Thursday, August 8, 2013

BEST OF 2013: Virgin Viewings (Part One)

Here's a list of some of my favorite non-2013 viewings of 2013. Do with this what you will...
Except that. That's disgusting.


"What happened to Ena and Geraldine 
and Muriel and Rita and Ethel at 10 Rillington Place?"

- 10 Rillington Place (1971)
Directed by: Richard Fleischer, Written by: Clive Exton

Overlooked is an understatement. Sean Durkin, director of the haunting Martha Marcy May Marlene, recently cited this in an interview as one of his favorite unsung films. A chilling true crime classic about serial killer John Reginald Christie that guarantees I'll never see Richard Attenborough in quite the same way. Like Polanski or the more recent Sleep Tight, it's a terrific "apartment thriller" that ensures no one dare rely on the kindness of strangers. Dark, dastardly, and deserving of a major rediscovery.

"It's time to feed the baby."

- Baby Blood (1990)
Directed by: Alain Robak, Written by: Serge Cukier & Alain Robak

A circus performer finds herself home to a primal, bloodthirsty being and seeks to feed the monster within. Like a combination of Frank Henenlotter's Brain Damage with Abel Ferrara's Ms .45, led by  a performance from Emmanuelle Escourrou that fuels frenzied flashbacks of Isabelle Adjani's Possession. Sick, smart and satisfying. And apparently there's a sequel?!

- Bad (1977)
Directed by:  Jed Johnson, Written by: Pat Hackett & George Abagnalo

NYC housewife Hazel (Carroll Baker) does two things extremely well: electrolysis and executions.  She can have them both done in under an hour... with only minor irritations. A Warhol-produced gem with a similarly whacked-out wit to Paul Morrissey's Flesh Trilogy, dosed with the deliciously bad taste of John Waters (its Trash meets Serial Mom!) The baby toss is a true classic.

"We're gonna need a bigger basket!"
- Basket Case 2 (1990)
Directed and Written by: Frank Henenlotter

The films of Frank Henenlotter were undoubtedly among my year's most fruitful of finds. It's a small filmography but an unforgettable one. This sequel is a perfect showcase of his trademark insanity, with just the right amount of cleverness and reliance on character. Duane and Belial are back, side by side, alongside a wealth of new freaks and weirdos. The effects are both crude and astounding, and its story is both surprisingly sentimental and off-the-rails demented. A superb horror comedy and an even better sequel.

- Blind Beast (Moju) (1969)
Directed by: Yasuzo Masumura, Written by: Yoshio Shirasaka

An artful, disturbing classic about a blind artist who abducts a female model to his remote warehouse, along with his overbearing mother. They each mold and sculpt their motivations until...

...Well, that's all I'd care to spoil about this one. It's best to savor its sadistic sensuality just as our lead characters do. (Hint: Boxing Helena is like the UPS standard postage version of this one).  It's unexpectedly stylish with an audacious setting and uniquely adult themes. It cuts deep.

"After Harry Joy dropped dead... 
His life was never the same again."

- Bliss (1985)
Directed by: Ray Lawrence, Written by: Ray Lawrence & Peter Carey

Sort of an Aussie-American Beauty as we follow a man's humdrum suburban life and impending, fantastical death. Harry Joy's existence extends to more surrealist extremes than Lester Burnham's, but he struggles with a similarly disdainful wife and disappointing children (in this case his son's a Nazi who's fucking his daughter in exchange for drugs). Harry Joy must come to some sense of acceptance, understanding, maybe even... joy. There's gloriously oddball imagery throughout and an imaginative sense of humor (an underwater Jesus figure vomits up an eel, daughter's chest opens to roaches), even when the film takes some less blissful detours. It's a real curiosity with some crisp, sensational moments.

"Mum won't like it! But the kids will!"

- Bloody Birthday (1981)
Directed by: Ed Hunt, Written by: Ed Hunt & Barry Pearson

Evil kid films are rarely this fun, nor ensemble-themed. Three 10-year-olds born during a solar eclipse turn on their community, toting guns and taking names. It's totally not-PC, and thus, a total delight. One scene involving a little girl's voyeuristic revenge on her big sis (played by Julie Brown) is reason enough to celebrate this one annually.

"A seduction. A mystery. A murder."

- Body Double (1984)
Directed by: Brian De Palma, Written by: Brian De Palma & Robert J. Avrich

In part to cleanse my pallet after seeing De Palma's latest, Passion, I sought out this messy meta delight. It reminded me that De Palma was always a bit awkward when it came to showing sex (that beachside embrace!?!, Holly Body's "seduction"!?!), but that he's a true master of showing desire. Basically a negligee-clad, Hollywood-set Rear Window, De Palma's film is like Hitchcock, accent on the "cock." Sleaze and sensational style, with just enough meta playfulness to cover its gaping plot holes. The chase through an upscale mall and a tense dual-story drilling are absolute marvels of craft and compulsion.  Body Double came at a time when De Palma still had a massive hard-on for the movies.

- The Boxer's Omen (Mo) (1983)
Directed by: Chih-Hung Kuei, Written by: On Szeto

A major cult curiosity you should watch with your most dear, most inebriated friends. This Shaw Brothers Production manages to combine kung-fu with the eye-searing, opulent surrealism of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and the shlock gore of Lucio Fulci. Deliriously trippy and endlessly bizarre, it's a true feast for the eyes of the utterly insane.

"The movie that will blow your mind!"

- Brain Damage (1988)
Directed and Written by: Frank Henenlotter

Seemingly an oft-ignored 80's horror comedy and another solid reason to add Frank Henenlotter to any list of the genre's most genius, madcap directors. Zany effects, tight scripts and a strong sense of subtext, this might even be his most socially relevant -- addressing sex, drugs, disease and addiction in the uniquely plagued era of 1980's New York City. There's even a heavy gay subtext going on here, but it's all mere underpinnings to a real headtrip of a horror film. The bug-eyed, brain-munching Aylmer is another of Henenlotter's highlight contributions to the genre, accompanying some of the most mindblowing imagery in his own career.

"Pretty Sally Mae died a very unnatural death!
...But the worst hasn't happened to her yet!"

- Deranged (1974)
Directed by:  Jeff Gillen & Alan Ormsby, Written by: Alan Ormsby

A perfect companion to Tobe Hooper's classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Both films were released in 1974 and received their inspiration from necrophilic interior decorator/serial killer Ed Gein (in this case, "Ezra Cobb"). They share a pitch black sense of humor and some seriously unnerving scares, although Deranged is the more "true-to-fact" and admittedly less terrifying of the two. Actor Roberts Blossom actually makes a surprisingly compelling and comical lead, and the film's flirtation with tones allows for an equally effective true crime story, black comedy, and grindhouse chiller. One sequence involving a flat tire stands out, in particular, as being truly chills-up-the-spine frightening. It's funnier and smarter than expected. Way creepier, too.

"At first it was just a game..."

- Don't Deliver Us From Evil (1971)
Directed and Written by: Joel Seria

Fans of Heavenly Creatures take note. Inspired by the very same diaries that gave us Peter Jackson's masterpiece, Don't Deliver Us From Evil tells of the intense friendship between Anne and Lore, two schoolgirls who've formed an intimate bond that spirals dangerously out of control. Even moreso than Jackson's film, Evil is steeped in the horror genre, but is equally swept away by something more grand and romantic. In this adaptation, Anne and Lore pledge their lives to Satan. They start fires, kill small birds, and toy with the lives of others who stand in their way. The similarities come often, and while the end result is something quite different from Creatures, it's still wholly satisfying. The ending is a real crowd-pleaser.

"If you do... then don't say we didn't warn you."

- Don't Go in the House (1979)
Directed by: Joseph Ellison, Written by: Joseph Ellison, Ellen Hammill & Joe Masefield

One of the nastiest slashers in memory, it conjures thoughts of Deranged, Maniac, The Prowler, and countless other killer P.O.V. tales with their own signature stamps of brutality. Donny Kohler, victim to decades of abuse by his sadistic mother, decides to take a trip down memory lane. He invites young women into his home and offers them a warm seat by the fire. Home just happens to be a morgue, and that fire just happens to be from a flamethrower. Some unexpected detours and mean-spiritedness make this one stand out from the pack. A scene involving a double date at the discotheque is worth the price of admission alone.

Up Next:  

Virgin Viewings (Part Two)

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