Happy fucking New Year ya bunch of crazy trash monkeys! There was plenty my peepers feasted upon that I loved in the year of our lord 2018. Season three of Daredevil was the best the show has ever been and season two of Legion wove a twisted and fascinating trail to villainy. The new Halloween brought a smile to my face, Annihilation blew my mind and Big Legend made me pray for an expanded cryptid universe. I have yet to see The House That Jack Built, Overlord and Suspiria (thanks to a mixture of work and limited releasing) but I’m looking forward to getting around to them. The following list is of thirteen beauties that were introduced into my life this year. I guarantee there was plenty more that almost made the list (Upgrade, Zuma, Possum and Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell immediately come to mind) but I managed to trim down the rather large list to a comfortable thirteen. So come celebrate all that made this year a magical time to be a weirdo film lover.
SPECIAL MENTION: I must throw out a colossal thanks to Toxic Filth Video and King of the Witches who release so much unconventional loveliness it’s the equivalent of cinematic autoerotic asphyxiation (although I guess it would only be erotic asphyxiation if I was being helped but I’m sure KOTW and TFV would flee the scene if I died and leave me dangling in a Taiwanese closet like a bearded David Carradine to be declared a tragic accidental death). Anyways, I’m suffocating under the greatness and completely aroused by it…I mean enjoying it. Go support them here https://toxicfilthvideo.bigcartel.com/ and here http://www.cauldron.club/
Also, ReelRat. Thanks for opening up your weirdo doors and giving me a home for my…uhm… interesting tastes. You are one hell of a human.
13. Incident in a Ghostland (2018) (Lions Gate)
Perfectly disturbing home invasion thriller with one of the most rewarding gut punches I’ve ever experienced. I shall say no more, just go and see it.
12. Blue Vengeance (1989) (Vinegar Syndrome)
New York shot gutter masterpiece is a true slice of independent greatness. Inventive and filled with wild ambition, Blue Vengeance is a must for any grindhouse fanatic. The setting is worn like a second skin and everyone (cast and crew) puts their all into it. Vinegar Syndrome has done the world a service by restoring and releasing this unheralded classic. The climax is amazing and the tunes are awesome.
11.The Endless (2017) (Well Go USA)
Incredibly solid sequel to Resolution is just as good, if not better. It’s a masterclass in slow burning unease and unfathomable horror. If you haven’t seen Resolution (please do) you’ll be fine going into this but it does help to paint a complete picture and it’s really fucking good too. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s a damn fine journey to take part in. The acting is solid all around and I’m always happy to see Lew Temple in anything, the isolated yet somehow busy shooting location works perfectly, well placed humor alleviates the tension where it’s needed, and a genuine sense of pathos haunts nearly every frame The filmmaking team of Benson and Moorhead are preternaturally good at what they do.
10. Cold Ground (2017) (Wild Eye Releasing)
The flood of found footage horror has spoiled the subgenre for many horror fans (if they enjoyed it at all to begin with) but when it is done well it manages to enjoy a staying power most flicks can only dream of. Cold Ground not only pulls off one excellent slight of hand but benefits immensely from the breathtaking location shooting. Probably the best I’ve seen since the horrific and claustrophobic The Tunnel.
09. You Were Never Really Here (2017) (Lions Gate)
Violence and insanity litter Lynne Ramsay’s bleak and brooding masterpiece. A beautiful film that hits hard and respects its audience, You Were Never Really Here is a hell of a watch. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent soundtrack from Jonny Greenwood and the flawless performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Easily comparable to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, I assure you it is it’s own beast. See it.
08. Witchdoctor of the Living Dead (1985) (Global Force Video)
There’s only so much one can say about Nigerian horror flicks to the uninitiated without eventually coming off like a lunatic with horrible tastes in film. I’m not saying that I’m not that, I’m just saying that the Nollywood anti-cinema is better experienced than read about. Witchdoctor hit the scene well before the film output of this special little section of the world hit its stride. Everything for which Nollywood would come to be infamous is present and accounted for. “Dirt cheap budgets” doesn’t even begin to express just how shoddy the whole affair is, but that’s just part of the charm. The special effects with an emphasis on special, music cues that drop abruptly to make room for dialogue, music stolen from other films, the complete cast having the acting chops of a sentient potato, scenes that go on far longer than they should and a heavy leaning towards Christian propaganda. I’m not complaining, these are the reasons I spent years tracking down these weirdo films. I find it comfortable that trash knows no boundaries and has no preference for any region of the world. We’re all bizarre weirdos with a universal language of horror…or some shit like that. If the idea of a dirt cheap remake of Lucio Fulci’s Zombi (even steals some of the score) gets your horror infused nether regions going, then you are in good company here. Come and see…come and see…
07. The Soultangler (1987) (AGFA/Bleeding Skull)
There are some films that change your perception after an initial viewing. Films like Things and Sledgehammer immediately come to mind. Films where perceived solid footing turns out to be a ruse and you’re left wandering a fever dream abyss. I’m happy to announce The Soultangler is another transcendent trash tour de force. Everything is off, from the acting to the foley work, and the viewer is left in slack jawed amazement. Soultangler is a Long Island shot piece of insanity that just may change your view of life or at least your view of basement budget filmmaking. Be thankful for Bleeding Skull for bringing this film to light and AGFA for preserving it for future generations.
06. Kafan (1990) (Toxic Filth Video)
Kafan is exactly what I’m looking for in my South Asian cinema. Cheapjack effects, a handful of toe tapping songs and a jumbled story structure. When I barely notice something is going on for two hours, all signs point to a good old time. There’s a climatic chase through an out of nowhere concert involving dancers and musicians in cheap monster masks. The opening black mass has music and audio from Predator (including Bill Duke saying “Anytime”) and ends with a slaughter. There’s a whole bunch going on in this flick including (but not limited to) the aforementioned insanity, flying stuffed animals and dinnerware, floating heads and exploding fat men and who could forget animated magic electricity shooting out of a demonic woman?
05. Mandy (2018) (Image Entertainment)
Cults and hellborn bikers cause problems for Mr. Cage and his gal. Nicolas Cage gives his usual wild performance but this time it’s justified and he seems pretty damn enthusiastic to be in the flick. Andrea Riseborough is hypnotic in her oddness but it’s never assertive. It radiates an almost fairytale like atmosphere about her and Linus Roache plays the insecure but manipulative Jeremiah to perfection. The cameos are fun and well utilized and every member of the cult is exactly what they need to be. The designs for the demonic bikers are more subtle than I was expecting but it only works to make them all the more terrifying. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s (RIP) score is perfect and the Belgium shooting location is primal and gives off an almost alien energy. Mixed with the neon lighting, it burrows into you and successfully pulls off the cosmic nightmare it’s going for. A perfect fucking film
04. Hereditary (2018) (Lions Gate)
Director and writer Ari Aster absolutely aces it with his first full length feature. Everything about this movie works and succeeds at building a feeling of dread I’m still trying to wash off. The cast is solid with Collette the best I’ve seen her, Alex Wolff (as the slowly unraveling son) forcing me to check his IMDB page for other roles and Milly Shapiro bringing the perfect level of oddness and vulnerability to her turn. The violence (which is conservatively dished out) hits like a hammer when it is necessary and I don’t feel as if any scene is wasted. It’s actually a very simple story at its core but the talent in front of and behind the camera add so much and the attention to detail allows it to unfold in a mischievously complicated manner. Colin Stetson’s score is an excellent tension builder. It’s a hell of a movie and some of you may be turned off by the slow burn approach…which is a damn shame.
03. Vampire Time Travelers (1998) (Toxic Filth Video)
BITE HER IN THE BUTT! There is no scale of judgement in this realm on which to base any critique of Vampire Time Travelers. It’s here and it happened, that’s where I have to lay my foundation. Someway for me to keep my feet on the ground as I take a look back. What have you done to me? Edited with a dulled plastic spoon, written with a head full of crystal and given to a sound department operated by a teenager who just learned how to play guitar from Super Soaker commercials, VTT is a head-fuck treat for trash film lovers. Not in a David Lynch “I need to process and take in what I viewed” sort of way but in the way a power drill through the temple will eventually stop hurting and create pretty colors on the wall. VTT lacks splatter but holy Butt Biting Lucifer is it bursting at the seams with enthusiasm. No idea was scrapped (and if it was then holy fuck) and everyone seems to be having a blast. You’ll know right away if it’s for you because it carries the same damn vibe throughout its runtime. I’m not sure what the fuck just happened but I am comfortable calling it a masterpiece.
02. The Haunting of Hill House (2018) (Netflix)
Beautifully crafted classic from Mike Flanagan is an emotional rollercoaster following a family’s personal battle with a decades long haunting. It may be unfair to include this because of the amount of time Flanagan had to craft his perfect ghost story but I needed to mention it somewhere. It’s heartbreaking and terrifying in equal measure and has an amazing cast doing some of their career best work. It’s about ten hours long and I’ve already watched it three times since October…it’s that good.
01. Go For Broke ! (1985) (King of the Witches)
Here is my review for the wonderful Go For Broke! in its entirety: Seven Samurai (or Magnificent Seven for you less adventurous American cinephiles out there) inspired lunacy takes the template and replaces our ragtag group of male mercenaries with a group of bad ass females. Hope Hill High is terrorized every six months by the Yagyu biker gang (a large group of young deviants who couldn’t give two shits about law and order) and they have had enough. The student council (there are no adults present at all) decide to seek help from hired goons. The president’s young computer savvy sister introduces him to a dirt bike riding woman who may be able to help. They form a team including a stunt woman, a wrestler, a fireworks expert and (my favorite) a Hope Hill drop out who carries a razor blade and still cares about her school. An initial victory leads to harsh retribution from the Yagyu and their vicious leader who just so happens to have a past with our dirt bike riding heroine. A playful first act leads to a surprisingly brutal second which allows for a completely rewarding third. The combination of a fist pumping soundtrack, wonderful characters and a climatic battle that kicks so much ass you’ll feel it for weeks makes for one hell of a good time. Head over to http://www.cauldron.club/ immediately and get this in your life.
Well there ya have it, thirteen fantastic bits of excellence. I look forward to what 2019 will unearth!
And just for the hell of it, here’s a list of the films I wish I had gotten around to this year.
In Memory Of
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
You Might Be the Killer
All the Creatures Were Stirring
I’m sure there’s a few dozen more