Monday, January 27, 2014

Five Horror Films You Might Not Know, But Should

I was bored so I threw this list together. I know there a lot of members here are horror movie fans so here are a couple of titles you might not have heard of. Please feel free to comment, leave feedback, criticize my choices, or add more films to the list.


Number One: PHANTASM

A forgotten classic of the 70's. The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) is an undertaker at the Morningside funeral parlor. He’s also an unstoppable supernatural force who scours the graveyard for fresh bodies. Shrinking the bodies down to dwarf-size and then reanimating them, he uses these hordes of zombie dwarfs to do his bidding, and ships others back to his world, known to Phantasm aficionados as the Red Planet (not to be confused with Mars). It’s up to brother’s Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) and Jody (Bill Thornbury), and Jody’s friend Reggie (played to perfection by Reggie Banister). Wildly innovative and filled with eerie dreamlike sequences that blur the line between fantasy and reality, Phantasm is director Don Coscarelli’s masterpiece. Watch it and you’ll understand why. The film went on to achieve cult status and prompted three sequels.


David Cronenberg’s mind-bending horror flick from the 80's is filled with stunning special effects for its time. But that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this one. James Woods plays Max Renn, operator of Civic TV, a small network that relies on soft-core pornography and hardcore violence to rope in viewers. One day his networks satellites pick up a transmission of a show called Videodrome, a meaningless show that features “contestants” who are chained to a wall and savagely beaten, tortured, maimed, and executed on screen. Max becomes obsessed with tracking the source of this show, with ulterior plans to air it on his network as a ratings booster. Then the hallucinations begin… On the surface, Videodrome is nothing more than a pointless exercise of violence and sexual exploitation. But look deeper and you will find an intriguing study on sex and violence in television and movies and the effect it has on the viewers, ultimately begging the question: Why are you watching?

Number Three: HATCHET

Adam Green created this slasher-based trilogy that focuses on Victor Crowley, a disfigured tumor-ridden butcher that resides in the Louisiana swamps. Like his fellow slasher counterparts, Crowley appears to be already dead. Shoot him and he gets up for more. Stab him and he gets up for more. Burn him and… well, you get the point I’m sure. Featuring some of the most innovative kills I’ve seen in years, and also featuring cameos or extended cameos by the likes of Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Joshua Leonard, Sid Haig, Caroline Williams, AJ Bowen, Tom Holland, and Kane Hodder (who plays both Victor Crowley with makeup and his father, Thomas Crowley without makeup). Danielle Harris also plays the character of Marybeth in Hatchet 2 and 3. In this horror nerd’s humble opinion, all three are worth checking out.

Number Four: EXCISION

Directed by Richard Bates, Jr., this film focuses on a mentally unstable teenage girl with delusions of being a skilled surgeon. Need I say more? AnnaLynne McCord plays the disturbed Pauline, a teenager crying out for help but constantly being overlooked, specifically by her parents who are so tied up in her sister. Grace (played by Ariel Winters) suffers from cystic fibrosis and badly needs a liver transplant. With a solid supporting cast that includes Ray Wise, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, Roger Bart, and John Waters. But the standouts here are clearly McCord, and Traci Lords who plays her intolerant yet concerned mother. I was wondering how Lords would fare in this one and she really held her own. I was pleasantly surprised.

Number Five: MANIAC

I’m not talking the Elijah Wood POV remake (though I did rather enjoy it). William Lustig’s 80's slasher flick is gritty portrait of urban violence shocked so many upon its release that protests were held to get the movie pulled from theaters. Joe Spinell plays Frank Zito, a deeply disturbed man whose hobbies include collecting lifeless mannequins, scalping women, and then placing their bloody scalps upon said mannequins. It’s dark, brooding, it doesn’t hold anything back. I didn’t even feel entertained the first time I watched it. I felt assaulted. Credit goes to Spinell, who not only channeled this silently vicious character flawlessly, but also co-wrote the screenplay along with Lustig.

Honorable mentions:

AMER: Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet’s Belgian-French horror film is an homage to Giallo films that preceded it. The film follows a young girl named Ana during three very different stages of her life. I can’t begin to say enough about the lighting, the colors, lens, angles, the editing, the cinematography. Forzani and Cattet really went all out with the small budget they were supplied with. This is one that might leave you scratching your head at the end. That’s ok. Don’t get frustrated with it. Embrace it and enjoy the twisted ride the film takes you on. Think David Lynch meets Dario Argento with a dash of Roman Polanski.

SHALLOW GRAVE: Not quite a horror movie, but the first film from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and the first film Ewan McGregor starred in. Three UK natives take on a new flat mate (or roommate) to help pay the rent and bills. Their new mate promptly ODs and leaves them with a bagful of unmarked cash. Determined to keep the money, the friends dispose of the body, hacking it up and burying it piece by piece. But that money belongs to somebody, and they’re not just going to forget about it.

HIGH TENSION: The debut film of Alexandre Aja (director of the Hills Have Eyes, Piranha remakes) is a savage, take-no-prisoners French slasher film that was marred by its lame twist ending. Packed with plenty of brutal kills, stunning blood and makeup effects and a special appearance by Philippe Nahon (AKA the Robert De Niro of France), this one is worth checking out despite its disappointing climax.

EATEN ALIVE: Tobe Hooper’s (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) often forgotten film is a memorable one for those that have seen it. Featuring a young Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) and Marilyn Burns (original Texas Chainsaw Massacre), the film mainly focuses on mentally disturbed Judd (Neville Brand), the proprietor of the Starlight Hotel. Judd’s main attraction is the crocodile he keeps in the makeshift swamp beside his property. And many of Judd’s guests end up taking a swim in that very swamp. Based partially on a true story (Google the name Joe Ball to learn more), Eaten Alive is grindhouse to the core, from its limited settings to its cheesy “crocodile” effects. Pop it in the DVD/Blu Ray player one night, turn the lights down, and have a ball.

THE ABCS OF DEATH: 26 Short films. 26 ways to die. It’s a fun anthology filled with shorts that range from good to meh. You will be offended, you will be disgusted, you will be shocked, and if you’re a true horror fan, you will also be entertained.

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