STREAM WARRIORS is a weekly feature on Daily Grindhouse where a different contributor recommends a few things to check out on streaming services and around the net to watch. The platforms being used are U.S. versions (unless otherwise noted), content availability does change between countries. This week, Rob Dean weighs in with some suggestions.
It’s weird that we are at a moment in time with the most access to the most diversified types of entertainment from around the world—yet I still find myself spending far too long just staring at the menu screens for streaming services. It becomes a real Goldilocks moment where I feel like I will know what is “just right” for my mood at the moment but inevitably just end up watching a Rifftrax episode I’ve seen a bunch before or fall into a YouTube wormhole of old music videos. It’s easy to overlook some genuinely cool and unique films when the same titles pop up over and over again—hopefully some of the selections below will either be new to you or you’ll decide to give a second chance to them. While we remain indoors, the time can provide ample opportunity to expand our horizons in other ways.
(Please note that Shudder is still running a promotion where you can try the horror streaming service for free for 30 days when you use code SHUTIN on their website)
LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY (2015)
It’s really hard to balance different genres and tones in a film—whether it’s scene to scene, or within the same sequence—and have it feel like parts of a whole and not just induce awkward emotional whiplash. LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY, a Hungarian film from director Károly Ujj Mészáros, manages to jump from ghost story, to romance, to mythic fantasies, to murders, to slapstick comedy, to thrilling moments of tension that never once feels like disparate elements poorly juxtaposed.
LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY truly feels like a book in that there are various sub-plots, memorable moments for even the most minor of characters, a bunch of flashbacks/history of the folks that populate this world of magical realism, and a true mythology that all combine to create an almost lyrical experience that is utterly unique and absolutely enthralling. Oh, it also has a kickass soundtrack including this dope song from “Erik Sumo & The Fox Fairies:”
LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY is about Liza, a single maid who finds herself alone in the apartment she maintains after her employer dies—except she isn’t quite alone as she shares the flat with ghost of a Japanese pop star. As Liza tries to find love in her cold world, strange accidents seem to constantly befall all of her suitors, leading to a police investigation, the possibility that she is an ancient spirit of legend, and a lot of great dancing.
Mónika Balsai is mesmerizing in the titular role as she is able to project loneliness without being pitiful or two-dimensional, a dreamer without being a manic pixie type, and above all this relatable but totally idiosyncratic figure that seems like someone you should know but also someone far removed from any specific time or place. David Sakurai is a powerhouse as Tomy Tani, the phantom roommate who eases that ’60s corny charm while also suggesting a darkness that lurks in death. LIZA THE FOX-FAIRY is an amazing film that needs to be seen by more people—imagine if AMELIE had Cold War/pre-fabricated aesthetics, a better soundtrack, and a high body count. But better!
Streaming On: Amazon Prime,
Believe it or not, it was purely coincidental that I chose another film that also features David Sakurai. HOUSEWIFE is director Can Evrenol’s follow-up to BASKIN‘s descent into Hell. While that film felt like a mash-up of THE SENTINEL meets HELLRAISER and THE RAID, HOUSEWIFE is a lucid dream that grows rapidly beyond the control of the dreamer. A phantasmagoric movie with shades of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, decaying sense of reality, and an injection of dream logic usually found in works of giallo masters like Argento and Bava in the ’70s. It’s uncomfortable, bizarre, not necessarily coherent, but still impactful while being able to follow along up to and including it’s apocalyptic climax that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
HOUSEWIFE concerns a woman (Clémentine Poidatz) that experienced a severe and violent trauma as a child. She has since grown up into a mostly well-adjusted person, fairly successful, seemingly happily married ( to Ali Aksöz), and with friends she enjoys. On a lark they go to a New Age seminar led by a charismatic man (David Sakurai) in what may or may not be a cult (it is). Soon after that event, the past starts to shake loose in the woman’s mind and her days and experiences bleed into the impossible and horrific.
HOUSEWIFE looks gorgeous and has some incredible use of colors, editing, and simple production design to give off unsettling vibes while the score by Antoni Maiovvi is an excellent accompaniment as the viewers pierce the veil of what’s real.
TRAGEDY GIRLS (rightfully) put writer/director Tyler Macintyre on the map for many genre enthusiasts. The brilliant social media commentary inversion of slasher tropes fused HEATHERS, MEAN GIRLS, and SCREAM in ways that shouldn’t have worked but ended up being utterly charming and a great ride. It was a bit of unexpected joy, then, when I found out he actually had made another female-centric genre revisionist film just prior to TRAGEDY GIRLS.
PATCHWORK is based on a 2014 short by Macintyre and was completed in 2015—but essentially not really available until after the cult status and buzz of TRAGEDY GIRLS as that film made the festival rounds and also landed on streaming services (which, if you haven’t seen it—rectify that!).
In PATCHWORK, Macintyre takes on two other sub-genres of the grindhouse set—a Frankenstein tale and following the bloody trail of a woman scorned. Three very different women (Tory Stolper, Tracey Fairaway, and Maria Blasucci) find themselves fused together into one body thanks to the work of one sketchy surgeon (Corey Sorenson). While their parts are conjoined, their mind remains a fractured mess with the three dominant personalities having to learn to work together to do things as simple as walking, let alone find who did this to them, why it was done to them, and how badly they can hurt that person.
With an assist from an old flame med student (James Phelps), the trio navigate this new existence while beating up any suspects who may have led to this unholy unification. PATCHWORK is stylish, funny, impressively gory, and fairly weird—there’s more than just a few passing resemblances to works by Stuart Gordon and Frank Henenlotter that will have horrorhounds grinning from ear to ear. Oh, and it’s apparently coming to custom VHS this year, too—so watch for that.
Streaming On: Shudder
HOT ROD (2007)
Consider The Lonely Island for just a moment. The trio of California-bred friends that went from making their own YouTube sketches to SNL, they’ve dropped a few albums, made a terrifically deranged short musical about the Oakland A’s in the ’80s, and have appeared in a bunch of other TV shows and movies…but the films they actually made (HOT ROD, MACGRUBER, POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING) have constantly done poorly at the box office as many people have passed them by.
Folks, if this is you…you are missing out. POPSTAR is one of the best music-related films ever made with a great soundtrack and hilarious absurdist tangents. And HOT ROD? Well this is just a completely goofy flick that sounds absolutely terrible on paper but comes alive on screen.
Written by Pam Brady (South Park, TEAM AMERICA, HAMLET 2), the movie was originally meant to be a vehicle for Will Ferrell as a bumbling small-town stuntman. It’s hard to say how much of HOT ROD‘s original script is still on-screen, because so much of the Lonely Island sensibilities are present: whether it’s the great musical interludes (like above), scenes with constant repetition that devolves into madness, or their impressive ability to blend vulnerability with stupidity to produce recognizable people in hilarious roles. Akiva Schaffer directs this comedy in which Rod (Andy Samberg) has to raise money to save his ailing stepfather (Ian McShane) so that Rod can beat him in a fistfight; this is accomplished by turning to his stunt crew (Jorma Taccone, Danny McBride, and Bill Hader) and his neighbor/crush (Isla Fisher). Yeah, I know—it sounds more moronic with every word.
But it works so incredibly well thanks to a bunch of spot on references/recreations, willingness to go off on the weirdest tangents, or the oddball elements that are simply taken as part of the reality of the film. If NAPOLEON DYNAMITE had style and didn’t hate its characters, it would still be less entertaining than HOT ROD.
Streaming On: Netflix
HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987)
It’s probable that most of Daily Grindhouse readers are familiar with HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II. It’s one of those weird horror films that was big on video and in syndication in the late ’80s through the ’90s. It was also recently featured on one of Job Bob Briggs’ Last Drive-In specials on Shudder, culminating in a prom queen ceremony for Darcy The Mail Girl. But if you are familiar with it, I would strongly urge you to check it out one more time.
It is such a bonkers-ass movie that has Lynchian elements of chthonic psychology, incredibly inventive (if totally nonsensical) kills, impressive practical effects, and just a go-for-broke attitude that throws everything into the mix to produce a singular experience—it’s possible that if you haven’t seen it in a few years or decades, you may have forgotten all the random creepy and unsettling parts that are far beyond run-of-the-mill horror sequel cash-ins.
Oh, and if you’ve never seen HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II…then all of those reasons above still apply.
First of all, it has nothing to do with PROM NIGHT—so don’t worry if you haven’t seen that pretty unremarkable (yet somehow highly respected) pillar of the slasher craze. The film wasn’t even supposed to be a “PROM NIGHT” movie—it was originally called THE HAUNTING OF HAMILTON HIGH, but changes were made. The basic story is a horrible woman caught on fire and died in the ’50s right as she was crowned prom queen. Now it’s “present day” (1987) and her ghost is back to possess a mousy wallflower and just cause havoc for everyone while slinging cornball ’50s lingo.
And Michael Ironside is in it as a guilty principal who is very protective of his son and also very intense because he is Michael Ironside. If you’re looking for a movie that has a bunch of “WTF” moments that isn’t badly mad or laughably dumb, all while still possessing a bunch of unintentional comedy with how the whole thing unfolds, and some great horror stuff? HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II is for you.
Streaming On: Shudder
Tags: Akiva Schaffer, Ali Aksöz, Amazon Prime, Andy Samberg, Antoni Maiovvi, Bill Hader, Bruce Pittman, Clémentine Poidatz, Corey Sorenson, Danny McBride, David Sakurai, Fantastic Fest, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, Hot Rod, Housewife, Ian McShane, Isla Fisher, Jorma Taccone, Károly Ujj Mészáros, Liza The Fox-Fairy, Maria Blasucci, michael ironside, Mónika Balsai, Netflix, Pam Brady, Patchwork, Ron Oliver, Shudder, streaming, The Lonely Island, Tory Stolper, Tracey Fairaway, Tyler MacIntyre, Will Arnett