I can’t do lists.
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I’m one of those people who likes to complain about lists, but secretly reads every single one that blinks across my newsfeed. These are just five movies that came to mind that I really love. I’d probably come up with a different list every day of the week.
1. BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS: Some fans consider this the “gateway” Russ Meyer film, that may be true, but it will always be my favorite. Insanely funny and subversive. The fact that this was a studio film with a decent budget is mindblowing.
2. BASKET CASE: Possibly the quintessential grindhouse film, because it so lovingly embraces the New York filth and grime that cakes everyone’s memories of that time period. I love all of Frank Henelotter’s films, but this one will always be tops for me.
3. SHANTY TRAMP: Sexploitation, blacksploitation, southspoitation, and every other type of “sploitation” you can name, they all show up in this one. I’m not a big fan of “so-bad-it’s-good” cinema, but if you don’t laugh at Joseph P. Mawra’s tastelessness, you’d have to cry.
4. BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW: Produced by Hammer-competitor Tigon Films, this is my favorite British horror movie. Despite its sensationalistic title (which was actually toned down a bit to SATAN’S SKIN for American theaters), this is a moody and atmospheric film with great production value, good performances and some unsettling visuals.
5. GALAXY OF TERROR: One of those films that you hear so much about that you expect it to never live up to the hype when you actually track down a copy. I’m a stickler for legitimate releases, so I hadn’t seen this until the recent Shout Factory disc. It was worth the wait. Nobody knew how to stretch a dollar like New World Pictures and this movie is proof-positive of that. It’s a 1950s B-science fiction picture but bloodied and sexed-up for an early 1980s audience. Such a remarkable cast, if you’re a horror fan and you look back on it now, it’s basically IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD with giant space maggots.
Top 5 “Grindhouse” Books
There’s not much rhyme or reason to this list, other than if you enjoy the kind of films covered on DG, I think you’ll enjoy these books. As with the list above, these are in no particular order:
1. THE DRIVE-IN by Joe Lansdale: This one is a classic. No really, I’m not the only person who thinks that, it’s like legitimately a classic. Part-B-movie fever dream, part-bizarre philosophical text, this is one of those books that make young men like myself want to be writers. If this is your first exposure to Lansdale, you’ll be in for a real treat when you reach for your second because not only is he consistently great, but he’s always mixing it up with new genres. This was recently re-issued as an omnibus collecting the two sequels.
2. IT CAME FROM DEL RIO by Stephen Graham Jones: As cool as it looks, don’t let the cover make you think you’re getting cartoony killer bunnies. Night of the Lepus this ain’t. Instead it’s something better. The protagonist is a rabbit-headed, radiation-contaminated, chupacabra creating badass looking for revenge. Beautifully written and inventively structured, think NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN meets CRITTERS. If you like this, check out Jones’s other work. He’s one of the best out there right now.
3. THE DAY BEFORE by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow: A Hollywood satire where a film crew sets out to make one last big-budget piece of crap at the end of the world. Scathing, hilarious and heartfelt. If you can track down a copy, you’ll thank me for the recommendation.
4. BENJAMIN’S PARASITE by Jeff Strand: Strand is known for his splat-shtick blend of horror and comedy and nowhere does he go more over-the-top than in Benjamin’s Parasite. David Cronenberg meets Mel Brooks with a Michael Bay-sized appetite for destruction. Hysterical and disgusting. If you’re unsure that you want to jump into the deep end first, try one of Strand’s Andrew Mayhem thrillers. That series starts with GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY). They are gory and funny as well, but they aren’t quite as extreme.
5. IN THE MISO SOUP by Ryu Murakami: If you’re a fan of Takashi Miike’s AUDITION, then you’ll enjoy digging into the back catalog of the guy who wrote the book that the film is based on (I’d actually advise steering clear of AUDITION itself, because it’s the least compelling of the Ryu Murakami books I’ve read). This psycho tour of Tokyo’s seedy underbelly is taut, upsetting and darkly comedic. I can’t recommend it enough.