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The Adventures of the Hidden Gems from Beyond the Dark Forest!
By: Mickael
The last year, I've spent more hours in the movie theater than in the shower. Thanks to the variety of insanely interesting releases, from Ant-Man to Spy, from Mad Max: Fury Road to Trumbo; I often found myself at the movies two or three times a week. Some lived up to expectations, like Avengers: Age Of Ultron, while others flustered even the die-hard fanboy in me, like Terminator: Genisys. Eli Roth went from directing 1 film in 8 years to releasing 2 in 1 week, while The Rock ignored his civic duty to save only Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario in San Andreas, and Liam Neeson had to Run All Night trying to save his retarded-ass son. Ronda Rousey pulled no punches against Turtle in Entourage, while Jake Gyllenhaal bored us to a 10-count in Southpaw. Who would have guessed that the most amazing special effect in Jurassic World was Bryce Dallas Howard, doing a full-on sprint in heels?! And oh yeah, I think some kinda flick about a jedi came out or something.
The point is that with all these star-studded films, eagerly-anticipated sequels, and nostalgia-trafficking blockbusters saturating the market, it's easy to overlook something that, in any other year, would have been an all-time classic. This year, Guillermo del Toro directed only his second film in 7 years, an original piece of gothic horror called Crimson Peak. It was beautiful, eerie, intriguing, and inventive. But, because it was released during the hectic Halloween season, when the best of the summer blockbusters are still tying up screens while retailers begin stocking huge DVD and Blu-Ray releases of horror, there wasn't room for too many more "scary" films. Goosebumps rode the nostalgia-wave and secured the biggest ticket sales, while The Gift and The Visit split the leftovers with Crimson Peak, which had a budget 10 times higher than these two competitors. Ultimately, it failed to make it's money back, but will eventually be considered a classic by cult movie fans. Crimson Peak's "Hammer film" vibe is just too damn irrestible. It's like catnip to cinephiles.
What's important to remember is that this happens every year. While mainstream audiences are wooed by clever marketing, overwhelmed by non-stop promotions, or pre-occupied with their favorite franchises; perfectly good films are getting overlooked for no good reason other than that we're too busy to pay attention. Well, that's why every month we post a short list of some of our favorite "hidden gems" from years past. Movies that have entertained cult audiences and left a lasting impression on the few of us with enough free time to venture into the savage wilderness of DVD bargain bins and online streaming services to find the best they have to offer. The only measurable standard is that each of these films has to have fewer than 5,000 ratings on IMDb, because at this point even the lowest bombs like Apartment 143, which made a mere $383 in theaters 3 years ago, has over 9,000 votes! With that useless fact ringing clearly in your head, here's our list of cult favorite hidden gems for January:
#8 The Forest (1982)
Hikers and campers are tormented by a cannibalistic redneck deep in a Californian forest in this low budget horror film. The cast of relatively unknown actors seems to know what type of flick they're making and they cheese it up accordingly. Once the ghostly children of the killer come in to play, you'll be hooked on this weird gem from the early 80's. For fans of Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Wrong Turn.
#7: Popcorn (1991)
This is a self-aware horror comedy that was years ahead of its time. A goofy troupe of film students puts on a horror/sci fi/supernatural movie marathon in an old theater known as "Dreamland". But their show is interrupted by a murderer who wears the faces of his victims to hide his true identity! With great effects, campy acting, and plenty of references to the films of the 30's through the 50's, Popcorn is basically a forgotten masterpiece by a couple of unknown directors. For fans of Scream, Cut, and horror movies in general!
This movie really came at the tail end of the xenophobic Sci Fi horror boom, with everything from Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World to Invasion of the Body Snatchers predating it by several years. However, if you feel as though you've already seen everything the 50's had to offer and you still want more, I Married A Monster From Outer Space will be right up your alley! Men all over town are suddenly acting... odd. They don't drink as much as they used to, and their wives (particularly newlywed Marge Farrell) are becoming suspicious. Eventually she discovers the alien menace, but needs to discern who in town is still human, and who has already been abducted by the aliens. A brisk, funny, and well-made flick that feels right at home alongside The Outer Limits.
#5: Night Of The Demon (1980)
College students venture into the woods to locate Bigfoot. Along the way, they tell stories of the sasquatch's many deadly encounters with humanity. This is most definitely a zero budget flick and won't be winning any cinematography awards. Nor will it look even remotely decent on your new 4k TV. However, if you're a fan of low budget bloodbaths, over-the-top death scenes, and a yeti tearing off a dude's pickle for no particular reason; then this movie will overdeliver. For fans of blood, beer, and bigfoot.
Buy @ Oldies.com (in a 6-film set)
#4: Eugenie (1970)
Eugenie is a Jess Franco-directed tale of a young girl losing her innocence on an island where bizarre sexual experiences abound. From incest to torture to interracial sexuality, this film has something for everyone. It blurs the line between art and pornography, with beautiful shot selection from a cult b-movie director more associated with pubic hair and lesbians than he is for quality filmmaking. This is a great entryway into the Franco library: a well-paced and tense film with solid performances by veteran actors Christopher Lee, Jack Taylor, and Paul Muller.
#3: The Nostril Picker (1993)
A weird old drifter gains the ability to appear to the outside world like a teenage girl. He uses this power to hang out in high school and be a total creeper. This movie occasionally plays like a broad comedy, complete with a musical montage, but then also reveals itself to be sick when necessary. Another film on the lower-end of the quality scale (who the fuck needs HD anyway?), but if you're coming here for special effects masterpieces on Blu-Ray then you're a fucking idiot. This movie is like Funyuns in that they both belong in the 90's, but if you smoke a little ganj first, they're both a lot more palatable.
#2: Tokyo Zombie (2005)
Imagine if Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle was 200x more Asian, and took place during a zombie apocalypse. This is what Tokyo Zombie delivers to you. It's been described as a Japanese Shaun of the Dead, but that's not really accurate. Shaun of the Dead is precise. It's a very intricate story that manages to layer witticisms atop quips atop recurring gags, with oodles of film references thrown in as well. Shaun of the Dead is Lasagna. Tokyo Zombie is more like gumbo. Tokyo Zombie is wacky. It's charm lies in it's quirkiness, it's unpredictable variety, and in the magnetic pull of it's two oddball protagonists, played by Tadanobu Asano (the Asian guy from Thor) & Sho Aikawa (a Takashi Miike regular).
#1: Wolfhound (2006)
Wolfhound is Russia's entry into the epic fantasy genre. It follows a warrior named Volkodov as he seeks revenge against the man responsible for eradicating his tribe. It's a beautifully shot film, starring very dirty people with very bad attitudes. If you liked Conan The Barbarian, Valhalla Rising, or Pathfinder then you'll love Wolfhound even more. It's brutal, yet refined; violent, yet beautiful; it's only crime is being a Russian film at a time when we didn't realize they were great filmmakers yet.
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