I took my kid to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this last weekend. I dislike all of the Jurassic Park sequels, but the kid, you see, really likes dinosaurs, so we went. At the end of the day, these aren’t the worst movies ever made. Like, they aren’t the fucking Transformers movies. And worst-case scenario, you get to enjoy at least a handful of folks getting eaten or smooshed by big critters.
Timecrimes (2007) Dir. Nacho Vigalondo
Time travel has been done to death but when it works (and sometimes even when it doesn’t) the time-travel story can be a real blast. Back to the Future remains popular thirty-plus years on. The question “If you could go back in time. . .” must get asked daily on social media, or at least some variation. Hell, I’ve even written a time-travel story. My novella Necrosaurus Rex—when you boil it down—is an extreme example of paradox within time travel, albeit with more genital-devouring than your average take on the material, but still.
My point being that the time-travel narrative is one of those milestones every creative has in them. Even if the idea isn’t executed, it has been thought about at least once. It’s kind of like addressing onanism in non-genre literature. Everybody has at least one masturbation story in them, but not all of those stories are gonna be Portnoy’s Complaint.
Just like how not every time-travel story is going to be Primer.
Amer (2009) Dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
Amer is a beautiful, meticulous and quite intriguing film that pays lip service to all the trappings of an Italian giallo while also aiming for something that rises beyond that particular genre. The film is directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. It was the duo’s first feature film, though they had been making short films together for the past decade.
This debut feature is a masterpiece of composition, and each shot is its own piece of art. You could put this movie in a frame and hang it in a gallery.
Hatchet (2006) Dir. Adam Green
Before I begin my review of Hatchet, let me reference a much better movie.
In David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Seth Brundle learns that his teleportation device doesn’t work correctly. It likes to turn his test subjects inside out. This happens because the device doesn’t understand flesh. In a latter scene, Brundle does an experiment with some steak and relates the problem to his girlfriend:
“The computer is giving us its interpretation of a steak, it’s translating it for us. It’s rethinking it rather than reproducing it and something is getting lost in the translation.”
Now replace “computer” with “director” and replace “a steak” with “a horror film.”
Guillermo Del Toro thinks Let The Right One In is “as delicate, haunting and poetic a film as you’re ever bound to see… a chilling fairy tale.” That’s no small praise from the man who brought audiences films like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone.
No surprise, but I would highly recommend Let The Right One In to any viewer interested in quality horror cinema.
Kuso (2017) Dir. Steven (aka “Flying Lotus”) Ellison
“I have said this before and will repeat it again as long as I am able to talk: if we do not develop adequate images we will die out like dinosaurs.” –Werner Herzog
If you were to reimagine a debut feature as a bodily function, then you’d likely end up with something like Kuso.
Survival of the Dead (2009) Dir. George A. Romero
George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead is a film that I like (non-ironically) more than you do. I say that with confidence, while also realizing that there are those very few who likewise enjoy the film. However, its absolute critical drubbing and almost non-existent box office cannot be ignored. Survival was no Dawn or Day … hell, it wasn’t even Land (another entry that was thrashed upon release that I also enjoyed), though it was a helluva step up from Diary.
But—and here’s the rub—it was never meant to be any of those films, so criticism by comparison is kind of pointless and becomes more a critique of the viewer’s own baggage, not the movie. Additionally, I don’t think Survival (or Diary) is technically in the same narrative universe. The only carryovers were the undead and the relentless pessimism towards human nature, which I seem to recall critics and fans bemoaning with regards to Survival’s story. Too “on the nose” was levied at the film back in 2008. I’d argue, however, that the message was right on the money.
Hell, I’d say Survival of the Dead was damn near prescient in regards to the political shithouse we now find ourselves in. Here’s a choice quote, if you don’t believe me:
“In an us-versus-them world, someone puts up a flag; another person tears it down and puts up his own. Pretty soon no one remembers what started the war in the first place and the fighting becomes all about those stupid flags.”
Splinter (2008) Dir. Toby Wilkins
Splinter has a fairly innovative monster, something that exists adjacent to creatures like those found in The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You’ve seen this kind of monster before but never quite like this, and what it does to your body is very, very unpleasant. The film’s story, however, is never as innovative as the antagonist creature: A handful of people are trapped within an enclosed space, fighting to survive. The narrative’s a perfect example of formula storytelling, but it works because 1) in a movie like this the story should service the monster, and 2) all of the performers deliver in the acting department, which goes a long way in patching over obvious budgetary shortcomings.
Dispense with the trappings of a laborious backstory (ala Evil Dead 2) and let’s get down to the mayhem.
Splinter has mayhem to spare.
Through The Looking Glass (1976) Dir. Jonas (aka Joseph) Middleton
Remember in Boogie Nights how all those people were swearing up and down that they were making honest-to-god movies and not just cheap nudie pictures? This is one of those little gems. No kidding.
Knowing that, let me assure you that this movie will definitely NOT be everyone’s cup o’ tea. This is very much an “art house” horror film but it is also pornographic in its depiction of sex, though sex therein is treated as an extension of the psychological horror as opposed to the regular “wank” material associated with the genre. Also, the sex, albeit explicit, does not feel as unwarranted as, say, the insert scenes included in Caligula.