who sends her to Ireland to trace his ancestors in hopes of currying favor by leaning on his heritage. She arrives just as the tiny town's annual Matchmaking Festival is getting underway, and as a stylish and single female stranger, she finds herself beset upon by two competing professional matchmakers - both of whom are determined to find her a suitor. You'll find yourself trying to dislike this charming piece of fluff, but to no avail.
Then there's my personal favorite, 1974's sci-fi allegory "Zardoz," starring legendary Scottish thespian Sean Connery (post-James Bond) and the lovely Charlotte Rampling. Heady and psychedelic in the best ways possible, it's a post-apocalyptic, symbolism-laden tale of a violent barbarian named Zed (Connery) who intrudes upon the last vestiges of educated, intellectual society - with drastic consequences. Set in the distant future, it finds Connery sporting a long moustache and ponytail, and not much else (he's in a loincloth for most of the film).
Written and directed by the great John Boorman ("Excalibur"), there's never been another film quite like it, and likely never will be again.
Now, as far as movies about drinking go: The late Ray Milland is absolutely phenomenal as a troubled, alcoholic writer in director Billy Wilder's classic 1940s noir-with-a-message "The Lost Weekend." In fact, he won an Oscar for the performance before his own battles with alcohol slowly destroyed his movie career.
In 1987's "Barfly," Mickey Rourke no doubt channeled some of his own demons for his portrayal of the real-life down-and-dirty L.A. author Charles Bukowski, who mercilessly chronicled his troubles with addiction in stories and poems. Faye Dunaway's along for the ride (with her original face, no less) in this hard-to-watch drama that's almost impossible to turn away from. Look for a cameo by the late Jack Nance, of "Eraserhead" and "Twin Peaks" fame.
2013's "Drinking Buddies" is a terrific slice-of-life look at a handful of 20- and 30-something friends who work at a craft brewery, and don't seem to notice or care that they are all functioning alcoholics. Directed on a shoestring by iconic "mumblecore" auteur Joe Swanberg, the indie film stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, and flew almost completely under the radar. That's a shame, because it's one of the most naturalistic movies of the past few years - which is not surprising, since every bit of dialogue was entirely improvised by the talented cast. And finally, the less details given about 2013's ode to British pint draining, "The World's End," the better. Suffice it to say that in the third installment of the loose, black comedy trilogy that includes 2004's "Shaun of the Dead" and 2007's "Hot Fuzz," absolutely nothing is as it seems.
Now, on March 19, the Psychotronic Film Society pays tribute to Academy Award-winning actress Holly Hunter (she took home the Oscar in 1993 for her role in director Jane Campion's mid-1800s romantic drama "The Piano") on the occasion of her 56th birthday with a Special Mystery Screening at The Sentient Bean of one of her least-known - and quirkiest - performances. The exact title of this feature film won't be revealed until showtime, so Hunter fans (and just plain adventurous viewers) are encouraged to show up, take a chance and be pleasantly surprised.
The PFS is offering one clue, though (for those who need at least a nod in the right direction): Fans of the type of darkly comedic thrillers made by the Coen Brothers - the writing and directing duo behind such left-of-center box-office hits and cult gems as "Fargo," "No Country for Old Men," "The Big Lebowski" and "Barton Fink" - should find plenty to enjoy in this unnamed selection. It's worth noting that Hunter herself appears in three different Coen Brothers pictures: "Blood Simple" (in an uncredited cameo), "Raising Arizona" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" - although there's certainly no guarantee one of those will prove to be the surprise feature ... Regardless, the show starts at 8 p.m., with $7 admission for mature audiences.
Until next time, see you at the movies, and if you're going to be imbibing during the St. Patrick's weekend festivities, remember to let someone sober drive, and to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at www.filmsavannah.com.