Friday, October 25, 2013

Favorite "Horror" Films Discovered: 2013 Edition

I try to watch a lot of movies. Sometimes I even pretend that the small selection of flicks I manage to see throughout the year is a solid number. Then I stumble across some other blog or another person's Letterboxd account and realize that for someone who claims to love movies, I don't really get around to viewing that many. It's something I was hoping to rectify this past year, especially when it came to catching up on the essentials or classics of cinema. Of course, along with sitting down and absorbing all these films, I've also been hoping to document my experiences with each.

And since we're now less than a week away from Halloween, I thought it might be a nice time to share my Top 7 Favorite Horror Films Discovered [so far] In 2013. In no particular order, naturally.

PHANTASM II (1988) -- Directed by Don Coscarelli

The final three films in the Phantasm series could very well have taken nearly half the available slots in this Top 7 list if I allowed 'em to, but I've decided to pick one and stick with it. I've briefly written about my love for all things related to The Tall Man's misadventures before and made sure to mention how Part II was the most accessible. It shouldn't be too surprising that the surreal, dream-like quality of the original Phantasm turns nightmarish this time out, since it was released during the peak of The Nightmare on Elm Street craze.

It also boasts the largest budget of any of the Phantasm films, since it was backed by Universal Studios, who were looking to score a serious horror franchise. Of course, they later decided to practically bury the series by refusing to release either of the other two sequels theatrically. And while I still enjoy Parts III and IV, it's their "big budget" brother that I find myself wanting to revisit most.

THE VIDEO DEAD (1987) -- Directed by Robert Scott

There are some films that you wait forever to see and they never seem to live up to all the anticipation. THE VIDEO DEAD is thankfully not one of those. With some of the best cover art to ever grace a VHS box, there was the concern that what I originally saw wasn't going to be what I got when I finally managed to watch it. No, I would never argue that it's a good movie, but it's certainly an entertaining one.

But then, it's impossible not to love a flick that deals with a "supernatural" television set that acts as a portal for the undead to invade our world.

BLACK ZOO (1963) -- Directed by Robert Gordon

Most people will probably remember Michael Gough best for portraying Alfred Pennyworth, butler extraordinaire, in the Bat-flicks from the 90s. I would have been one of those people too if I hadn't splurged on a copy of BLACK ZOO from the Warner Archive Collection earlier this year. This early thriller features Gough as a deranged zookeeper and leader of an animal-worshiping cult, who uses the large cats [and a gorilla!] from his private collection to murder and maim.

RAZORBACK (1984) -- Directed by Rupert Mulcahy

Outside of the Mad Max series, this grimy flick from the director of HIGHLANDER served as my true introduction to the "Ozploitation" sub-genre. It features the most insane opening sequence I've ever witnessed and the intensity rarely lets up from there. There's a layer of filth that permeates from every location and nearly every character you'll meet in the film's 95-minute running time. Brutal, yes, but so very worth seeing. It may go down as one of my favorite film discoveries from any genre this year.

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984) -- Directed by Sam Firstenberg

You could argue that NINJA III isn't much of a horror film, but since it centers around a young woman possessed by the spirit of a ninja assassin, I'm gonna say it counts. Lucinda Dickey portrays Christie, the aforementioned woman, who prior to becoming a unstoppable killing machine is both an aerobics instructor and a telephone repairman. She's forced to deal with this murderous ghost menacing her with haunted arcade games while being wooed by the cop that was involved in the ninja assassin's death.

An absurd piece of cinema that's sure to delight even the most jaded of film fans.

STREET TRASH (1987) -- Directed by Jim Muro

Disgusting in the best way possible. Where most movies might skirt the edge of offensiveness, STREET TRASH leaps clear off it and into a sea of exploding hobos and melting derelicts. Everything is wet and neon sick and repugnant. It occasionally reminds me of REPO MAN (1984) in how it seems driven by a raw energy and nihilistic attitude.

Also, it's probably the only film I'll ever see that features a scene where a group of homeless degenerates play keep-away with a severed penis.

DUEL (1971) --Directed by Steven Spielberg

This easily ranks as one of my favorite Spielberg films and it's embarrassing how long it took me to see it. I'd heard for years that it does for driving on the highway what JAWS (1975) did for going in the ocean, and there's no real reason why I waited so long to watch. I'm just glad that I hadn't heard much else about DUEL before viewing, because it's tense in a way that so few films manage these days, and all the uncertainty of the protagonist's fate would have been ruined otherwise. Even now, knowing how the movie ends, I'm eager to give it another go sooner than later.


  1. Man how love the old movie poster/box cover art they just don't make them like that anymore which is sad to me.

    1. It's depressing to see movie posters or DVD covers these days. The over-reliance on photo-shopped faces, marketing the actors/actresses more than anything else, is a trend that needs to stop. It's part of the reason that I still love to collect VHS; the box art is sometimes better than the movies themselves.

  2. Love Duel. I have not seen the others and probably plan not to.

  3. Phantasm II was my introduction to the series, and like you, it's my favorite. Ash's boom stick can't hold a candle to Reggie's Quad-barreled shotgun. I just wish they had the money to finish the series up.

    Razorback is another good one. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting.

    The girl on the cover of Ninja 3 almost looks like Adrienne Barbeau. That's one series I need to get around to checking out.

    The cover for Street Trash is one of the ones that used to freak me out a little while I was walking around the horror section of the video store. I still need to see that one one day.

    1. I only ever saw Ninja III. I'm not sure that it's even a proper sequel to Enter the Ninja or Revenge of the Ninja. The appearance of Sho Kosugi ties it into the "series", but I don't think he even portrays the same character.

      Street Trash only ended up on my radar, maybe, six or seven years ago? I don't recall ever seeing the VHS-cover at my old video store, but it definitely would have been too much for me to handle.

  4. I remember seeing Ninja III as a kid and thinking how cool it was back then. I think I've only ever seen the original Phantasm and then one of the more much more recent ones. I think I'd like to sit down and do a marathon of the entire series sometime. I also NEED to see Video Dead and Street Trash now.

    1. I watched the original Phantasm early last year and left it at that for '12. But then this year, right off the bat, I jumped back into the series and devoured Parts II, III and IV within a few days. I already wanna go back and re-watch them, I enjoyed them that much.

      I also just saw Video Dead the other day; they had it available through Comcast's OnDemand service, along with TerrorVision (1986), which is its partner-in-crime on the Scream Factory blu-ray.

  5. I got to meet Don Coscarelli a few months back. What an awesome guy. Phantasm II might be one of my favorite horror movies ever.