Rupert Pupkin Speaks: October 2013 ""

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Klon Waldrip

Klon Waldrip has interviewed Rudy Ray Moore, Johnny Legend and others. He publishes mini-comics every so often and puts them online (, he also has a blog dedicated to wacky party movies ( Follow him on Twitter: @klonwaldrip
Horror movies were my entrance to the language of film. I learned about cinema history as a kid by trying to dig up VHS copies of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu. I’ve been melting my eyeballs steadily since elementary school with scenes of ghastly imagery and haven’t murdered anyone yet.Some of the films I had in mind have already been mentioned by previous posters (Deranged, Alucarda, Begotten, Martin, Dagonto name a few), so go back through the archives of this fine site to discover some great titles. In doing so, I’ve added a few to my own list that I’d never heard of (The Black Room, Ogroff, The Night Visitor, and The Last Winter). My list has no parameters or agendas, these are simply movies I like that may not be widely seen or discussed.
WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1928, Tod Browning)
A truly mean spirited film starring Lon Chaney as a bitter magician, biding his time in deepest, darkest Africa, waiting almost twenty years to exact revenge on the man who stole his wife and left him crippled. This is hardly sensitive cinema. Playing into colonial-era racist stereotypes that use foreign cultures as points of terror and mystery, the film provides no depth, only slithering, inescapable menace. The handicap of Chaney’s tragically named character, Dead Legs, is merely a literary device and an excuse to show off the actor’s physical abilities, dehumanizing the reality that many handicapped people live with. So why recommend such an outdated piece of film best forgotten alongside Charlie Chan and Black Sambo? Well, I don’t really have all the answers, so just trust me. I think the film attempts and succeeds in being repellant and shocking, while giving us a plot so simple and direct that it could only have been made in the 20s. Highly entertaining.
PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING (1990, Mick Garris)
Nobody ever believes me about this one. I have a way of approaching sequels and remakes in such a way that I’m rarely disappointed. You must not compare them to the original, you will never be rewarded. I skipped Psycho II and III, so I guess you can to, after all, this is THE BEGINNING! 1990 finds Norman as a reformed murderer; no one in his domestic life knows he’s a character based on the murderer Ed Gein. He even has a pregnant wife! So, one night he calls a radio self-help talk show and starts to reminisce about mamma (played by underrated horror movie hall-of-famer, Olivia Hussey). You’ll see why Norman had problems. This movie takes Mommie Dearest to its logical conclusion. Norman blames the murders on his genes, not his abusive upbringing, so he’s a bit worried that his offspring will take over the family business, as it were. Also, Elliot from ET plays teenage Norman Bates.
THUNDERCRACK! (1975, Curt McDowell)
Underground cinema had a dashing moment of crossover success in the mid-seventies that ran along side of the emerging pornographic feature film, both luring in the more jaded art-house viewers as well as the younger hippie crowd. This apex allowed for befuddling films like Thundercrack, a black and white, 2+ hour long, horror-comedy that details hard-core, pan-sexual pornography draped in a haunted house potboiler. It’s awonder you’ve never seen it, right? This was made by a protégé of George Kuchar, who may be the most recognizable name involved in the production. Kuchar is in the sex scene involving a gorilla, any other actor would call this a career low point, but when you’re featured in movies like Sins of the Fleshapoids and Hold Me While I’m Naked, it gets hard to parse out exactly what’s a high or low point. The director, Curt McDowell, cast his sister in one of the sex rolls, and became an early AIDS victim after a long string of underground short films.

BLOOD DINER (1987, Jackie Kong)
The expectations may be low for most potential viewers when they hear that Blood Diner is a post-modern, unofficial sequel to Blood Feast made by unknowns a good two and a half decades after the original, but low expectations are for Tim Burton movies. The plot concerns Fuad Ramses’ little nephews who’ve decided to carry on the family tradition of resurrecting the Egyptian love-goddess Shitar (sic?). The boys decide that opening a vegetarian restaurant will be the best route to take in achieving that goal, so you get a few cheap gags tossed around that concept. To further date the film in topical references, there’s some shots fired (literally) on the then popular Jazzercise fad. If Blood Feast weren’t an obscure enough film to reference, Uncle Fuad’s talking brain bubbles around in a jar in the back of the restaurant, barking orders at the boys, just like in The Curious Dr. HummpThe end of Blood Diner is an all-out assault of the eyes and ears; you’ll wonder why this slick production didn’t launch at least ONE career. Buried by the horror market of the mid to late 80s, when we were all focused on the antics of franchise horror characters like Freddy, Jason and ErnestBlood Diner remains a forgotten classic.

BLIND BEAST (1969, Yasuzo Masumura)
The simple plot of Blind Beast would not seem filmable at any point in the history of cinema. How would one portray a blind sculptor kidnapping a model, locking her up in a dark basement and slowly removing her body parts as she develops the strangest case of Stockholm Syndrome ever filmed? Even if this plot came across the desk of some Lion’s Gate horror producer tomorrow, they would surely pass. The reason that this film is watchable, despite the abhorrent plot, is the fantasy tone imposed over everything from the acting performances to the lighting to the set design. The story is set into motion almost before the opening credits finish rolling and the viewer is well aware that both the kidnapper and victim become cyphers with no way to influence the outcome of this series of events. The tension rises and crashes cyclically, matching the emotional developments of the characters. Giant sculptures of body parts menace the victim and the eventual removal of limbs seems inevitable and natural, as though there were no other possible route for the story. The closest comparison would be Polanski’s Repulsion, where isolation allows sickness to become tragically unavoidable. The director, Masumura, had the kind of long career that seems to only occur in Japan, where they let Miike make a 1000 movies per year. Try this out if you enjoyed Eyes Without a Face or The Collector (with Terence Stamp).

Favorite Underrated Horror - Max Meehan

Max Meehan is an Austin-based screenwriter and filmmaker who works on the VHS Summer blog and programs the VHS-only series Video Hate Squad at the Alamo Ritz with Joe Ziemba and Tommy Swenson. He also runs punk record label Jolly Dream Records, and co-owns indie pro-wrestling company Inspire Pro.
Max can be found on twitter here:
Co-directed by criminally underrated John “Bud”Cardos, this is easily the best genre film based on the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. I first ran a beat up Vestron copy at a VHS sale several years ago. I picked up the rather plain box, and my interest was immediately piqued the cast, which includes theindominable Wings Hauser, and Bo Hopkins. I asked, “how is Mutant?”
The seller looked at me like I’d just shit on his couch, and said “Take it. It’s awful.” Half-way through I couldn’t believe no one talked more about this film, and after its phenomenal finale, I thought it was a classic. The final twenty minutes of this film are some of the most intense I’ve ever seen. Forgettable cover art makes this easy to gloss over, but for fans of Hauser and Cardos, this is high end stuff.
Four years after this, Hauser an Hopkins teamed up in yet another Tuskegee influenced flick entitled “Nightmare at High Noon” directed bySchlockteur Nico Mastoraikos, but it doesn’t quite achieve the high action or suspense beats of “Mutant.”

The intro jam is laughably campy to others, but to those of us that have an intimate appreciation of this film, it’s part of an untouchable tapestry. Don’t let the one-note marketing fool you though; this is easily one of the most profound horror films the genre has ever produced. Over the years, plenty of more widely recognized and more appreciated films have shaved huge chunks off the top of this film. Tonal differences aside, without “Massacre At Central High” there never would have been a “Heathers.”
Russ Meyer cameraman Rene Daalder delivers a well-crafted revenge slasher with compelling characters for the first course, but the film eventually evolves into a fascinating social study on what happens when a pack-like hierarchy is thinned out. We’ve all seen what happens when the bad guy gets what’s coming, but “Massacre At Central High” shatters convention by posing and answering the question of what happens after that. One the initial antagonists are gone, a grab for power occurs, and the oppressed become the aggressors, leaving the story’s anti-hero with some big choices to make.

10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)
Scads of slasher films attempted to set themselves apart with wild twists, but this one wins for having the most badass gimmick of them all: Charles fucking Bronson. People rarely commend J. Lee Thompson’s “10 to Midnight” as a great horror film, but it’s impossible to deny the specks of Fleck in the film’s harrowing finale. At the very least, you could call it a horror-action hybrid. It’s not a traditional horror film, but that’s what makes it so special.

As a Jolt Cola-damaged adolescent weaned on USAUp All Night’s teat, my standards probably aren’t typical. This particular film’s imagery and story have haunted me for decades, and I routinely find myself revisiting it. While the film’s credits list Harry Kirkpatrick as the director, it was actually made by mad man Umberti Lenzi, and it’s a stand-out among his other credits for me. Most discard this as “ordinary to average slasher trash,” but Lenzi’sperception of the American Spring Break yields a gleeful and cartoonish take on phenomena. Sure, there’s a mystery killer on the loose, and John Saxon is an asshole, but Lenzi never forgets to emphasize the fun and absurdity of his setting. Seriously, there is nothing better than a non-American doing Americana. Sure, it may not be original, and all the red herrings do little to distract you from the obvious killer, but Lenzi skewers boner comedy clichés through the dry slasher formula, keeps it feeling alive and fun. Not to mention, the killer’s gimmick, though underused, is phenomenal. Most films of this nature felt tired five years earlier, but this sum’bitch is wide awake!

This Rockwellian thriller delivers impossible slabs of mood in spite of an incredibly low budget. Here, director Robert LaLoggia goes before the exploration of adolescent anxiety seen in his allegorical “Fear No Evil,” and delves into the preoccupations of a pre-teen obsessed with movie monsters, family, and fear of death. Astonishingly, “Lady In White” achieves the long lost aura of classic supernatural thrillers such as Lewis Allen’s “The Uninvited.” LaLoggia has a profound understanding of what makes good horror based on the diversions of humor and humanity placed throughout the story. In particular, the romantic depictions of family life are imbued a genuine warmth that make the darkness that much darker.

If you do not like this movie, then I do not like you.The reoccurring descriptor in reviews for this film is “by-numbers.” This is a shallow appraisal made only by obvious people who are probably either prejudiced against this type of film, or by thosewhose bottom line is gross-out violence as opposed to plot or characterization. While “Girls Nite Out” relies on elements that had become clichéd even by 1982, the inclusion of these things is wholly intentional. In fact, the creators nearly steer this intoparodic territory, but at the same time they demonstrate a genuine affection toward the genre. Despite an atmosphere of light hearted 1950s drive-in nostalgia, the violent portions are gruesome enough to keep things grounded in the realm of serious horror.
At a brief glance, the movie seems like your run-of-the-mill slasher flick, but there are actually quite a few things that set this one apart from most others. For starters, the quality of the writing is a lot stronger than you’ll typically find in films of this nature. Ample time is devoted to establishing the characters. Mostslasher films toss you some half-ass stereotypes you can't like or even hate. Here, they kill characters that seem like actual people rather than cheap cardboard. The quality of characters is something you might expect from a “Hollywood Knights” type farce. In fact, Newbomb Turk would have been entirely at home within the context of this movie. This film contains humor worthy of a comedy instead of lowly horror-caliber humor, which can be the ruination of many a film in this vein.
From the production design, to the killer, to almost every aspect of production, there is nothing about this movie I do not love. Even the Thorn EMI box is one of my favorites.

Favorite Underrated Horror - Peter Gutiérrez

Peter has been writing for Rue Morgue since 2008, and you can find him rambling on Twitter about the nightmarish things he feels compelled to share: @Peter_Gutierrez.
These days it’s become increasingly tricky to engage in the underappreciated/underrated conversation when it comes to horror; yes, sometimes a gem is unknown because of limited distribution, a certain out-of-step-with-the-times quality or similar factors. Or, as is the case with the following, your love of a particular movie is possibly so idiosyncratic that you’re not sure anyone else could share that love. In fact, you’re not even sure you love the movie in question because on some level it has stopped being movie, being a story even, and functions more like a hidden gateway into some dark and very private place

Monster (aka The Revived Monster aka El monstruo resucitado)(1953)
Chano Uruetta is hardly an unknown director, and this film is often considered something of a landmark, so including it on this list may seem a bit odd. Still, I feel need to champion it in a raised voice, just on the off-chance that some may dismiss it as only of historical interest or notable simply for its low-budget, rubber mask-y charm.  I myself was totally unprepared for Monster when One 7 Movies released it on DVD earlier this year. As dreamlike as the best Mexican horror of its era, Monster combines Beauty and the Beast and Frankenstein in a way that makes you wonder if they were really the same story all along.

Five Across the Eyes (2006)
There’s little question as to why this film is so ignored: an extreme-indie, negative budget shaky-cam exercise in random torment released (perhaps only on DVD?) at a time when the public was beginning to weary of random torment. But I’m asking you to look beyond all that, to directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen’s utter control of the tight space where all the(real-time!) action occurs, and to the incredible energy and zeal of the amateur actors. The result is not just insanity, but insanity with conviction. Even the title is more beautiful than it has a right to be.

The Butcher (2006)
Another member of the maligned shaky-cam generation, this relentlessly brutal film has a reputation that’s suffered from what (understandably) may seem like its purely exploitative approach—in short, the ol snuff film conceit. But in this case single-minded doesn’t mean simple-minded. Certainly subjective POV had been in horror for a long time before The Butcher was made, and, yes, the recent explosion in found footage fare can make this older film feel more clichéd than it is. However, those who can get past these surface traits will notice that director Kim Jin-won (who, sadly, doesn’t seem to have done much since) makes smart choices every step of the way. Moreover, the way we witness events from the perspectives of killer and victim, and so identify with both, makes The Butcher metaphorically, and powerfully, emblematic of the genre itself.

Dark Waters (aka Temnye vody) (1993)
It’s entirely possible that the past decade has seen MarianoBaino’s memorable Ukrainian creepfest graduate from “underseen” to “cult film,” but even so its reputation could use some burnishing. As proof, just check out Netflix, where Dark Waters is currently sporting a below-average rating of 2.6 stars. How to convince doubters, then, or even yourself if you fall partly into that group? Try this: Dark Waters is not only gothic and Lovecraftianbut also delivers on both those fronts.

The Forbidden Door (aka Pintu terlarang) (2009)
Joko Anwar’s harrowing follow-up to the hugely acclaimed Kala. Technically and aesthetically brilliant, and packing in so many shades of horror and so much casual meta-commentary on both art and spectatorship, The Forbidden Door is the kind of work that’s easy for critics to dismiss as overstuffed with content, ambition, and style. Not me, though. The stunning perversion and cruelty, the rich, velvety score, the tormented artist theme, the combination of tenseness and lushness, of precise horror and voluptuous horror—all of these make me think that if Brian De Palma ever saw this film he’simply stop making movies altogether.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Favorite Underrated TV Horror: Eric J. Lawrence

DJ Eric J. Lawrence has a radio show over at KCRW and I've been listening to it for a long time. I've said previously that it is truly my favorite radio program out there and that remains to be the case. He plays quite an eclectic mix of old songs, and is also my go-to source for new music as well. Check out the show here:

I can’t compete with the roster of expert midnight-movie mavens, VHS-hunters, gore hounds, and all-around cinephiles this great blog regularly features and list any horror films that are both truly underrated and worth their salt.  So I’ve aimed my viewfinder a tad askew and offer up my picks for underrated TELEVISION horror picks.  In addition to having to be good, my TV picks are hindered by the basic constraints the medium has – namely a general absence of graphic violence.  Thus my selections lean towards the creepy than the genuinely horrific.  But take heed: there are still nightmare-inducing things to be found here.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (dir. Clyde Geronimi, 1949)
OK, it’s my first pick and I’m already cheating!  Yes, this half-hour long animated version of the classic Washington Irving story was originally paired with The Wind & the Willows for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, one of Disney’s 40s era package films (such as Saludos Amigos, Make Mine Music, etc.)  But I’d guess that most people today remember seeing it on the Disneyland TV series, where it originally aired in 1955 and was frequently rebroadcast around Halloween time through the 80s.  Bing Crosby is an odd choice for narrator, but I suppose his easy-going manner is meant to distract from the scares to come.  And scares there are, as however cartoonish Ichabod and his skinny horse are, the cackling, sword-swinging Headless Horseman and his red-eyed stallion are genuinely frightening.  Coupled with the atmospheric sounds and colors of Sleepy Hollow (designed, in part, by Disney legend Mary Blair), this thrilling sequence doesn’t cop out with unequivocal happy “Disney” ending.  It is left ambiguous as to whether it really was a ghost or not, the true mark of a story that will linger in the minds of impressionable kids and adults alike.
The Twilight Zone – “Twenty Two” (dir. Jack Smight, 1961)
This second-season supernatural story from Rod Serling’s legendary series rarely gets cited as among the show’s best episodes, but it is the one that I always looked forward to the most during the various holiday Twilight Zone marathons.  Riffing off of E. F. Benson’s early 20th-century story, “The Bus-Conductor” (but improperly credited on screen to Serling, via an anecdote from Bennett Cerf), the tale is often referred to as “Room for One More, Honey” after the line uttered by the creepy nurse in the morgue in the main character’s recurring dream.  Barbara Nichols perfectly embodies the showgirl with a nervous breakdown, and Lost in Space’s Jonathan Harris is always welcome as the unctuous, unbelieving doctor.  The fact that this episode is one of only six that were videotaped for budgetary reasons lends an extra unearthliness to the proceedings, especially in the climactic scene.  As Serling warns in the promo for the episode, “Be prepared to be spooked – it’s THAT kind of story!”
The Omega Factor – “Visitations” (dir. Norman Stewart, 1979)
This short-lived BBC series doesn’t get as much play as I think it deserves, coming somewhere between the playful sci-fi cliffhangers of “Doctor Who” and the intelligent speculative serials of Nigel Kneale’s Professor Quatermass.  Running a mere ten episodes, The Omega Factor follows journalist Tom Crane (played by the late actor James Hazeldine) who investigates cases involving paranormal phenomena with the “assistance” of a secretive governmental organization.  He teams up with Dr. Anne Reynolds (played by Louise Jameson, the fourth Doctor Who’s foxy but feral companion Leela) as they tackle problems of ESP, possession, out-of-body experiences and such, setting itself up as a British precursor to The X-Files.  The pilot episode is the obvious place to start and is creepy in its own right, as it introduces the series’ main villain, the Aleister Crowley-like magician/psychic Edward Drexel (played with subdued menace by another Doctor Who vet, Cyril Luckham).  But the second episode is set in a haunted house that offers up some of the freakiest EVPs this side of Ghost-Hunters!
Ghostwatch (dir. Lesley Manning, 1992)
You know you’re on the right track if a highly-rated television show has only been broadcast once due to a flood of complaints from frightened viewers. Such is the case of Ghostwatch, a 90-minute mockumentary depicting a “live” television broadcast from a reportedly haunted house in London.  Much like Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, Ghostwatch succeeded in convincing lots of viewers that what they were watching was really happening (despite a “written by” credit at the beginning of the show).  To be fair, the creators craftily used real television presenters as actors playing themselves, including Michael Parkinson, the Larry King of the UK.  Setting up a story of a family beset by poltergeist activity, they were able to insert near-subliminal appearances of the ghost (nicknamed “Pipes”) throughout the show, keeping television viewers on their toes about what they thought they were seeing.  Due to complaints ranging from causing post-traumatic stress disorder in kids to supposedly inspiring the suicide of an 18-year-old factory worker with learning difficulties, the BBC put a ban on any rebroadcast of the show for a decade (although it lives on in various home video releases).  In hindsight, like with Welles’ radio broadcast, it all seems pretty obviously fictitious.  But it is so well done that it’s just as easy to fall into the scares as well, and its fingerprints are very visible in later films and shows, from The Blair Witch Project and theParanormal Activity series to innumerable ghost hunting TV shows.
The X-Files – “Beyond the Sea” (dir. David Nutter, 1994)
I’ve never been particularly frightened by the concept of alien abduction (clearly, it has never happened to me!), so I find this early, non-mythology episode in the first season of this classic series to be the spookiest of the whole run, mainly due to Brad Dourif’s portrayal of a serial killer who claims he can channel spirits.  This character (and performance) is similar to his role as the killer in The Exorcist III(which is certainly an underrated horror film I could cite), not to mention having gained experience voicing the murderous Chucky in the Child’s Play films. Nonetheless, the oily ease with which he convinces Scully that he can communicate with her recently dead father is shiver inducing.  An important episode in terms of giving both Scully & Mulder a taste of each other’s beliefs, it also features a potent scene of Scully seeing an eerie vision of her father who vanishes just before she receives a phone call alerting her to his death, ample time in a prison death-row, a funeral at sea, some suggested torture, and the creepiest use of a Bobby Darin song not involving Kevin Spacey’s horrible hairpieces. Bottom line is, if you’re looking for the definitive serial killer and Anthony Hopkins is unavailable, Dourif is definitely your man!

Honorable mentions:
Kolchak: The Night Stalker – “The Zombie” (1974 episode) - You try sewing up a zombie’s mouth!  Co-written by David Chase.
The Stone Tape (1972 BBC television play) - A technological ghost story from the creator of the Quatermass series.
Dark Shadows (1967 episode, somewhere around episode 180) – The first in a series of séances on the show, this one was best because the series was still being broadcast in black and white.

Favorite Underrated Horror - Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson directed a wonderful documentary all about VHS called REWIND THIS! and it is available digitally with extras here(including the soundtrack which is awesome):
It will also be available on home video soon!
Follow Josh's exploits on twitter here: 


Horror anthologies have been a staple of the genre for many decades, and more often than not they provide a fairly mixed bag as far as entertainment goes. This British shocker satisfies from start to finish, with a solid wraparound device to facilitate the individual stories.

The stage is set in a very simple way. An architect arrives at a large house during a party, and informs the other guests that he has had a dream about them all. He seems to be capable of predicting future events as though he has already seen them. This triggers conversations about the nature of his claims from the party guests, who then share supernatural tales of their own. 

All of the short films contained are satisfying, but one segment about a possessed ventriloquist dummy is among the most chilling film experiences I've ever sat through. Truly frightening and completely unforgettable. This portion of the film alone earns it a place on any list of underrated horror films.

This Hammer Films production stands as one of the most effective uses of black and white cinemascope photography I've ever seen. Every inch of the frame is used to alternately convey a sense of mountainous grandeur or claustrophobic intimacy. The atmosphere is thick and heavy. The imagery is occasionally unsettling, but always beautiful. The whole project feels like a cross between a nature documentary and an old-fashioned ghost story.

On the surface, this is the tale of a Himalayan expedition to find the Yeti, but screenwriter Nigel Neale is more interested in investigating the dark side of humanity. The drama within the plot always grows out of human decisions more than the threat of the creature. One of the most rewarding aspects of the production is that it not only gets under your skin, it also dares to ask uncomfortable questions without easy answers. This introspective quality causes the impact to last long after the credits roll.

Christopher Lee was already an icon within the Hammer Films universe by the time this picture was produced, having played both Dracula and Frankenstein's monster in a few of their most successful releases. Here he plays a more heroic figure forced to deal with occult forces beyond our rational world. Satan himself is in the mix, and the ol' guy is none too friendly. 

You can see the early influence of psychedelic culture onscreen, with many of the satanist rituals having a druggy vibe. There is the feeling that something subversive is being created with the confines of a British cultural institution. Few of the Hammer titles can be described as hip, but  this one feels plugged into the popular consciousness more than anything else in their catalog. It is also executed with tremendous efficiency and perfect pacing. 

For the first 30 minutes, I didn't care for the central character in this movie. Enrico Rosseni,  a school teacher played by Fabio Testi,  is unfaithful to his wife and having an affair with a student.  These are not the activities of a respectable man. Nevertheless, about 40 minutes into the film I began to realize I had developed an active interest in what would happen to him. During the final 30 minutes, I watched  on the edge of my seat with a deep interest in how the story would resolve itself for Rosseni and the surrounding characters. It is a testament to the intelligence of this film that it creates a mystery plot around a potentially repulsive character, and trusts that the details of its story will draw you in and change your mind.

One of the highlights of the giallo boom in Italy, there is a delicate blend of beauty and brutality at the heart of SOLANGE. Elaborate murder set-pieces brush up against striking shots of the Italian countryside, with a haunting score by Ennio Morricone to hold it all together. Shocking images and revelations of pure ugliness are followed by hypnotic stretches of wordless cinematic expressionism. This is without a doubt the most lyrical and poetic film to feature a teenage girl being stabbed in the vagina. 

Probably the least seen film on this list, I've been struggling for years to understand why this isn't a cult classic. It follows the daily life of a Sunday School teacher as he goes about his unconventional hobby of serial murder. The fly-on-the-wall, observational approach of the film allows the tension of the scenes to develop naturally and often unpredictably. The film never comments on its protagonist, it simply shows you his actions.

MURDERLUST isn't as over the top as other serial killer pictures, but it is more disturbing as a result. The simplicity and directness of the killers actions make them seem almost commonplace, as though everyone you know could be strangling an innocent person behind closed doors. There is no gore to placate the audience, or jump scares to create cheap thrills. There is nothing but a human monster going about his business in private, beyond our ability to intervene. One of the very best films ever made about our darkest impulses.

HABIT (1995)
Larry Fessenden burst onto the indie film scene with this incredibly personal slice-of-life take on vampire mythology. Set in a variety of NYC locations that don't ordinarily make it onto a movie screen, there is a vitality pulsating through the celluloid that injects an anxious energy into all the scenes. The gothic confines of most bloodsucker stories are exchanged for dive bars and cheap apartments. You can tell it is made on a small budget, but rather than see that as a negative, Fessenden take advantage of the smallness to fashion something akin to a genre film as made by John Cassavetes.

Fessenden himself takes the lead as Sam, a drunken, depressive sort who throws his sorrows into a relationship with a mysterious woman named Anna. The story develops from there in many of the ways you'd expect, but each scene is treated with authenticity rather than played for shock value. This is a serious attempt to explore how a person in a large city might deal with the fear and paranoia that arises from an unexpected transformation. It is something of a slow burn, but the payoff is more than worth it.

This Canadian psychological thriller fell between the cracks upon release, but is deserving of wider exposure. It sets up a fairly standard home invasion scenario, but it sets itself apart from the pack by developing both the hostages and the perpetrators into dimensional characters with unique perspectives. It also excels where a lot of similar films fall apart, which is in the way it has the characters communicate with one another. There is a lot of talking in the film, between equally articulate but morally opposed forces. It is in these conversations that the film becomes unnerving. 

There are also wonderfully clever visual cues used throughout the film to suggest the mental state of our lead character, These creative design elements help to break up what is otherwise a chamber piece. The combination of inspired camera work, smart scripting, and intense performances make this an overlooked Canuxploitation gem. Hopefully it will develop a reputation in the coming years, as it remains one of the best thrillers of the past decade.