Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Tom Nix ""

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Tom Nix

Tom Nix is Oklahoma City's resident film dork and can often be found dicking around on twitter at @TheTomNix. He has a boutique poster obsession and his hair is roughly 86% comprised of magic.

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The House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Two classic haunted house films were remade in 1999, 1963's THE HAUNTING and 1957's THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. While the former turned into a CGI mess barely recognizable as sharing the DNA of one of the creepiest horror films ever made, the latter managed to update a cheesy classic with a more modern, more gory and in many ways, more satisfying film.
The first and best film out of the Dark Castle gates (every other film bearing this insignia was a huge letdown), THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL '99 recast Vincent Price with Geoffrey Rush doing his best John Waters, Famke Janssen at the height of her sultriness and a twenty-something cast of now fairly well known thirty-somethings that serve as the doomed invitees to a lock in at a former mental hospital.
The film is pure horror fun, with Rush hamming it up and a special stop-motion-esque appearance by genre legend Jeffrey Combs as a deceased head surgeon who has lost none of his appetite for medical experimentation on helpless humans. It's also the best performance Chris Kattan has ever given in his career (UNDERCOVER BROTHER nonwithstanding). All in all, this is a wildly over-looked gem of the 90's "slasher" craze and one hell of a Spook-A-Blast, as Sam Raimi would say.

Blood Car (2007)
Did I say blast? Because this no-budget movie from 2007 is exactly that. Essentially, this is a story about a vegan kindergarten theacher, who, in his attempt to make an engine that runs on soy, accidentally pours some blood in and revolutionizes travel in a world where gas is so obesely expensive that only the 1% can afford to drive. Of course, things get out of hand as he continually needs to find more and more "donors" to keep his ride rolling.
BLOOD CAR is an odd beast, and one with a merciless streak. While it falls back on standard low-budget tropes (gratuitous fake breast nudity, bad acting, gallons of caro syrup) to get the standard reactions, Director Alex Orr fills BLOOD CAR with a mischevious glee that many similarly funded horror films don't quite capture. Come for violence against children and animals, stay for a horny Anna Chlumsky. BLOOD CAR is absurd, clever, blood-soaked and criminally underseen.

Seconds (1966)
Easily the least underrated horror film on this list -- It's a newly christened member of the Criterion Collection! -- many people still haven't set their eyes on John Frankenheimer's chilling and brutal depiction of a sinister company that will fake your death and give you the life and body you've always wanted -- for a price.
Rock Hudson is outstanding as the "reincarnation" of a schlubby middle manager dissatisfied with his life, wife and status. Upon entering his new life as a lauded artist invited to all the hot parites and given a gallery showing of his own work, Hudson's Tony Wilson finds this life just as dissatisfying as the last, something The Company isn't pleased with.
Frankenheimer shoots this tale with extremely menacing camera angles and distortion, making the proceedings incredibly tense. Seconds is absolutely not an underrated film, but it's a horrifying and disturbing thriller that deserves its due as a gut-wrenching meditation on the human condition.

Night of the Snakehead Fish (2003)
While browsing the shelves of Black Lodge Video in Memphis, TN, I came across a locally shot and produced film bearing the name NIGHT OF THE SNAKEHEAD FISH and was immediately intrigued. Let's get this out of the way up front: NIGHT OF THE SNAKEHEAD FISH is a piece of shit. Clearly made by a group of friends with no actual technical ability or money, the film is a slice of deep-fried Memphis cheese and never actually manages to be as boring or as stupid as it should be.
Maybe it's the lesbian subplot about the fat friend having a crush on the lead girl. Maybe it's the scene where sunbathing girls chastise a park ranger for leering when they are all wearing XXL T-shirts and goth jeans with zero skin showing. Maybe it's the fact that the titular Snakehead fish (a species of aggressvie carnivorous fish that can walk on land -- this film was likely spawned by a google search) is played by a rubber shark. Or, well, maybe it's all the ridiculous pun callbacks to action films of the 80's and 90's ("Get Away From Her, You Fish!"). Either way, NIGHT OF THE SNAKEHEAD FISH is a movie that you and your drunk friends should have been MST3King yesterday.

Werewolf of London (1935)
Made in 1935 by Universal, this is the first werewolf movie from a major studio. 1941's THE WOLF MAN is far more well known and loved because of the iconic look of Lon Chaney, Jr's Lawrence Talbot Wolf Man and the appearance of other well-known stars of the day. WEREWOLF OF LONDON stars non-blockbuster actors and is more focused on the bruatlity of the monster than its more beloved successor. Despite not having as iconic a Wolf Man (though it was also designed by legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce), Henry Hull's werwolf is significantly more frightening to look at and is in every way more menacing than Chaney's.
WEREWOLF OF LONDON also utilizes the myth of the Wolfsbane flower to full effect, making it a de-facto short term cure for lycanthropy and a point of contention between two leads who both need it to soothe their Wolfy rampages. Also, whereas Lawrence Talbot's famous transformation takes place in a completely motionless sitting position, LONDON's key sequence takes place at night while Hull is on the prowl. Utilizing pillars of buildings as cut points, the film follows him through the streets of London, adding more and more makeup with each pass until he is fully transformed into a howling beast.
WEREWOLF OF LONDON isn't widely distributed on home video but it's absolutely worth seeking out as the genesis of the werewolf on film and as a substantially darker and creepier take on the lycanthrope myth made famous six years later by the same studio.

1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

BLOOD CAR looks like a barrel of fun, thanks again, another great reco!!