Monday, January 11, 2016
Cinesploitation's Favorites of 2015
It's the beginning of a new year which means we must look back at the year before and reflect upon what we deem superlative. 2015 was a fantastic year for horror and exploitation films. There were some very good new movies produced and there were lots of amazing releases of some older classics and fan favorites. The epic release schedule of Vinegar Syndrome and the insane limited releases from Arrow Video were among the highlights, but many more companies had superb years. High-definition home video has reinvigorated what was a waning market and we couldn't be happier. So, without further ado, lets see what some of our writers put in their Top 10 of 2015!
Greg's Top 10 Blu-ray Releases of 2015
Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy (Blu-ray, Arrow Video): This is a release that is worthy of Clive Barker's legendary original story. Gorgeous packaging and art, a wealth of supplemental material and new transfers that send the old, dark, muddy Blu-rays straight to Hell.
NEKRomantik 2 and Der Todesking (Blu-ray, Cult Epics): Who would have ever thought that these two underground classics could ever be cleaned up enough for high-definition? Well, they were and along with the original NEKRomantik (also out by Cult Epics), this is corpse fucking art.
Justine and Eugenie 3-Disk Limited Editions (Blu-ray/DVD Combo, Blue Underground): Two of Jess Franco's most beloved films based on the works of the Marquis de Sade in magnificent high-definition makes me so happy. These 3-disk editions are overflowing with extras, making these the definitive releases.
She Killed in Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos 2-Disk Limited Editions (Blu-ray/DVD Combo, Severin Films): Not to be outdone, Severin gave us a Soledad Miranda double-feature from Jess Franco of two of his steamiest and most well known films. They both have gorgeous new window box art and loads of extras.
Cannibal Ferox Deluxe Edition (Blu-ray, Grindhouse Releasing): In 2014 they gave us Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and in 2015 they followed that up with an amazing new transfer of Lenzi's sleazier Make Them Die Slowly. Like the Holocaust deluxe release, this one is jammed with tons of amazing supplemental material.
Roger Watkins' Corruption (Blu-ray, Vinegar Syndrome): For years Roger Watkins' films were almost impossible to get on DVD, much less Blu-ray. Now this outstanding film preservation company gave us one of his best with an incredible restoration. And if you are into Easter eggs, you will find a feature worth the price of admission alone!
Nightmare Weekend (Blu-ray, Vinegar Syndrome): This is one of the weirdest, most absurd movies I have ever seen and I love every bizarre minute. For a company to even release this is a miracle, much less giving it such a loving high-definition treatment.
The Fan (Blu-ray/DVD Combo, Mondo Macabro): People clambered for this unflinching, artsy German thriller and Mondo Macabre answered, big time. The new pristine Blu-ray could not look or sound any better. Aside from an interesting interview with director Eckhart Schmidt, the release is slim on extras, but that makes no difference with this one.
The Brood and Scanners (Blu-ray, Criterion Collection): I should only have to say, "David Cronenberg on Blu-ray" here but I will add "Criterion" and "extra features galore". These are two of his classic films and they are treated as such. Now all I can say is, "MORE!"
We Are Still Here (Blu-ray, Dark Sky Films): This is the only recently produced movie on my list and it's simply because it was my favorite horror movie of the year. It's a well executed homage to the gory supernatural Euro-horror from the '70s, conjuring images of Fulci in his heyday.
Greg's Top 10 DVD Releases of 2015
Long Jeanne Silver (Vinegar Syndrome): A classic adult film centered around an amputee who fucks chicks AND dudes with her stump. How could that NOT be on my list? Jeanne Silver is the cutest and sexiest starlet you will ever see and she uses her fuck-stump with giggly aplomb.
Avon Triple Feature (Vinegar Syndrome): Raw, dirty and downright just fucking sick. This trilogy of debauchery from known dirtbag Phil Prince is some of the most fun you can have with yourself, while feeling shame about it later. You want the feel of a grindhouse? Watch this set!
The Greek Collection (Mondo Macabre): Those Greeks are known for a few things; being sleazy is one of them and Tango of Perversion and The Wife Killer, the first two films in Mondo Macabro's
"The Greek Collection" brings it in spades. Brutal violence and twisted sex are on tap in both of these little-known gems.
The Cheerleaders (Code Red): I have no idea how this wonderful sex comedy got past me all of the years. It was my biggest surprise of the year. It's incredibly goofy but somehow a real turn on at the same time. Hmmm, maybe it's the really cute chicks with hot tits and loads of sex... could be.
Farmer's Daughters (Impulse Pictures): Another downright filthy release that made it on my list. Says something about me, doesn't it? Oh well, how can I NOT love a roughie that is directed by the infamous Zebedy Colt and features everything from incest to three sisters "raping" a dude to an insane home invasion?
Applecart (Crumpleshack Films): A gorgeously shot black and white art-house movie that brings darkly bent sexuality to you in the form of a bizarre anthology that sounds like it was shot in front of an '80s sitcom audience. Filmmaker Dustin Wayde Mills brings originality to every project he does.
Headless (Forbidden Films): This pseudo-sequel to the fantastic Found takes the gore and shock to a whole other level. Tons of nudity, a creepy new iconic killer, oceans of blood and even some dark humor makes Headless one of my favorite new movies of the entire year.
Death-scort Service (The Sleaze Box/Gatorblade Films): You've heard of slasher flicks. You've heard of nudie films. Now you have the birth of the "Nudie Slasher" with director Sean Donohue's absurdly fun movie that takes the blood and boobs combination to the nth degree.
American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore (Unearthed Films): Remember how infamous and sick the Japanese Guinea Pig series was years ago? Now imagine it produced by that unbalanced lot at Unearthed Films. This first entry is beautifully executed gore-porn for all of you hounds out there who like it wet and sticky.
Anthropophagous 2000 (Massacre Video): Andreas Schnaas, the psycho who brought you the Violent Shit series, remakes the much maligned yet beloved Joe D'Amato film Anthropophagus aka The Grim Reaper only with a shit ton more gore. It is one of my favorite all-time Massacre releases.
Rich's Top 10 Movies of 2015
10. Danny Johnson Saves The World - Christopher Mihm has been working in relative obscurity for almost a decade now, churning out wonderfully retro homages to classic black and white science fiction. He does it with tongue in cheek, but these are absolute love letters to the genre. This was easily Mihm's most ambitious project to date, and it's even something you can watch with the kids. A delightful little film for sure.
9. Run - Brian Williams and Jason Hoover collaborated on this incredibly ambitious, very experimental project. The story is simple, but the decision to have both men edit their own cut of the project, and release them simultaneously was a stroke of genius. Each cut has its own unique rhythm and flow. It recalled early '70s indie cinema, and is one for more adventurous viewers.
8. Applecart - Certainly a divisive figure in the indie community, it would seem. Insanely prolific, endlessly inventive, he has a huge fan base, but he definitely has some detractors. Applecart and Invalid were both great films he released this year, but I've giving the edge to this incredibly strange little anthology film. Done in the style of silent cinema, with some of the more extreme imagery in Mills's oeuvre, it's easily the best thing he has done yet.
7. Flowers - Phil Stevens's arthouse horror flick was one of the most pleasant surprises to come out of the indie scene this year. It's been a project that was on my radar for quite some time, so my expectations were already high. When I finally saw the finished result, I fell madly in love. Similar to Applecart, it's a very abstract, visually fascinating piece of experimental horror that show there is still originality left in the genre.
6. Channel 13 - Now, before you give me shit about how high this is on my list, keep in mind that I know the Polonia brothers aren't traditionally great, or even good directors. But that doesn't take away from just how insanely fun their films are. Ron Bonk and the Mark Polonia took a bunch of once lost Polonia brothers vidoes, shot a new wraparound, and gave us the best tribute to the art of the Polonias that we could ask for. This is essential for fans of SOV movies, and stands as one of the best movies the Polonias have ever been associated with.
5. Normal - It seems like a trend this year that a lot of great indie directors made films that saw them at the absolute top of their game. Richard Griffin is one of the only modern indie directors who rivals Dustin Mills with how prolific his films are. He is also incredibly diverse. He's done musicals, grindhouse homages, zombie films, Lovecraft adapations, and they're insanely fun. Normal is definitely one of his darker films, more in line with stuff like Exhumed (still his best film) than The Disco Exorcist. A serial killer film dripping with black humor and absolutely haunting isolation, it's a psychological mindfuck that is well worth receiving.
4. It Follows - Some people really seem to hate this movie. Personally, I can't think of a theatrically released horror film this year that was this fresh, original, and audacious. There are so many things to love about this movie, and the more I think about it, the more I absolutely love it.
3. What We Do In The Shadows - What's not to love about this movie? This is one of the most delightful horror comedies I've seen in ages. Done in mockumentary style, it has the manic absurdity and wit of early Woody Allen. It's a film that I would say is not for everyone, but you'd be hard pressed to find too many people who didn't absolutely adore this movie.
2. The Hateful Eight - A western that has the pulse of a horror movie. This is Tarantino in top form, delivering a three hour stunner with an absolute wallop of an ending. Samuel L. Jackson delivers a career best performance here, but he is almost overshadowed by the brilliance of all the supporting players around him. It's a fantastic film from one of the most reliably brilliant directors of his generation.
1. Hard To Be A God - This is a disgusting, vile, bizarre film. Scientists from the future visit an identical planet that is centuries behind in progress. So, it's a weird cross between science fiction and medieval warfare. It's a three hour descent into madness that is absolutely not going to please everyone. The only recent film I could compare it to is A Field In England. It's an ugly three hours, but it's also endlessly fascinating, thrillingly original, and simply brilliant.
Lacey's Top 10 Favorites of 2015
1. We Are Still Here – Seasoned genre producer Ted Geoghegan’s feature directorial debut pays serious homage to Lucio Fulci’s criminally underrated House by the Cemetery. We Are Still Here is a love letter written in blood to the atmospheric, gory- as-hell Italian horror flicks of the ‘80s. The plotline is simple yet highly effective, and the film offers a small but well-chosen cast, including genre regulars Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden. The film glows deep crimson with some very well-crafted special effects sequences that are sure to stick with viewers for days after viewing, and perhaps even compel you to take in a second (or third) viewing.
2. Goodnight Mommy – An excellent addition to contemporary Austrian genre fare, Severin Fiala’s and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy disguises itself well as a dark psychological drama, but by the turn of the third act, blasts full bore into horror territory, pummeling the audience with a ghastly climax and well-developed twist that will leave viewers simultaneously horrified and deeply depressed. The film gives a whole new meaning to “Twins of Terror.”
3. Tales of Halloween – An all-star lineup of some of the best current horror screenwriters and directors managed to come together and effectively construct a whopping 11-part anthology that happens to be one of the best Halloween-themed horror offerings of all time, which somehow only clocks in at a mere 92 minutes! Adrienne Barbeau basically reprises her role from John Carpenter’s The Fog as a sweet and sultry Radio DJ who narrates this monster mix of tricks, treats, and a who’s-who roster of horror personalities—from actors, to journalists, to directors, writers, and producers. Easily one of the best festival experiences of 2015 for this writer.
4. The Invitation – Jennifer’s Body director Karyn K. Kusama has made quite the long-awaited comeback with her latest directorial feat, which is basically what Ti West’s The Sacrament could have been with a bit of creative effort. The Invitation is a slow-burn psychological thriller that unravels not unlike the feeble minds of individuals who are easily susceptible to cult mentality. As we know, the tragedy of losing a child can lead a fragile parent down some very dark paths. What begins as a simple dinner party among old friends quickly turns ugly in The Invitation.
5. Green Room – Similar to The Invitation in a sense that the plot focuses on the dire outcome of cult mentalities and the consequences of gang-related violence, Green Room welcomes back rising genre auteur Jeremy Saulnier (Murder Party, Blue Ruin) as he delivers his most ruthless and rambunctious film to date. The film follows a young punk rock band as they tour around small towns, playing dank, decrepit bars, eventually finding themselves being held hostage in the green room of one of the venues by a gang of Neo-Nazi’s (led by none other than Patrick Stewart). The resulting carnage is sure to have you hanging on to the edge of your seat. Enthusiasts and former members of the Washington, D.C. hardcore punk days are sure to appreciate Green Room.
6. Backcountry – Genuinely good survivalist horror has been hard to come by these days. Not since Katie Aselton’s and Mark Duplass’ 2013-released female empowerment thriller Black Rock have I been so impressed and completely enthralled by a horror film set in the deep, dark woods, where ferocious things go bump in the night and creepy survival tour guides show up uninvited and stay for dinner. Adam MacDonald’s latest addition to forest fright fare follows an urban couple as they embark on their first (and likely last) camping trip together. The grotesque tragedy that befalls this doomed couple is sure to leave viewers both mortified and mournful of their loss. The beautiful Canadian terrain takes on a unique villainy of its very own in Backcountry.
7. Unfriended – Of all the genre films of 2015 that I’ve identified as favourites, Unfriended sticks out the most. Perhaps because I went into it with the lowest possible expectations and was delightfully terrified upon delving in. This is one of the highest-anxiety producing films I have had the pleasure of experiencing in recent years. I strongly advise not to be put off by the uninspiring plot synopsis, which follows a group of irritating teens as they chat it up online and fall victim to an online predator unlike any of the pedophiles and creepers that lurk around the Internet in real life. Sure, the concept is completely far-fetched and actually downright ridiculous, but it’s done so very effectively and features some genuinely excellent scares. Plus, viewers get to witness what happens to these awful, back-stabbing teenaged jerks. Bonus!
8. Deathgasm – Few things make me happier than experiencing the harmonic collision between my two favourite things in life: heavy metal and horror movies. When the two are combined in the same style as ‘80s heavy metal horror movies such as Trick or Treat, Rock & Roll Nightmare and Black Roses, garnished with the over-the-top gore stylings of early Peter Jackson flicks like Bad Taste and Dead Alive, you’re certainly in for a first-pumpin’, whiplash-inducing good time! Again, one of the most entertaining and lively theatre-screenings I attended all year. It’s no surprise that Jason Lei Howden, a well-known member of the visual effects team behind Peter Jackson’s/WingNut Films Hobbit adaptations, debuted his blossoming directorial skills with a homage to Jackson’s inaugural years as a filmmaker.
9. Last Shift – Anthony DiBlasi is easily becoming one of my new favourite horror masters of horror. His adaptation of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood short “Dread” was very well done; and his 2011-released supernatural murder mystery Cassadaga was superb. So after seeing several positive reviews of Last Shift, and discovering that DiBlasi was behind it, naturally I was 100% on board. DiBlasi once again directs to impress with his latest offering, inspired by the Manson Family murders and similar cult horror offerings of the same ilk, and John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. My only gripe about Last Shift is that the script seemed somewhat underdeveloped. By the time the credits rolled, I wanted more backstory and more carnage! The visuals and creature design are the highlight of the film, channeling a style similar to that of the Silent Hill adaptation.
10. The Demolisher – Toronto-based newcomer Gabriel Carrer’s The Demolisher combines a stunning cinematic aptitude similar to that of Nicholas Windin Refn, which is commendable considering his novice experience in the film biz. Carrer harmonizes his particularly vivid style with the substantial use of music as a superior to character dialogue, and a poignant foundation build on psychological disturbance, tumultuous relationships, and the emotional strife and outward rage that ensues in the wake of trauma. The Demolisher is a vigilante justice film unlike any other. A repairman by the name of Bruce develops an insatiable lust for blood and a penchant for killing after his wife, an ex-policewoman, is left paralyzed after a gang assault. Although not a horror film by conventional standards, The Demolisher explores themes that are much darker and bleaker than those explored in most genre films. Definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone who lacks the required attention span to find merit in melancholic character studies, The Demolisher is a special kind of nightmare worthy of its very own classification.
Insidious Chapter 3
The Final Girls
A Christmas Horror Story
Let Us Prey