OCT24 – 2014

DEEPER CUTS, FOR THE SERIOUS HORROR SEEKER

During this whole month-long celebration of the scary arts, I’ve tried to keep a balance between looking at things many horror fans would already know about, and touting more semi-obscure stuff. I, for one, am always really happy to get suggestions for movies and books from other big fans, because that can lead to some amazing discoveries. There are a lot of real gems out there that fall through the cracks and go under-appreciated for whatever reason. Today’s post is an attempt to take things to the most obscure level I can, with suggestions that are off the beaten path. Once again, depending on the hardcoreness of your mavenhood, these might seem laughably obvious, but I’m gonna do my best to really dredge here (and they are in no order, whatsoever…)

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1. UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY
Written and directed by Mark Harriott & Mike Matthews, this criminally under-appreciated 2011 creepfest follows three outcasts (two men and a woman, who are more than friends) on an ill-fated trip to the British coast in search of family connection. It involves the remnants of a weird religious cult, an island that is only reachable at low tide, ever increasing dread, and one of the CREEPIEST birthday parties ever filmed. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this movie isn’t considered a classic by the world at large. It’s really icky and awesome.

 
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2. POP SKULL
Adam Wingard’s intense, semi-improvised debut feature about drug abuse, insanity, and serial killer ghosts (I think). This is one DARK movie, involving the mental breakdown of a young “robotripper” (an addict who abuses over-the-counter drugs in huge quantities). Wingard edits the drug scenes in such a way that we get sucked right into the jagged maw of addiction and dissolution. I can honestly say there is no other movie like this, and if you are a fan of creative film editing you HAVE TO SEE IT.

 
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3. ISN’T IT SHOCKING?
John Badham, who would go on to direct Saturday Night Fever and War Games, started out doing television shows. His second television movie, an “ABC Movie of the Week” from 1973 called Isn’t It Shocking?, features Alan Alda and Louise Lasser (as the bored sheriff of a small town and his weird secretary, respectively). The plot is simple and sinister–someone is offing the oldest residents of Mount Angel (which is populated mostly by retirees to begin with), using a tricked out defibrillator, which is the “shocking” part of the title. This is one of those rare made-for-television movies that transcends the medium and packs a wallop. The fact that it’s half horror thriller and half comedy really made it stand out back when I first watched it (in the 70s!). I think of this one as a television gem of the likes of Duel or Dark Night of the Scarecrow. The link below takes you to part 1, and you can go to that person’s YouTube page to watch the rest should you get a hankerin. It’s a real charmer with some creepy-ass set pieces, and a memorable villain.

 
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4. ACCIÓN MUTANTE!
Before he directed his breakout film El Dia de la Bestia (The Day of the Beast), Álex de la Iglesia made this strange, hilarious, hard to classify sci fi horror comedy nightmare, Mutant Action! It takes place in a future where the world has been taken over by good looking people. A group of moronic disabled terrorists decide to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy businessman from her wedding, but end up massacring everyone and winding up on the run because wow, are they inept. What a bizarre and fun oddball little film! Pedro Almodóvar was one of the producers of this madness, and it serves as a great introduction to wacky world of de la Iglesia’s films (which include crazed modern classics like The Last Circus)

 
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5. THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN
Here’s a surreal little satanic freakout from 1971, written by the great character actor (and director of the cult classic A Boy and His Dog) L.Q. Jones, who also plays the sheriff. The Brotherhood of Satan is a one-of-a-kind film from that golden time in the late 60s/early 70s when Hollywood took chances for a living. The movie slithers between bizarro scenes of kids killing their parents in REALLY surreal ways, the story of a family on a doomed car trip who enter a small California town where no one can physically leave, and the playing out of a diabolical ritual. It co-stars the great Strother Martin, and is an eccentric creepfest. Highly recommended.

–BPL

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