Got a list here from my good friend Large William of GGTMC fame! GGTMC is my favorite podcast and one that I am honored to be a part of. Check it out!
---------------------------- When good friend, and fellow GGtMC'er Rupert Pupkin asked me to come up with a list of "underrated Horror films" I was apprehensive, despite being enthusiastic. I love lists, but I dread the thought of a given list being my definitive word on a given subject, so I'll present my list with the caveat that come next year, I'll present 13 more films. To be clear, I find the term underrated or under-appreciated to be subjective, certainly, but to me, the films below fall into just that: films that MOST horror or genre fans haven't talked about enough or seen. Without further fanfare, here goes:
13. Edge of the Axe(Larraz, 1988) While not the most original or groundbreaking slasher film ever made, it does feature a few fantastic kills, including a wonderful one in a car wash. It also has a pretty decent twist, which harkens to another film in the fraternity from around the same time. Also there is spooky instant chat angle STRAIGHT FROM THE FUTURE.
12. Rogue(Mclean, 2007) Sadly, this one got lost in the inexplicable myriad of croc/gator films that flooded the market around this time. It's got a solid cast(Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington, and genre fave John Jarratt),and a director who had a first rate debut film(Wolf Creek, more Jarratt goodness) and truly features some fantastic dread/suspense in that man vs. nature vein. It does get a bit Kaiju-y ridiculous near the end, but certainly not enough to sour me on it.
11. Deadline(Azzopardi, 1981) I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one Canadian film on here(and Cronenberg et. al don't count; he's gets much love as a master filmmaker at this point). This film, made under the great tax shelter years of the 70's and 80's, was also a debut film for the Maltese, workman-like Azzopardi. It's got a fantastic cover, and despite some REALLY clumsy filler, features some wonderfully, almost Italian feeling surreal horror dream sequences that work surprisingly well, not to mention some Canadian "pelts" thrown in for good measure.
10.Paperhouse(Rose, 1988) This is one of 2 on my list that I've seen in the past few days for the first time. In fact, this was a recommend from good friend, Brian, of the shiny, new Hammicus film podcast. I'd never even heard of it before he'd begun singing it's praises. I'd classify it more of a dark fairy tale, than anything, but it's a nice palate cleanser for us gorehounds this time of year. It's very apparent that Henry Selick, Wolfgang Petersen, Guillermo Del Toro, and Tarsem Singh were all heavily influenced by this film when making Coraline, The Neverending story, Pan's Labryinth, and The Fall, respectively. It even features a few really solid jump scares and creepy moments, and was excellently shot with a great minimal, imaginative set. Need more proof? Rose went on to direct the genre classic Candyman a few years later
9. Let's Scare Jessica to Death(Hancock, 1971) I really dig films with an unreliable narrator, and in this one, the titular Jessica has just returned home from the "hospital" and seems on the verge of an absolute meltdown at any moment, not to mention the wet ghosts and frightening, surreal things she's seeing. Are they real? will her illness and paranoia override all? This film has a knockout performance from Zohra Lampert, and if I had to sum it up, it's the shaggy hippy cousin of another low budget, amateur classic, that makes the most of it's atmosphere and setting, Carnival of souls
8. Bad Dreams(Fleming, 1988) cute 80's Jennifer Rubin + not-so-cute super duper iconic face and hall of fame bad guy Richard Lynch+cult favorite Dean Cameron+industrial size fan=win. Need I say more? If I must, timing is what did this one in. It happened to be comparable to a certain franchise that dealt with sleeping teenagers that was at it's height at the time, and even featured Rubin in part 3.
7. Horrors of Malformed Men(Ishii, 1969) banned at home for DECADES due to the heavy emphiasis on it's disfigured actors and directed by one of the finest genre directors of all time, this one is a really doozy. I had the pleasure of buying it's upon it's release, and was supremely happy I did so. Part grotesque surreal theatre, part post-war trauma, part Island of Dr.Moreau, all PLATINUM. It really should be mentioned alongside the Jigoku's, Onibaba's, and Kwaidan's of the world.
6. Sugar Hill(Maslansky, 1974) It's a crying shame this STILL isn't on dvd or blu-ray. Although more well-known for his producing credits, Maslansky throws blaxploitation, a gorgeous Markie Bey, voodoo, revenge,polyester, and zombies in a stew and comes up with a well made, pacey, fun film.
5. Mulberry Street(Mickle, 2006) Remember the name Jim Mickle. Trust me. His newest film, Stakeland is getting compared favorably in grit and tone to genre classic Near Dark, and if memory serves me correctly, won the audience choice award at Midnight Madness at tiff this year. But we're not here to talk about that, we're here to discuss Mulberry Street, and if I were a film professor and wanted to show the class the best example of a talented filmmaker making the most of limited budget and resources, and getting maximum pay off from it, I'd show them this film. Wonderfully well written, with fleshed out, 3 dimensional characters and a fantastic, run down slummy building as it's claustrophobic backdrop, Mulberry Street definitely delivers.
4. Nightmare City(Lenzi, 1980) While I love him far more for his best work in the Polizia/Euro-Crime genre, where he's an absolute master, I cannot deny the rompy fun of Nightmare City. We gut mud-faced zombies using machine guns, breasts being torn off during an aerobics class, and the ORIGINAL zombie theme park showdown, not to mention Mel Ferrer cashing a cheque, and the crown prince of wooden Mexican actors, Hugo Stiglitz rocking a beard and elbow pads on his blazer like it's nobodies business.
3. Black Belly of the Tarantula(Cavara, 1971) Paolo Cavara should have spent more time making genre films and less time stirring up shit as one of the men behind the Mondo Cane series of films. I didn't want to include a film we've reviewed on the show(that's what honorable mentions are for), but couldn't resist. Amongst the best Gialli's out there, it features a breathy, sexy score from Ennio Morricone, features 3 Bond girls getting killed, a boat load of dizzying, stylish kills, and most importantly, Giancarlo Gianninni as a burned out(but fully fleshed out) detective who's job has him run down to near collapse. The cherry on top is Stefania Sandrelli as his warm, loving wife. It could've been a throwaway role, but she fully embodies it and we understand why Inspector Tellini keeps coming home at night. A must-see
2. La Residencia(Serrador, 1969)Serrador made one of the best, most thought provoking films the genre had to offer a few years later, when he asked, "Who can kill a child?", but this film can run with it any day. If I had to summarize it, I'd say it's Suspiria, but far less fantastical, much more gothic, turn of the century Giallo-y, a sprinkle of Women in Prison films, and with more solid performances and gorgeous pan-European women than you could shake a/your stick at. Anchored by the breathtaking Cristina Galbo(who was in my favorite Gialli, What have they done to Solange? as well as Let sleeping corpses lie, perhaps the most underappreciated zombie film out there), and German born actress Lilli Palmer who's featured as the Housemother who rules with a firm fist. The film has a terrific locale, and several twists and turns that harken to the master of suspense, Hitchcock. I was truly surprised with a few twists the film took. A slow burn to be sure, but a very high recommend from me.
1. Angst(Kargl, 1983)Gaspar Noe cited this film as the primary influence for his knockout punch debut feature length film, I stand alone. Pascal Laugier, director of Martyrs, was very clearly influenced by it. Ladies and gentlemen, let the Maniac's and Henry: Portrait of a serial killer's of the world swing their dicks around all they want. Angst is an Austrian John Holmes tree trunk in comparison. This film is serious as fuck and equally as nasty. Even better, it's incredibly well-shot, perhaps one of the best of it's time, and is so clinical and harsh in it's lighting, that I promise you, there will be queasiness in le tummy. I've seen a lot of transgressive, brutal cinema, but because of the extremely high end technical aspects of this film, in tandem with stomach churning effects, and unbelievable central performance from Erwin Leder(a more sickly, yuppie Billy Drago), I just can't put this one out of my head. IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRIMINAL THAT THIS ISN'T ON DVD. Is anyone out there? PLEASE let everyone feel as queasy and respectful towards this film as I am.
Honorable mentions: Next of Kin, Amsterdamned, Targets, Torso, Hausu, Possession, Alice sweet Alice, Stagefright, Let Cleeping Corpses lie.
*note - All of my "honorable mentions" films have been reviewed on the Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema by Sammy and I(with the exception of Targets and Australia's Next of kin), so I didn't want to blather on about them again, go listen to our episodes featuring them and other great films.
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