Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Goregirl ""

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Goregirl

Goregirl is a fan of all things gory, trashy, strange, surreal, haunting, horrifying and beautiful in film. Proprietor and writer over at Goregirl's Dungeon and its accompanying YouTube channel; sharing her thoughts and enthusiasm for the films she loves since 2009.
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Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz, 2004)
Calvaire was without a doubt, one of the most intriguing and unique horror films of the past decade. Marc Stevens is a singer who travels across the country working nursing homes and the like. On the way to a venue one rainy evening, Marc's van breaks down. A local man searching for his dog shows him the way to a nearby Inn. Bartel the jovial owner of the inn is most hospitable and even has Marc's van towed. In the morning Bartel is nowhere to be found and while wandering about the property clues are revealed to Paul that Bartel may intend to keep him there. Nothing is obvious in Calvaire. What appears to be a survival type scenario is so very much more. The film has an all-male cast with the exception of the brief opening scene that takes place in a nursing home (featuring a cameo from the lovely Brigitte Lahaie). The men are the players but it is the unseen Gloria that is the driving force behind what motivates them. Where the hell are all the women in this town anyway? There are many questions in Calvaire and few direct answers. The characters are living a warped reality and we get a surreal eyeful of their exploits. Calvaire has a bleak, wintery setting and a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere. The scenes of violence are disturbing, powerful and effective without being overly graphic. Fabrice Du Welz's Calvaire is a smart, beautifully shot, surreal and disturbing mystery with excellent performances from its leads Laurent Lucas (Marc) and Jackie Berroyer (Bartel). Calvaire is the type of horror film that stays with you long after the credits role.

Frightmare (Pete Walker, 1974)
It seems to me that UK director Pete Walker's resume in general is pretty underrated. I am a big fan of Walker's work and there are multiple titles I could recommend but the one I have visited most often has been Frightmare. A great deal of my love for this film is based on Sheila Keith's performance. Sheila Keith has made appearances in several Pete Walker films and always leaves an impression but her appearance in Frightmare is the Plat de résistance! In Frightmare Sheila Keith plays murderess and cannibal Dorothy Yates. Dorothy was committed to a mental institution for her crimes and has been released into the care of her husband Edmund after fifteen years. It isn't long before Edmund suspects that Dorothy is up to her old tricks. Sheila Keith gives an unforgettable performance as Dorothy; an intimidating woman with a fragile state of mind. She has moments of sadness and confusion and moments of deranged happiness. Keith's character is not particularly sympathetic but I nonetheless found myself rooting for her. Her performance is well-complimented by Rupert Davies who gives a superbly hand-wringing turn as the meek and manic Edmund. A quirky sub-plot involving Edmond and Dorothy's two daughters is weaved through and eventually collides in its wonderfully nasty conclusion. Frightmare has an intriguing story with a sweet little twist and an effectively bleak and dreary atmosphere. Although violence and gore are minimal what is included is commendable. Pete Walker's Frightmare is a solid horror film in its own right, but Sheila Keith's epic performance is what makes it extra special.

The Plague of the Zombies (John Gilling, 1966)
As far as I am aware, The Plague of the Zombies is the only zombie film Hammer Studios made. It has considerably more in common with White Zombie (1932) than Night of the Living Dead (1968), which is perhaps the reason I rarely see it included on lists that highlight the subgenre. Voodoo and zombies went hand in hand prior to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Romero's film was a huge game changer and very few voodoo-themed zombie films were made after its release. The Plague of the Zombies was one of the last of its breed and is one of my personal favourites. Drumbeats, ceremonial robes, masks, candles, tiny coffins with little clay men and women inside—all the wonderful ritualistic hoopla that adorns voodoo themed fare is here; impressive locations, sets and costumes too. Particular care is shown to the film's zombies. The zombies are seen in various stages of decay depending on how long they’ve been dead. Older zombies have rotting skin and white cloudy eyes while fresher corpses closely resemble their former selves but devoid of a natural pallor. The makeup in The Plague of the Zombies gets a standing ovation. The film itself is moody and atmospheric with a touch of humour. The humour is provided by the film's central character Sir James Forbes played by André Morell. Sir James is a brilliant doctor, teacher and amateur sleuth with a wry wit. Morell has a great presence and his character is an endless source of entertainment. All the cast are memorable especially Diane Clare as Sir James Forbes' daughter Sylvia and John Carson as the smarmy super side-burned Squire Clive Hamilton. The Plague of the Zombies has a neat little story, great visuals and strong performances which has earned my undying love.

Ganja and Hess (Bill Gunn, 1973)
Ganja and Hess was the victim of bad marketing and was cut to hell and presented as an exploitation flick under the title Blood Couple. It has since been restored however, but the initial massacre has left behind some sound issues and a couple of scenes that do not flow into one another very well. Regardless, Ganja and Hess is a fascinating and beautiful film that is well-worth preserving. This strange, unique and hypnotic film about addiction comes with some powerful and trippy imagery. Dr. Hess Green has acquired an addiction to blood after being stabbed by his assistant with a knife found at an excavation site. His assistant commits suicide and his wife Ganja eventually comes looking for him. The aggressive Ganja is distrustful of Hess but has an undeniable attraction to him and the two engage in a fevered affair. You could certainly qualify Ganja and Hess as a vampire film, but the word vampire is never uttered. Director Bill Gunn does use some of the traditional vampire lore outside of the blood drinking, like Hess' ability to cheat death, but it isn't the film's focus. Hess is a man of means and drinks his blood from a crystal decanter. He is all class until the fever hits him and he starts licking blood from the floor like a dog. Hess’ addiction is feral and comes with some amazing haunting visuals. Handsome Duane Jones is fantastic as Dr. Hess Green, and his chemistry with the beautiful Marlene Clark who plays Ganja is electric. A really fantastic soundtrack from Sam Waymon too! Sexy, intense, dreamy, potent and satisfying; Ganja and Hess is subtle horror of the finest variety. If you are open to the experience, you can become completely lost in Dr. Hess Green’s nightmare.

Viy (Konstantin Ershov and Georgi Kropachyov, 1967)
Viy is a folklore tale based on a story by Nikolai Gogol that is heavier with humour and fantasy elements than horror. There is definitely an electric and ghoulish vibe in the final segments however, not to mention some very cool creatures and effects. Khoma Brutus the Philosopher is a young Seminarian fond of his booze and babes who is ordered to pray over a beautiful young woman for three consecutive nights. The beautiful young woman also happens to be a witch whom each night increases her attacks against Khoma by summoning the creatures of the night to come to her aid. Ghoulish arms reaching out, impish creatures crawling up walls, demons of all shapes and sizes and an animated and acrobatic witch keep the rickety old wooden church rocking all night. I was very impressed with the effects and makeup in Viy. It was incredibly creative and original. Leonid Kuravlyov is great as Khoma Brutus; some of his reactions are priceless. A fantastical fairy tale with a Greek tragedy vibe, Viy is a nifty, other-worldly, well-written story with sharp and funny dialog and immaculate visuals worth its weight in Rubles.

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