8. Antichrist – Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist hardly snuck up on anyone who had even a remote interest in the arthouse scene, so it may be a stretch to suggest the film has been overlooked. I include it here because I think that the movie’s effectiveness as a horror film may have been ignored, with most of the critical attention being directed at it’s more shocking sequences. There’s no denying that several parts of Antichrist are just that. It’s not a film for the faint of heart or people who simply want a good, fun, scary movie to entertain them. Shock-factor aside, the visuals are haunting and the performances of Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are so powerful that Antichrist shouldn’t be dismissed as mere shock art. There’s a sense of dread that pervades the movie and stays with the audience long after the credits roll, and isn’t that a sign of an effective horror film?
7. The Exorcist III – The Exorcist 3 will never be confused for a great film -horror or otherwise- but it does a pretty decent job of saluting the original, which is arguably the greatest horror flick ever made. This is probably due to the movie being written and directed by William Peter Blatty, who authored the novel that spawned the first film. Again, it may be a stretch to call a mainstream title like The Exorcist 3 overlooked, but after the abomination witch was Exorcist 2: The Heretic I think most people assumed the third one just had to suck too. It doesn’t suck, even if though it fails at even coming close to the original. According to Blatty the studio weakened the third installment by making major cuts to the material and forcing him to shoe-horn unnecessary additions or alterations (such as the title itself) into the film in order to make it more commercially viable. Still it’s worth watching, if for no other reason than to watch Brad Dourif go batshit insane as The Gemini Killer. Nobody plays a wacko like that guy!
6. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon – Want meta? Forget about the Scream franchise. Behind the Mask cleverly deconstructs itself as it goes and it does so without the aura of mainstream importance that Wes Craven’s Scream franchise exudes. Scott Glosserman’s 2006 mockumentary embraces the absurd notion of a documentary film crew who follow a hopeful serial slasher as he preps for his coming into homicidal glory and examines his origins before he goes on his killing spree. Nathan Baesel is impossible to dislike in the role of Leslie Vernon, who calmly and rationally lays out each step in his preparation, from the stalking and selection of “the survivor girl,” to the scouting and preparation of the property he intends to use as his hunting ground. Leslie is almost professorial as he patiently explains the sexual symbolism of the main event to young journalist Taylor Gentry. It’s a shame this movie didn’t make a bigger splash.
5. May – Poor May. She’s what Edward Scissorhands would be if he’d been born a crosseyed woman, without scissorhands, with an irresistible urge to um, collect…things. She’s played by Angela Bettis who is sensational in the role, and who compels us through her performance to sympathize with the character’s plight. Roger Ebert perfectly summarized the movie when he wrote, “The crimes of too many horror monsters seem to be for their own entertainment, or ours. In the best horror movies, the crimes are inescapable, and the monsters are driven toward them by the merciless urgency of their natures.” Well said, sir. Damn well said.
4. Ravenous – set in 1840’s California, Ravenous plays with a certain horror subgenre which I won’t reveal because part of the joy of watching this film is the slow recognition that a familiar horror concept is being explored in an original way. Guy Pearce leads the cast as the tormented Captain John Boyd but Robert Carlyle of The Full Monty and Trainspotting fame absolutely steals the show as the mysterious F. W. Colqhuon. The film has just enough of a black comedy element to give it a unique dimension while simultaneously lending a fair amount of seriousness to the core idea. Another highlight is the quirky yet atmospheric score by Michael Nyman and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn. Listen for it in the clip below which also showcases Carlyle’s kickass performance…
3. Wolfen – You know how every now and then a movie will come along that doesn’t exactly fit the genre niche the studios want it to, but they go ahead and market it that way anyhow? Wolfen is a victim of this phenomenon, and it’s a shame. Apparently the execs decided to promote the film as another werewolf/slasher, a decision which is really a disservice to the audience and the film. Although it has a loose kinship with both genres it’s far from an exploitation movie. Wolfen is driven by a profound sociological concern and explores the idea of a predatory force more lethal than man giving humans a reality check. And if the sight of Edward James Omos running naked in the moonlight doesn’t terrify you, then you are beyond fear my friend.
2. Pontypool – Pontypool plays like Orson Welles’ radio production of War of the Worlds. About ninety percent of the horror is implied through off screen dialogue as radio host Grant Mazzy (played by Stephen McHattie) receives ominous warnings from local citizens about a bizarre outbreak of random violence in the community. As the film progresses we see what I think has to be the most interesting and unique take on the zombie genre in years, maybe ever. The method of the zombie-virus’ transmission is an ingenious product of author Tony Burgess imagination and the implication it has on the characters and story is the movie’s selling point. Here you have a classic example of of a good idea, smart direction and strong acting negating the disadvantage of a small budget. Oh and as an aside, if you wanna read the weirdest fucking book you’ll probably ever read pick up Burgess’ novel Pontypool Changes Everything upon which the film is loosely based.
1. Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore – This is one of my all time favorite movies so it had to be number one ok? Fuck off. Actually, It really is a good movie. Martin Scorsese called it one of the best films of the 90’s so how’s that for bona fides? Cemetery Man tells the story of Francisco Dellamorte, played by Rupert Everett. Francisco works as the caretaker of the cemetery in Buffalora, a quaint little Italian city, where the recently deceased reanimate after seven days for some mysterious reason, forcing him to put them down once again with a bullet or shovel to the cranium. This is the beginning premise of the story but -well, it gets weirder. Alot weirder. Calling Cemetery Man a “zombie film” would be a gross oversimplification. Director Michael Soavi studied under the “Godfather of Gore” Lucio Fulci, who helmed the renowned genre classic Zombi 2, and Dario Argento, considered a master of Italian horror. Just about every scene in this movie is pure visual poetry from the mesmerizing opening sequence to the hot cemetery sex scene to the ambiguous ending. Like the great Romero Dead movies Cemetery Man is about more than just zombies and gore although there’s plenty of that. It deals with Francisco’s morbid and isolated condition in some weird way that’s difficult -if not impossible- to get a full handle on, but it’s one of those movies I’ve always felt compelled to revisit and explore, perhaps because of it’s idiosyncrasy.
(note: the only trailer I could find is an Italian one but don’t be confused. The movie is in english without subtitles for those of you who are troubled by that kind of thing)