By Jeff Burk
Another year and another 200 (not really but I know it’s a lot) movies watched. This is my sixth time doing this list and I look forward to it all year. I’ve been keeping track since the first of January and can hardly wait to talk to you about all the awesome shit I saw!
If you want to catch up on past years, you can with these links:
I saw a lot of movies I liked this year but there were only a few that I outright loved. For the most part, it was the year of “meh.” Nothing summed up how disappointing the year was like the return of two of my favorite filmmakers (Alejandro Jodorowsky and Terry Gilliam) with movies that can best be described as predictable and forgettable (THE DANCE OF REALITY and ZERO THEOREM respectively).
Horror had an extremely poor showing this year. After more than a decade of torture porn dominating the genre, this year saw quiet horror make a huge return. While it would have been nice to have filmmakers playing with new ideas in the genre, most of the films I saw were just repeating tired old tropes. It seemed like almost every horror movie I watched was a ghost story. THE BABADOOK dominated the discussion but I was completely underwhelmed as, in my opinion, it was just repeating themes a hundred movies did better while adding nothing new. However, I didn’t hate it – I just felt like I had already seen it.
I saw two movies that were just so mind-numbingly disappointing that I can’t recommend them for any reason.
Worst Movies of 2014: WILLOW CREEK and CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO
Moving on to what I enjoyed. These are the movies I really liked but I only do ten titles a year for my list and they just didn’t make the cut.
Honorable Mentions: WOLF CREEK 2, SACRAMENT, BANKSY TAKES NEW YORK, ZERO CHARISMA, AFFLICTED, ZOMBEAVERS, SWEARNET: THE MOVIE, and COME BACK TO ME
Now with those formalities out of the way, let’s get on to my ten favorite movies of 2014!
10: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Doug Liman, United States)
Tom Cruise gets killed again and again and again. Also, it’s a really good movie!
Cruise is a soldier who is on the front lines during an alien invasion of Earth. In the battle he gets killed only to start the day over again but with memory of the events of his death. Until he gets killed once more. And so on and so on.
The premise – GROUNDHOG DAY meets STARSHIP TROOPERS – is thoroughly explored and dissected in one of the best, and surprisingly funny, science fiction movies of the past few years.
9: KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (Joe Lynch, United States)
The nerd movie of the year!
When a group of LARPers accidentally summon a demon during an event a whole bunch of people die and they must become the heroes they pretend to be.
It’s a simple movie but super fun if you’re a total nerd. Unlike many other films that tackle nerd and niche interests, this movie never feels like it is laughing at you. The filmmakers are obviously just as dorky as we are.
I highly recommend complimenting a viewing with a few beers and tokes.
8: LATE PHASES (Adrián García Bogliano, United States)
For some reason the list of good werewolf movies is very short – fortunately, this year we got one to add. LATE PHASES feels like an eighties creature feature. The film follows a blind war veteran (Nick Damici – who is absolutely fantastic in the role) whose small community is under attack by a werewolf. Intense, darkly funny, and featuring outstanding practical effects, this film fits perfectly aside AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE HOWLING, and GINGER SNAPS.
And the transformation scene (obviously influenced by THE COMPANY OF WOLVES) kicks ass.
7: JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (Frank Pavich, United States)
One of the all-time greatest directors, Alejandro Jodorowsky of EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN fame, taking on one of the all-time beloved science fiction novels was just not to be. Fortunately, we have this documentary to watch and imagine what an amazing creation it could have been.
It’s a heartbreaking story about the most incredible group of creative people ever assembled and the failure of their film – not from any of their own actions but because the movie studio got cold feet. Just imagine Jodorowksy, Orson Wells, Moebius, Pink Floyd, H. R. Giger, and Dan O’Bannon all working together.
6: TUSK (Kevin Smith, United States)
We’ve seen Kevin Smith do comedy, drama, horror, and social commentary – but we haven’t seen this side of him before!
TUSK is classic body horror in the spirit of early David Cronenberg and Stuart Gordon about a man being held against his will and being surgically transformed into a walrus. Smith takes an absolutely ludicrous premise but takes it seriously (in a story-telling sense) and stretches the concept to “logical” extremes. Twisted, weird, bleakly funny, and a mean streak a baculum wide – TUSK was my favorite horror movie of the year.
Fun fact – TUSK is the first movie ever made based on a podcast. Don’t look up the original podcast unless you want most of the movie spoiled for you.
5: THE LEGO MOVIE (Phil Lord, United States)
The LEGO movie shouldn’t be good. There’s absolutely no reason for it. It should just be a ninety minute long toy commercial – and in many ways it is – but in the process it completely subverts the idea. In many ways this is more anarchist propaganda than a children’s movie. LEGO heaven is depicted as being awesome because “we have no government!” Hell, the villain is Lord Business.
Combing humor, real heartfelt moments, amazing CGI/stop-motion animation, subversive ideas, and more franchises than any YouTube mashup (there’s Batman, Simpson, and Star Wars characters!) this was the surprise of the year for me.
THE LEGO MOVIE may also be the closest we ever get to a Grant Morrison movie – seriously, this is ANIMAL MAN!
4: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (James Gunn, United States)
When Marvel first announced this I thought they were crazy. Captain America and Iron Man make sense but Guardians of the Galaxy? Who the hell cares or wants to see a movie about them?
How wrong I was.
James Gunn created an epic and joyous sci-fi/action/comedy that puts everything else Marvel Studios has done to shame. This isn’t your standard bunch of do-gooders – thieves, assassins, and con artists must band together to travel the strangest parts of the universe to save all of reality. But who really cares? There’s a raccoon weapons expert who shoots everything!!!!
Far and away the most fun I had at the movies this year. This is what STAR WARS would have looked like if Troma produced it. Llody Kaufman even has a cameo!
3: RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOL 1 (Lloyd Kaufman, United States)
Speaking of Troma…
It’s always a cause for joy when Lloyd Kaufman does another movie. He may be the most consistent director of all time. Gore, nudity, and the lowest and highest brow humor combine to create pure movie magic in every one of his creations.
His latest movie is a part one of a sequel to his classic eighties creation THE CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH and it’s everything you want it to be – social commentary, biting humor, and punks killing people in a high school.
Fuck. What do you want to know? It’s Troma! Go watch it!
2: THE RAID 2 (Gareth Evans, Indonesia)
The first RAID was a fantastic action film. The second completely blows it away.
The plot picks up immediately where the first film ended but sends the main character undercover to prison – but that’s just the very beginning. The story takes so many twists and turns that it really feels like you watched THE RAID 2 and 3.
But why you watch this is for the crazy intense action scenes. My god, this film has probably the most insane, violent, expansive, and well directed shots of violence ever done. For those who love onscreen carnage – it doesn’t get better than this.
1: SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)
This is what truly original filmmaking looks like.
After a failed attempt to control climate change, all that remains of humanity is on one train that is on a constant loop around the globe. The lower class live in the back cars and do all the hard work, the upper class lives in the forward cars. But the end of the train is fed up and, at the start of the movie, lead an uprising to take all the cars. So begins one of the most unique and strange movies made in years.
At heart it’s a vicious social commentary but in practice it’s a wild wide of movie making that changes genres from scene to scene. There is absolutely no way to predict what turn the film will take next.
The axe fight/New Year’s scene was the best movie moment of the year – those that have seen it know what I mean.
Most anticipated for 2015 – THE GREEN INFERNO (Eli Roth, United States)
GODDAMMIT!!!!!! Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL 1 & 2, and one of my personal heroes) was supposed to finally return to directing movies with THE GREEN INFERNO. Roth making a cannibal flick is a dream come true for me but we were all denied it due to distribution issues! Some got to see it on the festival circuit but I wasn’t one of them. There’s no news about a 2015 release but I’m praying and my cat is doing dark magic rituals for us to see it.
Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!
“BIZARRO ACROSS AMERICA” PROGRESSIVE BOOK TOUR BRINGS STRANGE NEW VOICES TO THE EAST COAST!
In September 2014, the writers, artists and co-conspirators of the Bizarro genre are coming to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, to spread the gospel of Bizarro Fiction to new audiences and die-hard fans.
September 1, 3pm: Bizarro Writer’s Workshop @ CHOP SUEY BOOKS — 2913 W Cary St, Richmond, VA
September 1, 8pm: THE WINGNUT — 2005 Barton Avenue, Richmond, VA
September 3, 7pm: THE COPYCAT — 1501 Guilford Ave, Baltimore, MD
September 4, 3pm: Bizarro Writer’s Workshop @ A-SPACE, 4722 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA
September 4, 7pm: THE FARM
September 5, 6pm: YORK EMPORIUM — 343 W Market St, York, PA
September 6, 7pm: MELLOW PAGES LIBRARY — Studio 1Q, 56 Bogart Street (@ Harrison, across from the L Line Morgan Ave station), Brooklyn, NY
ALL EVENTS ARE FREE TO ATTEND!
BIZARRO FICTION is a fast-growing underground genre of high weirdness, with over 100 titles in print from ERASERHEAD PRESS, RAW DOG SCREAMING, BIZARRO PULP PRESS and others. It’s been described as “the genre of Anything Goes” and “the literary equivalent of the Cult section of your video store, back when there were video stores.”
The BIZARRO ACROSS AMERICA TOUR will feature readings, performance and odd behavior from some combination of:
MYKLE HANSEN — Wonderland Award-winning author of “I, SLUTBOT” and “HELP! A BEAR IS EATING ME!”
“Mykle Hansen has already proven himself to be one of the great new humorists of our time, in league with Christopher Moore, Terry Prachett, Robert Rankin, and Tom Robbins, only a hell of a lot weirder.” – Carlton Mellick III
VIOLET LEVOIT — Baltimore-based author of “I AM GENGHIS CUM”
“An amazing performer … also stunning on the page. The prose is fast and cruel, beating down all taboos. Go read. Don’t eat anything while you do so.” – Daniel Wallace
BRADLEY SANDS — author of “RICO SLADE WILL FUCKING KILL YOU” and “TV SNORTED MY BRAIN”
“There is no simple way to describe Bradley Sands’ fiction, but ‘superretardo anarchy awesomeness’ is a good start … one of the funniest authors you will ever read.” — VERBICIDE
WILLIAM PAULEY III — author of “THE BROTHERS CRUNK” and “DOOM MAGNETIC”
“THE BROTHERS CRUNK is a bizarrely imaginative blend of sci-fi, horror and fantasy adventure… creativity has never flowed so freely… a perfect example of bizarro fiction… every single line is littered with wild and imaginative ideas.” – FANGORIA
CHRISTOPH PAUL — author of “PSYCHOANALYTIC CELEBRITY POEMS” and “THE PASSION OF THE CHRISTOPH”
“Everything you were afraid to ask (or find out) about men and sex, toilet paper rolls, porn stores, teenage rehab, post-sex etiquette, being single, military school, and karma. Paul is now one of my favorite humor essayists; David Sedaris eat your heart out.” — INDIEREADER
G. ARTHUR BROWN — author of “KITTEN”
“KITTEN is bizarro written with sincerity… I’d call it slow-burning bizarro.” — S.T. Cartledge, House Hunter
CHRIS GENUA — author of “FOOP!” and “LICK YOUR NEIGHBOR”
“Chris Genua is one of our authentic literary lunatics…” – James Marrow
“..a new, innovative, clever author with a thrilling amount of potential: when he’s good, he’s so good that no one can touch him.” – REFLECTION’S EDGE
ERIC MAYS — author of “NAKED METMORPHOSIS” and “KARAOKE DEATH SQUAD”
“KARAOKE DEATH SQUAD is the book that secured Eric Mays’ place in my mind as one of the funniest guys in print.” — Joshua Myers
SCOTT COLE — author of VIOLINS FOR SALE and a top secret, forthcoming novella
“VIOLINS FOR SALE is weird, a little dark, a little violent, but more than anything, it’s fun, which is what bizarro fiction is all about.” — Cameron Pierce
PLUS: Brian Keene, John Lawson, Adam Cesare and more still confirming!
Bizarro is the genre of the strange. The stories and poetry of Bizarro are often provocative, usually funny, always outrageous. Even though the Bizarros are underground cult outsiders they still have gained great respect in the publishing industry, having been praised by the likes of Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, William Gibson, Jonathan Lethem, Piers Anthony, Cory Doctorow, Poppy Z. Brite, Michael Moorcock, and Charles de Lint, to name a few, as well as the publications Asimov’s Science-fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science-fiction, Fangoria, Cemetery Dance, Publishers Weekly, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Details Magazine, Gothic Magazine, and The Face, among many others. Bizarro books have also been finalists for the Philip K Dick Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, the Wonderland Book Award, and the Pushcart Prize.
Follow all things Bizarro here: http://bizarrocentral.com
For press queries and other information, contact Mykle Hansen at email@example.com
From the same author that brought you SHATNERQUAKE, SUPER GIANT MONSTER TIME, CRIPPLE WOLF, and SHATNERQUEST comes…
Jeff Burk is the cult favorite author of several books including SHATNERQUAKE and CRIPPLE WOLF. He is also one of the most original, ridiculous, and nerdy voices in the bizarro genre. B-MOVIES AND BEER RUINED MY LIFE! contains six short stories and two non-fiction pieces by Jeff Burk. From the filming of a hentai where a monster can’t get it’s tentacles up to a house made literally of cats, this collection shows why Wil Wheaton described his writing as “Lloyd Kaufman and Sam Raimi’s mutant offspring,”
This ebook also contains two non-fiction essays. One about his worst reading ever where someone called the cops and an essay on loving extreme horror.
This collection contains:
I’VE SEEN ENOUGH HENTAI TO KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING…
THE DOG WHO STARED
HOUSE OF CATS
FROSTY AND THE FULL MONTY
THE MOST ACCOMPLISHED CRACK HEAD IN THE WORLD
PUNK ROCK NURSING HOME
WHEN THE COPS CAME FOR SHATNER OR MY WORST READING EVER
YOU SICK FUCK OR WHY I LOVE EXTREME HORROR
Available only on Kindle
Ultra David Vs. Mecha-Goliath by Michael Allen Rose
Dieselpig by Garrett Cook
Violins for Sale by Scott Cole
The Slobbering Tongue That Ate The Frightfully Huge Woman by Robert Devereaux
The Corpsefucker Blues by Ryan Harding
Ogner Stump’s One Thousand Sorrows by Andrew Goldfarb
Wild Bushpig Grrrls by S.C.A.R.
Head Humping and Tentacle Fucking: Author Profile on Edward Lee by Jeff Burk
BizarroCon 2013: The Scandalous Version by Tiffany Scandal
Alan M. Clark’s Advice for Aspiring Illustrators : Part One
Fear and Loathing in Portland: An Unexpurgated Interview with Lucius Shepard by Edward Morris
A Decade of Weird Fiction And Doing It Right: A Spotlight on Raw Dog Screaming Press by Gabino Iglesias
Conversations with the 2012 New Bizarro Authors by Spike Marlowe
Click here to buy!
BY JEFF BURK
It’s that time again – time for my favorite movies of the year! Like always, if you want to catch up on my previous Top Ten lists, you can check them out here:
2000 to 2009
I know this list is a little late but this time I waited until I saw every movie released in 2013 that I had an interest in seeing. I learned my lesson last list when I missed DJANGO UNCHAINED (which would have most likely placed at spot three). But I’m finally done with movies released in 2013 and saw a shit ton! Some of them were really good!
I’ve heard a lot of negatives about this year in movies and when I first started working on this list I was inclined to agree. Most of the offerings from major studios were pretty crappy (with two notable exceptions – we’ll get to them). But the realm of independent films was crazy awesome. If you knew where to look, you could find a treasure-trove of original and amazing films.
But it wasn’t all good. To get it out of the way, here are the two worst movies I saw in 2013:
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark/France) – If you want to watch ninety minutes of beautiful people staring blankly in well-shot scenes, this is the movie for you. If you care about pacing, plot, story, originality, or just aren’t a sucker for hipster wankfests, then stay far away.
LORDS OF SALEM (Rob Zombie, United States) – Holy shit, if there’s one person that should not make a tribute to Alejandro Jodorowsky – it’s Rob Zombie. Yet someone allowed him to. It was just a boring mess until the last twenty minutes when it plummeted into a laughably bad attempt at being “deep.” Also, how Zombie managed to get so many details of the music and radio business wrong is totally mind-blowing (and not in a good way).
Enough shit-talking, now let’s be positive!
TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2013
10: AFTERSHOCK (Nicolás López, United States/Chile)
Taking place in Chile, this is the first torture porn natural-disaster movie (at least that I’ve seen). Considering it was produced, starring, and written by Eli Roth (HOSTEL and CABIN FEVER), that should give you an idea of what it’s like. After an earthquake devastates a major city, the survivors must battle each other and the many aftershocks to stay alive. Vicious, violent, and willing to kill any character at any time – AFTERSHOCK is a fun romp for the viewer with a sadistic-streak.
9: WRONG (Quentin Dupieux, United States/France)
From the same twisted genius that gave the world a movie about a sentient car-tire that could make peoples’ heads explode (RUBBER), comes WRONG. This sophomore film is about a man whose dog is petnapped by a company that steals pets to teach the owners to love them more. But when the company loses his dog for real, the man begins a surreal and strange journey to track down his beloved pet. Nowhere near as meta as RUBBER but in many ways just as strange, WRONG is a bizarro film about how much of our heart our pets take with them when they leave.
8: V/H/S/2 (Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Timo Tjahjanto, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, Indonesia/Canada/United States)
The past few years have been great for horror anthology films. The sequel to 2012’s found footage horror fan-favorite V/H/S and this one example of the sequel blowing away the original . Almost all of the shorts surpass everything from the first entry in the series but special shout-outs need to go to Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans for the horrifying and intense Satanic-cult thriller “Safe Haven” and to Jason Eisener for the ridiculously original “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” – the only horror film I can name from the POV of a dog.
7: FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY (Richard Raaphorst, Netherlands)
During the end of WWII, a Russian special-forces team infiltrated a top-secret Nazi facility where they were attempting to make grotesque “super-soldiers.” Soon the Russian soldiers are caught in a fight-to-death battle with horrible monsters sprung from the mind of a fascist mad-scientist. The movie as a whole is fun and well-written but the special-effect designs are the true highlight. The creatures the soldiers must battle are surreal and grotesque and the most interesting monsters since HELLRAISER.
6: THE ABCS OF DEATH (Twenty-eight directors from fifteen countries)
The premise of this movie is insane – twenty-six short horror films, each by a different director(s), and each themed around a letter of the alphabet. This could have been a disaster but the fact that the shorts are (mostly) really good makes this one of the most interesting genre experiments in recent memory. While some of the directors obviously didn’t give a shit (I’m looking at you Andrew Traucki and Ti West) most of the directors used the opportunity to try and make a serious impact on the audience. The very fact this movie features a robot biting the head off a baby guarantees it a spot on my list.
My favorites shorts – D, H, L, P, Q, R, T, V, W, and Z
Before anyone points it out, the movie is in fact directed by twenty-eight people – two of the shorts are co-directed. The movie poster is wrong.
5: RESOLUTION (Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, United States)
A man goes to the middle-of-nowhere to try and save his friend from meth addiction by Tasering him and handcuffing him to his shack’s wall to force on detox. But while staying in the drug-den, the man begins to get strange packages of film and photos detailing scenes of horror and pain. To say much more would spoil the movie’s many surprises – but what starts off as a dark drama later turns into cosmic horror that would delight any fan of Lovecraft.
4: GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuarón, United States)
Two astronauts are stranded during a space-walk after an accident destroys their shuttle. So begins a ninety-minute survival tale in the vacuum of space. Simple and to-the-point, GRAVITY was the most thrilling most experience I had all year. Plus I saw it in IMAX 3D and this movie was the best use of the technology to date.
3: THE WORLD’S END (Edgar Wright, United Kingdom)
Finally, after too many years, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (the brilliant minds behind SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ) have been reunited! Their third film is another work of amazing genre inspired comedy. A man cons his five childhood best friends into joining him on a twelve-stop-pub-crawl in their mutual hometown that ends at a bar named “The World’s End.” But aliens and robots are going to get in the way of their attempt to reclaim lost youth. While a fun and drunken romp, at its core the movie is story about how you can never go home and why you’d never want to.
2: AMERICAN MARY (Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, Canada)
A med-school student is raped by her professor which causes her to quit her program. To make money, she takes what she learned of medicine and surgery to the underground body modification scene. And after some time learning new skills there, she uses her knowledge of extreme body-modification on the man who harmed her. Visually striking and horrific, all the scenes of bloody and grotesque horror are done with in-camera practical effects or with real-life members of the extreme body-mod community. Equally influenced by David Cronenberg and Eli Roth, AMERICAN MARY is the best hardcore horror flick of the year!
1: PACIFIC RIM (Guillermo del Toro, United States)
Giant robots punching giant monsters for two hours!
This panders so much to my personal tastes that in the hands of almost any director it would still place in my top ten. But instead we got one of the best modern filmmakers giving us something that makes me wish I could have seen this when I was nine-years-old . Can you imagine how much fun this movie must be for kids?
The best summer blockbuster since JURASSIC PARK.
I saw so many awesome movies this year, that they couldn’t all make my top ten list. Here are a few that were also great and worth your time:
Honorable Mentions: House Hunting, Spring Breakers, Big Ass Spider, Jug Face
So those were the best movies I saw in 2013. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.
MOVIE COMING OUT IN 2014 THAT I’M MOST EXCITED FOR:
It’s a good time to love giant monsters.
(Jeff Burk is the head-editor of DEADITE PRESS, ERASERHEAD PRESS’ horror imprint. He is also the author of SHATNERQUAKE, SUPER GIANT MONSTER TIME, CRIPPLE WOLF, and SHATNERQUEST. He has been a life-long horror fanatic and learned to read with reprints of TALES FROM THE CRYPT comic books.)
I love horror movies! I am completely obsessed with them. I try to watch every horror movie that comes out and seek out any title anyone recommends to me. My parents are responsible for this addiction. They were both horror freaks that introduced to me many classics of the genre at an early age. My Mom use to get me a Halloween present every year of a horror movie that she thought I should see (for the record, her favorite is THE HILLS HAVE EYES).
Over the years I’ve seen hundreds (goddamn, maybe into the thousands) of horror movies. From any country, any era, any budget – if it’s horror, I’ll watch it.
The Halloween season is upon us and I use to host horror movie marathons every year for my friends (now I lean more towards crazy parties but that’s another story). But I still like to rewatch my favorites during the season when I can find time. With that in mind, I spent a lot of time (maybe too much) internally debating and came up with the list of my twenty-three favorite horror movies. These are not what I would argue are the objectively “best” horror movies ever made – these are my personal favorites. These are the movies that I rewatch all the time and when someone asks for recommendations it’s something from this list.
Now let’s get this corn-syrup-and-red-dye-soaked party started!
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
1981, John Landis, USA/Britain
It seems so goddamn difficult to make a decent werewolf movie. But not only is AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON the best werewolf movie ever made (nothing comes close) it’s one of the best horror movies of all-time. Few movies can seamlessly switch from comedy to horror.
Rick Baker’s special effects are outstanding. The transformation has gone down in history as one of the best horror scenes ever put to film.
1980, Ruggero Deodato, Italy
In what may be the first found-footage-movie, a documentary team has gone missing in the jungle. When their footage turns up, a ground of producers watch it to decide if they want to release it as a nature documentary. What they find is the film crew being cruel and abusive to the natives and their eventual mutilation and devouring by the natives (no spoiler – it’s in the title).
For a low-budget exploitation gore flick, there is a surprising amount of intelligence on display. The movie asks a lot of questions about the differences between media and reality and the complicit role of the audience in violent entertainment.
But the real reason you watch this movie is to see how far it will go. This is one of the founding films of the hardcore horror sub genre. And there’s a reason why, to quote the film’s taglines this movie is “the one that goes all the way.”
Warning: this film does contain scenes of real animal death. The Italians just didn’t give a shit back then.
2005, Neil Marshall, Britain
Five women go on a spelunking trip to the middle of nowhere. But the cave they choose to explore is home to a race of monsters that eat anything they can catch. Now the five friends must battle their way out of the darkness if they don’t want to be dinner.
Marshall’s second film (his first being the awesome werewolf vs. soldiers epic DOG SOLDIERS) is an excellent study in intensity. The first act slowly introduces the characters and shit starts goes wrong in the cave immediately. By the time the monsters are introduced you’ll be practically falling off your couch with shock after shock. This movie also features my all-time favorite jump-scare – the camcorder scene (those that have seen the movie will know what I’m talking about).
Just make sure to see the original British cut of the film. The American edit cuts the last scene from the movie. It’s only about thirty-seconds missing but it changes the entire context of the story and neuters the film.
THE WOLF MAN
1941, George Waggner, USA
I said earlier that AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is the best werewolf movie ever made so why is this higher up on the list? Because THE WOLF MAN is my favorite of the old classic gothic horror films. Swamps shrouded in fog, old gypsy curses, classic special effects, and stellar performances from Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi make this a genre defining work.
While my tastes tend to lean towards the hyper-violent and sadistic, there is no denying the power and unique aesthetic the Universal horror line had.
THE WICKER MAN
1973, Edward Woodward, Britain
My favorite horror/murder mystery/occultic/musical. There has never been anything like THE WICKER MAN before or since. A fundamentalist Christian policeman is summoned to a small British island to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. To say anymore would spoil one of the most unique experiences in the horror genre.
THE WICKER MAN has been the victim of an extremely laughable remake and disappointing sequel (amazing mishandled by the writer/director of the original) but don’t let that dissuade you. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore and they never did.
TETSUO: THE IRON MAN
1989, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Japan
A style-over-substance (and I mean that as a compliment) masterpiece of nightmare filmmaking. A man gets a literal infection of technology that results in wires and machine parts overtaking his body and the loss of his humanity. Shot in grainy black-and-white, the movie is one surreal scene of horror after another.
TETSUO: THE IRON MAN is the perfect combination of American-style exploitation sensibilities with the genre-defying-craziness the Japanese horror scene is known for.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2
2011, Tom Sixx, USA/Britain/Netherlands
The first HUMAN CENTIPEDE movie was a fun little mad scientist flick. Somehow it developed a reputation in the mainstream as one of the most extreme and gross movies ever made. Exactly how that happened completely escapes me considering A SERBIAN FILM was released around the same time – but we’ll get to that later in the list. The first was original but far from graphic.
Sixx heard criticism that the movie wasn’t that extreme from the horror scene and took it to heart for his sequel. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 takes place in “the real world” and stars an obsessed fan of the first film trying to create his own Human Centipede. What the first film only suggested at, the sequel shows in explicit detail. For someone twisted like me that seeks out the most outrageous and sick movies, this is a goldmine.
What really elevates this movie is how it is filmed in pseudo-art-house style. The first half of the movie almost comes across as a parody of David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD. The use of black-and-white actually makes the gore even more graphic. But there is one use of color in the movie. Brown. Can you guess how that is used?
1981, Lucio Fulci, Italy
THE BEYOND is a psychedelic nightmare captured on film. It ignores logic for the sake of creating an atmosphere in which any kind of horror could happen at any moment. Fulci’s vision of a small town that contains a gateway to hell itself is a ignores any sense of rationality in favor of sheer madness. Zombies, eye-violence, and exploding heads litter this surreal and unnerving piece of European art-house exploitation. While Fulci made many other films worthy of praise (notably CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and ZOMBI 2) he never matched the mind-bending terror of THE BEYOND.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
1974, Tobe Hooper, USA
I would argue that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (which I’ll talk about later) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE have defined modern horror. Everyone in the genre owes a huge gratitude to those two movies. Made during the height of the Vietnam War, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE perfectly reflects a world gone insane with no one seemly in control. The flower-power hippie generation was over and this movie was one of the nails in their coffin.
Horror fanboy pet peeve – It bugs me so much when people reference how bloody this movie is. There is almost no blood or gore in the entire film. Almost everything is very cleverly implied. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE should be held up as a masterpiece of suggestive filmmaking instead of cheap gory horror.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON
1945, Jack Arnold, USA
Breaking from Universal’s trend of adapting novels, plays, and legends – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON stands out as the only truly original creation from the classic movie monster line. Set not in a gothic castle or a dank swamp but the sunny Amazon River, there is little that invokes the Universal style but for one thing – the monster. The Creature is the pinnacle of man-in-a-rubber-suit monster design. Played by two talented, and uncredited, actors, the Creature demands awe every time it appears on screen.
It was originally released in 3D and it always had been a dream of mine to see it that way. Recently I got to attend a revival showing in the original 3D – wow! The classic scene of the Creature swimming beneath Julia Adams never looked more beautiful or surreal.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
1995, John Carpenter, USA
The best Lovecraftian movie ever made to never reference H. P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu, or black magic spell-books. Sam Neil (aka “hey, it’s that guy from JURASSIC PARK”) stars as an insurance investigator hired by a book publisher to investigate the disappearance of superstar horror author Sutter Cane. So begins a film that starts as a dark murder-mystery and veers very quickly in surreal nightmare territory.
What Carpenter got right that so many directors of more explicitly Cthulhu Mythos films got wrong was the sense of meaningless and mind-bending terror in the face of forces much greater than yourself.
1992, Peter Jackson, New Zealand
The goriest (in terms of gallons of blood on screen) zombie movie ever made! This ultra-gore/comedy is one of the most fun films ever made. Each scene will have you squirming and howling with laughter. There is a kinetic energy in this movie that is unmatched. Once you make it to the scene of the Kung-Fu Priest kicking ass for the Lord, you’ll be completely in love. There is no greater crowd-pleaser than DEAD ALIVE.
It still shocks me that the man who made this would later go on to adapt THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
1994, Nacho Cerdà, Spain
The easiest way to sum up this short film is it’s the most beautiful film about necrophilia that you will ever see. No joke. The movie is essentially one long scene of a mortician fucking a corpse. Cerdà took an extremely ugly subject matter but presents it through stunningly gorgeous filmmaking techniques to create an extremely affective art-house gore flick.
1982, John Carpenter, USA
The best sci-fi/horror film ever made. A research expedition in Antarctica finds an alien spaceship buried in the ice. But when it turns out the creature onboard is not dead and can shape-shift at will while infecting other life-forms, the team must stop the monster before it can reach the mainland and take over civilization.
THE THING is a masterclass in paranoia. No matter how many times you see it, moments like the blood-test scene and the creature’s amazing transformations never lose their power to shock.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
1968, George A. Romero, USA
The first modern horror film. Before this almost all horror movies were in the Universal/Hammer vein. But NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD took the horror out of gothic castles and English swamps and placed it modern America. It also single-handedly created the modern concept of zombies.
Romero’s first film still has the power to shock. The scenes of the zombies eating flesh were amongst the most graphic images put to film for its time. Some of the scenes involving race and child death are still too ballsy for many directors working today.
And that ending. Dear god. It might be the best ending to any horror movie. Unlike PYSCHO, the shocking finale surprise has not become a pop-culture stable. If you somehow haven’t seen NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, drop what you’re doing and go watch it. Even all these decades later it’s still a bleak and soul-crushing vision.
2006, Eli Roth, USA
The film to kick-start the torture-porn trend. Because of how influential it was, many forget what a breath of fresh air it was after the SCREAM-rip-off and PG-13 ghost dominated 90’s. HOSTEL brought the viciousness back to horror.
It was also the quintessential post-9/11 film. It’s world of Americans being bought and sold for torture perfectly reflected the nation mood in the same way the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE did for the Vietnam-era.
Roth also showed filmmaking techniques and intelligence that his many imitators and detractors missed. The film half of the film with the tourist’s exploitation of local women is directly mirrored in the second half with their own violent exploitation. Shots and music cues are directly reused but under dramatically different circumstances.
While torture-porn has been regarded as nothing more than cheap prurient trash, Eli Roth proved with HOSTEL that it can be used to make real art.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD
2004, Edgar Wright, Britain
The funniest horror comedy ever made! A group of slacker friends decide to wait out the zombie apocalypse at their favorite bar. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg demonstrate a hopeless love and adoration for the horror genre as they go through shout-outs to almost every zombie film you could name. And you don’t have to be a horror-nerd to love the movie. Their wit and creative gags will entertain anyone who watches. While Wright and Pegg have an incredible body of work (the TV series SPACED and films HOT FUZZ and THE WORLD’S END), their tribute to the horror genre is far and away their best work.
THE EVIL DEAD
1981, Sam Raimi, USA
The originator of the “Cabin in the Woods” horror archetype. Five friends go to a cabin, find a cursed book, and accidentally release demons. While the series is remembered as a comedy because of THE EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS. The first film is straight-up hardcore horror.
DEADITE PRESS is named after the villains of this movie. To me THE EVIL DEAD is in many ways the ideal horror film. Graphic violence, colorful monsters, and surreal breakdowns all combine into a genre-redefining experience that still shocks.
That pencil scene still makes me squirm.
POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD
2006, Lloyd Kaufman, USA
All hail Troma, the kings of trash! No one does low-budget gore, tasteless nudity, and bad taste better than Troma Studios. Founded by director Lloyd Kaufman, they are the oldest independent film studio in the world and have never backed down from their mission of genre anarchy.
While they are best known for THE TOXIC AVENGER and THE CLASS OF NUKE’M HIGH, Kaufman’s greatest achievement is the zombie/gore/comedy/musical POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. There is no taboo that director Lloyd Kaufman does not approach with gleeful abandon. A corpse finger butt-plug, a talking Hispanic sloppy joe, and dancing-and-singing zombie-chicken-demon hybrids are just some of the insanity in this masterpiece.
TOKYO GORE POLICE
2008, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Japan
This is just totally bat-shit insane! Taking place in the future, the Japanese police force is dedicated to taking out “Engineers,” which are basically genetically-mutated living weapons. There is little disputing that the Japanese make some of the most genre-defying films in the entire world and this is the cream-of-the-crop. This is part horror/sci-fi gore and part anarchist satire. TOKYO GORE POLICE is ROBOCOP for the torture-porn generation.
Stunning special effects, outrageous creature design, and fountains of gore make this a truly unforgettable viewing experience.
A SERBIAN FILM
2010, Srdjan Spasojevic, Serbia
Milos is a retired porn star but financial troubles and the promise of a huge payday have pulled him back to do one last film. The catch is he can’t read the script or know what the scenes are about until they start filming. If you think you already know where the movie is going – you’re wrong. It goes to much darker and nastier places than any other movie has dared.
This and THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 are easily the two most visually graphic movies ever made. Nothing is left to the imagination and everything is shown in explicit detail. But the obscenities that A SERBIAN FILM revels in are unrivaled in all of hardcore horror (only SALO comes close).
It’s difficult to recommend this film due to how far it goes. This one’s only for the real fans of extreme cinema. It makes the SAW series look like Disney flicks.
1983, David Cronenberg, Canada
The concept of losing one’s identity is common in horror but no film does it better than VIDEODROME. Max Renn runs a television station that specializes in cheap sleaze and he’s always looking for the next perversion he can market. When he stumbles across a pirate TV broadcast of what might be a real snuff show, he gets sucked into a dark underworld of sex, torture, and technology.
Cronenberg is known for his intellectual body-horror and nothing shows off his skills better than VIDEODROME. This film almost makes more sense if it were to come out now instead of thirty years ago. It’s commentary on losing one’s identity to social technology is shockingly relevant to today’s age of Facebook and Twitter. It’s not often that one can say a film is truly visionary but Cronenberg did it here.
DEATH TO VIDEODROME! LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!
1987, Clive Barker, Britain
My all-time favorite horror movie! From the incredible monsters, the puzzle-box, the moody soundtrack, and gothic set-up – this one has it all!! From the iconic opening scene to the many creative tortures and deaths, this movie never lets up.
What really separates HELLRAISER from the rest of the eighties horror boom is its villains are not motivated by unexplained cruelty or revenge but pleasure. The characters are seeking the ultimate pleasures of heaven and hell – they just have to kill a few people to get there. I once read a review that put forward the idea that you could replace every moment of spurting blood with cum and the movie still makes sense.
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful horror film ever made. Every shot oozes with equal parts moody atmosphere and body fluids. Clive Barker’s design work for the Cenobites and Hell are unmatched in how they combine equal parts fetish-sex and terror.
The title HELLRAISER wasn’t decided upon until well into the movie’s production. Fun titles that were tossed around by the crew include SADOMASOCHISTS FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE and WHAT A WOMAN WILL DO FOR A GOOD FUCK. I think both capture the movie’s themes quite well.
What do you think of my list? What are your favorite horror flicks? Let me know in the comments.
This Thursday in Portland, Oregon!
Bizarro Central Presents an evening of Bizarro Fiction, Comedy, Music, and Circus Acts in Celebration of H.P. Lovecraft at Portland’s only H.P. Lovecraft themed bar!
This is a very special event celebrating the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival – a Portland institution and horror tradition. Come get drunk beneath the elder sign with us!
AND THAT’S NOT ALL – this is also the book release party for SHATNERQUEST by Jeff Burk. The sequel to Eraserhead Press’ 2009 cult hit SHATNERQUAKE.
Sideshow performer extraordinaire performing death defying feats and nauseating stunts!
The author of CTHULHU COMES TO THE VAMPIRE KINGDOM will summon the deep one himself.
Dark noise and electronic music from one of Portland’s premiere nightmare sound designers.
ROSS E. LOCKHART
The author of CHICK BASSIST and editor of BOOK OF CTHULHU VOL 1 & 2 with some hard-knock punk rock life lessons.
HOSTED BY JEFF BURK
The author of SHATNERQUEST with a guide of what to do in case of a giant William Shatner Attack
You don’t want to miss this weirdo literary musical sideshow!
Thursday, May 2
8:00 pm to 10:00 pm
The Lovecraft Bar
321 SE Grand Ave
Facebook Event Page
Bizarro Central Presents is a continuing series of Portland events curated by Jeff Burk featuring bizarro authors and friends of bizarro.