Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Ariel Schudson ""

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Ariel Schudson

Ariel Schudson is a recent graduate from UCLA's Moving Image Archive Studies program and dedicated media archivist/preservationist. She is currently serving as the Chair of the Access Committee of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) and working hard on AMIA's Deep Focus project, which is the international moving image archive directory and can be found here: http://www.amianet.org/resources-and-publications/deep-focus-moving-image-resources
She's also a film programmer, having headed up the SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW series at the New Beverly Series for over a year, and is deeply dedicated to all things film, preservation, archive-y, and theatrical, believing that movies should be seen in the cinema first, and has no qualms about asking people to stop texting in the theater.
Her primary writing work can be found at her website www.arielschudson.com or at her blog, www.sinaphile.wordpress.com.
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1) Sheitan – 2006 – Kim Chapiron – The problem with this film is that if I tell you too much about it, I will ruin it. That is the LAST thing I want to do with this particular film. This is a film that makes you think you know how it’s going to go, especially as a well-weathered and experienced cinephile and horror-maniac. Then it goes somewhere else entirely. Definitely not for everyone, but it will definitely leave you trying to find your brain (no worries, it leaked out your ears somewhere during the 3rd Act…if you can call it that).

2) Who Can Kill a Child? – 1976 - Narciso Ibáñez Serrador – I was recommended this by a good friend alongside some Hong Kong action flicks and I was left dumbfounded. To this day, I have never seen another film like it. While that may seem like hyperbole, I rack my brain and cannot find anything that comes close. The narrative is very simple: tourists become stuck on an island with some very strange children. No big deal, right? Wrong. This movie has to be seen. It asks some really interesting questions about children, adults, and raises fascinating issues in a very horrifying way. Yes, I was gleeful in a way I shouldn’t have been. But mostly because it made me think.

3) The Children – 2008 – Tom Shankland – Ah, yes. Christmas. A lovely time to spend with loved ones…a time for mums, dads and vengeful tots? Maybe. Yes, another Bad Kids film, but it got way overlooked and it’s damn good. It doesn’t quite do the same work as Who Can Kill, but it’s a far different film. And it is absolutely 100% delicious. And by the way, if you were wondering – I do love kids and have nothing against them. They make fantastically creepy villains in horror films, though!

4) The Unknown – 1927 – Tod Browning – Lon Chaney, you are a horror god. And in the camera eye of Tod Browning? You were lifted to heights unknown (yeah, I totally did that)! The Unknown tells of a rather nasty circus freak (Chaney) falling in love with his show partner (Joan Crawford). She also happens to be the ringmaster’s daughter and things go bad quite quickly. This film is one of the darkest I own and it is from 1927. Most people have seen Browning’s Freaks (1932), which is one of my very favorite films to be sure. But The Unknown is genuinely horrifying in the true sense of horror. It also shows Joan Crawford as a gorgeous young thing, which is not to be missed.

5) Magic – 1978 – Richard Attenborough – Ventriloquism. Ann-Margret. Questionable sanity. Anthony Hopkins. Burgess Meredith. My mother rented this film for me when I was young and I loved it from the very beginning. I was lucky enough to get to contribute to the AFI Film Catalog in film archiving school by researching its production history and doing a write-up on the film, but it is highly worth seeing if you have not seen it. If Talky Tina in the Twilight Zone gives you pause, this will definitely work its “magic” on you too. Since I’m recommending the film, I might as well give you a little treat and give you the full nerd treatment- the background story. In March of 1976, producer Joseph E. Levine acquired the screen rights to author William Goldman’s Magic. Also signed on as screenwriter, this was not the first time that the two men had worked together: Levine’s previous project, A Bridge Too Far, featured Goldman as screenwriter. Unbeknownst to Levine or Goldman at this point, A Bridge Too Far would end up serving as the primary source for many members of the production of Magic. The Independent Film Journal held that the film would have the well-respected director Norman Jewison attached as director and co-producer, but this was also not to be. While Jewison was still on board as of December of 1976, the production of Magic was once again postponed. In April of 1977, just a little over a year after the initial announcement, Screen International wrote that director Richard Attenborough was now attached to the project, replacing Norman Jewison, and the producing credits would be going to Joseph E. Levine and his son, Richard Levine. Much like William Goldman, Attenborough had a past with both Levines. He had directed the Goldman-penned A Bridge Too Far. Bridge had just completed production and had been quite successful. The new start date for Magic was October of 1977, while other changes to the cast and crew were also made. Upon original discussions, there had been talk of Jack Nicholson playing the lead role of Corky Withers. He was approached but as stated in an article in Variety, he was “professionally tied up” and unable to participate. In place of Nicholson, Levine once again dipped into his A Bridge Too Far fountain and came up with Anthony Hopkins as the lead. After a variety of other mishaps, Magic’s actual U.S. release date was in early November of 1978 and not October as was the original plan.

6) The Perfume of the Lady in Black – 1974 – Francesco Barilli – So let’s get this out of the way first: I am a huge fan of giallo and a huge fan of Mimsy Farmer. So this film had me from the get-go. Some giallo is more suspense-y and less horror-y, but this film has all of it for me. I do love gore. I do. But there is something so much more sinister and frightening really about the music in a good giallo mixed with what you don’t know, what you can’t see, what you simply can’t tell. The mysterious element is scarier than guts showering the lens. This story of a successful female chemist (Farmer) whose everyday life is suddenly impacted by black magic, hallucinations and even murder, Perfume of allows the viewer to be as intoxicated by the narrative as the protagonist herself. The music serves as assistance and drives the film to its finale. Highly advise seeing this. One of a kind film.

7) Martin – 1976 – George Romero – I find it rather a shame that everyone thinks of George Romero as the “zombie guy.” Martin is an incredible film and so few people have seen it or recognize it as the excellent piece of horror cinema that it is. I adore his early zombie work (who wouldn’t?). But Martin is a special movie that blows nearly everything that is made these days out of the water. I don’t want to ruin it. Just watch it.

8) Les Diaboliques aka Diabolique – 1955 - Henri-Georges Clouzot – First off, I don’t care what your sexual preference is, if you don’t find Simone Signoret hotter than a collection of burning torches in the Mojave Desert, I would rush yourself to the hospital immediately, call an ambulance, or something. You may need medical assistance. I question if you are amongst the living. I will say this: this film actually did scare me a bit. It is a scary film. Two women get together to kill the man who is one woman’s husband and the other’s lover. They succeed but it does not end there. Things just don’t sit well. This is the part that is so frightening. It helps that Clouzot is a brilliant filmmaker. I wish more films were made this well today. I have never seen the remake and I may at some point but…What I enjoy about this film is (again) the discomfort and shiftiness that is caused by Not Knowing, Not Seeing and Mystery.

9) The Haunting – 1963 – Robert Wise – Okay, no one is allowed to give me any grief for this because I realize that this is not exactly underrated but I couldn’t make a horror films list and leave this out. It is the single scariest film I have ever seen in my life. This film ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIES me. This is the only film that has ever really scared me. The first time I ever saw it was at the Egyptian theater back in 2003. I took my little brother and Robert Wise actually sat right in front of us. To say that I was thrilled would be putting it lightly. But…if you haven’t seen this, do yourself a favor: SEE IT. And do it for Julie Harris, as she recently passed away and she was just brilliant in this (and so many other things).

10) Eyes Without a Face – 1960 – Georges Franju – I’m pretty certain that this is one of my first favorite horror films mostly for the creepiness factor. It’s eerie and exquisite at the same time, which I remember adoring as a young adolescent. I do remember that the video store box had a spoiler on the back. That made me so mad! But I went ahead and watched it anyway and loved the film. There is nothing not to love about a film involving dead bodies, overwrought scientists, skin grafts, and inordinate amounts of vocal canines, is there?

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