Friday, October 29, 2010

Cannibal Holocaust: The Myth, The Legend, The Dog Turd...

During this lovely October month, after compiling lists of my favorite underrated and essential horror films alike, I noticed that some feedback I had gotten involved a nasty little exploitation film that is the absolute definition of a "cult" film, just because of all the controversy it has garnered from the day it was filmed.

The film I'm talking about is "Cannibal Holocaust".

I was a teenager when I first about this film, which was first brought to my attention by Pantera and Down vocalist Phil Anselmo who frequently referenced it on Pantera's DVD as well as some lyrics when he was with Viking Crown. I became interested and immediately scoured the internet, which in 2000 wasn't nearly as massive and information filled as it is today, and managed to find some information out about it that really drew my interest...

Banned in 50 countries

So controversial that its director was sent to prison

The most violent and disgusting horror film ever conceived

And so on and so forth. My interest was quite peaked, and only a couple years later did I finally manage to track down an uncut VHS tape of the 1980 film that I had to have imported over here. And like that, I watched it...and the end results weren't pretty. When I say that however, I'm talking about the film itself...looking back on it now, it's dreadfully overrated.

Storyline wise, the plot revolves around an American anthropologist who travels to the South American jungle after a documentary film crew had disappeared. He recovers a reel of their footage, and soon learns the truth that this crew terrorized, tortured, raped, and murdered the cannibal natives in an effort to stage and sensationalize their documentary film...but never got the chance to because they all get what they deserve.

For starters, the reason that it has been banned in so many countries (many of which have lifted said ban) is not because of its violent content, but for the fact that it actually contains footage of animal cruelty and animal killing. A turtle, monkey, snake, and more so are all slaughtered before the camera, only because director Ruggero Deodato and his film crew were so deep in the amazon jungle without restrictions that he felt he could do just about anything he wanted. Deodato had desired to direct a cannibal film that satired the lengths the media goes to in presenting violent content to its audience, and wound up helping create the legend that goes along with his ultra-violent vision.

Upon the film's first cut and viewing, Deodato found himself arrested and charged with making a snuff movie. The deaths that take place in "Cannibal Holocaust" were so realistic that people thought Deodato actually had these people murdered. That in itself only adds to the "I have to see this for myself" factor of this film. In the end, Deodato would be cleared after presenting all of the actors as still alive, and even staged some effects shots and stunts to prove that it was all in fact fake.

With all that being said, on to the film itself. For the most part, after getting through Deodato's somewhat heavyhanded (though he denies it) approach to pointing the finger at the media, he doesn't make things easy to watch. The film is brutal and unforgiving in its content of murder, cannibalism, rape, and overall just plain cruelty. Even now at 26 and as cynical a gorehound as I've become, I have a hard time watching this thing all the way through. It isn't so much the gore that gets to me, it's just the nihlistic and cruel tone. It's practically pure sadism, which is the one thing I detest about all the torture horror flicks of today like the "Saw" series, and as much as I love horror and gore and all that nasty stuff, sadism just isn't my thing. Plus the acting and dubbing are occasionally atrocious, and Deodato's film technique is just...well...not very talented. Plus, seeing animals get slaughtered? Never more thankful for a fast-forward button in all my life. Needless to say, "Cannibal Holocaust" isn't just a horror film you can have fun with a couple beers to, but it does have its own philosophy to it, which is much more than nearly any horror film around today can offer.

Though "Cannibal Holocaust" may not have the household name of many other films of its ilk despite its somewhat nigh-legendary status, its effect on horror films today can still be seen. The whole handheld camera-POV-style of horror made popular by "The Blair Witch Project"? Thank "Cannibal Holocaust" for that. Without it, we wouldn't have "Blair Witch", or "Cloverfield", or "Diary of the Dead", or even my beloved "The Last Broadcast". This was the movie that set the stage for all of that and more, including all the generic torture flicks that are all the rage today as well.

So with October coming to a close, I fucking dare you to watch "Cannibal Holocaust" if you can get your mitts on it. A couple years back it finally made its way to uncut DVD form, and can still be found online. Watch it if you dare...

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Movies: The Essentials

In the wake of compiling all 50 of the Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen, and with Halloween fast approaching, one may wonder just what are the essential horror movies to watch on the nights leading up to the best holiday in all of existence. Well here is a small collection of ten flicks (in no particular order I might add) that are absolutely essential for Halloween viewing, whether it’s to prepare you for Halloween night, or to watch on Halloween night. Either way, you’re welcome:

Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles

You knew this was going to be on here. John Carpenter’s legendary slasher masterpiece is THE film to watch for Halloween, as it not only spawned a whole series of lesser sequels and shitty remakes, but practically created the slasher genre as a whole. To this day “Halloween” is perfect, and in no other sequel to follow has Michael Myers ever been as frightening as he is in this first film. Though light on the gore and explicit on-screen violence, “Halloween” still manages to send chills to the bone, and that my friends is what has helped make this film so timeless and enjoyable.

Director: George Romero
Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman

You knew this was going to be on here too. George Romero’s legendary black & white shocker was made all the more timeless thanks to its subtle yet cutting social commentary, which this film is as memorable for as it is for introducing viewers to the flesh-eating zombies that trap and terrify a handful of survivors in a Pittsburgh farmhouse. Though Romero’s follow up “Dawn of the Dead” is a better film in my opinion, “Night of the Living Dead” is definitely the more scarier of the two, and to this day that little zombie girl still freaks me out. What’s also worth noting here is that this film actually received a GOOD REMAKE in the early 90s, helmed by Romero’s longtime makeup effects partner Tom Savini.

Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp

The first, original, and best of all the “Elm Street” flicks, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was a massive hit when first released, launched the career of Johnny Depp, took indie studio New Line Cinema to massive heights, and took director Wes Craven to a more sophisticated level of creativity. Most importantly however, was that it also introduced us to Freddy Kruger, the evil child murderer who takes his revenge on those who killed him by stalking and slaughtering their children in their dreams. Featuring groundbreaking camerawork and makeup effects, the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” still scares to this day, and remains one of Craven’s absolute best efforts to date.

Director: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson, Claire Higgins, Ashley Laurence

Adapting his own novella “The Hellbound Heart”, Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” usually gets the label of being a slasher, though it is anything but. When the wicked Frank attempts to open the Lamont Configuration Puzzle Box, he unleashes a trio of sado-masochistic demons that promptly rip him apart. However, he begins to slowly come back to life when his half-brother and family move into his home after his alleged disappearance, leading up to a brutal showdown. Demented and oh so graphic, the original “Hellraiser” spawned a ton of lame sequels, and also introduced us to the iconic villain Pinhead, who appears here for two whole scenes (and isn’t even referred to as Pinhead in the credits). No matter what reputation “Hellraiser” may have, consider it essential viewing.

Director: John Landis
Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

Quite possibly the best werewolf movie in existence, “An American Werewolf in London” is so perfect that no other werewolf film to come out after it (save for maybe the original “Howling”) can even come close to touching it. Featuring revolutionary effects work from Rick Baker, “An American Werewolf in London” has it all: pitch black gallows humor, a surprise ending, and so many shock moments that you won’t believe what you’re seeing. It may not have aged all that well, but this is one horror film that I myself will watch any time.

THE THING (1982)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley

One of the few times a remake is better than the original, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is an underrated horror classic. Opening the same weekend as “E.T.” (and subsequently bombing), Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing From Another World” is a downbeat and nihilistic tale of an arctic expedition team who discovers the existence of a terrifying alien life-form that can mimic and imitate anything it assimilates. One part cat & mouse game, one part guess who the alien is, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is a cult classic for sure, and features some of the most graphic (and gross) revolutionary effects work in horror history. And speaking of aliens…

ALIEN (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Ridley Scott’s terrifying and claustrophobic space opus that launched a huge sci-fi/horror franchise and introduced us to one of the most badass female characters in all of film history, the original “Alien” is a masterpiece of “what’s hiding around the corner?” terror. It’s that anticipation of seeing the murderous alien creature, followed by bloody payoff, which still makes “Alien” so goddamned good to this day.

Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair

An Oscar winning horror favorite, the original “The Exorcist” remains possibly THE most frightening film ever conceived. No matter what one’s opinion on horror movies is in general, they’ve seen “The Exorcist” regardless, it’s just that universal. I myself can’t even say anything about this film that hasn’t been said plenty of other times before me, and will be said plenty of times long after I’ve left this mortal coil. “Your mother sucks cocks in hell”…brilliant.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon

Though it isn’t a great movie per se, the original “Friday the 13th” is essential Halloween viewing regardless. A slasher that rips off John Carpenter’s “Halloween” as well as truly introduced us to the notion that if you smoke weed or have sex, you are guaranteed to die in a horrible and painful way. The film also introduces us to Jason Voorhees, though it’s before he dons the iconic hockey mask or even kills anyone. Oh yeah, this is worth seeing just to see a then unknown Kevin Bacon die one of the most creative and iconic ways in slasher movie history.

Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Gunnar Hansen

Incorrectly remembered as being a gorefest (usually by people who’ve never seen it), the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a documentary-ish look at an insane cannibal family that is for all intents and purposes relatively bloodless. Most of the violence that occurs in the film is implied, which shockingly makes it all the more frightening. That, and lead actress Marilyn Burns has one of the most piercing screams in all of horror history, which in itself makes this film hard to watch to this day. Still though, the original and best film in the whole damn series.

Well there we are folks, ten films to scare the shit out of you for Halloween if (for some reason) you've never seen them before. And if you have, watch them again to help celebrate Halloween in style...

...or I'll swallow your soul!

What do you think I should have included and/ or omitted? Discuss!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: Conclusion

Here we are folks with the final installment of The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen. These are the final ten films that I actually had a somewhat difficult time organizing into what you see below, the top one of which some may have a difficult time wondering why it was placed so high. Granted that none of these films are without flaws, but as I stated before, these are the horror films that get swept under the rug and deserve your time and attention. So strap yourselves in bitches, it's a celebration.

10. MAY (2002)
Director: Lucky McKee
Starring: Angela Bettis, Anna Faris, Jeremy Sisto

A somewhat slow-moving psychological horror/drama in which a lonely young woman with a traumatic childhood and past makes some desperate and awkward attempts to connect with people, whether it be her lesbian co-worker who more and more aggressively makes passes at her, or the handsome stranger who has caught her eye. “May” is a strange hybrid of a horror film that details the title character’s gradual descent into madness, but instead of painting a picture of a psychotic person, “May” instead presents a sympathetic take. Combined with a quite creepy, yet strangely touching, conclusion, “May” is something that stands out on its own, and is all the more unique for it.

9. [REC] (2007)
Director: Juame Balaguero/Paco Plaza
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Carlos Vicente

Remade over here as “Quarantine”, “[REC]” is a Spanish handheld camera-horror thriller that was a hit overseas (and spawned a recent sequel). A TV reporter and her cameraman become unknowing victims while covering the overnight shift at a local firehouse when the place receives a call about an old woman trapped in her apartment building. Upon their arrival, they discover that something is very, very wrong, and everyone soon becomes trapped in the building when quarantine is issued. If you’ve seen “Quarantine”, seeing “[REC]” won’t really do much for you in terms of showing you things you haven’t seen before, considering “Quarantine” was nearly a shot-for-shot Americanized remake. Still, “[REC]” is scarier and more suspenseful (and let’s face it, just better filmed with much better talent involved) that the remake could have ever hoped to have been. With that being said, check this out if you’ve never seen “Quarantine”.

8. PHANTASM (1979)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin

The “Phantasm” series has always been a unique horror series, just for the fact that it is so existential in its storytelling in between all the scenes of bloodletting and shock-scares. The first film is an underrated classic, in which two brothers discover that the local funeral director (dubbed “The Tall Man”) is hardly anything what he seems to be. This leads them and their ice cream truck driving friend to discover some horrible secrets, and a fate worse than death. Writer/director/creator Don Coscarelli has always been short on explanation when it comes to what’s really going on in the “Phantasm” films (all four of them), but the fact that he leaves so much open to interpretation is something that I myself have always admired about the series. And oh yeah, “Phantasm” has balls…literally.

7. TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox

Produced by Bryan Singer and directed by his “X-Men 2” and “Superman Returns” partner Michael Dougherty, “Trick ‘r Treat” is a gleefully fun, “Tales From the Crypt” style horror anthology. All the stories featured here happen one Halloween night in a small town that takes the holiday very, very seriously. Among them are a school principal whose extracurricular activities include instilling the true traditions of Halloween in the kids of the local neighborhood…with bloody results. Also featured are a few kids looking to play a prank and end up getting more than they bargained for, a virgin girl searching for that special someone (and this segment features the absolute best twist…well, maybe ever), and a mean old man with a dark secret who finds himself in for one hell of a night. Originally slated for theatrical release in 2007 and instead pulled from Warner Bros.’ release schedule, only to sit on the shelf for two years before finally getting released straight to DVD last year, “Trick ‘r Treat” is such a blast that you will not regret checking it out, I guarantee it.

6. VERSUS (2000)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka

In modern-day Japan, an escaped convict, a mysterious woman, and a group of blood-thirsty yakuza gang members have all found themselves in The Forest of Resurrection, which is a direct portal to the other side. Those who were once killed there start to come back, and before you know it, a bloody massacre ensues. Sure, “Versus” is incredibly convoluted and hard to understand or even grasp, but the film is so bold in its storytelling and action sequences that it’s just plain mesmerizing to watch. Plus, the fact that there is a ridiculous amount of blood splattered shocks to be seen, and the dynamite twist ending will leave your jaw on the floor.

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar

Another modern foreign horror classic that was recently re-made (“Let Me In”), “Let the Right One In” is one of the most unique vampire films you’ll ever see. Young Oskar is constantly bullied and neglected, yet manages to find a special relationship with the recently arrived girl Eli, who just so happens to be a vampire. Oskar is both horrified and exhilarated by Eli’s presence, even as things all around them gradually go from bad to worse, and it isn’t long before Eli’s bloodlust garners the attention of others and she herself becomes a target. Based on the Swedish novel, “Let the Right One In” is a brilliantly somber piece of work that takes the tried and true vampire lore and mythology and manages to manipulate it to the point where it still manages to feel fresh. That along with the fact that there are plenty of downright chilling, haunting, and surprisingly touching moments to behold as well. Fuck “Let Me In”.

4. THE MIST (2007)
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden

At its core, “The Mist” is a glorified B-movie. That however doesn’t stop this adaptation of the Stephen King tale from being one of the most underrated fright stories you’ve never laid your eyes on. When a mysterious mist descends on a sleepy town, those who become trapped in a local grocery store not only end up fighting for their lives against the creatures outside, but from each other as well as a religious extremist takes it upon herself to decide that this is “God’s work”. Other than the old school chills, “The Mist” also offers up some inventive camerawork, genuinely surprising moments, an A-list cast, and a shocker ending that you’ll never see coming. Dumped into theaters as a small release, “The Mist” has since found a cult following on DVD since its release, particularly the Special Edition which features a black & white version of the film, which surprisingly makes it all the scarier and even more firmly rooted in its B-movie glory.

3. FROM BEYOND (1986)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree

Based on a tale from H.P. Lovecraft, “From Beyond” is a lost classic of sorts, from “Re-Animator” director Stuart Gordon (and it even boasts about half the cast from that classic as well). Two scientists have created a device that can stimulate the human being sixth sense, but in the process have opened up a door to a deadly universe. When one is seemingly killed, the surviving one, along with a shrink and a cop, return to the house where the experiment was conducted, and discover that things have grown ever so out of control. Featuring some stomach churning makeup effects work, “From Beyond” has risen in cult status since its release on DVD a couple years back, and remains the best of Gordon’s adaptations of Lovecraft material other than “Re-Animator”.

2. HARDWARE (1990)
Director: Richard Stanley
Starring: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch

Before he directed the aforementioned on this list “Dust Devil”, Richard Stanley achieved genre-fame with “Hardware”. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, a soldier returning home to his metal sculptor girlfriend brings home a robot head which he found on the way back. What neither of them know however is that the robot is the prototype model of the M.A.R.K. 13, a vicious killer bot capable of rebuilding itself, and its only priority is to kill and destroy. For a low budget sci-fi/horror dirge, “Hardware” still looks surprisingly sophisticated to this day. From the psychedelic and introspective moments to the blood-curdling finale, “Hardware” remains a beloved cult classic to this day, finally seeing the light of day on DVD earlier this year after being stuck in production company-dissolution hell. Along with the industrial/punk soundtrack and cameos from Iggy Pop and Lemmy from Motorhead, what’s not to love? “No Flesh Shall Be Spared…”

1. NEAR DARK (1987)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton

Before she became uber-famous for marrying James Cameron and winning an Oscar for “The Hurt Locker”, Kathryn Bigelow directed this blend of horror and the western…and it remains not only one of the best vampire films ever made, but THE BEST horror film you’ve never seen. When Caleb falls in with a crew of murderous vampires, he tries to fight the growing bloodlust within him, even though his new abilities thrill him like never before. His father travels after him in an attempt to save him, culminating in a fiery showdown. Comparisons to “The Lost Boys” are numerous (in fact, it opened around the same time, but bombed in theaters), with the only real differences being is that there is nothing lighthearted at all to be found with “Near Dark”. Typical vampire conventions get thrown out the window as well; in fact, the word “vampire” is never mentioned once. Instead of typical vampire film conventions, “Near Dark” is a brutal yet startlingly poetic horror film that, while not for all tastes, has made a surprising mark on everything vampire today. From “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to “True Blood”, various creators have drawn upon and cited “Near Dark” as being a key inspiration, and to this day it remains a dreadfully underrated classic. There has been recent talk of a modern-day remake, but in these days of “Twilight”-mania and crazy amounts of remakes, I can’t fucking imagine seeing a film so near and dear to my heart being remade by Hollywood for mass consumption by the movie going masses.

...and there you have it! The final ten of the Top 50 Horror Movies You've Never Seen. Feel free to share your thoughts in agreement and disagreement, or even provide your own feedback as to what I should have included.

Happy muthafuckin' Halloween!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: Part 4

Well folks, here we are already at Part Four of The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen. In this penultimate installment, we get down to the nitty gritty so to speak, and wind up counting down not only what are the best horror flicks you've never seen, but what are also some of my absolute favorite horror films ever. Here we go...

20. WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976)
Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador
Starring: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo

What is it about kids that can wind up being so goddamn creepy? “Who Can Kill a Child?”, also known as “Island of the Damned” among many other titles depending on the region, finds an English couple vacationing off the Spanish coast, who come to find that there are no adults to be found on the island which they are staying. Instead, there is nothing but children, all of whom are so damned eerie that you’ll get the heebie jeebies before the blood starts flowing. I previously listed “The Children” on this list, which draws so many inspirations from this film, and as good as that film is, “Who Can Kill a Child?” is all the more chilling to the bone.

19. BASKET CASE (1982)
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner

A long time cult favorite that spawned a couple horrible sequels, the original “Basket Case” is the definition of low-budget, indie horror. The film revolves around a young man who takes a room in a dingy New York City motel, his only luggage being a covered basket. Turns out the basket contains his hideously deformed Siamese twin that was surgically separated from him some time before, whom he still takes care of. Oh yeah, his twin is also a cannibal and totally insane…and enjoys making life ever so much harder for our hero. Dated as hell, but “Basket Case” still winds up being kind of fun regardless.

18. DEMONS (1985)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny

Co-written with horror great Dario Argento, “Demons” finds a large group of people invited to the screening of a horror film trapped within the theater as the monsters on the screen not only come to life, but begin to possess and kill the hapless victims. Let me start off by saying that “Demons” is utterly ridiculous by nature, but it is even more ridiculously fun if you’re a horror fan. It’s twisty, provides genuine shocks, and some truly gross-out moments to boot. There was a half-decent sequel that came out not too long after the first film was released, and to this day “Demons” has developed a bit of a cult following.

17. FEAST (2005)
Director: John Gulager
Starring: Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins, Krista Allen

What’s interesting about “Feast” is what it is the product of. A few years back, there was this show on Bravo and HBO called “Project Greenlight”, in which producers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck held a bit of a creative contest for aspiring filmmakers. The winner would be given a decent enough budget to make his dream film, and the result of one of said seasons of the show (I forget exactly which one) is “Feast”. A group of drunks and ass holes at a local bar fall victim to a horde of ravenous beasts, which proceed to dismember, devour, and re-produce (yes, you read that right) all in ultra-gory glee. Another shock-filled gore-fest that actually will keep you interested and entertained (while making fun of itself), “Feast” would be followed by two much lesser-quality sequels, which are in all honestly better left ignored. Oh yeah, Jason Mewes gets his face ripped off in this, seriously.

16. THE BURROWERS (2008)
Director: J.T. Petty
Starring: Clancy Brown, William Mapother, Doug Hutchison

Set in the western/frontier era, “The Burrowers” finds a group of rescuers and bounty hunters banded together in an effort to find a family of settlers who have mysteriously disappeared. As their investigation furthers, they discover that the culprits aren’t the Native Americans they were prepared to battle, but instead are monstrous beasts rising straight from the ground. No, this isn’t “Tremors”, but instead “The Burrowers” is one of those rare horror films that offers a surprising amount of heart and intelligence amid all the blood-letting. And, like so many of Lions Gate’s best horror films, “The Burrowers” was due for a theatrical release, but instead sat on the shelf for a while before being shoveled to DVD.

15. ALTERED (2006)
Director: Eduardo Sanchez
Starring: Adam Kaufman, Brad William Henke, Michael C. Williams

The man behind “The Blair Witch Project” helms this underrated little gem, in which a group of hillbilly friends decide to gather together one night in order to catch and take some revenge on one of the alien beings responsible for the death of their child hood friend and their abduction years before. Things seem to be going great, until the deadly little bastard turns the tables on our heroes. It sounds stupid admittedly, but this is really only scratching the surface of “Altered”. The film is incredibly tense and when the big horror payoffs happen, you wind up floored by what you see on the screen. Also, if the final scene of the film doesn’t leave you with some degree of unease, you simply aren’t human.

14. THEM (2006)
Director: David Moreau/Xavier Palud
Starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen, Adriana Mocca

A French thriller (and hit in its native land), “Them” (also known as “Ils”) is a briskly paced cat & mouse game, in which a couple awakens one night in their isolated home to strange sounds. It isn’t long before they realize that there are hooded assailants who mean to do them some extreme forms of harm. One of the few entries on this list that doesn’t involve any normal type of typical horror clich├ęs, “Them” is a surprising suspense flick that was well worth making the trip across the pond.

13. SPLINTER (2008)
Director: Toby Wilkins
Starring: Jill Wagner, Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo

A somewhat troubled couple run afoul of a pair of desperate criminals, but even worse for everyone involved is the parasite that they discover that splinters itself into its victims, turning its still living hosts into zombie-esque freaks. Trapped inside an isolated convenience store, everyone must work together to survive, and the end result doesn’t look too good. Featuring some surprisingly brilliant effects work, “Splinter” is an undiscovered gem of a horror flick that actually defies the typical conventions of the “trapped with zombies”-type of horror film. Plus, the scenes of body parts contorting in unnatural ways will make you squirm.

12. BABY BLUES (2008)
Director: Lars Jacobson/Amardeep Kaleka
Starring: Colleen Porch, Joel Bryant, Ridge Canipe

A mother suffering from extreme postpartum depression decides to eliminate her four children one night on an isolated farm while her trucker husband is on the road. The eldest son becomes the protector of his siblings as he struggles to save them from his mentally ill mother, culminating in a big time shocker showdown. When I say that “Baby Blues” is shocking, I’m not kidding in the least. This is a film that definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, and I say not because the film offers heaping buckets of blood & guts (which it really doesn’t), but because the tone of the film is so unforgiving and bleak that you may have a bit of a difficult time getting through it. Still though, the suspense and shocks are simply killer.

11. DEAD ALIVE (1992)
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody

Also known as “Brain Dead”, “Dead Alive” is the zombie bash that Peter Jackson did long before he got famous for making the “Lord of the Rings” flicks. A man with an evil, overbearing mother finds his life getting horribly chaotic when his mum gets bitten by a demonic monkey, slowly turning her into a powerful zombie bitch. From that point forward, well…I’ll put it like this…there’s a kung-fu priest, atrophied body parts, zombies humping, a zombie baby in a stroller, a head in a blender, a lawnmower strapped to a chest slicing & dicing zombies, and various other body parts that become severed, eaten, and obliterated. Revered as one of the absolute goriest zombie films to ever see the light of day, “Dead Alive” features so many visual gags and hysterical moments that you’ll wonder how Peter Jackson went from this to what he’s doing these days. Barf bag not included.

That's all for now folks, and the final installment is well on the way...

Friday, October 8, 2010

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: Part 3

I'm back with ten more underrated horror gems in this third installment of The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen. Included here is one of my all time favorites (try to see if you can figure out which) along with some others that deserve your attention:

30. OUTPOST (2008)
Director: Steve Barker
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Richard Brake, Julian Wadham

Nothing says fun like Nazi zombies. With “Outpost”, a team of mercenaries in Eastern Europe discover an old World War II bunker, and the horrors that still reside in it thanks to decades old Nazi experiments. Video game nuts will notice the tons of references to the Wolfenstein PC games, and the claustrophobic atmosphere makes this flick all the better.

29. THE CHILDREN (2008)
Director: Tom Shankland
Starring: Hannah Tointon, Eva Birthistle, Rachel Shelley

A British import that somehow got lumped in with the otherwise cruddy lineup of Ghost House Underground DVDs, “The Children” finds two families in the English countryside enjoying themselves, until their young children are stricken with a mysterious illness that turns them into murderous psychos. These malevolent little bastards wreak bloody havoc on their dimwitted parents for the rest of the film’s running time, but the shocking amount of scares and a startling amount of bloody violence are what make it really worth noting. That along with the fact that the film’s final shot will chill you to the bone.

28. BLACK SHEEP (2006)
Director: Jonathan King
Starring: Nathan Meister, Peter Feeney, Danielle Mason

Featuring some spectacular creature and makeup/gore effects from Peter Jackson’s WETA shop, “Black Sheep” is gleefully fun and enjoyable. I mean come on now, zombie-esque sheep running around in New Zealand? Sounds like a recipe for success to me!

27. DUST DEVIL (1992)
Director: Richard Stanley
Starring: Robert John Burke, Chelsea Field, William Hootkins

This will not be the only time that Richard Stanley appears on this list, as his follow up to “Hardware” may very well be the most introspective and surreal horror film you’ll ever come across. “Dust Devil” revolves around a disenchanted woman driving across the desert, who encounters a handsome drifter that isn’t quite what he seems to be. Is he a serial killer? Or a demon, or even the devil himself? In between all this, a local cop seeks to stop this man dubbed “The Dust Devil”, even if it means using shamans and witchcraft as a means to an end. The film itself has an interesting history, as Stanley envisioned a two hour cut, which distributor Miramax cut into less than an hour and a half, which cuts so much out of the story that it makes the film nigh-incomprehensible. Only a couple years ago did Stanley finally make his “Final Cut” available to the public, but sadly, the DVD has since gone out of print. If you do see “Dust Devil”, make sure that it is Stanley’s preferred “Final Cut”.

26. THE SENDER (1982)
Director: Roger Christian
Starring: Kathryn Harrold, Zeljko Ivanek, Shirley Knight

When a young man gets admitted to a mental hospital after a suicide attempt, his doctor experiences all kinds of paranormal and telekinetic phenomena. He has the ability to make his nightmares into reality for those around him, and he may be impossible to stop. For an 80s horror flick, “The Sender” is quite suspenseful, and quite worth your time.

25. THE WOODS (2006)
Director: Lucky McKee
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, Bruce Campbell

In 1960s New England, a teenage girl sent to a boarding school in a deep wooden area discovers some strange occurrences that lead her to believe she’s in the middle of a coven of witches. The film sat on the shelf for nearly three years, for little to no reason, but let it never be said that no matter what the role is or even how shitty the flick itself may be (not that this is, which it isn’t), Bruce Campbell is the fucking man.

24. ALIEN RAIDERS (2008)
Director: Ben Rock
Starring: Carlos Bernard, Matthew St. Patrick, Rockmond Dunbar

Shitty movie title aside, “Alien Raiders” is a surprisingly creepy and horrific affair. In a small Arizona town, the denizens of a closing grocery store are ambushed by a group of masked gunmen who subsequently kill a handful of those there and take more as hostages. It isn’t long however before those captured realize that these gunmen aren’t terrorists or robbers, they’re rogue scientists who have tracked an alien infestation to the store, and that some of those among them may not be entirely human. Slickly produced given the miniscule budget, “Alien Raiders” is a surprising blast.

23. COLD PREY (2006)
Director: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Viktoria Winge, Rolf Kristian Larsen

A Norwegian import (that ended up spawning two sequels overseas, which sadly haven’t seen the light of day over here yet), “Cold Prey” is just about everything that makes the slasher genre enjoyable, and without any of the shitty aspects either. A group of friends on a snowboarding vacation run afoul of a deranged killer who stalks them and picks them off one by one. Suspenseful and chilling.

22. THE SIGNAL (2007)
Director: David Bruckner/Dan Bush/Jacob Gentry
Starring: Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn AJ Bowen

A horror film told in three parts by three different directors, “The Signal” revolves around a cheating wife, her douche bag husband, and her lover who is trying to save her from a horrible fate after a mysterious signal broadcast on every television, cell phone, and radio turns everyone into a homicidal maniac. Though the film’s flow is a bit jumpy and not always sensible, “The Signal” is inventive and unique enough to warrant checking out.

21. LAID TO REST (2009)
Director: Robert Hall
Starring: Bobbi Sue Luther, Kevin Gage, Lena Headey

Directed by FX guru Robert Hall, “Laid to Rest” finds an amnesiac girl on the run from a demented killer wearing a chrome-skull mask, who winds up killing just about everyone she comes across searching for help. A gory and relentless throwback to the golden age of the slasher genre, with some truly inventive death scenes and effects work as well.

More to come...

Monday, October 4, 2010

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: Part 2

Trick or treat, beat my meat...nevermind. Anyway, the countdown continues of the 50 best horror flicks you've never seen. Barf bags not included...

40. MARTYRS (2008)
Director: Pascal Laugier
Starring: Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi, Catherine Begin

I hate the horror sub-genre of torture-porn, absolutely despise it. Between all the “Saw’s” and “Hostel’s” and the like, it’s no wonder that a film like “Martyrs” gets lost in the pack. Make no mistake though that this French import is one brutal film, yet even more shocking is how powerful and moving it winds up being. The story revolves around two girls, both of whom were victims of various brands of child abuse, on a revenge mission of sorts. The final frames of the film are incredibly difficult to get out of your head.

Director: Jim Mickle
Starring: Nick Damici, Kim Blair, Ron Brice

Part of the 2007 lineup of the After Dark Horrorfest, “Mulberry Street” may have a ridiculous premise, but the surprising amount of mounting tension and even more surprisingly good acting make it worthwhile. The tenants of a downtown apartment building in Manhattan try to survive the night when a virus infects the city turning people into cannibal rat-creatures (yes, you read that right). Give it a chance, yes I’m serious.

38. HATCHET (2006)
Director: Adam Green
Starring: Joel David Moore, Kane Hodder, Mercedes McNab

A gleefully violent and fun ode to the slasher genre, “Hatchet” revolves around a group of tourists in New Orleans taking a haunted swamp tour, only to fall prey to the monstrous killer Victor Crowley. Featuring some just plain brilliant makeup effects, “Hatchet” ended up garnering a surprising cult following, culminating in a recently released (and subsequently pulled from theaters) sequel that promises more of the same gory hijinks.

37. ROGUE (2007)
Director: Greg McLean
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington

From the same team that made “Wolf Creek”, “Rogue” finds an American journalist in Australia coming face to face with a gigantic killer crocodile. Before you start thinking “that’s nothing new”, “Rogue” winds up being more than just a generic monster B-movie, with some great effects and genuinely horrific moments. Plus, it has a pre-“Avatar” Sam Worthington get eaten alive, and that in itself is worth checking “Rogue” out for.

36. EDEN LOG (2007)
Director: Franck Vestiel
Starring: Clovis Cornillac, Vimala Pons, Zohar Wexler

A French hybrid of horror/mystery/suspense, “Eden Log” boasts a unique visual style, with a washed-out color pallet and overall visual design that resembles one of the old “Resident Evil” video games. An amnesiac man wakes up deep inside a cavern, with no knowledge of what happened to him or to the dead people he finds on his journey. All he does know is that there are strange, violent creatures out and about, as he searches for an escape, while finding out some shocking things about himself and the world as a whole along the way.

35. UNDEAD (2003)
Director: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Starring: Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins

Another Australian import, “Undead” is from the brother directing team that would eventually do the recent vampire flick “Daybreakers”. With “Undead”, the title pretty much tells you what you need to know, revolving around a small Australian fishing village that falls victim to strange meteorites that apparently transform the residents into zombies. The big twist and shocker ending is what makes “Undead” a keeper.

34. THE LAST WINTER (2006)
Director: Larry Fessenden
Starring: Ron Perlman, James LeGros, Connie Britton

An environmentalist working with an American oil conglomerate investigates the mysterious apparent suicide by one of the workers in the northern arctic. When more similar events occur and tensions mount, it soon becomes apparent that something very, very bad is happening in the great white north. What could be seen as another type of “nature fighting back” flick, “The Last Winter” is an intelligent, thoughtful, ambiguous, and creepy take on environmental health. A little drawn out, but well worth it.

33. XTRO (1983)
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Starring: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stegers, Danny Brainin

Spawning two horrible sequels that have nothing to do with this first film, “XTRO” is an entertaining “Alien” rip-off, in which a man returns home to his wife and son three years after he was abducted by aliens. Naturally he’s not quite the same man he was before he left, and he starts to make a profound effect on his young son, as his estranged wife and her new lover struggle to put him to a stop. Featuring buckets of blood, terrible acting, and nudity-a-plenty, “XTRO” is pure trashy fun the whole way through, and if schlock is your thing, you can’t do much better than this.

32. C.H.U.D. (1984)
Director: Douglas Cheek
Starring: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry

Another “so schlocky it’s good” type, “C.H.U.D.” (standing for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) revolves around a photographer, his girlfriend, a cop, and an unhinged vagrant teaming up to stop a race of sewer-dwelling mutated homeless mutants from devouring all of New York City. I couldn’t make that story up if I tried. What makes “C.H.U.D.” enjoyable is the surprisingly good gore effects and darkly comedic moments. Plus, it marks the big-screen debut of John Goodman…yes I’m serious.

31. THE TRIPPER (2006)
Director: David Arquette
Starring: Thomas Jane, Lukas Haas, Jamie King

A delightfully nasty slasher tribute that pokes fun at Republicans, “The Tripper” revolves around a new-age hippie festival in a small hick town, that falls under attack by a Ronald Regan-mask wearing axe murderer. Hilarious gore effects and plenty of tongue-in-cheek political humor.

More to come...

Friday, October 1, 2010

The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: Part 1

Ah yes, it's October. A month chock full of haunted houses, scary stories, and my personal favorite aspect, horror movies galore. All of which culminates at the end with Halloween, the best damn holiday of the entire year as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, as far as horror movies go, we all pretty much know the good ones from the bad ones. Classics like John Carpenter's "Halloween" and George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" are traditionally watched and so they should be, but for every classic horror film out there, there are quite a few underrated ones that sadly have not been seen by as many viewers.

Throughout this month, I'll be providing you with a list of the best damn horror flicks that you've never seen (or possibly even heard of) that deserve your time and attention. Strap yourselves in bitches...

Director: Steven Goldman
Starring: Trace Adkins, Priscilla Barnes, Stefanie Black

Based on the Imperium Comics series, "Trailer Park of Terror" follows a group of troubled high school students who get stranded in the mountains, and seek refuge in a not-so abandoned trailer park. Schlocky as all hell, the film offers plenty of blood and guts, and a decent dose of dark humor as well that makes it worth checking out.

49. GRACE (2009)
Director: Paul Solet
Starring: Jordan Ladd, Stephen Park, Gabrielle Rose

After losing her husband and unborn child in an accident, Madeline insists on carrying her dead child to term regardless. When she does, the baby is miraculously alive, or so it would seem. It isn't long before she realizes that her baby has a craving for blood... What's most surprising about "Grace" is the shocking degree of emotional terror that permeates throughout the film, and its shocker denouement is worth the price of admission alone.

48. SEVERANCE (2006)
Director: Christopher Smith
Starring: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Toby Stephens

A team-building exercise in the mountains of Eastern Europe turns horrifically funny for a group of sales division wankers when they are targeted by a group of crazed killers. Shockingly funny, biting, and gore-filled to boot. Plus, there's a homicidal maniac with a flamethrower bitches!

Director: Stefan Avalos/Lance Weiler
Starring: David Beard, Jim Seward, Rein Clabbers

A "Blair Witch"-style faux-documentary in which a trio of filmmakers venture into the forest searching for the legendary Jersey Devil. Days later, only one returns, and becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of the other two, while another local filmmaker partakes on his own excursion to find the truth. The end result proves being more shocking, as "The Last Broadcast" puts "Blair Witch" and any other handheld camera-style horror flick to shame.

Director: Dan O'Bannon
Starring: John Terry, Chris Sarandon, Jane Sibbett

Also known as "Shatterbrain", "The Resurrected" is based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale involving the hiring of a private eye to investigate the mysterious experiments of a chemical engineer. Turns out, he's trying to bring back the dead, but the results of which don't go quite exactly as planned...

Director: Jon Knautz
Starring: Robert Englund, Trevor Matthews, Daniel Kash

After witnessing his family get murdered by monsters as a child, plumber Jack Brooks uses his inconsolible rage to combat monsters and demons, including those recently set loose by his community college night class professor. Very fun in an "Evil Dead"-type of way, and Robert Englund is a fucking hoot.

Director: Robert Hiltzik
Starring: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields

An underrated slasher classic that has a cult following, the original "Sleepaway Camp" may work as a "Friday the 13th" knockoff, but its shocker conclusion is what makes it so memorable to this day.

Director: Grace Lee
Starring: Austin Basis, Jane Edith Wilson, Al Vicente

Another mockumentary, only this time it follows a team of documentary filmmakers seeking to learn as to whether or not the rising zombie population are an actual threat to humanity, or if they just want to live in harmony. Scathingly funny and also pretty damn creepy.

Director: Jorge Grau
Starring: Cristina Galbo, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy

Also known as "The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue" and "Don't Open the Window" (among many other titles depending on the country), this zombie flick focuses on two hippies who are suspected by a clueless cop as being the culprits behind the Manson Family-style murders going on in town, when it is actually the result of the ravenous zombies being created by the chemical pesticides used on the local farmland. A terribly underrated zombie film by every stretch of the imagination.

41. ISOLATION (2005)
Director: Billy O'Brien
Starring: Essie Davies, Sean Harris, Marcel Iures

On a lonely Irish farm, a scientist researching the genetic modifications of cattle accidentally unleashes a killer batch of murderous farm animals. It sounds funny on paper, but "Isolation" is so damn suspenseful and surprisingly creepy that you'll never want to eat meat again.

That's all for now, but as the month goes on, the list will continue to count down, enjoy!