Sure, LEATHERFACE is a prequel to the classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and yes, I am sick to death of prequels, sequels, and remakes, but as a stand-alone movie, LEATHERFACE is amazing. It’s actually more of an origin story of the iconic character of Leatherface. With a top-notch cast headed by Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor, it was like an I SHOT ANDY WARHOL reunion. I’ve always seen the character of Leatherface to be a somewhat sympathetic character, and the back story in LEATHERFACE engages this idea even further. Between the beautifully shot cinematography of Antoine Sanier, and the brilliant direction of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, LEATHERFACE is an underrated and overlooked gem.
Wow. Going into this one, I had no expectations, and sometimes that’s the best way to do it. The non-linear, chapter-based story telling of LOWLIFE, was reminiscent of PULP FICTION, but without all the smarmy, heavy-handed Hollywood influence. LOWLIFE has a gritty sense of humor that I really dug as well. It was like ICHI THE KILLER and THE SINFUL DWARF got into a knife fight at the Los Crudos basement show. You can tell that director Ryan Prows, along with the rest of the cast and crew, really put their heart and soul into the modern take on urban exploitation. LOWLIFE is both topical dealing with issues of immigration and sex trafficking, and at the same time bonkers with a tale of redemption for a legendary luchador, El Monstero (Ricardo Adam Zarate). I’m so excited that LOWLIFE is getting major distribution in 2018 from IFC Midnight. Do yourself a favor and see this shit!
I have a weakness for horror movies that take place on Halloween, but aren’t part of the HALLOWEEN franchise. THE BARN does just that. Usually forced nostalgia, is a big no-no in my book, but THE BARN twisted the sense of nostalgia and made it their own. The effects and gore are cheesy, but totally work for this VHS era throwback. Director, Justin M. Seamen really did something special with THE BARN. Instead of going the typical route of having some psychopath slashing through a neighborhood, the story revolves around teenagers that accidentally let loose an ancient town curs and waking up a trio of ghosts… The Boogeyman, Hallowed Jack, and The Candycorn Scarecrow. Equal parts SCOOBY-DOO and the 1985 ABC made-for-television movie THE MIDNIGHT HOUR make THE BARN a ton of fun. Everything from the retro hair metal soundtrack to the great cameos by 1980s scream queen Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman, who played Jason Vorhees in the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, make this faux VHS masterpiece a horror indie that needs to be seen to believed.
Similar to THE BARN, BETTER WATCH OUT hits a soft spot with my horror movie tastes. this time though it’s horror movie that take place on Christmas. I literally will watch any horror movie taking place on Christmas, and BETTER WATCH OUT is the most original I’ve seen in years. The fact that BETTER WATCH OUT isn’t a slasher film and doesn’t have any mention of Krampus, really sets it apart from the rest! I don’t want to say too much about the plot. I don’t want to ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it. All I have to say, is that it’s a remarkable feat for writer Zack Kahn and director Chris Peckover to take the idea of HOME ALONE, turn it on it’s head, mix in some FUNNY GAMES, and take the unsuspecting audience for a one-two punch. BETTER WATCH OUT once again proves that spoiled, suburban rich kids are the fucking worst, and that when a frail sense of masculinity is challenged a true monster shows its teeth.
#6. THE GREASY STRANGLER
I have seen some strange movies over the years, but THE GREASY STRANGLER has to be one of the most bizarre, that still has a linear narrative. With his full-length feature debut, it’s as if director Jim Hosking took the awkward characters from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and placed them in the ultra-offensive world of STREET TRASH, and sent everybody on a wild acid trip. There is a wacky disco walking tour and hilarious catch phrases that will stick in your mind and only you and your closest friends will laugh about. I’m a huge fan of sex, violence, and gross-out humor, and THE GREASY STRANGLER has all of the above in abundance. There’s even confetti… fucking confetti! THE GREASY STRANGLER is an exercise in absurdity and excess, and I couldn’t possibly love it any more than I do. Just a word of caution, if you are easily offended, THE GREASY STRANGLER is not for you.
It seems like the popularity of the zombie sub-genre is running out of steam, and that could be because it is all becoming so homogenized. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS changes all that. What a smart and subversive film. In this post-apocalyptic world the zombie problem is something to be dealt with by hiding from it and doing experiments on children who are half zombie and half human. I give so much respect to the young actress Sennia Nanua who plays the main character of Melanie, one of the children being experimented on. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is her first full length motion picture, and she is simply stunning! Speaking of incredible casting, Glenn Close as Dr. Caroline Caldwell shines as the reflection of tradition and the old world. This film does the late great George A. Romero justice by bringing back political subtext to the zombie sub-genre. I hope to see more smart zombie films in the future.
On the other hand, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT isn’t an allegory or subtext, it’s a straight-up middle finger to the oppressive nature of the American working establishment. It’s a literal interpretation of the dog-eat-dog, kill or be killed mentality of corporate life. The combination of writer James Gunn (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) and director Greg McLean (WOLF CREEK) made this an outstanding bit of genre revolution. Also, having a cast made up of comedy heavy hitters like John C. McGinley (SCRUBS) and genre stalwarts including Michael Rooker (HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER) pushed THE BELKO EXPERIMENT above and beyond what I expected. Many have compared THE BELKO EXPERIMENT to BATTLE ROYALE and rightfully so, it has that same visceral sense of survival. Throw in a bit of the 2006 British horror comedy SEVERANCE and you have THE BELKO EXPERIMENT. If you haven’t seen this film yet, then go see it now!
Here is one of those films that has snuck under most people’s radars. I knew absolutely nothing about, but it was suggested by my friend Richard Tanner, director of FRANKENTHUG. Rich posted about how THE TRANSFIGURATION resonated with him, due to growing up being an outsider obsessed with horror. I shared the same feelings and knew I had to see this movie. THE TRANSFIGURATION is a strong and poignant film that every genre film lover needs to see. I haven’t felt this strongly about a movie since I saw A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. I love unconventional vampire movies, and that’s exactly what THE TRANSFIGURATION is. THE TRANSFIGURATION take a similar atypical route to the vampire sub-genre as the George Romero classic MARTIN. There are ideas of autism, PTSD, and sexual identification that are touched on, but never completely spelled out for the audience. I love a movie that respects its audience enough to figure things out for themselves. Take that idea of a young man, in this case Milo, played masterfully by Eric Ruffin (NATURE CALLS), coming to terms with his life in the inner city and the idea that he believes he is becoming a vampire, and mix the dramatic power of MOONLIGHT, and you have THE TRANSFIGURATION. Find this, watch this, thank me later!
Just knowing how divisive the film MOTHER! made audiences made me want to see it more. That may make me sound pretentious, but I don’t give a fuck. I think director Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN) is a genius! His films have pushed boundaries and have had people talking for years after their release. Yes, MOTHER! is an allegory for God and Mother Earth, and humankind shitting all over creation, but none of that is explained. Aronofsky leaves the meaning of MOTHER! to be realized by the audience. Some people complained that it didn’t make sense. Well, art doesn’t always have to make sense. Between the beautiful cinematography of Matthew Libatique, who has collaborated on several other films with Aronofsky including PI and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, and the stunning ensemble cast headed by Jennifer Lawrence (Mother) and Javier Bardem (Him), my mind was left reeling. I couldn’t stop thinking about MOTHER! So much beauty, and so much destruction in one film. Instead of damning cinema that you don’t understand, how about you appreciate it as a work of art?
When I first heard that Jordan Peele, one half of the sketch comedy duo of KEY AND PEELE, would be directing a horror movie, I was skeptical. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. If you watched KEY AND PEELE you can see that there is a true love of cinema, specifically genre films. GET OUT is Jordan Peele’s full length film debut, and he knocked it out of the park. He earned well deserved praise from critics, and more importantly won over the hearts of horror fans. Yes, some familiar horror tropes and plot devices were used, but when combined with the biting social commentary on race relations and cultural appropriation, the homages to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and THE STEPFORD WIVES not only seem relevant and topical, but on the bleak end of the spectrum, almost realistic. I empathize with the character of Chris Washington, which actor Daniel Kaluuya should win an award for portraying. He has to hear all the same white liberals pandering to him. The whole thing is demoralizing and condescending. There is literally nothing negative I can say about GET OUT. The entire cast knew there characters and and their performances were unparalleled. The script is flawless, the direction is perfect, and cinematography was familiar, but at the same time boundary pushing. I personally feel that if you have a problem with GET OUT, you harbor racism on some level. I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele has in store for us next.
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Tags: 2017, Alexandre Bustillo, Ari Lehman, Chris Peckover, Daniel Kaluuya, Darren Aronofsky, Eric Ruffin, Glenn Close, Greg McLean, Horror, James Gunn, Javier Bardem, Jennifer Lawrence, John C. McGinley, John Frizzell, Jordan Peele, Julien Maury, Lili Taylor, Linnea Quigley, Matthew Libatique, Michael Rooker, Stephen Dorff