Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Horror? Perhaps. Films you Should See Though! ""

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Underrated Horror? Perhaps. Films you Should See Though!

I really can't express how thrilled I am by all the guest horror films lists people have been contributing! I've just been bowled over by all the interesting choices that everyone has called out(many I'd never heard of!). Hopefully these lists will inspire some Halloween season movie viewing for you the readers out there! I know I've been inspired. Been working on this list for a bit and was really struggling with the underrated idea. I guess I made it hard for my guest listers in making that part of their criteria. Didn't know another way to get people to dig deep and pull out some stuff we've not seen on other 'best of' horror lists. Well, I will say that I tried to go for underrated films to start with. What I ended up with is a list of movies that I felt don't get quite the attention that they deserve. Many of them have smaller cult followings, some are relatively well-known, but all should be seen by more folks. Here's what I came up with. I recommend all of these for one reason or another. Some are atmospheric, creepy and well done, others are terrible and schlocky but a lot of fun to watch. Hopefully a good mix. Not a numbered list, this time I went alphabetical:

BAD DREAMS(1988; Andrew Fleming)
For me personally, this film tops any NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET entry. I'm a huge Dean Cameron fan too and his performance is tops in this!

BOARDINGHOUSE(1982; John Wintergate)
One of those shot-on-video 80s glories. In the commentary the filmmakers claim they were trying to create a satirical take on the horror genre. I call bull pucky. This thing is so sloppily constructed and laughibly made but is nonetheless pretty amazingly entertaining. The actor/director has a severe case of Jon Mikl Thor syndrome. Give it a look.

THE BODY SNATCHER(1945; Robert Wise)
The Val Lewton RKO films have quite a following, but I feel like this one gets short shrift in comparison to CAT PEOPLE and a few others. For me, it is one of the best, if not THE best of the Lewton films and includes a knockout performance by Karloff(my second favorite Karloff performance after TARGETS).

THE BROOD(1979; David Cronenberg)
Some will disagree, but I believe this to be Cronenberg's best film. It is still genuinely disturbing and frightening to this day. Bloody handprints. I'll never forget that image. And the bunk house scene with Oliver Reed is pretty fantastic.

THE CAR(1977; Elliot Silverstein)
I am fascinated by a lot of films that came out in 1977. They were forced to go up against the juggernaut that was STAR WARS, which couldn't have been an easy task. Intrigues to think of people trying to decide to see SW again for the 5th time or checking out this tale of auto-possession. It really is more or less a very JAWS-type story with a demonic car in place of the shark. It certainly has it's cult following, but I feel like everyone really needs to see this one as it's a metric boat-load of fun. I have the Australian one-sheet framed in my office at work.

A COLD NIGHT'S DEATH(1973; Jerrold Freeman)
Fans of John Carpenter's THE THING take note. This is a probable influence. Atmospheric Artic horror. Featuring two excellent paranoid performances from two great actors(Eli Wallach & Robert Culp). From the director of KANSAS CITY BOMBER and THE BOY WHO DRANK TOO MUCH.

CRUEL JAWS(1995; Bruno Mattei)
The 1st of two Bruno Mattei films on my list. CRUEL JAWS truly is the TROLL 2 of JAWS knockoffs. The performances and writing are really on par. Mattei is just fearless. Not only did he go with a script that liberally lifts whole lines of dialogue from Spielberg's original film, but he also had the gumption to ripoff a piece of music from STAR WARS for a big scene in the film. On top of all that he casts a Hulk Hogan lookalike as one of his leads. Priceless.

DEADLY EYES(1982; Robert Clouse)
I am such a big fan of this film. For me, it's just a hoot. Dachshunds dressed realistically as giant rats terrorize Canadians and Scatman Crothers in this nature-gone-wild epic. Director Robert Clouse did classic martial arts films(ENTER THE DRAGON & BLACK BELT JONES) as well as a nice hard-boiled detectiver with Rod Taylor(DARKER THAN AMBER). And of course THE PACK(They're Not Pets Anymore", see below)! I am very much hoping for a Warner Archives DVD soon!

EYES OF A STRANGER(1981; Ken Wiederhorn)
One of my favorite less-talked-about slashers. From the director of the Nazi-Zombie epic SHOCKWAVES. Starring a youthful Jennifer Jason Leigh and Julie from THE LOVE BOAT. Tom Savini worked on the effects.

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD(1980; Bruno Mattei)
Bruno Mattei is some sort of mad genius. Well not really, but man the dude makes some nutty flicks. If you've seen the end of his film RATS you know exactly what I'm talking about. And when you add in Claudio Fragasso as co-writer and co-director, you know you're in for a treat (of sorts).

THE ISLAND(1980; Michael Ritchie)
An interesting failure from a favorite director of mine. Without any doubt, this film had one of the most indelible VHS box covers of all time. I saw it in many a video store. That coupled with the draw of source material by Peter Benchley would certainly lead one to believe this is a home run of a film. It isn't, but I still like it. It would be nice if it got a DVD release here in the U.S.(there's a German disc out there for those interested in looking). Michael Caine would rather you forget this film and Oliver Stone's THE HAND. Don't forget them. Either of them. Both have their charms.

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS(1932; Erle C. Kenton)
Somehow I hadn't seen this film until earlier this year. So haunting, so eerie, a true classic. Sadly not on DVD but worth tracking down. HIGHLY recommended!

THE KINDRED(1987; Stephen Carpenter)
This film still makes me uneasy. Shuddersome stuff. Rod Steiger plays a mad scientist type, leaving lots of biological experiments gone wrong in his wake. If Cronenberg did some sort of modern day take on FRANKENSTEIN(with a dash of BASKETCASE), it might feel something like this. Gnarly little film, but quite memorable. No DVD, VHS only as far as I know.

LISA(1990; Gary Sherman)
Effective little thriller from genre workhorse Gary Sherman(RAW MEAT, VICE SQUAD, DEAD & BURIED). A young girl(Staci Keanan from MY TWO DADS) attempts to seduce men by calling them anonymously, until she picks the wrong fella to mess with. If only she'd listened to her mom, Cheryl Ladd. Still not on DVD, but just showed up on Netflix Instant and has been running on MGMHD on and off.

LONG WEEKEND(1978; Colin Eggleston)
Odd but interesting Australian film about a couple who goes vacationing for a weekend at a remote beach. Once they arrive, it seems nature itself has turned against them. Written by Everett De Roche who also penned ROAD GAMES, PATRICK, RAZORBACK, & LINK, this film has great atmosphere and really sticks with you. I haven't seen the 2008 remake, but I love this version.

NIGHTMARE CITY(1980; Umberto Lenzi)
My favorite Umberto Lenzi film and a bat-shit crazy one at that. Infected people(not zombies) run amok. They really do. Nuff said.

THE PACK(1977; Robert Clouse)
Score another one for Robert Clouse. It's no small feat that he made not only the best killer rat film, but also the best dogs attack movie. Starring Joe Don Baker and the criminally underused Richard B. Shull, this film buries CUJO like an old chicken bone in the back yard. Genuinely well done and suspenseful. Check out Hal Horn's excellent review as well as this one from Cool Ass Cinema for great insights. Another choice for possible STAR WARS cinema goers in 1977. What a great year!

RAISING CAIN(1992; Brian De Palma)
I am a huge De Palma fan and though this isn't my favorite of his films by any stretch(DRESSED TO KILL & BLOW OUT hold the top spots), it delivers on the entertainment. Very interesting watch in the wake of Lithgow's stunning performance on DEXTER. He really was a go-to villain for De Palma for a while. He's given fair opportunity to chew scenery in this film and boy does he chow down. As PSYCHO ripoffs go, they don't get much crazier than this one. Certainly not lacking in De Palma stylish touches. Also, it references SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS within the 1st 10 mins so that's pretty cool.

THE SENDER(1982; Roger Christian)
I must have seen the video box cover for this film hundreds of times back in the day. For whatever reason I never rented it. Honestly, it wasn't until I heard it mentioned by Quentin Tarantino in his commentary with Edgar Wright for HOT FUZZ(he says it's his favorite film of 1982) that I finally tracked it down. I wish I hadn't waited so long. It's a fantastic little horror film and one I highly recommend to everyone. I even selected it to be covered in an episode of the GGTMC Podcast not too long ago. You may recognize the lead actor Zeljko Ivanek from his role as the Magister on TRUE BLOOD. It also stars the radiant Kathryn Harrold, who stars in one of my all-time favorite films MODERN ROMANCE. Oh and don't forget Belloq, he's in this too.

SHAKMA(1990; Tom Logan/Hugh Parks)
LARPing, Christopher Atkins & a killer baboon. And Roddy McDowall.

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED(1974; Michael Findlay)
My favorite sasquatch movie is THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS. That is a quality film and I was psyched to see it on Hal Horn's list. SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED is not a quality film. But seriously, look at this picture. Tell me it doesn't make you wanna see it!

THE UNINVITED(1944; Lewis Allen)
Like ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, I only finally saw this film for the first time this year. It had been heavily hyped as a scary film, but I had my doubts considering it's age. I love older films, but there are few that can actually creep me out. This film REALLY creeped me out by the end. A DVD release is desperately needed for this as well!


THE ALIEN FACTOR(1978; Don Dohler)
Don Dohler is a name that I'm sure many horror fans know quite well. His film NIGHTBEAST is nothing if not memorable(and on Netflix Instant, watch it now!). That was his 3rd film. THE ALIEN FACTOR is his first and it is an unforgettable debut. In my conversation with Zack Carlson for GGTMC, he called it "The most ambitious back yard horror/science fiction movie I've ever seen". I have to completely agree with that. This film got some attention earlier this year when it was spoofed by Joel Hodgson's MST3K spinoff troupe Cinematic Titanic. It deserves more. Dohler is a filmmaker that is quite worth seeking out. He's drawn some comparisons to Ed Wood. Dohler should be a household name.

THE BEES(1978; Alfredo Zacarias)
I love THE SWARM a whole lot I must say, but this film doesn't get enough press. You've got John Saxon, John Carradine and the adorable Angel Tompkins going up against the troublesome insects. Worth tracking down. Played recently at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of Lars Nilsen's Weird Wednesday series. Another candidate for a possible Warner Archives release.

DEADTIME STORIES(1986; Jeffrey Delman)

Enjoyable little horror anthology.

DON'T GO TO SLEEP(1982; Richard Lang)
Dennis Weaver, Valerie Harper, Ruth Gordon and the little boy from POLTERGEIST star in this spooky unsung ghost story of a made-for-TV-movie.

GIRLS NITE OUT(1984; Robert Deubel)
Underseen little slasher featuring a killer who wears a bear suit with knives instead of claws. Stars Julia Montgomery(Betty Childs from REVENGE OF THE NERDS) who is also in THE KINDRED.

THE MUTILATOR(1985; Buddy Cooper)
This nasty, low-budget slash festival came up in a recent interview I did with Jeremy Smith(Mr. Beaks of AICN). He called it out as an unsung horror film and I agree with him. Some pretty memorable(if reprehensible) kills here for sure. Has some snappy end credits music too. It's kind of surprising that this one hasn't gotten the special edition treatment from the likes of Blue Underground, Code Red, Severin or Dark Sky.

NIGHT TERROR(1977; E.W. Swackhamer)
Another TV-Movie starring Valerie Harper. In this one, she is stalked by a psychotic Richard Romanus as she road trips to get to her sick child in another state. Caught this recently on MGMHD and liked it a fair bit. Decent suspense. Romanus is a shotgun-wielding nut bag.

Would make an interesting double with CHOPPING MALL. I've always been a fan of "mall horror" though. This film is part of a great lineage in that it was partially filmed at the fantastic Sherman Oaks Galleria(COMMANDO, FAST TIMES, VALLEY GIRL & others were filmed there). I saw an IMDB review that called it a perfect blend of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE WRAITH. I think that description is apt. Stars Morgan Fairchild, Ken Foree and Pauly Shore. Pretty cheesy, but a groovy time.


Had to be recently reminded of this film by a friend of mine. Hadn't thought of it for years. Upon rewatch, I had a lot of fun with it.

My family used to rent a lot of live-action Disney films in the early days of us having a VCR. MIDNIGHT MADNESS, NEVER A DULL MOMENT, THE PARENT TRAP, THAT DARN CAT and others became staples. The Disney films always had a cool trailer-y montage at the end of each tape where they would show little clips from other films. I remember two things from that montage. The first is some dude getting slapped in the face with a lobster and going over a railing into the ocean. I think that's from the 3rd or 4th LOVE BUG film. The other thing I recall is the clip of WATCHER IN THE WOODS. It totally stood out cause it was kind of scary, especially in comparison to HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO.

THE WILD BEASTS(1984; Franco Prosperi)
As certainly evidenced by this list and others, I love animals attack films. This is a rare one. Lightning Video put it out on VHS, but it's never seen much of a release. The basic rundown is that some PCP get's into the water supply of a local zoo and the animals freak out and go on a rampage. It's no DAY OF THE ANIMALS or anything, but it's definitely underappreciated.


Unknown said...

Good call on EYES OF A STRANGER. Very underrated and quite a disturbing little horror film. And Jennifer Jason Leigh is so young in this but already you can tell she's a talent to watch out for.

And yes, DEMON KNIGHT is loads of fun. Billy Zane is fantastic in this film.

brett g @ said...

Awesome list. Huge fan of Demon Knight myself; a few of those listed really need a DVD release! Also, to answer your Mutilator question, Code Red at one time announced it, but the company president claims they only have tape elements to work with. They're holding out for a film print, which I think isn't likely to turn up.

Sleepycris said...

Big fan of Watcher in the Woods!!! It's still a creepy little film to this day. Another of the Disney brand of film that I enjoy is Sonething Wicked This Way Comes. Lots of good stuff Bad Dreams & The Car are stellar. As always great work buddy!

SteveQ said...

Oh thank goodness I'm not the only one who's seen "Shriek of the Mutilated!" The very first scene with the toaster had me laughing very hard. The Findlays made a lot of hard-to-find schlock; I once had to contact Roberta about getting a copy of a film for a local theatrical showing... and, boy, did I have to deal with a lot of shady characters before it arrived!

Ned Merrill said...

Quite a lot to chew on, Rupe. Many I have not seen at all, or in many years. Here's another plug for EYES OF A STRANGER (definitely qualifies as underrated), THE BROOD, THE BODY SNATCHER, THE ISLAND. I remember seeing BAD DREAMS in '88 or so on video when it was new. Watched LISA a bunch of times on HBO in '90 or '91. I really NEED to see ISLAND OF LOST SOULS already! I'm interested to see Richard Romanus as a shotgun-toting whackjob in NIGHT TERROR.

A.J. Hakari said...

I finally saw "The Uninvited" this year, myself. Recorded it off TCM, but now I own it on laserdisc and VHS. And just last week, I caught the "sequel," 1945's "The Unseen" -- not bad, but it doesn't hold a candle to the first.

Cinema Du Meep said...

Tremendous list. You have great taste. A lot of neat little underrated gems there.

Karl Brezdin said...

Great list here, man. A lot of these are new to me but I'll definitely have to track down. But I really dug Nightmare City and am a huge fan of the Zane in Demon Knight as well.

Rupert Pupkin said...

JD-You're totally right about JJL shining through in EYES. Really elevates the movie!

Brett-Thanks re:THE MUTILATOR. I am hoping that perhaps SEVERIN might look into it. Not sure if they might come up with a print either, but it'd be a great release from them. Was digging your Anchor Bay retrospective btw. What a great company!

Cristina-thanks for the kind words ma'am! Yeah SOMETHING WICKED is way cool too. I can't believe how I had underrated BAD DREAMS myself until just recently!

Steve-SHRIEK is really in class by itself! It doesn't surprise me somehow that you'd have to deal with some shady types in acquiring a print from them.

Ned-I feel like we've talked about EYES OF A STRANGER at some point. I think QT played it at one of his festivals in Austin too. You would dig ISLAND OF LOST SOULS and NIGHT TERROR i think. Rewatch BAD DREAMS if you get the chance. Holds up well.

AJ-I hadn't even heard about the sequel! I have to track that down now. Even if it doesn't compare I am curious. Thanks!

CDM-I really appreciate the kind words regarding my list and my taste in films. Too kind of you to say. Right back atcha sir! I have tracked down several from your list and am very excited to watch them soon! That Michael Winner film is especially intriguing!

Karl-Thank you! Glad to hear you're a NIGHTMARE CITY fan. That movie is just too crazy. I love it.

Shiftless said...

Richard Lynch's performance in Bad Dreams made me a lifelong fan (and a wannabe cult member alongside Dean Cameron, EG Daily and Jennifer Rubin). Also agree Karloff was great in The Body Snatcher. Every time Karloff would taunt "Toddy", he cracked me up. I need to revisit Eyes of a Stranger and Lisa as I remember those as being superior. Thanks for another great list Rup!

YRAGAEL said...

THE BROOD is EASILY Cronenberg's best film. His most personal. However, you should really re-think your De Palma ranking - RAISING CAIN is his best for me. There's nothing else link it! DRESSED TO KILL and BLOW OUT seem so pedestrian comparatively.

Glad to see some love for SOV horror as well!

Aaron said...

I've never heard of PHANTOM OF THE MALL or SHAKMAN before, but I'm intrigued! HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD is so much fun and it definitely doesn't get the props that it deserves. I respectfully disagree with you in regards to BAD DREAMS, though. Personally, I just wasn't a fan of that movie at all. It's a very well done film (especially for a first time director who was like 22 or 23 when he made it!) and I love Jennifer Rubin, but the movie mostly bored me. I guess if I had seen it as a kid or had a nostalgic attachment to it, I might enjoy it more. Overall, awesome list, Rupert!

Jeff Allard said...

Thanks for giving a shout-out to Deadly Eyes! I thought I was the only person in love with that killer rat classic!

le0pard13 said...

Great list of underrateds. Always good to see another viewer succumb to the absolute eerie charms of 1944's THE UNINVITED. I spotlighted it myself earlier this summer (great that the New Beverly Cinema showed it, too, this year). Thanks for this.

Rupert Pupkin said...

SHIFTLESS-thank you sir! Yeah I couldn't agree more regarding Richard Lynch. Damned creepy in BD. And way less annoying than Fred Krueger(one of my biggest problem with the series is that Freddy won't shut the hell up).

YRAGAEL-Interesting take on De Palma's filmography. I agree that RC is certainly pretty unique alongside his other films. I think I'll stand by my ranking, but I am glad to bring it up in a list here as I do truly feel like it is overlooked by even some of the bigger De Palma fans out there and that needs to be remedied.

AARON-I think you'd dig PHANTOM OF THE MALL and definitely SHAKMA. Fair enough(re: BAD DREAMS). I will say this though. When I watched it this year, though I had seen it before, I couldn't remember much of it at all. It was as if I was seeing it for the 1st time pretty much. This is a very tricky proposition because I've found that when I revisit 80s horror that I didn't have some nostalgic attachment to, it often doesn't hold up. And BD really held up for me and my wife both.

John said...

A Cold Night's Death really is terrific, isn't it? It reminds me of Hell in the Pacific, in that it's just two great actors at the top of their game going at it for an hour and a half.

zombivish said...

great list. Though i know of most of these, at least in passing, i'm ashamed that i've only seen 4. Going to have to track the rest down now - i've got more than a few of these queued up in my ever growning to watch pile, so may have to bump them a bit higher.
RE Raising Cain (one of the 4 i have seen) - man i love Lithgow as a baddie - last year there was a fan re-cut version that changed the order of the scenes. A cool artilce about the project (and a link to the re-cut) on IndieWire

Sancho Panza said...

Didn't Barrel Entertainment already release an uncut DVD of The Mutilator years ago?