It’s getting close to the Halloween season and the time of year in which everyone goes nuts for horror. It’s also the time of year in which people start trying to figure out what their 31 Days of Halloween movie list will be. Any self-respecting horror fan knows that this is the season for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and A NIGHTMARE OF ELM STREET but what if you are looking for recommendations that aren’t the most famous examples of the genre?
I find it frustrating looking for “underrated” horror recommendations. Most of the time it is lists that includes movies like MARTYRS, SUSPIRIA, or AUDITION. Come on! Every single horror fan has seen those movies (if you haven’t, you’re a horror novice). With that in mind, I tried to create a list of horror movies that most self-identified horror fans actually haven’t seen. There are ghost movies, creature features, and hardcore gore flicks here. No matter where your tastes to the genre lay, there’s bound to be a few on this list that you’ll dig and haven’t seen – yet.
FIEND WITHOUT A FACE – Arthur Crabtree, United Kingdom, 1958
(Classic Hollywood Creature Feature)
Invisible aliens that eat nuclear energy and steal human brains and spinal columns to use as bodies are invading!
Everybody loves a good old-fashioned monster movie but so few have seen this great and crazy independent production. While the classic Universal and Hammer films still enjoy popularity this one has slipped into obscurity (even with the Criterion Collection backing it). It’s drenched with classic 50’s paranoia and nuclear war themes but what really makes this stand-out is the amazing monster design. Disembodies brains with antennas and spines for tails are brought to life with wonderful stop-motion animation.
There’s a special charm to the horror of this era and FIEND WITHOUT A FACE is a great demonstration of that aesthetic.
SOLE SURVIVOR – Thom Eberhardt, United States, 1983
(Before FINAL DESTINATION and IT FOLLOWS There Was This)
This is a really cool little gem from the 80’s that seems to be just now finding its audience. A woman is the sole survivor of a plane crash. As she goes back to her life she begins to suffer from “survivor’s syndrome” – an overwhelming feeling that she should have died. Then strange silent people begin to stalk her as she suspects “death” is coming to claim her.
Oddly overlooked when it was released, horror fans are beginning to embrace this almost direct combination of FINAL DESTINATION and IT FOLLOWS – that was just made decades before them. A suspenseful and engaging slow-burn that culminates with a completely out of left field (in a good way) third act.
ANGUISH aka ANGUSTIA – Bigas Luna, Spain, 1988
(A Movie That Is Really More Frightening Now Than When It Was Released)
For the first twenty minutes of this movie you’re going to be wondering why I recommend it. It starts off really cheesy and bad but at about the one third point something happens and it all beings to make sense. Then when the real movie starts you’ll be filled with dread as you realize where this is all headed.
This is the very rare movie that is more disturbing now than when it was released. When this was made the plot was just a horrible fantasy but the events have come true in modern day United States. Trust me, go into this one blind. Don’t read any descriptions or watch any trailers as they give away the twists and reveal the “real” plot.
Every other movie on this list but two get a trailer. This is the first one that you really shouldn’t watch the trailer for.
GHOSTWATCH – Stephen Volk, United Kingdom, 1992
(“Live TV” Gone So Very Wrong)
This movie is a wonderful surprise considering how many strikes it has against itself. It’s made-for-TV, it’s a mockumentary, and large segments are straight-up found footage. No matter your opinions on those techniques, you gotta check this out if you’re looking for a seriously creepy movie.
The BBC is doing a live Halloween broadcast of a supernatural investigation into a supposedly haunted house. The movie cuts back and forth from the studio with the “show’s” host and various guests to the location crew. It shouldn’t be a surprise that everything goes wrong (this is a horror movie) but not in the ways you would guess. This movies goes in some very unexpected directions. Seeing this when it first aired must have been crazy as the BBC did not advertise that the Halloween special was a “movie.”
For this one I don’t have the trailer but you can watch the entire movie on YouTube here:
NECRONOMICON – Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans and Shusuke Kaneko,
United States, 1993
(90’s Cthulhu Mythos Special Effects Extravaganza)
Considering how popular movies based on H.P. Lovecraft stories and the Cthulhu Mythos have become, I’m always shocked that this movie isn’t more well-known. Hell, this flick has never even been released on DVD.
A three story anthology with segments loosely based on the stories “the Rats in the Walls,” “Cool Air,” and “the Whisper in the Darkness.” Each story has that 90’s low budget horror feel. Monsters and mad scientists fill every minute of the movie and there’s even a giant Cthulhu made with practical effects.
Plus a great wrap-around story starring Jeffrey Combs as H.P. Lovecraft investigating the fabled Necronomicon at Miskatonic University make this a ton of horror fun.
DAY OF THE BEAST aka EL DÍA DE LA BESTIA – Álex de la Iglesia, Spain, 1995
(80’s Style Satanic Adventure)
A priest becomes convinced that the Anti-Christ is about to be born and he must make contact with the devil to stop this from happening. He enlists a metalhead to help him commit as many sins as he can in order to sell his soul and double-cross the prince of darkness. After also getting the help of a TV host who specializes in the occult, the trio go on a drug-fueled adventure to save humanity from Hell.
This movie is SO much fun! If you long for the days of 80’s tongue-in-cheek adventure horror (think RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and RE-ANIMATOR) you’ll love this. Bright psychedelic colors and non-stop satanic imagery make this movie go down great with a few beers.
And who doesn’t want to watch a priest push random people down subway steps?
DEADGIRL – Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, UNITED STATES, 2008
(Young Boys and a Chained-Up Zombie Chick – It Goes Bad)
This one’s fucking grim.
A group of high school boys discover a naked chained-up zombie chick in an abandoned house. After some debate the boys decide that they aren’t going to tell anyone and they are going to use the zombie as their sex slave. This movie takes the concept of an adolescent male sex fantasy and turns it into a dark and disturbing tale of how far people will go when nobody’s watching.
Written by Trent Haaga who is best known for his work on the playful gore flick made by Troma studios but there’s no sign of Troma’s joy on display here. This is just pure pitch-black hardcore horror.
TRIANGLE – Christopher Smith, United Kingdom, 2009
(Completely Mind-Blowing Horror/Sci-Fi Trip)
A group of friends go out for a summer sailing trip. When a sudden freak storm trashes their boat they are left stranded at sea. They think they are saved when an ocean liner shows up but then they discover that the ship is abandoned. Or at least they think it is…
TRIANGLE is one of those wonderful unsung gems that once you watch it you have to recommend it to everyone you know. The problem is what makes this movie truly excellent is all things I can’t tell you about. The joy to this movie is watching its mysteries slowly develop and how every time you think you know what is “really” going on the movie pulls the rug out from under you.
This is another movie that gives away the twists in the trailer so I can’t share it with you.
GROTESQUE aka GUROTESUKU – Kôji Shiraishi, Japan, 2009
(Seriously Fucked-Up Shit)
A young couple are kidnapped on their first date by a crazy “doctor.” They awake tied down to gurneys and the man begins his psychological and physical torture. No film on this list is more appropriately named – this is a truly grotesque straight-up gore flick. In order to enjoy this one you gotta be the type of person OK with eyeball popping, genital torture, and mutilation to every part of the body in-between.
This one goes so far over-the-top in its violence that numerous retailers around the world have refused to sell it and the movie is officially banned in the U.K. (that’s right – they still ban movies).
DREAM HOME – Pang Ho-cheung, Hong Kong, 2010
(Gore/Home Invasion Ramped-Up to 11)
A woman has been saving to purchase her “dream” apartment but right when she’s going to close the deal it all falls apart. This breaks her and she goes on a vicious murder spree through the apartment building she wanted to live in.
Intense, action-packed, gory as all Hell – this is one wild ride. Some of the gore effects and set-pieces are jaw-dropping in how far they go. It moves with the break-neck speed Hong Kong action movies are known for but how it compliments that with exploitation sensibilities is what really makes DREAM HOME stand-out.
HELLDRIVER aka HERUDORAIBĀ – Yoshihiro Nishimura, Japan, 2010
(Japanese Weirdo Action Gore Freak-Out)
From the “Tom Savini of Japan” who brought the world the amazing TOKYO GORE POLICE comes another modern classic of Japanese splatter. A meteor brings a zombie epidemic to Japan but these aren’t no ordinary zombies – they are fast, can think (sort of), and can even combine their body parts to make organic cars and planes.
The story focuses on a group of people attempting to track down the “head” zombie but, honestly, plot isn’t the big focus here. The movie is much more concerned with its crazy special effects and set-pieces that feel like they were pulled directly out of an anime.
DETENTION – Joseph Kahn, United States, 2011
(Smart Bizarro Teen Horror/Sci-Fi/Comedy)
I almost don’t even know where to begin with this movie – that’s how fucking insane it is.
It innocuously starts off as a story about a group of teens in detention being hunted by a serial killer. But soon time travel, body swapping, and even a grizzly bear from outer space turn this into one of the most fun genre-bending flicks you’ll ever see. Funny, smart, and completely unafraid to go balls-to-the-wall insane at a moment’s notice.
Imagine if Carlton Mellick III wrote SCREAM and got Lloyd Kaufman to direct. That’s what DETENTION is like.
INBRED – Alex Chandon, United Kingdom, 2011
(Sadistic Hillbilly Horror with a Smile)
I love torture porn and this was one that completely passed me by on first release. It enjoys a cult-following in the U.K. but was sadly missed by the sickos in the rest of the world.
A group of students are trapped by townspeople in the middle-of-nowhere and are forced to perform in a gruesome live circus/snuff show. This is the type of shit that would fill H.G. Lewis with glee and will leave the gore-hounds howling. You can practically feel how much fun the director is having putting the characters through pure hell.
If you like your horror mean-spirited, gory, and action-packed, boy do I have one for you here!
THE BAY – Barry Levinson, United States, 2012
(Eco-Horror and the Best Argument for the Found Footage Format)
Found footage gets a lot of shit – and rightly so. Overwhelming it is a technique to hide poor filmmaking and a complete lack of competent character writing. Due to the overwhelming laziness in most uses of the filmmaking technique (quick pet peeve – FF is a filmmaking technique NOT a genre) most viewers outright dismiss any movie using it.
Which is what makes THE BAY so brilliant – it shows what everyone else is doing wrong and tells a story that could only be told by using FF. A deadly parasite infects the water of the Chesapeake Bay and leads to an environmental disaster. The viewer is placed on the front lines as the movie uses phone videos, security camera footage, Skype calls, news footage, and more to detail the deaths of hundreds.
COHERENCE – James Ward Byrkit, United Kingdom, 2013
(A Dinner Party in the Twilight Zone)
A group of friends are having a dinner party when a blackout occurs. They make the best of it but begin to get bored and suspicious. When they go outside they see one house up the street has power. They investigate and so kicks off a surreal nightmare that would have made Rod Serling proud.
This is a fantastic example of how a clever artist can accomplish so much with so very little. With just a budget of $50,000, the movie uses ingenious tricks to melt-down reality with just a properly placed knock at the door or just a simple piece of paper.
LANDMINE GOES CLICK – Levan Bakhia, United States, 2015
(Just Pure Cruel Fucked-Up Shit)
Three American tourists are on a hiking trip when one of them steps on a landmine. What at first seems like an accident quickly becomes apparent that it is not. Now trapped on top of an explosive device, the tourist must figure out how he will survive.
This may sound like that is just an action thriller but make no mistake – this is nasty hardcore horror. Torture and sexual violence make this into one mean-spirited piece of cinema. And just when you think you know where everything is going, the movie completely turns on its head.
RESOLUTION – Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorehead, United States, 2012
(Paranoia and Cosmic Horror In The Middle Of Nowhere – With Meth)
Benson and Moorehead are quickly becoming hot on the indy horror scene. 2014’s romance horror hybrid, SPRING, drummed up a ton of praise on the festival circuit but their skill was already apparent with their 2011 debut.
A guy gets a message from his former best friend who is now living strung-out on drugs in the woods. He goes there with an extreme plan to help him – he’s going to handcuff his friend to the wall, take care of him, and once the detox is over give him a choice to go back to drugs or come back to the city with him. But there’s other people and things in the woods that is going to make his plan a lot more difficult.
This low budget marvel starts off as a kind of sleazy thriller but evolves into Lovecraftian cosmic horror. It’s truly amazing how much the directors were able to pull off with so little. This movie also features my all-time favorite zero-budget scare.
So there’s my recommendations for you! I hope you seek out the ones that sound interesting to you and give more exposure to these overlooked horror gems.
In October I will be doing my own 31 Days of Horror in which I’ll be watching and writing short reviews on 31 movies that I haven’t seen. You’ll be able to follow my progress at www.JeffBurk.wordpress.com
Happy Haunting, everyone!
Jeff Burk is the author of four bizarro books, the head-editor of Deadite Press, and the host of the Jeff Attacks Podcast. He loves gore, monsters, and kitties.
By Jeff Burk
It’s that time again – my favorite movies of 2015! But if you want to see what I liked previous years, check out these links:
Wow, 2015 was an amazing year for movies. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a hard time narrowing down to ten favorite films. This was a year that genre films ruled – horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and action all got amazing contributions to their field.
After an extremely weak showing in 2014, horror bounced back this year. While art-horror family dramas are still receiving all the buzz (I’m looking at you, GOODNIGHT, MOMMY) there was plenty of weirdo, gory, and transgressive movies being released in the underground. Hell, there were so many that I didn’t even get to see everything I wanted to this year (namely a ton of underground Japanese movies that I wasn’t aware of until the end of the year).
Mainstream mass release movies were also bit by the genre bug this year with MAD MAX, THE AVENGERS, and STAR WARS dominating the box office and best-of lists (but none of those movies are on my top ten). It’s hard to miss the fact that those three movies are all sequels. I frequently hear people bemoan the number of sequels and remakes released and that “there’s no new ideas.” In reality, there’s plenty of original and great movies coming out – you just have to look for them/actually watch them. I was very pleased when I realized that my top ten list doesn’t have a single sequel or remake.
In terms of original filmmaking, 2015 may have been the best year of the 10’s thus far.
Enough buildup, let’s get to the list!
HONORABLE MENTIONS OF 2015: THE VOICES, IT FOLLOWS, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, CAM GIRLZ, EX MACHINA, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3, ATTACK ON TITAN, UNFRIENDED, THE VISIT, and DEEP DARK.
All those movies listed above are worth checking out – there was just so much good shit this year! But I had to have favorites, and here they are:
10: CHAPPIE (Neill Blomkamp, United States)
We got two sci-fi movies this year that dealt with the concept of artificial intelligence. EX MACHINA was the critical darling and I get why – it’s technically excellent. But I preferred CHAPPIE. While EM stuck to one aspect of A.I. to explore it fully, CHAPPIE gloriously throws everything against the wall and doesn’t give a shit if it sticks – family, religion, government, law, personal responsibility, and tons more weighty topics are hit one after another in a movie over-flowing with ideas and passion.
Plus, Die Antwood playing the main characters was the most inspired casting of any film this year.
9: EVERLY (Joe Lynch, United States)
Joe Lynch (KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM) finally returns and this time he has a movie that he actually had full control of! Salma Hayek plays a prostitute (Everly) who is targeted by the Yakuza after they discover she has been working with the police. What follows is ninety minutes of pure blood-soaked chaos. Lynch shows what a creative mind can do with a relatively low budget and amazingly sets almost the entire movie in one room and hallway. The limited sets and claustrophobic feeling only add to the desperation as Everly fights off wave after wave of attackers.
In a year in which female stars in action movies got a lot of attention, EVERLY went sadly beneath most viewers’ radar. Fuck Furiosa. Fuck Rey. Everly was the most badass woman on the silver screen this year.
8: CLOWN (Jon Watts, United States/Canada)
I love movies like this, an absolutely ridiculous premise but played deathly serious. The movie is about a man who puts on a demon-possessed clown costume and now he is turning into a clown/demon with a taste for children. As absurd as that sounds, the movie never goes for laughs and instead embraces the surreal terror of the situation. This was the surprise body-horror hit of the year for me. If you dig twisted shit like early Cronenberg, TUSK, or the HUMAN CENTIPEDE series – you need to check this out.
Plus, the entire movie is about killing children. Which I always argue we need more of in film.
7: CALL ME LUCKY (Bobcat Goldthwait, United States)
Who would have thought that a documentary made by Bobcat Goldthwait about stand-up comedian Barry Crimmins would be the darkest film of the year. The movie starts off as a documentary about a comedian but then the viewer finds out about a violent rape Crimmins suffered as a child. The documentary shifts then into the story of Crimmins being one of the first people to begin to expose the predatory online practices of pedophiles.
By the end of this movie you will be furious at law enforcement, organized religion, and internet providers that all “allowed” more children to become victims. This is powerful, disturbing, and, yet by the end, strangely life-affirming.
Goldthwait has been proving himself over recent years to be one of the most interesting working filmmakers out there (GOD BLESS AMERICA, WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, and SLEEPING DOGS LIE) and this is his best, and heaviest, yet.
6: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (Matthew Vaughn, United States/United Kingdom)
From the wonderfully crass and over-the-top combination of Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar (that gave up the glorious KICK-ASS series) comes another ultra-violent destruction of genre tropes. This time they set their eyes on James Bond and other spy movies. They ramp up the sexism, nationalism, and violence of the spy genre to eleven to create a vicious satire pointing out how fucked-up those movies are. Crass, irreverent, and gleefully nihilistic – if more spy movies were like this, I might actually care about the genre.
And the church fight was one of the best scenes in any movie this year.
5: WE ARE STILL HERE (Ted Geoghegan, United States)
This was a wonderful horror shocker that seemed to come out of nowhere. A haunted house story with some very, very gory surprises. I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling things but I haven’t seen a movie in many years that invoked so much of the feel of the 70’s and 80’s Italian horror. Nightmare logic, surreal villains, and vicious violence made this the best straight-up horror film of the year.
It feels so much like a lost Fulci film. Seriously, what else do I need to say?
4: DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III (Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet, and Jon Salmon, United States)
From the people behind 5-Second Films comes the greatest slasher parody of all-time. Presenting itself as a lost movie from the 80’s, this movie hilariously deconstructs and gender-flips every trope from the era to create movie where you truly have no idea what will happen from minute to minute.
I could go on and on about the creative brilliance on display here but that would take away from the film’s many surprises. If you like stupidly clever, low-budget trash (think Troma and Astron-6), you’ll love this movie.
3: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, New Zealand)
Considering that this movie is practically on everyone’s top ten of the year list, I don’t have much to add to the conversation. Other than the fact that there’s a reason this was on everyone’s list – it’s easily the funniest movie of the year. If, somehow, you haven’t heard of this vampire mockumentary, unfuck that and watch the trailer below.
2: YAKUZA APOCALYPSE (Takashi Miike, Japan
Takashi Miike (ICHI: THE KILLER, HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, DEAD OR ALIVE, and many more) finally returns to his weirdo cult roots and gives us a film packed with vampires, martial arts, and the world’s greatest terrorist wearing a full-body frog costume. This is a special type of movie for a special type of person – most people would HATE this movie. But if you’re like me and enjoy absurdism, nonsensical violence, and scenes over-flowing with pure weird, you’ll find a lot to love here.
1: SPRING (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, United States)
Here we are, my favorite movie of the year and it’s a romance. Seriously.
SPRING is the second film from the genius writer/director pair that gave us RESOLUTION (which is one of my favorite horror movies of the past few years) and they have returned with a film that is truly something special and completely unique. Combing romance with pure Lovecraftian cosmic horror in a manner that neither genre overwhelms the other was a balancing act that should be impossible but, somehow, SPRING nails it.
I wish I could tell you more but it is really best to go into this movie blind. Great acting, amazing cinematography, gorgeous sets, and a fantastic script made this into the standout of the year for me.
Between RESOLUTION and now SPRING, Benson and Moorhead are at the top of my list of new horror filmmakers to keep an eye on.
WHAT AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2016
ABATTOIR (Darren Lynn Bousman, United States)
I’m a sucker for a good haunted house movie and ABATTOIR has one of the most original spins on the concept that I’ve ever heard. It’s about someone who “makes” a haunted house by taking rooms from other houses that were the scenes of violent crimes and assembling them together into a new house. It’s such a simple and brilliant idea. There’s no release date yet but I’m hoping I don’t have to wait too long to see it.
So that’s my list for 2015. Agree? Think I’m full of shit? Let me know in the comments.
And before everyone starts asking, I didn’t like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (yep, there are people that didn’t like that movie) and I didn’t see STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (I’m more of STAR TREK and DOCTOR WHO kinda guy).
Deadite Press head editor, Jeff Burk (Shatnerquake, Super Giant Monster Time, Cripple Wolf, and Shatnerquest), has started a new podcast about weirdo artists, strange creators, bizarre performers, and shit he thinks is cool.
The first five episodes are now live and feature interviews with Andrew Goldfarb, MP Johnson,.Pedro Proença, and Veronica Chaos.
Readings from Cameron Pierce, Rios De La Luz, J David Osborne, Matthew T. Granberry, and Nathan Carson.
Plus music from The Slow Poisoner, Anti-Venöm, Mandy De Sandra, The Stupid Stupid Henchmen, and the world premiere of a brand new song from Night Gaunts!
Go check it out!
by Garrett Cook
A lot of people told me it would be a bad idea to write a blog post using The Human Centipede 3 to dispense writing advice. So I sewed them together. It’s clearly something that’s done nowadays. Sewing human beings together anus to mouth? Pretty commonplace. Nobody told me I shouldn’t do this. That was a joke. But anyway, you probably think an article full of writing advice using this series is perverse, stupid and a waste of time. The Human Centipede looks like a poo joke that has gone on way too long and should be probably have been shut down…well, three films ago. In certain ways, the film’s writer and director Tom Six would agree with you. Making a movie about a human centipede is, as an idea, about as viable as making an actual human centipede.
Thing is, I saw The Human Centipede 3 and it surprised me a lot. The Human Centipede 3 might be better than the book you’re working on right now. It might be smarter, funnier and more thoughtful. It might have more compelling characters. It might have more tenable and interesting central themes. It might be braver, more intense and more “fun” (everyone’s idea of fun is different. If this makes you projectile vomit, you ain’t havin’ fun). I’m not saying your book is garbage or obsessed with scatology or that it would be better if it was but this film has some lessons to teach.
It doesn’t matter what a protagonist is up to, you should be rooting for them
The first thing I noticed about The Human Centipede 3 is that you apparently have nobody to root for. The film is set in a prison, whose warden, Bill Boss (Dieter Laser) is like the maniacal lovechild of Charlie Sheen and The Red Skull, with some Boss Hogg thrown in for good measure. He’s a screaming, violent, torture obsessed, clitoris eating (yes, literally that) creep. There is nothing admirable or beautiful about this man. He is one of the most fearsome monsters our penal system could possibly create.
But his longsuffering accountant (played by Laurence Harvey) has a vision and a mission. The film begins with him showing the warden the first two films in the franchise and telling him he has an idea. You know what this character’s idea is. You should be inwardly squirming. Or maybe, if you’re watching this movie to see a Human Centipede (as opposed to watching it to hear the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby) then you’re excited. You watch this character constantly hassled, neglected, shouted at and turned down. He becomes an underdog determined to refine a system that he believes is flawed and disgusting. When you see the warden cause a great deal of carnage and torture, you can see that he certainly is.
The film makes you feel sad for this man. It makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with this warden and it makes you angry that he is not listening to the idea that will change everything. The power to change the world the viewer is inhabiting now falls on the shoulders of this character, who openly displays compassion for the boss’ sexually exploited secretary, who is telling him that torture doesn’t work and is trying to encourage some modicum of stability and sanity. And all this poor, tortured, misunderstood and sensitive creatures wants is a chance to prove himself by sewing several hundred people together ass to mouth.
Wait, what? Are you actually feeling bad for and sitting around waiting for the triumph of a guy who wants to sew several hundred people together ass to mouth? This man has all the traits of a feel good underdog hero. He is beleaguered, he is surrounded by evil people, he is working to change an oppressive system and he needs to reach someone to be heard. This guy is Nikolai Tesla, a man with a dream of a better future who is being stomped on by a corrupt system. He is shouted down so many times for so long, that it doesn’t matter anymore what it is that he has to say, he has become somehow sympathetic.
Characters we love are people we follow the gates of Hell. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is a womanizing drunk firmly entrenched in the military/industrial complex who is trying to save the world with killer robots and a semilegal suit of armor that fires bursts of energy. Enid of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World is a jaded, cruel, narcissistic, condescending antisocial teen who is twice as mean as any of the people around her and yet she has become a role model and hero to many disenfranchised young women. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana is a guy who we end up feeling for and hoping that he’ll clean up his life and come out on top…even though he deals cocaine and chopped up a guy with a chainsaw that one time. Hell, Bill Moseley and Sid Haig as Otis Driftwood and Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects have enough charisma and defiant revolutionary rhetoric that we watch them maim, rape and murder people for two minutes and some of us somehow hope they’ll come out alive. How much can your characters be forgiven for? Will we be curious and sympathetic as they go through their lives on the page? Showing a crooked system, normalized violence and a very identifiable feeling of powerlessness and unimportance makes Bennett someone who you almost root for. Have you done enough to make your characters fascinating and sympathetic or do they fall short? Tom Six had an extremely tough job in getting you to feel for Bennett. That takes skill.
It Explores a Theme From Several Angles
I must admit, I was not a fan of this franchise before seeing the third one. I felt as if the theme of the films was “Some dude is building a human centipede. Stay the hell away from that guy.” Thing is, The Human Centipede 3 makes one of the franchise’s central themes clear as day. The film begins with the credits of the second film and the accountant showing the warden the films and claiming to have an idea. As I said, it is very clear what the idea is and where he got it. Tom Sixx is taking on a certain level of culpability or else questioning how culpable he is. Either way, he is exploring the culpability of artists for the effects on the viewer.
The first film in the franchise is about the beginning of a bad idea. A mad scientist comes up with the idea to build a human centipede, just as its creator Tom Six has. The centipede is built and the results are disastrous. A bad idea instituted causes harm to the community. But what happens when the bad idea spreads beyond the head of the sicko who has it? What could happen now that Six has released the first work on the public?
Well, the second film addresses this question. Larry, the viewer has become obsessed with the film. In the grim, abusive circumstances of his life, he has decided that building a human centipede is his only chance at power and respect. The bad idea exists and the bad idea has become virulent. He acts upon it, luring an actress from the first film into becoming a part of this centipede. The idea has become a horrible reality. The second film questions the consequences of unleashing a piece of art on the public, creating a scenario where film violence becomes real violence but only in an actually violent circumstance. This is a pretty solid statement about film violence’s effects on our lives. The movie does not suggest violence occurs in a vacuum or that it’s completely harmless to see film violence.
The third brings up what happens when the idea of instituted violence comes into contact with the public, and even further, how a bad idea gets instituted in the large scale. Forget about doing it once, The Human Centipede 3 posits that it could be done hundreds of times to hundreds of people. The third film shows an environment where people encounter the possibility of doing that thing they saw in the movie. The first film does not inherently suggest that you can build a human centipede if you’re not an insane scientist. The second film says “nope, bad ideas can effect anyone.” When we accuse the human centipede of being a bad idea, Tom Six says “no shit, a human centipede is a bad idea.” He even slyly hints at it being a bad idea through the warden and the prisoners in the prison around it.
The prisoners in the third film are disgusted by the film, just as the warden is. Six is indicating and admitting “yes, it is a perfectly valid, sane response to be disgusted by this idea. It is a bad idea.” But wait…doesn’t the willingness to explore this bad idea, to go through with it so thoroughly and to examine its potential show that maybe this piece isn’t about human centipedes at all and that maybe this lack of intelligence, this lack of reverence and this lack of vision that critics and viewers have accused Six of might be a lot less well founded than it seems?
The painting below, The Treachery of Images is by the surrealist Rene Magritte. It makes a statement that on the surface seems apocryphal. It says that this is not a pipe. Some of you look at it and think “of course this is a goddamn pipe. What are you, stupid?” But when you step away and reconsider the statement, you realize that Magritte is right. This is no pipe. Try lighting it and smoking it. What? You can’t? That’s because this is the image of a pipe. To say The Human Centipede is about Human Centipedes would be to light and smoke Magritte’s pipe. As I have reiterated, the films show the process of hermeneutic movement using a very concrete example of a virulent idea and exploring it to the terminus of it, exploring it further than it probably should be explored. Tom Six even shows up in the third film saying he wants to see the surgery performed. Why? Because this must be seen through to the bitter end, even if it makes Six puke.
When you look at the complexity of your own work, you cannot pretend to exist in a world that does not have narrative mad science like this. We cannot brag about skateboards in times of jetpacks. Tom Six made three films about the idea of creating a human centipede. Burroughs said that language was a virus from outer space and across three films, Tom Six showed us this virus incubating and spreading to the populace. While the execution may look flawed in the live action Ren and Stimpy denouement to the trilogy, the intricacy of the undertaking cannot be overlooked. Nor can the commercial viability of these explorations.
Does your book take its content and examine the themes and ideas behind it as boldly and interestingly as it can? You can tell a story that says that violence is bad or you can wave violence into your narrative and constantly reveal the problematics of violence. You can do as Burgess and Kubrick do with A Clockwork Orange and show the temptation and the decision-making process behind violence instead of simply lecturing your reader on the ugliness of this behavior. The Human Centipede ambitiously encodes its message in its walls and structure across three gory and insane films. Stories like this call out artists to be this smart and daring, regardless of consequence.
Examine how you tell your story and think about how you can weave the messages and themes into the structure and imagery instead of just into the plot and dialogue. This takes “show don’t tell” to a whole new level.
It Evokes A Response
Audacity and quality are not necessarily one and the same. Plenty of transgressive art will fall short aesthetically and intellectually. Just because music is loud doesn’t make it cool. Just because there are tits and gore doesn’t make you edgy. But when a certain level of visceral response occurs, you have to look into what pissed people off. Critics giving out a number of zero star reviews to a piece that is not clearly Dude Where’s My Car 2 or a remake of Breakin’ should be a giant semaphore flag that shit is going down that bears paying attention to. When we see zero star reviews from disgust and confusion, that’s a trail to sniff down.
When audiences first encountered Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, things were thrown at the screen, raw outrage conquered the theaters. The outraged prisoners in The Human Centipede 3 were not unlike the crowd who encountered Bunuel and Dali’s surrealist masterpiece. The director Pasolini was killed in the street for his transgressive films and in your face homosexuality. Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead and the Exorcist all turned stomachs. While the turned stomachs, critical revulsion and utter contempt for The Human Centipede movies does not insure their merit, they do beg a question.
Do people care this much about what you’re doing? Carlton Mellick’s book The Baby Jesus Butt Plug riled up an angry mob on The Blaze last year. It was not the first angry mob, it was not the last. Christians were calling for a boycott because it was being taught in a class, used as an example of the excesses of the left wing intellectuals. The fact that something could be grotesque and blasphemous and yet used as a teaching tool evoked a natural revulsion in these people. The grotesque is supposed to just be there for perverts to jerk off to or idiots to spit mouths full of Big Mac at as they guffaw at their computer screen. It is not supposed to be studied, dissected or understood. It is not supposed to have themes, it’s just supposed to make people feel grossed out. Right? Right?
The combination of smart and grotesque will always evoke a response. The fact the brain and the viscera can be engaged and at odds is a problem for critics and a lot of viewers and a conflict that does not resolve itself simply and cleanly. As I said, it is not a guarantee of merit but it is certainly evidence a piece shouldn’t be ignored and discarded. Something that can invoke that much hate and revulsion without being propaganda for something hateful and repulsive must be hitting some kind of nerve or must be using something repulsive to show you the inherent repulsiveness of an idea, a process or a condition of society.
So, before you stop and judge a grotesque for fulfilling the purpose of grotesquerie, you should stop and make the inquiry of your own art. Does your erotica make people cum? If the answer’s no, why the fuck not? Does your horror boil people’s blood and elevate their heart rates? If no, then why the fuck not? Does your weirdness stretch people’s perception and confuse them? If no, then why the fuck not? Carlton Mellick, Bunuel and Tom Six didn’t hold back or question the conviction behind the idea or worry that it would be too weird or too sexy or too intense. They flat out fucking did it. Before judging those who have churned stomachs or confused critics, ask “do I have this much conviction in my story?”
Sew some motherfuckers together. You’ll be glad you did.
Garrett Cook is the Wonderland Award winning author of TIME PIMP, JIMMY PLUSH: TEDDY BEAR DETECTIVE, MURDERLAND, ARCHELON RANCH, and numerous short stories and non-fiction pieces.
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 ride 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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