The To-Sees at AFI FEST 2019

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As always, with most film festivals but especially AFI FEST, there are countless under-the-radar cinematic sighs of relief that get overlooked. Here are some of my favorites in this year’s lineup.

World-Cinema_0001_totheends1TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

A seismic shift for J-horror pioneer Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse), this miraculous, infinitely huggable account of an adrift on-camera travelogue host made me cry harder than I have EVER cried in my ENTIRE life BOTH times I watched it.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/world-cin…

sa_Liberte_860LIBERTÉ

Albert Serra’s inescapably divisive yet hypnotic and beautiful burrow into the ever-escalating lustful hedonistic excess of a group of 18th century libertines in the woods at night is *ahem* piss perfect.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/world-cin…

World-Cinema_0015_0-Los-Sonambulos-Main-photoTHE SLEEPWALKERS

Sweaty, swampy, haunting. Faces as landscapes. A delirious boiling fever of women jostled to and at the edge.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/world-cin…

maxresdefault-2I WAS AT HOME, BUT…

Let filmmaker Angela Schanelec confront you with your innermost vulnerabilities and then, in an instant, transmogrify your soul.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/world-cin…

New-Auteurs_0014_2_Ivana-cea-GroaznicaIVANA THE TERRIBLE

Cool, calm ‘n chaotic laugh-cringe-laugh fest from your new favorite disreputable role model writer/director/star Ivana Mladenović.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/new-auteu…

V19knives02KNIVES AND SKIN

The distress surrounding a teenage girl’s disappearance sends ripples that become waves across suburban lawns in Jennifer Reeder’s frosty neon queer reverie.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/new-auteu…

The-Last-to-See-Them-Review-700x300THE LAST TO SEE THEM

An absolutely unshakeable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I… genuinely don’t know how writer/director Sara Summa did it.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/new-auteu…

New-Auteurs_0008_MSSLAVIC7-still1-5db81c28703a6MS SLAVIC 7

Both restless and static, offbeat and balanced, pursed-lipped and guffaw-worthy love letter to love letters from coolest-of-the-cool Deragh Campbell and Sofia Bohdanowicz.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/new-auteu…

Searching-Eva-1SEARCHING EVA

Director Pia Hellenthal’s essential, defiantly modern portrait of a German artist, musician, model and sex worker named Eva is the future and the future is here. The rest of the world, catch up.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/documenta…

201918539_1-h_2019TALKING ABOUT TREES

Suhaib Gasmelbari’s documentary tracking the Sisyphean efforts of four friends and filmmakers to revive an old theater in Sudan is one of the most powerful and definitive elegies and defenses for the passion for cinema you’ll ever see.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/cinemas-l…

Cinemas-Legacy-_0002_Romantic-Comedy-Still-Kissing-Fair-Use-1920x1080ROMANTIC COMEDY

Elizabeth Sankey’s personally-stamped, heaven-sent essay film is a thorough, complex, hilarious, tragic, straight-up biblical deconstruction of the euphoric highs and festering lows of the rom-com.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/cinemas-l…

los_miembros_de_la_familia-_filmbild1

maxresdefaultFAMILY MEMBERS

One of my favorite discoveries this year is Mateo Bendesky’s endlessly risky, funny and original tale of grief, forgiveness and first crushes. Every scene feels like a sneak attack hug. THE WORLD WILL KNOW GUIDO.

Tickets and showtimes: fest.afi.com/2019/new-auteu…

Festival runs November 14 – 21. Full schedule here: https://fest.afi.com

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The Best Movie Taglines of 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year through the very best in cinema taglines.

img_0515Runner-up

DOG DAYS (dir. Ken Marino)

They got a little greedy with the four-quadrant approach, but “Love is a four-legged word” is truly inspired, with “It’s going to be off the leash” a close second.

img_051415.) “Bow To No One” from MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (dir. Josie Rourke)

The mantra of 2018.

img_051314.) “See how the mother half lives” from TULLY (dir. Jason Reitman)

They went for it.

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13.) “It’s been too long, dahlings” from INCREDIBLES 2 (dir. Brad Bird)

It has. Also, you read it in her voice, didn’t you?

img_051112.) “The park is gone” from JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (dir. J.A. Bayona)

Lets you know exactly where the park is.

img_050911.) “He’s done keeping his story straight” / “Coming out 2018” from LOVE, SIMON (dir. Greg Berlanti)

As obvious as it is catchy.

img_050810.) “He’s going to need a vacation after this vacation” from HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (dir. Genndy Tartakovsky)

The accuracy.

meg_xlg9.) “Pleased to eat you” from THE MEG (dir. Jon Turteltaub)

Every dad on Earth read this and lost his goddamn mind.

img_05178.) “Sooner or later, your past catches up to you” from CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (dir. Marc Forster)

I’m already crying.

rampage_xlg7.) “Big meets bigger” from RAMPAGE (dir. Brad Peyton)

That’s pretty fucking big.

img_05056.) “The next chapter is always the best” from BOOK CLUB (dir. Bill Holderman)

Makes me wanna turn that page!

img_05045.) “Don’t miss the climax” from FIFTY SHADES FREED (dir. James Foley)

The twist here is that the double entendre is not sexual but a desperate plea for you not to leave the theater before the movie ends.

MV5BOTU5MDg3OGItZWQ1Ny00ZGVmLTg2YTUtMzBkYzQ1YWIwZjlhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAzMTY4MDA@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_4.) “Evil runs in the family” from HEREDITARY (dir. Ari Aster)

A tagline that could apply to most movies, but none more literally than this one.

img_05023.) “Every con has its pros” from OCEAN’S 8 (dir. Gary Ross)

For a movie about thieves, this tagline really stole our hearts.

img_05012.) “Death wants some face time” from UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB (dir. Stephen Susco)

Killer tagline.

img_05001.) “Finding love takes some assistants” from SET IT UP (dir. Claire Scanlon)

It is uncanny how the Pulitzer Prize created a category for movie taglines immediately after this one came out. The most beautiful combination of words since “I love you.” (Or at least since “with Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu.”)

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The Best Undistributed Films (in the U.S.) of 2018

The+Swing_Still_025. The Swing (dir. Cyril Aris, Lebanon)

Morally ambiguous doc about a family keeping their nonagenarian patriarch in the dark about the death of his daughter. As his health and mind slip away, the lingering camera – meticulously composed and shot on smeary home video – occasionally suggests he senses something is up. But then he’ll ask again where she is. And again. And again. It will haunt me forever. More info.

morir-a-los-desiertos24. To Die in the Desert (A Morir a Los Desiertos) (dir. Marta Ferrer, Mexico)

A compassionate and dusty portrait of the last worn vestiges of the “Cardenche” style of music that was born out of 19th century slavery in Northern Mexico. The disobedient but harmonic a cappella music contrasts the steady stream of firsthand accounts of heartbreak and loss, and the beleaguered nature of its origins. I could’ve watched three hours of this. More info.

aleksi23. Aleksi (dir. Barbara Vekarić, Croatia/Serbia)

Messy, immature 28-year-old Aleksi shirks responsibilities to crash her parents’ winery and indulge a number of flings with the men in the area, leaving a trail of emotional debris in her wake. Restless and uncompromising, Tihana Lazovic as Aleksi is your new dreamboat metropolis. More info.

Holiday - Still 122. Holiday (dir. Isabella Eklöf, Denmark/Netherlands/Sweden)

A real feel-bad trip following a gangster’s moll on an exotic vacation that mangles into a nightmare of brutality. Eklöf’s difficult but rewarding debut approaches its graphic violence with clinical precision and aesthetic excess, making it both stomach-churning to watch but impossible to look away. More info.

thick lashes21. Thick Lashes of Lauri Mäntyvaara (dir. Hannaleena Hauru, Finland)

The bond between two teens – whose main thrill is to elaborately ruin weddings and save nearly-weds from a potentially dead-end life together – is broken when one of them falls for a local hockey player sporting the titular eye coif. Come for the spunky attitude, stay for the most epic kitten shots you’ve ever seen. More info.

island-of-the-hungry-ghosts-1-1024x42920. Island of the Hungry Ghosts (dir. Gabrielle Brady, Germany/U.K./Australia)

Every year, forty million crabs make their migration across Christmas Island in Australia. The care to ensure they reach their destination is contrasted against the comparatively inferior treatment of human asylum seekers nearby. Bleak and beautiful, with a score and sound design that makes your whole body vibrate, and a visual palette resembling outtakes from Von Trier’s Antichrist, Brady’s debut rightfully won Best Doc at Tribeca. More info.

suburban_birds_z0i1087-h_201819. Suburban Birds (dir. Qiu Sheng, China)

Transfixing, temporally twisted, nearly impenetrable puzzle that’s equal parts Stand By Me and Kafka’s The Castle. More info.

ficg-2018-miriam-miente-film-still-photo-46466518. Miriam Lies (dir. Natalia Cabral & Oriol Estrada, Dominican Republic)

Searing coming-of-age sliver that understands and deftly articulates how a moment in adolescence can seem world-ending but is actually just one of many bumps in the road to Hell I mean adulthood. More info.

WhenSheRunsMachoian17. When She Runs (dirs. Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, U.S.)

Quiet, sturdy, nakedly personal drama about how everyone has limits, and how some – in this case a competitive runner following her harsh training regiment – cope when pushed up against them. More info.

en liberte16. En Liberté! (The Trouble With You) (dir. Pierre Salvadori, France)

A giddy bubble-wrap screwball farce with a perfectly scrumptious cast including The Unknown Girl‘s Adele Haenel, Amélie‘s Audrey Tautou, Pio Marmaï, and Thirst Street‘s Damien Bonnard. Remember how good it feels to laugh? More info.

rafiki-cropped15. Rafiki (dir. Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya)

A neon-bright affectionate confection that was temporarily banned in Kenya because its breezy portrayal of queer romance wasn’t “remorseful” enough. Kahiu coined the term “Afrobubblegum”, a label under which she and an emerging band of African filmmakers make films that dare to be joyful, frivolous, and hopeful. More info.

THE+DEAD+AND+THE+OTHERS+314. The Dead and the Others (dir. Renée Nader Messora & João Salaviza, Portugal/Brazil)

Timeless and elemental tale of an indigenous Krahô boy whose hope to release his father’s spirit to the afterlife requires him to first become a shaman. Magical and meditative, with indelible imagery, and an impossible final shot. Won the Jury Prize at Cannes in Un Certain Regard. More info.

MF18-STILL-When Lambs Become Lions213. When Lions Become Lambs (dir. Jon Kasbe, Kenya)

Unsparing and suspenseful, with no shortage of serendipitous moments that would make any docmaker weep with gratitude. In Kenya, poachers hunting elephants are themselves hunted by rangers, whose fraught connection goes beyond simply adversarial. An intimate non-fiction film that plays like grand, sweeping fiction. More info.

3-Three-in-Spa_4by312. Two Plains & a Fancy (dirs. Whitney Horn & Lev Kalman, U.S.)

A refreshingly irreverent skewering of the 1800s American West. Shot on gloriously granular 16mm, packed with sparkling one-liners, and features time-traveling inventors, ghost orgies, and a demonically possessed cat. More info.

ladyworld11. Ladyworld (dir. Amanda Kramer, U.S.)

Eight teenage girls become trapped inside a house during a birthday party after an earthquake sinks it into the ground. More of an anxiety attack than a movie, with sound effects and a musical score that are entirely vocalized, and an arena showcase of writhing and animalistic screaming from its versatile and unhinged cast. There’s plenty of wit, too. The key line: “Friendship is propaganda.” More info.

FALSOS-TATUAJES-PRINCIPAL-110. Fake Tattoos (dir. Pascal Plante, Canada)

A lean, swoony, heart-chipping punk romance. I sniffled. More info.

thereturn09. The Return (dir. Malene Choi, Denmark)

Formally audacious and emotionally robust, there’s nothing quite like Malene Choi’s docu-hybrid debut about a woman from Denmark traveling to South Korea to find her birth mother. More info.

acid08. Acid Forest (dir. Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Lithuania)

Fun, immersive, experimental doc from multimedia artist Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė featuring daredevil photography, pristine sound design, and flocks of ancient black birds with an enviable routine function: They shit acid. More info.

fnc-2018-pig-khook-hatam-is-pinata07. Pig (Khook) (dir. Mani Haghighi, Iran)

Heads are lost both literally and figuratively in Mani Haghighi’s endlessly inventive phantasmagoric black comedy about the ever-looming death of art by ego. Or decapitation.

FIIEHDYWJNDAZOEIRQHNAFU5DM06. Alaska is a Drag (dir. Shaz Bennett, U.S.)

Don’t ask me to pick a favorite set piece from Shaz Bennett’s glittering feature expanding on her terrific short about an aspiring drag queen working at a fish cannery in Alaska, okay? There are just too many. Prepare yourself for a lifelong obsession with superstar Martin L. Washington, Jr. More info.

09-butterflies05. Butterflies (dir. Tolga Karaçelik, Turkey)

Morbidly funny and cathartically confrontational comedy about three estranged adult siblings on the road together after receiving a cryptic invitation from their father. There isn’t a single false note throughout, even as the tone whips from farce to melodrama and back again. Watch out for the chickens. More info.

allgood04. All Good (Alles ist Gut) (dir. Eva Trobisch, Germany)

Eva Trobisch’s monumental debut about a woman processing her rape by a coworker is an immaculately spun web of emotional and psychological havoc and meaning. Every line of dialogue and facial tic could be dissected and defined (and debated) for generations. At the center of it all is an unshakeable performance by Aenne Schwarz. More info.

303. Hellhole (dir. Bas Devos, Belgium)

For his sophomore feature, Bas Devos taps the same vein of his 2014 debut Violet, which confronted grief intimately and directly. This time he anoints the 2016 suicide bombings in Brussels as a catalyst to mine the same ground, but on a much grander landscape, exploring how people mourn from afar, the dissociation, the inarticulable anger, and the helplessness generated by that kind of generalized attack. Technically it’s a marvel, too, unleashing camera tricks and color schemes that feel ported in from another world.

Fugue-trailer02. Fugue (dir. Agnieszka Smoczyńska, Poland)

The director of The Lure follows up her unfollowupable debut in ways both unexpected and necessary. While Fugue is decidedly lacking the bombast and spectacle of that mermaid-horror-disco-musical, it retains the seductive mood and atmosphere, malleable scope, and dizzying unpredictability. It also builds on the same themes of female subjugation in society, albeit in a more grounded and recognizable context. Smoczyńska is a relentlessly valuable cinematic voice. More info.

bb101. Blonde Animals (dirs. Maxime Matray & Alexia Walther, France)

A doe-eyed former ’90s sitcom star with short-term memory loss stumbles in and out of people’s lives, gathering the moss of their misfortunes, and goes on an unlikely cosmic journey to come to terms with his own tragic past. A nonstop carousel of twisted delights that one-ups itself with each fanciful and psychedelic set piece, and by the end manages to be unexpectedly poignant and moving. I could watch this on a loop, and given the opportunity, I just might. More info.

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Quick Alternative Guide to AFI Fest 2018

Yes, Vox Lux is the new faith. Yes, Yorgos Lanthimos probably made the love story of the year. Yes, Nicole Kidman and her wigs. Yes, blindfolded Sandy B. Yes, Viola. But there’s a whole buffet of goodies at this year’s AFI Fest, some of which may not play on another theater screen in LA ever again. Here are just some of the titles flying under the radar that demand your attention.

Amateurs (Amatörer)

1275837_amateurs_714874Gabriela Pichler’s whirlygig culture clasher is so funny, so charming, and so sneakily affecting, you don’t even realize it has a knife in you before it starts twisting it. The cast is on fire and the ending is heaven. Free tickets here.

Fugue (Fuga)

Fugue-trailerAgnieszka Smoczyńska’s relentlessly, throttlingly perfect follow-up to The Lure is a dizzying psychological puzzle of identity and self-re-discovery. Free tickets here.

Pig (Khook)

PIG_523x2751Heads are lost both literally and figuratively in Mani Haghighi’s endlessly inventive phantasmagoric black comedy about the ever-looming death of art by ego. Or decapitation. Free tickets here.

Too Late To Die Young (Tarde Para Morir Joven)

too-late-to-die-youngDominga Sotomayor’s latest – about teens growing up on a commune in the ‘90s – is the purest drug. Every swoony frame deserves the Zapruder treatment. Free tickets here.

Acid Forest (Rūgštus Miškas)

MV5BNTIzMjdjOWMtZTk5Ni00MzRhLThkMmQtY2ZkYTQzZTQ0OWZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTMzMzkxMjY@._V1_Fun, immersive, experimental doc from multimedia artist Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė that features daredevil photography, immaculate sound design, and birds that shit acid. Jealous? Free tickets here.

The Chambermaid (La Camarista)

chambermaid-shower-01One of the most defiant debuts in years, Lila Avilés unravels the life of a hotel maid in Mexico City with grace, gravity, and undeniable power. Free tickets here.

The Return

04-TheReturn-STILL-PhotoCredit-Catherine-Pattinama-Coleman-300dpiFormally audacious and emotionally robust, there’s nothing quite like Malene Choi’s docu-hybrid debut about a woman from Denmark traveling to South Korea to find her birth mother. Free tickets here.

Family

familyTaylor Schilling is diamond perfect in Laura Steinel’s nonstop gigglefest about a no-filter executive caring for her outcast niece who just wants to be a Juggalo. Free tickets here.

Drylongso

DRYLONGSO_523x2751Cauleen Smith’s underseen masterwork is a candy-colored, genre-defying, sobering glimpse at 1990s Oakland, where an arts student takes photos of black men out of fear they’re becoming extinct. On 16mm! Free tickets here.

The Great Pretender

the_great_pretender_sean_price_williams_01_1_copy-h_2018Nathan Silver’s seventh feature in five years is operating on a whole new level. So funny, so regrettably relatable. Somewhere Fassbinder is smiling. Free tickets here.

CAM 

cam-fantasiaThe ultimate identity-theft horrorshow. Madeline Brewer gives an unreal, twenty-sided die of a performance. Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber have crafted an empowering, profound, and unforgettable ride through a digital hellscape. Free tickets here.

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31 Days of Underseen(-ish) Horror Part III

Part I here.

Part II here.

Rather than push the same staples that get a boost year after year (yes, Hellraiser is still aging better than most), or even the more recent spawns I can’t shut up about (Jessica Rothe’s monologue to her father in Happy Death Day > Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue to his son in Call Me By Your Name), here’s a rollout of more obscure or lesser seen horror movies that I love, one for each day in October. Most are available to stream or rent. Grab a barf bucket and find a new favorite or two.

Rachel_Lang21.) The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

Based on a real high-school sex scandal, Katt Shea’s hyper-angsty riff on hallowed property is way better than its (honestly pretty sexist) reputation suggests. This one’s aging better than most from the ‘90s horror golden age. Watch on Amazon Prime.

Excision-2012-Movie-Scene-1024x57622.) Excision (2012)

Richard Bates Jr.’s bone-cutting, side-splitting tragicom about an outcast teen with increasingly ill-advised hopes to be a surgeon. The impossible cast includes a haunting Traci Lords, Marlee Matlin, and John Waters as a bemused reverend. Watch on Shudder.

spoorloos23.) The Vanishing (1988)

Just… nope. Watch on Kanopy and Filmstruck (while you still can).

dernachtmahr_0124.) Der Nachtmahr (2015)

Like Gaspar Noé‘s Mac and Me starring The Bling Ring after they raided Leeloo from The Fifth Element’s closet. This movie is so loud and over-stimulating (hello epilepsy warning!) even Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon makes a cameo. Watch on Amazon Prime and Shudder.

as_above_so_below25.) As Above, So Below (2014)

Actually — mind-bogglingly, impressively, impossibly — filmed inside the real Catacombs of Paris, this increasingly outlandish hellish descent is the most creative and effective employ of found footage since The Blair Witch Project. Watch on Netflix.

Intruder26.) Intruder (1989)

Sam Raimi’s buddy and Evil Dead II co-writer Sam Spiegel doubled-down on the gleeful gore and homemade craft with this overnight supermarket stalkfest. Hands down my favorite slasher not starring an Arquette.

hellions-scene27.) Hellions (2015)

A Halloween-set fever dream about a pregnant teen terrorized by some truly skin-crawly little assholes in masks, all draped in an ingeniously executed pink color palette. From Bruce McDonald, the director of the reigning subversive zombie ride Pontypool.

dark1.jpg28.) Wait Until Dark (1967)

Audrey Hepburn’s last Oscar nom was for this chamber thriller about a blind woman vs. some determined home invaders. A touchstone for films like Don’t Breathe and Mike Flanagan’s A+ Hush, this one has a slimy Alan Arkin and one of the best jump scares ever. Rent on Amazon and VUDU for $.99

company-of-wolves-player-1920x108029.) The Company of Wolves (1984)

Neil Jordan! Angela Lansbury! David Warner! Werewolves! Romance! Folklore! Skin peeling! Watch on Amazon Prime.

headless30.) Nightmare a.k.a. Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

The only “video nasty” to result in a distributor serving prison time for refusing to make a single edit. An essential skid mark on the road to pure filth. Watch the uncut version on Amazon Prime. You’re welcome.

may31.) May (2002)

Romance, creepy dolls, kitty cats, The Breeders, an array of pointy objects, Jujubes. Lucky McKee’s masterpiece has just about everything, and it all culminates on Halloween night.

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31 Days of Underseen(-ish) Horror Part II

Part I here.

Rather than push the same staples that get a boost year after year (yes, Scream is still perfect), or even the recent spawns I can’t shut up about (go watch Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s disco musical about man-eating mermaids The Lure on Filmstruck!), here’s a rollout of more obscure or lesser seen horror movies that I love, one for each day in October. Most are available to stream or rent. Grab a barf bucket and find a new favorite or two.

Arcade11.) Arcade (1993)

Freddy Krueger meets Nickelodeon’s Legends of the Hidden Temple in this surprisingly nihilistic grunge-goth VHS oddity written by David S. Goyer(!) and featuring pinchable ’90s faces Megan Ward, Seth Green, A.J. Langer, and Peter Billingsley. Tron could never.

dans-ma-peau12.) In My Skin (2002)

Marina de Van wrote, directed, and stars in this autobiographical anti-vanity project about a woman increasingly dissociated yet obsessed with her body after suffering a nasty fall.

filmz.ru_f_16390013.) Red Eye (2005)

Wes Craven’s most unsung is a light-speed stakes-on-a-plane concussion of a thriller featuring a resourceful Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy’s soul-purifying alien face, and a ground-bound Jayma Mays helping save the day.

under the shadow sundance film festival final14.) Under the Shadow (2016)

Some of the most unshakeable and truly chilling images of the past few years are in Babak Anvari’s debut about a mother protecting her daughter from evil, both natural and supernatural, during the War of the Cities in 1980’s Tehran. Stream on Netflix.

ghostwatch-3-presenters_015.) Ghostwatch (1992)

Broadcast live on British television on October 31, 1992 – and never again – this ingeniously staged, straight-faced investigative special duped tens of thousands of viewers, even traumatizing some for life. A Halloween night tradition. Stream on Shudder.

6a0168ea36d6b2970c01bb09839252970d-800wi16.) The Initiation (1984)

Released opposite A Nightmare on Elm Street, hype was stolen away from this unsung sorority slasher that features a bizarre yet mesmerizing extended finale in a mall, and the three most beautiful words in the English language: “introducing Daphne Zuniga”.

0417.) Surveillance (2008)

Jennifer Lynch’s gonzo crime slasher is as good and lurid as it gets. Forget everything you thought you knew about your feelings for French Stewart. Watch on Shudder.

1031592418.) Most Beautiful Island (2017)

Writer-director-star Ana Asensio’s deviously devised portrait of a day in the life of an undocumented immigrant in NYC at first doesn’t go where you think it will, and then goes where you hope it won’t. Watch on Amazon Prime, or Kanopy and Hoopla with a library card.

1279982_thewolfhouse_19981719.) The Wolf House (2018)

Phantasmagoric stop-motion fairy tale from Chile about a living, tumefying house and the young German refugee trapped inside. Gobsmackingly detailed, terrifying, and beautiful. Švankmajer would approve. Watch exclusively on Mubi.

k8rEnSS20.) Sole Survivor (1983)

Before hitting cult status with the forever pristine Night of the Comet, Thom Eberhardt made this schizo freak-out about a plane crash survivor haunted and hunted by death (or is it Death?). Long out of print, but maybe try a certain free streaming site I dunno…

21-31 on Halloween!

Or follow along daily on my superfluous Twitter feed.

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31 Days of Underseen(-ish) Horror Part I

Rather than push the same staples that get a boost year after year (yes, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is still the ultimate), or even the recent spawns I can’t shut up about (Julia Ducournau’s Raw is still on Netflix you guys!), here’s a rollout of more obscure or lesser seen horror movies that I love, one for each day in October. Most are available to stream or rent. Grab a barf bucket and find a new favorite or two.

blooddiner41.) Blood Diner (1987)

Jackie Kong’s spandex-clad, pea-soup-drenched delirium makes Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast looks like Chef’s Table.

DeyxiFZUcAA1To72.) Mirror Mirror (1990)

A teen (played by the enviously named Rainbow Harvest) takes out her high school tormentors with help from an evil, bleeding mirror in Marina Sargenti’s post-Beetlejuice goth-kitsch fable. The best Winona Ryder movie not starring Lydia Deetz herself. Stream on Amazon Prime.

MV5BZjJhYWIzMjEtYzM0Mi00MmRmLThhNmYtMmE2YTY3ZjhmM2RlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_3.) The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

Millie Perkins (a longggg way from her Anne Frank in George Stevens’s enduring 1959 fixture) drinks, babysits, and goes on a castration spree in this cleansing flare of solarized insanity. Stream on Amazon Prime and Shudder.

Spider-Baby-Virginia-eating-spider-1024x6654.) Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told (1967)

Jack Hill’s cheeky, incestuous, murderous orgy features a half-in-the-bottle Lon Chaney (who also gurgles the theme song) as caretaker to three siblings with uh… issues. It’s wholesome and holesome. Stream on Amazon Prime.

0000_revenge_015.) Revenge (2018)

Coralie Fargeat’s bitter, bloody masterpiece is an overdue reclamation of the rape-revenge film. If only Matilda Lutz’s grindhouse superhero Jennifer would tear through the screen and obliterate every abuser in sight. Set the sequel in D.C. Stream on Shudder.

Return-to-Oz-2-e1474046520337

6.) Return to Oz (1985)

The most traumatic movie ever made and I will not hear otherwise. Stream on Hoopla if you have a library card and are feeling extra masochistic.

messiah-of-evil7.) Messiah of Evil (1973)

One-of-a-kind zombie mood piece with enough color-burst mantel-ready aesthetics to make Dario Argento weep. From Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck who would later be responsible for the film version of Howard the Duck. Honestly, bless them. Stream on Hoopla with a library card.

house-of-wax-088.) House of Wax (2005)

Jaume Collet-Serra’s supremely gruesome and stylish remake, with genuinely impressive production design, a charming time-capsule cast (Paris! Rory Gilmore’s first bf! Shane West I mean Chad Michael Murray!), and My Chemical Romance yowling over the credits.

Dead-Hooker-in-a-Trunk-gore

9.) Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)

The directorial debut from Jen and Sylvia Soska (whose 2012 follow-up American Mary is equally worth drilling into) is demented, disgusting, de-lovely.

Teenage-Serial-Killer-1

10.) I Was a Teenage Serial Killer (1993)

Sarah Jacobson’s ultra lo-fi, riot grrrl, fed-the-fuck-up battle cry about a young woman murdering catcallers and mansplainers is as fun and witty as it is cathartic. Stream on Fandor.

Next week: 11-20

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