Give it up for Juan Piquer Simon. Not only did the Spanish director bestow upon the horror world one of the craziest and memorable slashers of all time, Pieces (1983), he also found it within himself to give us Slugs (1988). Not quite as crazy as Pieces (but almost as good), Slugs trades heavily in the J.P. Simon business: a whole lot of weird, a nuclear ton of energy, and gore galore. If you only see one badly dubbed mollusk monster movie, filled with heavy pettin’ and (literally) explosive action, you would be wise to choose Slugs.
I cherish a good giallo film. For those unfamiliar with this sub-genre, it’s like a slasher, but with an emphasis on police procedure and a dash of Italian Vogue. (Not to mention the ubiquitous gloved killer.) Starting in the mid ‘60s, they revved up the violence, leading to the watershed of Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971), where Mario Bava singlehandedly invented the “body count” that transferred across the water and led us to Haddonfield and Camp Crystal Lake.
But some gialli still let their freak flags fly, bringing us to The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971), a film that blends bodies, bodices, castles, the supernatural, possible gas lighting, nudity, and triple crosses into an overflowing bath of ideas that is a lot of fun to splash around in. Not all the water stays in the tub, but there’s still plenty enough for a good soak.
Warning: if you’re not a Kate Jackson fan, today’s column may not work in your favor. Plus, we probably shouldn’t hang out.
[Hello, readers! To celebrate Valentine's Day, the Daily Dead team thought it would be fun to do things a little differently this year. We're putting the spotlight on our favorite horror-loving characters from genre cinema—people who have represented our own fandom on screen and, in many cases, helped bring our passion for horror into the mainstream. Be sure to check here for more of our tributes to some of the greatest horror fans to ever grace the big screen.]
Eric Binford, the protagonist (antagonist?) of Fade to Black (1980), loves movies so much, he is wholly subsumed by them.
Do you have a recurring nightmare? Mine is the oh-so passé “being chased”. It’s always the same; hunted relentlessly by an unknown assailant, helplessly fleeing from a certain doom. Of course, I wake up in a puddle of sweat, crying out for mommy, as one will do. The fear of cutthroat pursuit is at the center of Nightmare City (1980), Umberto Lenzi’s take on the then resurgent zombie sub-genre. And while you won’t wake up screaming after seeing it, you might end up covered in a sticky sweet glaze of WTF. The Italians don’t make their horror in half measures; I’m pretty sure Nightmare City throws in the whole cup.
It’s Hammer Time again! Every once in a while I like to dip back to that golden age, where the revered monsters of yore were dusted off with loving care for a newly appreciative crowd of teenagers at the Drive-In. Building upon the worldwide success of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (’58), and The Mummy (’59), it was time for another Drac attack. The Brides of Dracula (1960) keeps up the high level horror, as long as you’re okay with a Dracula movie having no Dracula. Looking back on the whole series, Brides stands out (and up) due to this very omission.
The Twilight Zone series stands as the benchmark for weird, wonderful, and creepy TV viewing. Many shows and movies have tried to duplicate its moralistic mysteries with varying results. Night Slaves is a charmingly odd TV movie not only cut from the same cloth, but with ties to it as well.
Harmony is an ideal. If everyone just got along, the world could be one big campfire sing-along, a Coke commercial writ large, right? But unfortunately that’s not human nature; certainly not as it pertains to our fellow earthly citizens, or to the globe itself. The ‘70s saw the rise of the eco horror film; “Mother Nature’s back, and she’s pissed” practically emblazoned across posters from the likes of Frogs (1972), Phase IV (1974), and Day of the Animals (1977). Australia threw their hat in the ring at the tail end of the cycle with Long Weekend (1979), a fascinating look at environmental and personal disharmony.
Michael Caine had an interesting run of genre flicks starting in the late ‘70s. The Swarm (1978) was laughed off the screen, Dressed to Kill (1980) was enjoyed by audiences and critics alike, and The Hand (1981) dropped his batting average once again. Nestled in between all those was The Island (1980), a killer pirate movie from the author of Jaws and directed by the man behind The Bad News Bears. What could go wrong? Well, everything, according to most folk. It’s an odd one to be sure, but the wild tonal shifts that prevent the ship from staying on a clear course make it a fascinating treasure that gets better with each viewing.
[Happy Monday, readers! With the 2017 Sundance Film Festival beginning this week, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the great midnight movies that have come out of the fest over the years. Be sure to check back here each day this week for more Midnight Memories from Daily Dead!]
The Sundance Film Festival has hosted the premieres of many a great genre offering; from Lucky McKee’s May in 2002 to Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead in 2014, the festival spotlights genre work by turns impactful, thoughtful, or just delightful. And many of the films’ backstories are often as inspired as the work itself. Case in point: Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun, which premiered January 21st, 2011 at Sundance, and is still as fun to watch as its journey to the screen is fascinating.
Truth be told, I’ve never been too big on Westerns. I don’t know why; I just don’t connect with most of them, or maybe I feel that there’s something missing. Perhaps…Satan?!? Yes, of course we’re heading back to the ‘70s where the Behooved One thrived, even on the small screen. Saddle up for Black Noon (1971), a long forgotten horror/western TV movie that laid the groundwork for some well-regarded horror films.
If you are new to the works of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, Phenomena (1985) is as good a place as any to start. It practically plays like a ‘greatest hits’ of all his virtues, and more than a few of his vices. And for the Argento veteran, it’s a gas for those very same reasons – by combining so many elements from his other films he’s created his most bizarre feature to date – no mean feat. When I need five alarm Dario, I throw on Phenomena.
There are certain horror films you just love. Weird, offbeat, horrible puzzle boxes that, by all rights, have no logical reason to exist, and yet there they are. And then, there’s Beyond the Door (1974), an Italian / American co-produced quasi-Exorcist treatise that burns down that particular sacred house, stomps on the ashes, and pisses on the embers before speeding off in its Ferrari. If you found The Exorcist too restrained, we may have just become best friends.
As the ‘60s gave way to the ‘70s, vampires on film were stuck in a rut of crumbling castles and cotton candy cobwebs. It was time for an update; to rid the screen of the stagecoaches and street lamps. It was time for Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), a fun little romp brought into the modern age by a world class turn from Robert Quarry as the titular bloodsucker.
Hey there, everyone! I sincerely hope this finds you all well (or at least coping) and eager (or at least willing) to take on a new year. I love doing year-end lists. For me, it’s a time of reflection, as well as expansion.