BLACK CHRISTMAS (1975)
Bob Clark, future director of Porky’s and A Christmas Story, helms this effective and chilling slasher flick from the early days of the genre. Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey star as sorority sisters, terrorized by an obscene caller. Their refusal to heed his grim warnings results in a string of gory deaths. John Saxon plays the detective assigned to the case. This film was the first to feature the killer calling from inside the house, a gimmick later copied by When a Stranger Calls. A witty and cleaver thriller with enough twists to keep you guessing right up until the end.
SCARE THEIR PANTS OFF (1968)
Two horny guys get their kicks, kidnapping women and terrorizing them into having sex, in this ultra low-budget, black and white, adults-only sex comedy. In the first segment, a woman is drugged and raped by a man in an iron mask. The second segment features a bizarre religious ceremony where a woman is hypnotized, and the third has a woman tortured by a Nazi doctor. In the end, the guys let the women go. There’s a lot of boring dialogue, but the weird music is kind of enjoyable.
THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001)
Billy Bob Thornton stars as a dry cleaning obsessed barber who chain smokes, blackmails his wife’s lover, and then sees a UFO, in one of The Coen Brothers’ best pictures. The look and feel of an authentic film noir is captured perfectly; Francis McDormand is the femme fatal and James Gandolfini is the heavy. With Scarlett Johansson and Tony Shalhoub.
THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981)
Mel Gibson reprises his role as Mad Max in this hyper-kinetic sequel that outshines its predecessor. Max teams up with a group of oil-drilling survivors and helps them defend their colony from a roving band of post-apocalyptic marauders. The chase scenes are simply breathtaking; still some of the best ever filmed. Followed by the lamentable Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome which starred Tina Turner as Auntie Entity (groan) and copied Lord of the Flies.
VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000)
This is basically just a slick remake of the 1985 anime classic Vampire Hunter D, utilizing technology that wasn’t available back then. Still, it’s worth the time if you’re a fan of sci-fi weirdness and/or vampire folklore from around the world. A 15 foot tall vampire terrorizes the countryside around his castle, eventually enslaving a beautiful peasant girl. After that, it’s up to the half-human, half-vampire known only as D to storm the castle and save the day. Sharp animation and inventive monster designs keep things interesting, even during lengthy stretches of expositional dialogue.
BEHIND THE PLANET OF THE APES (1998)
Roddy McDowell narrates this feature length look at all five films in the Planet of the Apes series. It was originally shown on AMC as part of their 30th anniversary celebration of the original film’s release. Later, it was included as a bonus disc in a box set of the movies. A treasure trove of behind the scenes footage and anecdotes for any fan. Featuring Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, James Brolin, and Maurice Evans. Some of the interviewees claim that the movies were allegories for the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Others aren’t quite so serious.
GHOST WORLD (2001)
Terry Zwigoff’s follow up to his excellent documentary Crumb is a pitch-perfect adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ 1998 graphic novel (originally serialized in the underground comic book Eightball). Thora Birch plays Enid and a young Scarlett Johansson is Rebecca, lifelong friends dealing with separation anxiety following their graduation from high school. Race relations, political correctness, conformity, and alienation, are other topics explored. Steve Buscemi plays the antiques obsessed loser who falls for Enid and Illeana Douglas is her art teacher. With Brad Renfro as the would-be paramour and Bob Balaban as Enid’s dad. Teri Garr has an uncredited cameo. Some hilarious scenes involve a mullet-coifed redneck psyching himself up for a 16-hour workday with the help of malt liquor and beef jerky.
BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989)
Jeffery Coombs reprises his role as Dr. Herbert West in Brian Yuzna’s follow-up to Stuart Gordon’s Re-animator. Fleeing from the carnage at the end of the first film, West and his partner Dan Cain head to Peru where a burgeoning civil war provides them with the specimens they need to continue their experiments. Back in the States, West convinces Dan to help him build a female (using the scrapped body parts of accident victims) so that they can place the heart of Cain’s deceased girlfriend inside, effectively bringing her back to life. The flying head of their nemesis Dr. Hill attempts to stop them. This fun sequel has even more gore and humor than the original, but it’s not as good a film. Look for Johnny Legend in a brief cameo. R and Unrated versions abound, but only the bootleg copies are actually uncut.
David Mamet’s eighth film is loaded with the familiar quirks, twists, and surprises that we’ve come to expect from the playwright turned director. Gene Hackman is the leader of a gang of thieves (Delroy Lindo among them) dispatched by Danny DeVito to steal a bunch of jewels and, later, some Swiss gold. Every moment of the characters’ lives is shaded by mistrust and betrayal leading to double cross after double cross. With Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Ricky Jay.
These toys have apparently been around since 2009, but I just became aware of them a few weeks ago. Similar to the M.U.S.C.L.E. line of figurines from the 1980s, S.L.U.G. Zombies are 2” tall pieces of molded PVC that represent various members of an army of the undead and the well-armed, human survivors with whom they do battle. They pretty much just stand around, looking cool (although some do glow in the dark), but Goddamn are they good at it! With three series in play there are already 100 figures to collect, but, seeing as how these are some of the most affordable toys on the market right now, it might just be worth it. Available in 12-packs, 3-packs, and blind single packs.
Check out their website for products, creepy music, and Flash animation: