Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Heather Wixson ""

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Heather Wixson

Heather Wixson is a Horror journalist/nerd/PR specialist & Film Fest founder.
She is @thehorrorchick on Twitter.

Vamp (1986; Richard Wenk)- In the heyday of vampire movies like Fright Night or The Lost Boys, Richard Wenk's Vamp was criminally overlooked when it came out the summer of 1986, although it eventually found a small cult following through VHS and eventually DVD rentals/sales over the years. Starring Chris Makepeace and the always amazing Robert Rusler, Vamp was the sleazier cousin to many of its peers and pretty much had everything an impressionable horror gal like myself could ever want- Grace Jones as an exotic and lethal stripper, Gedde Watanabe as an awkward sidekick to the film's heroic duo, the adorable DeeDee Pfeiffer playing a love interest to Makepeace and Billy F'N Drago as a weird albino gang member. It seriously had everything! Too bad it's a movie that fans don't talk about more- they really should as it's certainly one of the best movies to come out of Roger Corman's New World Pictures and deserves just as much discussion as some of the other vampire movies from that era.

 April Fool's Day (1986; Fred Walton)- Holy. Shit. Those were the only two words that were going through my ten-year-old mind the very first time I rented April Fool's Day in the summer of '88. Another horror comedy from 1986 (weird!), April Fool's Day was the first horror movie I ever experienced with a true "twist" ending and also blew my mind as a young fan because not only did it star "Biff" from Back to the Future (Thomas F. Wilson) but it also featured Ginny from Friday the 13th Part 2 (Amy Steel) too which felt like winning the jackpot to me. Many of its detractors always like to point that there's a lack of blood in April Fool's Day but that's never really mattered much to me. What I've always enjoyed is that this always felt like a "younger" version of another favorite movie of mine- Clue- and quite frankly, no actress did horror comedy quite like Deborah Foreman did in the 80's and in April Fool's Day, she's simply fantastic.

The Ruins (2008; Carter Smith)- The Ruins was a movie I saw in theaters on a whim and couldn't believe how great it ended up being after it was over. Featuring a cast of young, attractive 20-somethings (Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Jonathan Tucker, Laura Ramsey) on vacation in Mexico, what starts of as an idyllic getaway soon becomes a terrifying experience after an excursion to a set of Mayan Ruins that aren't very tourist-friendly. In fact, the ruins contain a deadly secret the villagers in the area will kill to protect and once the group is trapped. Filled with palpable tension throughout, some downright creepy moments, heartbreaking performances (Ashmore especially) and a few truly cringe-worthy moments, The Ruins is one of the best horror films of 2008 (theatrical or otherwise) and if it's one you've dismissed because of its premise (which admittedly sounds pretty run-of-the-mill), I'd urge you to reconsider. It's just so frigging great.

Demon Knight (1995; Ernest R. Dickerson)- I'm just going to say this now and get it over with: Demon Knight is one of the best horror movies of the 90's. Period. Not only does it feature one of my favorite ensembles ever (Billy Zane! William Sadler! Dick Miller! CCH Pounder! Thomas Hayden Church! Charles Fleischer! Jada Pinkett!) but it was downright gory, nasty, sexy and had a wicked sense of humor to it which made me an instant fan. Zane is in rare form in Demon Knight as a smooth-talking demon known as "The Collector" who wants to unleash hell on Earth and the only thing standing in his way are Sadler, a mythical key and the unfortunate souls caught in their cross-hairs once they have their showdown. With Demon Knight, Dickerson found a pitch-perfect balance between horror and comedy that very few directors could do at that time and I will say that my love for Demon Knight runs so deep that I actually sat through a torrential downpour and hail storm alone at the Cascade Drive-in the spring of 1996 just so I could see it on the big screen (it didn't last in traditional theaters around me for very long after its release so it happened to get a one-week run there). Demon Knight also had one of the best soundtracks of the 90's too (ahh, remember soundtracks?) and exemplified everything I absolutely love about the horror genre as a fan.

Silver Bullet (1985; Daniel Attias)- Definitely not one of the more talked about Stephen King adaptations, I love Silver Bullet for so many reasons but I think the main thing for me was that in some twisted way, I wanted to grow up in Tarker's Mills (hey, I'm a trailer park kid- we weren't picky!) because it felt like such a safe and comforting community to be a part of- well, that is before a werewolf showed up and started tearing people to shreds. But that was the beauty of Silver Bullet- it was terrifying (at the time) but somehow soothing all at once and that was because director Daniel Attias got me to fall in love with the film's young hero Marty (Corey Haim) and his well-meaning alcoholic Uncle Red (played by Gary Busey) and it also made every single resident of that sleepy little town resonate with me for decades to come. From Sherriff Haller (Terry O'Quinn) to hotheaded resident Andy (Bill Smitrovich) to no-nonsense barkeep Mr. Knopfler (Lawrence Tierney) to the dark and brooding Reverend Lowe (the brilliant Everett McGill), it just felt so special to me at the time I discovered it and that's why Silver Bullet is still one of my favorite movies to revisit each October when I'm getting ready for Halloween.

1 comment:

LittlestWinslow said...

Yo Heather - I'm totally down with so many of these. I share your love for April Fool's Day, LOVED/was seriously disturbed by The Ruins, and should probably rewatch Demon Knight - because I don't remember it too well. Great list!